Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Watch This -- Subdued Woman Tasered by Overzealous Police Officer

Like many Pittsburghers, I imagine, as well as more than a handful of national progressives since the story went nationwide, I've been idly monitoring chatter about the Pittsburgh PD's tactics in breaking up Saturday's peaceful demonstration on Forbes Avenue in Oakland against a military recruitment site.

Binky was kind enough, in deference to my overloaded schedule this week, to provide a link in comments to a site providing various resources and photos of the conduct in question. I'd like to amplify her link by reposting the story here at the top of MOP, and urge you in the strongest possible terms to watch the video of a young woman being BRUTALLY AND PROLONGEDLY TASERED while laying still and supine on the ground in a circle of police officers.

I'm pretty jaded, and I think many protests are fatuous and self-indulgent. I'm not even saying this one wasn't. But that's got nothing to do with criminal conduct on the taxpayer dime and at the expense of the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to our hallowed constitution, or whether the conduct imposed an imminent threat to the public or police officers sufficient to warrant use of a potentially lethal, and in any case terribly abusive, weapon to subdue peaceful protestors.

This video turned my stomach with the raw sadism in evidence. The fact of the tasing, as well as the duration, is literally inexplicable. This is torture, TORTURE IN PLAIN VIEW AT MID-DAY ON A BUSY THOROUGHFARE IN OUR FAIR CITY, plain and simple, and while the damage might ultimately have been categorically less severe, this violent treatment at the hand of disturbingly blithe police officers (really, their demeanor while inflicting ruthless pain says all you need to know about the degree of danger they detected in the situation) recalls all too well the beating of Rodney King; if anything, given the context (there was no high-speed chase, it occurred in the light of day, the "perps" included a 68-year-old grandmother (bitten by a police dog), a man in a wheelchair (overturned by police), and a number of small children (several of whom were dosed at least indirectly by pepper spray)), the conduct might be even more gratuitous.

I'm MORTIFIED that my police force did this. Plain and simple.

And I'm MORTIFIED that I found this basically unequivocal video of rampant misconduct on a marginal progressive website instead of on the local television news, or for that matter described with appropriate detail in the national press.

I'm MORTIFIED that the local newspapers have reported the allegations of improper abuse as a matter of opinion, when such obvious objective evidence is there for the viewing.

SHAME on all media for not covering such an obvious story in an appropriate way! Bad enough the he-said-she-said bastardization of objectivity in reportage has made most media outlets all but useless as information sources; now we've got clear refusal to accept something truly objective, something the right wing spin machine can't do a goddamned thing about. So what's the answer? Pretend it's not there.

And I hope with all of my might that this tape gets played where it matters -- in court -- and that the unemployment line inherits a few new claimants in the immediate future.

This day just darkened considerably. PLEASE pass these links on; people in Pittsburgh and beyond NEED TO SEE THIS.

UPDATE: In fairness, a little bird directed me to today's story in the P-G, which, albeit still enmired in the he-said she-said approach, appears to affect some basic magnanimity in describing the video and POG's press conference yesterday. For fun, here's a great example of point-counterpoint abdication of basic journalistic duties:

During the protest, several dozen people marched in Oakland to an Army recruiting station to draw attention to the government's recruiting policies. The protesters did not have a permit, and organizers of yesterday's news conference insisted that a permit was not required.

However, Mayor Tom Murphy's administration said the protest required a permit.

Last I checked, Murphy doesn't get to write the law on the fly. Is there any reason one or more independent legal authorities couldn't be consulted to at least approach the truth on this. I don't know, but I'd be willing to bet that those protest situations requiring a permit are probably pretty well established by now, given that we're a college town and all and such things are typically well-articulated in statutory law and local ordinances; is there any reason we have to rely on the utterly unreliable assertions of opposing parties with axes to grind (POG's axe is obvious; Murphy, of course, is looking at an incipient P.R. disaster, although by now one would think he'd be less fearful).

To return to the point, I take at face value the article's discussion of what the woman tasered in the above-linked video was doing just prior to the clip. And it's true that the lack of prefatory material leaves the context somewhat obscure. Indeed, I considered not posting based on my doubts. But after watching it, lump in my throat, for a second and third time, I concluded that the lead in time, albeit short, is enough to demonstrate that she was motionless on the ground and clearly subdued by at least two officers who didn't even seem to think the matter required the undivided attention. The simple fact is this: the video establishes that the woman posed no threat at the moment that the bald officer calmly and deliberately did half a lap around her subdued body, avoiding contact with one of the subduing officers, and patiently aimed for her thigh and pulled the trigger striking the motionless target of her leg. He's a big strong man; she's a weak woman held down by two others.

If she scuffled actively with police, or resisted arrest (proper or improper) she can rightly be charged with a crime, and I'm not railing against the possibility. But there's simply no way to interpret the conduct of the bald officer as anything but vindictive, which, no matter the circumstance, is inexcusable conduct for a professional sworn to uphold the law. The man should be suspended immediately; he's plainly dangerous.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough the pittsburgh police department has a suspicious activity/crime form that can be filled out at

I think as many people as possible should fill out the form!!!!

D Bubb

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Joint locks usually involve varying degrees of pain in the joints, and if applied forcefully and/or suddenly, may cause injury, such as muscle, tendon and ligament damage, even dislocation, or bone fractures."

Now I had a dislocation;

You do not want to know what that means...

so I completely feel the frustration and the motives and circumstances behind what we see (she is protesting... but this is not related to the particular fragment we see).

At this very particular instinct another human being (yes police enforcement is also human) is making the best judgment call, which seems to be the best option (or would you rather rip her ligaments, dislocate and/or fracture her bones?)

Tomorrow the electroshock will be a fun experience to remember while sipping on some juice (possibly w. alcohol) OR it could be a VERY painful future for years on if 2 or 3 of those 200+ lb officers press upon her tiny scull and bones... I'm not getting graphical I'm drawing a realistic picture some of you fail to see...

1:08 PM  

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