Police officers are represented as keepers of the peace. Yet recently, many African American citizens have experienced what seems to be becoming reoccurring event where police brutality is becoming a social norm. Martese Johnson is one of these people. 20-year-old Martese Johnson was arrested outside a Charlottesville pub. Agents of the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) stated, “[Johnson] was very agitated and belligerent” (BBC News). Bryan Beaubrun, a student from the University of Virginia was the one who took the pictures of Johnson’s face after being beaten by the ABC officers. Beaubrun said, “He didn’t need to be tackled. He wasn’t being aggressive at all” (ibid.). The article states that the officers were white male officers who stated that they approached Johnson after he was denied entry into the pub and proceeded to arrest him after pinning him down on the ground. Though the governor of Virginia has asked for an investigation to take place on this matter, Johnson still had to go to court after being charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice (CBSNews). The case is to continue until May 28.
This type of story is not much of surprise in today’s news articles but the article’s title does not really seem to fit the story. The title is “Virginia governor calls for inquiry into student arrest” but the article only mentions the governor’s statement once and continues to talk about events following the incident and the reception it has attained. BBC News seemed to take an “anti-racism” approach as it talks about how the agents are white and also includes a statement from Beaubrun who states that there was clear abuse of power demonstrated by the ABC agents.
As mentioned above, these types of articles are becoming more and more common as we see police brutality shown towards African-American citizens, most recently the Walter Scott shooting caught on camera by an unidentified bystander. The event took place in North Charleston, South Carolina where a white police officer fired eight shots at Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man, after trying to run away from the officer (CBC News). I have posted the video but want to point out that this video is very violent as we can see the officer shoot the man and also contains inappropriate language. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.
In the video provided by the New York Times, the editor points out how the officer drops his stun gun beside the body to support his reason for shooting the victim where he stated that Scott tried to go for his gun (Schmidt and Apuzzo). The police officer is facing murder charges at the moment and has been arrested. Stories of police officers mistreating black people have really boomed within the last year starting with the Ferguson incident in August of last year but anti-blackness, the discrimination of black bodies going unacknowledged, does not play a role here as we continue to see multiple ways of people retaliating through social media using hashtag activism as a form of activism through the internet. Police officers around the US seem to be using violence as a lens where they portray visual minorities as violent and must use violent force towards them. This can be seen in a video of a homeless black man being killed by white officers in Los Angeles (BBC News).
Media support towards the black community is rising, as more men are being arrested or killed by police officers in the United States as seen in the titles of each article mentioned in this post. For those facing false charges, they acquire support from other members of the community. During Johnson’s trial, over 100 supporters were dressed in black to show unity and peace and demanded that Johnson be freed (CBSNews).
America is facing a problem with institutional racism where they are unable to provide a professional and appropriate service (in this case the justice system) to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin (Aulette and Wittner 580). But what we are also seeing is the support from community members to fight back against these actions and support for the families of those affected by this. We can put an end to this type of oppression. We have done it before in the past with the freedom of slaves and civil rights movements for everybody, therefore we must work together once again for equal rights.
BBC News. “US Police Shoot Homeless Man Dead in Los Angeles.” BBC News. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-31688942>.
CBC News. “Walter Scott Shooting: South Carolina Officer Fired, Charged with Murder.”CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 8 Apr. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/walter-scott-shooting-south-carolina-officer-fired-charged-with-murder-1.3024702>.
CBSNews. “Martese Johnson, University of Virginia Student in Bloody Arrest, Makes First Court Appearance.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 26 Mar. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/martese-johnson-university-of-virginia-student-in-bloody-arrest-makes-first-court-appearance/>.
Aulette, Judy, and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed. Oxford UP, 2014. 580. Print.
Schmidt, Michael, and Matt Apuzzo. “South Carolina Officer Is Charged With Murder in Black Man’s Death.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 7 Apr. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/08/us/south-carolina-officer-is-charged-with-murder-in-black-mans-death.html?_r=0>.
BBC News. “Virginia Governor Calls for Inquiry into Student Arrest.” BBC News. BBC News, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-31965856>.