Police officers across the country are unjustly attacking peaceful protestors

Trisha Khattar, Podcasting EIC

As protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality rage across the United States, it’s ironic that most footage and testimonies from protestors themselves reveal the frighteningly deep and true extent to police misconduct and brutality.

In cities such as Seattle, New York City, Los Angeles and others throughout the country, peaceful protestors are being shot at with rubber bullets and sprayed with tear gas. 

In an age of technology, especially with much of the young generations ー Millennials and Generation Z ー everyone has a smartphone, which means there is documented evidence on thousands of people’s phones of police violence against peaceful protestors 

Across the country, protestors and those watching these videos, posted on social media, are demanding swift and decisive change, citing instances of police brutality during protests themselves as proof.

What has been done:

Between shooting rubber bullets (metal bullets covered by a coating of rubber meant to be shot at the ground before making contact with a human body) directly at protestors and spraying tear gas and pepper spray to get them to move back when most of the time, they have the right to stay their ground under the Constitution, local police officers are aggravating the situation rather than working to solve it.

And to those who argue that this show of aggression is necessary to combat the rioting and looting, I don’t disagree.

However, most of these people are not rioting. They are not looting. They are not causing any physical harm to police officers nor are they violating any laws that might necessitate such a response. 

Because when videos such as the one of a young man holding up a middle finger to a cop, fully within his rights to do so, getting tear gassed at point blank range, like the one of a police officer forcing down the mask of a boy to force the tear gas into his throat, it’s hard to defend the police in any capacity. 

Can you justify the actions of two Buffalo police officers who pushed a 75 year old man to the ground with a baton, letting him fall and crack his head on the concrete? Or the officer caught on video macing a 9 year-old girl in Seattle? What about the way come cops have been taking advantage of the vulnerability of protestors while kneeling to force them backward using rubber bullets? 

All this while Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York compliments his officers for showing a “tremendous amount of restraint” when it comes to handling protestors in the streets. 

Why it’s illegal:

Every peaceful protestor is protected under the first amendment, allowed the right to free speech and the right to peacefully assemble. Disregarding the riots, many of which have been attributed to undercover cops and white supremacy groups, it is illegal for officers to attack peaceful protestors. 

According to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), a civil rights organization formed in 1920, without a permit, protestors are allowed to protest on streets, sidewalks, parks, and other public places.

If you are on private property, the owner can mandate some restrictions, but otherwise everybody has the right to protest unless they are blocking car or pedestrian traffic. 

If protestor’s rights are violated, they have the ability to report specific police officers using their badge numbers and car patrol numbers to their agency’s internal affairs or civilian complaint board. 

But protestors are not the only ones who know this. Officers in New York, Chicago, Seattle, and LA are covering badge numbers either by masking it with electrical black tape they claim is to mourn the officers they lost to COVID-19.

While this may be true and is completely valid, there is no reason for it to be covering officers’ badge numbers, especially during times like these. 

This kind of behavior should not be surprising to those who are aware of the innate corruption in the police system.

For years, police officers have unofficially followed the “blue code of silence,” an informal rule among cops to not report each other’s misconduct and crimes, including police brutality. 

Of course, not every cop is bad. Not every cop sets out trying to harm the community they swore to protect. But there is an entire system, specific laws, behind police departments that allow “bad” cops to exonerate themselves and get away with any crimes they may have committed. 

What is being done & how to learn more:

Peaceful protests are fighting to fix this system.

Local Pleasanton police speaks to protestors about his disgust with the cruel actions taking place around the country. (Soumya Sahay)

In cities across the country, the police officers have respected the rights of protestors, even marched with them. George Floyd’s murder has been charged with second degree murder, and the other three officers with him have been charged as accessories. 

Change will come.

But the unnecessarily excessive force police officers are currently using only cements the brutality and systemic racism millions are protesting and arguing for, and does nothing but bring fuel to the fire. 

Click here and here to learn more about legislation that the Black Lives Matter movement and protests hope to repeal and put into place to amend this corrupt system.