Sometimes, you HAVE to look down (to see what’s happening), you HAVE to look back (because it still seems unreal), you have to look inside yourself (to find the strength you’re going to need) in order to lend a hand.
One year ago today, one of my students was attacked by police officers. He was guilty only of walking up Northern Boulevard on his lunch break. After he was beaten, he was arrested and held overnight. (Ironically, the top charge was resisting arrest — who wouldn’t resist in this situation? You watch the video and then tell me that your instincts wouldn’t have kicked in and you wouldn’t have tried to defend yourself.) When he was pushed into the back seat of the police car, all we saw was him, scared, numb, his face scarred bloody and raw from being smashed on to the sidewalk by a policeman’s booted foot.
My coworkers, some of our students, and I spent that afternoon and evening trying to find him in the system. The precinct said he was in the hospital; the hospital said they couldn’t tell us anything except that he had been there but wasn’t anymore; arraignments said they didn’t have him yet. We still didn’t know how badly he was hurt. We needed to find him. We were afraid that the cops who beat him were trying to hide him. The precinct wouldn’t let his own mother see him.
I called every lawyer I knew to try to get him out of arraignments and back home (if he was okay) or into a doctor’s office or hospital (if he wasn’t). We stayed in the office calling anyone we thought we could help, and finally heard from a reliable source that he was being held in the precinct, that he wouldn’t make night arraignments, that the earliest anyone, even a lawyer, could see him was mid-morning the next day.
The next morning, one of my lawyer friends was able to get him to court in Kew Gardens, and by 3 o’clock that afternoon, he was safe in a cab with me and we were on our way back to Flushing. It took 27 hours, all told. The left side of his face was covered hairline to jaw by a tangled mass of bloody, pus-soaked bandages.
The criminal charges have since been dropped and the case sealed, and the civil case has begun. The effect of his injuries have worsened in the year since the beating and may be permanent. We are looking for justice.
Sometimes, you HAVE to look down (to see the person bleeding on the ground), you HAVE to look back (because it still seems unreal), you have to look inside yourself (to find the strength you’re going to need) in order to lend a hand.
Sometimes what you must illuminate are senseless acts of hatred, injustice, violence. Exposure to the light of day is one of the best disinfectants there is.
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