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What do we do about videos of the police brutalizing Black people?

So what do we do? I’m tired of being traumatized, but the videos have to go viral or nothing happens.

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That’s an open question for the floor. Whoever wants to answer. I’m torn.

I just saw a video of a young man face down on the lawn, arms outstretched, crying and pleading for his life. There are about 10-15 cops all with their guns drawn, seemingly waiting for him to flinch in the wrong direction so they could unload their weapons into him. A 90-year-old woman (reports said her age) in a pink housedress walks out, using a cane, and goes to comfort the man. As soon as she gets to him, the cops move from their positions behind their protective barrier of police vehicles and rush toward the two, taking Granny to the ground in the process.

Everybody in the video is terrified. The cops are not in danger. The old woman certainly poses no threat. The people recording the encounter are pleading with the police to put down their guns, and the man face down on the lawn is audibly crying.

I’m frustrated and enraged and upset and SICK OF THIS COUNTRY and I don’t want to see videos like that. I don’t post videos of police brutality anymore — we know what they look like and I don’t need the trauma in my face.

But the video is necessary to even hope for justice, because cops lie. Further, the outrage from the video is necessary to put pressure on the powers that be to actually do something and not sweep it under the rug. For centuries, Black people have been at the mercy of the angriest white man in the vicinity, be it a slave owner, a slave catcher, a Klansman, a vigilante, or a cop with a badge, and it’s always one man’s word against another — and we know whose word matters more. Video helps level the playing field. It doesn’t always work out in our favor, but when there’s video, we can see what happened. The Internet helps level the playing field even more, because it’s not enough that a handful of people in power see what happened — those people cannot be trusted to do what’s right without supervision, and the public is there to be outraged and supervise.

So what do we do? I’m tired of being traumatized, but the videos have to go viral or nothing happens. Without getting people online upset enough to make noise to the people in charge of doling out “justice,” we might as well be in 1920, waiting on a white man to make up a reason to kill us for sport while another group of white men in a jury box pat him on the back for another job well done.

I hope Granny is okay though. I would link it, but I’m tired. You can look for it if you want.

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Cops

Eric Adams supports terrorizing Black people.

Stop & frisk puts us in a constant state of unease around law enforcement, and Eric Adams supports that. 

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I was stopped by the NYPD multiple times under the city’s stop & frisk policy of harassing Black and Latino men as often as possible. Eric Adams supports that policy and I want to remind everyone what it was like to be stopped for no reason by the NYPD.

I will remember Officer Francavilla for the rest of my life, and his stop wasn’t even my most violent interaction with the police. In the West Village, I was put on the ground face down by two cops and my phone was cracked when I landed on it. In Harlem, I ended up with a scratch on my forehead after I was held face first against a brick wall for fitting the description of a robbery suspect. Still, my stop at Columbus Circle is the clearest example of discrimination under stop-and-frisk and I still remember the cold hatred in that man’s face to this day.

I wrote this on November 11, 2014.


I got on the subway at Broadway-Lafayette, put on my headphones to let Azealia Banks provide the soundtrack to my ride home, and then I settled in for the ride.  I must have fallen asleep, because when I came to, there was a white NYPD officer whistling and saying “hey, hey you, off the train.”  I took out my headphones to see who he was talking to, vaguely upset that I missed whatever commotion made the train stop.  I figured there must have been some kind of fight.  I looked around and there was a homeless guy and two other guys behind me.  I assumed the officer was pointing to them and they started to get off the train.  I sat back and put my headphones back on.  When I faced front again, the officer had moved closer to me and was telling me to exit too.  “Are you ignoring my orders?  I said off the train.  Now.  Get off this train.“  I was still confused because nobody else was getting off, so it wasn’t an emergency and all I was doing was listening to music so I couldn’t have done anything wrong.

I asked, “Why?”

“I don’t like explaining myself on the subway.  Out of the car.  I’ll explain in a minute.  Get up.  Get up.”  So I got up.

I was standing on the train platform seething as the D train pulled away. It was 4:30 in the morning. I had been drinking in the East Village all night. All I wanted to do was go home and get in bed, but now I was standing in a subway station between two other guys with a cop – Officer Francavilla according to his badge (couldn’t remember the number and wasn’t about to reach for my phone) – in my face.  The guy to my left was Latino, wearing baggy jeans, a baggy sweatshirt, and a baseball cap.  I think he said his name was Jose, and he had a thick accent.  The guy to my right was also Latino with long, shoulder-length hair, wearing a sweatshirt, jeans & sneakers and carrying a  skateboard.  I can’t remember his name, but I’ll call him Rob.  Officer Francavilla made us slowly retrieve our IDs.  Rob handed his over, but Jose said he didn’t have one.  That’s when another cop (there were 3 or 4 on the platform) took Jose aside and it was just Rob & I.

I still have a South Carolina ID because I don’t feel like going through the hassle and cost of getting New York one.  Plus, if you show an ID from a Southern state at Brother Jimmy’s BBQ on Wednesdays, you get a discount.

Officer Francavilla asked me if I lived in NYC.  Mind you, I was enraged.  This is my fourth stop by the NYPD and I was seething with anger.  Looking back, I finally realize how confrontations with the cops turn so quickly, because I could not stop myself from being completely pissed off, standing there on the platform mean-mugging with my head cocked to the side giving clipped, one-word answers.

OF:  Do you live in NYC?
Me: No.
OF:  What are you doing here?
Me:  Visiting.
OF:  Who are you visiting?
Me:  Friend.
OF:  Where are you going right now?
Me:  Friend.
OF:  Where does your friend live?
Me:  Harlem.

By this point, Officer Francavilla was visibly upset.  His attitude had met and exceeded mine and he had an obvious chip on his shoulder to compete with my anger and confusion at being in this situation.  He stared me down and I stared back at him.

OF:  Look RAF.  Listen to me.
Me:  Not my name. Pronounce my entire name.

He stepped a couple of steps closer and stared me down again.

OF:  Look.  If you treat me with respect, I’ll treat you with respect.  That understood?

Staring at him the whole time, I cocked my head from one shoulder to the other and I could not tell you why.  The entire time I was in this situation, I was livid and couldn’t control my expression or my body language.  I’m never like that.  I’m so fully in control of my faculties at all times, but it was like someone else had taken over my body because I was just THAT PISSED at being accosted by law enforcement AGAIN.  I see how a stop & frisk turns into a resisting arrest at the drop of a hat because if I was acting this way, I’m sure other people do too and that “attitude” angers the cops who are trying to get their arrest numbers that night anyway.  All they have to do is push just a little and they have another collar for the month.

Anyway, Officer Francavilla sneered and asked me how many times I had been arrested.  When I told him none, he asked me how many times I had been stopped by police.  Again, I told him none.  Incredulously, he asked me how many times I had had to talk to police.  Once again, I told him none.

OF:  You’ve never had to talk to the police?  Ever?
Me:  No.

The look of SHOCK on his face made me want throw him in front of a train.  Yes, I’ve been stopped by the cops 3 times under this city’s baseless stop & frisk regulation, but he didn’t know that.  The fact that he was SO SURPRISED that I said I’d never been stopped by the police says everything you need to know about how cops treat young Black & Latino men in this city.  A 20-something Black male wearing baggy sweats, a black fitted, a white tee, and fresh Jordans has never been stopped by the cops?  WOW HOW INCREDIBLE.

Still seething from that moment.

At that point, he moved on to question Rob instead.  Luckily for me, I guess Rob made a more enticing candidate for arrest once he said he was supposed to report to community service later that day for a sentence.  I’m sure OF’s thinking was “Oh he’s already in the system.  This will be easy.”  I tuned out while they were talking, but then OF instructed us to walk down the platform.

OF:  We’re going to walk down the platform to the last set of stairs and then you’re going to go up.
Rob:  Where are we going?
OF:  I don’t like explaining myself here.  For your safety and mine, keep your hands out of your pockets and walk slowly in front of me.

We were paraded from one end of the platform to the other like criminals.  It was a walk of shame I never thought I’d have to endure.  The whole time I was hoping no one would recognize me…but on the other hand hoping I ran into someone I knew so they could see I was being detained by cops for seemingly no reason.  Remember, I don’t know why I had to get off the train, I don’t know why I’m being detained, and I hadn’t asked because it hadn’t crossed my mind really.  I could only see red.  If I started speaking full sentences, I knew it would go off the rails quickly.  I can’t express to you the full magnitude of my anger, but by the time I got to the last stairwell, I had a throbbing headache and my whole body was tense.

At the top of the stairs, Rob and I were instructed to back up until we were on the wall, keep our hands out of our pockets, and not make any sudden movements.  At the same time, Jose and his cop had caught up – he was being walked past us in handcuffs into the precinct (some subway stations have police precincts inside).  Officer Francavilla finally decided to explain himself.

OF:  Are you two familiar with the subway rules and regulations?
Rob:  What?
OF:  You two are being stopped for taking up more than one seat on the subway.
Me:  No I wasn’t.
OF:  I saw you with your foot in another seat which is a clear violation of the rules posted in every attendant booth.
Me:  What’s that?
OF:  You see that sign where you walk up and buy your Metrocard from an attendant?
Me:  No I use the machine.
OF:  It’s there.  Read it next time.

This is the kind of car I had been sitting in.

I was sitting in a yellow seat leaned up against the window with my leg draped over the corner of the orange seat perpendicular to me.  My foot wasn’t in it, I wasn’t in anyone’s way (because it was 4:30am and the train was empty), and my thigh was just kind of casually resting on it.  If you didn’t know, that’s a violation, so now you know.

Officer Francavilla said that our violation gave him probable cause to run our IDs to see if we have any outstanding warrants.  He gave both of our IDs to another cop who went into the precinct while we stood against the wall for another 20 minutes.  Rob had some kind of violation, so he was cuffed.  I was let go.

Now, let me just take a quick minute so you can fully realize how racist this policy is.  You can read this story from the NYT first or you can read it after.  Either way, this “regulation” isn’t enforced during the day.  It isn’t enforced in Soho or Gramercy or Chelsea during business hours.  This policy is only enforced late at night on trains where cops can make a quick “score.”  Think back to all of the times you’ve been on the subway between 3am and 5am – most of the riders are Black or Latino.  A large number of them, especially in trains coming from midtown, are late-night workers in kitchens and service.  The cops get on these trains and basically look for brown people to harass.  In order for this regulation to be equally implemented, the NYPD would have to stop white men with their briefcase in a seat down in the financial district.  White women shopping downtown would have to be stopped for having their bags in the way.  If the “regulation” were in any way applied evenly to the entire population, the NYPD would have a class action suit filed by every person who takes up two seats on the subway because that $2.50 only entitles you to one space.

If you want to make the argument that “If you don’t have any warrants, you don’t have anything to worry about,” that’s fine.  You’re wrong for three reasons:

One, I don’t have any warrants but I still have ONE MORE POLICE INTERACTION than most of my friends.  Do you understand how this resentment toward law enforcement builds up?  I have been delayed or detained by the NYPD FOUR TIMES in 6 years.

Two, Officer Francavilla didn’t write us a ticket, but many cops do.  That’s squeezing money out of a largely under-privileged demographic to fill the city’s coffers.

Three, white people have warrants too.  This is another example of the cyclical nature of law enforcement.  The crime rate is higher among Black & Latino men because we’re always being stopped by police who then find out what we did or what we’re carrying.  We get convicted and become a statistic.  The statistic says we’re criminals, so cops pay closer attention to us.  Then we get arrested, and all the while no one is looking for white people.  White people commit crimes.  White people do drugs at the same rate everyone else does.  White people carry guns.  But nobody is checking for them.  Nobody is pulling white guys off the train to check what they did and see if they can be arrested for anything because the NYPD is intentionally picking times and routes when they are more likely to have Black & Latino collars!  Everything about the entire system is stacked up against us from actual legislation to the implementation of such.  This doesn’t have to be a racist regulation, but the NYPD has applied it in a blatantly prejudiced way that virtually excludes the vast majority of white passengers from ever being subjected to it.

If you’re a white person who has been stopped for this violation, before you send me any messages, ask yourself three things:  what time was it?  what train was it?  what did the other people who got stopped look like?  They NYPD wasn’t targeting YOU – you just happened to be there while they were targeting US.

So.  That’s my fourth stop & frisk.  I’m still alive, but that’s number four.  I guess stay tuned for number five since apparently I have a tracking device that puts me on the radar of any cop in a 20 foot radius.

UPDATE:

A friend just found the guy who stopped us and apparently he has a suit against him for beating a passenger for the same violation.

Los Angeles transplant Evan King says a cop called him a “d–k,” threw him to the ground, then was joined by other officers in roughing him up because he dared to ask why he was stopped and questioned at a Midtown subway station.

King claims police officer Anthony Francavilla even made a remark about wanting to kill him.

“Oh, you wanna be a d–k? You wanna be a d–k? Turn around and put your hands behind your back,” Francavilla said, according to the lawsuit King filed against the city and several police officers Wednesday in Manhattan Federal Court.

(source)

Another friend found a picture of these cops from that precinct and Francavilla is the one on the right:

If you see that guy…stay calm, because apparently he beats people.  I feel even more lucky to be in one piece with this new information.


Back to today…

I just tried to look up Office Francavilla and I can’t find any salary information after 2018, so maybe he’s finally left the force (after losing three lawsuits brought against him). But that’s the climate Eric Adams supports. Each time I got stopped by the police, I didn’t think they were talking to me. When I got detained in the West Village, I didn’t hear the cops telling me to stop because I was just walking and I was wearing my headphones listening to Sade. I had no reason to pay attention to the cops, because I wasn’t doing anything wrong and I hadn’t ever done anything wrong. They were upset that I wasn’t listening to their commands and that’s why I was thrown to the ground. When I was stopped at Columbus Circle, I assumed the officer was talking to someone else, because I wasn’t doing anything wrong and I hadn’t ever done anything wrong.

Now, I pay attention to the police. Everywhere. That’s what stop & frisk did to me. I don’t walk by a police officer with my headphones playing any music, so I can hear them if they command me to do something. I don’t blithely walk by the bag checks in the subway. Cops don’t pass by me on the sidewalk unnoticed. I’m not casually standing behind a police officer in a bodega. I’m on high alert anytime there is a police officer around. My whole body goes into high anxiety and I’m waiting to be commanded to interact with them.

That’s what stop & frisk does to Black and brown communities. It’s a tactic of terror that puts us in a constant state of unease around law enforcement. And Eric Adams supports that.

 

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Cops

NBC News: Arkansas woman suing police after brief chase ends with her car flipped on its top

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A pregnant Arkansas woman’s car was flipped on its top by a pursuing state trooper who accused the motorist of not pulling over fast enough, according to video of the brief chase that’s being used in her lawsuit.

Nicole Harper, 38, went to bed on July 9, believing her unborn child had died in the crash on U.S. Highway 167 in Jacksonville, Arkansas, her lawyer Andrew Norwood said.

“She cried herself to sleep,” Norwood told NBC News on Wednesday.

(cont.)

This woman and her baby could be dead (they both survived) because yet another irrational boil on the ass of humanity hopped up on aggression and authority decided to pop.

If you’re being pulled over, you move to the right lane, turn on your hazards, slow down, and look for a safe place to stop your car. She was doing that.

If you’re a woman being pulled over at night, you do all of that in addition to making sure the area is well-lit. She was doing that.

She wasn’t doing it fast enough for Officer Rollover so he flipped her car for the indefensible act of going 14 miles over the speed limit and taking two minutes to look for a place to pull over.

You can’t reform the police. The entire mindset is “do what I say immediately because I’m in charge of you and nothing else matters, and if you don’t, I have the right to kill you, regardless of the circumstance.” There’s no reforming an entire culture of abuse and bullying behavior.

 

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Cops

Weaponizing Whiteness on Christmas

White people have the upper hand if the police are involved. Remember that always.

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Nolis doesn’t want me to write this. I asked him to send me the screenshots of the text conversation between him and Bobby and he won’t because he doesn’t want anymore drama with his roommate. I respect that, but Bobby can’t blame Nolis if want to get on the internet and tell everybody about how that asshole threatened to call the murderous New York City Police Department on me for sitting on his overpriced couch. I wrote an entire blog with the exchanges between Bobby and I from April through August to lay the foundation for just how irrational he is and how I was 0% at fault for this bullshit situation, because I hate seeing someone online standing in their truth and the first response is “well you must have done something to push him to that point.”

No. White victims know how to use their whiteness to get what they want and Bobby got exactly what he wanted. The shortest summary that still gives you the meat of our prior conflict:

In July, I became friends with a guy Bobby used to fuck in March/April and he was pissed that we weren’t including him when we hung out together. He blocked me in August when I said I wasn’t interested in trying to build a friendship with someone who only wants to hang out with me when I’m with his friend and treats his friends like possessions. That was the last time we ever spoke.

He never explained it to me. He blocked me instead.

Christmas is a little stressful for me because, not only are there constant reminders of Family Togetherness all around, but it’s also the time I feel most alone because my friends are with their families. If I miss my sister, I can walk down the hall and talk to Travis. I can’t do that at Christmas because he’s at home with his family. I haven’t had a Christmas with a family unit since my last one with my family the year before my sister died. I won’t go home with Travis for Christmas, even though I know I’m welcome, because I don’t know how I’ll react. I’m emotional, I’m depressed, I have social anxiety, and I miss my mom. If I have a breakdown from all the family togetherness, I don’t wanna be stuck five hours from NYC in a house with all these nice people who are just meeting me for the first time.

This year, I was going to test the Family Togetherness with Nolis’s family. They live in NYC. If I felt overwhelmed, I could just hop in a cab and come home. On the other hand, if it went great, I could take Travis up on his offer next year. Unfortunately, that plan got canceled at the last minute because one of his sisters just had a baby and the family decided it was too much of a risk in the age of COVID to have an unknown variable come into their home, so I was disinvited the day before dinner. I respect that. I know I have antibodies and a negative swab and I’ve been in my room since, but they couldn’t be sure of that.

The new plan was for me to teach Nolis how to make yams on Christmas Day instead of dinner with his family on Christmas Eve. Usually when we hang out, we do it here, but my roommate Aaron was having a Christmas party so the kitchen wouldn’t be available for cooking. Nolis said it would be fine for me to come down to his apartment and cook, so I asked him if Bobby would be there. He said yeah, because he and his current boyfriend are always there, but they could just go to Bobby’s room before I arrived.

Okay, that’s your living situation. If that’s how it works, that’s how it works.

I got there at 6 and unpacked my supplies. I heard the door open when Bobby and his boyfriend left, and I thought that was even better. I wouldn’t have to make small talk with Bobby after four months of silence stemming from a conflict that existed only in his mind.

And then the walls and walls of texts started pouring in. Nolis is conflict averse and he gets hot and flustered easily. I told him to let me see what Bobby was saying so I could help him respond because I didn’t understand what the problem was. Bobby went on and on about how he told Nolis he didn’t want me in his home, how could he bring me there, he had to take a Xanax and leave immediately, he was walking around with his boyfriend trying to figure out what to do, not only was Bobby now displaced on Christmas but his boyfriend was as well…

It was a LOT! Over some yams and a Christmas movie!

Nolis: Let’s talk this out. Can we have a calm discussion?

Bobby: No, let me know when he leaves.

Nolis: The yams are almost done. We can hang out in my room once they are so you won’t have to see each other.

Bobby: No, let me know when he leaves.

When I say Bobby can text, I mean that little boy can TEXT. I saw so many essays when I was with Adam because when Bobby has decided he is right, he will throw mountains of words at you if you don’t disengage. Nolis was getting upset and it was unfair to both of us. We couldn’t even hang out and enjoy Christmas because Bobby was texting every two minutes.

Nolis: I’m putting my phone down. I can’t enjoy time with my friend if I’m answering texts from you every two minutes. Call me when you’re on the way back and I’ll make sure we’re in my room, but I’m not answering anymore texts.

Bobby: That’s unfortunate. If he’s not gone in 30 minutes when I get back, I’m calling the police.

His exact words were “that’s unfortunate.”

So, back over the summer when I was trying to introduce Bobby to people and help him make friends in a new city, we talked about the marches and police brutality and Black Lives Matter. We were on the same page with what was happening with the protests around the country. He posted Instastories all summer in solidarity with the resistance and agreed that the police are a huge problem in this country.

But he decided he needed to call those same police on a Black man on Christmas because he doesn’t like me being friends with his former fuck buddy.

From there, the situation could’ve gone a number of ways, and I thought through all of them before I made my final decision, but a lot of people who were in my inbox about the conflict the next day weren’t thinking a few steps ahead like I was. Nolis said he probably wouldn’t call the police, Travis said he hoped Nolis punched him in the mouth, another friend said the police wouldn’t bother to respond to a call so petty, and a stranger told me Bobby should get knocked on his ass and that would straighten him out.

Let’s walk through the hypotheticals.

Calling His Bluff

A bluff is fine in poker, because you only lose some money if you get it wrong. A bluff is not fine when the potential consequence is thugs with guns. I didn’t want to see if Bobby would actually call the police. I personally thought he absolutely would because he’s an irrational toddler who only cares about himself and has zero ability to see reason. I found that out over the summer. Even if I didn’t think he would, was I willing to put my life at risk to test that?

Waiting on the Police

So Bobby calls the police and we wait calmly with our yams. The police show up, Bobby in tow, and we don’t know what he said to them to get them there, if he had to lie, exaggerate, cry, etc. The police see two Black men (Nolis is AfroLatino) sitting on the couch and this white man has just told them we’re tresspassing.

Talking to the Police

Assuming the police even let us talk, we have to convince them that I have a right to be there because I’m an invited guest. All Bobby has to say is “he threatened me!” and it’s my word against his. Who are they going to believe? The white man who is in tears or the Black man who is annoyed that Christmas is ruined because this emotional terrorist thinks I stole his friend over the summer?

So.

I left.

Bobby knows that I am terrified of the police. When we were talking about my blog this summer, I told him about all the times I’d written about being stopped by the NYPD and how I start to shake whenever there are cops in the subway doing bag checks or cops walking by me on the sidewalk or cops on the train doing patrols. I have been face down on the sidewalk with a knee in my back because a cop said I looked suspicious when I saw his car and walked the other way. I’ve been pressed up against a brick wall being frisked because the police saw me in the dead of night and said I fit the description of a robbery suspect. I’ve been abused by cops for just walking from point A to point B. I’m too afraid to wait on the police who are coming specifically to see me on the word of an irrational white man.

Whether Bobby intended to call them or not — and I fully believe he would have — he is wholly aware that cops are domestic terrorists (because he was posting about them all summer), that cops are terrifying to me personally (because I told him face to face), and that cops are there to save white people. Cops are state-sanctioned bodyguards for white victims and Bobby decided to take full advantage of that privilege because of a dynamic he created four months ago.

And now that the police are on the table, I can never go back to Nolis’s, so Bobby got exactly what he wanted. White victims usually do.

 

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