Mikos Fabersunne: Hooligans coddled by the police at BLM march
I participated in the Black Lives Matter march on Sunday, from its beginning to its end, carrying a sign with text on two sides calling for the end of militarized policing, the education of law enforcement about systemic racism, and related themes.
I witnessed young people being punched in the face and shoved to the ground by several very angry, violent men. I had my sign ripped out of my hands and thrown to the ground three times, each by different men.
Seeing uniformed police officers on both sides of the street, I approached one to request that he intervene. He replied that he had already “spoken to both sides.” When I responded that it wasn’t enough, he countered by saying we could file a written complaint. He made no acknowledgment that the counter-protestors had perpetrated the violence and no demand that they stop that violence or face arrest, nor did he attempt to shield the marchers from harm.
Another police officer was in the street between the mob of counter-protestors and the marchers. I noted moments later that he appeared to be leading the group of the counter-protestors. It was a poignant moment, because he stood in front of their line advancing down the street, while commanding the marchers in front of him to clear the space and move ahead.
Later, one of the violent guys grabbed a cell phone from a marcher and threw it down Nevada Street in the direction of a parked patrol car — I watched the pieces fly apart as they neared the front of the vehicle. The same violent man shouted to one young female next to me that he wouldn’t hit a woman, but he would sure break the jaw of any man that came near him. I took that as a threat and braced myself to receive his punch. Again the police outside the nearby patrol car did nothing.
The violent acts on the part of the counter-protestors were bad, reflecting the attitude of hatred, bigotry, racism and white supremacy that has so poisoned this society. But worse was the in-action of the Nevada City police officers who were present. By their refusal to enforce the law and protect the citizenry, they were encouraging, enabling and abetting those thugs dressed up in the stars-and-stripes and Trump T-shirts to violate the marchers’ civil rights and inflict bodily harm upon them. The counter-protestors recognized this and continued their assaults knowing they had no risk of being stopped, much less arrested. This is unconscionable. Our police failed — miserably and shamefully. They don’t have to agree with the signs of the protestors, but they are compelled by their oaths to protect those who carry them from harm by the assaults of others.
Whether their actions, as a group, were in accordance with directives of our chief of police or merely consistent with the existing culture of policing that has brutally taken the lives of so many black, brown and indigenous people, the police abandoned and failed to protect us.
Failures like this are exactly why some of us were carrying signs saying, “Abolish” and “Defund” the police. The existing law enforcement system employs brutality and white terrorism when necessary to maintain the status quo, as we have seen recently in Minneapolis, Portland and elsewhere. We cannot rely upon it to protect our brothers and sisters of color nor to protect ourselves and others seeking justice.
We must create some other form of policing within a social safety net that provides for the well-being of all its citizens, while offering protection from violent hooligans like those coddled by the police on Sunday. Until then, Chief Ellis should answer to the City Council about why his department failed so miserably to perform.
Mikos Fabersunne lives in Nevada City.
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