Two sides of the story in GR

Complaints about police:

Mothers told of children being cursed at and provoked by police, threatened with arrest for asking questions, and being body-slammed to the ground.

“I asked, ‘Why are you doing this?’ and they said, ‘We the police. We can do what we want.’ They beat my son,” said Verlina Wilkerson, who burst into tears.

She said police came to her home in 2003, looking for someone who was not there. And when her son, Tyrosh Brown, objected, he felt the officers’ wrath, she said.

The crowd moaned as Tecelia Price described how police stopped her because the tags on her license plate had expired. “They handcuffed me and searched me and felt all between my legs and said they didn’t know if I was a man or a woman,” said the 55-year-old mother, who also cried.

Her son later told her not to complain to police about the incident, because “that will just make it worse.”

“And it did. It did get worse,” she wailed. She identified herself as the mother of Thames Hawkins, who died in the Kent County Jail following his arrest by Grand Rapids Police.

“I came down and saw the officer with his knees on his neck,” she said of her son’s arrest outside her home in May 2003. He was accused of failing to stop for an officer. An autopsy determined Hawkins died of a heart condition.

PD reaction:

Assertions of misconduct seem to cyclically appear, and officers are taking the recent upheaval in stride, said Officer Ed Hillyer, president of the Police Officer Labor Council. The force will continue to act professionally while working through the charges.

“Perception, that’s all it is,” Hillyer said. “We’re not hiding anything and when something is validated, we take care of it. That’s been shown as recently as last year.”

Officer Matthew Lockhart was suspended pending his dismissal after fellow cops reported him for using his police radio to injure a suspect during a traffic stop. Lockhart pleaded no contest to aggravated assault last month.

Hillyer, meanwhile, took issue with the city board that solicited people to tell stories of their difficulties with officers.

“This type of a meeting is a joke. You’re asking for people to complain,” Hillyer said. “Every one of our officers knew this was going to be a b—-session. Let them b—-, and we’ll go out and do our job professionally. We knew exactly what was coming this time and there’s no way to satisfy everyone.

With all due respect to the boys in blue, for whose protection I am grateful, I don’t think this Hillyer guy is helping them any by blowing off serious charges of abuse and misconduct as a “bitch session.” Maybe it’s the way it’s being reported, but it sure sounds like serious problems are being trivialized and ignored.

First Amendment and High Schoolers

There’s a lot of buzz lately about how a study has shown that students in high school do not know of or value their first amendment rights.

This is largely the Republicans’ fault, of course. No Child Left Behind makes test scores a matter of panicked necessity for schools — everything else has to drop by the wayside. That includes student journalism. And the study demonstrates that participation in student media is one of the things that cures the ignorance and apathy about first amendment rights. Besides the specific outrage of No Child Left Behind, there is the general Grover “I hope a state goes bankrupt” Norquist strategy to cause the states as much financial hardship as possible, in the hopes of forcing cuts in social programs which are anathema to Republicans; intentionally or unintentionally this has ravaged American education.

But blame must also be apportioned the “fear the children!” mindset that was aggravated by the Columbine tragedy, which brought a level of paranoia and authoritarianism in dealing with students, which had been in place in inner city schools for some time, out to the suburban schools as well. Authoritarian schools produce students who expect and accept an authoritarian government.

Interesting comments on this from high schoolers in the updates to this boingboing post.

Yay Elections!

I’m not dead, just busy & not feeling well.

Go Iraq! Glad something good has gone on after all the suffering, torture, and death we’ve inflicted on the people. Hope we have the good sense to get our troops the hell out of there sooner rather than later.

A lot of people are talking as if this somehow justifies the war, which is of course ludicrous, but you can’t blame them, after how badly things have gone, for trying to grasp any good thing that happens and use it to justify their support for a war whose original justifications all turned out to be lies, a war in which America disgraced itself in its pro-torture policies and lack of respect for the most basic international law, a war in which the statements of the Administration became indistinguishable from those of Rudolf Hoess at Nuremberg.

So, yeah, free elections in Iraq are a very good thing! Would that they were achieved by just, lawful, and decent means; would that they were not a product of such evil.

UPDATE: James in the comments below links to a story which points out that far from being the point of the invasion, and a justification for its violence, elections of this sort were opposed repeatedly and vehemently by the Bush Administration, and that they were forced into it by the nonviolent protests of many thousands of Iraqi citizens led by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani demanding free elections. So it is the height of hipocrisy for pro-war, pro-Bush folks to portray this as a justification for the invasion — it happened because Bush relented in his plans in the face of nonviolent protest, not because Bush’s violent plans succeeded.

Lesson: Nonviolence can win and produce democracy even in the face of violence.

Bush deserves credit — for backing down and giving in to the will of the Iraqi people in this matter.