THE BULLET OR THE BULLET
We've voted. We've marched. We've trusted in the System. Joke's on us. It's all fun and games 'til somebody gets hurt...
We are witnessing, in real time, the very tangible effects of white privilege and racism in America. As instances of brutality against people of color increase and go unpunished with alarming frequency, it's necessary that we adjust accordingly to the harsh realization that the System is inherently unjust, and that black lives really don't matter to many.
To all who have gone too soon, rest in peace. Let's get that stated out of the gate and for the record, since many of the conversations surrounding these tragedies often only reflect concerns about the pigs that kill us. The sad fact is that although we honor and remember the victims, we also need to examine the larger ongoing issues of police brutality and unchecked white rage in America during the era of Obama.
As hashtagtivists jockey for something profound to say on twitter and the diseased racists on the Right fall over themselves to defend pigs and declare us savages (Hello Giuliani, Coulter and Nugent), we have to look at the facts. And the facts are that America has been desensitized to black death for far too long -- so much so that the knee-jerk response of many to our collective outrage is to question why we supposedly aren't as concerned with the problem of black on black crime. But know that we are concerned, and every community has problems. What we don't need is the police adding to ours.
Mike Brown, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Kenneth Harding, Rekia Boyd, Sean Bell -- pick any name -- the common denominator is that they all died at the hands of law enforcement unnecessarily. And there's no end in sight. By now it should be apparent to even the casual observer that there is a problem, and that problem is based in systematic racism and white supremacy. It's institutionalized, and it's reenforced through negative stereotypes of often corporate-endorsed media images of black-on-black violence, glorification of drug culture and the degradation of our women -- to the point where, to many, we look like animals. No wonder the police are empowered to terrorize us without consequence.
We've often seen the efforts by the media to create sympathy for those who get caught beating and killing us by portraying the victims as thugs and the perpetrators as heroes. But we're not all thugs, and all cops aren't heroes. The blanket assignment of that term insults those who actually are heroic by placing them alongside cops who shoot unarmed kids.
But fighting this perception is hard. It's especially hard in an era where the 1-2 punch of state-sponsored news/propaganda and the lull of mindless entertainment keeps the public serenaded and sedated into passive acceptance of the status quo. I reject that. And many others do too. So what's the proposed solution?
Armed resistance against unwarranted aggression.
It's the elephant in the room and needs to be seriously considered by those of us who value our lives and the lives of our loved ones. Malcolm X said that self-defense is common sense, and that's a credo we should all stand by. Can't take cops to court? How about court in the streets? We're dying anyway. And I've said it a thousand times -- the only language America speaks and understands is violence -- especially as it relates to people of color and those on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. Maybe we should talk.
I know some will criticize this stance as reckless and irresponsible, but guess what? Allowing unchecked aggression to remain unchecked is reckless and irresponsible. They'll say this message is crass and controversial, and that we can't win -- and that's fine. We don't need to win, we need to be felt. The only time mainstream America ever pays attention is when we assert ourselves the way she does. Police brutality and its increased militarization is crass and controversial, too. Maybe police will understand that there are real life consequences to their actions if there are real life consequences to their actions...
People who feel as I do have been told for some time now that our views are extremist because we firmly believe in meeting force with force, and that an eye for an eye is the only real justice in these matters. Are we wrong? You'd be a fool to think so now, after bigoted white America adds yet another dead nigga notch to its kill belt. We've been told that the System works, to be patient, that we live in a "post-racial" America, that Obama cares but that he's the President "of all of America and not just Black America" (as his administration's bombs drop on countries where people of color live), and that change is a comin'. But when?
It would have sent a powerful message to have seen charges filed against Darren Wilson and Eric Garner's killers. We would've been all for that, with the proper application of due process of law. But we were denied that satisfaction again, just as we've been denied countless other times in similar situations. We simply don't live in a society that's set up to respect black life -- and especially if it's not the black life of a celebrity or athlete.
So DIE SLOW with that bootlickin' pacifist apologist bullshit. Fuck your permit for a protest. In fact, fuck your protest altogether, since it no longer seems to do much but make us engage police on their terms. That's been the problem for a while now -- actions we take have rarely been on our terms, and arguments and discussions surrounding current events that affect us are usually framed in media and on platforms we don't control. We're constantly told how to act, how to show our collective outrage, and urged to remain calm. We march and shout, tweet and blog, and gab on cable news -- all to no effect -- as people of color continue to be murdered by police and cop wannabes seemingly at will.
Maybe we can write our congressman.
Maybe Obama will sing Al Green for us.
Or maybe we can snipe guilty pigs at random and get paid administrative leave from our jobs too, while ya'll "sort it out."
Of course, the best course of action for most of us is to minimize situations that actually call for us to have interaction with the police at all. But if you are ever in a situation that calls for dealing with law enforcement, it is best to know your rights when engaging with police, as well as some common sense solutions:
The following is meant to give a brief overview of law enforcement and how to protect yourself from unnecessary legal entanglements. Of course, many do adhere to these principles - which is why we are outraged - but it's still good info to pass on. Besides, if it's on, it's on...so here's a brief rundown of things everyone should be aware of:
This government's system of laws exists to maintain the dominance of those in power, and the police are its armed enforcers. If you doubt this for a minute, look at who are the selective targets of local laws: The homeless, the young, the poor, dissenters. Globally, look at who dies and who gets rich from our wars and other disasters.
RIGHTS DURING A POLICE ENCOUNTER
For 250 years in this country, the government and their enforcers have consistently fought against people working for liberation: Indigenous resistance, land reformers, slave revolts, abolitionists, labor organizers & workers, free-speech advocates, women's and civil rights workers, anti-war and anti-globalization protesters, and recently, animal rights and environmental activists.
Your relationship with the police is at heart adversarial. While there may be cops with hearts of gold, the job of all police is to arrest and prosecute you. As such, it is almost never in your best interest to cooperate with them.
Keeping yourself safe and resisting the police state comes down to these simple principles:
1) Non-cooperation: If you talk with the police, you could unintentionally hurt yourself, your friends, or others.
2) Do not consent to searches: Never give law enforcement the okay to examine your pockets, car, backpack, or home.
3) Remain silent: Say nothing except "I'm going to remain silent, and I would like to see a lawyer."
4) Talk to a lawyer: Never take advice from the police, they may try to trick and mislead you.
5) Use trust and intuition: Work only with people with whom you have a history of trust. Without being paranoid, trust your intuition.
In a police encounter these rules will help protect your civil rights and improve your chances of driving or walking away safely. From here on out, we are talking about your legal "rights" guaranteed by law. Though in our view, what you can do and what you can do legally are two different things. All of these rights also apply to minors and non-citizens.
KEEP PRIVATE ITEMS OUT OF VIEW
This is common sense: Always keep any private items that you don't want others to see out of sight. Legally speaking, police do not need a search warrant in order to confiscate any illegal items that are in plain view.
STAY COOL & POLITELY ASSERTIVE
Police are well armed and often unpredictable, so remaining cool and calm will keep you safe. Treat them with the caution you would treat a dangerous, wild animal.
Be polite and yet assertive to ensure that your rights aren't trampled on. Some officers may come on heavy if you are not absolutely submissive, but standing up for your rights will keep you safe in the long run, in court when it really matters.
DETERMINE IF YOU CAN LEAVE
You don't have to talk to the police. As soon as an officer approaches you, ask the officer, "Am I free to go?" If you get an answer other than a definitive "No," gather your stuff and leave without another word.
You have the right to end an encounter with a police officer unless you are being detained or arrested. Don't waste time trying to determine your status. Test if you are free to go, and then go. If you aren't free to go, the officer will make it perfectly clear.
USE THE MAGIC WORDS
If you are detained or arrested, use the magic words:
"I'm going to remain silent. I would like to see a lawyer."
Do not talk to police. Wait to talk to a lawyer representing you. Even casual small talk can come back to haunt you. Anything you say can, and will, be used against you.
Cops have numerous tricks to get you to talk. They can and do use fear, solitude, isolation, lies, advice, playing you against others, and even kindness to get you to cooperate. Don't be fooled. If you need to say anything, repeat the magic words.
Keep in mind the credo: If no one talks, everyone walks. Regardless of what you are told by an investigating officer, you have nothing to gain by talking to the police...and everything to lose.
REFUSE TO CONSENT TO SEARCHES
Officers seeking evidence will often try to get you to allow them to search your belongings, your car, or your home. Refuse to consent to a search, with the phrase:
"I do not consent to a search."
Usually, a search request will come in the form of an ambiguous statement, such as, "I'm going to ask you to empty your pockets." Answer such requests unambiguously. Repeat as many times as necessary.
You are under no obligation to allow a search. The only reason an officer asks your permission is because he doesn't have enough evidence to search without your consent.
Police officers are not required to inform you of your rights before asking you to consent to a search. If the officer searches you in spite of your objection, do not resist. Your attorney can argue that any evidence found during the search was discovered through an illegal search and should be thrown out of court.
DO NOT TRY TO BARGAIN
Police officers will often tell you that your cooperation will make things easier for you, and many people hope to be let off easy if they are honest and direct with the police. The only thing it makes easier is the officer's job. Do not let the threat of arrest scare you into admitting guilt. Better to spend a night in jail, than years in prison. Ask to speak with a lawyer, and remain silent.
WHERE TO GO FOR MORE HELP
If you feel your rights are being violated, hold tight until you can talk to a lawyer. If you don't have your own lawyer the court will appoint the public defender to defend you. For more information about your rights, law education, and what to do if your rights were violated, check out:
ACLU of Northern California
National Lawyers Guild
There may also be legal help in your community that will specifically help you if you are a senior, low-income, homeless, or an non-citizen. Ask around in your community.
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