$26.00 donated in past month
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Police State and Prisons
In Honor of Lovelle Mixon: Cheering Those Who Fire Back
Cheering Lovelle Mixon
Early in the afternoon on Saturday, March 21, Lovelle Mixon, a 26 year-old Black man, was pulled over by two Oakland police officers while driving through downtown. Mixon had stopped meeting with his parole officer a month before, and a warrant had been issued for his arrest. What happened next is still the subject of speculation, but the result was both the officers were shot and mortally wounded, and Mixon had disappeared. Later that day, the police received a tip telling them Mixon was hiding in a nearby apartment. A SWAT team entered the apartment, and Mixon was killed in the gunfire, but not before he killed two more officers and lightly wounded a fifth.
The responses to these events have been varied, to say the least. First, the response seen most often in the press tells of a “community in mourning.” Oakland police spokesperson Jeff Thomason called the shootings “probably one of the worst incidents […] in the history of the Oakland police department.” 1 Bouquets of flowers are shown at the door of OPD Headquarters and at the intersection where the officers were killed. 2 And extensive coverage is given to the massive funeral service, where thousands of police officers and government officials from around the country gathered to pay their respects to the slain officers and their families. 3
Supplemental to that is the response from some “community leaders,” who suggest that what’s needed now is a “healing of the rifts” between the community and the police. This contingent organized a “Hope and Healing” vigil, in conjunction with city government. 2 , 4 Pastor Raymond Lankford of non-profit Healthy Oakland suggested, “What officers do, that’s a tough job. (...) They need to know the community is behind them.” 1 And Jakada Imani, executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, similarly asked of the relationship between the community and the police, “How do we build that trust?” 5
But there was another common response, specifically documented as openly expressed by hundreds of individuals (and thus, likely shared by many thousands more openly, if not hundreds of thousands or even millions privately), and yet only reluctantly acknowledged by the purveyors of those first two responses. It was the response of those, including me, whose first reaction was “Finally! It’s about damn time someone fired back at these assholes!” 6
This response was honest in its immediacy. As is well documented, the crowd who witnessed the first shootings taunted the officers as they lay dying. 1 , 7 This response, of excitement as opposed to horror, was echoed over and over again. 8 The on-scene reporter for the local news was hounded by people in the background shouting “Fuck the police!” 9 As officers gathered at the hospital, people shouted at them “This is payback for Oscar Grant!” 9 And there are reports from across the country that large crowds, such as at a music festival in Austin, when they were told of what happened, erupted in cheers. 10
Those who cheered, or shouted “Payback!”, or like me said “Finally!”, needed no explanation. Our reactions were immediate. We understood. But there are many people who, while not exactly sharing our excitement, have been brave enough to examine the implications of these cheers, and to honestly (and I mean honestly) ask the question “Why?”
Indeed, that’s a good question. Why would anyone cheer after hearing of the deaths of four people they never met? The answer to this question lies in what exactly it is that we understood.
Despite the calls by “community leaders” to “heal the rifts” between the community and the police, the actual state of community / police relations in the inner cities, in poor communities of color, and to a smaller degree throughout the country, is war. It has been for some time. No matter how much people want to debate it. No matter how much the mainstream media wants to cast the undeniable manifestations of this war as random, senseless aberrations. (An ongoing series of aberrations, no less!) 11 No matter how much some insist to us that we don’t actually see what we see and that we didn’t actually read what we read. The truth of this war is not lost on the people embroiled within it. It’s as real to them as if real bullets are actually flying, because they actually are, on a regular basis. 12
Let’s explore the details of what exactly this means.
Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, and Oscar Grant, as well as countless unarmed others 13 are killed in cold blood by police, yet despite the most clear cut cases in each instance, the cops who murder them keep going free. 14 This pattern is not lost on us. After even the most flagrant murders, mayors and police chiefs are quick to rally around the perpetrators and defend their actions. 15 This practice is not lost on us. The police regularly attribute wholesale lies to their dead victims, for whom no exonerating trial will ever be held, in an attempt to justify such murders. 16 This practice is not lost on us.
But while news coverage of police violence is usually defined by murders and beatings – If it bleeds, it leads – the whole scope of everyday uniformed aggression is more important to your average police-weary citizen. Cops can (and for many of us, will) detain and harass you, even when they know you’ve done nothing wrong. This fact is not lost on us. Officers can, and do, lie to cover their reckless behavior and to secure convictions. 17 This fact is not lost on us. Without substantial evidence disproving police claims, their word is almost a guaranteed conviction, especially against poor people of color. This fact is not lost on us.
Compounding this systemic tragedy is the utter failure of our avenues of so-called legal recourse. Official “oversight” boards are glorified rubber stamps, providing a sense of legitimacy without actually effecting change. This practice is not lost on us. Even in the face of the most grotesque of wrongdoings, the police routinely suggest the problem can be fully addressed by reviewing department training procedures. 18 This practice is not lost on us. Police departments and their affiliate organizations routinely stress the need for community cooperation in bringing the criminals to justice, yet when a cop turns out to be the criminal, the blue wall of silence closes in to protect him. 19 This practice is not lost on us. More to the point, no matter where we turn or who we turn to, there is no true accountability for the police in any of this, ever, and that fact is certainly not lost on us. 20
Given that context, let’s take a closer, analytical look at the events of March 21. Even though the media coverage often condenses the whole afternoon into one big “shootout” or “spree,” it actually consisted of two distinct events – the traffic stop, and the raid on the apartment – which must be analyzed separately.
There’s not a lot to analyze about the events at the traffic stop, since very little has been revealed about what exactly happened. 21 All we know is Mixon was minding his own business when he was pulled over by Officers Dunakin and Hege. He was reportedly not speeding, but he was talking to his uncle on his cell phone while driving. 22 He gave the police a driver’s license, which turned out to be fake. 23 At some point after that, shots were fired. It is not known for certain whether the officers also fired shots, or if they did whether they fired first or in response. But once both officers were wounded, Mixon approached them, stood over them, and fired several more shots into them. 24 After that, he fled on foot, leaving the approximately twenty bystanders who, having witnessed everything, cheered the cops’ deaths.
While the police have been tight-lipped about the traffic stop, they have elaborated fully on the raid on the apartment where Mixon was hiding later that afternoon. Howard Jordan, acting Police Chief, who was not present at the raid, claimed that the police made “repeated attempts” to communicate with Mixon before entering the apartment. 25 However, other reports have indicated that Mixon’s younger sister was in the apartment, oblivious to Lovelle’s presence in the bedroom closet and to the police siege outside. 26 When the police surged in, she was injured in the leg with one of their flash grenades, before eventually being handcuffed, taken into custody, and interrogated after Lovelle’s death. 26 Her ignorance of the situation before it unfolded, which through her detainment and injuries are documented and subject to peer review as opposed to the idle claims of the police, demonstrate that in fact no attempts at communication were made. Furthermore, while Jordan, at a press conference, claimed that officers fired in self-defense after first having been fired upon inside the apartment 25, Jordan did not volunteer at that time that it was the police who first deployed the flash grenades, filling the apartment with smoke, thus making clear a home invasion was underway. 27
Standard police procedure when they have a subject in hiding, as they know, requires that non-violent resolutions be sought first, and that their target be communicated to and given the opportunity to surrender, 28 unless an imminent danger to others is clear. This policy is for the police’s own safety, 29 for the safety of the public at large, 30 and for the protection of an individuals’ constitutional right to due process, as the law does not in any way provide for the police to unilaterally carry out a sentence, or even to inordinately endanger anyone on the basis of suspected guilt. Furthermore, this policy stands regardless of whether their target is believed to be unarmed, or whether he has hostages or not (which Mixon did not).
No imminent public danger was clear from Mixon, whether he was “barricaded” as many have claimed, or whether he was just hiding alone in a private residence, and as demonstrated, no attempts at communication were made. Given that, and given that the police have lied to that end, it follows that the police rushed in, fully aware they were acting against regulations.
Hardly innocent victims of circumstance, the SWAT team was eager to kill the man they wanted dead. 31 They were every bit the aggressors, regardless of how incompetently they carried out their mission, or of how expertly Mixon defended himself. Given the lethal nature of the attack, Mixon’s choice to fire back at the apartment was a matter of self-defense.
These events, however, seem to bear little relation to the reporting of the corporate-owned media. Generally, the coverage consists of calling the events a “shooting spree,” despite that the apartment killings, as illustrated, were in self-defense, (and, not to mention, carried out from within a bedroom closet) and that the brief shootout at the traffic stop hardly qualifies as a “spree.” It is also often repeated in the mainstream media was that Mixon was “barricaded” in the apartment, 25 , 32 evoking the idea that he could only be accessed through a forcible incursion. However, no police spokesperson has themselves used the word “barricaded,” and the fact that his sister was in the apartment, oblivious to his presence, indicates he wasn’t “barricaded” at all, but rather just hiding. 26 These misleading characterizations are supplemented with endless photos of police crying interspersed with mug shots and rap sheets of Mixon.
When dissected, this “reporting” amounts to nothing more than public relations propaganda for the police, aimed solely at eliciting the desired emotional response from viewers in lieu of answering any of the honest questions people have. The fact that this sort of propagandizing is repeated over and over every time there’s a pressing reason to take a good hard look at our police is not lost on us.
It’s also interesting to note the disparity of attention paid to the police and to Mixon. Almost no attention is given to the backgrounds of the officers, except to say they “served their communities,” as they say, for X number of years, and leave behind Y number of relatives. 33 Additionally, in the case of Officer John Hege, it has been frequently reported that his organs were harvested and used to save the lives of four strangers, and that his marrow/tissue was used to enhance the lives of up to fifty more. 34 But nothing is noted of any disciplinary history, or particular lack thereof, on the part of these officers during their time on the force, nor whether any community groups ever believed disciplinary action should have been taken against them as individuals for anything. 35
Mixon, on the other hand, is now the subject of intense scrutiny, with entire articles devoted just to outlining his incarceration and parole history. 36 We now know he served six years in prison after being convicted 37 of assault with a firearm, as well as another nine months for unspecified “parole violations.” We know he spent the months before the incident trying desperately to find a job and get on his feet, all while routinely checking in with his parole officer and passing continuous drug tests. 2 We know that he had a conflict with his parole officer (the details of which appear to be mutually disagreed upon), and stopped checking in. He disappeared in late February, resulting in a no-bail warrant being issued for his arrest, only to turn up at the moment he was pulled over by cops on March 21st. We know that police accuse him of involvement in a homicide in Alameda County in February 2008, and in the days after the shooting, the police further accused him of being “connected” to a rape in early February of this year (although, on both counts, we have only the word of the police spokesperson to go on). And as if all this “insight” wasn’t enough, the corporate news has even reported that Mixon’s sister (a different sister than was at the apartment) was arrested on Tuesday, March 24, (circumstances of the arrest unknown) and that she’s now facing drug possession charges. 38 , 39
How that last bit qualifies as “news” in any way, I do not know. 40 But I do know that one of the most basic ways to manipulate discussion is to turn the focus exclusively onto one party. As long as people are talking about Mixon’s criminal record, debating the likelihood of whether or not he was a rapist, and asking where he as an individual “went wrong,” they can’t seriously analyze the broader, and inarguably more important, implications of these events, and many peoples’ honest reactions to them.
While these mischaracterizations and misdirections (and occasional outright fictions) do serve to satisfy many peoples’ thirst for inquiry, and do serve to obscure the reality of continuous police violence to some degree, they do nothing to actually change this reality. This fact is not lost on us. Thus, even if serious analysis is successfully clouded, all that’s achieved is a sharper division between many peoples’ perception and the reality in which many others live. Such a division can only ensure the events of March 21 will happen again.
Regardless of the media’s identified obsession with framing the crux of the issue as one of personality, with only passing references to the dire circumstances which foster legitimate resistance, 41 Mixon’s personal character is indeed relevant to the question of why many people, including Lovelle’s friends and family, call him their “hero.”
The primary allegation levied against Mixon by his critics is based on police claims that he has been “linked” through DNA evidence to a February rape of a 12 year old, and that this rape fit the pattern of several other rapes, which it would then follow that he would also be a suspect in. 2 , 42 The claim originates from a story in the San Fransisco Chronicle on Monday, March 23, and cites Lt. Kevin Wiley of the OPD Sex Crimes unit as the source. 23 This allegation was first put forward two days after the shootings, although Wiley claimed this connection was first made the day before the shooting. 23 The problem with this claim is that we have only the word of the police spokesperson to go on. Furthermore, even though it was the OPD who originated the claim and put it out before the public, OPD spokesperson Jeff Thomason has subsequently said the department will not answer any questions about the “investigation,” 39 and Lt. Wiley has declined to answer any further questions as well. 42
While a police claim is enough for many people, those of us who are critical of the police believe their claims against people should be subjected to peer review before guilt is considered to be established. 43 In this case, there is no chance for peer review. We have not heard from the forensic examiner investigating the case, 23 and since Mixon is dead, there will never be a trial, nor will there likely be public access to this referenced “DNA evidence.” Further troubling is that the school where these rapes allegedly occurred has come forward and asked why they were never notified about them when they were reported to have originally happened back in February. 44 Additionally, while Lt. Wiley told the press they made the connection on Friday, he also admitted the department did not issue a warrant at that time, suggesting further investigation was necessary for such a warrant. 23 This means that we don’t even have available to us, as the public, one piece of evidence of the existence of these rapes which predates March 21. 45
In light of all this, the only sources we can rely on which we actually have access to in order to scrutinize this allegation are Mixon’s criminal record, and the testimonials of those who were close to him. Mixon’s criminal record (including all accusations made before March 21), prolific as it is, does not indicate any tendency toward sexual assault, 36 and members of his family have said he was “not a monster.” 46
To the contrary, Mixon’s loved ones, and those who knew him in Oakland, have called him a “soldier” and a “hero.” 47 Mixon’s sister said of him, “He’s nice, he’s kind, he’s sweet.” 46 Archived police reports suggest he had taken responsibility for and was regretful of bad things he had done in his life. 23 Mixon’s widow has suggested the same, saying “he was trying to make himself a better person.” 48 And the police reports went on to say Mixon wanted to move away from Oakland, and quoted him as saying: “[I want to] get a job, and hopefully in about two or three years get my own business, raise my kids in a responsible way.” 23
It was this Lovelle Mixon – husband, lover, father, and friend – who inspired hundreds of people to come out and support him, first at a march and vigil days after the shootings, and then later at his funeral on March 31. 47 , 49 While Mixon’s family has expressed their condolences multiple times to the families of the officers who were killed, 46 they along with many members of the Oakland community maintain their support for Lovelle, and for his courageous acts of resistance against the tyranny which the OPD represents in the Black community. 47 , 50
Indeed, what Lovelle Mixon did was incredibly brave. This was no idle whim of his. He specifically made the decision not to go back to their prison, and he was fully prepared to carry through with this decision when the time came, not just logistically, but also mentally and psychologically. This was evidently not his primary focus in life. Indeed, by all accounts, he spent his final months trying to find a stable job and get on his feet. 48 , 51 Failing that, and failing to reconcile the differences between himself and his parole officer (differences which Mixon’s family have suggested the officer was to blame for), Mixon then tried to just drop out of sight. He did not seek out any confrontation, but when confrontation inevitably found him, he met it like a warrior. 52 Mahatma Gandhi, strict proponent of non-violence that he was, himself suggested that a defiant stand was preferable to surrender, saying “Though violence is not lawful, when it is offered in self-defence or for the defence of the defenceless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission.” 53
Not only was Mixon brave, but he was also selfless in his final moments. Nobody decides they’d rather die immediately just to serve their own survival, or out of fear of what any new charges or prison time may do to their life. 54 A conscious decision to swiftly die – which is what the decision to fire back at the police in this country is 55 – and to do so in such a way that brings consequences into the world, can only be measured in terms of those consequences. In this case, given the terms of war between the police and the people, the consequences are that four of his community’s enemies – those who prey on innocent people and participate in summary executions as they see fit – are dead, and the rest are put on notice of what the consequences of their aggression are. 56 While this may sound glib, it should be noted that a number of historians and analysts have suggested this sort of individualized self-sacrifice was the appropriate (or at least, a appropriate) response during the Nazis’ rise to power, arguing that the Holocaust could never have been carried out if it cost even just one Nazi soldier for every casualty. 57 With no hope left for individual survival, it was to these ends that Mixon selflessly gave his life. 58
Given his bravery and his selflessness in his final moments, and thus his heroism, as well as the cost he paid, and the significance of this rare form of retribution, Lovelle Mixon’s place in history is already cemented. 59 Every time someone fires back, Lovelle Mixon’s name will be on everyone’s tongue. For many, this puts his actions right up there, in significance if not in magnitude, with those of Nat Turner, with those who participated in the Jewish insurgency in the Warsaw Ghetto, with the inmates who took over Attica Prison, and with everyone else throughout history who gave their lives to their countrypeople in defiant and uncompromising stands against tyranny. Driving this point home, to suggest the opposite, and to say “All Lovelle Mixon did was shoot some cops,” would be like saying “All John Brown did was kill his neighbors.”
Perhaps even more important than Mixon’s heroism, however, is that his heroism is not lost on us. People are victimized – not just attacked, but actually made into victims – by this system every day. Many are frightened (as well they should be) by the idea that one can be killed by unaccountable police for no reason other than that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet here was someone, proud and defiant, who decided that he was through being a victim, that he was through backing down. 60 “Never again,” he told himself. “They’ve taken so much, but if they’re going to take my life, I’ll take theirs in return.” 61 And he meant it, and he carried through with it. When we look at this Lovelle Mixon, we see the best parts of ourselves. I, for one, could only hope that, when my own personal moment of trial some day comes, regardless of what that moment is or what the risks of that moment entail 62, I’ll have anything approaching that level of conviction and fortitude. But somehow, knowing that Mixon, who was not particularly political, followed through with his convictions as he did, in the face of the single most heavily equipped occupying army this world has ever seen, and in the face of certain death, I and many others have renewed faith in our struggles to resist this tyranny.
The story of Lovelle Mixon isn’t all smiles and raised fists. As many have rightly pointed out, the situation for poor people of color will be worse in the immediate aftermath. This is different from the attempts at mitigation on the part of the self-stylized “community leaders” who say it’s time to “heal the rift.” Rather, this is the genuine concern of community organizers and everyday people who know police psychology and pathology all too well. Their concerns of heightened repression are further validated in official “tough on crime” rhetoric bandied about in the wake of the killings. Hours after the apartment raid, California Attorney General Jerry Brown told reporters, “Instead of cutting back and putting more and more burdens and restrictions, we have to give the police greater authority to do their work and protect the citizens.” 25
Police aggression will worsen in Oakland (and around the country) for some time afterward, as the cops try to re-establish the fear through which they control others, and to make sure people know it’s not at all okay to fire back. Furthermore, even those who believe the problem of police is limited to a few “bad apples” would recognize that those bad apples, especially the particularly racist ones, will be out to exact some payback of their own. A price will be exacted, and as always, this price is paid by society’s most marginalized.
And yet, it’s evidently many of those very people, who stand to suffer the most, and who understand the danger, who are cheering the loudest.
I’ve never lived in Oakland. I couldn’t speak for the people there, and I have no interest in playing the role of outside agitator for their situation. 63 But from an analytical standpoint, I suspect, for many people, this is about even more than Mixon’s personal heroism, or the historical significance, or theories on cohesive revolutionary praxis. On top of all that, Lovelle Mixon’s actions represent a reaffirmation of dignity for the people of Oakland, and for people all over the country in the same situation. I suspect, for them, the cheers are also a celebration of this reaffirmation, derived from the reclamation of the individual human right to defend one’s self, one’s family, and one’s community from their attackers, by whatever means one has at their disposal – a right which has been denied to so many for so long. 64 And I think – I think – the relevance of this reclamation which Lovelle Mixon’s deeds represent is not lost on the people of Oakland. 65
This is not a call for further violence. If anything, this piece, and the cheers which I reference, are a wake up call for our mutual situation, which further denial will only exacerbate. It is my sincerest hope that we can find and achieve the most non-violent solution to this situation as possible. This is also not a stance of heartlessness. Truth be told, if I had a magic wand that could bring those four cops back to life and make them not be cops anymore, I’d do it (but only if it did both). And if I also had a magic wand that brought police murder victims back to life 66, and one that non-violently and non-intrusively made cops quit their jobs, I would use those generously.
But this isn’t fantasy, and there are no fantastical solutions. This is the reality of war, a war which the police introduced, and from which it is upon the police to disengage. 68 Given that reality, and given that these officers had every opportunity to know the nuances of their chosen profession, and given that they still chose the side they did, I do not lament their deaths in any way whatsoever. 67
Rather than lamentation for four professional bullies, I offer a toast, to all the victims of police brutality and police aggression everywhere. To those who, like me, have suffered indignities at the hands of the police. To those who, like me, have been brutalized by the police. To those who, like me, have been forced to sit quietly in the courtroom as the police lie through their teeth on the witness stand. To those who have listened to White cops espouse racism, or had racist epithets hurled at them, when no cameras were rolling. To those who keep getting harassed and pulled over for the color of their skin. To those, like me, who have friends locked up on bogus charges. To those who watch the cops when they could just as easily walk away. To those who obtain and scour the endless police reports. To those who have sought justice, and had it denied. To those who are no longer with us today. To those who refuse to surrender their right to self-defense. To those, in Oakland, who taunted the cops as they died. To those who cheered when they heard the news. To those who shouted “Payback” at the cops to their faces. To those who have lit up the online message boards in defense of Mixon’s actions. And to all of those who fight to preserve the memory of Oakland’s newest folk hero.
To a better world.
In resolution of the question which was first posed, why someone would cheer over these deaths, I do not suggest you, the reader, join in these cheers if you don’t see why you should. However, the threshold to understanding why people are cheering may be closer than you think.
As to where these events leave us as we march inexorably toward the future, police violence will, of course, continue apace, as it has for a long time. But, in the coming decade, people will only become more conscious of the reality of the situation, not less. More people will recognize police aggression for what it is, not less. More people will have personal encounters with the police, not less. More people will listen when victims speak out, not less. Less people will be confused about who’s attacking who, not more. More people will cheer when the victims fire back, not less. Less people will put stock in the police’s fanciful stories of surprise revelations and misplaced evidence, not more. More people will understand, not less. And at some point, the shallow propagandizing of the police’s PR firms will be stretched so tight it snaps, and constructive (as well as deconstructive) community action will begin in earnest. And I hope, for all the Lovelle Mixons who are still with us, that that day comes soon.
Wally Cuddeford is an activist, journalist, and lifelong resident of Olympia, Washington. He is also a U.S. Navy veteran. He can be reached at ersatzcats [at] yahoo.com.
SOURCES AND ENDNOTES
1 – “3 Officers Dead, Suspect Killed in Oakland, California”
By Terry Collins and Lisa Leff, Associated Press, March 21, 2009
2 – “Vigil Draws Hundreds to Oakland”
Bay Area NBC, March 24, 2009 (night of vigil)
3 – For previews and coverage on the police funerals, go to:
“Oakland Police Funeral Set For Today”
By Henry K. Lee, San Fransisco Chronicle, March 27, 2009
“Thousands Attend Oakland Officers’ Funeral”
By Jesse McKinley, New York Times, March 27, 2009
“Oakland Remembers Four Fallen Officers”
KABC-TV Los Angeles, March 27, 2009
4 – “As Mourning Continues, Political Leaders Push for Reform at Vigil”
By Jennifer Courtney, California Beat, March 24, 2009
5 – “Gunman Was Suspect in Rape, Police Say”
By Jesse McKinley, New York Times, March 23, 2009
6 – Of course, this is hardly the first time anyone’s thought to fire back at the police. It’s just so ridiculously infrequent, at least compared to how many times police murder unarmed victims.
7 – “Fourth Oakland Police Officer Dies After Weekend Shooting”
CNN, March 24, 2009
8 – In addition to the documented examples listed, I can personally attest that this response was shared by at least a couple dozen people I personally know, at least.
9 – “Why Would Anyone Cheer OPD Killings?”
By Jackson West, Bay Area NBC, March 25, 2009
10 – “Oakland’s Civil War: The People vs the Police”
By Davey D., News One, March 23, 2009
11 – A number of news sources have suggested that tensions were unusually high in Oakland due to the recent shooting death of Oscar Grant by transit police. (Example: Endnote 7) While this may to some degree be true, it is misleading to attribute hostility toward the police to the one shooting, as Grant was hardly the first innocent person killed by police in Oakland, let alone in the country.
12 – Driving home the disconnect between the perceptions of the marginalized and the perceptions of the “community leaders” in regards to this situation of war, liberal Oakland City Council member Jean Quan urged the citizens of Oakland to get to know their beat cop. “The police need to learn how to work with the community and the community needs to learn to at least talk to the police.” She went on to say that local youths have told her the police are often disrespectful to them, to which she replied, “Let’s have a dialogue.” (Source: Endnote 4) She also suggested the problem was one of gun control, despite that Mixon was already not legally allowed to have the weapon he did (meaning that gun control would not have prevented anything in this case), and despite that, given the ever-increasing death toll of victims of police murder – a toll which far outweighs Mixon’s exacted toll, by several orders of magnitude – the further disarmament of honest and upstanding citizens, especially those who are particularly targeted by the police based on generic profiles of race, age, and class, can only turn a deadly situation worse.
13 – Including José Ramírez-Jiménez and Stephen Edwards in my hometown of Olympia. As far as nationwide police murders, I’m sorry to admit I can’t even keep track of them all.
14 – Two notes:
1) For anyone who considers acquittals and case dismissals granted to police officers through the U.S. legal system to be indicative of innocence, I would point out that the police who beat Rodney King were acquitted, even though it’s well accepted (and concluded through a later federal case) that the police were, indeed, guilty.
2) To be fair, we have yet to receive a verdict from the cop who killed Oscar Grant.
15 – Rudolph Giuliani was notorious amongst mayors for his fierce defense of the police who killed Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond (although, to be fair, not even Guiliani could defend three of his officers who participated in sodomizing immigrant Abner Louima with a plunger).
Similarly, after a recent beating of a homeless man in Fresno was caught on tape, the police chief defended the officers’ actions by suggesting the man had a violent history.
“Police Probe Alleged Beating”
CNN, February 12, 2009
16 – “Lawsuit: Minneapolis Cops Planted Pistol on Teen After They Gunned Him Down”
By David Hanners, Pioneer Press, March 31, 2009
Also, “Jail Sentences for Cops Who Planted Pot on 92-Year Old They Killed in Botched Drug Raid”
By Christopher Moraff, Alternet, February 26, 2009
Also, “Thirteen Indicted in Miami Cop Scandal”
By John-thor Dahlburg, Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2001
Additionally, while direct inferences to the end of the planting of evidence were never confirmed, the police who murdered Amadou Diallo in New York did ransack his apartment and interrogate his roommates for hours, only to find that Diallo was a 100% clean-cut, non-drinking, non-smoking, non-drug-using, non-weapon-owning, practicing Muslim. Source:
“Safir Denies Charge Police Tried to Taint Diallo’s Reputation”
By Michael Cooper, New York Times, March 9, 1999
17 – Just recently, after a Plano officer detained Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats and prevented him from seeing his dying mother, it was reported that the officer was going to be further investigated for admitting on the video that he had worded a police report in January in such a way as to justify a car chase. Source:
“Dallas Police Chief Apologizes For Conduct of Officer Who Drew Gun on NFL Player Outside Hospital”
By Steve Thompson and Tanya Eiserer, Dallas Morning News, March 27, 2009
But this phenomenon is hardly isolated to NFL players. See also:
“Chicago Cop Admits to Robbing, Framing Suspects”
By Angela Rozas, Chicago Tribune, June 4, 2008
Plus, the Internet is brimming with individual anecdotes from people who have had drugs planted on them, which by themselves may not live up to objective scrutiny, but which amassed are hard to ignore.
18 – “Los Angeles Police Chief Orders Training Review”
By Richard W. Stevenson, New York Times, March 21, 1991
From the article:
“Chief Daryl F. Gates of the Los Angeles police said today that he has ordered a ‘brick by brick’ review of training procedures in the wake of the videotaped beating of a black motorist by white officers on March 3.”
“Even though I think our training is the best we can have, I’ve ordered up an examination of our training on the use of force, brick by brick.”
The article identifies the victim of the beating as Rodney G. King.
To be frank, it’s an insult, even from the perspective most favorable to police institutions – that perspective which says the problem is limited to just a few “bad apples” – to tell the public that the “bad apples” will come around if only they are better informed.
19 – My folks still watch America’s Most Wanted like it’s a religion. I love them and all, but that makes me barf a little.
Also, it should be noted that the “blue wall of silence” (or “Code Blue,” as I’ve sometimes heard) is not always a fraternal phenomenon. The officer who eventually exposed the brutality of the notorious “Oakland Riders” testified that he had been forcibly coerced into silence. Source:
“‘Riders’ Lied, Brutalized Man, Ex-Rookie Testifies”
Henry K. Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, December 14, 2004
20 – Ironically, the one and only method of seeking accountability against any officers which has shown any degree of predictable success has been, well, firing back.
21 – “Oakland Cop Shot By Parolee Taken Off Life Support”
Associated Press, March 24, 2009
22 – “Shooter of Officers Was Person of Interest in 2007 Homicide”
By Paul T. Rosynksy and Kamika Dunlap, Oakland Tribune, March 23, 2009
23 – “Oakland Killer Had Just Been Linked to Rape”
By Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle, March 24, 2009
24 – “Parolee Stood Over Stricken Police Officers and Fired Again”
By Harry Harris and Cecily Burt, Oakland Tribune, March 23, 2009
25 – “Grief Hits Oakland Police Department”
Bay Area NBC, March 21, 2009
26 – “Family’s Account of Oakland Parolee Who Killed the Four Police Officers”
By Demian Bulwa, Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle, March 23, 2009
27 – “Killer of Four Officers Wanted to Avoid Prison”
By Demian Bulwa and Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle, March 23, 2009
28 – Whether or not Mixon would have accepted such an offer to surrender is beside the point. At that time, he was only a suspect, and had the right to be given that opportunity.
29 – One local television report extensively outlined, strictly in terms of the operating officers’ own safety, the folly of the police raid as it was conducted. Source:
“Oakland Police Shooting Under Investigation”
KCRA-TV 3, March 24, 2009
30 – In regards to endangering the public’s safety, police have admitted to not making any attempt at evacuating people from the apartment before charging in. An unidentified police commander attempted to justify this by suggesting it was a “very tough building to approach and evacuate.” (Source: Endnote 24)
31 – It speaks to the epidemic of police aggression and disregard for decency that even then, in the hour of what could have been without exception the worst tragedy in the history of their department, the SWAT team still could not this one time muster the patience to maintain a pretense of protecting innocent civilians. (If they didn’t know they were rushing right into their deaths, what made them so sure other innocent civilians, like Mixon’s little sister, weren’t also being put in danger by their recklessness?) Instead, as usual, they rushed in, conducting the standard residential terrorism which generally goes unreported. (See Endnote 68 for further reading on day-to-day police SWAT tactics)
32 – “Scenes of Mourning in Oakland”
San Francisco Chronicle, March 25, 2009
33 – It should be noted that none of these officers actually “served their communities,” even in the euphemistic meaning of the term, as it has been discovered that none of them actually lived in Oakland. (Source: Endnote 10)
Of similar relevance is that the police who were killed were all White, and that they were patrolling a mostly Black neighborhood. This phenomenon, of Whites policing Blacks, cements the idea for many that the police are more akin to an occupying army, deployed from White neighborhoods, rather than a derivative inherent to the community in which they operate.
34 – “California Transplant Donor Network Issues Statement on Officer John Hege’s Donation”
California Transplant Donor Network, March 25, 2009
35 – While nothing has been revealed about records of the four officers who were killed (other than a few anonymous postings suggesting Sgt. Dunakin was loathed in the Black community), it has been discovered that the fifth officer who was wounded at the apartment raid, Sergeant Pat Gonzalez, shot 20 year-old Gary King Jr. in the back on September 20, 2007, killing him. He also killed another youth in 2002 and paralyzed a third in 2006 (circumstances unclear).
“Gary King Sr., Father of Gary King – Murdered by Oakland Police”
African Peoples’ Solidarity Committee, October 2007
“Cop Who Shot, Killed a Man Had Been Involved In Two Previous Shootings”
Henry K. Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, September 22, 2007
36 – “Timeline: Lovelle Mixon’s Parole Record”
By Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2009
37 – Note that I as a journalist do not equate a conviction with guilt, nor am I out to suggest that he wasn’t guilty. I am just reporting that he was convicted.
38 – “Cop Shooter’s Sister in Court on Drug Charges Today in Fremont”
San Jose Mercury News, March 26, 2009
39 – “Concerns Over Mixon’s Parole Management”
ABC-7 News, March 25, 2009
40 – In fact, its only “purpose” as far as I can tell is to reinforce peoples’ racist stereotypes against poor Blacks, and to do so under the guise of objective journalism. Certainly, we would never hear that the sibling of a White police officer who had killed someone was now being dragged into court on drug charges, nor should we.
41 – Although the mainstream corporate-owned media would never, ever frame “legitimate resistance” as such.
42 – “Oakland Holds Vigil for Four Slain Officers”
By Terry Collins and Lisa Leff, Associated Press, March 24, 2009
43 – The law also happens to endorse a similar peer review system called “due process.”
44 – “Community Wasn’t Told of Oakland Girl’s Rape”
By Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, March 26, 2009
45 – I do not in the least mean to suggest that no rapes in general occurred. Rapes occur all the time, everywhere. But there’s a difference between the pandemic of rape, and specific instances of rape, and we have nothing upon which to trace back the history of these specific rapes of which Mixon is now alleged to have been party to that predates March 21.
46 – “Lovelle Mixon’s Family Speaks Out”
CBS KPIX-TV 5, March 22, 2009
http://cbs5.com/video/?id=47862 [at] kpix.dayport.com
47 – “March for Lovelle Mixon Who Shot Four Oakland Cops Before Being Murdered”
Contra Coast Times, March 28, 2009
48 – “Cop Shooter Was Frustrated with Parole System, Was Person of Interest in 2007 Homicide”
By Kamika Dunlap and Paul T. Rosynsky, Oakland Tribune, March 23, 2009
49 – “Lovelle Mixon’s Funeral”
By Sista T, IndyMedia, March 31, 2009
50 – In the words of Bakari Olatunji of the International Peoples’ Democratic Uhuru Movement, who helped organize the street vigil for Mixon, “We look at Lovelle Mixon, who was not political, who was not an activist, but who took the stand that we hope people take in terms of resistance to a very vicious, a very brutal colonial system where the police are the first arm of the state. (…) [W]e’re here to pay respect for a brother who we think took a very righteous stand in the face of all kinds of terror that comes down on our community at the hands of the police.” (Source: Endnote 47)
51 – Many in the wake of the killings have reported on the adverse hardships convicted felons face in their attempts to find stable, law-abiding work, adding that employer racism compounds the problem for non-White felons. Example:
“Oakland Police Shooting Casts Ugly Glare on Ex-Felon Desperation”
By Earl Ofari Hutchinson, San Francisco Chronicle, March 24, 2009
52 – Regardless of what Mixon was thinking or why he did what he did, this apprehension on his part – his determination to find stable work, and his not actually seeking out any sort of confrontation – separates his actions from the sort of misguided provocateurism of people like Andrew Mickel. Mickel, in November 2002, sought out and murdered a random police officer in a random city, only to brag about the act online a week later, suggesting he did it to raise awareness of “police-state tactics [being] used throughout our country,” and to raise awareness of “corporate irresponsibility.” Hence, the difference between peoples’ disturbed reactions upon hearing of Mickel’s tragic deeds in 2002, and peoples’ excitement upon hearing recently that a very sane Black man in Oakland opened fire while being detained by police.
53 – The full quote reads, “Though violence is not lawful, when it is offered in self-defence or the defence of the defenceless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission. The latter befits neither man nor woman. Under violence, there are many stages and varieties of bravery. Every man must judge this for himself. No other person can or has the right.” A similar quote by Gandhi reads as follows: “I have been repeating over and over again that he who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honour by nonviolently facing death may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor. He who can do neither of the two is a burden.” Quoted in Derrick Jensen, Endgame: Volume II, Seven Stories Publishing, 2006, p 686.
Obviously, there’s a discrepancy between these quotes and the traditionally recognized Gandhian observations which suggest that victims of oppression lay themselves at their oppressors’ feet, and forfeit their lives in noble, non-violent sacrifice to the ends of swaying their killers. This discrepancy is explored in further depth by Jensen on pages 686-690. However, this discrepancy is explained easily enough through an unspoken demarcation between what is Gandhi’s advice to the oppressed (strict non-violence), and what is Gandhi’s advocacy of the rights of the oppressed (that they must take their defense into their own hands, regardless of whether their methods mesh with Gandhi’s or anyone else’s advice).
54 – As insistent as some of Mixon’s critics are that he acted out of fear of the consequences, it just doesn’t make any sense at all. Desperation, perhaps, but even then desperation hardly undercuts the bravery or the selflessness. Rather ironically, his critics’ acknowledgment of the potential for desperation also acknowledges the desperate circumstances which the many good, honest people in Mixon’s situation are faced with, thus lending credence to Mixon’s actions, and thus suggesting it is these desperate circumstances which must finally be addressed.
55 – Some have objected in online forums to the characterization of Mixon’s actions as “firing back,” suggesting that it was Mixon who in fact first opened fire on the police on March 21 (although we don’t know that for certain). However, it should be agreed that returning fire at those who fired first constitutes “firing back.” To that end, I would challenge such a critic to outline the difference between the police actually firing a weapon on the one hand, and on the other hand, terrorizing an individual, as they have terrorized a community, with the threat of that weapon, always visible as it is, and with the threat of prison. The violence is still there. Disavowal of it based on the failure of an officer in any given instance to actually employ that constantly-threatened violence is a contrived position.
Furthermore, some have suggested that the very real phenomenon of police terrorism in Oakland and in other poor communities of color does not grant a member of that community any right to defend themselves individually from police aggression until individually fired upon. However, such selective focus on individualism is also contrived, and is based on a value system which emphasizes the exclusion of one’s self from the rest of one’s community - a value system which many of us do not share.
56 – In regards to the question of why it was these four individual officers who “merited” this response – a response which of course did not take their individual disciplinary records or any other such histories into consideration – one can only reflexively defend one’s self from an institution like the police by defending one’s self against the agents of that institution who carry out its directives in person.
Furthermore, the fact that any particular officer may “just be doing their job” is not at all reason enough for innocent people to submit to organized tyranny. Yes, police officers are individuals, but being an individual is a two-way street. It also means one has to take responsibility for one’s choices and actions. Thus, even as individuals, with individual hopes and dreams, who may never have done anything of any particular malice before March 21, these officers are still responsible for their individual decisions to participate in policing systems which prey on people of color and on the poor. Thus, they are not exempt from the consequences of that decision, which include occasionally (and I do mean occasionally) being fired at by those they help prey upon.
It should also be noted that, while officers are routinely identified as individuals for purposes of favorable portrayal in the media, oftentimes in their line of work police make an effort to appear as more-than-human as possible. This includes constantly reminding their subjects that they hold immense power over them (as with in Ryan Moats situation referenced in Endnote 17), wearing uniform riot gear at protests, as well as this example:
“Massachusetts Police Get Black Uniforms to Instill Sense of ‘Fear’”
Associated Press, April 24, 2008
57 – Amongst these are conservative political analyst and Holocaust survivor Bruno Bettelheim, who suggested that armed individual resistance could have made the “Final Solution” cost-prohibitive:
“There is little doubt that the [Jews], who were able to provide themselves with so much, could have provided themselves with a gun or two had they wished. They could have shot down one or two of the SS men who came for them. The loss of an SS with every Jew arrested would have noticeably hindered the functioning of the police state.”
Furthermore, specifically in reference to the revolt at Auschwitz, Bettelheim adds:
“In the single revolt of the twelfth Sonderkommando, seventy SS were killed, including one commissioned officer and seventeen non-commissioned officers; one of the crematoria was totally destroyed and another severely damaged. True, all eight hundred and fifty-three of the commando died. But ... the one Sonderkommando which revolted and took such a heavy toll of the enemy did not die much differently than all the other Sonderkommandos.”
As quoted in Ward Churchill, Pacifism as Pathology, Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 5th Printing 2005, page 35.
I would add that the feasibility of such a strategy does not hinge on the commitment of a particular majority to refuse to go quietly, but rather that a significant enough number exist that the resultant threat forces those who would slaughter innocent people to think twice.
58 – It should be noted there’s a huge difference between defending the self-defense actions of others, which is what I’m doing, and suggesting a course of action. I’m not telling anyone at all that the “Mixon Model” is the way to go. Rather, I am pointing out that, as the situation progresses, more and more of those who are under fire are likely to employ the “Mixon Model,” and that I (and evidently, many others) support their right to do so in their own defense.
59 – Truly, Lovelle Mixon’s place in history is cemented regardless of whether one considers him a hero or a coward, although to different ends based on the different perspectives.
60 – To a similar conclusion, when asked “Why do you think he did this?” by a TV reporter, Lovelle’s sisters paused for a moment before one answered, “I feel like he was driven to this point.”
“Oakland Police Shootings”
ABC KGO-TV 7, March 22, 2009
61 - In the words of his cousin, Lovelle Mixon was a “true hero, a soldier,” and “went out like a boss, a true boss, a real Black man, not scared.” (Source: Endnote 47)
62 – And I do truly hope, should I ever have such a personal moment of trial, that the cops are not involved in it in any way whatsoever.
63 – Though, if pressed for an opinion, I would suggest as axiomatic that, if incidents like this only hurt poor communities of color in the long run, it only increases the imperative for immediate and decisive action against the institutions of policing across the board, on the part of as many people as possible, as further failure to address these issues would certainly lead to more incidents like March 21, and to more deaths of both citizen and police, and thus to a steadily worse situation.
64 – An indication of the importance dignity and the right to self-defense hold for the human condition comes, ironically, from Oakland’s past. As has been observed elsewhere in light of these events, in 1966 the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, national phenomenon that it became, was founded specifically to defend the Black community of Oakland from the violence of the Oakland Police Department. (Source: Endnote 9)
65 – I say “I think” and “I suspect,” not as a point of condescension, but rather just the opposite. Since I’ve never been denied my dignity in any particularly meaningful sense, I could only guess the importance of the reaffirmation of dignity to one who has had it so denied. But somehow, I’m betting, it’s far more important than words could ever express.
66 – In fact, I would much rather have that one than the first one.
67 – I do lament the whole scope of death, which includes both the police and their victims in totality. But in terms of individuals, I do not at all lament the deaths of police who choose to do what they do and choose to be a party to the waging of this war, as opposed to their countless victims who had no choice at all.
68 – For more information on the history of policing institutions in America and on the systemic nature of police violence, read Kristian Williams’ Our Enemies in Blue, South End Press, 2007. For more information on the state of modern policing, and the evolution of more aggressive paramilitary policing (SWAT team and others) over the past forty years, read Christian Parenti’s Lockdown America, Verso Publishing, 1999.