With the recent scandals revolving around the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice- and their subsequent nation-wide protests- the existence of police brutality has just become a stark reality for most Americans; but for a select group, this has been the case for many years.
Most Americans recognize the names of Rodney King, Robert Davis, and Frank Jude as some of the most notable cases of police brutality in the past 20 years (all of which also sparked riots after the federal government’s refusal to get involved). However similar these cases may be to the recent deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice; one fact separates the latter group: time. The piece of information regarding the Brown, Garner and Rice situations that alarms citizens the most is neither the violence nor the lack of judicial action; rather, it is the criminally short amount of time between the cases. Eric Garner on July 17th; Michael Brown on August 9th; and Tamir Rice on November 22nd.
As a direct result of these rapid occurrences, a large portion of the American population can be seen protesting, rioting, and expressing their disgust towards this, “out-of-control police force,” as one twitter user (Abby Martin) put it. However, while these deaths were certainly tragic and the existence of police brutality towards minorities in the United States cannot be denied, there comes a point when we let our emotions take precedence over our rational thoughts. As stated previously, people all around the United States (and the world, for that matter) have suffered from instances of unwarranted police violence. Just one month after the shooting of Brown in August, there was another case of an officer shooting an unarmed “suspect” in South Carolina; and in October, a black male American’s car was smashed into so that he could be apprehended and tased by authorities. Both of these cases were far “cleaner” as they both had video that could easily determine what happened. So why didn’t these victims get nation-wide riots and protests?
Simply put: Americans like drama. If the average American wanted to see a clean-cut case where the victim received justice and the assailant was punished accordingly, they would watch Law and Order or one of the many other legal dramas easily found on television. Unfortunately, journalists are no exception to this generalization. Just about every station from CNN and FOX to your local 6 o’clock news has covered, will cover, or is currently covering the fiasco that is the aftermath wrought by these cases. And if you don’t watch the news, there are countless tweets, videos, and photos from the equally countless participants in these protests. Ironically, the majority of these participants, as defined by Chip Johnson of SFGATE, “care very little about Michael Brown and Eric Garner,” instead, he proposes, “they have their own agenda.”
With the advent of modern smartphone technology allowing just about everyone to be a modern-day reporter, it is unsurprising that masses take to the streets if only to document this “uprising”. Therefore, it isn’t so much that police brutality has increased over the years to the point where cases are occurring on a near-monthly basis; rather, as a result of more accessible forms of mobile media, it has become exponentially easier to document these cases and spread them across the country.
To paraphrase The Washington Post: this isn’t a race issue; it is a civil rights issue. If protestors really want to make a difference in the law and in society as a whole, they need to narrow their focus and recognize that police officers aren’t beating up/shooting people because they are black; they are doing it because it is easy. It’s easy because protestors who are running around to suit their own agenda- or simply for the sake of protesting- are using their phones and other devices to spread their uninformed (and usually false) opinions demanding “justice” for cases they really know nothing about.
At the end of the day, protestors have two choices: either get loud and make a scene for every case of police brutality, or propagate the violence by continuing the vicious cycle of follow-the-leader and parroting opinions. Because regardless of their decision, people will continue to be beaten, maimed, and killed; all that can be helped is whether or not law enforcement will be preventing it or causing it.