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Summer Doldrums: the Heat, the Police, the Protests and the Violence

 

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What is your least favorite thing about the summer?  I know for me it is the heat, that crushing humidity that causes, upon the moment you awake, a sort of creeping exhaustion that can end your ambitions for the day within minutes.  And while I live in a comfortably air-conditioned home, and can escape for the most part from the worst parts of the day (doing this and the other projects that are actually for profit, I get to work out of my house).  But this does not alleviate all of the stress, the impatience, the irrational anger that often erupts when you are outside sweating and dehydrated (perhaps walking your panting dog).  Your work seems to never get done and all those other fucking people get in your way.  Goddammit, move!

 

This might be in the car, in a store, all of those places with the capacity to momentarily cool you off, but the truth is that summer keeps growing into an increasingly uncomfortable time.  To further prove this point we need only look at the sort of crimes and heinous civil rights violations that are far more prevalent in the hottest months than in those frozen wastes of a day where you shiver and wish yourself inside, away from the churning chaos of the world.  Here, have a look:

Shootings-Spike-in-Summer-Cover

Of course a sample like above can be written off by the majority of people–“Ugh!  Chicago!  Those crazies kill each other all the time!”  But of course this is not true.  Here are some other examples, all around the world:

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Riot police clash with protestors in Thessaloniki, Greece

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Image result for summer violence around the world

Image result for summer violence around the world

SARAH AMOS/THE HOYA Though the Alexandria summer program was cancelled due to ongoing unrest in Egypt, the fall program in Egypt is still normally scheduled.

Just a handful from around the world.  The first one is from longer ago, sure, but it also shows a pattern of violence in the summer.  Think: the civil rights movement offered a “Freedom Summer.”  The results?

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Image result for freedom summer violence

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Lest we think this is only a white racist thing, or a fed up, exhausted, angry and frustrated police thing, targeting the easiest victims, let us widen the phenomenon of summer violence into the present:

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Image result for black people rioting

Image result for black people rioting

Image result for black people rioting

Image result for black people rioting

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Of course some of the results of these events are more horrifying than most of us may realize.  I’m going to add a warning for the images that follow.  They are terrible, terrible things–perhaps the worst that any person (or group of people) could ever do to anyone, no matter the reason:

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Every last one of these crimes were committed in the summertime.  Of course individual murders can happen at any time, anywhere, and it might even be possible to piece together a motive, if not an actual reason, but there remains something about the summer that seems to heighten such actions.  Think about the bulk of the recent police shootings of unarmed (mostly black) people.  This is just a sample of questionable shootings by police since 2017, from June to September only:

  • Justine Damond was wearing pajamas as she approached the driver’s side door of a police car. She started talking to the driver. The officer in the passenger seat shot Damond through the driver’s side door. Their body cameras were off.  The shooter claimed she was threatening them.
  • Patrick Harmon was stopped for riding his bike at night without a proper light. The police officers discovered Harmon had an outstanding warrant and proceeded to arrest him. During the course of the arrest, Harmon started running, fleeing from the police. The cops drew their weapons and, reportedly, Harmon turned towards them while fleeing with a knife in his hand. The family of Harmon reports he had mental health issues.
  • Dill Tabares was shot dead after physical altercation with an officer. Possible “suicide by cop” case, which is always questionable.
  • Madgiel Sanchez, a deaf man, was fatally shot by Oklahoma City Police.  Apparently Madgiel was pleading with the officers, waving at his ears.  This was taken as aggressive behavior.  Witnesses claimed, “They seemed like they just came to shoot him.”
  • In a particularly galling incident Antwon Rose, Jr., a seventeen year old honor roll student who worked as a community volunteer (and whose mother was clerk at a different police department), was seen driving a car similar to one identified in a recent drive-by shooting.  Of course Antwon was unarmed when he was shot.  The officer, Michael Rosefeld, subsequently claimed that Antwon had a gun in his pocket and that his passenger, Zaijuan Hester, shot at him from a forty caliber handgun, which was never recovered.  Rosefeld had been sworn in as a police officer literally hours before this shooting.  Upon the stop and arrest, both Antwon and Zaijuan attempted to flee (there was an unnamed third passenger, also a minor, for whom no information is available, at least to me).  Zaijuan got away (he was later arrested).  Antwon was shot three times.  A witness recorded the incident on her phone and can be heard saying, “Why they shooting at him? All they did was run and they shooting at them.”  Following the shooting, Rosefeld was charged with criminal homicide. After a 4-day trial, Rosefeld was somehow acquitted on all counts.
  • Richard “Gary” Black, Jr. was seventy-three years old when a naked stranger broke into his home in the early hours of the morning and attacked Gary’s 11-year-old grandson. Gary shot and killed the intruder. When police arrived, an officer shot and killed Black, assuming him to be the naked molester.  This same officer, by the way, a month earlier shot another suspect, albiet an armed one, in a motel.
  • Rashuan Washington was another apparent “suicide by cop” individual (and perhaps this truly was his intention) who, when confronted by police and as they approached him, Rashuan stood shirtless in his driveway with a bundle in his right hand.  Rashuan repeatedly claimed he had a bomb, daring officers to shoot him, and did not comply with police orders to show his hands. After a twenty-eight minute standoff, one of the officers opened fire on Rashuan. After the incident it became clear that he was unarmed. Protests followed the week of the shooting.
  • There was the questionable case of Jacob Bauer, who was reportedly smashing things in a supermarket and its parking lot. Police found and arrested Jacob, using something police referred to as an “electronic control device,” which is some sort of high powered stun gun. Bauer mysteriously stopped breathing in the back of the police van, and was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
  • In another hideous example of heat-induced rage, impatience and irrationality, Matthew Graves was approached by two police officers in a Carl’s Jr. bathroom. The officers later said he had jaywalked. After an argument, one of the officers shot Graves twice in the back, killing him. The officers said they believed Graves had a gun, but he was unarmed; they had mistaken one of their own tasers on the floor as a gun. A post-mortem examination found no traces of alcohol or drugs in Graves’ body.  A grand jury actually called this a justifiable homicide.
  • The terrible story of Botham Jean is yet another example of the confusion and insanity that overwhelming heat can induce.  An off-duty police officer named Amber Guyger arrived at her home and, upon entering what turned out to be the wrong apartment, saw a man in the kitchen and immediately shot him.  And while Guyger was eventually indicted and later convicted of manslaughter, the Dallas police department did their best to defame Botham, inventing outstanding warrants and having officers publically state that they had dealt with the “violent” man before.
  • This one should serve as a warning to potheads driving around smoking: Oshae Terry was smoking a joint in his car when he was pulled over for a “registration violation.”  The panicked, paranoid and very stoned Oshae rolled up his window after the cop caught wind of the scent and started to drive away.  The officer stuck his hand in the window and repeatedly shot Oshae as the car began moving.  After the Arlington, Texas police placed the officer, Bau Tran, on a long administrative leave, he was finally terminated pending an indictment of manslaughter charges.  Eventually claims were made that there were loaded guns in the car and enough various drugs that made it appear that Oshae was a dealer (perhaps he was).  A passenger in the front seat who watched the whole thing has been a devastating witness against the police, now busy cleaning up the mess.
  • Less than a month before the time I am writing this Eric Stamps was shot in Inglewood, California under unexplained circumstances.  Eric was shot multiple times by police officers after the vaguely reported confrontation, killing him. Afterwards police said Eric was in possession of a handgun at the time of his death, which has not been examined, leading to many obvious questions.
  • Yet another “suicide by cop” incident from last month saw Scott Hedgecock actually calling 911 and threatening to commit suicide. When police arrived at his house he emerged welding a large knife. Hedgecock did not obey commands to drop the weapon, and was shot and killed when he supposedly charged at police officers. Investigators are treating the incident as a suicide by cop, which is now apparently an actual legal definition.  So glad that the police are trained to deal with serious psychological problems.  Why aren’t they better trained?  How many of these murders could be prevented in this broiling moment of exhaustive summer?

 

Of course there are literally hundreds more shootings throughout the months in question over the past three years.  And yes, many of those I did not mention seem justified.  We must admit that sometimes the police have to shoot people to protect both themselves and others.  But many more cases have questions that need to be answered, and our growing lack of trust (which is not entirely the police’s fault, although the explosion of incidents such as these do not help their credibility) for everyone and everything else gives rise to beliefs in things that couldn’t possibly be true.  And when someone whom we love is killed, no matter how much we might know about a person who was justifiably shot, we still seek to blame, we still rage in the stifling heat, and we wonder what we can do, what sort of revenge we might offer, or whether we can start a disruptive protest movement that catches on like the wildfires of summer, burning all bridges and causing us to keep turning against one another, all because some asshole got so angry in the middle of a heat wave that their rage came to define all others.

 

It is everywhere:

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Everywhere, all over the world.  It isn’t just Paris which is burning

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It is all of us.  And goddamn is it hot outside . . .

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