On July 19 a 43-year-old motorist Samuel DuBose was shot dead in Cinncinnati by Officer Ray Tensing who stopped him because he was missing a license plate. Tensing fired one shot striking DuBose, who was Black, in the head. Sharon Bland, a black woman teacher, was found dead in a Texas jail on July 13 days after she was stopped and arrested for a minor traffic infringement. These come after the deaths of black men Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore Md, both within the past year. These and many other similar incidents indicate that to all intents and purposes the USA is a Police State.
According to statistics over 1,000 people were shot dead by police this year and ca. 25% of them were Blacks, much larger than their proportion of the population (ca. 10%). Members of the general public can be arrested, beaten, humiliated and murdered for a minor traffic offence if the police officer doesn’t like your face, your race or your attitude. Whatever happened to human rights, the right to life, etc. etc. Oh, I forgot that only applies in a democracy. The fact that in many cases unarmed black citizens have been shot dead by white officers in the USA raises the spectre of race repression and absence of civil protection.
Let me give you some examples from the past: In Britain, that was supposed to be a democratic country before WWII, Jews were often mistreated by the police. My father recounted to me an incident when two policemen came to his father’s grocery shop before WWII and demanded that they hand over their dog, since someone had made a complaint about it. His parents had come from Tsarist Russia and were dead scared of anyone with a uniform, so they were complying, when my father came in and asked what was going on. When they told him he said not to hand over the dog, and he asked the policemen where was their court order. They said “we don’t need no court order to take away a Jew’s dog.” So my father, who had grown up in England, told them to get out of the shop, since it was private property and they had no warrant as required by law. He wrote down their names and numbers and then ordered them out of the shop. One of the policemen threatened my father and said “You wait, I’ll get you one day.” In fact, the policeman came across my father when he was making rounds as a Civil Defence warden in London during WWII and they got into a scuffle. A senior inspector happened to come by and found them fighting and investigated the circumstances and the policeman was forced to resign and was drafted into the army.
The prison of Alcatraz is a tourist resort now, but once it was a fearsome place where only the worst criminals were sent. Inside the prison it was like a part of the Russian Gulag, where prisoners were routinely beaten, abused and starved, and there was no protection of law. Prisoners who were undoubtedly hardened criminals were kept in solitary confinement. One for example was Henry Young whose case was dramatized in the movie “Murder in the first.” Although the movie was not historically accurate, nevertheless in Henry’s trial for murder of a fellow convict in 1941, it was established that he had been kept in solitary confinement in the dungeons for three years and systematically beaten and starved. As reported in the San Francisco Examiner, the jury found him guilty only of manslaughter and requested that the system at Alcatraz be investigated. It was, and there were major reforms, and it was closed down in 1962. Even hardened criminals are human beings and in a democracy must be treated accordingly.
Many people think that “concentration camps” were invented by the German Nazis. But, in fact they were probably first used by the British. Norfolk Island in the Pacific Ocean was a penal colony for Australia where convicts from Britain were sent if they were recidivists. At this penal colony, apart from the routine torture and starvation of prisoners, it was permissible to whip inmates to death and they were also hunted as game by the Governor and his wardens. The British perfected the use of “concentration camps” for Boer civilians, including women and children, during the Boer Wars in S. Africa between 1880 and 1902.
As Pres. Obama said in his meeting with Pres. Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya in Nairobi the other day, “When you start treating people differently not because of any harm they are doing to anybody, but because they are different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode, and bad things happen.” I am aware that the US is a violent country, with many guns, and that police are killed in the line of duty, such as yesterday in Memphis. But, that cannot excuse the shooting of individuals who are stopped for a minor traffic offence. That should never happen.