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Latest GRPD Press Conference addresses recent police assaults on residents of color: Acting Chief says if people obeyed the police there would be no problems

March 19, 2019

Yesterday, Interim Chief of Police David Kiddle addressed reporters after two high profile incidents in the community, where people of color were arrested by the GRPD.

My take on why the GRPD was holding a press conference was simply to respond to two separate incidents that were also video taped by residents in the neighborhoods where the arrests were made. Both of these videos have generated a great deal of attention on social media, so the GRPD wanted to formally respond to “public concerns.”

In fact, Interim Chief Kiddle even stated during the press conference that, “Public videos were release and have created a narrative of public concern.”

We are posting the video of the press conference, so people can make up their own minds about what the GRPD are saying, but people are warned that the Press Conference does include footage of the arrest of two Latino youth from last week, footage people might find disturbing.

Interim Chief Kiddle essentially repeats GRPD report findings, saying that the arresting officers actions were appropriate in both instances. Furthermore, Interim Chief KIddle stated, “these are not racialized incidents.” Alex Vitale, in his important book, The End of Policing, states: Well-trained police following proper procedure are still going to be arresting people for mostly low-level offenses, and the burden will continue to fall primarily on communities of color because that is how the system is designed to operate – not because of the biases or misunderstandings of officers.

During the Q & A portion of the press conference, Kiddle was asked by a reporter, “was it appropriate to use pepper spray with an infant in the car?” Kiddle responded by saying,  Yes, it was appropriate.”

Another question asked during the press conference was, how these incidents could have avoided officers using force or guns and Interim Chief Kiddle said that in both cases, residents demonstrated a “complete defiance of authority. If they had obey the officers, none of this would have happened.”

This last comment from Interim Chief Kiddle is particularly instructive. Most of us have been conditioned from early in life to obey authority. We are told to obey elected leaders, religious leaders, even police officers. However, it is vitally important for us to as ourselves, where has obedience got us. The late radical historian Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, once said:

As soon as you say the topic is civil disobedience, you are saying our problem is civil disobedience. That is not our problem…. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience.

Now, I am not suggesting that the African American motorist or the two Latino youth should have disobeyed the cops, because that could have resulted in the police shooting them. What I am saying is, is that the police are not really here to protect us. The primary function of law enforcement is to protect systems of power and oppression. For instance, when a corporation fires hundreds of people and relocates to another country, leaving workers and their families economically devastated. Then those same workers want to confront the corporation at their headquarters over their loss of jobs, the police will always be there to defend the corporation and arrest workers who do anything to threaten the power of that corporation.

Next week, President Trump comes to Grand Rapids to hold a rally, a president who has repeatedly lied to the public and has encourage his supporters to act on their White Supremacist beliefs. When people show up to protest Trumps visit, who do you think the police will be protecting? Of course, the police will always say they are protecting our right to protest, but only if we protest in a manner that doesn’t challenge those in power.

Maybe it is time that we see that the GRPD and any law enforcement agency for what they really are. Maybe we need to learn from what the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense understood, when they said that the police were an armed occupying force in their communities. In the case of the GRPD, it sure seems like this is the case.

How many more incidents of police abuse must we put up with before we take action and resist this state-sponsored violence? How long must we wait before we defy their authority?

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