Seattle: Girl Attacks Cop, Cop Punches Girl
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Author’s note: revised for content errors, repetitiveness and general blabber. Still make the same damn points.
You may have already seen the latest video to come out of Seattle which captures an incident between a Seattle Police Officer and two black girls, 19-year old Marilyn Ellen Levias and 17-year-old Angel Rosenthal.
The video shows the officer deliver a punch to the face of 17 year old Angel Rosenthal. The kneejerk reaction has been one of outrage. Many have expressed alarm at the officer’s actions, describing them as “a violent outburst.”
It doesn’t give me a warm, fuzzy feeling to see a member of law enforcement have to resort to this measure. Let me be clear with that as my preface.
But there is something else going on in that video which many in the Black community, have not adequately addressed: the actions of the girls involved.
The incident began simple enough. An officer stopped a group of girls for jaywalking near a local high school. In response, the girls became belligerent; raised voices, disrespect- and attempted to leave the scene.
At one point, Rosenthal repeatedly pushes and grabs onto the police officer in an attempt to get him away from Levias. At the height of confrontation, he pulls back his fist, aims, and delivers a single sucker-punch to her face. Of course, cameras were rolling. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
Many say it is a clear case of police brutality, or excessive force. They say the officer is a danger to the community and should be fired. In fact, the officer is under such heavy attack there’s no need for me to even have to go there.
Some of the criticism of the officer is valid. The rest of it is a disturbing reflection of how we as a community of color create excuses for ourselves and each other in the name of being Black- regardless of right or wrong. It is a defense mechanism that is lazy and counterproductive.
We can in fact, look at the girls’ behavior just as critically as we look at the officer’s behavior. Instead of doing so, we fall back on bad habits.
People have attacked the validity of jaywalking citations. Others have accused the officer of using jaywalking as a means to harass “innocent Black kids”. Some have said what Rosenthal and her friend did pales in comparison to what the officer did in response. Still others have said “what did you expect her to do, listen to how he was talking to them!”
Jaywalking citations may very well be nonsense, and Black folks may very well disproportionately receive this ticket. It’s even fair to say that police officers use the jay walking citation to harass people. What is not fair is to presume we know the intent or motivation of the individual officer was anything more than trying to address a group who’d just broken the law. We can’t assume he wanted to harass them.
Either way, the video does not lie. One girl can be seen trying to push the officer’s hand away from her over and over. Both girls’ mouths are running a mile a minute. Rosenthal is activevly trying to interfere with the officer; she pushes, pulls, yanks and is verbally abusive. A crowd quickly gathers.
The officer is actively struggling to keep control over both girls, and he is alone. If he reaches for anything (radio, mace, tazer) , he’ll lose a grip on at least one of them. He is giving verbal commands to both girls. They are refusing to comply and actively fighting against him. 17 year old Rosenthal is increasing her aggressiveness against the officer. When the full front of her body comes into contact with his back, everything changes in that split second; the officer’s posture, for example. You can see him react physically to being in that position, both hands occupied, before he hits her. He turns, he pushes, she keeps coming.
He sucker punches her. She stumbles. Attempts to continue her behavior and then has the realization she’s been hit in the face, and in that moment you can see her energy change as well. The situation has suddenly become real on a level she previously failed to grasp. I would imagine being punched by a police officer would do that to a 17 year old girl.
The punch doesn’t end the situation, but Rosenthal doesn’t lay another hand on the officer. He is left to continue to struggle for over a full minute with Levias. He does not hit her, body slam her, dislocate her shoulder or elbow or any of the other things he could have done. He continues to try and get her under control; she continues to resist. He is finally able to cuff her and put her in his car.
Even after all that, if the officer was in the wrong, the time to win that battle isn’t in the moment.
If we’re going to assess the video, then let’s at least be fair to both sides. Instead of bending it’s contents to fit a predetermined position.
Yes, the officer punched the girl. No, it was not a random act of violence against her. It’s well documented that punching is an accepted law enforcement tactic used to gain or regain control over another person who is out of control. These two girls were out of control. They could have had a weapon. They could have grabbed his weapon. The crowd of onlookers could have jumped in to beat down the officer- take note that he is alone and outnumbered.
Was the punch unfortunate? Yes.
Could it have been avoided? Of course. Both of those girls could have complied with the officer. They could have kept their mouths shut and their hands to themselves. They didn’t do that. Instead they escalated the matter by putting hands on a police officer. They were arrested and taken to jail.
As they should have been.
Rosenthal and her friend were completely in the wrong, from beginning to end and there is not enough “fuck the police” mentality to change that fact. If you want to smack talk a police officer you better be prepared for whatever he dishes back. If you want to touch a police officer- you best pray you don’t get yourself or any of your friends shot.
But she didn’t care about that- didn’t even pause to consider it.
Whether you agree with the laws or not, jay walking is illegal. They broke the law. I feel like Bill Cosby, about to give the infamous “poundcake” rant.
A little context for the location of where this took place. Franklin High School is just to the east of where this incident happened. Many students have to cross two major roads; MLK and Rainier Avenue to get to their bus stops. There is an elevated pedestrian bridge that spans both streets. Many students and youths who live in the area or go to the school don’t bother to use the bridge.
They instead, walk into moving traffic. I can say this with all certainty because I used to live about 50 yards from where the video was taken. I drive by there on a regular basis. I’ve had to slam on my breaks countless time because large and small groups of very rude teenagers mob into the street and glare at drivers, expecting us to stop. It’s a long-standing constant issue for that area. So while folks may say jaywalking citations are “silly” in this case, they aren’t.
Making the choice to shove a cop is like choosing to walk into your kitchen right now, turn on the front eye of the stove top to “high”, wait till it gets hell-red and then slam your open hand down on it. Your brain won’t let you do that to yourself because it’s hardwired for self preservation. These girls, apparently, are void of reasonable intelligence.
We need to keep it real with ourselves and each other, as a people. We can not go around excusing bad behavior because of (insert random justification here).
It’s not about what the cop did. It’s not about institutionalized racism in law enforcement. Nothing excuses or justifies their behavior. You don’t go around fighting with police officers, and for those who seek to excuse these girls, you’re doing them a disservice in life, sending the message that they have a right to behave in that fashion and not expect some sort of consequence.
When I watch the video, I don’t see two girls defending themselves from an overzealous cop. Instead, I see two flagrantly disrespectful girls who probably talk to their parents, to teachers, to strangers, the same way they spoke to and dealt with the officer in the video. I see two girls who come from a mentality that says they have the right to disregard authority, that they have the right to disrespect anyone for any reason. I see belligerent anger out of control. I see bullies.
Let’s not reduce this to a false dichotomy of one or the other- the girls or the cop. It’s okay to be outraged at the officer and the girls at the same time. But instead we give excuses, rhetoric and my favorite, “he would have never done that to a White girl.” Maybe he wouldn’t have. Would a 17 year old jaywalking white girl try and throw down on a cop?
Is it fun to see a young woman clocked in the face? No. But this could have been worse. She really is lucky he didn’t shoot her foolish ass.
For many, I don’t think the officer could have done anything right. If he would have tazed her we’d be having the very same conversation. If he would have pepper sprayed her we would still be having the very same conversation. If he’d drawn his weapon, yep- we’d still be right here, having the same conversation.
We need to accept the more we focus on the officer, the greater disservice we do to our people.