It wasn't until late last night that I heard about the Mark Duggan verdict, in a distressed text from a friend:
"...how can a shooting of an unarmed man be lawful?"
Is it strange that we should both be so deeply consumed with rage and grief at the killing of a stranger?
I'd like to think not. Because it seems the only right response. The only possible response when justice is so blatantly absent.
When we witness the killing of yet one more young man, targeted and shot to death by trigger happy Met police who, it seems, automatically disengage the safety once they see black. And when we are forced to see a jury,who rather than dispense justice given the evidence clearly showing that Mark Duggan was unarmed at the time of his killing, instead dispense with it, handing the police their tacit approval of their actions.
Another verdict in favour of state-sanctioned murder that indicts our 'justice' system and our society yet again.
A response of outspoken outrage is imperative, and the absolute least we can do as a strike against the apathy and compliance that allows the police to continue to literally get away with murder. Because in the false belief that somehow the police really do operate within the law; that they do what's best for society, and are always in the right; that whoever gets killed by them obviously 'had it coming' or 'must have deserved it' then we have come to this state, this situation where many (including the police themselves), choose to believe that the police are in fact above the law, beyond it.
And why wouldn't they believe that, given verdicts such as today? Given that since 1990 there have been 1433 deaths during/following contact with the police (827 of those occurring in the past ten years), and yet zero police officers convicted since 1969. Given recent police brutality on and around university campuses, violence being used indiscriminately, with increasing force and once again, no reprisal, to attempt to silent dissenting voices.
And make no mistake that this killing, and this verdict, is not linked to race. Make no mistake about that at all. The racism of the Met has been demonstrated again and again, even being called out on it by its own officers. And if race was not the cause for Mark Duggan, rather than the police themselves, to be the one who appeared to be on trial throughout; if that was not the cause for contradictions in evidence to be brought to light and still ignored; if that was not the cause for the jury to deliberate over seven days, and still come back with this verdict, then I fail to see what was.
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We are being slow marched into mass killings that are being perpetuated somehow simultaneously insidiously and yet in plain sight - only truly hidden by the blindfolds that so many choose to hold to their own eyes.
Police continue to be handed verdicts of 'lawful killing'. They continue to be allowed to beat and maim unarmed people at will. And they are allowed to do so, even lauded, by disturbingly large numbers of the public.
Atos decisions and benefit sanctions that are severely adversely affecting those with little or no other source of income - to the point of death (including suicide) - those who have disabilities or live with long-term illness; those who are unemployed or in such poorly paid work that they are still forced to claim benefits; older people.
The insistence that cuts and austerity measures are necessary, while the ruling elite continue to stuff their coffers to overflowing.
Propaganda proudly promotes the ideals of 'striving', vilifies supposed 'shirkers'; rouses hatred for huge sections of society based on ability, income, race, religion. And that's not even considering the well-beaten drum of immigration-terror, thudding out what feels like a truly medieval message to fear the invading hordes of foreigners coming to add to the ranks of the benefit-scroungers, the sit-at-home-shirkers, and all those other useless others. And oh, how people dance to that xenophobic beat.
And what do I see as the outcome of this? The words that came to mind when I first heard the verdict, and some which came up in the long discussion that followed with the friend who broke it to me, included the following:
apartheid... Rwanda... Nazi Germany... holocaust... propaganda... brainwashing... politically apathetic... lies... complacence... complicity.
As I said, I feel we are being slow-marched into mass killings. And it may be the state sanctioning them, and the police getting away with murder, but it's much more widespread than that. You need only look at the horrifically violent reactions to the recent Channel 4 programme, Benefit Street. People were calling for others to be put to death, purely based on the fact that these others were unemployed and claiming benefits.
I hear people baying for blood. And I see people satisfied when the state gives it to them, whether through police killings, or slower lingering deaths that arise one way or another through poverty.
But observing isn't enough for some people. Last year's widespread and increased number of hate crimes including violent attacks and murders were a sign of this. How far are we, really, from turning on each other en masse to do the state's dirty work for them? " Considering the 'five steps to tyranny' (us and them; obey; do them harm; stand by; exterminate) - I'd say we're pretty much at number five. As this review for the documentary states:
"tyrannies happen because ordinary people are surprisingly willing to do tyranny's dirty work".
And that terrifies the hell out of me, because I don't believe there's very much resistance from the majority of ordinary people out there to taking that final step.