Saturday, September 17, 2016
Trespassing Black Bodies
Leaving Emeryville, I swung around the tent city settled under the freeway. Sensitive to several cop cars huddled together, I slowed to eye the activity.
Perched on the corner of the sidewalk, surrounded by two Emeryville policemen, was Lionel, a Black man.
I pulled over to pay witness.
Lionel sat on the curb, wrists cuffed. His head hung low, staring through the ground.
The two police cars were parked at an angle as to corner and trap Lionel into position.
As casual as two old buddies at a tailgate party catching up on old times, two officers, who appeared to be white men, ever so casually leaned against their vehicles.
Without choice, Lionel sat. And he sat.
Fifteen or twenty minutes later, two more cop cars arrived tightening the angle of Lionel's cage. In foul arrogance, the newly arriving white, male cops strolled over to join the game.
Standing four strong, they towered over Lionel as a lion does with their kill. One cop paced back and forth punching his hands together as a fighter does in a ring before the big fight. A second cop tauntingly leaned in and out of Lionel's face. Lionel appeared dead. Still. Non-existent.
One cop reached for plastic gloves from his pocket, sarcastically he pulled them on snapping them in threat. With a firm gesture, he demanded Lionel stand for the raid. The hunt of his body.
Lionel could barely stand. His legs wobbly. Finding humor in his fragility, the searching cop slowed the violation prolonging Lionel's diminishing strength.
The 'good' cop 'only' paying witness to this stunt, spots my prying eyes. He nodded to the bad cops informing them of my entrance. All cop heads turned toward me. Tucked away in my car, they cannot make out who I am.
I chose to step from my car, my phone's video ready. The occupants of the tent city enduring this scandal, see me rise. All of us uncertain of what help I could possibly give Lionel.
The cop peeled off his searching gloves, tossed them to the ground and chuckled.
With ropes and chains in tow, Lionel was free to go.
Lionel hopped on his bike and rode across the street to his tent. I followed calling to him through his door.
I'm so sorry that happened to you, I said as he exited his shelter. Lionel put out his hand introducing himself. We shook hands tightly. A knowing.
Lionel explained he had been riding his bike down a one-way street and was pulled over by Emeryville police. The hunt started with one cop then quickly turned into four.
Lionel said the cops artificially asked permission to search his body. He said, no. They proceeded to pull out the cuffs and read him his rights. With a contrived, yes, they trespassed his Black body. A sport.
I will see Lionel again. I will see many Lionel's again.