So as the jury deliberates for a second day around this George Zimmerman trial, talk about Rodney King style riots breaking out is being amped up..
News anchors and pundits along with the police are showing up on TV looking all somber telling us to please keep it peaceful and stay calm no matter what the verdict.. I think I saw a news report with Reverend Al Sharpton telling us not to gloat if Zimmerman is convicted..Seemingly every Civil Rights leader from Jesse Jackson to NAACP head Ben Jealous has been dragged before the cameras to plead for folks to trust in the justice system, even if it far too often, leaves us on the short end of the stick.
In preparing for this possible urban unrest, community leaders have gone out and tapped young people to do anti-violence PSA’s where they plead for peace. The whole scene reminded me of what was done on the days leading up to the Oscar Grant verdict which took place July 8th 2010.. Folks in the Bay Area may recall this PSA shown below:
This is what’s being done now around the Zimmerman trial:
With respect to this threat of riots/civil unrest, let’s unpack that for a minute. My experience over the years of covering uprisings during the Oscar Grant Movement, the Occupy Movement, various the DNC and RNC Conventions from 2000 on up, to several G20 and G8 summits has led me to the conclusion that we should always be asking the following questions; 1-Who is pushing the assertions that riots are imminent and how are they pushing it? 2-Who stands to benefit the most from the threat of unrest? (key word ‘threat’) 3-What’s the political, economic and social agenda if any, attached these threats?
Personally I think the riot talk is being hyped up to the financial benefit of two main outfits which are corporate media and the Police.. Both thrive off of fear, confusion and mayhem..
In the case of news outlets, a riot is the ultimate reality tv that falls in line with its tried and true modus operandi “if it bleeds it leads’..Trust me many of those anchors and pundits may be sitting up in their cushy chairs pleading with you to stay home, but their overall coverage and over the top on air banter is designed to push emotional buttons, ignite and incite..
Chaos in the streets equals ratings, hence if there ain’t some windows being broken and fires being lit after this verdict comes down, you’re gonna have some disappointed news outlets..
The other outfit that benefits from all this riot talk are the police..You start talking riots and civil unrest, it becomes an all hands on deck operations. This means cops are called in on their day off while others have their vacation days cut..
Everyone is put to work as the departments deploy extra patrols and increase surveillance and intel gathering of anyone and everyone who they think might be down to set it off after the verdict is read..
In preparation for the riots..you best believe many departments are dusting off the law books and seeing how they can push the legal envelope.. This means they may do explore everything from mass arrests to pre-emptive raids and detaining of key organizers to shutting down entire blocks and neighborhoods to setting up enclosed ‘protests zones’ and ‘free speech cages’. Many are going over crowd control and kettling strategies
All this is happening to the tune of massive overtime pay for law enforcement.. This is on top of them busting out new weapons, new vehicles and new Star wars-type storm trooper outfits..
I recall during the Oscar Grant and Oakland Occupy Movements, police would hold press conferences warning fearful residents of ‘outside agitators’ and anarchists. They would then bring in as many as 500 cops from 17 different jurisdictions to the tune of 500k to one million a pop..
This scenario is playing out in cities all over the country. From Oakland to New York to Chicago to Houston.. Police in Sanford, Florida are not the only ones gearing up for ‘civil unrest’. It’s big business and a lot of folks are fixing to get paid..
The biggest irony to all this all this is while the focus and concern on riots is directed at Black folks who are continuously being demonized, civil unrest may actually come from far-right wing nuts who support George Zimmerman and feel a conviction will be a blow to Stand Your Ground Laws..Black folks do not have a monopoly on civil unrest..
This country has a sordid past where we seen angry white mobs set off some of the most devastating riots’ in history with Black people as their target. from Tulsa to Chicago to Atlanta to Bensonhurst, BK to Boston to Howard Beach.. Even in the riots most associated with Black unrest, large numbers of Black folks were killed often at the hands of the police who used the occasion to go off..We saw this during the Watts Riots in 65 to the Newark and Detroit uprisings in ’67 to Rodney King unrest in ’92. Many of us deemed those deaths as target practice.. The recent HBO documentary about all those killed by police during the Newark Riots gives a serious breakdown on this.
In recent years we’ve seen a major increase in the number of Black people killed or brutalized by the police. According to the latest reports from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, every 28 hours a Black person is killed by police. You don’t think that hostility won’t play out during a Rodney King style riot?? All one has to do is look at what unfolded during Katrina when there were threats of riots and mayhem to see how the police and folks in power get down.. There were all sorts of killings both by police and vigilante types..
Over the past few years we’ve seen the uncovering of plots with white supremacist attempting to find ways to set off some sort of race war.. We’ve seen a rise in militia types who feel like this country is set to collaspe with Black and Brown folks as the blame. This is coupled with the anger and vitriol we’ve seen by Tea Party types who have shown up with guns in tow on to presidential campaign rallies and congressional townhall meetings that they’ve disrupt, who down to bring the ruckus..
During this George Zimmerman trial we’ve had a number of prominent conservative leaning journalists from Geraldo Rivera to Joe Scarborough hawking the ‘Trayvon was a hoodie wearing thug who got what he deserved‘ narrative and that if Zimmerman doesn’t get off its an indication are country is falling. Many have embraced such rhetoric to the point that in all honesty instead of just having a traditional Civil Rights leaders calling for peace, maybe we need to see folks like Pastor Rick Warren or the head of the NRA Wayne LaPierre doing PSA calling on folks to be peaceful and respect the verdict.
What’s also ironic is with many of these so-called riots we’ve seen in recent years from the one in Austin, Texas in May of 2009 when police killed a sleeping Nathaniel Sanders to the recent unrest in East Flatbush, Brooklyn after Kamani Gray was gunned down, they pale in comparison to the unrest we see breakout after sporting events.
Compare the unrest in Oakland after the Oscar Grant verdict in 2010 to the mayhem that engulfed neighboring San Francisco after the Giants won the World Series this past year.
Compare the unrest that occurred on the Penn State campus when went students went buckwyld after learning head coach Joe Paterno was fired with the lack of unrest in Detroit a few weeks ago when a mistrial ‘verdict ‘ came down for SWAT Team member Joseph Weekley who was accused of killing 7 year old Aiyana Stanley Jones while he was ‘showing off’ for a Reality TV show.
Compare the reaction to verdicts of injustice to high profile cases like Sean Bell or Amadou Diallo where officers were acquitted for shooting un-armed men to the riots in the streets we saw after the Lakers Beat the Celtics in 2010 or after the crazy riots in Vancouver after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup. Where was the nationwide calls for peace or even Anti-riot PSAs from the respective sports stars?
What’s going on right now with all these impending riot warnings seems like another attempt to resurrect the scary Black Boogey man..It’s the continued demonization of Black folks at all costs. It was done during this trial where Trayvon Martin‘s character was called into question and he was depicted as a weed smoking violent prone thug vs George Zimmerman who actually has an arrest record, a criminal past and a history of violence.. It’s being done now with the goal of planting fear in the minds of many..
By feeding into that narrative of young African-Americans as the main instigators and sole participants, what gets overlooked is the fact that in many civil disturbances including the Rodney King uprisings which we are told we need to prevent, folks from all sorts of racial and ethnic backgrounds were running around kicking up dust and in the mix. We saw that during the Oscar Grant protests.. We saw that during the uprisings in London and France.. We sure as hell saw that during the Occupy, Anti-war and Anti-Globalization Protests.
What also gets lost is that many times there are no riots after any number of controversial trials.
If there is any sort of unrest after this George Zimmerman trial because he’s acquitted it won’t be only Black folks out in the streets. It’ll be folks of all stripes who are upset with a justice system that they perceive as unfair.. If there is unrest perhaps we should be exploring ways to repair a broken justice system that has left many with broken spirits and broken hearts vs worrying about broken windows which are easily replaced..