Of YouTube and bike cops
The past month has been a bonanza for fans of Police Brutality Videos (PBVs). A drunk white cop was caught mocking a black murder victim in Erie, Pa.; members of the NYPD were filmed pepper-spraying students peacefully protesting the continued employment of President Bob Kerrey at New School University; New Jersey cops were taped beating and pepper-spraying a mentally challenged child; and in Philadelphia footage emerged of corrupt narcotics officers terrorizing local shopkeepers.
To top it off, a genre classic, “Naked Wizard Tased By Reality,” hit the web on April 24. The video—shot at last month’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif.—starts with a naked man at an outdoor event refusing orders from three police officers to dress, much to the delight of college-aged crowd.
Things turn ugly fast. The cops have the man’s arms bent behind his back, and he’s being kicked in the back of the knee and pinned to the ground by his hair. One of the policemen then brandishes a Taser.
An officer (easily weighing in at about 300 pounds) uses a knee to drop his body on the naked man’s torso. It’s a sneak move straight out of the WWE villain’s playbook. Spectators gasp in disbelief.
The video gets nastier when the naked guy leaps up and tries to run, and the obese cop Tasers him. The man falls to the ground and spasms—clearly incapable of any further resistance—while a cop continues to Taser him. Kids in the crowd scream at him to stop. The cop carries on zapping.
Last week it was Philly’s turn for a rock-related PBV. It was nowhere near as dramatic as prior Philly PBVs: the March 19 confrontation between anti-police brutality protestors and police officers at City Hall or the internationally infamous May 7, 2008, mass police stomping of shooting suspects in Hunting Park (two days after the murder of a Philadelphia officer during an armed robbery).
The video posted on YouTube—showing a confrontation between Philly bike cops and the members and crews of the girl-friendly power-pop bands who played the Bamboozle Roadshow at the TLA on April 26—is hardly a classic of the genre.
“Cops Going Crazy @ Bamboozle Roadshow” is an unedited montage of crash zooms and long shots, the verbal taunting of officers (“nice bike”), off-camera allegations (“They have cops out here who are beating the crap out of people, they’re going insane”), what sounds like steel batons rapidly hitting flesh and the shrill indignation of watching fans. But very little actual violence. The would-be documentarians are further thwarted both by aggressive police attempts to stop them filming and by confrontational area residents.
The TLA incident involved members and crew from three out-of-town bands— Forever the Sickest Kids, We the Kings and Mercy Mercedes. The exact pattern of escalation is hard to establish, but it involved one officer ordering the Mercy Mercedes van be impounded after it ran over a water bottle, soaking the officer. And it climaxed with Chris V—the merchandising guy for We the Kings—being repeatedly hit in the head by officers using telescopic steel batons.
“Chris V was being pushed back into the venue from the alley by three cops with billy clubs,” wrote eyewitness Brendan Walter from Philly band Valencia. “They were screaming and pushing him to the ground, threw him down onto a glass bottle that he hit his head on, split it open. He was bleeding everywhere and they still continued to beat him with clubs.”
This is from the tweetstream of Travis Clark, the singer from We the Kings: “There is nothing worse then a friend asking you for help & knowing you can’t do anything about it cause 5 cops are standing in front of you.”
Actual footage of the beating, while supposedly filmed by numerous fans, has yet to be posted.
The cell-phone camera and YouTube-assisted rise of the PBV (and its accompanying comments page) has nurtured another very modern American phenomenon—the authority-worshipping cop fetishist who finds justification for even the most brutal police violence in the behavior of the victim and then posts comments about it:
On the TLA video: “Don’t push a cop and you won’t get your head split open. Find another cause hippies.”
On “Naked Wizard”: “It’s a shame that [the naked guy] had to entice these cops away from their real job and force them to act on their baser natures.”
Some posters hide their bootlicking servility behind a façade of pseudo-street-smart cynicism: “When you call cops ‘faggots’ and ‘assholes’ … you can really only cry but so much when things go downhill. Not saying that it wasn’t excessive, but again, when you refuse to stop talking shit to cops, you do so with the knowledge that things probably won’t end well.”
On the websites discussing the TLA beating, however, the cop-humpers are easily outnumbered by fans who seem genuinely surprised and shocked that police officers could behave so horribly.