Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 10, 2016

The Dallas cops

Filed under: police brutality,Texas — louisproyect @ 3:54 pm

Before I transferred down to the Houston branch of the SWP in 1973, I worried a bit about the reign of terror that was a product of KKK collusion with the police department as this photo from a Newsweek article indicated.

It was not just Marxists who were apprehensive about the cops. One morning as I was about to enter the Texas Commerce Bank headquarters in downtown Houston where I was working as a programmer, I spotted a cop telling a white man in a suit and tie that he had a bullet with his name on it. Who knows what prompted that? Jaywalking, I guess.

If Houston was bad, Dallas was no bargain either. About a year into my stay in Houston, I went up to Dallas with a couple of comrades to sell subscriptions to the Militant newspaper at the University of Texas in Arlington, a campus located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. We had contacts in the student government office who gave us a map of the campus and their blessings. When we stopped back there to say goodbye, they had a panic-stricken look on their face. A campus cop was sitting by the door and out of our sight when we walked in. He ordered us off the campus after recording our ID’s. About a month later, I got a letter from the Dallas-Fort Worth police department telling me that there was a standing order for my arrest if I ever tried to sell the Militant on campus again.

When I was bringing my wife up to date on the Dallas shootings, I mentioned the incident about the Houston cop and his threat to a solid citizen. She was shocked. Afterwards, I thought about how much was being said now about the Dallas police department being a model of race relations, with an African-American chief. I thought that it might be worthwhile to search Nexis for Dallas and police brutality to see what comes up. If Micah Johnson stated that he wanted to kill white cops, I wondered how familiar he was with the city’s history and whether it made much difference with a department that had been “reformed”. It is a very old story and one engraved in minds of the city’s African-American population, I am sure.

  1. The New York Times
    July 6, 1980
    Race Tensions in Dallas Focus On Police Shootings

To a lot of people, the problems began last October, when a 39-year-old black man being held hostage in an automobile was shot to death by the police as he dashed from the car toward freedom.

No action was taken against the officers who had mistakenly shot Lee Douglas Page, and no action has been taken against any police officers involved in a growing number of shooting incidents involving minorities since then.

Recently the Dallas City Council turned down a request for a civilian review board with subpoena power to investigate allegations of police misconduct. The three minority members of the Council voted ”yes,” while the eight white members voted ”no,” prompting an angry walkout by many of the blacks in the audience.

It was a reaction to a question that has caused more black-white antagonism than any issue in recent memory here. Dallas is one of several cities where tensions between minorities and the local police have grown this summer, but it is one of the few where emotions have been focused so strongy on a single issue.

2. The Washington Post
July 5, 1991
Beating of Suspect Filmed in Texas

A Fort Worth police officer beat a handcuffed car-theft suspect with a baton at least 28 times Wednesday afternoon, and a woman captured the incident on videotape.

Officer E. J. Parnell, a three-year veteran of the police department, was suspended from patrol duties.

Police Chief Thomas Windham said Parnell may face criminal charges.

The victim, Ernest Anderson, 21, was trying to escape from a moving police car when the officer stopped along a busy interstate highway and began striking him, police said. Anderson was treated at a Fort Worth hospital before being jailed.

The videotape, made by an unidentified woman standing in a friend’s backyard, shows Parnell hitting Anderson for two minutes using a double-handed, overhead swinging motion. Windham said it appears the officer used excessive force, although many of the blows missed the man. “Obviously the baton is being used in a manner which we do not train,” Windham said.

3. The New York Times
February 21, 1994
Man’s Shooting by Texas Police Provokes Anger

The 22-minute videotape, taken from a camera mounted on the dashboard of a Texas state trooper’s car, is a bit grainy. But the scuffle it depicts one night last fall between a black man and two white police officers comes across clearly enough, especially the bullets hitting the black man as he is running away.

The footage of what began as a routine traffic stop emerged recently in a courtroom in this small city in rural East Texas. The tape, and the legal proceedings surrounding it, have outraged many black people here and even caused some whites to express anger and dismay.

A grand jury cleared both officers of wrongdoing last fall, but the F.B.I. announced last week that its Dallas office was investigating the incident for “possible civil rights violations.”

On Friday, a Henderson County jury convicted the black man, 28-year-old Lorenzo Colston, of two charges of assaulting a peace officer. Mr. Colston, who was shot in the right elbow and buttocks, paralyzing his arm and causing him to limp, faces up to 10 years in prison on each conviction.

The regional chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has seized on the footage as a portrait of police brutality as vivid as the beating of Rodney G. King, which was videotaped in Los Angeles in 1991. In one sense, the Colston tape is even more graphic; it has a soundtrack, which includes the officers discussing the baton blows that they delivered to Mr. Colston and one of them warning Mr. Colston’s companion early in the incident, “It wouldn’t take much to set me off, all right?”

Repeated viewing of the videotape strongly suggests that Mr. Colston, who was intoxicated and at times appears highly belligerent, would not have been injured had he followed the officers’ instructions. But the tape also seems to make clear that the unarmed Mr. Colston posed no threat to the officers at the moment he was shot, which followed nearly a minute of fighting in which Mr. Colston, using his fists, frequently got the better of the officers.

4. The Guardian,
March 18, 2015
Video released of Dallas police shooting mentally ill black man dead at home

Footage show two officers fatally shooting Jason Harrison, who was holding a screwdriver, within minutes of arriving at home in response to emergency call

Video footage has emerged of Dallas police shooting dead a mentally ill black man holding a screwdriver six seconds after encountering him at his home.

According to a legal filing, Jason Harrison’s mother, Shirley Marshall, called emergency services on the morning of 14 June 2014, telling the dispatcher that her son was bipolar and schizophrenic and that she was worried about him, and he might need to be hospitalised.

Within two minutes of the officers’ arrival at the house, Harrison lay dying. He was killed by six gunshot wounds to the chest, arm and back, an autopsy found.

5. NY Times
June 8, 2015

Jarring Image of Police’s Use of Force at Texas Pool Party

McKINNEY, Tex. — No lives were lost. The incident played out at a suburban pool party, not an urban neighborhood struggling with crime and drugs.

But perhaps it was that suburban setting that helped make the images so powerful and disturbing. Now a video of a police officer pointing a gun at teenagers in bathing suits and shoving a young black girl’s face into the ground has become the latest flash point in relations between the police and minorities.

The cellphone video, taken at the community pool in Craig Ranch, a racially diverse subdivision north of Dallas, has set off another debate over race and police tactics, with activists calling for the officer to be fired and others arguing that the blame should fall at least in part on the teenagers.

6. The Christian Science Monitor
August 12, 2015
Officer fired over shooting of unarmed Texas athlete. Is that enough?;

Dozens of protesters showed up outside the Arlington, Texas, police station Tuesday night to demand Officer Brad Miller be charged with a crime.

The Texas police officer who shot and killed an unarmed college football player during a suspected burglary last week was fired on Tuesday for his actions and could face criminal charges.

Officer Brad Miller, who was still undergoing training with the department at the time, fatally shot 19-year-old Christian Taylor at a Dallas-area car dealership early Friday morning.

About 60 demonstrators showed up outside the Arlington police headquarters on Tuesday night to demand that Mr. Miller be charged with a crime. Many held signs with Mr. Taylor’s name on them or signs reading “Unarmed? Don’t shoot!” The protest was organized by the group Mothers Against Police Brutality.

“There are no winners in this situation,” said Christian’s father, Adrian Taylor Sr., to Reuters. “No matter what decision is made, it doesn’t bring my son back.”

After being called to the scene of the suspected burglary on the morning of August 7, Miller pursued Christian Taylor through the broken glass doors of the car dealership showroom without telling his supervising officer, according to Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson.

Rather than setting up a perimeter around the showroom, Miller confronted Taylor directly and ordered him to get down on the ground, an order with which Taylor did not comply.

When Taylor began to advance toward Miller, the officer drew his service weapon and fired it at Taylor, who is believed to have been about 7 to 10 feet away. He fired a total of four shots. When Miller’s field training officer, who had followed Miller into the showroom, heard the first gunshot, he initially thought the noise came from Miller’s taser.

March 11, 2015

Truth through a Lens

Filed under: Film,Occupy Wall Street,police brutality — louisproyect @ 2:30 pm

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This is a timely addendum to the Race and Police series of articles that concluded on February 26th. Yesterday I saw a documentary titled “Truth Through a Lens” as part of my coverage for the upcoming Socially Relevant Film Festival in New York (http://www.ratedsrfilms.org/) that runs from March 16 to 22. As an accredited member of the press, I was able to preview both narrative and documentary films. “Truth Through a Lens” will allow you to get some insights into how a community activist named Dennis Flores managed to lead the largely Latino Sunset Park community in Brooklyn in both the types of protests we have seen in the aftermath of Ferguson as well as those associated with Occupy, and in one instance an action that effectively combined both.

The film was directed by Justin Thomas, a young African-American documentary filmmaker who seen in the closing minutes of the film being arrested by Sunset Park cops for the “crime” of filming in front of the station house. Thomas is a remarkable director who is doing through film what so many of his peers are doing through their activism: confronting injustice. In 2011, he served as executive producer for a short narrative film titled “The Grey Movie” about three young antiwar activists organizing against the invasion of Iraq for which Albert Maysles served as advisers. Mayseles died a week ago at the age of 88 after a long career making documentaries that often took up the cause of the underdog.

Dennis Flores is a long-time community organizer in Sunset Park who ran with a “tagging” gang in his teens. For young men, writing graffiti on the sides of subway cars gave them a thrill even if it could land them in jail. After many run-ins with the cops that reeked of the arbitrary behavior of the Ferguson cops, Flores ended up in Rikers Island where he met older and politicized Puerto Rican prisoners who urged him to become an activist.

His own victimization by the cops inspired him to begin bring a video camera to protests in Sunset Park, a Latino version of Ferguson, Missouri. Justin Thomas’s film shows repeated violations of elementary constitutional rights just like the kind that can be seen in protests against cop killings across America today.

The climax of the film shows Dennis Flores joined by community activists in an Occupy type protest in front of an apartment building that has fallen victim to landlord neglect. They do a “mike check” in front of the building calling attention to the abuses. Later that day the cops arrest him for doing nothing more than leading a film crew into the basement in order to prove that the landlord has filled it with garbage and thus created a hotbed for vermin and insects.

This is a film that as many activists as possible should see. It not only demonstrates the power of a community to resist around a charismatic leader but to show the potential for a movement that unites people of all races around a clear class line. It is an inspiring and well-crafted film that pays tribute to the gifts of a young filmmaker and the community activist who served as its inspiration.

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