The Cincinnati Police Department is racist. The history of the the police in the city has proven that time and time again. Children and teens have no immunity against brutal attacks by the cops. Petty “crimes” of children are met with violence and escalation.
On Wednesday April 18th, Cincinnati teenagers were targeted by the police. A video posted on social media captures a scene of a child pinned face down on the cement by a much larger white police officer after being tased twice. The officer’s knee was on the child’s back as he put on the handcuffs. Off camera, two other children were arrested. The police were initially called because a child allegedly stole a snack cake.
Some 20 police cars arrived at the scene. A witness said that at one point there were 60 officers surrounding the children. The Canine Unit and the fire department were also deployed. To give perspective, a similar amount were sent when Dylan Roof shot and killed 9 people at AME Episcopal Church in Charleston, North Carolina in 2015. The video shows officers approaching the crowd flaunting batons and taser guns. One person asked, “why do you have your baton out, are you going to use that?” “Yes I am”, the cop replied.
Some people have begun to argue that the police used “tremendous” restraint and that police actions were warranted because a crime was committed. Still others say the kids were“disrespectful” to police and therefore deserved the rough treatment they received.
More adults need to take a page from these kids’ courage. They saw their peer being treated with excessive violence and they moved to defend him and speak out about the brutality. They recognized that guilty or not, young people shouldn’t be abused and intimidated by cops. The kids SHOULD stand up against police who criminalize them on a daily basis. Many adults have come to accept this kind of treatment and profiling (in some cases just to survive in America), but young people have not been defeated yet. They see injustice and respond, even if not as neatly and orderly as some would like.
The problem runs deeper than just this one incident. High school children are treated as criminals for stealing snacks, while police officers can shoot and kill unarmed civilians–including children– and walk free. These children are forced into the prison system, from which it is nearly impossible to fully escape. This racism is institutionalized. Racial bias of police officers feeds the prison system.
Cincinnati has been in a constant state of gentrification for the last 10 years. You can see that not only in the commercial developments made around the city like the soon-to-be FC stadium in the West End, but also also in the deployment of police in response to complaint calls. The recent Starbucks and Planet Fitness events should remind us that establishments in gentrified areas where low income and Black and brown people still live or frequent get cops called a lot quicker. The alienation and disconnection of businesses with the community in which they are based means that, instead of stopping the kid, reprimanding them and teaching them; or finding out why they took the snack; or taking a step of human solidarity to fix the behavior, police are called, which immediately changes that child’s opportunities for the rest of their lives. And racial, economic and geographic bias DOES weigh into whether an establishment chooses to involve police.
A comment on the video of the incident that was posted on facebook shined a light on the problem: that a week prior, the cops were too neglectful to save a boy from asphyxiation in a vehicle parked outside of 7 Hills School and that child died, but the response to a Black child stealing a snack cake was so prompt and extreme. The “justice” system — from police to courts — is skewed to go after Black and brown people with harsher treatment and sentencing.
Mass Action for Black Liberation, along with other anti-racist forces, are calling for a community response to vehemently state that this abuse on our children will not be tolerated and that it is an extension of a racist system. We demand the records of all children arrested during this incident be expunged.