A few days ago I wrote about the apparent uses of excessive force by police at Mardi Gras this year. The furore was sparked when a video was posted on youtube of a young man in handcuffs being thrown violently to the ground and then being stood on by a police officer. Other allegations of heavy handed police tactics have also surfaced.
There is no doubt that the actions of the police officers involved were unacceptable. The young man who was thrown to the ground could have suffered serious injuries. With his hands restrained behind his back he was unable to protect himself as he fell. Given that people are killed by punches to the head, the result could have been far worse than it was. The young man could have suffered a serious head injury and even death.
It has since been revealed that the young man involved in the incident may indeed have kicked officers and resisted arrest,
but guilt is no excuse for the officers actions.
As I said in my previous article, the police are only entitled to enforce the law, they are not given the power to enact punishment. When the officer threw the young man to the ground he was not enforcing the law, his actions were saying “mess with me and this is what you get”, and that is unacceptable.
The communities reaction to the incidents however has been one of hysteria and emotion culminating in a peaceful march against police brutality against the GLBTI community.
Violence in all it’s forms should be rightly opposed, and it is always important to speak up about issues that affect us, but some of the rhetoric and language being used, in my mind has been as bad as the violence itself and leaves me hard pressed to feel sympathetic to the cause.
You only need to look at the comments made on the youtube videos and facebook pages of all involved to find comments like “asshole pigs”, “fuck the police” and demands that the police be hung, bashed, or even have their children killed. There have been calls to ban police from pride marches and for the sacking of officers.
This is utterly repulsive and damages any credibility our indignation might have. I’m afraid this small vocal minority makes a mockery of the attempts by the more moderate members of our community to raise serious dialogue and investigation about what happened.
The truth is we are up in arms because an obnoxious teenager resisted arrest, and a police officer on a power trip let matters escalate beyond their good judgement. It is an emotional subject, and the video no doubt fired a lot of peoples blood regardless of their sexuality. But the way to move forward when these things happen is with reasoned considered responses, investigation and maturity.
There were almost 1100 police officers on duty at Mardi Gras this year and to paint all of them as some kind of jack booted force of thugs is unfair and unjust, and unfair and unjust is exactly the way the GLBTI community often claims it is treated. Perhaps we need to take a good look at our own role in all of this too.