Are the police protecting us?


Are our police officers part of the problem?

How terribly unfortunate to have been caught between a rock and a particularly hard place on Saturday night. Then again, I have to ask myself: what did I really expect anyway? For professional reasons, I had found myself at the Aidonia concert.

It was by no means a lime my ladies would normally be up for, so I rolled out with the boys. We got to the venue just after 10pm, only to be greeted by a line-up of insane proportions, and Country music pouring from the inside. Yes, you read that right. Country! I wondered about its relevance to a concert advertised as Dancehall then turned my attention to securing a spot in the seemingly endless line.

We get inside and the venue is amplified, even though the headliner has yet to hit the stage. People are riled up and ready. The regular meet, greet and hug formalities endured, then my friends and I discover an area with appropriate visibility. Everything seems to be going well, but isn’t that precisely when it all suddenly goes  downhill?

A light drizzle turns into a real shower. People rush in search for cover, only to find no provisions have been made for possible inclement weather. Our only option is the tent at the entrance. With some other individuals I head for it.

The police officers inhabiting the tent accommodate us for a while. I remember being pleasantly surprised by their generosity. There was one male officer who took the chaos in stride, no doubt realizing the people had little choice.

The mood suddenly changes. Too many people are blocking the entrance. Another male officer very sternly orders everyone out of the tent, regardless of the downpour. No one moves. From where I’m standing, I can see the officer who had issued the get-out order trying to persuade his colleagues to help him eject everyone from the tent. They think better of it and refuse to cooperate. Eventually, the crowd thins out. The remaining few move to the side, no longer an impediment in anyone’s way. The male officers settle down and get back to business.

Careful not to invite another asthma attack or get soaked to the bone, I inch slowly to the edge of the tent where I would not be an obstruction. Less than a dozen other people stay in the tent. Out of nowhere, a female officer approaches me and demands that I get out.

“Okay,” I say, “just give me a minute.”

But she is unwilling to allow me a nano-second. Again she barks out her order, this time nudging me to the edge of the tent. I tell her there really is no need for the rough stuff, no need to push me around. I am about to take my leave. As if she’d not heard a word I said, the heavyweight policewoman tries to push me out the tent. As a journalist, I’ve heard several stories of unnecessary police violence, most of which I’ve dismissed as fabrications. I have a hard time believing what I’m actually experiencing. But I don’t retreat. Instead I find myself walking toward the policewoman. I tell her how ridiculous and unnecessary her behaviour is, that there really was no need to assault me, I had merely sought shelter from the rain, hardly a reason to lay her hands on me.

I inform her that I was at the wholly inadequate venue to see a show, not to be part of one! I resist all temptation to tell her I am a journalist or that she had unwittingly confirmed the horror stories about police behaviour, stories I had dismissed as lacking credibility, until now.

We’ve arrived at a kind of Mexican stand-off: me refusing to walk away, she stuck with nothing useful to say. At that point it occurs to me that I have two options: walk away or wind up having to be carried out of the venue kicking and screaming. As appealing as the latter seemed at the time, I surrender, knowing full well what happened under the tent was but the start of another story.

I get back to my people but can’t stop thinking about the run-in with the man-size female cop, and how much I did not appreciate feeling like just another victim of authority abuse. Why hadn’t the show organizers found it necessary to anticipate weather changes? How about a rain tent? Ladies’ umbrellas are useless in storm-like conditions!

In any event, I relate the incident to my companions. They take it a lot more calmly than expected. Or so I thought . . .  A couple songs into the concert, one of my friends is missing in action. He’s gone for about five minutes.

“Where’d you go?” I ask when he reappears.

“Don’t worry about it,” he says, looking past my head.

I press on, although I have a pretty good idea where he’s been. “Seriously . . .”

Oh, he says: “I just had a chat with the officer. I told her she can’t just be pushing people around like that.”

“And what did she say?”

“She was like, ‘I told her to move and she didn’t move,’ so I was like did you ask her politely? She said the same thing, ‘I told her to move and she refused to move.’ I was like, ‘She just ignored you? She didn’t say anything?’ Then she was like, ‘Did you see?’ I told her yes I did, and that she had abused her authority. You can’t just take advantage of people like that. After that she really didn’t have much to say, she just gave me this pathetic look and drank from her water bottle.”

What else was there to do but laugh. It had never crossed my mind that I’d ever have to deal with what I’d just been through. I absolutely did not appreciate the treatment from that officer at Saturday’s show.

There is a silver lining, though. There always is. Now I understand all too well how helpless people in similar situations must feel when confronted by authority figures that let their job titles get to their head. Persons in authority who treat others like dirt. She had no idea who I was when she assaulted me.

Now she knows. Sadly, from here on I’ll have a hard time not believing the most incredible stories of police brutality.

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