The situation that took place the other night at Tammany Hall in Brooklyn where NYPD went wylding on innocent concert goers resulting in the arrest and brutal beating of 5 people, including the daughter of the co-headliner Pete Rock should serve as a stark reminder just how such incidents are all too common.
Those who attended this album release party described the event as peaceful. There were no problems inside and hardly anyone was aware that an army of police had amassed outside the venue. From the looks of things what took place was a deliberate and a gross injustice…
When it comes to the issue of police brutality many of us tend to focus on egregious scenarios where people are shot 50 times as was the case with Sean Bell in neighboring Queens, NY or shot at point blank range as was the case with Oscar Grant in Oakland, California. When these types of incidents occur we tend to rally the troops, hold loud demonstrations and demand justice as we should… After all, the police are on the taxpayer payroll and have been granted much power and authority. With that comes great responsibility. They are are there to serve and protect, not terrorize and oppress.
With that being said, all of us need to bear in mind that police terrorism goes beyond questionable shootings. Those are just an accentuation of the day to day humiliation, harassment and beatings they put down on marginalized communities all over the globe.
Many of us are weighing in and blogging about this unfortunate incident involving Pete Rock should ask themselves, would we have been speaking on this if this didn’t involve a Hip Hop star? Even more importantly, if we heard about this incident and Pete wasn’t involved would we have brought into the ‘party line’ hawked by the police that these innocent concert goers somehow caused the beatings? Would we be saying to ourselves..’perhaps they weren’t so innocent?’
If we saw a video of a dread locked brother who wasn’t General Steele of Smif-N-Wessun explaining that the police were out of control, would we have dismissed it and said to ourselves ’That n– looks like a gang member or some sort of thug..He probably acted ill or said something and deserved the beat down’?
It’s important that we NOT see what took place at Tammany Hall as something that was isolated. The beatings that took place that night are no different then the ones handed out to innocent concert goers at a dead prez/ KRS-One Katrina benefit show in Los Angeles several years ago.
Here police interrupted the show by flying helicopters and shining lights on the performers (the stage was in a courtyard inside the venue). They then ordered folks to leave the venue. Shocked concert goers were greeted by a gauntlet line of more than a hundred officers who provoked and intimidated folks as left the event…Their rationale for shutting down the event was the same one used by NYPD when they shut down the Pete Rock/Smif-N-Wessun party..3000 miles away and 6 years later-there was supposedly a ‘fight outside’ the venue…
We’ve all seen and heard these type of stories before, so much so, that we can no longer say they are mere coincidents. They’re deliberate. Maybe its some sort of police training excercise where young Black and Brown folks are fodder. Maybe its something more sinister, where the cops are letting off steam and literally going on some sort of hunting expedition.
Say what you will, but we know one thing, back in the hey days of former police LA police Chief William H Parker and later Chief Darryl Gates, they had a two fold strategy. One was to militarize the police force and make them an efficient take no prisoners entity.
The second was to make sure every Black and Brown male who lived in the hood had contact with the police before they were 15 to make sure that it was clearly understood who was boss. Parker had a strategy of recruiting police from the south who at that time harbored prejudice and ill feelings toward Blacks. He was known for calling Black people ‘nigras’ and had an even lower opinion of Brown folks. He was LA’s longest serving police chief.
Darryl Gates picked up where Parker left off and in many circles was considered even worse in his assessment and subsequent action directed at Black and Brown communities..It was under Parker that the infamous Watts Riots of 1967 took place. It was under Gates that the Rodney King rebellion erupted.
Why do I bring all this up? Because the tactics used by LAPD with Parker and Gates as key architects were held up high and adopted by police departments all over the country and the world. Folks in NY got a taste of this adaptation, when Mayor Rudy Giuliani took office and directed his police to come down hard on any person who committed the smallest and most harmless of infractions. His theory was if you crack down on the little things it will prevent the big things from happening. For many this was seen as a good move designed to make NY one of the world’s safest big cities. For many in Black and Brown communities it was an absolute nightmare. Once Giuliani took office, it wasn’t too long ago that one found themselves getting hemmed up by NYPD even if you crossed against a red light or
It was under Giuliani that NYPD put together their notorious Street Crime Unit that consisted of undercover officers who would walk up to people, stop and frisk un them to make sure they didn’t have guns. Hundreds of thousands of Black and Brown folks were subjected to this tactic. It didn’t matter if you had on sagging pants and your hat turned backwards or was wearing a suit and tie. There was a strong likelihood you were gonna get stopped and frisked by aggressive police who were given the green light to knock heads and take names and numbers later…It was this same Street Crime Unit employing Giuliani’s tactics that led to a young unarmed 23 year old African immigrant namedAmadou Diallobeing shot on the front porch of his house 41 times by cops who were supposedly ‘trying to protect and serve’.
The Diallo shooting led to the disbanding of the Street Crime Unit, but it didn’t stop the tactics Giuliani implemented which had been drawn praise and adopted all over the world by police forces who feltl that aggression and terror are the ways to prevent crime.. It’s important to keep in mind that years after Giuliani has been out of office, NYPD as recently as 2007 have stopped and frisked as many as 500 thousand people in one year alone.
We seen this type of tactic adapted with disturbing results in places like Pittsburgh, PA, as exemplified in the sad case of 17 year old Pittsburgh honor student named Jordan Miles.
In Januray of 2010, just months after performing for First lady Michele Obama, Miles was on his way home, when he was subjected to stop and frisk tactics adopted by undercover Pittsburgh police who call themselves the Jump Out Boys.. Jordan fearing he was about to be robbed ran when a car pulled up and 3 large men jumped out demanding he give them all his drugs.. Jordan was quickly tackled as the Jump Out Boys, all martial arts experts, not only beat him senseless, but tore out one third of his dread locks.. Miles who had never been in trouble with the law, was told by the Pittsburgh Police Chief that he shouldn’t have ran, even though the officers didn’t immediately identify themselves.
Again this is all too commonplace.. It’s my hope that as we talk about and demand justice for what went down the other night in Brooklyn with Pete Rock and his daughter that we also push for systemic change. It’s my hope that all of us who blog, or have access to the airwaves not limit our outrage to incidents involving celebrities and rap stars..For those of us who cover Hip Hop, its important we remember the fans and supporter of this culture who are routinely at the short of the stick of police brutality incidents.
The Pete Rock that I know would definitely want justice and resolution to what happened to his daughter and all the others brutalized by the police..now dubbed the Monumental 5..He would also want this tragedy to not be inflicted on anyone else.
Something to Ponder
On a side note, it was not lost on me that this took place at Tammany Hall.. The history of Tammany Hall is a long and sordid one in New York City politics. It was a political machine for the Democratic party which under ‘the Boss’ William Tweed routinely used violence to control elections back in the 1800s. It was also known for using a growing Irish Immigrant class to smash on Black folks.. Tammany Hall controlled NY politics up to the 1960s..
After seeing the attacks on African Americans the other night first thing that went through my mind was the violent history , but thats for another discussion at another time..