By mid-April , the Kitty Genovese story had taken hold and the nation began a lengthy period of analysis and self-deprecation. Why would civilized people turn away from another human being in dire need of assistance? As the details of the killing emerged, it became plain that if any one of the 38 witnesses had simply called the police at the first sign of trouble, the victim could have survived.
From Court TV's account of the 1964 murder of Catherine "Kitty" Genovese
Thirty-eight residents of Kew Gardens, a residential area in Queens, New York, saw or heard at least part of the assault in which 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death. The assailant had time to inflict, seventeen stab wounds in the 5'1", 105 lb. body of the victim.
The attack included a five-minute intermission during which Kitty was able to cry out, "Help me, I'm being murdered! I'm dying! I'm dying!" Mortally wounded, she was still able to drag herself to the rear entrance to her apartment building and attempt to enter before the murderer returned to complete the chore.
The intervention of one armed man -- perhaps even one unarmed man -- may have been enough to save Kitty's life. In fact, it was still possible to save her life after the initial assault, had someone simply let her in the apartment, rendered basic first aid, and called the police. But nobody could be bothered to do even that much on the morning of March 13, 1964, and an innocent woman bled to death because of the torpid indifference of her neighbors.
Why would dozens of people permit an atrocity of this sort to take place? That question was asked repeatedly during the months following Kitty's murder, and embedded in various textbooks on psychology and sociology. What's unfortunate, if predictable, is that most studies of what we could call the "Kitty Genovese Effect" ignore its most common manifestation: The nearly universal acquiescence of the population in routine displays of armed violence against innocent people by agents of the State.
Take, for instance, the beating of Roseland, Indiana City Councilman David Snyder by a uniformed skinhead after Snyder was ejected from a September 14 Council meeting.
What appeared to be a long-standing feud of some kind (Synder, who for all I know is a world-class jerk, has been accused of racketeering, which is just another way of saying he works for government) reached critical mass, and Synder was ejected from the room by Council President Charley Shields.
After collecting the video camera he had brought to document the meeting, Synder walked placidly from the chamber. Synder is tall and very thin; he looks like a cross between NBA immortal Larry Bird and Oscar-winning actor James Cromwell); Town Marshal Jack Tiller, the tonsured thug with a history of excessive force who ushered Synder from the room, looks like Baby Huey with a less impressive physique.
As he left, Snyder hurled an insult over his shoulder at Shields, and then was seen muttering something at Tiller. The officer responds by shoving Snyder in the back; a loud noise indicates that the Councilman had been shoved face-first into the glass doors leading out of the building.
The cameraman, along with more than a dozen people, rushed into the next room. The lens captures the sight of Snyder, sprawled face-first in the parking lot with Snyder's flaccid form splayed across his back and at least two other uniformed heroes prepared to assist.
Tiller, in keeping with what must be the new standard police protocol for conducting beat-downs of unresisting, helpless civilians, is bellowing "Don't resist! Don't resist!" as he repeatedly slugs Synder in the upper body and, apparently, his head.
Nobody moved to prevent or mitigate this assault, which -- thankfully -- proved to be much milder than it could have been (owing, I believe, to the presence of a video camera). In fact, several dutiful citizens are recorded urging others to "let the police handle it." One beefy female vulgarian who had some kind of grudge against Synder can be heard urging Tiller to hit the prone Councilman even harder; she is permitted to come within a few feet of Synder to spit insults in his face as he is hauled away to jail in handcuffs.
Interviewed moments after he had assaulted Snyder, Jack Tiller did what most police do in situations of this kind: He lied.
Jack Tiller, master of Donut-kwon-Do, waits for the aftershocks to subside in his tremulous form following his heroic blind-side assault on skinny, unresisting, middle-aged City Councilman Dave Snyder.
"It was a fight, and he's going to jail," boasted Tiller, trying to catch his breath after the unfamiliar exertion. The officer claimed that Synder had "hit" him, a charge not validated by the videotape, which shows the cooperative Councilman with his back to the gelatinous gendarme. (An eyewitness claims Snyder threw an elbow, but once again this account doesn't comport with the available video record and what was seen could simply be Snyder jerking his arm away from Tiller.)
For the supposed offense of leaving the Council meeting and receiving an unwarranted beating, Synder was originally charged with a felony.
The "felon" in question, following his release from police custody.
The only happy news to emerge from all of this is that the fiscally challenged Roseland municipal government will apparently begin laying off police officers, despite Tough-guy Tiller's promise that his department won't leave the town "without police protection."
Tiller appears to be as much a stranger to irony as he is to pumping iron. Roseland appears to have fewer than 2,000 residents. Why can't the town rely on the County Sheriff for police "protection"? And given that the Town Marshal feels entitled to throw a City Councilman to the pavement face-first and beat him on camera for no reason, the key question is: Who will protect Roseland residents from the police?
Certainly not the cream of the town's civic culture, who stood inert as a criminal assault took place right in front of them. Any one of them could have intervened, if only to remind Tiller that he was on camera and was liable for administrative or criminal charges. A couple of generations ago, it wouldn't have been unusual for one or more men in such circumstances to attempt a citizen's arrest, which was certainly justified here.
Of course, Tiller had police on hand to "assist" -- and from this fact we can extract a clue as to the real meaning behind the familiar motto, "To Protect and Serve": The other police on the scene were there to "assist" by deterring law-abiding citizens from intervening to prevent Tiller from beating Synder.
Those silly Iraqis! They can't even have a City Council meeting without it degenerating into armed violence! Why can't they learn to conduct business the way we do in Indiana... Oh, wait....
How does this common police tactic differ from similar tactics employed by other armed gangs?
It should be said that Roseland's municipal politics are exceptionally colorful, and Snyder has plausibly been accused of heavy-handed and corrupt tactics in seeking control of the Council -- including, ironically enough, using the police to punish his political critics. If this is true there may be some ironic symmetry in the fact that it was Snyder who ended up with a boot on his neck, and it might explain why people weren't eager to intervene.
But this doesn't make right what happened to Synder, something principled, freedom-focused people understand. There weren't any to be found at the Roseland City Council meeting last Friday. And that incident, which took place in a small town in middle America, helps illustrate why our society is descending inexorably into the morass of police state tyranny.
(Thanks to Strike The Root for bringing this story to my attention.)
AS IF TO ILLUSTRATE MY POINT....
There was a time, back when this country was relatively free, that a loudmouth (even one asking some pertinent questions in an impertinent fashion) would be given the bum's rush without being swarmed, assaulted, and subjected to electro-shock torture by rented thugs.
Obviously, we live in a different country now:
Notice that, at the time the Taser was used, the agitated student was lying on the ground, immobilized, and surrounded by at least six armed goons -- well, five goons and one goon-ette. Yes, that's right: The less-than-commanding soprano voice demanding that the student stop resisting belongs to a She-Police. (Notice as well how the announcer obliquely frames the incident in a way that makes the victim responsible for being tortured.)
There's no reason why the Kampus Kops couldn't have simply dragged this kid from the auditorium (the right to freedom of speech doesn't extend to hijacking a public event) and barred him from re-entering the event, rather than putting him under arrest. He may have been obnoxious, but he was entirely correct to resist arrest through peaceful, if assertive, non-cooperation.
Ah, but this would have deprived the heroes in blue from asserting their authoritah, and denied at least one of them the sensual thrill of subjecting another human being to a Taser shock.
I hear tell from a hero in the Multnomah Sheriff's Department -- some impotent windsock in a government-issued costume -- that giving someone a blast from a Taser is better than Viagra.
Boys and Girls, it's this simple: Officer Friendly is no more. I mourn his passing for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that his place has been usurped by over-armed (and generally over-fed) sadists who love to hurt helpless human beings and can do so with impunity.
Terrible as it is to say so, we've reached the point where we'd better start learning how to hurt back.
State-authorized violence has become a lethal threat both palpable and capricious. We've reached the point described by Solzhenitsyn, a critical juncture at which decent people either actively resist lawless State violence or resign ourselves to living under the rule of a Terror State, knowing that we deserve everything that will be inflicted on us.
Obviously, I'm not talking about active violence against anybody. I am unconditionally committed to the non-aggression principle. But we must put an end to passive acceptance of State brutality. The incidents described above may have been prevented by just a handful of people willing to interpose themselves between the assailants and the victims, at the potential cost of physical injury and "criminal" charges.
Sometimes in circumstances like this, courage can be contagious.
Will this approach work? I don't know. But it's worth a try. And I promise that I will not permit this kind of thing ever to happen in my presence without doing whatever I can to stop it.
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