Police Brutality and the Failure of Liberal Democrats
Glen Ford says that the recent death of Eric Garner by the NYPD demonstrates that liberal democrats like NYC mayor Bill de Blasio will not end institutional racism
ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore. And welcome to another edition of The Ford Report.
Now joining us as Glen Ford. He’s the cofounder and executive editor of Black Agenda Report and the author of The Big Lie: An Analysis of the U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion.
Thanks for joining us, Glen.
GLEN FORD, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: Thank you.
WORONCZUK: So what have you been following this week?
FORD: Well, New York City’s police have claimed another victim. His name is Eric Garner. He’s a black man from Staten Island who was known to the police for engaging in the very, very serious crime of selling loose cigarettes on the street. And for that he was a tackled and put in a choke hold and subsequently died.
The chokehold in New York City has been outlawed for 20 years. It was outlawed back in 1994 when another celebrated chokehold death occurred. That was of Anthony Baez. He was a young Latino man who’d been throwing a football around in the streets with his brothers, his blood brothers, and he was similarly taken out with a chokehold.
The similarity here also extends to who was the police commissioner at the time. At that time, it was Bill Bratton, the man who is credited with being the architect of stop and frisk as we came to know it. Bill Bratton is now, of course, the police commissioner of New York City, brought back, brought on board by Bill de Blasio, who’s supposed to be the great liberal hope of the country, the person who’s at the point of a wave of liberal Democrats being elected. But he chooses to bring this guy back.
And Bill Bratton is most famous for aggressive pursuit of what he calls quality-of-life crimes. It also goes by the doctrine of “broken windows”. And that is that police should aggressively pursue those who are committing very, very low level offenses, basically with the idea that if you give certain kinds of people in the public–apparently black and brown males–an inch, they will take a mile, while the real truth is that if you give the police an inch, they will take your life, as they did Eric Garner.
WORONCZUK: So do you see this as more than just a case of a few bad cops, then?
FORD: No, it’s not a case of a few bad cops. It’s a case of institutional racism and a predictable case. When de Blasio brought Bratton on, eyebrows were raised all over town. This was supposed to be the guy who was going to put stop and frisk, if not abolish it, put it on hold. But he brings in the architect of stop and frisk and “broken windows” and the guy who’s [deaf (?)] on quality-of-life issues.
What “broken windows” and “quality of life” really means is the same thing as stop and frisk: arbitrary, selective enforcement of the law on the streets, targeting black and brown men. It’s not about upholding some kind of code so that people don’t commit larger tribes. It is a provocation. Eric Garner was not–when he was accosted on that fatal day this week, he was not selling loose cigarettes, but he had been known to sell loose cigarettes. And so the cops were preemptively approaching him to hassle him about the possibility that he might be at it again. And he objected strenuously, he raised his voice, and that was enough to get his voice and his life choked out of him. So these are provocations. They are basically goon squads that roam the city, provoking young folks to say anything that stands up for their dignity and then be invited into the system, a system from which you may never return.
WORONCZUK: So what do you think needs ultimately be done, then, to end police brutality and to have it be held accountable?
FORD: Well, mass public action, obviously. If you talk to a lawyer, they’ll say, well, you have to show a pattern and practice of police misconduct. We have to remember that it took ten years, more than ten years, for the stop-and-frisk case to finally have its day in court. The lawyers for the victims were lucky to get a halfway decent judge, finally, to preside over the case, and that judge was later taken off of the case. And so the outcome was left in limbo and basically hinged on a promise by de Blasio that stop and frisk as we knew it would be abolished, but there was never any thing formal in this kind of agreement. And here he brings on the guy who brought stop and frisk, who laid out the whole grand plan, as his police commissioner. It calls into question this whole idea of what a liberal Democrat does in the face of blatant patterns of police brutality and racism. And in this case, he has enabled it.
WORONCZUK: Well, what about other aspects of de Blasio’s leadership? Do you think that progressives should continue to hold out in support of him for other things?
FORD: Why? Nothing is more central to the urban experience than race. Race underlies the whole question of income inequality, which is supposed to be de Blasio’s main theme, the elimination of it. But we can see very clearly that stop and frisk and the petty harassment of black folks through “broken windows” and selective enforcement is designed to create a hostile urban environment for black and brown people in order to facilitate gentrification. So, certainly that goes against the grain of de Blasio’s vaunted ambition to eliminate the most gross aspects of income inequality.
WORONCZUK: Okay. Glen Ford, thanks for that report.
FORD: Thank you.
WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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