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Pity the Poor Immigrant

by JEFF WINBUSH

G21 Staff Writer

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Event #157: LIFE IS SWEET

Fresh Upfront
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I thought I was going to make it out of Black History Month without talking about the bloody history between Blacks and cops. I almost made it too. Then some cops in New York City took it upon themselves to use a African immigrant for target practice.

41 shots. 19 direct hits. Four cops. One 22-year-old from West Africa armed with a wallet and a beeper.

It's the first number --- "41 gunshots" --- that sounds so insane.

By any sensible means of logic, the idea that it takes 41 bullets to subdue a suspect is just crazy. This is the point of the story where it wobbles from tragedy into farce. What Mayor Rudolph Giuliani dismisses as a "regrettable mistake" appears to others as bloody overkill.

The trouble with being outraged is that it passes and when it does all that's left is weariness. Weariness of the heart. Weariness of the soul. I'm so tired of hearing about Black people being beaten, being brutalized, being killed by cops. I'm so tired of hearing the flimsy and transparent lies of lawyers, politicians and apologists for excessive force.

Think you've reached the "bash-the-cops" portion of the column? Guess again.

If you're really honest with yourself you admit police do a job most of us wouldn't touch for any amount of money.

The "thin blue line" is often called upon by polite society to keep down the undesirables, the uncontrolled and unrestrained amongst us. Too often we tell the cops to just get the job done and never mind the method employed to do so. Today's police force is better armed with both exotic weaponry and a court system less inclined to check their power. Should we then be surprised when errant blue knights usurp the authority of judges and juries to deliver instant death penalties?

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"There is much anger, the black community is enraged," an observer said during the motorcade escorting Diallo's body to the airport for the journey home to Guinea.

Nothing new about that.

The Black community spends a lot of time being angry and enraged. Usually it's over lightweight crap like public officials using archaic words like "niggardly" or teachers teaching from a book celebrating nappy hair. Every so often Black folks pick the right thing to get ticked about. Four cops gunning down a unarmed street peddler meets the criteria quite well.

And the hits just keep on coming...

ITEM: A black Marine, Lance Cpl Carlos Colbert was beaten, kicked and left paralyzed with a broken neck by five white men during an attack last May. Colbertās assailants shouted racial slurs and "white power." One attacker received a sentence of two to 11 years in prison. The others received five years probation with one year in jail (less credit for jail time already served). Colbert is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. (Reuters)

ITEM: The U.S. Justice Department is investigating New Jersey state police to determine whether minority motorists are stopped because of their race. Additionally, a New Jersey state trooper filed a federal lawsuit accusing the state police of ordering him to use racial profiling in deciding whom to pull over, to boost drug arrest statistics. (ABC NEWS.com)

ITEM: A Pittsburgh, Pa., white police officer, suspected of being the creator of a Web page with racist overtones was arrested in the shooting death of a Black motorist. Officer Jeffrey Cooperstein claims he shot the motorist because he feared he was about to be run over. A coroner's inquest established that Deron Grimmitt, 32, was shot through the side window in the side of the head, not head-on as might be expected if he were driving directly toward the officer. Cooperstein was standing behind his car when he shot Grimmitt. (AP)

ITEM: Police responding to a 911 call find Tyisha Miller, 19, unconscious and armed with a pistol, locked in the back seat of a car. The cops yell and bang on the windows in an attempt to wake Miller. As the glass breaks what happens next is unclear. Two of the four officers say Miller makes a movement towards the gun, the other two cops say they are not sure. The cops fire 27 shots. Miller is hit a dozen times and is killed. Police release autopsy reports that verify Miller is legally intoxicated. Her family hires a pathologist to perform an independent autopsy. In his preliminary findings, the pathologist says Tyisha was reclining and her hand was by her side --- proof, the family say that she was not reaching for a gun. (Salon webmagazine)

ITEM: A online poll of over 25,000 respondents asks the question, "Are minorities less safe than others in this country?"

The answer: "NO" (52%) "YES" (47%). (ABC NEWS.com)

If Amadou Diallo had been a Black man walking home down a lonely road in Texas, he could have been dragged and decapitated as was James Byrd.

If Diallo had been a gay white male he could have been beaten and lashed to a fence to die of exposure as was Matthew Sheppard.

He was not and so the news media has paid little attention to his demise. Diallo is just the most spectacular victim of what can happen when police power is unchecked. His is certainly not the first questionable death and will hardly be the last.

This is a nation building prisons faster than schools. We are living in a age where even county auditors run for reelection touting how tough they are on criminals. In the process of asking the cops to restore a semblance of security to the streets many protections from illegal search and seizure and privacy have been sacrificed. A free society that slowly surrenders its rights may find it difficult to get them back later.

The smoldering resentment and distrust that exists between police officers and black civilians is fanned into fires by the slaughter of innocents such as Amadou Diallo. If justice is not served in this case and another Simi Valley style verdict is the result watch the skies to see whose city burns by the fire this time.

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