Where would the racial advance in policing be without camera phones?


On May 25, 2020, an unarmed, 46-year-old Minneapolis resident George floyd died after being immobilized by Officer Derek Chauvin whose knee was stuck in his neck while handcuffed, face down in the street for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Considered a “Gentle giantBy family, friends and colleagues because of his height, George Floyd was an African-American man who was arrested by Chauvin, a white policeman, for allegedly using a fake $ 20 bill to buy cigarettes at a local grocery store. Before his death at a local hospital about an hour later, passers-by watched Chauvin keep the pressure on George Floyd’s neck as three other officers did absolutely nothing to stop what was clearly an intrusive use of force. All of these actions were captured on the phones with camera of spectators nearby trying to help another black man stopped by police.

Over the past eleven years, mobile technology has become an essential communication element for vulnerable populations, especially smartphones. Twenty-five percent of African Americans and 23 percent of Latinos are smartphone dependent, carrying the medium as the main mode of communication. In recent years, individuals, witnesses of physical encounters between citizens and police officers, have recorded them, sometimes revealing the depth of the institutional terror carried out against blacks by the police.

With America’s long history of violence against blacks, the ubiquity of video recordings has reshaped the narrative surrounding police violence and heightened public concerns about law enforcement. In today’s world, virtually anyone can be a videographer and a filmmaker. The combination of smart phones, video recording apps and social media platforms has generated a revolution in audience empowerment. Rather than having to take the word of African Americans rather than the police, people can see the violence for themselves and seek justice.

These factors should explain why recorded sightings of police brutality against African Americans spark protests, even during a global pandemic. Technology is becoming part of the story of how marginalized populations in the United States and around the world experience injustice and thereby gain personal empowerment. By taking advantage of the Internet, civilian-generated video content can shift public opinion towards more critical views on law enforcement and mass incarceration.

The disturbing pattern

In the Floyd case, videos taken by spectators’ camera phones showed his final moments as he shouted three words: “I can’t breathe!” followed by a cry for help to his deceased mother. The tapes reminded people of the same phrase already heard by another unarmed black man named Eric Garner, who was placed in a tight choke by Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Staten Island, New York. After being arrested on July 17, 2014 for allegedly selling single cigarettes in a cartridge without a tax stamp, Garner’s physical exchange with law enforcement ended with him on the ground, shot on the side to stabilize his breathing until his death an hour later at a local hospital. After seeing Eric Garner overpowered by police, more than 50 nationwide protests rejecting Pantaleo’s actions have erupted. A month later, these would be followed by the protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri, after Officer Darren Wilson was not charged with killing an unarmed 18-year-old Michael brown after being accused of stealing cheap cigars and pushing a convenience store clerk. Three years after Brown’s death, surveillance images revealed a non-violent African-American man at a convenience store, contradicting Agent Wilson’s story.

George Floyd’s fate is strikingly similar to that of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and the countless others whose lives have been cut short by police brutality. Recordings of his meeting sparked protests among thousands of Minnesotans and out-of-state protesters, demanding that the four officers be immediately sacked and charged. Five days later, Chauvin would be charged with third degree murder and within days of his case being transferred to state attorney general Keith Ellison the charges were dropped. Ten days after the nationwide protests began, the three remaining officers were charged with aiding and abetting the crime which caused Mr Floyd’s death.

Why are police shootings more visible?

Since the painful images of black teenager Emmett Till’s open coffin in 1955, not all of America has seen what racial violence looks like in the United States. Emmett’s mother, Granny Till Bradley, decided to televise his funeral with an open casket, allowing mourners in person and on TV to see his mutilated stature, swollen face and body after being brutally attacked in South.

While Trayvon Martin’s fatal encounter with white vigilante George Zimmerman was not filmed, the 17-year-old’s death in 2012 was arguably the next most powerful image of an unarmed black man in a ” hoodie ”, which aroused suspicion towards this young college student who was walking through his mother’s neighborhood.

But before Martin, the murder of Oscar Grant, 22, from Oakland, was the first incident of police brutality to be recorded and shared via a first-generation smartphone. Grant, whose story was later told in the 2013 film Fruitvale Station, was shot dead after being handcuffed and restrained by two Bay Area rapid transit officers working for the Oakland transit system. Passers-by used their camera phones to capture the moments when the unarmed Grant stood up to be pushed to the ground and shot dead by one of the cops within seconds. But that video didn’t reach the scale of other online audiences, mainly because social media companies like Twitter and Facebook, along with other online platforms, weren’t as mature. Compared to its 2.6 billion subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, Facebook reported only 150 million users at that time, which contained images of activism around Oscar Grant’s death in the region of ‘Oakland, where several days of protests took place.

1 in 1,000 African-American men are more likely to be killed by police in their lifetime, according to 2019 to research. The deaths of black women follow, despite the lack of national visibility on their cases. Camera footage of Sandra Bland’s 2015 police body showed her body slamming violently to the ground after being pulled over during a routine traffic stop in Waller, TX. Three days later, she was reportedly found dead in her prison cell, which the chief medical examiner concluded was suicide. The recent EMT police shooting breonna taylor in Louisville, Ky., gained visibility during the protests, especially since it was said that she was shot at least 8 times during a police search warrant executed at the wrong home. To raise the profile of black women and girls gunned down by police in the national debate, lawyer Kimberlee Crenshaw has launched an online campaign, #TellHerName to tell their stories.

Even when there is video, police indictments are not easy

One of the few instances where a video recording led to the indictment of an officer was the death of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina. Scott, an unarmed black man was shot in the back while fleeing from a routine traffic stop in 2015. After his death, the officer who arrested him, Michael Slager, attempted to lie about what had happened, but bystander Feiden Santana recorded the entire incident on his cell phone. Santana’s recording and testimony went to court, resulting in a 20-year prison sentence for the rogue cop.

But incriminating images from camera phones do not always result in charges being laid against one or more particular police officers. Even with a video, it took five years in the Eric Garner case to fire Pantaleo, due to a lengthy federal investigation and a strong New York Police union that denounced any punitive action against him. In 2019, Attorney General William Barr ordered the case closed. In Baltimore, the very public arrest of African-American Freddie Gray in 2015, followed by the immediate indictment of the six police officers by prosecutor Marilyn Mosby, always has not resulted in any conviction.

Immediately after the death of George Floyd, President Donald J. Trump asked the Justice Department and the FBI to speed up the investigation into details. But that all changed in a week when the White House looked into the protests and started to focus on extreme left groups, progressive anarchists and bona fide criminals, all of whom have suggested infiltrating legitimate protests. Attorney General Barr would soon announce investigation of far-left groups, such as Antifa, despite prominent figures in attendance white supremacist disruptors lead part of the looting and violence in various cities.

And now President Trump new orientation on “law and order”, rather than restoring democracy and racial healing, increases the proliferation of police and military surveillance to censor these mass protests taking place across the country. the pictures and videos of military de-escalation tactics that include tear gas and batons from protesters’ cell phones are just as disturbing as the recording of Floyd’s murder. In various cities, some police officers also deploy facial-recognition-technologies sweep away the crowds of protesters and assemble location data improve monitoring and restraint of demonstrations.

Technology brings pain to life

Police brutality grew out of a history of invasive state surveillance and persistent assaults on African Americans and their way of life. These recordings bring visibility to the historic terror and fear African Americans feel in the presence of police. Sometimes these events have deadly consequences for black people who cannot easily escape the realities of racial or target profiling inside and outside their communities.

But sadly, despite how tragic and psychologically traumatic the deaths of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others have been, there will be more. black men and women die in custody without the structural, behavioral and political changes of the police in the United States. And even before these changes are instituted, we need national recognition that racism and discrimination have normalized violence against people of color.


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