Black Lives Matter. All lives matter is frequently clapped back. All lives most certainly do matter. Emphatically, unquestionably, indubitably. But right now, we are focused on the Black Lives lost and the injustice that has been visited upon the black community for 400 years. We are focused on the lives lost by George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arberry, and many more. There have been protests in the street for weeks across the nation against police brutality and the extrajudicious killings of black folk and white folk alike. Here, in a photo essay are some of the expressions of the protests and the outrage. All pictures were taken by me in Louisville, Kentucky where Breonna Taylor was gunned down in her own apartment by police who executed a “no knock warrant.” One of the officers who participated in the raid has been fired. No one has been charged. There still is no justice for Breonna.
Directed by Spike Lee, starring Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, and Clarke Peters.
I am a Spike Lee fan, but you got to admit the brother is a little hit or miss. Coming off the success of BlacKkKlansman, Da 5 Bloods is a miss. And it’s mess. Which is very disappointing considering the material he was working with and the timeliness of his subject. Other directors have taken on the Vietnam experience and other directors have done a better job. The one saving grace is Delroy Lindo who is a terrific character actor and lights up the screen in every scene he is in. Even when he is chewing the scenery.
The movie suffers from poor writing and mediocre directing. Spike throws everything he has into this movie including the kitchen sink. Part Treasure of the Sierra Madre and part Apocalypse Now, it never does find its own footing. Except for when one of the Bloods makes a fatal misstep. That was quite a heartstopper and a show stopper as well. The shootout at the end was well staged I thought and executed very well. The photography was well done but you got to ask yourself, why did he need four different aspect ratios? Oh, I get it. He wanted to demark different times and places. An artistic decision as it were. Well, it didn’t work for me, just made the whole thing more confusing. And in the flash backs it was impossible to distinguish the younger version of Da Bloods from the present-day version of themselves.
If you are going to steal, steal from the best, just use a little finesse when you do it and don’t make it so obvious. When the leader of a group of Vietnamese marauders are asked by a member of Da Bloods, “Where are your official badges?” The answer comes back from the leader, “Badges? We don’t’ need no stinking badges!” In another scene, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries accompanies the action.
This might sound like a pan but not totally. I’m going to give the brother a 6 on a 10. Better luck next time Spike.
There are a lot of ideas out there regarding police reform. I am no policy expert nor do I hold myself out to be one. But you don’t need to be an expert to know that the way we are being policed now doesn’t work and it is in desperate need of reform. Here are a few ideas that I have researched and a few ideas of my own. First and foremost, I think the whole idea of policing needs to be reimagined and reframed. We don’t need to send a man with a gun for every single social infraction. We need to limit contact with the police except for the most serious and dangerous of crimes. Most things the police handle now can be handled by a social worker. Speeders on the freeway can be handled by technology. Every time a cop pulls someone over for a broken tail light a life-threatening situation is engendered. This is completely needless. So, less contact with the public.
My friend Jenny Bean made the following contribution on a FB thread in a discussion of these matters: Instead of police responding to instances of intoxication/substance abuse or mental health crises where a weapon is not being wielded, we could have counselors and medical personnel trained in de-escalation techniques as well as the proper resources to offer on-going help after the fact. Another point to consider, nurses subdue unruly patients on a regular basis, and they do it without killing anyone.
In Eugene, Oregon, an organization called CAHOOTS was started in 1989. Twenty years later, they handle almost 20% of the area’s public safety calls, including those for mental health crises and public intoxication. They also respond to de-escalate personal disputes.
Some have called for defunding the police. What does this mean? It means different things to different people. It is pretty much just a slogan. But basically, what it means is we want to demilitarize the police and divert money to much needed social programs. It could mean the reduction of officers. As previously stated, a lot of the work they do could be handled by social workers.
Some police departments are so bad they may need to be dismantled and started over from scratch. The Minneapolis City Council has just voted to dismantle their Police Department and reconstitute it. They will spend the next year talking about what that will look like. Camden, New Jersey, a city I am most familiar with, shut down its police department and started over again seven years ago. Before the shutdown it was considered one of the most dangerous cities in America. After it was rebuilt crime rate dropped 50% and complaints against the police dropped 95%.
The mindset of police officers must be changed from a Warrior mindset to a Guardian mindset. Focus should be on a community-based serve and protect model. The cops have to stop looking at civilians as enemies.
Hiring practices. Cops should be licensed and have a four-year degree in criminal justice. They should not be hired if they have previous disciplinary action on their records for brutality against citizens. Psychological profiles should be performed to make each candidate is suitable for the type of work required of a police officer. Candidates should be screened for innate bias against people of color. There should be standardized, intensive, and expanded training. Choke holds must be banned. There should be civilians on review boards.
Cops must be held accountable for wrong doing and misconduct. End qualified immunity. As it stands now it is practically impossible to prosecute and convict cops of wrong doing because of qualified immunity, police unions, collective bargaining agreements, and legal immunity. This must change.
There should be stronger protection under the 4th amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Citizens should be secure in their homes, their property and in their cars.
Duty of police officers to intervene and to report
Body cams for all police officers
National Registry for police misconduct
Screen for innate bias against people of color.
End “no knock warrants”
Kamal Harris just introduced a Justice in Policing Act which covers the following points
Set a national standard for use of force
Expand independent investigation into police misconduct.
Establish a national police misconduct registry
Require states to report use of force incidents
Ban “no-knock” warrants in drug cases.
Police must be held accountable for use of excessive force, brutality, and extra judicial killings.
We don’t want a militarized police force, nor do we want to live in a police state.
Il Bidone (The Swindle) Directed by Fredrico Fellini, starring Broderick Crawford, Richard Basehart, Giuletta Masina. This is a movie about a group of con men swindling poor people out of their money which they in turn spend on flashy cars, booze, and prostitutes. You know, the usual. Shot in the neo-realism style in post war Italy it is indicative of Fellini’s early work. It is book-ended by two other films of a similar vein: La Strada (1954) and Nights of Cabria (1957). These films comprise what has become known as the “Trilogy of Loneliness.” I always get a kick out of seeing American actors in some of these early European films. Broderick Crawford gives the performance of his career in Il Bidone. Not as good as the other two, but worth a look!
Trump wants to mobilize active duty U.S. military to attack peaceful protestors. This action would be unconstitutional, unlawful, and unconscionable. It is the action of a dictator and tyrant and a further degradation of our democracy. What Trump really wants is a race war.
What makes this illegal is the Posse Comitatus Act which states: Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both. The exception to this law is the Insurrection Act. But to use this there has to be an insurrection, and what is happening is clearly not an insurrection.
The Attorney General for New York, Letitia James, has stated, “We will not allow Donald Trump to dominate New York.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper publicly disagreed with President Trump’s threatened use of the 1807 Insurrection Act. Speaking to reports at a recent Pentagon briefing Esper said, “The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”
In my view, any soldier asked to deploy to an American city to fight protestors and enforce the law has a duty to disobey this unlawful order.
Instruments of death that fit snugly into the palm of your hand were gleaming dully in their showcases lovingly caressed by blue velvet. Oiled wooden handles jutted from solid blue-black bodies. There was a faint odor of oil and metal lingering on the air-conditioned atmosphere of the room. The soft sound of creaking leather reverberated through the reverential quiet as the clerk tenderly, ever so gently, eased a delicately balanced, but heavily weighted .357 magnum pistol out of its holster. Firmly, but gently, he gripped the butt of the gun in his right hand. He placed the web of his thumb over the hammer of the awesome black revolver and slowly began to exert pressure on it. The man’s hands trembled slightly and he closed his eyes. Small beads of perspiration began popping over his upper lip. A little metal clicking noise emerged from the gun as the hammer went through it first cocking phase. A slight smile appeared on the lips of the clerk as he continued to pull back on the heavy hammer and another click emerged – the gun was half-cocked – the clerk began breathing heavily now and rapidly and his face grew flush. He slid his thumb to the edge of the hammer and applied the tip of it to the ridges cut deeply into the top edge. He pushed down hard and fully cocked the revolver. A tiny teardrop appeared in the corner of the clerk’s eye. The gap between the ridged head of the steel hammer and the body of the gun was a chasm. It looked like the jaws of a primordial reptile. It was powerful and it was frightening – the stored-up energy of the hammer begged to be released. He pulled the trigger. Snap! I jumped. The hair on the back of my neck prickled and a shiver ran down my left arm. The clerk placed the gun back into its holster. He lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply and blew clouds of tobacco smoke across the room. He had a distant look in his eyes. I turned on my boot heels and walked out of the store into the bright afternoon sunlight.