Japan asks Netherlands to take 'practical measures' against Sea Shepherd activists
February 03, 2014
I can’t end the week without mentioning the twin massacres in California. The first was in Monterey Park, near Los Angeles. Eleven were killed. The second was in Half Moon Bay, near San Francisco. Seven were killed. Both were committed by elderly Asian-American men. The mass shootings were two of 70 this month, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
The usual questions arose, wrote USA Today columnist Rex Huppke: “Why? What was the shooter’s motive? Who inspired him? Who can we blame?”
For Huppke, as for me, motive is a decoy. Finding the cause of gun violence, he said, gets in the way of recognizing its outcomes: One, that “a human with enough hate to kill” had “a gun that helped that person do the killing.” Two, that “the same thing that keeps happening has happened again.”
Huppke said that if we hold off on reacting emotionally to the effects of mass gun violence until “we can blame something other than the hate in the shooter and the gun in his hand,” we’ll never stop mass gun violence.
I agree but, I don’t think inaction is a consequence of desensitization. Huppke said that “we can’t let ourselves become so inured to America’s murderous rhythm that we need to know more before we let ourselves feel.”
Perhaps feeling the suffering of others will inspire reform.
I wish it were that simply.
Sadism is never simple.
Angels dancing on pinheads
To the degree that we have become “inured” to mass death, it isn’t a result of getting used to it (though we have). It’s a consequence of having accepted mass death as an outcome of legitimate political disagreement.
As common as asking why people kill other people wholesale is the false equivalence among the newsspeakers and opiniontalkers who largely set the agenda and inform the public’s understanding of mass death. I’m not talking about “gun rights versus gun control” or “individual liberty versus public safety.” These are not false equivalences, but they are false. The real false equivalence is inferred and subliminal: “mass death versus rights.”
No one believes you have a right to kill another person, or even harm another person in direct or indirect ways. No matter how much you love the constitution, you no doubt agree that your freedom stops at another’s freedom. Rights should be protected. More important, people should be.
Yet when it comes to shooting massacres, this common sense disappears. Instead of admitting that mass death is unacceptable no matter how it happens or why, and then doing something collectively to stop it, we busy ourselves by arguing about how many angels are dancing on a pinhead.
As Huppke said: “Was it a hate crime? (How could it be driven by anything but hate?) Was the shooter liberal or conservative? (Does it matter to those mourning?) Was it random or targeted? (Does either answer help?)”
A result of these pinheads is allowing ourselves to accept mass death as a consequence of legitimate political disagreement, as if the Second Amendment, or any amendment, is a good reason to permit 70 mass shootings in less than a month, in which scores of dozens are killed. There’s no shortage of things to disagree on. Mass death shouldn’t be one of them.
It is, though. That’s why we should face the hard truth. Mass death is a consequence of legitimate political disagreement as well as a consequence of sadists using legitimate political disagreement to mask their sadism.
Truth is, lots of Americans don’t mind mass death as long as it’s visiting “those people.” Even if it’s visiting them and their kin, however, it’s still OK. A few dead Americans are a small price for maintaining the white order.
I have talked myself blue talking about how being pro-gun is being pro-white power. My point is that desensitization – or being “insured to America’s murderous rhythms” – is not necessarily rooted in seeing terrible things happening over and over. As likely is that desensitization is rooted in indifference to suffering or even desiring to see “those people” suffer.
It’s very liberal to think that empathy is the road to gun law reform.
Perhaps liberality will win in the end. Who knows?
But it’s naive to suggest that motive-hunting is emotion-blocking is mass death-enabling. Emotion-enabling on a social scale won’t stop mass death-happening as long as there are sadists around who will use legitimate political disagreement to hide their mass death-desiring.
As Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told CNN:
“When I saw the police officer, you know, they have this little like stick, this metal thing that they pull out. I saw them pull that out and started beating my son with it. And I saw officers hitting on him, I saw officers kicking him. One officer kicked him like he was kicking a football a couple of times.
“But the most telling thing about the video to me was the fact that it was maybe ten officers on the scene and nobody tried to stop it or even after they beat him and they propped him up against the car, no one rendered aid to him whatsoever. They walked around, smoking cigarettes like it was all calm and like, you know, bragging about what happened.
“He was sitting there, and then he slumped over and an officer walked over to him and said, sit back up! mother — MF you know, while he's handcuffed. So he had to — they prop him back up, and he slumped over again, and they prop him back up again, but no one was rendering aid. I saw some fire department people come out there and they just walked around and nobody showed him any aid, and they're supposed to be trained in first aid.”
You and I are 30 times more likely to be killed by police than are citizens of Germany or Great Britain. In 2018, for example, police killed over 1000 people in America. In Germany cops killed 11; in Australia 8; in Sweden 6; in the UK it was 3 people; and cops killed only 1 person in New Zealand.
The reasons for this disparity are deeply systemic.
At the top of the list is the fact that the United States is the only developed country in the world lacking national standards for hiring, training, supervising, and disciplining police across the 18,000 departments in the country.
While it takes years to become an officer on the street in most developed countries, the average cop in America spends about as much time training as a barber. Many small police agencies require little to no training.
As a simple employer in Oregon, I’m subject to federal oversight regarding minimum wages, workplace safety standards, and rules around non-discrimination. The radio stations that carry my program must answer to the FCC. Most other professions are regulated, particularly those where lives are at stake. Physicians, for example, are subject to federal HIPPA standards, among other regulations.
Not so much for the police. In part, this is because the Constitution doesn’t mention policing and the 10th Amendment implicitly hands that power to the states.
This shouldn’t be a barrier to reform, though: the Constitution doesn’t mention speed limits either, but the federal government regulates them across the nation by withholding highway money from states that don’t comply. A similar solution could apply to national standards for policing.
Another problem comes from the US being the only developed country in the world that allows policing-for-profit, a system where police departments are funded in part by the revenue generated by moving violations and other fineable petty crimes. (Canada does have some limited cases of this.)
This system incentivizes police to make traffic stops for minor offenses and those stops, in turn, often turn deadly because of our lack of the standards mentioned above.
And then there’s the militarization of our police.
In 1990, during the GHW Bush administration, Congress, lobbied by defense contractors, rolled out an initiative based on Section 1208 of the National Defense Authorization Act that made “surplus” military equipment — from high-powered sniper rifles to armored personnel carriers — available to local police departments. In 1996 it was replaced by Section 1033 which expanded the program.
This has so heavily contributed to the militarization of our police that departments that are heavy recipients of such equipment are measurably more likely to kill their citizens than departments that aren’t.
In 2017, Congressman John Ratcliff introduced legislation to end the program, provoking a group of researchers to do a deep dive into the consequences of departments participating in it. They concluded:
“[R]eceiving no military equipment corresponds with 0.287 expected civilian killings in a given county for a given year, whereas receiving the maximum amount corresponds with 0.656 killings. In other words, moving from the minimum to the maximum expenditure values, on average, increases civilian deaths by roughly 129%.”
As Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego noted, the 1033 Program is:
“[O]ne of the most absurd programs in the United States government. Community police officers are not soldiers.”
Finally, the US is the only country in the world where a corrupt Supreme Court has unconstitutionally invented out of whole cloth a doctrine of “qualified immunity” which has, on numerous occasions, protected bad cops.
When Congress tried to fix this with the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House of Representatives in 2021, police unions mobilized in opposition to its provision dialing back qualified immunity and the legislation died in the Senate.
Other developed countries figured this out decades ago.
When Louise and I lived in Germany back in the 1980s, we had a couple of encounters with the German police: each time they were super-professional and courteous. This surprised me at the time, but now that I know that it takes almost 3 years of training to become a police officer in Germany, and the pay and benefits make for a high-status lifetime career, respected by the community, it makes sense.
In America, however, police behavior is scattershot: in some parts of the country police culture is very professional; in others, it’s just plain militaristic.
I know this from personal experience: at the risk of sounding like Herschel Walker or George Santos, I’m a graduate of the Georgia Police Academy and had a badge and license as a private detective.
Back in 1996, the Olympics were coming to Atlanta and the city needed more security for the Olympics than was available from local police departments.
At the time, I was writing a novel about a private detective and shadowing an Atlanta PI, a now-longtime friend named DeWitt Wannamaker, who had held a variety of jobs in law enforcement from being a small town police chief to running his own private detective agency. He was my policing mentor.
The Georgia Police Academy had opened its doors to civilians that year with an “executive protection” training course for people who’d work for Olympic athletes and visiting VIPs, and DeWitt got me into the course. I ended up not only completing the course but getting licensed for two years as a private detective in the state of Georgia.
Many of the guys going through the Academy were small-town cops who’d never had any professional training at all, and I discovered there are a lot of really good, dedicated, and smart people who aspire to work in law enforcement. Most of the top-notch people were working to join the State Police.
I also discovered that there was no shortage of yahoos who were just really, really excited about the chance to get a gun and a billy club and have the legal authority to kick the crap out of people.
I encountered one of those guys in the “hand to hand” part of the Academy’s course (Stanley was his name, and he was from a small town in south Georgia) and still remember the bruises he gave me and the way he laughed as he meted out the punishment.
We are not without solutions to America’s crisis of police violence.
— Congress should pass legislation to create national standards for policing to regulate local and state police departments so violence-prone and violence-craving individuals like Stanley don’t end up as cops.
— It should establish minimum standards for police training and certification, limit police unions to negotiating pay and benefits rather than protecting bad cops, and end the militarization of our departments through the 1033 Program.
— It should incentivize community policing and non-police alternatives to deal with mental health crises and the like. And define specific limits and responsibilities for police unions.
— Congress should also demand full funding of police departments to end for-profit policing. Traffic cameras are increasingly ubiquitous and inexpensive: across Europe and in some American cities they catch routine traffic violations and generate revenue without the need for police stops. People receive the ticket in the mail.
— Given the dimensions of this crisis, Congress could also consider creating a Cabinet-level agency answerable to the president to deal with public safety.
We’ve seen enough citizens murdered by American police: it’s well past time for genuine reform.
As of 8:30 pm, more than 100 people remained on the Harahan Bridge with protest leaders saying they wanted to talk with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Memphis Police Department Chief Cerelyn "C.J." Davis before disbanding. MPD officers closed off roads leading to the bridge―and several others downtown―but had not directly confronted protesters. Protesters started moving off of the bridge around 9:00 pm. As they marched eastbound on E.H. Crump Boulevard towards police, they locked arms and chanted "we ready, we ready, we ready for y'all." Protestors then turned north, toward central downtown. As they passed by residences, some people came out on their balconies to cheer.
Surrounded by protestors on I-55, NBC News' Priscilla Thompson said that "they are chanting, they are calling the name of Tyre Nichols. They are calling for change."
\u201c"They are chanting, they are calling the name of Tyre Nichols."\n\n@PriscillaWT reports from protests on a Memphis highway after the release of a video showing the fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols. https://t.co/KYY7bFKvMQ\u201d
— NBC News (@NBC News) 1674868123
Demonstrators and the Nichols family have called for disbanding the MPD Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods (SCORPION) team that launched in 2021 and was involved in the traffic stop. The Memphis mayor said Friday afternoon that the unit has been inactive since Nichols' January 10 death.
The footage shows that after police brutally beat Nichols—pushing him to the ground; using pepper spray; punching and kicking him; and striking him with a baton—it took 22 minutes from when officers said he was in custody for an ambulance to arrive and take him to the hospital, where he later died from cardiac arrest and kidney failure.
\u201c#Breaking LIVE: Memphis protesters block traffic on Old Bridge on I-55 call for justice for Tyre Nichols and out about #PoliceBrutality. "Please don't shoot me dead. I got my hands above my head." \n\nFull Video: https://t.co/ddGVpjTe29\n\n#JusticeforTyreNichols #TyreNichols\u201d
— Status Coup News (@Status Coup News) 1674870579
In Georgia, though Republican Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this week signed an executive order enabling him to deploy 1,000 National Guard troops "as necessary" following protests in Atlanta over law enforcement killing 26-year-old forest defender Manuel "Tortuguita" Teran, those who gathered after the video release Friday night "expressed outrage but did so peacefully."
That's according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which detailed that "a small but spirited crowd" of roughly 50 people formed in downtown Atlanta.
"We want to make one thing very clear, no executive order and no National Guard is going to stop the people for fighting for justice," Zara Azad said at the corner of Marietta Street and Centennial Olympic Park Drive. "We do not fear them because we are for justice."
\u201c#Memphis chief, Davis, also led Atlanta\u2019s REDDOG unit, which was disbanded after being sued for excessive force. https://t.co/2TUvnaJ7Gw\u201d
— Atlanta Community Press Collective (@Atlanta Community Press Collective) 1674877239
Just before the footage was released Friday, a vigil was held at "The Embrace" statue installed on Boston Common to honor Rev. Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King.
The Boston Globe reported that Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of King Boston, which installed the monument, highlighted that the civil rights icon was assassinated while visiting Memphis in 1968 to advocate for sanitation workers whose slogan was "Am I a man?"
"Today we are thinking about Memphis and Brother Tyre, and the slogan of today is still, 'Am I a man?'" Jeffries said. "Seeing the humanity in each of us is the cornerstone of true change. Experiencing another heinous display reminds us that no family should feel this pain, ever. And there's still work to do."
"This is a problem that confronts us all," he added. "This is a problem that we need to defeat together, as a family, as a community."
\u201c\u201cThey executed him!\u201d\n\nProtests erupt across the country in wake of video showing brutal police beating of Tyre Nichols in TN. Protesters in Boston last night called for justice. \n\nDetails on another demonstration today in Boston on @boston25 from 8-10 AM\u201d
— Julianne Lima (@Julianne Lima) 1674912243
"From Memphis to Chicago, these killer cops have got to go," chanted about a dozen people who gathered near a police precinct in the Illinois city despite freezing temperatures, according to USA TODAY. Their signs read, "Justice for Tyre Nichols" and "End police terror."
Kamran Sidiqi, a 27-year-old who helped organize the protest—one of the multiple peaceful gatherings held throughout the city—told the newspaper that "it's tough to imagine what justice is here because Tyre is never coming back."
"That's someone's son, someone's friend lost forever. That's a human being's life that is gone," he said. "But a modicum of justice would be putting these killer cops in jail. A modicum of justice would be building a whole new system so that this can't happen again."
\u201cAna Santoyo, 33, a Chicago native running for alderperson, said the killing is another reminder that police brutality is pervasive in the U.S. \u201cIt\u2019s not just bad apples. It\u2019s the whole bunch,\u201d she said.\n\nhttps://t.co/7xnFV94oo0\u201d
— Ana Santoyo for Alderperson (@Ana Santoyo for Alderperson) 1674875708
In Texas, The Dallas Morning News reported that Dominique Alexander, founder of the Next Generation Action Network, called Nichols' death a "total disregard for life, for humanity."
"The culture of policing is what is allowing these officers to feel like they can take our lives," Alexander said. "We want peace and calm in our communities, and we will do whatever is necessary to demand justice so our children don't have to deal with the same bullcrap we are dealing with now."
Around two dozen people who came together outside the Dallas Police Department headquarters Friday night shouted, "No justice, no peace" and "No good cops in a racist system," and held signs that said, "Stop the war on Black America" and "Justice for Tyre Nichols," according to the newspaper.
\u201cAt a Friday night protest at the Dallas Police Department headquarters, community organizer Shenita Cleveland recounted the events shown in the recently released body cam footage of Tyre Nichols' fatal beating by Memphis police officers.\n\nRead more here: https://t.co/L4y13l0m3S\u201d
— Dallas Morning News (@Dallas Morning News) 1674872544
The Detroit branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) organized a Friday rally featuring speeches and a moment of silence. Michiganders held signs that declared, "Unions against police murder" and "Systems of racist police, violence must end."
"I'd like to see a civilian oversight board in every city, community control of the police department," 30-year-old Cameron Harrison, a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 876 who attended the rally, told the Detroit Free Press.
"I'd like to see funding go away from weapons and [go to] jobs, housing, and water," said Harrison, adding that he does not need to watch the footage released from Memphis to know "what the police are capable of."
\u201c\u201cWe\u2019re tired, and we are sick and tired of being sick and tired,\u201d said Detroit activist Sammie Lewis, referencing a quote by civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer. https://t.co/LJwCyXBozI\u201d
— Ron Fournier (@Ron Fournier) 1674902324
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
A demonstration outside the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) headquarters became "tense" late Friday after a "protest march grew out of a candlelight vigil for Nichols and Keenan Anderson, who died this month after L.A. police pinned him to the ground and discharged a Taser on him at least six times in 42 seconds," according to the Los Angeles Times.
\u201cRodney King's daughter spoke on the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, drawing parallels to the brutality her father suffered at the hands of Los Angeles police officers more than 30 years ago.\nhttps://t.co/WzChVV74nN\u201d
— NBCBLK (@NBCBLK) 1674912610
The videos of Memphis police brutalizing Nichols have provoked comparisons to the 1991 footage of LAPD officers brutally beating Rodney King—who survived the assault but died in 2012.
"My dad didn't die that night, but a big part of him did that we never got back," Lora Dene King, who was seven years old when her father was abused by police, told NBC News this week. She said that Nichols' death was "very triggering" for her and part of a "repetitive pattern" that includes her father, Eric Garner, and George Floyd.
"The whole situation is sickening to me, there is no reason he shouldn't be alive," she said of Nichols. "It'll just be another hashtag and we'll go on with our lives, and then it'll happen again."
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
In New York City, "protests were mostly peaceful, but emotions ran high," reported a local ABC affiliate, noting three arrests.
According to the outlet:
Demonstrators held up signs, chanting: "What's his name? Tyre! Say his name. Tyre!" They demonstrated at Grand Central Terminal and Union Square, and crisscrossed the city, eventually bringing the Crossroads of the World to a screeching halt.
"When is this gonna end?" Bronx resident Chris Campbell said of police killings during a street interview with a CBS reporter.
\u201cHundreds of New Yorkers protested Friday after the Tyre Nichols video was released. People told us they felt angry, but also dejected.\n @CBSNewYork \n\nhttps://t.co/4MnQQ7yaM1\u201d
— Ali Bauman (@Ali Bauman) 1674881988
"It's absolutely disgusting," PSL organizer Talia Gile said of the footage during a Friday speech in Philadelphia's Center City. "It shows the complete and utter disregard for human life. It shows the fact that police, no matter what their race is, are going to terrorize people because that's what the system is meant to do. It's meant to abuse its power against citizens."
\u201cMore people have joined the rally. The demonstrators have now taken to 15th Street to march\u201d
— Matt Petrillo (@Matt Petrillo) 1674864793
Five former MPD cops, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III, and Desmond Mills Jr.—who are all Black—were charged with second-degree murder and other crimes related to Nichols' death on Thursday.
After the videos were released Friday, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. announced that two deputies "who appeared on the scene following the physical confrontation between police and Tyre Nichols" have been relieved of duty pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
The Oregonian reported that in Portland on Friday night, "People kept mostly to sidewalks but blocked the Burnside Bridge for a few minutes as they stood to honor Nichol."
"The marchers chanted 'Whose lives? Black lives!' 'No justice, no peace,' and 'Say his name—Tyre Nichols!'" the newspaper added. "Some people knocked down road barriers but there were none of the clashes with police that had marked many of the nights of unrest in Portland after the 2020 killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis."
\u201cThe group dispersed where they began at Burnside Skatepark. And while the demonstrators have gone home, their messages of solidarity remain\u201d
— Joelle Jones (@Joelle Jones) 1674881040
Protests were held in the nation's capital Friday night on K Street Northwest and at Lafayette Square.
"It should not take the releasing of body cam footage of a Black man being murdered by police for people to jump to action, and for those who feel moved by this, and you should, ‘cause it could be any one of us standing out here today," said one speaker at the former event. "We urge you to not only protest, to not only engage on social media, to not only be flabbergasted and distraught and angry, but to take action."
\u201cA justice for Tyre Nichols rally is underway at Lafayette Square in DC following the release of bodycam video footage.\n\nWATCH LIVE HERE: https://t.co/5E4OZ2uhlU\u201d
— 7News DC (@7News DC) 1674868085
Additional protests were planned for the weekend. The group ColorOfChange shared resources for demonstrators on Twitter:
\u201cIf you\u2019re protesting in Atlanta or Memphis, stay safe using these resources:\n\n\u2705 Direct action training w/ @BlkDirectAction: https://t.co/dpxF1iaDH2\n\u2705 @EqualityLabs' digital protest resilience guide: https://t.co/RFszqUAD6d\n\u2705 Collective action toolkit: https://t.co/7ZY3wGcJRt\u201d
— ColorOfChange (@ColorOfChange) 1674865865
"Tyre Nichols was a father to a 4-year-old boy, a son, a skateboarder, a beloved member of his community. And he was murdered after complying while the cameras were rolling," ColorOfChange president Rashad Robinson said in a series of tweets Friday. "Cosmetic 'solutions' like body cameras will not prevent the police from taking Black lives, nor will hiring Black police officers without reforming the overall racist, violent system."
"Now," he argued, "we must make sure the Memphis City Council takes action to end the practice of pretextual stops, hold officers accountable, eliminate the [Organized Crime Unit] and the SCORPION task force that killed Tyre, and fund a civilian response unit."