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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Choosing Sides

What is with people today?

If you've been following the news, you've probably heard about the recent cop-killings in Oakland.  If not, a brief summary:

Last Saturday, after a routine traffic stop, one Lovelle Mixon opened fire on the two motorcycle cops who had pulled him over, killing them both.  He then fled into an apartment building.  The SWAT team was called in.  During an ensuing firefight, Mixon shot two more policemen, one of whom was killed instantly, and another who died a few days later.  Mixon, unsurprisingly, was also killed.

Overall, the reactions of local citizens have been overwhelmingly supportive of the slain police and their families.  Some Oakland residents, particularly people of color, have mixed their sympathy with criticism of the police, who have, assuredly, used some heavy-handed tactics against the citizenry--again, particularly people of color.  In fact, in another case that has received some national attention, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Police shot and killed an unarmed man--a man who was handcuffed at the time--at a train station early on New Year's Day.  (For what it's worth, one should mention that the BART Police and the Oakland Police Department are separate and unrelated entities.)  So it is only too understandable why Oakland residents are somewhat leery of the police, and even why some might think--in some way--that the cops who died at the hands of Mixon somehow "had it coming"; that they were paying a debt (if only a karmic debt) for crimes committed by their fellow officers.

But what leads to outrage is the sight of marchers in Oakland who were not just protesting police violence, but who were actually honoring Lovelle Mixon as a victim of the system!  A freakin' martyr!  Understand, this was a man who was on parole after serving five years for armed carjacking.  A man whose DNA has been linked to the rape of a twelve-year-old girl.  No matter how you feel about police--and even if you think that these officers deserved what they got--do you really want to carry around pictures in support of this guy?  What's your argument: "He's not so bad.  After all, it's not like he raped an ELEVEN-year-old girl."

Don't people understand that in our media-saturated age, one of the easiest ways to undermine any chance of your argument being taken seriously is to link it to the wrong images?  What could be legitimate grievances are thereby instantly diminished in the court of public opinion.

The saddest point is that now, some of the liberal voices who would normally be standing with the victims of police brutality, will shy away from their side, remembering them as the people who celebrated a cop-killing rapist as a tribune of the people.

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