I was maybe 11 or 12 years old the first time I saw police officers grab a man and slam him to the ground. The man was not being violent. To this day I don’t know what he did. I know that he was a drug addict. I know that from the way his face sagged, from how his eyes shifted in that sad, lost way unique to drug addicts. His clothes were caked with dirt and grime. He was whispering to himself, and his hands jerked nervously.
I was with a group of kids on our way to get free lunch at the school down the block. It was summertime. I was hot, and we were hungry. The man was walking in front of us, just feet away, when the cop car rolled up. No sirens, just the loud screech of brakes. The doors shot open, and those men in blue hurtled out, guns drawn. They didn’t look at us once. They tackled that man, who wasn’t resisting, whose hands were up in the air, and threw him to the ground.
By the time they threw him in that patrol car, he was bloodied, and I was on my knees, crying. Helpless. I remember the screams of the woman who ran up and tried to pull the officers off. I would later find out that the man was her son. Those screams have come back clear and loud and guttural, the pure sound of agony, when I’ve witnessed police brutality, seen its victims lying in blood or in a casket. When I’ve seen it splashed on the headlines.
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