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Sensational Shootings Distract From Police Violence

John Bell

July 26, 2012

Between the slaughter in Aurora, Colorado and the shooting in Toronto’s east end, seemingly unexplainable gun violence has crowded everything else off the front page.

Political opportunists like Rob Ford and Stephen Harper will use the stories to beat the law and order drum, and demand more money for police.

But these sensational stories have covered over other reports of violence coming from cops. These reports are even more disturbing, revealing a form of state sanctioned violence and institutionalized racism.

In San Francisco, reports have emerged that police executed a suspect with mental health issues. Pralith Pralourng, a 32-year old who had slashed a co-worker with a box cutter, died from two gunshots to the chest from short range.

Police told reporters the man had attacked them. But a videographer named Robert Benson was on the scene and interviewed eye-witnesses who told a different story: “The police shot somebody. In the chest, twice. They said that the man had a gun or something but he didn’t. He was just a civilian.” Benson: “What was he doing?” Witness: “Nothing. They had him in cuffs. And they shot him. Twice.” Benson’s video is posted to YouTube.

In Anaheim, California, residents of a mostly Latino working-class apartment complex were horrified to witness the police shooting of a local man. They report that Manuel Diaz was shot in the back of the legs; then he was shot in the head as he lay on the ground. The killing took place in broad daylight in front of a group of neighbours, including children, enjoying a Saturday afternoon.

The outraged group confronted the police, who unleashed dogs and fired rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd.

Witnesses described a cold-blooded execution: “He was already down on the ground and clearly not going anywhere when the officer shot him in the head. They didn’t have to kill him. Why couldn’t they have just used a Taser or something?”

Residents have organized protests against this and other recent killings by Anaheim police. Six Latino men have been shot by police since January, five fatally. The community complains of racial profiling and continual harassment.

“White kids in a rich white neighborhood don’t get rousted by police and when they do, they don’t have to fear the police. But that’s not true with brown kids in a poor neighborhood,” said Dana Douglas, lawyer for the Diaz family.

In Toronto, police have been rightly slammed for violating civil and human rights, and provoking violence during the G20 protests. Voices on all sides were calling for Chief Bill Blair’s resignation. Now Blair is using the Scarborough shootings to manufacture a fresh wave of support for the cops.

More police is not the solution to violence, it a major cause.

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