On Jan. 29, as a group of fellow activists and I were exiting the new ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) office in downtown Los Angeles; we were confronted head-on by an event all too common in our diverse beautiful city, an act of terrorism but one that few recognize as such.
As we walked out the front doors we were confronted by over a half-dozen police officers with weapons drawn and pointed toward our general direction. We quickly realized that they were directing their aggression at a stopped vehicle and we made our way back into the office. One might first suspect that those in the car had committed a heinous crime. A passerby darted into our office with us and exclaimed, “That car was stolen!” However, as you may have guessed, this was far from the truth.
The police were screaming first at a Latino woman, about 55 to 60 years old, ordering her to kneel on the ground with her hands up. There were a multitude of guns pointing directly at her and she was ordered to get face down on the pavement while keeping her arms above her head. This is not an easy task even for a young, fit person.
Next, still brandishing their guns, they ordered the elderly passenger, an African American man, to raise his hands up and get out of the car. When they brought the woman handcuffed to the car to search her, they told her to give her name, and she said, clearly suffering trauma, “This is my car, it’s registered in my name. “ She told them her daughter’s boyfriend had been arrested a while back while driving the car, but the car was hers.
In the end, the officers let her and the elderly passenger in the car go after they discovered that the car and its occupants were indeed not involved in any suspected crime. Why then was such an extravagant scene made? Why weren’t the facts checked and the situation better assessed by the officers before half a dozen patrol cars pulled up with guns drawn?
The fact is that these officers’ main objective, like all others across the country, is not to serve and protect but to harass and terrorize, especially targeting people of color and working-class communities. Were this not the case, the cops would have treated the two individuals with respect, as members of the community they claim to serve.
What should be understood is that the police exist to repress the working class and keep us from doing anything that would disrupt the order that has been put in place by the ruling class. Dozens watched as these officers unnecessarily humiliated and terrorized two people that had done nothing wrong. It was not only an act of senseless, unchecked brutality, but also a display of power and oppression, warning all those who watched that the police are a force to be feared.
When the police withdrew their guns and bystanders were no longer in imminent danger of being shot, we shouted to them, You had no right to threaten them that way, you put them and everyone in danger in this neighborhood. The people watching close by thanked us for speaking up.
We cannot tolerate such atrocious acts. The ruling class commits egregious acts of terror abroad and on the streets of our cities, carried out by the hands of those we are told are there to help us. As cases such as these and police shootings of unarmed people become more common, we must stand together against this injustice. The time to fight back is now.