The following blog contains descriptions of police violence.
In the months since a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, an estimated 15 to 26 million people have participated in protests against racism and police brutality nationwide. In response, police have gone absolutely berserk—and not just because of fires, vandalism, looting, or other valid and effective tools of protest.
No, police across the country, enabled by their departments and city leaders, have employed all forms of weaponry to assault all kinds of protesters who demonstrated against racist police and lethal violence against Black people. They’ve battered protesters with projectiles and chemical warfare, and enforced curfews put in place by mayors who intended to use state violence to bring protesters to heel.
If you have been a victim of police violence during these protests, Discourse Blog wants to hear about it.
Our reason is simple: what police have been doing to people in the past few months is one of the most important stories of our time. The examples of police harassment and brutality towards protesters across America are endless.
State police in Minneapolis arrested a national reporter on live television who was following their orders to relocate. Police in New York drove their vans into protesters forming a human wall in crosswalks behind a metal barricade. Police in Seattle shot pepper spray and flash-bang grenades at a chanting, unprovoking crowd of hundreds. Police in Philadelphia trapped protesters and then shot tear gas at them. Cops have defended their state-financed violence by saying (often with little to no evidence) that protesters were throwing objects at them, commonly plastic water bottles and rocks. An equal playing field, indeed.
Police departments and their union’s leaders have consistently spread misinformation about protesters. (In one instance, police in Columbus, OH, pushed a narrative about a group of violent antifa thugs with clubs, bats, and cleavers. It turned out they’d targeted a group of traveling performers; the clubs were for juggling.) In Asheville, NC, police destroyed a medical station set up by street medics, slashing open water bottles and littering supplies on the sidewalk. In Louisville, police seized and destroyed bottled waters and gallons of milk collected by protesters.
Police have given protesters life-threatening injuries and nearly killed them. Cops in Minneapolis, Cleveland, Dallas, Fort Wayne, La Mesa, Kansas City, and several other cities blinded protesters by shooting them in the face and eyes with near-lethal munitions. Police in Austin shot protest attendees with pellet-filled munitions and gave them fractured skulls, brain damage, and other injuries requiring surgery. Videos show munitions protruding from foreheads and police shooting at groups of protesters carrying the victims to get them medical attention.
And though coverage of these protests has slowed, the protests themselves have not. Nor have the maddening and violent actions of the police.
Federal police descended onto Portland earlier this month (as of Wednesday afternoon, they appear to be headed out of the city), and similar plans for Chicago and other major cities seem imminent. On July 11, federal police in Portland shot a canister at a protester before shooting him square in the forehead with a near-lethal munition. He was standing across the street from their hiding place inside the Multnomah County Justice Center, holding a stereo above his head, and had tossed the canister aside. And just yesterday, plainclothes officers in New York violently ambushed a young trans woman during a street protest, shoving her into an unmarked van for vandalism.
Police have also turned to mass arrests as a tactic. In a count from the Associated Press on June 4, more than 10,000 people nationwide had been arrested in the protests. A June 22 count from the Washington Post put the figure at more than 14,000 people. Mutual aid volunteers in Houston said police surrounded and trapped protesters who were trying to leave, in order to arrest them en masse, and that jailed protesters weren’t given masks. In Omaha, Nebraska, on Saturday, police overwhelmed their own jail system by arresting 120 people. During a global pandemic, when state governments are protecting profits over people, these arrests go from senselessly violent to intentionally violent.
The stories mentioned above are the tiniest fraction of what protesters have experienced across the past two months. And this stretch of violence isn’t happening in a vacuum. We’re experiencing the results of this country’s normalization of racist policing that disproportionately deploys lethal violence against Black people, and police have continued using this lethal violence, even during these protests. That must be acknowledged.
Here’s where you come in.
If you experienced police violence in some way during these protests and are currently in the process of recovery, however that may look, Discourse Blog wants to hear from you.
If you were jailed by police and not given a face mask and experienced COVID symptoms afterward, or required time to physically or mentally heal after your experiences with police during these protests, or have encountered police outside of a protest setting but experienced retribution seemingly stemming from the protests, we’d like to share your story.
Please email us about your experience at firstname.lastname@example.org, and indicate in your email if you’d be interested in talking further with us about it. We are committed to protecting people’s anonymity if they wish.
These acts of police violence will have an effect on the victims and their communities for lifetimes and generations to come and shouldn’t go ignored, even if dissipating interest from mainstream press outlets indicates otherwise.
Photo via Derek Simeone/Flickr