Over the past 72 hours, people across the US have captured what may be the most comprehensive live picture of police brutality ever. Any one of the videos we’ve seen could have sparked a national discussion, with people picking apart their elements, searching for context to argue about, and digging through the pasts of everyone involved. But it’s not just one act of violence. It’s everywhere.
Here is just a short list of scenes from the past few days:
- A New York City police officer tore a protective mask off of a young black man and assaulted him with pepper spray while the victim peacefully stood with his hands up
- New York City police officers, in two separate vehicles, rammed a crowd in a street. Separately, an officer in a moving police vehicle slammed someone with a car door and drove away
- Security forces in Minneapolis marched down a quiet residential street and shot paint canisters at residents who were watching from their private porch
- Police in Louisville raided a public square, confiscating and destroying water and milk, which is used to counter irritants like pepper spray
- Atlanta police stopped two black people, inexplicably shooting them with tasers and tearing them out of their car
- A New York City officer used two hands to throw a woman to the ground, reportedly calling her a “stupid fucking bitch”
- San Antonio Police used tear gas against people. So did Dallas police. So did Los Angeles police. So did DC police. The list goes on.
- Many people reported being shot by rubber bullets. MSNBC host Ali Velshi says he was shot after state police fired unprovoked into a peaceful rally. A freelance photographer in Minneapolis says she went permanently blind in her left eye after being shot by police.
- Police have brutalized lawmakers participating in demonstrations, including New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie
On Saturday, the names of several police officers allegedly seen perpetrating violence in different cities began trending on Twitter as people worked to cross-reference faces from videos with personal information on the web.
The violence appears so widespread and consistent that you could be mistaken for thinking it’s coordinated at a national level. To some extent, it is: President Trump has cheered on police violence like a fan at a sports event, and police departments across the country have styled themselves as military forces after receiving two decades of hand-me-downs from the War on Terror.
“US cities face toll of violent protests,” says a headline at the top of Fox News. “Fury in the streets as protests spread across the US,” says The New York Times. “Fire and fury spread across the US,” says The Washington Post. “Wave of rage and anguish sweeps dozens of US cities,” says CNN. But whose rage? Whose fury? Whose violence?
Here’s another: ABC local news in Utah runs a graphic saying “violent protests in Salt Lake City.” In the background of the video, police knock an elderly man with a cane to the ground. He was simply standing near a bus stop.
We can’t deny what we are seeing, and we must describe it accurately. Whose violence? Whose rage? It’s from American police.
Warning: the images shown below are disturbing.