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police brutality

The subject of police brutality has been part of public discourse for years, and since the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum after the murder of George Floyd, it's been under a particularly bright spotlight. But even with ample examples we can point to, sometimes a story still manages to stun with its horrifying blatancy. This is one of those times.

The headline here is that the city of Philadelphia was just ordered to pay a Black mother $2 million in damages for the beating she endured and trauma she and her 2-year-old experienced at the hands of the Philadelphia police in October of 2020. But there's so much more to the story than that.

Here's the background:

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Elijah McClain was a kind, unique, and gentle soul, according to those who knew him. He was a vegetarian and a pacifist who worked as a massage therapist. He played his violin for shelter kittens during his lunch break because he thought the animals were lonely.

One evening two summers ago, McClain was walking home from a convenience store, waving his arms to music he was listening to on his headphones, when Aurora police approached him after getting a call about a "suspicious" man in the area. McClain was wearing a ski/runner's mask, which his sister said he often did because he tended to get cold easily. Police tackled him to the ground and held him in a carotid hold—a restraint technique banned in some cities for its potential danger. He was given a shot of ketamine by paramedics. He had a heart attack on the way to the hospital and died there three days later.

He was a 23-year-old Black man. He was unarmed. He wasn't a suspect in any crime. And his last words to the police were absolutely devastating.

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After years of advocating for racial justice and calling out police brutality and seeing little change in law enforcement and our justice system, some people are rightfully fed up. When complaints are met with inaction, protests are met with inaction, and direct action is met with inaction, maybe it's time to get specific in who needs to be held accountable for issues in law enforcement.

That's exactly what Keiajah (KJ) Brooks did at a Board of Police Commissioners meeting in her hometown of Kansas City this week. The 20-year-old used her approximately four minutes with the microphone—and with the commissioners' undivided attention—to unequivocally lay out her position to each and every one of the officials in that room.

"Fair warning, I'm not nice and I don't seek to be respectable," she began. "I'm not asking y'all for anything because y'all can't and won't be both my savior and my oppressor. I don't want reform. I want to turn this building into luxury low-cost housing. These would make some really nice apartments."

"Firstly, stop using Black children as photo opportunities, 'cause they're cute now, but in 10 years, they're Black male suspects in red shirts and khaki shorts," she said. "Eating cookies and drinking milk with children does not absolve you of your complicity in their oppression and denigration..." she added, before looking directly at the police chief and pointedly calling him out by name, "...Rick Smith."

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UPDATE: Police have arrested Shaun David Lucas, the Wolfe City, Texas police officer who shot and killed Jonathan Price last Saturday. Lucas was formally charged with murder and his bail was set at $1 million.

"This is the first step. This man is dangerous and should not be out on bond. The family was relieved to hear of his arrest and are looking forward to his conviction," Dallas attorney Lee Merritt said in a story first reported by CBS.

The killing of Price has been particularly shocking, considering that just four months ago he publicly defended the police, saying there was no conceivable reason that he should fear for his life. According to CBS, Price had been described by those in his community as a "hometown hero," and a "standup guy."

The original story begins below.


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