You will find this video of John McKenna, the Maryland college student being beaten on almost every blawg around. The sworn allegations against him in the post-beating prosecution were that he attacked and caused “minor injuries” to the horses and cops, and that he was kicked by a horse. So there you have it, the cops proven conclusively to be lying, baton wielding animals, beating the daylights out of some happy kid having a good time skipping down the street.
But this isn’t another opportunity to post a video that can be found on pretty much every criminal law blawg around today, but about the message taken from it. One bad apple. Or in this case, a few bad apples, but all beating a kid at the same time. There was a segment about it, showing the video over and over, on Good Morning America, with McKenna’s lawyer, Chris Griffiths, doing a superb job in the interview.
The video, and the story surrounding the video, still suggests that it’s an isolated incident. But for the video, this would be just another story about a beaten kid complaining about cops without any evidence to back him up. This isn’t to say that the police are wrong in every instance, but that the police can no longer wrap themselves in the presumption of being the good guys. The question remains, when a video like this goes viral amongst the general public and mainstream media, how to make clear that this isn’t an isolated incident?
Before the pervasive use of video, those of us who claimed that vicious criminal attacks by police were the subject of derision; of course we would claim that the police were lying. That’s what defense lawyers do. But take this beyond the atrocity of watching cops, dressed in their black riot gear, striking a kid with batons. Go beyond the cops who rush up after the initial assault, hoping to get some whacks in as well. Consider the lies on the accusatory instrument, about horses and cops and kicks. Griffiths also explained during his interview that the cops told McKenna not to mention he was injured, or they would hold him in jail over the weekend. People at the jail, however, couldn’t pretend not to see the blood from his beating, and so he was treated.
Without a video, none of this happened. Without a video, the perjured complaint is truthful. Without a video, the coercion to force McKenna to participate in the coverup, the lie, would be incredible.
This isn’t the first time a video of this nature made the rounds. Remember the video of New York City cop Patrick Pogon nailing cyclist Christopher Long during the Critical Mass protest? That one went viral as well. Then it faded from memory, and we’re now shocked by what happened to John McKenna.
It’s likely that most people inclined to read Simple Justice are already aware of all this. But we’re a distinct minority, whether by profession or inclination. Some might accuse us of paranoia, antagonism toward the police, bias. Certainly, our experiences lead us in that direction, at least as far as regular folks are concerned.
This isn’t about fostering public hatred of police, however. This is about healthy skepticism, the end of blind faith.
How many videos, and beaten kids, will it take before the message sinks in? Will another ten, another thousand, make a dent in the public consciousness? Or will It always be one bad apple?
When I started my “But For Video” series of posts, it struck me that people would start to get the message after seeing that it not only happened, but happened regularly, if they were confronted with undeniable images of police misconduct. I fear I severely underestimated the ability of people to deny.