The Guardian’s Ijeoma Oluo wrote about the events of the night (you need to click through to see the photo described below):
A line of police officers stand in the dark on a Charlotte, North Carolina, highway. They look like an occupying force with their helmets and face shields and various weaponry strapped all over their armored clothing. A large bus illuminates them with its headlights. The front of the bus declares in bright lights: “NOT IN SERVICE”.
It’s as if these police responding to protests of Tuesday’s shooting death of Keith Scott are carrying with them a lighted banner that declares what black Americans already know: they are not in service. Not for us.
It’s the message that police have always been sending black Americans. Blacks make up about 13% of the US population, and yet accounted for 27% of the approximately 1,146 people killed by police in 2015. “Not in service” is the message we got when Tamir Rice was killed, when Freddie Gray was killed, when Eric Garner was killed. This was the message we got when Terence Crutcher was killed this week while asking for service. We understand that if our police force really does exist to protect and serve, it does not exist to protect and serve us.
From what I saw (on national TV) last night, and from reports of friends who were there, the Charlotte police got rambo’ed up too quickly last evening, getting in riot gear long before there were signs of violence and destruction. While this had the effect of dispersing the more gentle elements of the remaining protesters, it predictably agitated others, turning them into… well… agitators.
I don’t condone or excuse those who destroyed property or threw tear gas back at police. I am also sympathetic to those police injured last night. But the key word in the previous paragraph is “predictably”. The police knew, or should have known, that their show of force and resoluteness would bring about what eventually happened.
The job of police, both as an individual and as a force, is to DE-escalate dangerous or potentially dangerous situations. Something about their training (at least for some of them) has failed to stress that, and instead, it is about escalation. With predictable results.
I think they are continuing this mistake with the curfew and declaration of a state emergency (bringing in the National Guard). A return to normalcy is what is needed. The mayor and the police are not signaling a return to normalcy with these actions. I don’t know what will happen tonight, but I don’t expect it to have calmed down in the face of this overdone “response”.