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Peninsula | Police State and Prisons

On Lovelle Mixon, the Media and, Police Violence
by Shakeses
Wednesday Apr 1st, 2009 2:36 PM
Considering police violence in our communities, it is not hard to see why some people might be quietly celebrating.
I was recently asked where I stand on the issue of "Lovelle Mixon". I contend that his execution of cops and subsequent death does not deserve to be viewed in a vacuum, rather it is part of many complex issues.

Intentionally or not, Lovelle Mixon's execution of four police officers proves the point that the anti-police terrorism movement has been making all along - we know that cops get special privileges. We know that when it comes to people of color (with or without a record), the cops shoot first and ask questions later. We know that the media is eager to make heroes of anyone in a uniform and, we know that when it comes to cops vs. civillians (or "parole violators" as the media insists on referring to Mixon), that the media is complicit in defending the actions of the police over the actions of anyone else.

I use as the most recent example, of course, the SWAT team gun show at Mixon's sister's home. No warrant, no investigation, straight up OK Corale. Now had the circumstances been different, had two black men been shooting at each other, what do you think the police response would look like? How about the media? During a recent panel on police violence at the Black Dot Cafe in Oakland, a man stood up and spoke about how his cousin had been shot about a year before. The cops had no suspects, no witnesses and had essentially let the trail go cold. Upon initial investigation, one officer responded to the call. Several hours later, two detectives arrived. A forensics team came a day later. Quite a contrast to the 200+ officer response in the early afternoon of March 21st.

My second example is from around 5am on New Year's day, after Oscar Grant had finally been released to the hospital. A cbs anchorman stood outside of the Fruitvale station saying "the officer might have been reaching for his taser". This is seven days before mehserle was even questioned (as we recall that rather than answer questions 3 days later, he opted to resign from the BPD). There had been no investigation underway, there wasn't even a press release issued. Why did that news anchor feel compelled to say that? Why were so many other reporters so eager (or lazy) to follow his lead?

I use these two examples because there are large similarities. In both cases, a black man was shot by police officers (though one was armed and one was unarmed). No initial investigations into either shooting took place promptly. Because of their susbequent deaths, both men were deprived of due process. After their deaths, both men's "criminal" histories were sensationalized in the media. In both cases the media made every excuse imaginable for the police officers who fired their weapons (stress on the job, reaching for a taser, brand new baby, comrades just shot, it's Thursday,) but used absolutely no imagination when it came to describing the two victims of police violence (black men in their twenties with -or without- criminal records).

Now you don't have to be an activist, a professor or, a radical to draw these conclusions, especially not if you live under the spectre of police violence, harassment, intimidation, brutality and murder every single day, as so many of us do. It is much easier for the media to simply say "there are supporters of Mixon, they're crazy, now back to our cop worship," then it is to ask the questions the community is always asking itself; "Why are people being shot by police? Why does it seem that people are supporting Mixon? Where does the city of Oakland, in a severe deficit, suddenly get over 10 million dollars for a cop funeral? What do cop funerals cost on average? How many kids could eat or go to school for 10 million dolloars? What leads people into a life of so-called crime? How is Mixon's family?" Clearly, the list could go on.

A familiar chant in the early weeks of January was "We are Oscar Grant". Sure you can interchange it with about any old slogan these days, but the sentiment is clear and concise: that could have been us. The fact that the powers that be (including the media) choose to portray us as two dimensional figures (thugs, athletes, exceptional-negroes) does not help. Faced with an onslaught of humiliating portrayals and very few local outlets with which to dispel these myths, I think it's logical to find people silently saying some praises. When the dust settles and the shock wears off, I think you'll find more than one Oakland resident silently thinking "one less cop...", smirk optional.

I can hear the question now: but what about the fact that Mixon might have been a rapist? I say clearly that would be horrible. As a feminist and an ardent supporter of all causes established to end violence against women and children, my views on rapists are very firm and very clear. I also oppose murder and tyranny, so regardless of my personal feelings of rapists, I know that it is neither mine nor anyone else's job to take another person out. I would say to those in the "good riddance" camp that the irony of your sentiments shouldn't escape us. Those who are glad that the cops took out another bad guy 'cause he was a criminal, a scoundrel, he deserved what he got' view Mixon in terms of revenge, even though what they say they're against is this man who broke the law. What of the cops who did not follow any protocol? They went in guns blazing, other people be damned. And by disobeying their own rules of conduct (which are designed to protect us, after all), they essentially disregarded the laws they're supposed to defend, the laws that the good-riddance-ers are convinced Mixon broke and that we (black criminals) can't follow.

Again, my feelings about Mixon are irrelevant. What's important is the larger context of his actions. Just to recap, so far this year:

Unarmed black man shot in the back (a handful of articles, none above the fold, lots of dredging up of his "criminal record").
It takes a riot to get the DA to press charges against his assassin who has, in the meantime, crossed the border to Nevada. A riot.
Then the dude gets bail.

Months later, in a completely unrelated incident, an armed black man shoots and kills two cops, bails to his sisters and shoots three more cops, two of whom die, one of whom, Pat Gonzales, shot an unarmed Gary King at 54th & MLK just over a year ago.
The media ignores the significance of Pat Gonzales and does not mention Gary King in any of their stories.
The four cops get undulation, accolade, condolence and over 10 million Oakland dollars for one of the most elaborate cop funerals in history. Last time the city rolled out the heavy artillery (literally) for any person unlawfully murdered by the police? Last time you saw a 10 million dollar funeral for a soldier? Just asking. (Incidentally the officers didn't live in Oakland).
The media decides it will be a good idea to run stories about Mixon's sister's history, just to make them look more shady.
Mixon may or may not be a rapist, so now the popular expectation is to not include him in the familiar litany about cops in the black community 'cause he wasn't really a person anyway...

And now this question, where do I stand on the issue?

I stand against hero worship of any kind.
I stand against police violence, in every form.
I stand against the mainstream media who will never, ever, ever present a balanced story when it comes to race, violence and white supremacy in our society.
I stand against the idea that these people (policemen, military, lawyers, politicians) who beat asses every single day in order to "uphold the law" get a pass (aka run the streets with guns blazing) whenever "one of their own gets shot". If I got a pass every time one of my own got shot, there could be a hell of a lot less cops on the streets.
I stand against the idea that I can't draw logical connections to deep rooted problems in the Black community enforced by cop culture with out being likened to an alledged sex-offender.
I stand for people who are willing to look at these issues critically. I stand with people who have to struggle every damn day just to get by. I stand with the struggle for independence and autonomy.

I say "Whatever" to the cops. As one commenter wrote in the Chronicle after the execution of Oscar Grant (and with regard to Oscar Grant): "I just have this to say to all you who run around thinking you can get away with promoting violence in our communites - you live by the gun, you die by the gun."

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by a
Wednesday Apr 1st, 2009 9:21 PM
Well-written, well thought out response to these events. I agree.
by junya
Wednesday Apr 1st, 2009 9:46 PM
Bless you, for throwing out a lifeline in a sea of hypocrisy.
by a-feminist
Thursday Apr 2nd, 2009 10:10 PM
As others have said, right on point.
by Kim
Sunday Apr 5th, 2009 12:23 AM
Whomever Lovelle Mixon was or wasn't is quite besides the point given the broader backdrop -- except in the minds of those who felt and feel the need to portray him in the worst light.