Police brutality is definitely a real thing. Cases range from synchronized actions by oppressive regimes to curtail the populace to isolated incidents of extremely poor decisions making by rage-based authorities.
Distinguishing between and guarding against police brutality is as difficult as it is necessary. Cops have to use force as part of their job. We expect them to. However, they must always be wary of the difference between subduing a dangerous person and abusing their power.
To that end, a Swiss Black Flag group (Anarchists, not like a cover band) teamed with the Montreal Collective Opposed to Police Brutality in 1997 to promote the International Day Against Police Brutality. Allegedly, the inspiration was an incident where Swiss police beat two preteen children to death. Since then, the day has been used to call attention to brutality used by officers across the world.
It's not as big here in the United States. Not because we've eliminated all police brutality, of course, but because there has been a rival movement to declare October 22 National Anti-Police Brutality Day since 1995.
The fact that there are two groups dedicated to making sure your calendar reminds you that the watchmen need watching twice a year honestly makes us feel a little better about the world.
Here's five tunes to crank out your stereo to show your willingness to never accept that those with who hold the rod can use it without reason.
The Hates, "L.A. Riots": We may as well start off with our own Hates and the most famous case of American police brutality of the modern era. We'll let Christian Kidd explain it all.
I wrote "L.A. Riot" after the Rodney King debacle and the resulting aftermath. It seemed incredible to me at the time that police brutality could even exist. We as people are supposed to be better than that.
Even more incredible was the police trial. Justice seemed blind and it felt as if we had no power against a group who are supposed to protect and serve but end up using their authority to take their frustrations out on others. The riots after the police trial made me feel like we were all living in a Mad Max world.
I still feel the same way about "L.A. Riot" as I did when I first wrote it 20 years ago. While I know that not all police officers are big bullies, last year's incident in Orange County with Kelly Thomas reminded me of how brutal a situation can turn at the drop of a hat.
Another unarmed man beaten within an inch of his life by a group of police officers. It makes no sense. Violent police officers probably seem endemic to California's police force, but I am sure that there are many more stories of police brutality that never make it to the news because no one is there to record everything.
It's almost as if we have to be Big Brother in order to watch out for each other.
Wally Pleasant, "I Hate Cops": What do you do with a degree in political science? Well, becoming Wally Pleasant is an option. This is a guy who wrote "The Day Ted Nugent Killed All the Animals" and ended up on Detroit radio at Nugent's request.
Proof positive that the key to satire is knowing who is fucking with whom. "I Hate Cops" is obviously a pretty negative interpretation of the justice system, but it gets points for not being a punk or rap song on the subject.
B. Dolan ft. Toki Wright, Jasiri X, Buddy Peace, Sage Francis, "Film the Police": For a while there, it looked like it would be illegal to film the police, which is one of the greatest protections against police brutality. After all, who is more familiar with the idea that people being watched pull less shenanigans than a cop?
The City of Boston arrested Simon Glik for filming officers punching a man, charging him with illegal wiretapping. Luckily, a federal appeals court ruled that no, documenting a possible crime isn't illegal, and thus one of our best weapons remains in our arsenal. As the song says, "Reach for a cell if you want to shoot a cop."
Pink Floyd, "Us and Them": According to Classic Albums: The Making of The Dark Side of the Moon, "Us and Them" was originally composed for a piece of film about police going ballistic on a protest crowd. The director thought it was a bit too creepy, and the band reworked it for Dark Side of the Moon. Thanks to our former Hedwig and the Angry Inch drummer Tiny Flowers for this little bit of trivia!
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Handsome Furs, "Serve the People": Handsome Furs takes the whole concept global, and looks not at the random acts of violence but at a system that takes for granted that cops have the right to crack skulls for whatever reason the feel. It's a world we don't live in here in this country, but we could be. One of the 50 million souls lying on the ground could be you.
We like cops, but some people take power and use it as an excuse to shove cyclists off their bikes for no damned reason. It's important that both sides watch out for that guy, and not put up with his meatheadedness.