Police Brutality: My Experience and Learning

I received some very important lessons, personal growth lessons on Saturday.  I believe we are participating, collectively, in the rising up, the expansion, the re-membering of our human-ness.   If we are able to help each other in our processes of awakening, we will only be more unified.  One way is by sharing our stories.  What is true for me is that I have grown and been tremendously moved by listening to our stories.  Here is one of mine from our Move-In Day.

I will skip to the end.  We were left kettled in front of the YMCA.  We had tried to enter the building when a sympathizer opened the door to offer us an escape through.  But police beat us to the top of the stairs and forced us back down.  We were left standing very brave, in fight or flight mode, in front of the line of riot police. I scolded them, and one officer responded by pushing me with a forceful hand, which made us all grow more angry.  I said, “You are not going to intimidate me from speaking my mind”.  Two or three officers then grabbed me, threw me to the ground, and proceeded to drive my body parts and face into the pavement.  They used excessive force to put their weight on me.  They continued to intentionally beat my body into the ground as I continued to scream.  During the booking process, I said to my arresting officer, Y. Tatlisu, that I felt it was going to become harder for him in the future, because we will continue to protest and he will continue to abuse women, and this probably will cause him some distress.  He assured me it wouldn’t.  When I found my seat on the police bus, I started to sob.

I write this as I am in the midst of an identity crisis.  I am a white woman from a middle class family with college educated parents, and my relationship with the police has been, relatively, extremely pleasant.  Notions of protection and old detective shows are my default thoughts, and have kept me locked safe in a world where police brutality is not at all palpable.  I have been completely blind to the reality of the abuser’s perspective, conducting all my interactions with the police based instead on a compassionate perspective of the privileged class.  I am unraveling.

As the bus took us through downtown Oakland, passing by so many people, a comrade from Occupy Cal began to call out through an open window slot, “This is my cage. This is my grave. This is my invisible violence. For all of my life, I will not be silenced.” She created this poem in that very moment.  (She and I were put in the same holding cell for women who had experienced head trauma.  She had a large welt on the back of her head from a police baton.)  All of us women joined with her and chanted the poem as we continued down Broadway.

Those of us who were injured were seen by a “nurse” when we got off the bus, and I use the term lightly because this was not someone who was at all considering her ethical work code when assessing us.  A large welt had formed on my forehead.  She asked me two questions: Do you know where you are?; What was the date?  The latter I could not answer.  She didn’t see that as important and I was put in a holding cell for five hours before they sent a nurse.  We had to scream and pound on the doors to make this happen.  When the “nurse” arrived, again I did not speak up for my needs and dismissed care.

After six hours in the holding cell without our requested phone call, I was lead into an interview room with two gentler looking and behaving officers.  I was told that they were internal affairs and were there to listen to my story and reprimand or fire the assaulting officers.  I believed them!  They recorded my voice as I told them the details, including names of friends that tried to help me during the assault.  I was manipulated because I didn’t know my rights, and because the “police as protectors” belief I carry is very deep.

As of now, I feel overwhelmed, easily agitated, and very angry.  These men used their physical and institutional power to take my power away, to violate me, and control me.  I am a small bodied woman!  But predators don’t go after the strongest prey, and OPD is totally out of control.  If we decide to continue to practice our civil rights, our human rights, by meeting in the streets in protest (which I will), we are risking police brutality.  I suggest we all do regular self-examinations of our unearned privileges to make sure they are not clouding our perspectives and endangering our lives. We should remain alert of our surroundings at all times and continuously question if the decisions we are making seem rational.  I also suggest that we pay attention to the ways in which patterns of self-hate are perpetuated within us, which means for me, to not dismiss my needs, especially medical needs.  I will be smarter next time.  Love and solidarity to you all.  Long Live the Oakland Commune!