Monday, March 2, 2015

Los Angeles Police Officers Kill Homeless Man named Africa - A Commentary

In the video above, a Los Angeles Police Department Officer shoots a homeless man who is struggling on the ground, five times. Was this shooting justified? It's hard to say, but it appears that the officer resorted to force and violence because his authority was challenged. This type of behavior is happening all over the country and the people need to demand it stop.

In the video, I think I can hear the officer say, "Drop the gun, drop the gun." But it's not clear - whether the homeless man on the floor, who went by the name of Africa, had a gun or not.

The confrontation happened because the LAPD allegedly asked Africa to take down his tent - who refused to do so. What probably happened was that Africa said no, and the LAPD and Africa entered into a struggle - where an officer takes down the homeless man.

What looks like to be a transient woman tries to come to his rescue, but an officer takes her down too. Then you hear seven blasts from the gun - but it's difficult to tell what's actually happening between Africa and the officer because the camera vision is obscured.

It appears that the white, younger police officer entered into a pissing match with a homeless person. And when the homeless person didn't obey his orders, it turned into a foul escalation, which ended up with two tragedies.

The first one is that the world lost this man named Africa. My mother asked me why I cared so much about someone I didn't know. And I said to her, "Mom, you know that someone gave birth to him? He had or has a mother somewhere. He had or has a father. He might even have a brother or sister. And now he's gone, and they have to live with that."

She stopped and said, "You know, you're right."

I mean, I've been the victim of police violence here in Baldwin Park. Remember when I was passing out articles at the park, and the Director of Parks and Recreation and the Mayor didn't want me around. They ordered the paramilitary force of the Baldwin Park Police to grab me, put me in an arm bar, and throw me into jail. And I refused to listen to authority too because they were wrong. I have the right to be at park, to say boo to the Director, and to pass out leaflets. Just because I didn't listen to the Mayor and the Director and Police - should I be shot at too?

Then, after it happens, they'll make up something - that I lunged after them or that I was mentally unwell. You see - this is the type of practice and behavior, we the people need to demand to change because if they could do it to a nameless homeless person, they could do it to anyone of us.

The German Christian Anti-Nazi activist, Martin Niemoeller knew this principle. The Nazis locked him up in a concentration camp for seven years, where he was close to being executed. He's best known for this poem:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I've lived in New Zealand for three and a half years and a good amount of time in Germany. In both these countries, law enforcement don't even have guns. Here, in America, the police are becoming a force that shoot and ask questions later.

To be sure, force can be necessary under such situations. But there's a highly disproportionate amount of police shootings happening from young males, not women, and not older men. So - I think the problem is one that highlights how immature, young men, in the police force, who probably have never had authority in their lives, are responding to having their authority challenged.

The second tragedy, though is for that officer who shot Africa. Even though he'll be in denial that he did any wrong, I'm sure that it'll weigh on him for the rest of his life that he killed a homeless man. That can take a toll on a person.

My final thoughts in this situation is the lack of transparency by the City of Los Angeles and the police. Here, the police are claiming that they have video from the body cameras of two officers, but they won't release it for investigation reasons.

What could be the harm of the public knowing the truth about what really happened?  

Just like I keep telling Baldwin Park: we have the right to know. And you need to tell us. Stop feeding us lies.

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