“Oh, So NOW Police Brutality matters?!”
Open Letter to Occupy Wall Street On Police Brutality
By: Black Canseco
Dear Occupy Wall Street:
Police brutality in America did not begin with you. It’s older than you, older than your encampments and older than your sudden awareness of it.
As one of the 99% you claim to champion, I for example, have seen police brutality firsthand throughout my childhood and my adult life right on to this day. As an African American male I have seen what happens when you occupy black skin in the presence of a police officer. I’ve buried friends who were shot by police despite having broken no laws. I’ve seen police batons and fists, backs of squad cars and squad car hoods used as weapons—not because I or my fellow African Americans were protesting or making any public statements, but simply because we were breathing and existing outside our homes.
As one of the 99% you claim to champion it’s my belief that Occupy Wall Street’s best hope of addressing police brutality is to first understand that police brutality did not begin with any occupation movement nor has it ever been limited to the parks, college campuses and gatherings where you are.
For every OWS encampment there have been hundreds of unarmed Black men have been shot by police—sometimes in the back for occupying little more than their own skin. For every OWS participant that has been pepper-sprayed there have been hundreds upon hundreds of African American who have been beaten by police often within their own neighborhoods. For every OWS participant that’s been zip-tied and carted off to jail legions of African Americans and Latinos have been unfairly prosecuted and excessively sentenced by local, state and even federal courts.
But until OWS protestors were exposed to police mistreatment it was a complete and total non-issue for the Occupy Movement. There was no outrage from current OWS supporters when even the most famous of police injustices occurred. Unfortunately it has taken the faces of victims of police brutality to become Whiter, seemingly more educated, seemingly more “mainstream” for police brutality and injustice to even register as blips on OWS’s radar. (And don’t think that this obvious and observable fact has been lost on the millions of people of color who have yet to join the occupy movement.)
In the days and weeks since many of the police vs. OWS confrontations I’m not surprised by the lack of calls to “#OccupyTheCops”, “#OccupyTheCourts” or “#OccupyThePrisons” as policing issues most OWS participants must deal with in their communities or daily lives beyond their OWS protest activities.
But let’s be clear: There’s no greater injustice than being so selfishly blind as to selectively claim suffering or fight suffering only when doing so benefits your agenda while willfully ignoring that very same suffering as it festers elsewhere around you. Police injustice is not something any one or any community should be subjected to. But there's something distateful and alienating about seeing folk scream about something that we normally have to beg them to even passingly acknowledge.
To that end, I strongly encourage those in the Occupy Movement to take a long hard look at the issues of Police brutality not just as it relates to OWS, but as it continues to impact the 99% you so proudly fight for.