Every day a new video circulates of bad behavior by police. Someone is harassed, beaten, or even killed in what appears to be an absolutely senseless fashion. Far too often, the victims are black – but not always. It can, and does, happen to nearly anyone.
Earlier this week, another video came in from Toronto. Constable Ken Lam was seen facing down the suspect in a mass killing with determination and grace. He never flinched, and eventually made a peaceful arrest. It was law enforcement at its very best.
What is different? There are many things that made this different, including the race of the suspect, to be sure. But as an example of the kind of cool professionalism we all hope to see in our police there is one important difference in Toronto – their law enforcement officers are paid much, much better than the average US cop.
Another day, another person dead from a police bullet. Another night of unrest as anger spills out into the streets. Another heated round of angry statements from all sides shouting past each other. Another opportunity missed to speak words of healing, love, and respect.
We say “Black Lives Matter” because it is not at all obvious that our nation believes this. It seems obvious enough that “All Lives Matter”, but when you focus on those of us who are darker life seems much more disposable, much easier to kick to the curb and forget.
When we say Black Lives Matter we say it not as a direct challenge in opposition to the officers in uniform or to white people. We say it as a challenge to the systems that produce far too much death far too easily, and as with everything bad in our nation that death falls heavily, horrifically on black people. That is why we have to keep saying it until it is true – Black Lives Matter.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests were forcefully removed from their 18 day encampment outside the Fourth Precinct in Minneapolis – and then took their protest to City Hall. In between they reiterated their demands – Release the tapes, appoint a special prosecutor with no grand jury to investigate the death of Jamar Clark, and institute a safety plan to protect Minneapolis residents from continued police violence.
It’s far from over and the problems did not start with the shooting of Clark by the Minneapolis police. This is a systemic problem and while it wasn’t the protesters’ choice this belongs squarely in City Hall at this point. It’s not about one incident with one police officer but a system, a city, that are not functioning anything like they must.
The still summer evening was suddenly ripped apart by the heavy THWUP!-THWUP!-THWUP! of helicopters. In this part of St Paul copters are common enough as small emergencies across the state hurry themselves to nearby United Hospital. But this sound was different. It was heavy, immediate, and amplified by three of them flying low enough to sneak up on the otherwise placid city.
Then there was the shape. Medivac copters are small and light, but these were large and olive drab. Several low passes later they were joined by another sound, a gentle whoosh that might have been less disturbing had I not had the knowledge that this is what a Blackhawk sounds like.
Last Tuesday St Paul was the host to an unannounced training mission in urban warfare that included Navy Seals. Why? No one has been told why they did it here. Before, after, and during we all know essentially nothing. Our cities are being militarized and shown tremendous force behind a cloak of secrecy that is inappropriate – and naturally falls on the most vulnerable citizens of our community. But Ferguson, Missouri is hardly alone.