I’m sure some mouthy politician will try to explain or mollify the impact of this photograph. But no human being deserves this. What makes it barbaric is these police officers are in the process of murdering this Black man.
As you can see by the uniforms they wear, they are the official representatives of an American city, in this case the city of Rochester, New York. A Northern state, not one in Dixie. Rochester has been a prosperous city for a couple of centuries, home to Kodak and Xerox, two fine American corporations. What this means is that this is a prosperous, righteous, religious and respected city in the United States. What we see happening here is not unique to Rochester. It just happens to have been caught in a photograph there.
George Floyd has been the inspiration for an uprising this summer - an uprising that has one message: Black Lives Matter. The protests have been manipulated and played with by the racist powers-that-be in America to make them look bad. Our president does all he can to incite riots, inspire violence, suggest illegal activities and generally cause chaos. The powers-that-be are determined there will be no change in how our uniformed police go about the business of keeping Black people down and fearful.
Bellingham - to make this local - cannot pretend it is not part of America. I have repressed the urge to write articles about police misconduct over the years because the evidence was too thin. But I have been repeatably told by respectable and honest community members of wrongdoing, racism, and negligent behavior by our local police and detectives over the years. And some who have been accused are still in power in our community. No names. But make no mistake, it is here. In Bellingham.
The poor fellow in this photograph has a name. He was Daniel Prude. He was 41-years old and was in Rochester visiting his brother last March. His brother called 911 because Daniel was having a mental health crisis and, according to the autopsy, was high on PCP. He needed help. We all do at times. But in America, “help” is distributed unevenly. Often, when white male college students get screwed up at their frat house on liquor or drugs, they get lots of help from police and hospitals and doctors and no one ever knows they had a problem. Somehow, it all gets taken care of. Everyone gets screwed up at some time. But when it happened to Daniel Prude, the police taunted, mocked, and slowly murdered him in the middle of the street. He was naked, alone, hooded, sitting in the middle of a wet street in the rain, in the dark of the night. He was killed by barbarians. This is not how a civilized society acts.
Until yesterday, Thursday, the coverup of this murder had been proceeding nicely under the guidance of the New York State Attorney General and all other law enforcement agencies, including the Rochester police, the police union, and the mayor. As of Thursday morning, all the police involved were still employed and serving. According to the, during a briefing on Wednesday, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said, “This is not something in our wheelhouse, in our control at this moment in time…Had it been, this is something we would have talked about months ago.” Not in her wheelhouse? Then whose? This coverup is busted and now she sees the light. By Thursday afternoon, Mayor Warren had suspended the seven police officers involved in the murder.
Turns out, the mayor is a Black woman and she accepted that she failed in this process. The police chief is Black, and was appointed by the mayor a year ago. Good god. Still, it took a viral video to move her to action. Seems that is the case in other cities as well. This is a police culture problem everywhere.
There is no thin blue line. There is the solid blue of all police. They know who the “bad apples” are and they protect them. When a cop is convicted and the city powers say there are always a few bad apples, please remember: the others knew who the bad ones were and covered up for them. What happens if one cop reports a bad cop? Well, he can kiss his future away. And maybe kiss more than that away. We, as an American society, have a huge task ahead of us to reform the police. And to reiterate the point: Bellingham cannot pretend it is not part of America.
Already today, two days later, after an initial flurry of photos of Daniel Prude, as I look for them now on major new websites, the photos are gone and the stories about Mr. Prude are down in the columns. This story may disappear quickly from the national scene. So it goes in America. But we must acknowledge that Daniel Prude was murdered by the police - slowly and in a barbaric manner. Black Lives Do Matter. Say his name: Daniel Prude