‘That’s What I’m Thinking’ columnist Robert Vairo’s take on police racism

Police injustice and violence. In Canada you say?

Robert Vairo

What are we Canadians to make of all this? My memory of the first US riots was Detroit 1967. The violence, looting, fires, and destruction lasted “one long hot summer”. Most of us remember the Los Angeles riots of 1992 when four cops, 3 of them white, were found not guilty following the violent beating of African American Rodney King. It was the first time we all saw video of a beating on our TV screens. A man named George Holliday, with his brand new then cutting-edge Sony Handycam 8-millimeter video camera recorded the beating from his apartment balcony at around one in the morning. In today’s terms, George’s video went viral, and made history. Not the clearest video but it did pick up the sounds of the police batons repeatedly hitting Rodney King for eight minutes. Wait. EIGHT MINUTES? That’s the SAME length of time Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck and killed him.

Is this just irony, or the Voice from above sending us a message? This time it was a 17 year-old Darnella Frazier, who was walking along the sidewalk with her nine year-old cousin. She bravely pulled out her smart phone and started recording this horrific scene unfolding in front of her. That’s how we know in both cases that it lasted eight minutes. I saw a picket at one of the protests that read “ How many have not been filmed”. What the protestor is saying is there are hundreds of these cases with no police officer held accountable, and the ‘victim’ never believed. So if this latest brutal scene had not been recorded, there would have been no trial of the four and no riots. The same applies to the Rodney King beating of 1992. Thank technology, yes, but much more importantly, thank the brave souls who did the recording. George Holliday in 1992, and Darnella Frazier, thank you for your bravery. She and her Mom have had to move from their south Minneapolis home because of social media threats.

Canada has no stones to throw at our American neighbours. Some of the members of our RCMP, provincial and local police forces are equally as guilty. 99% of violent criminal police behavior are never recorded but some are. Like the black 20 year- old Laval man pulled by his Marley hair braids for allegedly asking “what investigation about me?”. Disturbing video. It can be most influential in a court of law and the court of public opinion. What about the RCMP method of arrest in Nunavut where the cop drove up to the apparent suspect, opened his police pick- up truck door to slam the Inuk man to the ground. It’s under investigation, by the RCMP. In New Brunswick, a 26 year-old indigenous woman allegedly wielding a knife, was shot and killed by a local Edmunston police officer. No video for this tragic loss of life, but social media, “citizen journalism” speaks very loudly and world-wide.

Justin Trudeau, feeling safe from usually powder puff questions from the national networks and newspapers, was stung by an excellent question from CBC reporter Tom Parry at his now well past ‘best before’ date daily briefings. Perry asked about Trump and the use of the army, then followed up with this. “I’d like to ask you what you think about that and if you don’t want to comment, what message do you think you are sending?” Trudeau’s advisors never prepared him for this, so the one- time drama teacher remained silent for…drama, or could he just not bring himself to criticize the US president. And the silence lasted 21 seconds. Again thanks to our recording technology. His experience as prime minister and drama instructor should have produced some response. Alright, let me answer the question for you Mr. Prime Minister.

“Some policemen in Canada are failing to discharge their duties in a compassionate and respectful way. They will not listen, much less read a plethora of recommendations that range from the National Inquiry Into Indigenous women, to court recommendations, to coroners’ reports. The chorus protesting racism and injustice in the US is equally applicable in Canada. Time for me to end these daily hearings, and get back to full Parliament to work on major reforms of police handling of cases by different levels of law enforcement.”

That’s what a true Canadian leader should have answered. Not with 21 seconds of silence. That’s what’s I’m thinking. I’m Robert Vairo.