Defund the Bastards

A few days ago, a student at the University of Minnesota created a sensation with an Instagram story in which he described being terrified by an encounter with racist police officers, from which he narrowly escaped with his life:

Tw: police violence and brutality/racial profiling

Last night, after finishing up my homework and honestly wrapping up a pretty long week, I wanted to go take a walk outside.

It was a little past 1:30 in the morning, and there had just been an armed robbery nearby.

I was returning back home when I saw that there was a police car. Instinctively, a couple thoughts rushed to my mind: breathe, head up, don’t walk too fast – not too slow, be normal. I took my mask off, I took my cap off, and I made sure that if anything happened that they were able to see my face. Next to me, there was a white man with his mask off, walking his dog, wearing a black coat as well. I felt safe that there was another presence there and could see the cop cars at the corner of my eyes.

I turned the corner around 5th and 12th and saw sirens going off. Immediately, squad cars pulled on all the sides and cornered me where I couldn’t escape or speak. The cop got out of his car and asked me all sorts of information, but the only thing I could think of was: what did I do wrong other than the fact I was a brown man. There were two cops behind me – hands on their guns. I had my hands up and was struggling to find the words I always had thought I’d say if I was EVER in that situation but all I could think of: one sudden move and I would be shot.

I was able to show the officer my University ID saying that I was a university student just trying to clear my mind by taking a late night stroll but they wouldn’t believe me. After multiple questions, they turned off their lights and left me alone: no apology, no explanation, nothing. Just me: mentally and emotionally tormented with an experience that will last a lifetime.

Now, after having some time to think about this, to process, and to come to the senses that the thing/the situation that I hoped would never happen to me – happened. It was brutal. What if that was another black or brown man not able to prove their identity or maybe they were in the wrong place at the wrong time – what then? We can’t keep sending armed police as a solution for student safety or community safety. If anything, that was the most traumatic thing I have ever experienced from the people who are supposed to be there for me. No. Defund these bastards.

The student added this “call to action”:

Call to action: My story won’t be the first and my story will certainly not be the last, but this story can be the change and catalyst to show that enough is enough. Our community is strong to enact the changes that we want to see. We have the ability to ensure our BIPOC community members never have to fear going out, even for a walk at night.

So many of you have reached out to me showing your love and asking how you can help. Now, here is your call to action: send an email to UMN admin and use your voice to show that this is not acceptable. That the UMPD needs to be held accountable.

The student’s story elicited so many responses that the University’s Department of Public Safety felt compelled to respond by releasing the video of the encounter, along with a transcript that you can read at the link above. This is what actually happened:

Three points: First, when they stopped the guy to talk to him, the officers thought he was white. Second, the officers couldn’t possibly have been more mellow and polite. Third, the student was so traumatized that he asked the officers to give him a ride. They politely declined, since they were still looking for an armed robbery suspect. If this is police brutality, we should have more of it.

I think this kind of thing happens a lot. The demand for racism, and police brutality in particular, vastly exceeds the supply–hence the need to make stuff up. You can see the yearning to believe tales of police brutality (even though, in the student’s original telling, the brutality exists entirely in his own mind) in the outpouring of sympathy for this guy from other students. Moreover, there is a payoff to inventing stories of the right sort. This student, as he says, was showered with “love,” and he got to enjoy a rare bout of self-righteousness while feeling that he was part of a movement.

He was, I think, part of a movement that has swept across America, but not of the sort he had in mind.

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