One of the most difficult aspects of my job is that so many of you keep informed about incidents of injustice in America that I sincerely struggle to keep up. I write at least one story a day about injustice in America, but that barely scratches the surface of how bad things truly are. I’m on here just twice a week talking to you about stories of injustice that rarely make the nightly news or the front page of your local paper, but I get hundreds of emails every single day about the battles we are facing from coast to coast. This morning, I want to tell you about three different stories of injustice you might not have heard of.
Here’s the thing – awareness alone does not bring about change. I’ve learned that the hard way, but awareness is step one of a multi-step process to making change happen. We can’t bring about any serious, systemic change without first making you fully aware of the problem.
First, let me go big.
28 people have been killed by American police this month and we’re just 8 days into August. That’s more than police in most developed nations kill in an entire year. In fact, that’s more than police in many developed nations have killed in the past decade. In one single week, American police have killed more people than police in South Korea, Japan, Denmark, and Iceland have killed since the year 2000.
An astounding 745 people have been killed by American police so far this year. 2017 continues to be on pace to be the deadliest year for police brutality ever measured in the history of this country – worse than 2014 – when we lost Eric Garner, Mike Brown, John Crawford, and Tamir Rice. Worse than 2015 when we lost Sandra Bland and Freddie Gray. Worse than 2016 when we lost Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and Terence Crutcher.
This year, right here, right now, is the worst era for police brutality in American history and it’s hardly even being noticed by American media. It’s a crisis that we simply cannot afford to have swept under the rug.
Now let me tell you about two brothers who’ve been targeted and assaulted by police this past week and barely lived to tell the story.
Shawn George is an amazing young brother, a family man, in Euclid Ohio, right outside of Cleveland. He’s a recreational program administrator for at-risk youth in his community. Two Monday’s ago he was very concerned when he saw a young man being arrested by police. So Shawn did as so many people did and decided to film it. The officers were being rough with the young man and Shawn simply wanted to document what was happening. Within seconds, police told Shawn it was illegal to film.
Let me pause right there. It is not illegal to film the police. You are allowed, in all 50 states, particularly if you are not interfering in any direct way, to stand by the side and film the police. When they say you aren’t they are lying. It has never been illegal. Police know this.
When Shawn respectfully refused to put his phone away, the police grabbed him, assaulted him, slammed him multiple times against the concrete road, then sprayed him with pepper spray. And here’s what’s crazy, Shawn George is a city employee and this took place at the Euclid Soccer Fields – where he is a coach and runs the Euclid Soccer Academy. They ended up arresting Shawn George for “resisting arrest” which is also illegal. He committed no crime.
Resisting arrest cannot be the crime you are arrested for. When it was all said and done, Shawn George, one of the most respected black men in his city, was cut and battered all over his body and looked like he had just been mauled by a dog. We’re demanding that all charges be dropped against Shawn George immediately. He’s been released but will be suing this department.
On the exact same day, thousands of miles away, in Grand Prairie Texas, 39-year-old Rashaun Barnes had the exact same experience that Shawn George did outside of Cleveland. Simply standing outside of a local corner store, police questioned Rashaun Barnes and hassled him for over half an hour, asking him why he was there. He had broken no laws and was being harassed for no reason other than being a black man standing outside of the store.
He had not stolen anything, sold any drugs, wasn’t drinking. He was simply hanging out. After 30 minutes of being hassled by police, Barnes decided to leave peacefully. Police then grabbed him, slammed him, tasered him, and Barnes lost consciousness. When he woke up in the area hospital, he was beaten beyond recognition. I’ve seen the pictures. His entire body was bloodied.
And get this – they never even charged him with a crime. He didn’t commit one.
Let me close with this thought –we must never be comfortable or complacent with injustice in America. I’m afraid that as Donald Trump has sucked the wind out of the news cycle, we’re allowing this problem to spiral out of control on our watch.
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