I’ve just read a CNN news story that’s miles away from objective journalism. It’s the top-trending article, above the Tunisian bombing, above what seems to be World War Three starting in Turkey. And it’s not even news.
So a year and more ago, Chicago cops apparently shot and killed a 17-year-old who was seriously tripped out on PCP, enough so that he was armed, violent, behaving like a nut, and resisting arrest.
His crime (alleged) was a minor one: breaking into cars and trucks to steal radios. There were several officers at the scene, all armed, but they didn’t manage to subdue him; instead, one of them apparently shot him as he was walking away. He didn’t shoot once, mind; he emptied a clip into the guy, who after a couple of hits was lying on the ground twitching. The word “overkill” comes to mind.
But this was a year and more ago that it happened. It’s not really news; if anything, it’s “olds”. So why are they reporting on it now?
Seems there was a video of the incident, a cruiser’s dashboard cam showing the shooting. And, after a long delay during the ensuing murder trial, the city of Chicago has been forced by the court to release the video. And of course it’s now been shown on national television. And of course there’s protests on the streets of Chicago.
I’m no great fan of active law enforcement. Most of it’s speeding and parking tickets; they’re not protecting us, they’re taxing us. A fair percentage of homicide cases end in a conviction, but a lot of those get called in by the lady with the carving knife yelling “I’m glad I killed him!” I’m not saying the police don’t work to solve murders — but I am saying that a lot more time and effort goes into the war on speeders than solving major crimes.
On the other hand, this event was potentially justified. Potentially.
What we’ve got here is a kid who was breaking into cars. Not terribly bright, but he’s no bank robber; he’s just a guy who’s taken something seriously mind-altering and now happens to think it’s a good idea to steal car radios. He wasn’t directly threatening anyone at the time he was shot; he was stumbling down the street more or less away from police cruisers. Since walking away from moving cars doesn’t often mean an escape, we’re again not talking about a rocket scientist here — but you don’t shoot stupid.
On the other hand, PCP is a scary sort of thing to be facing — and when you’re facing a person on PCP, you’re generally not facing a person so much, not at the moment; you’re facing the closest thing we’ve got in this world to a pain-proof injury-resistant zombie. Cops know this; PCP is one of the things they fear. They’ve all heard the stories about that biker dude that took three clips in the chest after snapping his cuffs and still managed to bash his way through a cinder-block wall to beat a cop half to death before finally going down.
But this case? I couldn’t tell you if it was a righteous shoot. I don’t have all the facts. Heck, I don’t have many of the facts — and I looked for quite a while before writing this. All I’ve got is a video with no sound of the guy dropping and twitching; it doesn’t even show the shooter. So I don’t know one way or the other, and neither does anyone else.
What I do know is that the CNN reporter chose to write a scathing condemnation of Chicago’s mayor for not releasing the video earlier. Never mind that doing so would do nasty (and probably illegal) things to the cop’s court case, making it impossible for him to get an impartial jury. Heck, it’s not like the mayor even tries court cases; there’s a couple of lawyers, a courtroom, and a judge that takes care of that sort of thing for us. But our reporter decided that now was a good time to rip into Chicago politicians for being corrupt and irresponsible.
To be fair, she dropped a line in there about us needing the police. Presumably she wasn’t actively working to incite riots and looting. Far cry from objective journalism, though.
So why is there a protest? Why are people taking to the streets over this kid?
Most of them aren’t. They’re protesting something that happened in Charleston, or Ferguson, or Baltimore, or New York City. They don’t know this kid; never met him. They don’t know the case — NOBODY knows the case. Because it’s a court case, which means it’s tried in a court instead of by rioters on the city streets. Or by reporters for CNN. But I digress; I was talking about people protesting police violence.
Or maybe they’re not even protesting that. Maybe they’re protesting how it feels to be part of an oppressed minority, or that life isn’t fair, or that something out there is compelling kids to break into cars. Maybe they’re protesting cops shooting a kid for that; on the face of it, breaking into parked cars probably shouldn’t be a shooting offense. All these are bad things, and all of them are worth protesting.
But if that were what this is about, they’d have been protesting a year ago, not now.
After the Baltimore riots last year, we read about a couple of buses full of protesters that had been brought in from out of town to help organize things. Several news reports after the fact focused on the curious phenomenon that the people who rioted didn’t actually live where they were rioting, speculating that these bused-in activists were the real violent ones, and several locals counter-protested, making human chains in front of local houses and businesses in an attempt to protect them.
Right now, in Chicago, at a pretty nasty moment in modern history, we’re looking at a possible repeat of last year’s riots. Some jackass released the tape; someone else decided their Cause could get some good press if they bused in some activists; lots of people watched the news and thought it was a good idea to go join the fun. And the “news” is feeding the frenzy that they created.
Oh, and other people — evil people — are going around blowing up soccer games, restaurants, passenger planes, and just to make things interesting, Syrian munition dumps and Russian fighter jets. But let’s not talk about that; let’s talk about this kid that got himself shot and the cop who, in a moment of raw panic, destroyed his career, his life, and a kid on PCP — almost as though that doesn’t happen every day.
NOTE: As I’m getting ready to publish this, I’ve noticed that CNN has moved the most inflammatory article to the Op Ed pages where it belongs. There’s now four different stories about the riots, and of course they’re showing the shooting every thirty minutes. We live in a sick world where that sort of thing is considered entertainment, let me tell ya.
And that’s what I’m writing about in a nutshell right there. Look, bad things happen, and when it’s something government should fix, there really ought to be protests. Peaceful protests, not riots.
So protest the right things. Protest the system that has 1% of our population in prison, half for drugs. Protest the system that robs kids of hope so they take drugs. Protest the class divisions that lead other kids to deal drugs because it’s the best money they’re able to make anywhere. Protest mandatory minimum sentencing and the whole damn useless war on drugs. Protest the fact that we’ve got half a dozen power-mad narcissists running for President with not one reasonable face among them.
But don’t protest just because the damn TV tells you to.