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> Monday, April 9th, 2012 > Opinion > Looking back to a street called Prosperity
Looking back to a street called Prosperity
Published: Monday, April 9th, 2012
The following is an essay that I wrote in 2009 immediately following an incident with the London police. I intended to submit this essay to various media outlets at the time of the incident and lost my nerve. I think now is a good time...
On a Street Called Prosperity
I was arrested tonight. I was arrested as I stood as an individual, on a street called Prosperity, in peaceful protest. I refused to turn a blind eye to the lying, brutality and shameful behaviour of certain members of those that we hold in positions of authority.
They said that I was disturbing the peace. In truth, I had just left a forcibly evacuated party I had attended for barely 30 minutes before the police came rushing in through the backyard. I was dead sober. Had I actually been drunk, I would not have been flooded with thoughts of officers kicking a youth in the face and the resulting bloodstain left behind at the entrance of The Mews, or seeing no less than six middle-aged officers arresting another skinny, misguided youth for having open liquor. It would not have bothered me so much that grown men and women were given carte blanche to abuse their power and harass teenagers after only recently having learned of three muggings in the Fanshawe area or the consistent and regular reports of houses being broken into. Instead, on this day, I was struck with the realization that I did not feel safe in the city of London, Ontario.
I did not feel safe because my peers were allowed to invade our homes with little or no police action. I did not feel safe because my peers were being brutally mugged. I did not feel safe because the police are running around in rampant tyranny while the ostriches of London keep their heads in the sand. As I stated, calm-voiced, to the multitude of police officers that surrounded me on this night, “If you are not part of the solution, YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.”
I was approached by several officers before being arrested and was asked to leave the place, under a street light, where I stood calmly. I stated that I was an individual on public property with no intention of returning to a house of complete strangers and no intention of disturbing or harming anyone. I was completely honest in stating that I held my position as a matter of principle in light of the out-of-control behaviours that have been continuously conducted, unabated. I did anticipate that I would be arrested, as a public example, if for no other real reason. I was handcuffed and placed in the car before I was given the reason for my arrest; although I heard two officers mulling about what in the vast and vague rule of law that they could apply to my situation. As it happened, I had to ask about the reason for my arrest from the back seat of a cop car after having already been formally arrested.
I was fully prepared to accept the consequences of my civil disobedience and, for the moment, saw the majority of the experience as a learning opportunity and a glimmer of hope for change.
I am an upper-middle class, well-educated, shy, introverted female. I will probably never see the inside of a jail cell again. I could not help thinking about the souls in adjacent jail cells who, I assume, had committed actual crimes. I was told before being enclosed in the cell that I would not incur any criminal charges and released shortly, but was nevertheless detained against my will.
Needless to say, as the minutes passed, I did not begin to feel any degree of rehabilitation, only dissatisfaction with The System. I can promise that I will be incredibly unlikely to aid a police officer under any circumstance hereafter and I imagine that legitimate criminals feel similarly. The fact is that our system of punishment is entirely punitive and devoid of opportunities for rehabilitation.
I believe this glaring fault is a result of the abysmal and continuous failure of certain institutions in the city of London, Ontario to recognize the difference between power and authority. Power will correct a situation swiftly, forcefully and temporarily only to have said situation manifest itself in a more destructive manner. Authority will prevent the situation from occurring in the first place, not by physical force, but by strength of character. This difference is completely lost on the law enforcers, public officials, general news media and elected representatives of London, Ontario.
I have no idea how long I spent in that cell because I had nothing with which to tell the time and I was so consumed with my thoughts, but I could tell my moment of release was impending when the voices of the police officers in the room that I entered when I arrived, became clearer. As I strained to eavesdrop, I could discern a few words amidst a cacophony of unintelligible murmurs, but, in retrospect, I wish I had not listened.
Here’s what I heard: “…The Black Chick.”
“…Rachael?...” and, as I guessed, I was released shortly after. It may sound ridiculous, but comparatively speaking, my time in ‘lockdown’ was relatively pleasant up until the moment that my ears caught those three words: “The Black Chick.”
I confronted the officers about this incredibly damaging generalization and an officer first denied that it was said and then claimed that I must have overheard one of my male cellmates. Since I had not seen any males in the cells and could only hear them distantly screaming unintelligibly from a completely different direction, I wondered how people who I had not seen would have known my skin colour, let alone my first name. I chose not to further pursue the blatant lie, a lie that exposed itself on the visage of every police officer present and I managed to just make it out of the first set of doors without succumbing to tears.
This was not supposed to happen. I was supposed to leave the police station, head held high. Point made. Lives impacted. Instead, I felt for the first time in my life that no matter how intelligent I am, regardless of my attempts at maintaining a peaceful and respectful countenance, regardless of my background and upbringing, these individuals saw me as just another nigger.
I am defeated. I had been defeated before I had even begun. I went into this situation feeling strong and empowered and I left feeling weak and marginalized. The futility of it all would have me throw these truths into the nearest fire, but I had promised myself that I would put these events in writing from the moment that I was swarmed by police that night.
I now see no hope for change in the matter of police vs. students and there will be none as long as the residents and politicians of the city of London continue to not only ignore, but also encourage the actions of these experts in the art of stereotyping and racial profiling. This situation will get exponentially worse and I intend to be far, far away from this wretched city before that happens. “I did battle with ignorance today and ignorance won.” – Huey Freeman.