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It was May 3, 2020, a few weeks after Breonna Taylor, an innocent black woman, was killed by police shooting into her apartment. Protests against her death, and other killings of black people by police, were occurring.
In Louisville, Kentucky, where Taylor was killed, a protester “was kneeling with hands in the air, surrendering for arrest,” facing away from Officer Corey P. Evans, when Evans hit him in the back of the head with his nightstick.
Evans later claimed in a TV interview that he didn’t hit the protester with malice but to prevent him from reaching for a potential weapon, according to ABC News (story here).
“Even if they are in the act of surrendering, they might not be surrendering,” he said. “Especially after these people, they shot at us, they threw Molotov cocktails at us, they threw bricks at us, they chanted ‘death to pigs, death to cops, kill LMPD,’ all kinds of stuff,” he said.
“So why would I trust somebody to suddenly do the right thing? I don’t trust these people at this point so I want to do what I have to do to go home to my little boys,” he added, throwing in enough sugar-coating to make your teeth rot.
An NBC News story (here), citing a DoJ press release (here), suggested the person Evans clubbed wasn’t a violent rioter, saying, “Evans tried to arrest a group of people for unlawful assembly and violating curfew in the downtown area.”
There was a time when this rot — and aggressive police unions — reliably worked to get abusive, violent cops off the hook. Not anymore. Things have changed over the last few years, as millions of Americans revolted against the police brutality being systematically inflicted on people of color. Cops who use their badges as license to inflict “street justice” on protesters and other people they don’t like aren’t always getting away with it anymore.
An arrestee on his knees, with his back to you, hands in the air, is not “reaching for a weapon.” That b.s. won’t cut it anymore. Neither will saying, “I just wanted to go home to my kids after my shift.” Not when you smack someone with their hands up, from behind, on the back of the head, with a rock-hard nightstick.
Ex-cop Evans, who was fired, is now among the jailbirds. He was charged by federal prosecutors with “violently retaliating against a surrendering arrestee who had been exercising his First Amendment rights during a demonstration in Louisville,” under a civil rights-era federal law that makes it a crime to deprive a person of their civil rights “under color of law.”
“Under color of law” means you have governmental authority and you’re cloaking your illegal actions with it. Those actions become your actions, and not the government’s actions, when you do things that aren’t in the police procedures manual.
There’s nothing new about committing violent crime while hiding behind a police badge. Back in the 1960s, it wasn’t unusual for southern cops to be Ku Klux Klan members, and to use their police authority to wage a reign of terror against civil rights marchers and activists. For example, sheriff’s deputies participated in the abduction and murder of three civil rights workers in 1963 in Mississippi.
That law has broad enough reach to snare any cop who violates a citizen’s civil rights. Evans pled guilty back in August 2021. He was sentenced on Tuesday, February 2, 2022. For that cowardly clubbing of a protester against police brutality, clearly in retaliation for protesting, he got 2 years in federal prison to be followed by 2 years of supervised release. And as a convicted felon, he’ll never be a cop again.
He also made the protesters’ point for them: Police violence against citizens is out of control. Police deserve our wholehearted support when they do things right, but to paraphrase what the FBI said about this case, “abusing that power and authority [should] not be tolerated.” This time it wasn’t.
This content was originally published here.