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Utterly understandably, the most read article by far in LA Progressive last week was an oldie but goodie from late 2014, titled “Holding Police Officers Accountable.” Written by retired Los Angeles Police Department Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey, the article explores the case of a Buffalo, New York, police officer, Cariol Horne, who was fired—19 years on the job and just short of earning her retirement—for trying to stop a fellow officer from beating and choking a handcuffed detainee.

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The parallels to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis are obvious, where three junior officers have finally been charged with aiding and abetting the murder committed by 19-year veteran officer, Derek Chauvin. But unlike the feeble and ultimately ineffective attempts by those three, including one trainee who had been on the job only four days, Horne wrestled with the larger male officer to stop the attack. For her troubles, she was punched several times in her face, suffering a badly broken nose, and was then further manhandled—literally manhandled—by 10 other male officers who were on the scene. Horne was then repeatedly denied her pension.

Since her retirement, Cheryl Dorsey has emerged as a sharp critic of the standard white male-dominated policing structures and especially of wrongdoing committed by her own LAPD. Several years ago, during an interview on LA Progressive Live, I rather naively asked Cheryl why we were seeing so many more police attacks and killings on black men—and women—in South Los Angeles than I recall hearing about in years past. Cheryl, who had spent nearly her entire 20-year career as a street cop, much of it “South of the 10,” looked at me like I had just fallen off the turnip truck.

Off camera, she then assured me that nothing at all had changed with such attacks. “Police have been beating, killing, and, yes, raping black people in South LA forever,” she told me. “Only now everybody has a camera in their pocket and can share videos on the internet.”

Indeed, had not a brave 17-year-old Darnella Frazier stood her ground and filmed the 10-minute-long tragic scene with Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, this latest assault might have been just another outrage, the talk of the black community, not even on the radar of the white community, possibly subject to a newspaper article or two, fodder for a lightly covered street protest, and then filed away like so many police killings of black and brown people before it.

Because that video went viral, the world has literally been stood on its head with now 10 days of massive protests in cities and towns around the world

Instead, because that video went viral, the world has literally been stood on its head with now 10 days of massive protests in cities and towns around the world—displays of popular protest so large and loud that mayors and city council members and governors and police chiefs are being forced to discuss substantive changes to their police departments, police budgets, and how communities of color are policed. LA Mayor Erik Garcetti is talking about taking money out of the LAPD budget and putting it into community services. People in suits are talking about defunding police departments. Corporate media is entertaining arguments about dismantling departments. The lip service, at least, is getting pretty dramatic.

But as Judith Lewis Mernit discussed this week in “Minneapolis Confidential: It’s Not Just the Cop, It’s the Culture,” the problem is deep-seated and cultural. In her interview and subsequent articles and books, Dorsey talks of how LAPD officers are trained and expected to behave differently with people they encounter “south of the Santa Monica Freeway”—that is, black and brown Los Angeles—than they would with people in Westwood or Eagle Rock and other points west and white.

Drawing parallels between the current Great Tumult with past eruptions of populist rage—the LA Riots after the Rodney King verdicts came down, the Watts Riots, the Occupy Movement, the 60’s anti-war protests, the Civil Rights movement, you name it—is tenuous at best. Today’s moment results from its own particular confluence of events and forces—the pandemic that has kept people cooped up for months, the fearsome resultant loss of jobs and income, the horror that is Donald John Trump and everything his tiny hands touch, the deep irritation that the best we can come up with for presidential candidates are Trump and Joe Biden, the long-term growth of economic inequality—all set ablaze by the very public lynching of George Floyd.

Still, we should look at what those past outbursts can tell us. They tell us that eventually, energy will fade, marches will dwindle, people will move on—whether lasting progress has been made or not. And just as surely, countervailing forces, sitting on their piles of money, will move in to take advantage of the disruption.

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But also, the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who are participating in today’s protests, paying close attention to them, discussing them with family and friends, will be imprinted—for the rest of their lives—with this experience.

Look at the people of my generation who participated in the anti-war movement in the late 1960s. Every one of them who’s still kicking can tell you a story about their experiences from those days—what they did, who they knew, how they wish this or that had turned out differently. Ask them about 10 years later, in the late 1970s, and they might have an individual memory to relate—where they were in their career, trips they took, the kids they were raising—but nothing deeply uniting.

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The 60s brought large swaths of people together in a meaningful way, just as World War II united my father’s generation, just as Occupy has united a younger one.

And the glorious thing is that there’s an awful lot of white people out marching, risking getting arrested, chanting, raising cane—so that police killings of black people will stop, so that black people will get a fair shake in this “Shining City upon a Hill.” Been a long time coming.

Trans Women Turn Tables

Khloe Rios, Lisa Bloom, Fernanda Celare, and Jennifer Bianchi.

The Trans Experience

The most read article published last week was our own “L.A. Trans Women Turn Tables,” in which we interview three trans LatinX women who were subject to an all too frequent transphobic assault and battery in a trendy L.A. mescal bar last summer. The article outlines how the women—Khloe Rios, Jennifer Bianchi, and Fernanda Celarie—have found the moxie to work with attorney Lisa Bloom to go after the bar’s liquor license, much as gay and trans bars were targeted for police crackdowns in decades past.

In the same vein, Peter Dreier’s “A High-Five for Glenn Burke, a Baseball Pioneer” looks at the life of perhaps the first openly gay major league baseball player. Glenn Burke, who “invented” the famous high-five when he congratulated Dusty Baker on a homerun, played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland As, but ended his career early because of the pressure of keeping his sexual orientation under wraps.

Veterans  Care

Veterans Care

This week last year, the hottest LA Progressive article was “With Dem Party Help: Trump Launches D-Day Assault on Veterans Care,” written by Suzanne Gordon and Steve Early. It tells of a program launched by the Trump administration that would require VA salaried care-givers to refer more of their nine million patients to private doctors and for-profit hospitals, even with the VA’s own system could serve them better and at lower cost.

dick price

Dick Price
Editor, LA Progressive

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