Please read this excellent piece by a talented, impressive young woman of color, who lived in Aurora, Colorado. See the world through her eyes, and as she writes this article, also see the world through her brother’s eyes.
The author Alexandra Robinson graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. She was one of two speechwriters for presidential candidate, Tom Steyer. She has a love of politics (God Bless you, girl. I did too at your age). She says that she wants to “continue on my journey of helping the American people.”
We need you, Alexandra Robinson! We really, really do!
Elijah McClain Could Have Been My Brother by Alexandra Robinson
I CouldNeverSpeak to a Personof Color’s Experience, Like No One Can Speak to a Cancer Patient’s Experience
I emphasized in my past Posts that I am not a person of color. So, I cannot speak from that perspective, or to their experiences. I relate it to the way no one can truly grasp having cancer without actually having gone through cancer.
Yes, others understand we’re sick. They understand that we’re tired. They understand that we’re battling for our lives, in most cases. Others can also empathize. Many of those close to someone with cancer also feel helpless wanting so badly to do something, anything to help. I cannot and am not diminishing the role of our caregivers/care partners. They go through so much as well!
However, as for those of us stricken with the disease, I guarantee every single cancer patient remembers distinctly the moment they were told the horrific words:
–“You have cancer”–
In my opinion, unless you’ve heard those words; unless you’ve immediately thought of death or decaying from rounds and rounds of surgeries, chemo, radiation, etc.; unless you know the feeling of not “just being tired” but instead the absolute, full-body fatigue that seemingly never goes away; unless you’ve sat in an oncologist’s clinic awaiting the results of your most recent scan, not knowing if your tumor has recurred or if you’ll get the “all clear”; unless you know the feeling and emotional turmoil that comes on when you realize you will never be the person you were the month, the week or day before hearing those 3 fateful words, “You have cancer”…
Then, you can never speak from our perspective, or to our experiences with cancer. Every cancer patient’s journey is unique and personal. Even if you’ve had brain cancer, your experience will still differ from mine. However, there is absolutely common ground and an immediate bond you feel meeting a fellow survivor. They just get it!
That is why I feel the need to premise my Posts by stating that since I am not a person of color, I cannot speak directly to their experiences. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to write about the Black Lives Matter Movement to ensure a dialogue continues.
There Was a Time in U.S. History When the Irish Were Treated As a Totally SeparateRace
Had any of my ancestors come to America in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s because of the “Great Famine” that plagued the country from 1845-1849, they would have seen signs such as these.
A Very Brief Synopsis of the “Great Famine”
When the Irish fled their homeland in the late 19th century, they were legitimate refugees.
They were not just escaping the “Great Famine”, those 4 successive years in which the potato crops were plagued by “blight” (a disease caused by water mold, rotting the plants and thus, making anything that grew inedible). It is a historical truth that the potato was, and still remains the staple of Ireland’s diet.
Light Anecdote: My husband and I were married in Ireland. Our best friends, who are brother & sister who we grew up with, came over with their parents. Their family toured around the West of Ireland after the wedding. They still joke that they could not understand why they’d get 3 different forms of potato at every meal! “Chips”, or French fries as they’re better known; Mashed or baked potato; and, soup that included chopped potatoes. And NO, corned beef is NOT a traditional Irish meal! It is Irish-American!
Yet, it was not simply that the potato crops failed, destroying the mainstay of an Irish peasant’s diet. The British, who ruled the entire country at the time, made a systematic decision NOT to aide the Irish people.
In March 1849, the London News stated, “Great Britain cannot continue to throw her hard-won millions into the bottomless pit of Celtic pauperism.” Yes, the Crown’s “hard-won millions” made off the backs of Irish peasants, and the others they colonized! Ugh. I. Just. Can’t.
Charles E. Trevelyan, the British civil servant in charge of the Famine’s alleged “relief efforts” even stated, “The judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson, that calamity must not be too much mitigated.” So, basically he believed the Famine was simply God’s bidding to punish the Irish people, further stating that the Famine was due to “Hibernian overpopulation”. Again, I. Just. Can’t.
British landlords purposely left the Irish sick and starved with truly nowhere to go. As the Famine plagued Ireland, the Irish were denied food they grew, harvested and prepared for the British. In fact, under armed guards convoys continued to export wheat, oats and barley to England. All the while, at least one million, Yes,one million Irish died of starvation, typhus, dysentery, tuberculosis, cholera and/or simply freezing to death in abandoned shacks or even along the roadside! Combining emigration and death, Ireland would ultimately lose just about 1/2 of its population because of the Famine.
“No Irish Need Apply” and Racism Against the Irish In America
During the Famine, it’s estimated that around 2 million Irish sought refuge in America. Interestingly, some of the ships the Irish took over to the States were converted cargo ships, previously used to transport slaves from Africa.
If they even survived the 3,000 mile cross-Atlantic voyage, upon arrival in the U.S. the Irish were not welcomed kindly! The “No Irish Need Apply” (known as NINA) ads in newspapers, signs posted in windows and bigoted cartoons in magazines were based upon racism and bias that the Irish were ALL:
“Baby makers” or worse “Breeders” who couldn’t support all the children they had
Violent – a group who did not abide by the alleged “Rule of Law” that existed in the States at the time
Illiterate and uneducated
Well, many were but that was due to the established British system that kept them that way; nothing was more threatening to a British landowner than an educated Irishman, who saw the systematic impoverishment of his fellow men & women, and tried to stand-up against it
If you were an Irishman (that includes men and women alike) who needed to yield “X” amount of crops for your British landlord, and/or pay rent for the land your family lived on, plus feed your own family on top of that, there was little to no time for schooling!
Well, again, many were very ill. They left their beautiful homeland of rolling, green hills and fresh air, which had be stricken by a devastating famine. They were starving and if they weren’t sick before, they likely became sick during the voyage to America! Known as “steerage passengers”, the Irish peasants were crammed into the lower decks or cargo areas of the ships crossing the Atlantic on a 4-week journey that provided little to no sanitation, fresh food, fresh air or the slightest bit of privacy. Thus, disease ran rampant amongst the passengers. (If this history interests you in any way, I highly suggest Joseph O’Connor’s Star of the Sea, which details the voyage of a ship in the winter of 1847 from Ireland to New York)
The only housing available to most Irish immigrants in America were in the port cities of New York and Boston, where again they crammed into immigrant tenements. They had to suffer through poor living conditions, a limited public health system and of course, rampant disease.
Lazy, or “cheap labor taking working-class Americans jobs”
Catholic, thus not in-line with the Protestant majority in the U.S. and “incompatible with basic American values”
The Irish were seen as less than human, and certainly not “white” by the Protestant establishment
The above depicts cartoons in prominent publications of the Irish in America. As the middle cartoon states “The Most Recently Discovered Wild Beast”, you get a very good idea of how the Irish were seen. The December 9, 1876 issue of Harper’s Weekly depicted an Irishman on a scale with a Black man, shown below. The idea was that “Blacks were a curse on the South” and equally, the “Irish were a curse on the North”.
Interestingly, the author who is of Irish descent, states in his Post:
At the age of 96 my Grandmother subscribed to Ebony magazine and strongly espoused the civil rights movement for African-Americans. When I asked her why, she said she remembered well the time when “No Irish need apply’.
Blog “MemoriesandMiscellany”, by Jack Sullivan
The Protestant establishment creates a Movement against the Irish
Naturally, as history has taught us, an entire movement joined together against the “scourge” of the Irish Catholics threatening “true American values”. A group known as the “Know Nothings”(accurately named) arose. Again, naturally, violence erupted between the groups.
Interestingly, the violence turned deadly in all places none other than Louisville, Kentucky in August 1855. It seems Louisville is quite a hotbed for racism and violence. Rest in Peace, Breonna Taylor.
Referred to as “Bloody Monday”, armed Know-Nothings guarded polling stations on election day. Street fights also broke out when German and Irish Catholics’ homes were ransacked and torched. More than 100 businesses, private homes and tenements were vandalized, looted and/or burned. While historians estimate the death toll at 19-22, the Catholic immigrants believe well over 100 were killed, including entire families consumed in the fires.
Not surprisingly, no one was prosecuted in connection with the violence and murders.
In summary, the experiences of the first Irish immigrants in the U.S. mirror many experiences of the Black community in this country. Obviously, there are major distinctions. Nonetheless, the photo above, which was posted outside a B&B speaks volumes: “No Irish. No Blacks. No Dogs.”
Why are Irish people now accepted as “white” while the Black community continues to suffer and remain so stigmatized? I simply don’t have the answer.
So, if you call yourself “Irish-American”, wave the Irish flag around and get disgustingly drunk “celebrating” St. Patrick’s Day, yet hold racist, bigoted views on Black people or any minority – open up a textbook and “learn yourself something”.
Even Though I Am White,I Am Part of the MarginalizedCommunity
While I cannot speak from the perspective of a person of color, I can speak from the perspective of a white person living in the U.S. who is female, disabledand animmigrant.
You may not see it at first glance, but I too am part of the marginalized community.
Did I grow up and currently live in a very affluent area? Yes. Did I receive an excellent education? Yes. Did I have opportunities and advantages many people are not afforded in this country? Yes.
However, have I been discriminated against? Yes. Have I been treated differently than the “average Joe”, whoever that may be, or whatever that person may look like these days? Yes. In fact, while I will not go into detail, I am currently awaiting a settlement in a disability discrimination case I brought against a certain entity, its owners and employees.
Yet, has my life ever been threatened because of the color of my skin? No. Have I ever been harassed, intimidated or assaulted because of the color of my skin? No. Have I ever been frightened walking down the street in a particular area, having to be cognizant of every move I make or else I’d be considered “suspicious” because of the color of my skin? No. If I had a child, would I have to sit he or she down to talk about how they’d have to engage with a police officer because of the color of our skin? No.
So, even though I am a woman who is disabled and an immigrant, I’m not perceived as a “threat”. Although, I DO have a cane and I’m ready to use it if anyone comes at me wrong! Don’t be fooled by my petite size. As my husband jokes, “If someone tried to assault you, once you unleashed that Irish temper they’d run for the hills.”
I am not seen as a minority even though I was not born in this country because the color of my skin wouldn’t make some crazed, white supremacist immediately scream, “Get out of my country! You don’t belong here!” while brandishing his big, bad machine gun. (Um, compensating for something, guy?)
However, where I was born in N. Ireland, there would DEFINITELY be areas I would NOT be welcome, still to this day.
As A White Person, Should I Be “Color Blind” to a Person’s Race?
As a white chick with a hyper-sensitive personality, I feel so helpless and so hurt by what I’ve read and can actually stomach watching in regards to people of color being treated as less than human at the hands of police. Admittedly, I have not and cannot bring myself to watch the George Floyd or Elijah McLain videos. I would honestly go into a seizure because they would cause me to cry so hard. I cry enough simply reading about what transpired.
It is eerily frightening because literally as I was writing this, my doorbell rang. No one comes to our door unannounced. Ever. Our front desk calls to permit any visitor into our building. I have a service dog, who is a rescue and extremely protective of me. I could only open the door slightly so she wouldn’t run out. Well, who was standing there, outside my door? A police officer! My heart dropped.
In the matter of a few seconds, all these thoughts flew through my head:
What did he want?
Why was he at my door?
Why didn’t the front desk call to say the police were coming to the door?
Is the government monitoring my social media and this blog (well, probably, but anyway…) and alerted the local police?
I’m not doing anything illegal, am I?
Of course I’m not doing anything illegal! So why is he here?
Admittedly, he was extremely polite and was simply trying to determine which apartment’s terrace had an umbrella that reportedly looked like it was going to fall into the street. Nevertheless, the immediate dread that coursed through my veins at seeing a policeman outside my door threw me into such a panic, I had a minor seizure 10 minutes later.
I believe I got just a hint of what a person of color goes through every time they encounter a police officer.
So, I thought to myself all day, can I do better? And if so, how?
It’s soooo cliche, I know I know, but I have dear friends of all creeds and colors. Yet, I can’t think of a time where I spoke in detail with any friends of color about their experience living in this country as a minority.
I have several Muslim friends, who I did speak with following 911 and other more recent incidents about the racism against Muslims. I have a friend who is Asian, but was adopted as a very young child by an Italian family. We’ve talked about what she jokingly terms being “Fasian” (Fake Asian). There’s a huge Latino population where I live. So, I have Cuban, Columbian, Ecuadorian, etc., friends. We’ve merely talked about how I apparently raise my voice when I try to speak Spanish. My black friends were just my friends. I never thought twice about their skin color. So, we never discussed it.
I don’t know if it’s because I’ve traveled so extensively and met people from so many varied cultures, or my upbringing, in which I learned to simply see an individual as a person and to only judge them by their character-not by their color or religion. So, I suppose I was “color blind”, or tried to be because that’s what I thought was proper.
I now understand that being “color blind” also makes me blind to a person of color’s experiences.
In law school one of my favorite professors was a Black man, Shavar Jeffries, Esq. He went to Duke undergrad and then Columbia University School of Law. Further, he was the recipient of multiple scholarships and the Managing Editor of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. For those unfamiliar with the wondrous world of law school, being the Managing Editor of a Law Review is reserved for only the brightest, most distinguished students.
SIDE NOTE: I was not a very distinguished law school student… I excelled in the classes I enjoyed, but courses like Tax, Corporations and such-if I even showed up to class I never understood a thing. It may as well have been taught in Chinese, and TRUST-my grades reflected this loud and clear. If you looked at my transcript, you’d see immediately if I either A.) Liked the subject, or B.) Liked the Professor.
Back to the point: Professor Jeffries was so intimidatingly intelligent, I felt meek sitting there in his class. I grew up with a father who dropped his genius-level IQ into any conversation. He had me doing MENSA puzzles as a kid. Thus, I had not come across many teachers who I profoundly respected so much that I was hesitant to voice my opinions lest he/she think less of me.
Professor Jeffries, now this was a man on a level I really had never encountered. I was in the Honor’s Program throughout undergrad on essentially a full-ride scholarship. I also received a scholarship to law school. So of course, I had extremely bright professors, yet no one like Jeffries!
The class Professor Jeffries taught was an elective on civil rights. I had huge dreams of being a civil rights attorney, working for the ACLU, arguing Constitutional Law before esteemed justices. Yeah, didn’t happen! Anyway, I was so excited for this class.
Then we had our first class. If my jaw remained dropped the entire length of class I would not be surprised. I literally walked out with two friends, who were also very intelligent men, kind of shell-shocked. I said, “I don’t know if I should drop this class because that professor is waaay too smart. He’s going to fail me and my GPA is going to plummet!” Nevertheless, I remained enrolled.
THIS IS THE REAL POINT
As I was contemplating the idea of being “color blind” I suddenly flashed back to that civil rights class with Professor Jeffries. Frankly, I don’t recall what court case we were discussing, but I believe it related to Jim Crow laws.
Hopefully if you’re reading this lengthy Post, you know that Jim Crow laws mandated racial segregation in all public facilities in the South. In fact, in 1896 the United States Supreme Court upheld those laws in the infamous case of Plessy vs. Ferguson. That case established the “separate but equal” legal doctrine. Regardless of what actual case we were discussing, it had to do with racial inequality.
While I will never be able to express the idea as eloquently as my brilliant professor, he essentially argued that we cannot just be “color blind” and not see someone’s race, or the color of their skin.
I’ll adamantly admit – this notion went completely over my head. Again, because I respected him, but also because I was so intimidated by his intelligence I did not push him more to explain. I wish I had, looking back.
Only now, about 15 years later – I get it! My Eureka moment only took 15 years. 🤦♀️
While me, the white, flaming liberal who thought it was completely wrong to look at a person and see their race, by placing “virtual blinders” on I was ignoring or failing to acknowledge that person’s experiences and perspectives as a person of color!
The Conclusion, Finally!
In conclusion, finally, I know:
I know and always knew that I cannot speak from the perspective, or to the experience of a person of color living in America. It’s just like no one can truly speak from the perspective, or to the experience of a person with cancer unless they’ve been in the trenches and battled, or are battling the cancer beast.
Even though the Irish faced much of the same racism and bigotry people of color faced, and continue to face, it’s still not the same.
While I am a female, disabled, immigrant who has faced my own forms of discrimination, again – it’s still not the same.
Although with the best of intentions, I’ve lived my life “color blind”. However, I can no longer do that because in doing so, I blind myself to that person’s experiences and perspectives as a person of color.
Again, this Blog was never intended to address political issues. Rather, I created it to document my struggle through brain cancer. Yes, I always planned to include motivational pieces, essays on facing the “beast” that is cancer like struggling with fear and pain, and so forth.
I NEVER thought I’d be writing about a new civil rights movement, police brutality and death – not because of a physical disease, but because of the color of one’s skin.
I certainly NEVER thought I’d have to write about living through a worldwide pandemic that has now killed over 500,000 people and infected at least10 million people! 🤯🤯🤯 Um, it ain’t a hoax people and it ain’t going away!
If you’ve been following my series on the disaster we’re all living through, “WHAT CENTURY IS THIS?” in each Section, I’ve touched on a lot of hot-button issues.
In conjunction with my series, I truly felt compelled to write about a few more recent incidents. Sadly, I think they’ll just keep happening, or past murders will continue to come into the limelight. I pray this violence ends soon and that better days are a ‘comin. I also pray that the families of loved ones who were murdered by the police find peace, and are compensated for these wrongful deaths.
I HAVE TO ASK, IN THE INFAMOUS WORDS OF JOHN LENNON, WHY CANT WE ALL
“JUST GIVE PEACE A CHANCE”?
A Little Bit About My AntiestablishmentAttitude
Before I get into these most recent incidents, I’ll give you a lil background about my antiestablishment attitude and “inner hippie chick”.
I was raised Roman Catholic, Yes. I suffered through Catholic school literally my entire life! From grammar school, to high school then onto college and even law school-they were ALL Catholic. Yet, in high school I refused to be Confirmed because it is literally the sacrament where you are supposed to be confirming that you want to remain a devout Catholic. As a baby, you’re baptized but of course, it’s not your “choice”-it’s your parent’s choice. I mean, you’re a baby. All you do is cry, sleep, puke and poop. (Are you comforted that I’m not a mother? 😂)
By high school, I had already decided I did not believe in the institution of the Catholic Church. Thus, why would I get Confirmed? So I didn’t.
After that decision, my mother pretty much refused to speak to me until I graduated high school. Yet, my parents didn’t go to Church. To this day, I’m still scarred from my grammar school nuns. It probably also goes without saying, but I am truly sickened by the abuse both priests and nuns afflicted upon children (many nuns were abused by priests as well). The Church knew of this systemic abuse and did absolutely nothing except move these abusers to other parishes. Then, the abuse continued and they’d simply be placed into yet another parish.
Side note: If this history interests you, look into Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, also known as Magdalene asylums. I warn you though. It’s beyond disturbing, as in you may not sleep afterwards. The “laundries” were run by the Catholic Church, but were also supported by the government and high-powered businesses all throughout Ireland. Specifically, the laundries in Galway and one run by Bon Secours nuns in Tuam have a horrid history. Again, be warned! The last “laundry” only closed in Dublin in the 1990s. These places were not only allowed to run, but were in fact supported by an institution that was considered ALL POWERFUL (i.e. the Church) controlled by the patriarchy that existed throughout the country. People knew of the atrocities committed within the laundries, but you could never speak ill of the Church, until very recently.
My high school was quite a prestigious, all-girls prep school run by nuns, although most teachers were thankfully NOT nuns. Nevertheless, we had to take umpteen religion classes, attend Church processions in our auditorium and be “good Catholic girls” who didn’t wear their skirts too short (P.S. 90% of us did anyway), sign “Honor Codes” that we would not drink and/or use drugs (P.S. 90% of us did anyway) and all the other hypocritical B.S. they made us do.
I absolutely believe in God, angels, spirituality, the power of prayer, and that God has a purpose for all of us. However, personally I am staunchly opposed to the Catholic institution and its power. Now that’s just me.
Overall, most religions’ basic principles are the same:
Be kind to your fellow man, or “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
We are all one, all children of “God” (however you define that even if it’s just “Spirit”). Thus, we are all equal
Care for the poor, the sick, those in need, etc.
Unless you believe in some extreme, fundamental principle and claim it’s “religion”, we all know that we should not murder or harm our fellow man
So, when it comes to religion, I simply say I’m “spiritual. I also have an “inner hippie chick” side. I look back at movies and documentaries from the 60’s and still can’t grasp why hippies were so deeply frowned upon/hated. I listen to tons of classic rock music. I just returned from 2 weeks in Saugerties, NY where the actual Woodstock Festival took place. Although, I love the town of Woodstock as well. My idols include Stevie Nicks and Gloria Steinem, who I actually met at an event! (Swoon)
The true hippie stood for peace, love, and equality. They were involved in the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement, and stood alongside the original Black Panthers. They protested against the Vietnam War. We know the atrocities committed during that War and those long haired, “groovy” kids were right! We should have never been involved in that War.
Crazy Side Note: My FIL is one of the best men I’ve ever known. He came over to the States from Ireland in the 60’s. His aunt, who put him up, forced him to register his name and address at the post office. Why? I have no idea. That man wasn’t even an American citizen, but got drafted and went to Vietnam!! Personally, I would have been on the next plane back to Ireland. Hell, I would have tried to swim back!! No. Instead he fought for a country that was not even his own, won a Purple Heart amongst many other medals of honor.
So, the hippies of the 60’s stood against the “establishment”, which doesn’t seem to have changed much since then!
Recent, Disturbing Incidents of Continued Violence
So basically looking back on the late 1960s and into the 70’s, people of color alongside white people protested in the streets over MANY OF THE SAME ISSUES AS THEY ARE TODAY!
After decades upon decades of protests, marches, sit-ins, Walk-outs, speeches, efforts to increase minority and women’s rights, efforts to increase the number of minorities and women in government, and on and on… people who stand-up for equality and peace are continuously degraded and out-right terrorized!
I simply cannot address all of the violence that’s been reported recently. I’d never leave my computer. However, I did want to highlight a few.
The Louisville Incident
Protesters, who have demanded the officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s death be charged, had created what looked like their own tent city in Jefferson Square Park in downtown Louisville.
Overall, things were peaceful in the area until around 9:00 pm Saturday, June 27th.
A fellow “protester” Steven Nelson Lopez is currently in police custody [at the time I’m writing this] because at around 9 that night, he began shooting a firearm into the large crowd at the park. Apparently, bystanders returned fire in self-defense.
Tyler Charles Gerth, (27) was shot and killed. He was a University of Kentucky graduate, and a “budding photographer”. He was also known and active in the protest movement. What a devastating loss to this Movement.
Lopez was shot in the leg during the incident, and has been charged with murder. He had been camping at Jefferson Square for some time, but reports indicate he’d been asked to leave earlier in the day by other protesters for his “disruptive behavior”. He was also arrested twice in the last two weeks.
So, what had been a peaceful place for protesters turned into mayhem that night.
Murder of Oluwatoyin Salau
Oluwatoyin Salau was a 19-year-old Black Lives Matter activist. She disappeared in June. She sent a series of Tweets describing a sexual assault. A desperate search for her began. Sadly, she was found dead in Tallahassee, FL. Uhh, Florida!
Aaron Glee Jr., apparently confessed and was charged with her murder and kidnapping, as well as another woman.
Police admit Ms. Salau contacted them to report the assault she described in her Tweets, but they do not believe there was a connection between the assault and her killing.
Right now, our lives matter, black lives matter. We are doing this for our brothers and our sisters who got shot but we are doing this for every black person. I am profiled whether I like it or not.
Organizers in Tallahassee spoke about “how powerful her words were, how motivated she was to be more involved in the movement and share that activism with those around her.” What another devastating loss to this Movement.
Murder of Elijah McClainand Violence At a Peaceful Vigil In His Honor
On June 27th, hundreds gathered in Aurora, Colorado, to protest the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man who was murdered by Aurora police back in 2019. To understand why his death is coming to light now, we must understand who this young man was to so many.
Mr. McClain was a massage therapist who loved animals. He taught himself to play the guitar and the violin. That is NO easy task! He would actually spend lunch breaks at shelters playing the violin for stray cats and dogs because he believed it helped soothe them. He liked to dance. He was a vegetarian. He was a son and a brother.
Some of his friends and teachers said, “Elijah was a shining star.” He was a person, “who would actually make humanity better.” Another friend said, “He was just welcoming and loving and kindness.”
He was 5 feet 6 inches and weighed 140 pounds at the time of his death.
Can you think of a more peaceful soul?
To understand why people are demanding justice, you unfortunately must understand how he was killed.
Elijah McClain’s Murder
All of these murders are vicious, unwarranted and the police who committed them should be held accountable! Elijah’s murder seems like a pure punch to the gut as I read more and more about it. So, as I’m writing this, I am shedding ugly, ugly tears, asking “Why, God? Why?”
Back to the point… Mr. McClain was walking home from a convenience store on August 24, 2019. Someone called 911, saying he “looked sketchy”, wearing a ski mask and waving his arms around. He was anemic so he would get cold easily. Hence, why he wore a ski mask in August.
When police arrived, they immediately tried to handcuff him. However, there was a struggle. Elijah stated that he did not need to stop walking home, when ordered by one officer. One officer responded that he had a right to stop Mr. McClain for looking suspicious, and grabbed him by the arms. Another officer approached and Mr. McClain said, “I am an introvert, please respect the boundaries that I am speaking. Leave me alone.” He was told to “stop resisting” when he put his arms up to his chest and to “stop tensing up.” The body cam footage shows Mr. McClain pleading with the officers to let go of him, and trying to get out of their grip. The officers thew him to the ground and used a carotid hold, which restricts blood to the brain to render someone unconscious.
I don’t think it’s any surprise ALL THREE OFFICERS’ BODY CAMS “FELL OFF” during this part of the encounter!
While detained and on the ground, Elijah vomited several times. He actually apologized, saying, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to do that, I can’t breathe correctly.” Mr. McClain had chronic asthma.
At one point, an officer said, he would use his dog on him if he did not “stop messing around.”
After approximately 15 minutes, EMTs arrived and injected him with ketamine, a powerful sedative.
My father is a veterinarian and ketamine is used to sedate animals! You have to be very careful with animals and injecting the drug based upon the weight and any medical condition that animal may have.
I was not even AWARE EMTs used ketamine on people! In the body camera footage, one officer said that fellow officers had “put him out” with a carotid hold twice, “at least once successfully,” meaning Mr. McClain had already lost consciousness! So why the need to sedate him?
Mr. McClain went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital, passing away several days later.
An autopsy report by the Adams County coroner said that the cause of death was “undetermined,” and that it could have been a result of natural causes, a homicide related to the carotid hold, or an accident…. The 3 officers remain on the force and no charges were brought against them. I’ll just allow my rage to sit here with this utter B.S.
More Atrocious Police Violence At a Peaceful Vigil In Elijah’s Honor
Now, back to the fantastic year of 2020… On June 27th, thousands marched to honor Elijah and to demand justice in his name.
There were speeches outside the Aurora Municipal Building and protesters then held a vigil for Elijah with a violin performance, as he had been an avid, talented violinist. The protest was organized by students from Denver Public Schools and Aurora Public Schools. Lynnsie Holloway, a 17-year-old Black student from Denver East High School, said that she and the other students joined together because they were “upset by the lack of attention McClain’s death has received.”
Many also gathered outside the Aurora Police Department. However, that was a different group than those at the vigil.
So, at this beautiful, peaceful vigil organized by students, filled with music… the “Storm Troopers” arrived!
While the music was still playing, storms of police marching shoulder-to-shoulder in full riot gear surrounded the crowd. They began pepper-spraying people and using batons to push the crowds trying to flee. Police also attempted to make arrests. They claimed they were trying to get the crowd to move off the grass into a parking lot, utilizing bull-horns and firing warning shots into the air.
At the very least, the “carotid hold” the chokehold used on Elijah, has now been banned in Aurora, but only in the past few weeks. Prosecutors will also reexamine the case to see if charges should be brought against the 3 officers involved.
SO AGAIN, I HAVE TO ASK, WHY CANTWE JUST GIVE PEACE A F—-ING CHANCE?
I MAY HAVE UNDERGONE 7 BRAIN SURGERIES AND STILL COGNITIVELY ALRIGHT FOR THE MOST PART, BUT I CANNOT COMPREHEND THE WORLD WE ARE LIVING IN RIGHT NOW
As I stated in the prior Sections of this series, when I originally thought of this Post, I had a very basic outline in this lil ol’ brain of mine. Yet, as I began putting “paper to pen” shall we say, I never realized how many of my ideas tied-in together in such detail. So, what was intended to be a single Post became two and then three. Part Three then became a series all touching on different aspects of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
I’m not going to delve as deep in this Section because it doesn’t require too much analysis. What is transpiring is just ALL wrong. Here, I wanted to round out this discussion starting with the looting and rioting that is not a part of this Movement. Although I’m sure if you’re a Fox News enthusiast, it’s all you’ve seen. (I am who I am, and Fox News is blocked on my television. Sorry. Not Sorry). I believe it’s crucial to point out the Black Lives Matter Movement’s key principles though because they are completely antithetic to this vandalism.
You also cannot address the looting without getting political, and that’s unfortunate because this Blog was never ever intended to be political. Yet, I never thought I’d be seeing what I see in the year 2020 either.
Finally, I have to address the right-wingers, who have taken it upon themselves to “rise up” purposely to intimidate, threaten and assault marchers. Again, this Movement is about equality for all marginalized people and not just a black liberation movement. Understandably, the focus is on people of color. However, this is our generation’s civil rights movement. In 2020, we should not need one, but racism remains alive and well here in ‘Merica. Yet, while young black children are groped and pepper-sprayed, needing milk poured on top of them to get the sting out (see photos in my Part 3.03 Post) while rallying against police brutality and unwarranted deaths, white people storm State Capital Buildings demanding freedom to get haircuts, Yes, haircuts, with little to no repercussions.
Looting and Rioting
An estimated 450 businesses across New York City were vandalized and in some cases looted in late May and early June, according to the City’s Department of Small Business.
The Department is still evaluating the damage and doesn’t yet have an estimate for the total cost. Demonstrations sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have been largely peaceful, but looting followed early protests in several cities, including New York.
My prior post in this series discussed police brutality in depth, yet even law enforcement believe that the vandalism, looting and destruction of property were caused by people “taking advantage of a situation to steal”. (See above citation for full quote).
Organizers from the Black Lives Movement condemn these actions. They are understandably angered by the destruction. These destructive actions go against the message of the Movement, as well as detract from its true message of justice, equality and peace.
In fact, the Movement’s website has various toolkits and resources on how to avoid and/or deescalate violence. They focus on “healing justice” and condemn destruction or harm.
Therefore, what you see below is NOT what the Black Lives Movement encourages, teaches, or supports.
Apparently, Monday June 1st was the worst day/night for looting in New York City with at least 2,330 stores burglarized.
This coincided with a curfew ordered by the NYC Mayor. The last time New York City was under curfew was in February 1945. Fiorello H. La Guardia was mayor and Franklin D. Roosevelt was president!
I certainly never heard of a curfew in New York City! We’re the City that never sleeps. Well now I know why-because the last one was 75 years ago!
I grew up in the suburbs of the City. NYC in the 80’s and early 90’s wasn’t exactly very safe. I remember distinctly being told as a kid to “never look anyone in the face” while walking around the City. I remember those grimy subway cars covered in spray paint. I was dragged around to every single damn tourist attraction when the Irish came over to the States.
Totally Unrelated Aside: 100% Truth. If you are from Ireland you will understand. Especially in the 80’s, but it still happens these days, if an Irish person knew you lived in the States, and they had ANY connection to you (like 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon connection) you’d no doubt one day get a knock on the door. It could be relatives or total strangers. They would simply be standing on your doorstep expecting you to “put them up”. You never knew how long they’d stay, I mean you never even knew they were coming! Nevertheless you’d welcome them in! Offer them a “cuppa tea” or a beer, and set up some makeshift bed. Since you lived close to New York, well you’d have to take them ‘round as well. So, I’ve gone to the Statue of Liberty, for example, umpteen times! Almost every time I was dragged along to show some Irish relative or total stranger, the Big Apple. Yet, my mother put the fear of God in me convinced that if I looked at a stranger in the eyes, we’d be robbed, stabbed, or I’d be kidnapped. Oh, the 80’s… such innocent times.
These are heavy topics so a little lighthearted storytelling is not a bad thing.
Okay, back to burning and pillaging…
According to NYPD officials, on June 1st the vast majority of the looting took place in downtown SoHo. Police were not stationed in the area and were essentially taken by surprise at the concentrated effort to break into the high-end stores in that neighborhood. For example, a 20-year-old female was arrested carrying $9,000 in handbags from Dior. Another man, 21 years old, was caught with stolen “red strappy women’s Gucci shoes,” yellow Dolce and Gabbana sneakers, GStar sneakers, Beats headphones, multiple single D&G sneakers and two wrenches. The majority of those arrested were in their 20s and some were not even from New York, but came from Virginia and the Carolinas – just to steal and cause chaos!
None of this acceptable. In a City already so badly hurting from this pandemic where people are seriously struggling to stay afloat, small businesses were also vandalized. It’s not right to steal anything, but Chanel will survive. The bodega owner who had all the money in his register taken and his windows smashed – he’s only going to hurt more.
Thankfully, in New York at least, these actions have fizzled out.
Now, I do not condone any of this, but at the same time I’ll admit:
If I were a person of color my rage over what has transpired during peaceful protests would have me wanting to smash some windows. TRUST – I’d definitely be throwing some dishes in my apartment at the very least!
This is Where I Get Political, So Feel Free to Disregard My Points Because Again, This Blog Is Not Meant to be Political, but Please, Please, Please Understand Why Politics Cannot Be Ignored
First, I’d like to begin with a general statement and/or personal belief.
Twitter should not be used by the President of one of the most developed nations in the world to address his/her stance on issues. Dear, God, please let there be a female U.S. President before I die!
If you cannot utter more than 280 characters in a coherent, logical manner in a formal address to the press and people of this country, then maybe you should not be President. If more than half of those 280 characters include 30 “Uh” and “Um” with you consistently repeating yourself (i.e. “We’re doing a great job, a great job, just the best job that’s ever been done ever in the history of the world”), you DEFINITELY should not be President.
NOW, onto this Twitter statement by the actual President of the United States. We all know this is not the first time Trump used “inflammatory language” tending towards inciting violence, though I don’t think he’d know what that phrase means anyway…
I imagine the scenario going something like this:
Trumps reads “inflammatory language”. He turns to some crony in the White House.
Trump: “What? I mean, language means words, right?”
Crony: “Yes, Mr. President.”
Trump: “And inflammatory, that’s like fire, right?
Crony: “Yes, Mr. President.”
Trump: “Can words go on fire?”
Crony: “No, Mr. President.
Trump: “FAKE NEWS! WHO SAID THIS, OBAMA? WELL, WE WILL TELL EVERYONE IT WAS OBAMA. NOW, GET ME STORMY ON THE PHONE.”
Crony: “Yes, Mr. President.”
Crony then tries to put his head into a hot oven, but it won’t fit.
OKAY, NOW SERIOUSLY, onto this Twitter statement: The phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” was originally used in 1967 by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley during hearings about crime in that city, invoking angry reactions from civil rights leaders.
Headley “had a long history of bigotry against the black community,” said professor Clarence Lusane of Howard University. “The NAACP and other black organizations had for years complained about the treatment of the black community by Miami police. At this hearing, in discussing how he would deal with what he called crime and thugs and threats by young black people, he issued this statement that the reason Miami had not had any riots up to that point, was because of the message he had sent out that ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts,‘ ” Lusane said… During the hearings, Headley further stated, “We don’t mind being accused of police brutality.”
Headley’s use of the phrase is thought to have contributed to intensified race riots, including one of the most serious ones in Miami in 1980, when a black man, Arthur McDuffie, was beaten into a coma by up to a dozen white Dade County police officers after he ran a red light on his motorcycle. He later died from his injuries.
Segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace also used the phrase during the 1968 campaign.
Though Trump claimed he did not know the origins of the phrase, he admitted he had heard it used before – yeah by racists!
If I went into detail about every ridiculous Tweet sent out by this megalomaniac, I’d never stop writing. However, the point is very simple:
WHEN YOU HAVE A PRESIDENT THAT DOES NOT CONDEMN, BUT INSTEAD APPROVES OF, UTILIZES (REMEMBER THAT WHOLE BIBLE PHOTO-OP) AND RALLIES BEHIND VIOLENCE USED AGAINST PROTESTORS OR ANYONE FOR THAT MATTER, YOU CREATE A SOCIETY WHERE VIOLENCE IS PERCEIVED TO BE ACCEPTABLE.
THIS LEADS TO MY FINAL POINT.
The Right-Wing Has Come Out In Full Force to Purposely Intimidate, Threaten and Assault Peaceful Black Lives Matter Protestors, Yet They Staged Protests Across the Country Over Their “Right” to a Haircut With Essentially No Police Repercussion
Let’s start with this beauty…
Kathy Bennett, sporting a camo Trump “Make America Great Again” cap, waved a Confederate flag at a Black Lives Matter protest in Branson, Missouri, while she praised the KKK and vowed to teach hate to her grandchildren. As she graciously stated, “I’m teaching them to fuckin’ hate all of you people”. No surprise, she spoke from the bed of a pick-up truck, waved the flag, raised her fist and said, “KKK belief!”
Beyond being simply atrocious is “KKK belief” even proper English, or a real thing? Obviously, the KKK exists, they have “beliefs” but I’m not sure this moron has any idea what she’s talking about.
These are mostly fully-armed men attending, or preparing for Black Lives Matter Movement rallies across the country. Why do they need guns? Why are some in balaclavas? Why do they look like they’re going to war, in full camo fatigues? Uh, you’re not “blending in”. We can see you.
If ya want to go to war, join the armed forces, guys!
Do you see any police surrounding them? Shooting them with “beanbag rounds”? Spraying them in the face with pepper spray? The answer is flat-out: No.
Do you know about “Operation Haircut”? Yes, Operation, as in the military sense of the word, and Haircut! While hundreds of people were dying daily in the NYC Metro Area from the Corona virus, these idiots staged massive protests so they could get haircuts…
Oh, and I guess they were also protesting their “Constitutional right” to play golf. I studied quite a lot of constitutional law, both in undergrad and law school. I don’t recall a single case where it was an absolute right to golf or get a haircut. Yet, what does the Constitution mean these days anyway?
Now, you see police officers in these photos. Are they armed, in riot gear, aiming guns at anyone? The answer is flat-out: No.
These protests were not just held in city streets. They actually swarmed State Capital buildings, like in Michigan, ARMED NONETHELESS! (pictured below)
Let’s be honest… the guy on the left looks like he hasn’t had a haircut or even a shower in quite a while. Not to mention, he’s practically bald. By the way, his name is Brian Cash, and he described his experience at the protest as “awesome”. Naturally.
The guy on the right looks insane, but he isn’t exactly bordering on the Chewbacca look.
So, it’s very clear that protesting “while white” is very, very different to protesting “while black.” If you cannot see the difference then you may need to have your eyes, and probably head, examined.
Yet, an old, sort-of white/orange man sits in the White House tweeting away hate speech towards Black Lives Matter protestors, while armed white men scream and push police all in the name of the new “haircut rights movement”.
Tell me: Who looks more peaceful? Who would you feel safer standing with?
The group fighting for equal rights, for people of color to be seen as human beings, for equal justice?
The guys looking like they’re about to shoot up a State Capital Building, screaming in the face of police, armed – locked and loaded?
I MAY HAVE UNDERGONE 7 BRAIN SURGERIES AND STILL COGNITIVELY ALRIGHT FOR THE MOST PART, BUT I CANNOT COMPREHEND THE WORLD WE ARE LIVING IN RIGHT NOW
When I originally thought of this Post, I had a very basic outline in this lil ol’ brain of mine. Yet, as I began putting “paper to pen” shall we say, I never realized how many of my ideas tied-in together in such detail. So, what was intended to be a single Post became two and now three.
If you have time and appreciate my writing, please read all the Posts under this series.
In Part 3.01, I discussed several issues:
as a white girl, I cannot speak for the Movement, but simple research shows that the “Black Lives Matter” Movement is obviously a “Black liberation movement” but it seeks justice and equality for all marginalized within our society. See the website for detailed information https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/
white privilege, with a focus on our judicial system
sexism, racism and inequality
why the Movement is so important and “Remember their Names”
Throughout this series of Posts, I’ve touched on the issue of police brutality and the “police state” I believe we’re now living under. So this Post will focus on: the militarization of our police forces in the States; more on the demonstrations; my experience with police; and recent actions by some officials to actually help de-militarize the police.
As this is a major issue today, and frankly a trend I’ve personally noticed over the years, I wanted a full subsection dedicated to the police. So, Part 3.04 will focus on the riots and looting , which are not a part of these demonstrations, yet people are pointing to this vandalism and blaming the Movement; and, how the right-wing has taken it upon themselves to carry firearms and purposely intimidate demonstrators, acting as their own civilian police force.
Our New “Police State”
This is what American city streets look like right now:
Photo Number 1 Swarms of police in riot gear in Minneapolis, surrounded by illuminated “beanbag rounds”, a method now used to disperse crowds, which consist of small, fabric beanbags filled with lead weights fired from 12-guage shotguns.
Photos Number 2 & 3 depict officers carrying “beanbag” shotguns. Obviously, Photo 3 is very disturbing as the people depicted have their hands up, yet the officers have “beanbag” shotguns aimed directly at them.
Photo Number 4 depicts the injuries just one demonstrator suffered from these “beanbag rounds”
Photo Number 5 may actually be the most disturbing to me, personally.
Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old “Black Lives Matter” demonstrator, was forcibly shoved by 2 Buffalo, NY officers on June 4, 2020. As he lay on the ground, bleeding officers simply continued stomping past him. Currently, he is recovering from a fractured skull and is unable to walk. He remains hospitalized. The entire video of the encounter can be viewed here. However, it is very disturbing (if you have a heart, anyway). https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/16/us/martin-gugino-protester-skull/index.html
Despite being designed to cause “minimum long-term trauma and no penetration”, a direct hit from a “beanbag” or rubber bullet gun can cause:
a round to the chest may break the ribs and send the broken ribs into the heart
a shot to the head can break the nose, crush the larynx, or break the neck or skull
a shot in the abdominal area can cause internal bleeding
a shot in the eye can cause the eyeball to rupture
there is one known case in which a direct hit also resulted in death
On May 31, 2020, 20-year-old Justin Howell, a Texas State University college student, was shot in the head with a “beanbag” round by the Austin, TX police while he was filming a protest. Someone next to him threw something towards officers. While intending to hit that individual, police shot Justin “by mistake”. He suffered a skull fracture leading to a seizure and brain trauma. As if that were not horrific enough, there are videos showing the police firing at volunteer paramedics and protesters carrying Howell’s limp body to get him medical attention!
Initially, his injuries put him into a coma, and as of several weeks ago, he remained in critical condition. Doctorstold his family the skull fracture resulted in brain damage.
Literally the day after Justin Howell’s shooting, on June 1, 2020, a 16-year-old, Brad Levi Ayala, also suffered a skull fracture after being shot in the head with a “beanbag” round by the Austin Police! He was simply standing alone on a hill after work in a deli.
He had to undergo a seven-hour surgery, which included a skin graft (something I know about all too well), but thankfully did not suffer permanent brain damage.
The stories of Martin Gugino, Justin Howell and Brad Levi Ayala are the stories nightmares are made of! They were totally innocent of any wrongdoing. Yet, they suffered devastating injuries by police “high on their own power”.
I know what it’s like to try and recover from a brain injury! I will never be the person I was before. I cannot do so many of the things I loved to do. No matter how hard I work to stay strong, my brain just does not communicate with the rest of my body like it did before brain cancer.
I fear Martin, Justin, Brad and likely many others will experience these same issues, all because they wanted to be involved in a movement for civil rights. It truly breaks my heart.
Police Brutality against protestors had gotten so bad, Seattle created a police-free district, known as “Chaz”, where people are gathering to demonstrate, listen to speakers and attend events without fear. In reaction to this, Trump referred to the protestors as “domestic terrorists” and threatened to “invade” the City. Seattle’s Mayor spoke out that such rhetoric was an attempt to divide and incite violence, that it would not only be unwelcome but also illegal.
Yet, on June 7th a white man drove his car into a crowd of protesters in the area, then shot and wounded a black demonstrator who confronted him as he came to a stop. Then, in the early morning hours of June 20th, a 19-year-old man was killed and another person was in critical condition after a pre-dawn shooting in the area. No information on the shooter was available at the time I sit here writing this Post, hanging my head in shame.
Why can’t people in this country simply accept peace?
My Personal Experience In Our Not-So-New “Police State”
I briefly mentioned in Part 3.01 that I never liked “authority figures”. I have respect for city police, who do truly risk their lives and put themselves in danger to protect society as a whole. It’s like firefighters, who actually run into burning buildings to save lives, going against our human instinct to run away from those situations.
In the burbs, where I grew up though-honestly, the police were mostly jerks on a power trip just busting kids for underage drinking… not exactly life or death scenarios.
I was pre-law in undergrad. I took political science classes with guys who were planning on careers in law enforcement, and they weren’t doing so believing it was their “civic duty”. They were weasely guys (no surprise) on a power trip believing they’d become State Troopers. I’ve also heard the racist comments from Sheriff’s Officers in courthouses while interning for judges, and then as a practicing attorney. As if that weren’t vile enough, I know one fellow graduate from law school, who clerked for a criminal judge after graduating and relayed some of the racist rhetoric that judge would spew back in chambers, behind closed doors. I’m blatantly honest in this blog. Soooo… I’ll admit that I’ve never totally loved the police or any authority figure, for that matter, who believe they’re untouchable.
Thankfully, I have not had many interactions with police officers, but hey, I’ve gotten 2 tickets when I did drive. Both times the officers acted like Commando, pulling me over for the dumbest violations, though everyone probably says that, right? However, two personal incidents with the police still gnaw at me to this day.
Let me be clear:These are extremely minor in comparison to what is going on today. However, I think they demonstrate the mentality of many in law enforcement. Hence, the problems that arise when people with way too much power believe they can do anything they want without reprecussion.
One incident occurred when I had just started working at my first firm. These were the days when if you had a GPS system, you’d have to mount it onto your windshield or dashboard. No Google Maps or Waze yet. My car was parked on the street and I had come back very late from work. So, I forgot to take the GPS out of its mount and bring it inside. In the morning, I had a court appearance or conference on a case. Already nervous being new to the firm and having to argue a case, I went out to my car only to find my driver’s side window totally smashed, shattered glass all over the seat and my GPS stolen. What’s the normal reaction when that occurs? You call the police, right?
Now, I was living in an area just outside of Manhattan in New Jersey. So, it was not the burbs. It was an urban area, yet not a dangerous one. It was also about 7:00 or 8:00 am – not a bustling time for crime. The police refused to come and told me if I needed a report (which I did for insurance purposes) I’d have to drive to the station. Thankfully, a group of kind construction workers saw my car and me ugly-crying because I didn’t have a clue how I’d drive a car covered in shattered glass. They cleaned off the seat as best they could and one even gave me his gloves to wear! Kindness, it goes a longway. Such a novel idea!
Once I got to the police station, I was berated by the desk officer blaming mefor leaving the GPS visible. He actually said, “What did you think would happen leaving the GPS out?” Hmmm, I wonder how he would feel if someone smashed his window and stole his property? He even tried pushing me to NOT to file a report (i.e. he didn’t want to bother his @ss writing the report).
As an aside: A couple I knew in law school lived in this town. Most of us did, or in the surrounding areas. Their apartment was broken into while they slept! They got the same treatment. A broken window and a stolen GPS is one thing. Having your home violated AND your property stolen is a whole ‘nother thing. Yet, the police could have cared less!
The next incident occurred in the same town. As I’m writing this, I wonder why I didn’t just move away, but hindsight is 20/20. Anyway, I saw a girl outside a store with what was clearly a “bait dog” used for dog fighting. I’m a severe animal lover and my dog is a rescue. This poor thing was emaciated and covered in both old and fresh wounds. Yet, it was only about 5-6 months old. I didn’t handle myself, admittedly, in the most gracious manner. I approached her and asked her where she had gotten the dog from (maybe she had rescued it, for all I knew). She just ignored me and turned away. So, in my mind that convinced me – this was no rescue dog! The scene escalated, as her mother came out of the store screaming and cursing at me. She hurled insults at me. I’ll say, I was not so pleasant in return. I called the police, hoping they’d see this dog obviously in distress, and take it. Nope!
Now, it turned out the girl was apparently deaf. I do not feel proud of myself or defend myself for yelling at a deaf teenager/young adult. However, she did not sign or indicate she was deaf. So, I frankly had no idea. The mother-I have no regrets for my actions. Now to the point: a Suburban SUV and a squad car pull up. Slow day, I guess?
At least 5, maybe 6 police officers get out. Who do they surround? Me. The “Head Honcho” steps up about 2-3 feet from me, armed crossed, legs sprayed out in his “tough guy” stance with his minions behind while the mother continues screaming and cursing at me. At least he quieted her down. He begins to interrogate me why I would yell at a deaf person (Oh yeah, the mother had called the police on me too). My reply, “Well obviously I didn’t know she was deaf!” So, in his tough guy voice, he begins to berate me that I “attacked a deaf person”. I’m disabled myself! I would NEVER intentionally do that. As I’m attempting to explain why I was questioning the girl I stated to the officer, “That is clearly a bait dog” the mother began her rant again. She even admitted, the police had just taken the dog away from her because it was “in a fight” so she just got it back!!! Despite the fact she was basically admitting to what I accused her of, did “tough guy” listen to her admission? Nope!
He continued standing there basically in my face, I suppose trying to intimidate me. Well, I may be tiny, but I don’t intimidate very easily. His minions kept looking down at the dog and I could see in some of their faces, they knew I was right. Finally, “tough guy” turns his attention to the dog, it wags its tail at him and he literally says, “It looks happy enough. I don’t see any basis to take the dog from its owner.” I literally threw up my hands, because I could actually do that then, and said, “Well, you’re the authority. It’s your decision. That’s a bait dog and it’s on YOU for not taking it.”
I walked away just shaking my head in disgust. Part of that was because a swarm of police officers, driving expensive, shiny new vehicles came to the scene of a minor, ridiculous incident, and THEN acted as if they had just seized a major amount of drugs from a wanted dealer or something. The show of force was utterly needless, and only meant to intimidate the “suspect” i.e. Me.
Commuting in and out of NYC, I always noticed what I felt was an excessive show of force in Port Authority, Penn Station, Grand Central, and just along the streets of Manhattan. Do we REALLY need National Guard and cops with giant machine guns every few hundred feet? If they don’t intimidate me, are they really going to intimidate someone who wants to do major harm?
It’s the same thing at airports. TSA – ya ain’t stoppin’ a terrorist by making everyone take off their shoes, so lose the attitude!
The town where I was raised when we came here from Ireland is an upperclass suburb of NYC. You can even see the skyline from the highway, as the elevation is high enough and it’s only a 30-40 minute drive into Manhattan. Yet, literally nothing happens in our town except maybe kids drinking in the woods and smoking some weed. However, the cops drive around in massive SUVs. They even got some kind of giant armored car years ago. It sits at the volunteer fire station, where we joke that all the “townies” who never left just sit around and drink beers.
I mean, do you REALLY need that many police driving around in Suburbans and brand new Explorers, doing nothing except maybe pulling someone over for going 35 mph down Main Street, which is 25 mph? I’m just glad my tax dollars aren’t paying for that nonsense. Yet, my parents’ tax dollars sure are, as they still live there.
In writing this Post, I became curious about the police budget in my small, extremely safe, upperclass hometown. The 2020 budget for the entire town is around $25 million. The budget for the police-$5.45 million! Wha what?
The police are allocated about 1/5th of the entire town’s budget, who mostly just sit in their cars and stroll into Dunkin Donuts on the regular! I’m not joking. Two friends back in high school worked there and HAD to give every cop who came in everything for free-it was a LOT of free coffee and donuts! More importantly, the budget is likely so high because their AVERAGE ANNUAL SALARY is $122,000! At the very least, the minimum requirement to join the police in my hometown is a 4-year college degree, or active military service for 2 years plus a 2-year degree. So, at least they have some education under their belts.
Yet, there are a whole lot of attorneys out there who don’t earn that even after 10 years of practice. Yet, we had to complete 4 years of college, take the LSAT to enter an accredited law school, then complete 3 years of school to acquire our J.D. degree and THEN pass the bar exam just to practice law. You know what I earned when I left law school? $35,000 because I clerked for a judge and salaries are capped!
ThereAreVeryHonorable, GoodPolice OutThere
Listen, I’m definitely focusing on the negative here. There are many honorable men and women, who “wear blue”. There are many, who have even kneeled in support with the protestors.
However, thousands of people are risking their own safety to ironically protest the actions of the VERY people whose duty it is protect us! It’s not “just a few bad apples.” It’s orchards and orchards of bad apples, and no apple carries a gun and shoots oranges dead because they have a different skin type! Let’s just call it what it is …
There is a systematic problem within our police force today.
It’s not a new phenomenon.
So, is police brutality just getting more attention now? Do we know about more because anyone can pull out their phone, and video anything these days? Or, have marginalized people just had enough and simply will not tolerate this anymore?
Let me address just a few prior examples to demonstrate that police have been brutalizing people and/or using their power in sick, sick ways.
Daniel Holtzclaw, the lowest of the low, was an Oklahoma City officer who purposely preyed on black women in the City. He used his position as an officer to run background checks and find information that could be used to coerce victims into sex while on patrol in 2013 and 2014. He specifically targeted black women in poor areas knowing they had outstanding warrants and/or past criminal charges. Holtzclaw was found guilty in 2015 of 18 charges, including rape, forcing women to perform oral sex on him, and sexual battery involving eight women, although there were more women he did this to. He was sentenced to 263 years in prison. Yet, there’s an entire Facebook page dedicated to having him released!
Remember the “cannibal cop”? I don’t know if it reached national news but an NYPD officer, Gilberto Valle III (I appreciate that he used Roman numerals in his name, like some kind of royal prince) was arrested after his wife discovered he was spending time in Internet chat rooms describing detailed plans to abduct, torture, rape and cannibalize women. Valle claimed it was all “mere fantasy”!
The problem with his case – he never actually “committed the crimes”. He was arrested on conspiracy to kidnap and for accessing the federal National Crime Information Center database without authorization. He was convicted by a jury in March 2013. However, the judge overturned the conspiracy to kidnap charge. I’m unclear why the charge was permitted to be considered by the jury, if the judge just went and overturned it. However, there’s enough to discuss without me going “down that wormhole” of research. He served 21 months in jail, and was fired by the NYPD.
Can we truly end, or by God, at least reduce police brutality?
Police Reform Bills
After all the pain and suffering, the deaths, the beatings, and the protests, some states and city councils are indeed passing police reform bills.
The District of Columbia’s City Council passed a series of reforms, which prohibit the use of chemical agents, riot gear and stun guns against people exercising their 1st Amendment rights.
Yet, not all attempts at police reform have been successful. While The Minneapolis City Council announced plans to disband its police department and instead, invest in community-based public safety programs, the Minnesota legislature failed to pass a state-wide police reform bill.
So, while reform is being passed in some places, attempts at reform are failing in others. Yet, protests continue and in turn, more stories of police brutality are coming to light.
Derrick Ollie Scott (42), an Oklahoma City man, died at the hands of police during his arrest in 2019. Before the murder of George Floyd, police refused to release bodycam footage of the incident. However, due to protests and the Floyd case, the Oklahoma City Police Dept. finally released the footage. It is disturbing, at best. Now, Scott was running from police and a gun was found in his pocket. However, he did not aim the gun or brandish it towards the police. In fact, watching the video, it appears to me he was running for his life, which ultimately he rightfully should have been given what transpired.
Once he began to run, Scott was tackled and thrown to the ground by a male officer. Immediately, Scott began gasping, stating, “I can’t breathe”. Another officer so kindly replied, “I don’t care”. Scott repeatedly said “I can’t breathe”, “Okay” and “Please” while one officer straddled him and handcuffed him. A female officer dug her knee into his shoulder, and threatened to tase him. Then the officers rolled him onto his side while pushing his head onto the ground. Medical personnel arrived at the scene, put him on a stretcher and fully strapped him down. At this point, Scott was crying out while being told, “Don’t resist. You’re fine.” He died while in custody shortly afterward.
Scott’s family saw the video. His mother stated, “[t]hey treated him…So inhuman. Like he was an animal.”
The three officers involved were absolved of any wrongdoing.
George Floyd did not deserve to die. His life was taken in such a brutal way. However, his name will live on in infamy. We will remember him. We will honor his name, as well as so many other people of color who died at the hands of police, believing they had the RIGHT to take those lives.
No child should EVER have to hold a sign like this. Please know, whoever you are, lil man – YOU MATTER!
I PRAY YOUGROW UP IN A KINDER, GENTLER WORLD. IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US TO ENSURE THAT HAPPENS.
I MAY HAVE UNDERGONE 7 BRAIN SURGERIES AND STILL COGNITIVELY ALRIGHT FOR THE MOST PART, BUT I CANNOT COMPREHEND THE WORLD WE ARE LIVING IN RIGHT NOW
When I began writing my last Post, I expected it to be long, detailed and thorough. However, once I got going, I really got going! I anticipated it all to be just one Post, but there was just too much to address. Although, not necessary if you haven’t read my prior Post, it will give you a clearer perspective. Just click here: https://braincancerbabe.blog
My prior Post addressed my feelings on how I relate America’s current state of affairs to George Orwell’s bleak vision of the future set forth in his novel 1984. I focused primarily on the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this Post will focus on: my roots – Ireland and “The Troubles”; police brutality; living under what looks very much like a “police state”; and, how what we escaped from in Northern Ireland seems to now be occurring all across America.
I realize now too, there will be a Part 3 to this.
Going back to Orwell’s main premise in 1984, he envisioned a world in which people were controlled through:
Misinformation, or lack of information
Totalitarian rule – a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state
A society in which any criticism or questioning of the government was absolutely forbidden and immediately silenced through torture, or worse
Freedom of expression or speech simply did not exist, at least openly
Failure to care for, protect and serve the common man – Only the powerful with allegiance to the current government mattered
Orwell’s novels, not just 1984, have remained so popular in part because they seem to constantly resonate with what is going on the world at the time. Since 1984 was published, there’s been war, dictators taking hold of countries all over the world, attacks on democracy and freedom of speech, and on and on.
However, in my lifetime (40 years now!) I don’t recall ever being so truly frightened of what I see happening with my own 2 blue eyes on the streets of America . So, before I once again really get going, let me take a step back.
NORTHERN IRELAND HISTORY 101
EERILY SIMILAR TO WHAT IS GOING ON IN AMERICA RIGHT NOW
I was born in 1980 in Northern Ireland. If you know anything about Ireland and that time period, commonly known as “The Troubles”, then you understand I was basically born in the middle of a war zone. I’m going to dive into some detail here, not an entire 30+ years worth, but it helps to understand how I personally view our current situation in America. However, no matter who you are or where you were born, the two situations are eerily similar. So, this is very basic “Northern Ireland History 101”.
As a fundamental starting point, you need to know that the Republic of Ireland and N. Ireland are separate. Surprisingly, many people actually do not know this. N. Ireland is governed under British rule and part of the U.K. The Republic is independent. It is NOT part of the U.K.
Further, the Republic is considered to be primarily Catholic, and certainly was when “The Troubles” began in the late 1960’s. By contrast, in those days N. Ireland was primarily Protestant. If you are not Irish, you might ask, “Is there really much of a distinction?” Well, back then and even in some parts today, Yes, there’s a major distinction.
Catholics tended to be loyal to the Republic and believe Ireland should be one, unified nation (Republicans). Protestants tended to be loyal to the “Crown”/Great Britain. Hence, they did not believe that the 6 counties of Ulster, Northern Ireland should join the Republic, but instead remain unified with the U.K (Unionists or Loyalists).
Another fundamental point is that the Catholic minority in the North were openly and systematically discriminated against by the Protestant majority. As a minority class, they also tended to be poorer. Thus, there was a socioeconomic factor as well.
Nevertheless, you had religion and politics all rolled into one! Never good. Ever!
The Troubles: How They Began & Similarities to Today’s Crisis
Overall, “The Troubles” were a viciously violent period in N. Ireland, which lasted from technically 1969 to 1998. In total, approximately 3,500 people were killed in the North where the population was only about 1.5 million people. Over 50,000 people were reportedly injured.
The year 1969 was the technical start to “The Troubles”. However, the violence had already begun in 1968.
A group of Catholics formed a civil rights campaign against this discrimination in 1968. They asserted:
The government was systematically blocking their right to vote through blatant “gerrymandering” (Catholics were grouped into one constituency, so they could only elect a smaller number of representatives in proportion to their actual population in the North). Additionally, in the local government, only ratepayers (those who owned property) could vote. The ratepayers were overwhelmingly Protestants. Thus, Catholics essentially had no vote.
Catholics were being discriminated against in employment and the allocation of social housing(One prominent example was an unmarried Protestant woman, the secretary of a local politician, was given a house ahead of Catholic families with children)
One particular law, “The Special Powers Act” allowed for detention without trial. So, Catholics believed they were specifically targeted by the police under this law, as the vast majority of the police were Protestant and Unionist.
Irish nationality was not recognized in N. Ireland. In fact, the Irish Republic flag was deemed illegal. Schools would not teach Irish history.Side Note: This is still true in England today, so many students never learn about the Irish famine or Irish Rebellion!
SO IN 1968, YOU HAD:
A minority group
Systematic, open and accepted discrimination against that minority group
in the voting process
total exclusion and/or underrepresentation in the government
failure in the educational system to even acknowledge that minority group’s history
Police specifically targeting that minority
Members of that minority group coming together to initiate a civil rights movement
Hopefully you see where I’m heading with this…
So, several Catholic civil rights activists began to hold marches in cities across the North. One march was announced to take place in October. In an attempt to stop the Catholic minority’s march, a Loyalist Protestant group announced they’d also march. Therefore, the government banned all marches.
Despite the ban, the Catholic civil rights group marched anyway. The local police surrounded the marchers and beat them indiscriminately and without provocation. Over 100 people were injured. This led to 2 full days of serious rioting between Republicans and the police.
Eerily similar images of police in riot gear during these past 2 weeks in response to the “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations
1969: The TroublesOfficially Begin
I would never make light of what occurred during these times, but can I just ask – WHAT DIDN’T HAPPEN IN 1969?
Onto much more serious things…
The local police force in the North was known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). As you can imagine, they were primarily Protestant Unionists.
Following the incidents in ’68, more civil rights protests arose as early as January 4, 1969. That day, both civilian Protestant Unionists and off-duty police (RUC) officers armed with iron bars, bricks and bottles attacked the marchers. It was reported that on-duty RUC officers failed to protect the marchers. The marchers reached the City of Derry (the City where I was actually born) and by then the RUC broke up the march. That led to major riots between the Irish nationalists and the RUC. That same night, as a show of force RUC officers went on a “rampage” in a Catholic area of the City, known as the “Bogside”. RUC officers (again this is the police) attacked Catholic homes and residents. The violence was so intense, the Catholic residents had to barricade the area – from the police!
Tensions continued. As a result, more protests were held across N. Ireland leading to even more violence. In N. Ireland’s Capital of Belfast. In total, seven people were killed and hundreds were wounded.
As an aside: My father lived half of his childhood in Belfast. Even now in his 70’s he still will not speak of his childhood, or growing up as a Catholic in Belfast in a predominately Protestant neighborhood. He was born in Dublin City into a wealthy family. His father, my grandfather who I never met, was very well-known. While still in Dublin, my father attended Belvedere, one of the most prestigious schools in Ireland with plenty of renowned past pupils, one of the most notable being the author James Joyce. However, before divorce was legalized his father abandoned the family. Let’s just say he was not a very good man for numerous reasons.
Thus, with no recourse against my grandfather to demand child support, alimony, etc., my grandmother moved herself and her 2 children north to Belfast. So not only was my father a Catholic born in the Republic, he was also a “Dub” (A nickname for those from Dublin), which in the North was NOT a good thing! From the little I do know, my father was constantly, sometimes viciously attacked simply for being an Irish Republican and a Catholic.
Moving on, during another march in Derry in April, RUC officers entered the house of an uninvolved Catholic civilian, Samuel Devenny (age 42), a father of nine, and beat him along with two of his daughters. Official reports confirmed that Mr. Devenny had been watching the march from his window inside his home. As it became violent, several young boys who had been throwing rocks at RUC officers began to run as officers tried to chase them down. Sadly, the boys ran straight into Mr. Devenny’s flat (the term used for apartment in Ireland and England). Although he locked his door, officers broke it down and proceeded to beat Devenny and the girls with clubs. One daughter was beaten unconscious and had to undergo surgery.. Mr. Devenny was hospitalized with a suspected fractured skull, wounds to his eyes and mouth, He remained hospitalized until May 19th. However, due to his traumatic internal injuries, he suffered a heart attack and died on July 17th from his injuries.
If this is all resonating with what is going on in America right now,
well, it should!
July 13, 1969 marked what was considered to be the first death of “The Troubles”. During continued protests and clashes with police in Derry, Francis McCloskey, a 67-year old Catholic civilian, was hit on the head with a baton by an RUC officer. She was found unconscious and passed away the next day from her injuries.
Then, in August, the citizens of Derry became embroiled in the infamous “Battle of the Bogside”. For three straight days, the RUC and thousands of Catholics/Irish nationalists clashed. Protesters were gassed, sprayed by water cannons and shot at by the police. Once again, residents had to build barricades and set up first aid posts.
DERRY,N. IRELAND THEN v. AMERICA RIGHT NOW – LOOK SIMILAR?
While the “Battle of the Bogside” raged in Derry, protests were also being held across N. Ireland.
The Divis Tower housing complex in Belfast was a targeted area throughout “The Troubles”. On August 14, 1969, there were protests/riots going on near the Divis Flats. The police used armoured cars to break up the crowd. The mayhem then moved into the actual housing complex.
While there’s always different sides to every story, what remains undisputed is that the RUC began firing machine guns from their armored vehicles into the housing complex. Notably, those shots murdered Patrick Rooney, only 9 years old, who was the first child to be killed in “The Troubles”.
Sadly, Patrick would not be the only death in that attack. Hugh McCabe was also shot dead around 1 a.m. on August 15, 1969 as the raid on the Divis Flats lasted into the early morning. While police claim, Mr. McCabe was armed when he was shot, that is heavily disputed by witnesses in the area, including his father, a former sergeant during WW2. Rather, it is claimed McCabe was pulling an injured man off a balcony, trying to help the man, when he was shot. Nevertheless, McCabe was a solider at home on leave visiting his family. Thus, he would’ve had the right, it seems to me, to carry a weapon.
Not only did the protesters have to contend with the violence and brutality of the police, but also those loyal to the British government (unionist Protestants). Catholics were driven out of their homes, businesses and homes were burned. It’s also known that the police failed to protect Catholics/Irish nationalists being attacked by unionists.
Civilians heavily armed, and masked at “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations clearly there to intimidate protesters through a “show of force”. Yet, there are no police anywhere near them!
1969: “Operation Banner”
Up until this point, the violence involved the RUC/police in N. Ireland. Well,thenthe British government deployed the British Army on August 14, 1969, under the name “Operation Banner”. They remained stationed in N. Ireland for another 37 years, the longest continuous deployment for their Army in history! Further, the British government called inthe Ulster Special Constabulary (“USC”), who were essentially a special reserves police force.
Guess who the Republic called for? A United Nations peacekeeping force.
– ALL THIS BECAUSE CIVIL RIGHTS PROTESTERS BANDED TOGETHER TO DEMAND AN END TO DISCRIMINATION –
And so, as part of their “operation” the British Army worked with the RUC to guard check-points throughout N. Ireland, patrolled the streets and the border with the Republic, raided homes and businesses, conducted searches of both persons and places, tried to quell any protests or “riots” and conducted what was termed “counter-insurgency”.
Thus, the 1969 protests were seen as the beginning of “The Troubles”, which continued until 1998 when “The Good Friday Agreement” was signed. Yet, the British Army remained until 2007.
I COULD’VE EASILY BEEN A VICTIM TO THIS VIOLENCE
Northern Ireland even at the time I was born in 1980 was a true military state. The British Army patrolled the streets, controlled the border between N. Ireland and the Republic, and was purposely stationed to “assert the British government’s authority”.
You weren’t seen as a person, but only by your religion/allegiance to the Republic vs. The Crown. Violence. Terrorism. Bombings. Police/military brutality. Guns were a show of power and not protection. If you looked at an officer the wrong way, you could wind up with a gun butted against your head. A class of people who truly believed they were superior. People lived in true fear for so long.
Admittedly, there was violence on both sides. I won’t deny that.
However, when I was a baby a car bomb went off outside our flat/apartment. We lived on the street level, so the window next to my crib smashed due to the blast. Broken glass fell into my crib. Thankfully, I somehow wasn’t hurt, but I shudder to think that I could have been another child lost to “The Troubles”.
I recall my parents telling a story of how my mother had to care for one of their friends, who was from the Republic and Catholic. He had come up to the North to visit them. Well, he “fancied a pint”, went out and happened to walk into the wrong pub – a Protestant one! The thugs in the pub beat him so badly they nearly broke his jaw.
We finally left N. Ireland when I was around 2 years old to live in the States, the “Land of the Free”.
However, in 1996 when I was 16 years old, I spent the summer in Ireland and returned to Derry. I recall seeing the murals all over the City, paying homage to “The Troubles”. The images below are some I found online. However, there was one in particular that I cannot find now. It was of a masked man holding a machine gun. It shook me with fear.
Also, while in Derry my friend and I needed to take the bus. We had the timetable with us and couldn’t understand why the bus was so incredibly late. Now, I know things run a little slower back there, but this was extreme! So, an old man came walking by, saw the two of us standing there and said, “What are ye waiting’ for?” Politely, we explained the bus. Almost with a laugh, he said, “Sure don’t ye know there was a bomb threat? Ye won’t be gettin’ that bus home.” That was eye-opening, to say the least.
Thankfully, that day there was no bomb. However, two summers later a horrific event occurred on a sunny afternoon in one Northern county where we had lived prior to coming to the States.
The notorious Omagh car bombing occurred on Sunday, August 15, 1998 in the town center of Omagh, County Tyrone. A group called the “Real Irish Republican Army”, a Provisional Irish Republican Army splinter group opposed the IRA’s ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement. It killed 29 people (including a woman pregnant with twins, alongside her mother Mary and daughter Maura) and injured approximately 220 others. Many of those who died and were injured were children. It was the deadliest single incident throughout all “The Troubles”.
Instead of parking where they had allegedly intended, the bombers parked closer to the stores where so many people were out-and-about, some of whom were buying school uniforms for the upcoming start of the next school year. A photo of the red car that held the bomb was taken by a Spanish tourist just before the bomb went off. It is pictured below.
Apparently, the intended target was the courthouse in Omagh. Yet, because it was a beautiful Sunday, many people were out shopping in town. So, the bombers couldn’t find parking close enough to the courthouse! Yes, they couldn’t get proper parking…
Beyond that: The RUC had been warned almost 40 minutes beforehand but the location of the bomb was inaccurate. So, instead of moving crowds away from the bomb, the police ACTUALLY moved people closer toward the bomb!
That day was so horrific that like September 11th, Irish people remember where exactly they were when news got out.
So, imagine how many lives, how much agony and pain could have been saved if:
We could just treat one another kindly, or at the very least, not judge one another by race, religion or creed?
We had a way to stop police brutality?
We had the right to peacefully stand-up for our rights?
WARNING: PHOTOS BELOW ARE GRAPHIC
Yes, not all police are bad. Not all of any race, religion, creed is bad.
What is very bad is allowing systematic discrimination coupled with police brutality and violence to continue. Permitting violence under the guise of “police authority” resulting in not just unwarranted imprisonment, but multiple deaths of people of color MUST END NOW.
They say, “If you do not know or understand history, you are doomed to repeat it.” Well, unfortunately not too many people in this country know or understand history.
I MAY BE A WHITE WOMAN, BUT I UNDERSTAND THE PAIN, THE FEAR, THE ANGER AND THE SADNESS PEOPLE OF COLOR ARE EXPERIENCING RIGHT NOW, AND HAVE EXPERIENCED FOR MUCH TOO LONG IN THIS COUNTRY.
SO THIS IS WHERE I WILL END PART TWO. HOWEVER, ONCE AGAIN, EXACTLY WHERE I’M LEAVING OFF IS EXACTLY WHERE I WILL BEGIN MY NEXT POST.
WE ALL NEED TO DISCUSS THIS MOVEMENT; THE ACTIONS OF THE POLICE; DISCRIMINATION; and, VIOLENCE AGAINST MINORITIES BECAUSE WE’VE ALREADY LOST TOO MANY LIVES.