Now comes the spring of our discontent, made furious by injustice done at Capricorn’s end. The death of an innocent, lawmen’s hands bloody red, now more than two summers gone. Out of a Court of Orange, twelve of our own, scattered like sheep, blind to defend what they saw. Lawless legionaries, swords drawn, come to spill Abel’s blood. Where mothers walk and children play, Pilate’s Pavement cries out still to us this day.
Dusk of the 13th, January 2014; the breaking news broke my heart: The two ex-Fullerton police officers were declared not guilty of the murder of Kelly Thomas. A brief recap: Thomas (37), a homeless man, was tasered twice in the face, beaten with fists and batons, pistol-whipped, piled-on by six officers, and suffocated, which led to a five day coma. His last words crying out were for help, he was sorry, breath, and for his Daddy. Kelly never regained consciousness. The Orange County Coroner declared the cause of death to be “brain dead due to mechanical chest compression with blunt cranial injuries sustained during physical altercation with a law enforcement officer.” It should also be noted that acting Police Chief Dan Hughes admitted to the Fullerton City Council that Kelly Thomas had committed no crimes. An extensive catalog of articles and blogs can be found here. An edited version of the video can be seen here. Any internet search of Kelly Thomas will bring extensive results for more info.
The predatory practices of far too many police officers in Orange County reveals a long litany of cover-ups, lies, payoffs, and more. They have killed unjustifiably before, never once convicted. With hindsight I wonder why I thought this case could be different. Surveillance cameras and witnesses caught it all. The four-term conservative DA was outraged and felt that “The Police have to be accountable to the community.” No more free passes to harass and harm, or worse, kill. No reason there should not have been a guilty verdict. At least I thought.
A month before the murder I had moved to Fullerton. I was also a regular at the transportation hub where the crime took place. Homeless myself, I was fortunate to get a bed at a shelter in town, 1 spot of 3 for single men. It was in this place and time I first knew of Kelly Thomas. Homeless, fairly mild mannered, fighting everyday for survival, and suffering with diagnosed schizophrenia. Occasionally I would say “hello” and get a shy smile out of the guy. I never once felt or saw him as a threat, to myself or anyone. I wish I could say the same for Fullerton P.D.
I was at the calm bus hub hours before violence took off. Back again the next AM, the depot vibrating with unrest — What happened the night before, “Was that guy with the red beard dead?”, so much blood on the ground, everyone was in shock. A bus driver I knew had seen it all and before I could ask, he tells me his first hand account of the bloody event. He watched Kelly, beaten, tasered, crying out for his dad, begging for his life until silenced out, worse by cops — a memory never to be forgotten. In disbelief I thought this has to be the end of this brutality game being played out by some of those with the badges and guns.
There is daily increase of folks now forced onto the streets, joining the many others with varying mental, physical, or economic conditions and situations. The generally forgotten of their communities. Paralleling the influx of homelessness is the rise of a Police State and the unnecessary violence following in its wake. There is not one city that could be said that its law enforcement are all bad or all good. Just like the homeless and any other category of people, you have the great, good, not so good, and the stay-away individuals. Some you seek out, some you flee. The major difference with cops is they can beat you to a pulp and as recently played out kill you without cause, then answer to no one.
Global Research News provided some facts a month ago. In the last decade 5,000 Americans have been killed by police, compared with 4,489 soldiers killed since the Iraq War start. Today 500 innocent Americans are murdered by the police annually. A 1994 Federal law authorized the donation of surplus military equipment to local police departments. In the life span of Kelly, SWAT teams, once used a couple hundred times per year, now have over 40,000 military style “knock and announce” raids a year. Seventeen non-military US citizens have been killed by terrorism worldwide, meaning you are 29 times more likely to be murdered by a cop than by a terrorist.
Beyond actually convicting criminal police offences — novel idea) — what can be done? Variance in solutions is to be expected depending on communities, but there are some actions that can be applied nationwide, now. One that is proven is a year trial-run used in Rialto, CA. All street officers had to wear body cameras, recording all their actions. Result: 88% reduction in public complaints and a 60% reduction of officers using force in the performance of their duties. The public can see the merit of their local cops wearing body-cameras and any price associated compared with the military machinery coming from wars abroad to our streets currently.
In an understandable reaction, the public are protesting and taking action against a full-frontal attack on our civil liberties. The activist group Anonymous has been vocal from the days after Kelly’s murder, recently shutting down Fullerton PD’s website. My central concern is with the extended sanctioning of police brutality, and the pendulum that it inevitably brings, with civil unrest swinging back the other way. Back and forth it will go with neither extreme good for our society. The cause was started at the station, the effect is being seen on the street. Correct the cause and we’ll heal the reaction.
In the same month we remember and celebrate MLK and the Civil Rights Movement, we need to address the major civil rights issue of our day. The homeless and the poor are becoming second class individuals in our society, and the ruling powers are not addressing the issues at hand. They are illegally having their constitutional rights taken away, and the law is abusing them daily. Lets follow the King’s lead and march for equality and justice for all with every footstep!
“Racism is a blight on the human conscience. The idea that any people can be inferior to another, to the point where those who consider themselves superior define and treat the rest as subhuman, denies the humanity even of those who elevate themselves to the status of gods.” ~Nelson Mandela