Police are hurting protesters with little accountability | Opinion

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: Demonstrators stand in front law enforcement who are holding a perimeter during protest on June 1, 2020 in downtown Washington, DC. Protests and riots continue in cities across America following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin, 44, was charged last Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

By Kevin Williams

Social media is inundated with videos that show police attacking people in broad daylight with apparently little repercussion.

Videos that once would “go viral” of a police officer unduly macing someone, are now grimly ubiquitous. People protesting the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis live-stream being shot at close range with huge rubber or wooden projectiles or being flash bombed with tear-gas.

In recent days, people have also started sharing videos and photos of cops kneeling with protesters. Are the kneeling officers a sign that police officers will be held accountable for the hurt they’ve caused in so many communities?

Right now, that seems doubtful.

Consider that, in some cities, police officers maced, tear-gassed, and shot at protesters not long after posing for pictures.

This happened in Columbus, Ohio — one news outlet reported that the protests were “peaceful” and pictures with cops shaking hands with protesters dominated; yet a mere three hours later, police were back to macing and tear-gassing protesters and journalists.

In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Police staff inspector Joseph Bologna was suspended and charged after being caught on video assaulting a Temple University student. The city’s police union is selling “Bologna Strong” t-shirts in support.

In Harrisburg, meanwhile, city police Chief Thomas Carter took a knee during a protest to apologize.

Harrisburg police chief Thomas Carter kneels in front of angry protesters on June 1, 2020, who riddled him with criticisms of a police conduct during a Black Lives Matter protest Saturday. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Some may think it’s moving to see a few officers kneel with protesters, but we can not let the narrative shift away from holding police accountable.

Police have been outright brutalizing people in broad daylight for days now. Well, actually decades, but still.

Columbus has sort of condemned the brutality imposed by police, yet Mayor Andy Ginther insists that outside agitators are responsible for the violence. The arrest records show otherwiseCleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams boldly asserted that all of the arrests there were from people who do not live in Ohio. This was swiftly proved false. Twice. 

Yet and still, people have been being brutalized and seriously injured by police at these protests — unprovoked. 

Aleta Mixon had been in the hospital since Friday night. On Tuesday evening, hours after being discharged from the hospital, she shared her story with us. 

Here’s everything we know about police reform in Harrisburg and what may happen next

On Friday, May 28, Mixon went to protest and show support — a protest on Columbus’s east side, on Livingston Avenue. The protest was peaceful and had so much support from the community. Loads of people were out, and the streets were inundated with people honking and shouting out of their cars in solidarity.

As the protests moved downtown, Aleta Mixon decided to go home — however, her oldest daughter, age 20, continued on.

As nightfall came, the protests started to sour. Mixon’s family warned her of what could come to be that evening. Terrified and worried, she decided to venture downtown in an effort to find her daughter and bring her home.

When she got there, the police were in full riot gear, and in a line formation. She approached a female officer not in gear and asked how she could get down to Broad and High streets, so she could get her daughter.

Mixon said before she could get an answer, a cop ran behind her and maced her.

She fell on the ground, as the female cop asked “Why the f*** did you do that? I was talking to her!” according to Mixon.

The line of police advanced, causing the crowd to run towards her.

Mixon, shaken from being maced, said she saw two cops, so she tried to get up and go toward them. They maced her, she said.

“Somebody help me, please, don’t kill me!” she said she called out.

“I wasn’t trying to protest, I was just trying to find my daughter!” she recalled, adding that her hands were raised. 

The police maced her again, she said.

“I put my hands up and he smacked them down. I told him ‘I have my hands up, please just stop!’” as they continued to mace her. 

A few protesters tried to help her up, but they couldn’t see through all the chaos, and had to leave her.

She said she tried to get up again, but a police officer pushed her down once more, into the curb. She heard a snap, and then felt intense pain. She screamed for help.

While Mixon was on the ground, she tried to get on Facebook live to try and get eyes on her situation.

“Somebody please help me! Contact my mom, please help me! My leg is broken and I can’t walk!” Mixon said she was saying. She says that Facebook deleted her live-stream.

Eventually, another officer called her an ambulance.

“I have a quadruple patella break — my leg is broken in four different spots,” Mixon said. “They shattered my knee … they had to drill holes in and reconstruct my knee.”

According to Mixon, she may not have been able to walk again if she hadn’t gotten surgery.

“I’ll be off work for four months. The doctors also told me I may never have full 100% mobility back in my leg.”

A friend gave her the contact information for Mayor Ginther’s office.

“I don’t know how to go about [reporting] it, because I don’t know who the officers were,” she said. 

Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan has stood by the use of mace and tear gas. Lieutenant Duane Mabry has also recently done a live-stream explaining that Columbus Police don’t wear identification on their riot gear to protect officers from being doxxed.

Ginther has come up with a hotline to submit videos of brutality by the Columbus Police department. However, the process does not seem to address the fact that the vast majority of people brutalized by police have no idea who these cops are, and zero way of finding out.

Hundreds, if not thousands in Ohio continue to have similar stories at the hands of police officers — as they continue to be shot at, tear-gassed, maced, pepper-sprayed, and man-handled.

How do you hold someone accountable, if you don’t know who they are?

Aleta Mixon said when she closes her eyes, she can picture what the police who attacked her looks like, but she has no names or badge numbers; except for the officer who called her an ambulance.

Mixon said, “If I was never afraid of the police before, I am now.”

Kevin Williams is a freelance writer, focused on structural inequality. He is also a northeast Ohio native, and has graduated from The Ohio State University. He wrote this piece for the Ohio Capital Journal, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where it first appeared.