At times like this, my slow media approach gets swamped by the fast moving tides and bursts of gunfire. While finishing up the video series from the Please Don’t Shoot Me Rally and March for Thurman Blevins the radio tunes in another man dead at the hands of police. This time St. Paul again. Billy Hughes. Next name on the laundry list. More images, words, and demands stream through the social media threads and our hearts are broken all over again. Mayor Carter makes the same promises as Mayor Frey and the BCA still pulls the strings. Thing is, the cracks spread from a heart outward and can become chasms when what we really need are more bridges. Another day. Another gun fight. The Thompson family gathers at a hospital. Meanwhile, I’m finally sitting down to rewrite this article again. Try to remember that the deeply personal stories told by Sydnee Brown, Darlynn Blevins, and other family members at the Justice for June Rally on July 31, 2018 in Minneapolis were not made old news just because another cop killed another Native man and another family wants to know what happened. The grinding fact is that the killing of William Hughes, the on-going narrative of body camera snuff films, justification of the killer cops, and public outcry, underscore and echo every word spoken on Government Plaza that lovely afternoon.
Sydnee Brown is Thurman Blevins first cousin. She is one of the tireless family members to step up and speak out for Thurman. The family and Justice For June committee have 3 demands for city, county, state, and whatever other government has the power to meet them. 1) Remove officers Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly from the MPD. 2) Impose a 48 hr time frame to fully inform the family of the situation and allow them to watch unedited, raw video footage. 3) Mike Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, must go. Whether by resignation or getting voted out of office in 2018. Time is up for Freeman. Simple and direct. Please remember to ask any and all government officials, especially those looking for your vote, their position on these and related issues. Ideally, get video of their responses and share it as widely as possible, including on New Hughes Video Feed.
Brown’s heartfelt stories directly confront the mainstream narratives and the mirror image reveals a dynamic syzygy of Lionize and Demonize at the core. I mean, the public narrative is determined by who gets the praise and who gets the shame. Typically the mainstream media, police federation, and city leadership demonize the victims of police violence and lionize the cops. Sydnee Brown and Darlynn Blevins inverted that dynamic as they spoke. They brought forward Thurman’s good qualities and pointed to the extensive history of violence and unruly behavior that trails officers Kelly and Schmidt. They scolded Mike Freeman and Minneapolis Police Federation President, Bob Kroll. The extent to which past actions and the positive personal aspects of the human beings directly involved in the brief interaction that ended Thurman’s life contributed to the actions each took at that critical moment is not clear and will not become clearer in the foreseeable future. It is a judgement call. So naturally, this is where the greater society, local communities, and each one of us, engage and begin to give leverage to the positions we support. The stories told by Sydnee and Darlynn were squarely aimed to influence the judgements to be made in the court of public opinion. That’s why I made Logical to Me and A Good Man. These videos are tools that you can use to amplify the message of the Blevins Family to more effectively push back the mainstream narrative and expand the context in which the public will make judgements about police brutality and what to do about it.
As I write this I’m listening to radio stories about the death of Billy Hughes that begin to echo the videos about Thurman Blevins I’m re-watching while preparing this post. Despite my efforts to keep my focus on the individual human story of suffering, healing, and renewal that are the purpose of each work of video, I can’t stop seeing a chain of colorful beads pulling Blevins into the past, while weaving the same threads through Hughes and his family. The persistence of these events over centuries puts a knot in my gut and I imagine that if that be the thread of their Fates, let ours be to cut it short. To stop, at least for the time necessary to understand the story inside this particular bead before we return to our prayers and count all the rest. Stand up and focus on the pieces of irritating dirt around which every scar on this chain has been grown. See that it is the same for every one. It is a knowing nod, the sympathetic pat on the arm, and the proverbial slap on the wrist, that maintain all my privilege and give the likes of Bob Kroll and Joe Arpaio license to enact their genocidal pogroms under the guise of law and order. Well, fuck that. I’d rather slap him on the face and kick him in the ass.
One of the more purulent narratives infecting the mainstream is that Thurman deserved to be executed in an alley because he was “fair game”. Which brings us to Bob Kroll and his amazing talent for mouthing off at the most inopportune moments. Lieutenant Robert Kroll is the President of the Minneapolis Police Federation. Kroll has been connected to white supremacist groups and his public comments in the immediate aftermath of police shootings suggest he is sympathetic to those perspectives. Either that, or Bob is one of the most unconscious public officials to ever hold office in the USA. Listen to Darlynn Blevins when she takes him to task for making accusations about Thurman that he could not back up with the evidence he cited to draw his conclusion that it was A-OK for MPD to shoot and to kill Thurman as he ran. Darlynn is Thurman’s Sister and grew up with him. She knew him at his best and his worst. Pretty sure that her perspective on his character trumps the knee-jerk racism that underpins the viewpoint of Bob Kroll, who would rather calculate whether Thurman deserved to die, than feel any sympathy for the family sitting next to him when Ryan and Schmidt first drew their guns and began to threaten Blevins. Kroll is a powerful person because, near as I can tell, he is virtually untouchable. The Mayor can’t fire him. The Chief can’t fire him. Far as I know, even the BCA has no means to hold him accountable for stoking the racial biases so evident in MPD actions. I suppose the City Council might be able to sanction him in some way, scolding him by committee, or maybe hold a few public forums on Racial Bias in Police Overreach and Brutality in Minneapolis. Right now, it is up to us to keep Kroll on the radar screen. John Thompson understands.
Anyway, we were talking about perspective before I got all disjointed at the mention of Bob Kroll and tried to magnify the growing mass of evidence that he is a loose cannon that mostly takes pot shots at people of color because he has been infected by the City Heat. I’d be a poor self-promoter if I did not bring the discussion around to the most popular video I have ever released. The one that contradicted the FOX 9 narrative about conflict at the light rail shut down in Downtown Minneapolis timed to affect the Twins game at Target Field. I appreciated how the two perspectives, close up on mainstream outlets and wide angle on New Hughes, offered support for such different analyses of the incident. That my footage provided a wider, more inclusive, perspective that undercut the narrower view of the mainstream gave me great pleasure. Not only because it revealed the bias of FOX 9 toward the coddling of whites and the demonization of those that are not, but because it highlights the value of stepping back, zooming out, and capturing a bigger frame for the picture. I encourage every human being reading this plea or watching these clips to use them as intended, Put them forward in social media spaces where you feel they can help amplify the key messages that you hear in them and want to support. If my average video got one quarter the attention of Angry White Woman, the routine impact of New Hughes Video Feed would be increased by almost 50%. The speakers, organizers, marchers, and I have done our parts – now it is up to you. Use the tools I have made from their words and images. As Don Wan is quick to intone, “Either we’re in it together, or we ain’t in it at all”. You know what to do. Watch, listen, share, and engage.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter. Find your favorite video in our fully sharable library: New Hughes on Vimeo.