FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Apartheid Americana

by SUSIE DAY

Two of my friends were just beaten and arrested by Brooklyn police. My friends, Michael Tarif Warren and Evelyn Warren, are African-American attorneys whose work consists, in part, of defending victims of police violence. I want to tell you about how police punched and humiliated these good people on the corner of Vanderbilt and Atlantic, in their own, predominantly Black neighborhood on June 21st; about Tarif’s clothes being torn almost off–I don’t want you to miss a thing. But many facts must wait until the Warrens’ trial. Here, excerpted from a legal brief, is how Tarif describes what happened:

“At approximately 5:45pm, petitioner and his wife were in their vehicle, stuck in traffic, when they saw members of the New York Police Department apprehend a young man, handcuff him, and physically abuse him while he was prone on the ground. Petitioner and his spouse exited their vehicle to inquire why police were engaging in that behavior, but immediately returned when ordered, without getting near the police or the young man. Sergeant Steven Talvy, however, approached the petitioner and his spouse and, after they identified themselves as attorneys, proceeded to strike petitioner numerous times in the head and face and strike petitioner’s wife in the face.”

Sergeant Talvy handcuffed Tarif and pushed him into the police van. Evelyn, though “stunned,” remembered her legal training and walked toward the mostly African-American crowd of onlookers:

“I said, ‘Did you see what was happening?’ Naturally, they did. All these people had poured out of a nearby McDonalds, plus it’s rush hour and traffic was deadlocked. I say, ‘Did anybody take photographs?’ They said, ‘Look at your jaw.’

“I didn’t know it, but my jaw was swelling up. So I said, ‘Take a picture of my jaw,’ you know?”

I saw Evelyn three days later; her jaw was still swollen. It could have been worse: Seeing that Evelyn was trying to retrieve her confiscated driver’s license, Sergeant Talvy ordered police to throw her to the ground, but the onlookers’ shouts stopped them. Evelyn and Tarif were taken to Brooklyn’s 77th Precinct.

“We were lined up against the wall with other prisoners. Tarif’s clothes were ripped and falling off him. I will never forget, there was this blond officer in Talvy’s unit–they were laughing together–and the guy said, ‘What’s this, a strip show?’

“You have to remember that Tarif and I were involved because the police were kicking this young man viciously. He was Black; probably around 18. His face was a bloody mess. Obviously, Talvy thought he could get away with it because he said, ‘Well, it’s your word against mine. Let’s see what happens.'”

What happened was that Tarif was charged with Obstructing Governmental Administration, Disorderly Conduct, and Resisting Arrest; Evelyn, with Disorderly Conduct. Reactions poured from the Black press and community; there was almost no coverage from mainstream media; and a resounding silence still emanates from the New York Times.

Three weeks later, I visit Evelyn at home. She tells me how she’s fighting to put her life back together:

“I grew up before segregation ended. My father was a contractor, a small-business person. He used to go to Mississippi to work. And every time he would leave for Mississippi, my mother would cry. So I recognize racism.

“I guess I was raised to be the best I could be in whatever I chose to do–by being the best, I could overcome certain conditions. I was foolish enough to believe that. I still know my value, but this incident tells me that they don’t know my value–whether you’re a kid wearing baggy pants, or a lawyer wearing a suit and driving an upscale vehicle–it doesn’t matter to them.

“I should have been more aware of this. Tarif and I represent police brutality victims. I’ve heard accounts and seen the evidence, but to experience it firsthand–it’s earth-shattering. So I have a new appreciation for what people go through. While you live in a world that’s in turmoil, you still have a little corner where you feel safe and secure. I no longer have that. Before this, I was concerned about what was going on in Iraq, Africa, Venezuela. Now, I’m concerned about what goes on within ten blocks of where I live.

“Black people are hit harder by police than any other community–I know that. Tarif and I went to a meeting last Saturday where, in the projects, Black people are accosted coming out their door. Police say, ‘Let me see some identification.’ Now, if you’re coming out the door, you must have had some right to be there. Unless you’re seen carrying a TV or stereo system, why should you show ID?”

I ask Evelyn what she wants white people to know.

“I want them to know that what I’m telling is the truth. That any people of good moral standards should be concerned about law enforcement that’s out of control. At minimum, they should ask questions of Police Commissioner Kelly and of Mayor Bloomberg: ‘What’s going on, here? This is unacceptable.’ If those officers knew they could face charges just like any civilian, they’d think twice.”

Then Evelyn says something that stops me cold:

“I don’t know that the police look at us as human. I don’t know that they would hear us if we spoke to them.”

And I realize that, like many white people, I have lived for years with the genteel, self-protective assumption that, if I believed hard enough that Black and White people are equal, then the world must be OK. I realize it’s never been OK–that my friends are in danger–that our lives remain deeply divided.

“Tarif keeps saying this happened for a reason, that the Creator is on a mission here. But my overriding emotion, aside from sadness and feeling powerless, is anger. I’m determined to change things. Because, if that officer can do what he did to us, in broad daylight, with 50 to 100 people watching–what happens when nobody’s around?”

SUSIE DAY can be reached at: sday@skadden.com

© SUSIE DAY, 2007

Contact:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007
(212) 788-9600

 

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly

New York City Police Department

One Police Plaza

New York, NY 10038

http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mailnypd.html

 

 

SUSIE DAY can be reached at: sday@skadden.com

May 05, 2016
David L. Glotzer
Welcome to Fortified Europe: the Militarization of Europe’s Borders
Adam Szetela
Beyoncé’s “Formation” and the Boutique Activism of the Left
Bruce Lerro
Lost at Sea: Left Liberals Have No Party
Paul Cochrane
Hot Air in the Saudi Desert: a Kingdom in Descent?
Brian Terrell
My Visit to a Las Vegas Jail
Judith Deutsch
The Military’s “Securitization” of Climate Change
Phyllis Bennis
Kunduz Bombing: Proof the Pentagon Should Not Be Allowed to Investigate Itself for War Crimes
Chad Nelson
When Compassion is Terrorism: Animal Rights in a Post-911 World
Dan Arel
Making Sanders’ Dream a Reality Through Political Activism
Kent Paterson
Ten Years Later: Reflections on the Legacies of Immigrant Spring
Serge Halimi
Why Firefighters are Against Free Trade
Andrew Stewart
Green Bernie or Green Party Machine?
Binoy Kampmark
Yuri Gagarin in Space: the Politics of Cosmic Discovery
Hayes Rowan
This Naming of Things
May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s China-Bashing
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail