Friday night I witnessed something that shook me to my core. It has taken quite a bit of quiet meditation to figure out what really bothered me, but I think I’m on to something. At least I’m ready to start talking about it.
My recollection of the events
Friday I decided I wanted to go downtown and listen to live music. I live in Austin, so this isn’t a hard thing to do. So I got all cuted up and went to see if I could possibly get in to see Of Montreal, even though they were sold out. I checked with my music authority Amy to have a couple of back-up options ready. The plan was, go downtown, hear music, be back home by 1.
Of Montreal was truly sold old, so I started walking to the next venue (Stubbs). I heard yelling to my left, and saw a guy break loose from a cop and start hauling ass my way. So I stopped – it’s sort of like when the dogs are playing you have no real idea which way they are going to go and you don’t want to get hurt. Good thing I stopped too, the cops tazed the guy who was running away. The guy fell, hit his head really hard on a parked car before he went down. The police were right there on top of him. There were several people taking video so I just stayed to be an observer. Yeah, like in a war zone. A neutral observer to some skinny kid getting arrested, most probably well deserved too. There was never a question about that.
Escalation point 1
Unfortunately, it did escalate. One of the cops yelled at the guy for his arm. Now mind you, both cops were on this guy, pinning him down. The guy’s arm was under his body. There was no way to voluntarily comply with this request. The cop then yelled: “Give me your arm or you are going to get tazed again”! I couldn’t keep quiet, I yelled, “How is he supposed to do that? That’s not right you can’t taze him again he can’t give you his arm!”. Other people started yelling that the cops had his other arm pinned down.
Then the rest of the cops showed up.
There were so many police cars, 2 paramedic vans, even a helicopter.. And soooo many officers. All of this just to subdue one guy that they took down with one tazer blast (or shot?).
Obviously my night was ruined. But not for the reasons you may think.
My conclusions after reflecting on the events
After they got the guy into the ambulance, I left. The entire environment was upsetting. If you saw anything I wrote during the event, it may have looked like I’d been drinking. I hadn’t (yet), I was very upset. Also I can’t see my phone with my contacts in, esp in the dark. Mostly I was upset!
Given a day of reflection, here’s where I stand on what happened:
- The police have a really hard job. I looked for this incident in the news, and still haven’t seen it. But Friday night alone they caught a Houston murderer and dealt with a pretty vicious 100 person street fight, and the reemergence of a nasty street drug. I’m sure that guy needed to be arrested, but you can’t pin someone down AND taze him again. That’s just wrong.
- I think what hit me hardest was the people walking by. Most just tried hard not to look and to get to the next party. I watched as the officer directing people around the incident step to the black men that approaching the scene (he only did this to black men) to (almost) physically direct them away from the scene. All of these men were obviously on dates. I heard more than once from folks walking around the cops: “…just another Friday night in Austin….”.
As long as the party atmosphere kept going, no one cared that the street was entirely blocked with police vehicles to apprehend one guy.
- Why was there such a huge police presence to bring in one kid? How much did that cost? And from a civilian standpoint – why aren’t we more bothered about this?
It has taken me about a day and half to get to the point that I can even talk about what happened. The helpless feeling of hearing that cop threaten to taze the kid again (and knowing I could not do a damn thing about it if he did), and the frustration of the cavalier attitude of the people hustling to get to their Friday night parties really got to me. I’m happy I can express my thoughts freely here.
I just hate not knowing what to do about it.
This is happening way too much all over the country. It’s frightening to watch and of course to experience. And let’s not kid ourselves that there isn’t a difference generally in how white people are treated versus African-Americans.