Glenn Broadnax of Brooklyn, New York, suffers from anxiety and depression. According to recently released court documents, on the evening of September 14th he was “talking to dead relatives in his head,” which led him to try “throwing himself in front of cars to kill himself.” As he disrupted traffic, police arrived. Broadnax reached his hand into his pocket, pulled out nothing, and mocked firing at police. The police sent three live rounds towards the unarmed man. They missed Broadnax but struck two women in the crowd behind him. Broadnax was taken down by Taser and charged with menacing, drug possession and resisting arrest — all misdemeanors. He has also been charged with felony assault on the two wounded bystanders. The District Attorney’s office argues that since Broadnax created the situation he is criminally liable for the reckless behavior of government agents.
This is just one of many examples of the ongoing increase in police violence. USA Today reports police violence has been on the rise since 9/11, presumably due to dropping police academy standards and substandard training. This may be part of the issue. However, I think the culprit is the growing police state mentality since the never-ending “war on terror” began. With the growing trend of militarized police over the past decade, it is no wonder violence is escalating.
But why the increased interest from the public?
Police brutality existed long before 9/11 and made major news in the past, but not nearly as frequently as today. Is growing public interest based on the increasing trend of violence? Correlation is not causation. New technology, independent media and good old human communication are getting the job done. We are connected, we talk, we control the public arena and we make stories go viral. In the face of increased violence folks are taking to social media to spread news and directly confront state power.
Case in point: Sahar Khoshakhlagh, one of the women shot by police as their bullets zipped past Mr. Broadnax, is not buying that the mentally ill man is responsible for her injuries. Her lawyer, Mariann Wang, says that charges should be levied on the police officers who opened fire. “It’s an incredibly unfortunate use of prosecutorial discretion to be prosecuting a man who didn’t even injure my client,” Wang said. “It’s the police who injured my client.”
Gone are the days of assuming people targeted by police simply had it coming. “They must-a done something wrong” is the old mantra of the majority. Today we know government officials are in the wrong and we don’t hesitate to write polemics about the fact. The keyboard is mightier than the state issued piece.
Information technology has connected people like never before but it is not the mere existence of the technology that gives rise to dissent in the face of police abuse — it is public labor and willingness to stand up to state power. It is amazing to see the tiny flames of liberty popping up not just in the United States, but around the world. The public is questioning who wields power and for what reason. Individuals (and the collective) are becoming far more empowered than ever before. This has huge implications for political systems — including the “justice” system. When true anarchic liberty is realized justice will not be gauged by punishment, force and violence — justice will instead be based on its restorative capacity and disarm those who make oppression possible.
Down with hot rocks from the “peacekeepers,” up with polemics from the public.
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