Monday, August 18, 2014

Poster of the Week

Guilty of Brutality
Photographer: Charles Brittin
Community Alert Patrol
Offset, 1966
Los Angeles, California

This week’s poster, issued by Community Alert Patrol with photograph taken by Charles Brittin in 1966, addresses police brutality during the Watts Rebellion of 1965 and draws stark parallels to the recent uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri, where the police murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, sparked nationwide protests over police brutality and racial injustice in America.

“They beat and terrorized thousands of our brothers and sisters last August! How many of us will they brutalize this year?” reads this week’s poster, in reference to the Watts Rebellion that took place in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles from August 11 to 17, 1965. Over the course of the six-day rebellion, 14,000 California National Guard troops were mobilized in South Los Angeles and a curfew zone encompassing over forty-five miles was established in an attempt to restore public order. In the end, the clashes claimed the lives of thirty-four people, resulting in more than one thousand reported injuries, and almost four thousand arrests. Throughout the crisis, public officials advanced the argument that the riots were the work of outside agitators; however, an official investigation, prompted by Governor Pat Brown, found that the riot was a result of the Watts community's longstanding grievances and growing discontentment with high unemployment rates, substandard housing, and inadequate schools. Despite the findings, city leaders and state officials failed to implement measures to improve the social and economic conditions of African Americans living in the Watts neighborhood.

The past week has seen an outpouring of dramatic images of protests in the St. Louis suburb, where community members were met by police in full riot gear, with rifles, shields, helmets, dogs, and gas masks. According to an autopsy released Sunday evening, Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot 18-year-old Michael Brown at least six times, twice in the head. On Monday morning, the National Guard was called after a state-sanctioned curfew was put into place and residents were tear-gassed and fired on with rubber bullets night after night.

Police officers, security guards, or self-appointed vigilantes extra-judicially killed at least 313 African-Americans in 2012 according to a recent study. This means one black person was killed by a security officer every 28 hours. Last Monday, on the anniversary of the Watts Rebellion, a 25 year-old black male, complying with police orders, was fatally shot by LAPD officers in the Florence neighborhood of South Los Angeles. His name was Ezell Ford.

“The announced function of the police, ‘to protect and serve the people,’ becomes the grotesque caricature of protecting and preserving the interest of our oppressors and serving us nothing but injustice. They are there to intimidate blacks, to persuade us with their violence that we are powerless to alter the conditions of our lives.”

-Angela Davis

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