[Los Angeles; Minneapolis. Saturday.] The cop raised his weapon shouting, “Forty millimeter up! Curfew! YOU WILL BE FIRED UPON.”
Olympic Street near LA Police headquarters in downtown LA was lit up by a bright blue and purple disco light-show from about 40 police cars, all with sirens braying. It was just past the 8pm curfew meant to stop the riot.
But there was no riot.
Still, the officer pulled up his weapon, aiming at a half dozen protesters who were, at that moment, wandering a bit lost and quiet with exhaustion, seeming unaware of the power of a “Forty”, whether the cop meant a gas canister or 40-caliber bullet. (I thought of Reporter Ruben Salazar who was killed by the LAPD in 1970 when they shot him in the head with a teargas shell). A few raised middle fingers, yelling, “FUCK THE POLICE!” as I walked toward the line of cops. When the one with the raised weapon repeated, “You will not get a warning! I’LL PUT A 40 MILLIMETER IN YOU,” I shouted, “PRESS! PRESS! PRESS!” holding my reporter’s ID over my head, hoping its message, and not its thin plastic, would stop the 40.
Suddenly, the cop’s etiquette changed. “Oh, I didn’t see that.”
Whew! Politely, I asked, “Were you really going to shoot someone for violating a curfew?”
“I’m not giving an interview! GET OVER THERE!” directing me out of the firing line.
The protesters wandered off, unmolested but satisfied that the Police Department’s over-the-top reaction (500 arrests as I write) had accomplished what the protesters themselves could not do: shut down Los Angeles.
On close inspection, the shouting cop’s Smith & Wesson .40 was still holstered; he’d been holding a tear gas “shotgun,” the type used all day, alongside rubber bullets, to break up the protests which the city had banned, ostensibly because of the coronavirus.
And this was the day LA was scheduled to open up, with folks allowed back in the streets. They certainly filled the streets; and now their masks had a second purpose: to screw up police surveillance.
There was an interesting ethnic division in that small part of the ersatz “riot” I witnessed. Young and middle aged Black protesters held signs. LatinX protesters carried US and Mexican flags; some rode cars, honking and slamming accelerators to leave an acrid cloud of burning tire rubber, a very LA form of protest. A rock band defied the curfew from the back of a couple of pick-up trucks riding in noisy tandem.
The cops and looters (see photos) were uniformly white.
A LatinX woman with flags was crying, inconsolable. “Where did they put my kids?!” she asked no one in particular, sobbing. Her kids were still in ICE detention at the border. She saw the police killings and the kidnapping of her children as just two episodes of the same old story.
The city closed the Griffith Park hiking trails, apparently afraid of an insurrection in the Hills. Exception: you could access the trails if you have your own horse. Presumably, the horsey set are unlikely to rebel against the regime.
In Minneapolis, our photojournalist Zach D. Roberts was slammed hard with pepper spray. But he still got the story from Charles McMillan, eyewitness to the cop’s killing of George Floyd.
“I saw the police officer handcuffed Mr. Floyd and take him over to the squad car. And Mr. Floyd was on the ground. I kept telling the officer, “Brother, get your foot off his neck because he’s stopped breathing. He’s going to die. And the officer refused to get his foot off Mr. Floyd‘s neck.”
“This is the consequence everyone’s got to pay, including me watching a man die. … And I hear Mr. Floyd saying, “Mom, they’re killing me in the street.’”
Let’s connect some dots. Just three weeks ago, in Brunswick, Georgia, Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down by a retired white cop and his son, executed for “jogging while Black.”
You cannot split this from Brian Kemp’s 2018 shotgun toting campaign for governor in a race he won over Stacey Abrams by using his post as Georgia Secretary of State to wrongly purge 340,134 from the voter rolls. This mass lynching by laptop meant that Georgia’s rulers and their police feel they have absolute white immunity from the consequences of their action.
On February 8 2020, we announced a major victory in federal court in Palast v. Kemp, forcing Georgia to hand over more info on their racially poisonous vote purge operation.
The virus has slowed the court’s final entry of the order against the state, but we are not slowing down on our investigation of Georgia’s attack on voting rights. It’s simple: a government chosen by voters is less likely to kill them.
And another circle closes. As I look at the film of the LA cop threatening to “put a 40 millimeter” in me or the protesters, I looked around for my brethren of the Fourth Estate. I was in front of the old LA Times building, shut by its billionaire owner.
So I picked up the LA Times this morning to, “L.A. reels from looting and arrests not seen in decades,” opening with “demonstrators out of control.”
There is nothing new under the sun. It was the LA Times that convinced me to become a journalist. The day was June 23, 1967 and cops had run amok, beating the crap out of anti-war protesters in an upscale shopping center. While the LA Free Press, America’s first “alternative” paper, showed young people and ministers beaten and bloody, the LA Times only reported about chimerical “rioting protestors.”
But the reporters here in the City of Angels are well tamed. They all know the story of Ted Rall, LA Times cartoonist, fired and smeared by his own paper on the demand of the LAPD. Rall’s crime: he had the cojones to lampoon LA police brutality.
Luckily for us, Ted’s dis-employment allowed me to scoop him up to write a 48-page comic which I’ve included inside my new book (out July 14).
How Trump Stole 2020: The Hunt for America’s Vanished Voters
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Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits and the book and documentary,
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
His latest film is Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman
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