Police violence against people with disabilities-on the rise?

Capitalism fails to protect rights

By Thomas Oswald
December 27, 2013
Robert Ethan Saylor, a man with Downs Syndrome, was killed by security guards in a movie theater.

Across the United States the rights and lives of people with disabilities are being violated by police officers. Reports show that as many as 50 percent of those shot by cops are have mental illnesses. The current system allows police to use their authority to justify the outright killing of disabled people. Usually, the police officer receives no penalties.

Last summer in Oregon, an 11-year-old girl on the Autism spectrum was tasered after failing to respond to an officer. The officer claimed that the violence was necessary to protect the girl, who was naked and walking alone along a road. However an eyewitness refuted this by saying that the girl was not walking towards traffic and was not in immediate danger. Because the girl is nonverbal, she was unable to respond to the officer. Even after his false statement the policeman remained unsuspended.

Even an unarmed double amputee’s rights were ignored when another police officer killed Brian Claunch, with a gunshot to the head in Houston. The officer arrived at care center because Claunch was distressed. The officer claimed that the disabled man was armed and shot him; however it was found he only was holding a pen he used to doodle. Just recently on Oct. 14, a mentally ill man in Dallas was also shot by police. Both officers at the scene made false statements claiming Bobby Bennett lunged forward, which contradict the surveillance camera evidence which showed him standing still when shot.

Another tragic story involves the death of Robert Ethan Saylor, a 26 –year-old with Downs syndrome. On Jan. 12 in a movie theatre in Maryland, he wished to watch the show again. When security guards placed their hands on him he reacted in fear and distress. He was handcuffed and thrown forcefully to the ground, where he struggled for breath and then died.

These are just a few stories of this kind of brutality, police kill hundreds of disabled individuals every year. Given the inadequate health care system, the disabled often cannot receive the help they need. The budget cuts to health care combined with few attempts to fix the broken mental health care system, demonstrate that the lives and rights of the mentally ill, physically and intellectually disabled poeple are not as important to the government and business as profit. Disabled people are not viewed as equal beings but are often treated with discrimination. The way to make sure that these individuals get their needs met is to do away with the system of profit and to implement a socialist society. Under a planned economy the people’s needs are able to be fully met, allowing a safe healthy environment for people with disabilities, where they can be valued members of society.

Content may be reprinted with credit to LiberationNews.org.

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