The information age, in conjunction with everybody videotaping everybody else, has produced an interesting time in which to live. While news networks do focus exclusively on the major stories from time to time, plenty of days see rapid-fire series of events; each more interesting than the last.
“Obama just spent another $17 million on a trip, and Britt McHenry just drop-kicked a meter maid; next on CNN”. These are hypothetical, but my point is that this would be business as usual for a news network, but there is always that story that makes people lose their minds: “another unarmed male, insert-group-here, was just shot by police”. Within five minutes the internet blows up with the usual “people should stop committing crimes and this group is awful” crowd in a bench clearing brawl with the “cops are all nothing but a state sanctioned street gang” proponents. For someone who realizes the insanity of both sides, it’s hilarious, but the fact that people are beaten and killed by cops is a troubling reality.
In plenty of cases, a man of the law is faced with a life or death situation, and takes a life as he is trained. In other cases however, such as the recent Walter Scott shooting and Tamir Rice’s shooting a couple of months ago, unarmed people were killed. This isn’t new information, but law enforcement personnel have a job among the toughest out there, and it’s always important to remember that the majority do their job with honor and diligence. It is the small minority who carry out these brutal acts. Similarly, even the people who run from cops don’t always deserve to be shot in the street, tazed and/or clubbed. Beating a population won’t make them respect the law and shooting an unarmed runner won’t make the next person obey a command.
With that said, it doesn’t look like police brutality is going anywhere, and it’s nothing new. Here are ten of the most notorious examples of police brutality from around the world, in the last hundred years. While we could have just listed the most well-known cases of the last year in the United States, we opted to examine some of the most brutal cases from other countries as well as the United States.
10. Sean Bell: Killed At Bachelor Party
Our list starts off with the killing of twenty-three year old Sean Bell, outside of a strip club in Queens, back in 2006. He and his friends were unarmed, and were out for a night of partying, as Sean was getting hitched soon. A group of plainclothes and uniformed cops saw them exiting the strip club, early on November 25th. Conflicting stories were told to police but in essence, Bell and two of his friends ended up being peppered with fifty bullets. Bell died, while his friends lived.
Three of the officers involved with this shooting were tried for the shooting but all were found not guilty.
9. Robert Dziekanski: Tasered To Death by RCMP At Airport
Looking at (arguably) Canada’s most significant police brutality event, which involved the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Yes, that’s right, Dudley Do-right was based on these charming folk. Dziekanski was a Polish man who was in the process of emigrating to Canada to live with his mother in Kamloops, British Columbia. It’s beautiful up there, he would have likely been happy.
Unfortunately, he was held up in customs and due to a language barrier, became angry, threw a computer and flipped a table. He was out of hand, but when RCMP officers showed up, they promptly tasered him five times and he died. The officers lied about multiple aspects of the incident and as of last month, two have been convicted of perjury. This event is a severe stain on the otherwise, very respectable reputation of the RCMP.
8. Italy: July 2001 G8 Summit Protests
It seems every time the G8 summit rolls around, the excrement makes contact with the proverbial fan. While it can be pretty scary when a single government starts doing things, it’s downright terrifying when a group of them meet to compare tactics. Genoa, Italy is probably the most infamous of the G8 protests. Obviously, conflicting details exist but many (including journalists from across the globe) agree that the protesters, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, were largely peaceful, but were beaten mercilessly by Italian police.
Police allegedly busted into a pair of buildings inhabited by protesters and journalists during the night to carry the beatings on, and while it could have been much worse, just one protester was killed; Carlo Giuliani, who was shot and ran over twice, after throwing a rock or fire extinguisher at a police vehicle (stories vary). One has only to wait until the next G8 summit to see the next wave of police brutality.
7. Howard Morgan: Shot 28 Times and Lived…And then Went to Prison
Howard Morgan is a victim of what many have called “driving while black”. He was a former police officer from Chicago who, for those who missed the title, was shot over twenty times and lived to tell the tale. He was accosted by four cops after driving the wrong way near his home. There was a physical altercation and Morgan was shot 28 times (allegedly 21 in the back).
He was accused of attempted murder, as the cops said he pulled a gun and shot at them. He denied shooting and pulling out his firearm, but three of the cops sustained injuries, so there is plenty of room for interpretation. Morgan was let out of prison earlier this year. Many have criticized Illinois governor Pat Quinn’s decision to commute Morgan’s sentence, but vastly more believe that his incarceration was an insult to a former police officer WHO WAS SHOT 28 TIMES. Discuss.
6. Rodney King: LAPD Beatdown
For those who have not come across this information, Rodney King died about three years ago. He was found drowned in his pool with alcohol, cocaine and PCP in his system. Over twenty years ago however, he was ruthlessly beaten by a team of LAPD officers on the side of a Los Angeles freeway. The incident was caught on tape and subsequently found national attention. King became the centerpiece of a discussion of race relations in the United States. The “Rodney King Riots” would follow. These race based days of mayhem would see over fifty killed and thousands injured, along with catastrophic levels of property damage and looting.
5. May 1970: Kent State and Jackson State
In May 1970, the collective student body of the United States erupted in protest over President Richard Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia. He had ordered this campaign largely in secret and was viewed by many of these young people as having opened up a new front in a war that was fast turning unpopular.
Kent State and Jackson State were two schools that saw significant unrest. On May 4th, students at Kent State were shot at by Ohio National Guard. Nine were wounded and four were killed. On May 15th, in Mississippi, at Jackson State, a large group of students had protested throughout the day. That night, police fired over 140 shotgun blasts at the group of students, killing two and injuring twelve. The group of students was unruly, no question, but 140 shotgun blasts in response to a few fires and a couple of rocks tossed is overkill. Police claimed that there was a threat from a sniper but an FBI investigation turned up no such evidence.
Before anyone starts shaking their head and shrieking about Kent State’s appearance on this list: admittedly, the Ohio National Guard was involved, but they were essentially used as riot police in this instance.
4. Marikana Massacre
So the South African Police Service makes an appearance on the list. If that is shocking, it may be time to brush up on your South African politics and current events. It was back in August 2012, when workers at a Lonmin platinum mine went on strike, seeking better wages and overall treatment.
Between August 12th and 16th, there were several clashes. Worker protests were largely peaceful, but a few guards and police were killed in the first few days of protest. On August 16th, the police unleashed a hail of gunfire, killing 34 civilians and injuring over 70. Some of the protesters did have weapons and police personnel used this fact as an excuse when defending their actions.
3. 1985 MOVE Bombing
MOVE is a small political group that was very active in Philadelphia back in the 1980’s. They believed that agrarian, hunter-gatherer societies were the ideal way for humans to live and that Western culture was evil. They were considered a militant group but the actions of the Philadelphia Police Department went too far on one fateful day, in 1985.
The group lived in a row-house in West Philly, and many members of the group were wanted for various crimes. They dug in and a standoff with the police ensued. Officers were ordered to bomb the complex and two explosives were tossed at the complex. These explosives, designed by the FBI, worked like a charm, too well in fact, as half the block burned to the ground (over 60 houses) and eleven people died. Five were children. People often cite the radical nature of MOVE and their earlier shootout with cops to defend the department’s actions, but they still took out tons of homes, and burned kids alive.
2. The Sharpeville Massacre
Oh South Africa, you and your troubling history. The Sharpeville Massacre took place in late March 1960, and erupted out of a protest over pass laws, which were in place to control the African population. As with nearly all of our examples, some claim that the protest was peaceful, while others argue that it was the protesters who started the violence.
Whether provoked or not, the police officers who were present at the protest started firing into the crowd, killing 69 people. Many more were wounded, and women and children were among the victims. One aspect of this incident that is often considered “aggravating” is that the firing continued after the crowd had turned and began to run away.
1. Ireland: 1920-22 Killings In Response to IRA
While some may argue that the Croke Park Massacre (part of the infamous Bloody Sunday) was the most significant response to IRA actions in the early 1920’s, it was one among many. Between 1920 and 1922 (and sporadically after that year), it was not unheard of for Irish police loyal to England to exact revenge for Irish Republican Army attacks by murdering members of the local Irish population.
Many such instances occurred and hundreds of Irish civilians were killed and maimed by their local police force.
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