On Friday, Colin Kaepernick took a stand against racism and systemic oppression – by sitting.
Following in the footsteps of a number of athletes, musicians and other public figures using their stardom to draw attention to the ongoing race-based violence and discrimination in the United States, Kaepernick sat while the national anthem played before Friday night’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers.
In defense of this act, he stated
, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
With this silent, nonviolent protest against the violence and discrimination against black people in the United States – Kaepernick simultaneously enraged racist America, disappointed progressive America and validated the rest of us fighting against oppression in the United States.
Alex Boone of the Minnesota Vikings was one of the first of Kaepernick’s colleagues to speak out against him. He told USA Today
, “It’s hard for me, because my brother was a Marine, and he lost a lot of friends over there. That flag obviously gives (Kaepernick) the right to do whatever he wants. I understand it. At the same time, you should have some (expletive) respect for people who served, especially people that lost their life to protect our freedom.”
In his public denouncement, Boone relied on of the most commonly used arguments against Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest: Staying seated during the national anthem is disrespectful to our veterans.
While this argument is getting a lot of media attention from the conservative right
, there are many veterans
that also support Kaepernick’s stance. As reported by ESPN
, “Of the tweets that we’re getting from military and former military people, definitely the majority are saying he has every right to do what he’s doing, and that’s exactly what we fought for. You may not like it, but he has every right to do that.”
Earlier this week, Donald Trump met with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) in Akron, Ohio. With a fresh endorsement from the North Carolina
chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, the “law and order
” candidate is still awaiting official endorsement from the national organization. While Trump and the nation waits to see if the “largest organization of sworn law enforcement officers” will give the candidate their official support, it is important to remember that whatever the outcome, the FOP has legislation that has made it to Congress, it will likely be voted on in September and all efforts need to be taken to block it.
The Fraternal Order of Police
(FOP) describes itself as embodying “more than 330,000 members in more than 2,200 lodges. We are the voice of those who dedicate their lives to protecting and serving our communities.” They have used this voice to organize police unions in municipalities across the country, negotiate police union contracts in these locations, and pass Law Enforcement Officers Bills of Rights (LEOBORs) in 14 states
. These contracts and policies are designed to ensure that police that kill and brutalize community members can escape trial, conviction and literally any form of accountability whatsoever for their actions. They function as obstructions to justice that allow killer cops to walk free and force community members to take to the streets to demand reform.
The FOP is also fighting to pass national legislation that would designate police officers as one of the protected communities under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009
It’s called the Blue Lives Matter Act
. And it is a direct slap in the face to communities struggling against police brutality. Congress will likely review it when they reconvene in September, and it needs to be blocked.
PHOTO CREDIT: BULLET PROOF VESTS : SAN FRANCISCO POLICE OFFICERS (2012) VIA PHOTOPIN (LICENSE)
On Saturday August 13, 2016, a 23-year-old named Sylville Smith was gunned down by an unnamed officer from the Milwaukee Police Department. Mr. Smith was a young black man, the father of a two year old son and was described as
“a nice, good person. He was really respected.”
Sylville Smith was a young black man that lived in the “most segregated city in America
.” He was a brother that was raised in Milwaukee, where more black men are incarcerated
than in any other city in the nation. He was a son that was raised in a city where his father had been incarcerated and where he himself had already been targeted and jailed. He was a friend that was raised in a city deeply enmeshed in the struggle between black community members and the police officers that are killing them.
On Friday, August 5 the family of Paul O’Neal filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department and three unnamed officers for the fatal shooting of the 18-year-old recent high school graduate and beloved family member. This suit was brought on the same day that video footage
taken from officers’ bodycams was released to the public. The video shows the moments before and after the fatal shooting, but footage of the actual murder itself was not captured. It is still unclear if the killing of the unarmed victim itself was not caught on video because the officer intentionally turned his bodycam off, or because the equipment malfunctioned.
What is known about the incident is that officers were attempting to stop a driver in a reportedly stolen vehicle. There were no reports
that the suspect was armed and no evidence suggesting that he was armed when the call came through to officers. Even so, as Paul O’Neal sped by them in the reported vehicle, one of the officers opened fire on him.
Moments later, the suspect collided head-on with a police car that was approaching from the opposite direction. O’Neal exited the vehicle and fled on foot; the officers pursued him through a nearby yard. Five shots were fired at the victim as he tried to run away. One of the shots struck him in the back and killed him.
As the unarmed adolescent lay dying on the ground, one officer says, “Bitch-ass mother――-, f―-ing shoot at us.” Then they began cuffing the unarmed teen. He died soon after from his injuries. The officers involved were placed on desk duty.
At face value, it may seem as if this was a clear case of excessive force and a violation of the civil rights of Paul O’Neal. Michael Oppenheimer, attorney for the O’Neil family, called the incident an “execution
.” Others might describe it as a lynching. From the standpoint of logic, it seems like an open and shut case. But as history has proven time and time again, law and logic are two completely different things. Logic would not allow the slayings of Oscar Grant, John T. Williams, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Mario Woods and Tamir Rice go without consequence. Law would.
Officers get away with murder on a routine basis not because the system is broken. It’s not. The system works just fine ― it’s just fixed to work in favor of law enforcement. An average of only 4 out of every 1,000 cases
brought against law enforcement officers for murder have been brought to trial. Of these, an average of only one per year secures a conviction. One. And this one per year is usually accompanied by weak consequences.
Logic would not allow the slayings of Oscar Grant, John T. Williams, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Mario Woods and Tamir Rice go without consequence. Law would.
Say their names.
Darren Wilson, Daniel Pantaleo, Ian Birk, Brian Encinia, Brian Rice, Joseph Demarco and Stephen Shannon, Winson Seto, Antonio Santos, Charles August, Nicholas Cuevas and Scott Phillips, Johannes Mehserle, Timothy Loehmann, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, and Jeronimo Yanez.
Say their names. And say them with putrid anger.
They’re the names of the officers that killed Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John T. Williams, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Kayden Clarke, Mario Woods, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile.
And so far, they’ve all gotten away with it.
And they are not the only ones. There are thousands and thousands more whose names should be said. Thousands and thousands more that each took the life or lives of community members for no reason other than they were black, brown, indigenous, disabled, poor, gay, transgendered, non-Christian or any combination thereof. Thousands and thousands more names to place on the tips of our tongues if nothing is done about it. Or if the wrong things are done about it — again.
This is not the first time in this nation’s history that abuses by law enforcement gained national attention. Law enforcement was originally designed
to target minorities and little has been done to change that function since. They’ve been used to enforced slave codes, black laws, poor laws, ugly laws, Jim Crow laws and they still enforce them in their various forms today. It is no mistake that they systematically target minorities. It is no mistake that they use excessive force to do so. And it is no mistake that they get away with it. And it is no mistake that there is resistance to it.