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Policing last week and a rant about personal responsibility

Tuesday was 4/20. I was at my desk, smoking a CBD dominant doobie out the window, eating a chopped kale salad, and reading the news — working on my effete, elitist yuppie cosplay, when my roommate Jer called out from his cave next door. He had spent the day refreshing his r/all feed on one monitor and blasting country music YouTube videos on the other while waiting for the latest update on the European soccer industry drama. (As I understand it, soccer fans are extremely pissed and the owners are all corrupt, money-grubbing pigs, so nothing at all has changed, and anyway it’s soccer, who gives a fuck?)  

“Sup?” I asked, expecting to hear that protesters had firebombed Old Trafford or that Boris Johnson was going to war with Spain or some shit. “Derek Chauvin was just convicted,” he said instead, appearing in my door frame. “Oh. Nice,” I responded. “Yeah, few minutes ago,” he said, drifting off toward the kitchen as I reflexively whipped out my phone and opened Twitter. A bright red AP ‘BREAKING’ graphic confirmed it was true. The former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck for around eight or nine minutes, killing him and sparking global protests against police brutality and white supremacy was finally convicted of murder and manslaughter. 

“They got the sunnovabitch,” is what I expected to think. I had anticipated the news would spark satisfaction and relief, or at least some form of catharsis after a traumatic year spent reckoning with the freshly transparent racism and inequality that pervades all of our institutions, from our police and the justice system, to the healthcare system, to the economy, and on and on. Following the trial, reading the stories about witness after witness landing one wide open haymaker after the other on behalf of the prosecution, I began to hope that the inevitable guilty verdict might manage to restore some sense of Faith, and stem the tide of cynicism that has been eroding my nerves since high school.

Instead I felt nothing. It seems the absolute bare minimum success of a District Attorney managing to do their job and convict a police officer of murder — something that prosecutors everywhere have historically fucking struggled with — did not stir that long-dormant chauvinistic attitude that a culture of institutional reverence and a tradition of bribery with annual fireworks had implanted within me. Shocker. 

But, as news of the verdict rippled across socials and Zoom and through the living rooms of people who still watch TV, my attention shifted from introspection to the reactions of people with a lot more to lose. Because the thing is, I’m not sure it’s a particularly noble stance to denounce the gravity of perhaps the most legitimately just decision in the history of American courts. After all, I have never had to check the news to see whether my community would be under siege from a militarized police force that night, or felt the dehumanizing pain of knowing that, statistically, if a cop murders a member of that community, there will be virtually no consequences.

See, every facet of the justice systems of developed countries like ours and our neighbor’s is set up to protect people who look like me — any actual justice that has come from it is the result of either a Bob Ross happy accident, or insurmountable outside pressure. So, while Tuesday’s big news seemed unavoidable to me, and therefore an unremarkable success in a system that simply performed its base function, I also realize that to many, many people observing this event, until that jury announced their decision, the conclusion was anything but forgone. 

It is for this reason that I don’t blame anyone if they did find relief, or comfort, or even a sense of Justice in the murder conviction. On the other hand, I still wouldn’t use this opportunity to immediately get down on your knees and start sucking off the ‘nobility of sacrifice and the pursuit of Justice’ or whatever the fuck Nancy Pelosi was on about in her speech later that day. Seriously, have you guys seen this video? It’s one of the most deranged and oblivious political statements ever made, and her comments were more tone deaf than Helen Keller and this joke about Helen Keller combined.

If you can’t be fucked to look it up, I’ll summarize, but I should warn you, even though it’s only in text form, expect these next few sentences to contain absolutely radioactive levels of cringe. This is what she said: “Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice. For being there to call out to your mom, how heartbreaking was that? [...] And because of you [...] your name will always be synonymous with justice."

She said that shit on live fucking TV. And to make matters worse, Pelosi had paraded members of the Congressional Black Caucus on stage to stand behind her like props while she recited some corporate sympathy drivel so far removed from the feelings at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement that it sounds like a draft Richard Spencer made up for opposition research. And by the way, I’m certain the notion of being ‘paraded’ anywhere is offensive to the Congressional Black Caucus, so sorry about that, but to be honest I’m not sure the notion of voluntarily standing behind that open dumpster fire is much fucking better.

Alas, yet again, we are met with a symbol of the status quo too preoccupied with lauding her/itself to be able to figure out why the rest of us aren’t all counting our blessings. After all, it is apparently a privilege and an honour to sacrifice oneself for justice, and to call out for one’s mother in mortal fear (how heartbreaking was that?). And do you know what the saddest part of it all is? I can’t even spend the rest of this article shitting on Nancy Pelosi like I want to because I have to move on to people who have somehow managed to do an even worse job of learning from George Floyd’s death.

In anticipation of the verdict, Florida governor and likely 2024 Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis passed a new law. Because laws are boring, I will now explain what this one does in the style of a wine snob: Ahem. Fermented deep within the void left by Gov. DeSantis’ soul and aged in a hermetically sealed chamber filled only with cops’ coffee farts, this law’s robust, full-bodied attacks on free speech and freedom of assembly carry much of the flavour. 

Florida region lawmakers are known for their acclaimed ‘detached from reality’ approach, which mirrors the state’s culture and really shines through in this law. It’s aromatic nose brings wafts of more aggressive punishments for protestors, with notes of denying bail until after a court appearance and stronger consequences for assaulting law enforcement. These are complimented nicely by undertones of felony charges for property damage to statues and flags and shit like that. The pièce de résistance, however, is a powerful aftertaste of civil immunity for people who drive into protestors with their cars — so long as the protestors are blocking a road. 

Yeah, I’m not making any of that up by the way, except for the fart chamber thing. There’s a lot to unpack here, but let me start by mentioning that, according to CNN, 80 out of 100 people charged with civil disobedience in Florida during BLM protests last summer had charges against them dropped, which means that, despite all of your natural instincts pointing to the contrary, Florida doesn’t have a rioting problem. Under this law though, anyone
accused of rioting will have to wait for prosecutors to decide whether or not to bring charges while sitting in jail the whole time. It’s worth noting that many protests in the States are classified by police as violent when they aren’t, or are actively made violent by police. There are plenty of videos to back me up on this, so fuck off to YouTube if you’re pressed.

I also wanna make a quick pit stop by the part of the bill that says dusty ass statues and flags and plaques are worth more than human life, mainly because I just want everyone to stay up to date on the status of the mangled corpse of the First Amendment, but there’s nothing much new there, so moving on. 

I think the bit that most fucks with my mind is that this bill straight up makes it easier to drive over someone with your car. I’m confused. Did the events of the Charlottesville rally in 2017 only happen in like a pocket dimension, where only some of the world was sent to witness one of the most overt displays of hatred in modern American history as punishment and in real life Heather Heyer is alive somewhere making millennial Facebook posts about Chipotle and Social Justice? Because that’s the only mentally sound explanation I can think of for including this provision in the bill. If this was an attempt at a dog whistle, which it certainly is, then DeSantis is somehow even less fucking subtle than the Donald, a feat science previously thought to be impossible. 

And if you’re thinking ‘well jeez, that does sound like a shit law, and the timing is quite suspicious, and Heather Heyer was killed by a white terrorist who drove a car into a crowd of peaceful protestors, but I’m a centrist moron and I don’t think you can just jump to conclusions and say that DeSantis passed it entirely because of the Chauvin trial,’ then first of all, pack it up Joe Rogan, and second of all, I absolutely can say that. Do you know why? Because the fucker admitted it. DeSantis described the law as “the most pro-law enforcement bill in the country,” at its announcement and indicated that “we wanna be prepared” for the verdict that was soon to break out of Minneapolis — just in case any Black or Brown folks were thinking a little too hard about exercising their rights any time soon. 

Interestingly, the Broward County sheriff’s department, which is a county police service in South Florida, has already said that its deputies won’t be enforcing the law. Sound familiar? It’s exactly the same reaction as those of several municipal police departments the weekend after Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced sweeping new powers for police in the midst of a disastrous third wave of the pandemic. The measures would have allowed police to ask anyone why they were outside and where they were going. You know… like fucking Stop and Frisk? 

Ford has since apologized for the measures, a little bit after the whole province collectively shat a brick and hurled it at his face, but it’s not like did it out of a sudden profound understanding of class relations. By the way, while we were living in this brief police state, I saw at least 3 tweets about separate incidents of Ottawa police harassing hikers and shit, and one video of an OPP officer completely decking a 12-year old off his Razor scooter, so cops still be cops I guess. Ford, with a few very notable exceptions, seems not to be able to view the police as anything but a solution. In the throes of the summer BLM movement, he unequivocally rejected calls to Defund the Police and instead quietly announced tens of millions of dollars in additional funding in August. 

The Tories did take one step toward police reform this past year though. According to CANADALAND podcast Wag the Doug, in October, the government rolled out their version of police accountability legislation which looked eerily similar to the previous Liberal government’s own dead on election plan. Both policies included the creation of a new Inspector General position to do some sort of oversight stuff, I’m sure. I’m bringing it up because while the Wynne Libs wanted to make sure nobody who had ever been involved in policing could hold the position, which makes sense, the PCs handed it over to a guy named Devon Clunis.

Clunis was Canada’s first Black police chief, which is objectively sick, especially when you consider that he got that job in Winnipeg, and I’m sure the guy’s qualified, but there are already conflict of interest problems when prosecutors try to hold police to account. What in the fuck made anyone think that a full-fledged chief should be the guy to run the new provincial watchdog? I'm not trying to take away from Clunis’ achievements (like I could possibly), but seriously, this dude loves policing so much, he co-wrote a children’s book about it. I’m not making this up.

The book is called “The Little Boy From Jamaica: A Canadian History Story.” It’s alright, it’s wholesome if a little outdated, and if I was a child, it might even have succeeded in turning me into more of a narc, but when I listened to Wag the Doug host Jonathan Goldsbie read the book out loud, something he said about it stuck with me. He said, the book provides “insight into a view of societal breakthroughs as something primarily accomplished through personal responsibility — hard work and good choices.”

And that’s what I’m getting at with this story. That precise “view of societal breakthroughs,” the one that Clunis espouses in his earnest yet mildly regressive mkids’ book, is one that I am constantly confronted with when listening to people who are made uncomfortable by the role systemic racism plays in a justice system that has never personally failed them. For Nancy Pelosi, the discomfort manifests in batshit rambling praise for a dead man whose contribution to almighty justice is one I’m positive he would rather not have made. For DeSantis, it manifests in a manic, atavistic attack on “criminals” whose only disadvantages are, in his view, their poor life choices and political affiliations. For Ford, it manifests in a reactionary instinct to ramp up police power and a flat refusal to acknowledge that the police could be doing anything but good in the poorest communities of his jurisdiction. 

This view, this overemphasis on “personal responsibility/hard work and good choices,” is bullshit. It doesn’t help anyone, and the cognitive dissonance required to keep the narrative alive is what has continued to stymie any semblance of meaningful reform for generations. Keeping his head down and making good choices didn’t help George Floyd, and neither did Derek Chauvin’s conviction. And personal responsibility won’t help the next Black or Brown person to be murdered by police, or the next Indigenous person to be denied proper medical treatment, or the next Asian or Muslim or Gay or Trans or Female person to be murdered by a white terrorist in a ‘mental health crisis.’ But meaningful systemic change will, and we’ll never achieve that if we keep electing politicians who serve only to reinforce a dogshit worldview with no fucking basis in reality whatsoever. Take some personal responsibility for that, fuckwits, and pull your heads out your asses. 


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