I’ve been trying to find the words to write this post for a few days. I still haven’t really. The feelings are still to omnipresent and get in the way of coherent thinking. Anger, sadness, bitterness, surprise, cynisism that I am not more surprised….But, it’s time. It’s past time. So, I’ll write what I can and maybe update later.
On June 1, 2006 Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Deputis stopped a car driven by James Lee a few blocks from his home near Michigan’s Ypsilanti Township’s West Willow neighborhood. James Lee’s uncles, Clifton and Bruce Lee, walked to the scene and stood across the street observing the incident. When deputies ordered them to leave Bruce Lee refused to go and was arrested. An initial verbal exchange between Clifton Lee and the cops started but then Clifton started to walk away while the deputy radioed for back-up. Instead of letting him walk away, Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Deputies went after Lee in an attempt to arrest him for interfering with police. Within minutes Clifton Lee was dead and Bruce Lee had suffered serious injuries. The county medical examiner later ruled Lee died as a result of asphyxiation by respiratory restriction.
A civil lawsuit was filed by the family who later settled, and officers were indicted by a federal grand jury on criminal charges. During the trail witness testimony and the video from the patrol car show a clear excessive use of force. For example: One of the cops kneeling on Lee’s neck with his full weight and holding Lee’s face to ground. While Lee was on the ground, the cop applied pepper spray to Lee’s face at least once. At one point the police turn off the lights so that the video images can not be seen (FBI was able to lighten them for the jury). and the view from the patrol car video is obscured at one point by other officers who briefly enter the scene. As the abuse continues Lee’s body goes limp. The officer then turns Lee’s body over, steps over him and kicks Lee’s head with his heal. It goes on and on….
And so here we are: The jury found the first deputy to be tried not guilty! Did you get that? Not guilty. WTF?
I am sick and angry and sad in so many ways. There is just so much… the racism and classism that pervades the narrative of the officers and their view of the neighborhood. The racial profiling that creates the mind set where 2 African American men observing a traffic stop are seen as threats. (Have I not done the same thing many times… a few noted here on the “More Powerful” page?) The tolerance of violence, police brutality and excessive use of force and a willingness to justify it – especially when combined with the clear racism we see here…
I could go on. I am sure I will…..
for now I can really just say WTF.