The protests over Garner, Brown, Martin, and other blacks murdered by police are really starting to have an impact. At least here in D.C. Ash and I were traveling to my previous employer's alumni Holiday Party and traffic came to an absolute stop. D.C. traffic is already pretty miserable and we were pretty late which pissed me off quite a bit. Apparently some of the protests were blocking the entire street.
Why the street, I ask?
I've seen other 'die-ins' in our area and while I find them creative, I mostly find them inconvenient and lacking any clear, coherent purpose or message. What are these folks mad at? Who is their outrage directed toward? Why are they impeding travel and/or bystanders? Aren't we the victims of police action anyway?
First, I am a proponent of the 'movement' so to speak. The amount of power, respect, and authority we bestow these costumed robots is ridiculous. It's disgraceful. Police (ab)use their power on a daily basis. Blacks are an easy target. The liberal bastion, New York City was the place that instituted stop-and-frisk. If you aren't outraged by police, then you probably don't live in a big city.
I find the lack of goals and message to be troubling. Our criminal justice system is in absolute disarray. We pay our public defender's a third less than our prosecutor's. There's vacancies galore throughout jurisdictions across the country causing severe backlogs of cases and appeals. That means victims of the system are presently stuck in jail waiting for their cases to be tried (for those already incarcerated).
What's fascinating is that what prompted this 'movement' is the lackluster decisions in grand juries. Grand juries have a duty to determine whether or not there is enough evidence to go forward with a trial. It's that simple. From the outsider's perspective, there seems to be ample evidence not only to have the trial, but to convict the cops in these instances. But the grand juries say no go.
Surprisingly, grand juries are actually a pretty well thought out democratic institution. With all the wanton power given to judges and prosecutors in this nation, grand juries provide an outlet for public participation that is vastly under-served. The power in this case is in the hands of the jury made up of a pool of folks from the local jurisdiction.
What's interesting is the conflict of interest that's occurring. For example, the prosecution (responsible for putting forth the evidence to the grand jury) often work with police in many other cases. You can see why they would be less inclined when it's the police on the opposite side for once. After all, it's a fraternity between prosecutors and cops to convict the public in most instances. If a cop is a defendant, how can we trust the prosecutor to conduct an honest, and thorough presentation of the evidence (and furthermore to recommend a charge)? We can't. They're partial. Friendships have a tendency to do that to people.
Perhaps some reworking of the grand jury system is in order.
What's more important is to channel some of this outrage in less obstructive ways. By disrupting traffic (whether vehicles or pedestrians) the movement may detract supporters instead of recruiting them. If I were in charge of this movement I would be meeting with the black heads of the police force and call for a walk out. Every black police officer should organize a 'die-in' or walkout. Branch out to athletes perhaps and ask them for support. Some have already obliged by issuing public statements or wearing t-shirts supporting the cause. Good, we need more. Maybe it will take a refusal to play by all black athletes. Let's have these meetings with the player's associations and the most respected black athletes. Granted, I see how this can be disruptive to the public who want to see them play but it is perhaps less obtrusive than what's currently happening and likely more poignant.
Perhaps black actors (and whites and others) will refuse to work or boycott an awards ceremony or wear duct-tapes over their mouths in support. Maybe a petition will circulate on The White House's webpage to organize town-halls across the nation to end the police brutality.
I'm just throwing out ideas on the top of my head. The truth is, this 'movement' is important as vague and amorphous as it is. It needs to channel this support in ways that do not antagonize the public but encourage and facilitate broad alliances. We are all victims here, not just blacks, although they often bear the brunt of much of the targeting in our country.
I am upset too. I am outraged too. I hope that I am able to work together in a way that maximizes impact, and that can use this serious moment as a catalyst for serious change. With the amount of anger out there today, anything is possible.