The Persistence of Police Brutality: The Timeline

I am currently writing a blog post entitled “The Persistence of Police Brutality.” I created a timeline which I think highlights some very important dates. I’ll refer to many of these dates in my blog post, but the dates themselves are informative because they point to very important events in American history.

1954Brown v. Board of Education initiated the forced integration of schools which was met with stiff resistance by Whites and White flight resulted which has resulted in dire consequences in the present for our public schools.

1961 – In response to the growing Civil Rights Movement, local officials in South Carolina raise the confederate flag at the state’s capitol building. Reflecting their support for and belief that Blacks should be oppressed and made subordinate to Whites by force if necessary.

1963 – In an act of domestic terrorism a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama, resulting in the deaths of four girls between the ages of 11 and 14. This act was carried out by the Ku Klux Klan in retaliation against Blacks for their efforts at ending segregation.

1965 – In March of 1965 Martin Luther King initiated the Selma to Montgomery marches which resulted in the “Bloody Sunday” beatings at the hands of police officers who were sworn to uphold the law. This reflected the widespread police brutality that Black people were exposed to at that time and projected on TV and into the consciousness of many Americans.

August 11th a drunk motorist is stopped by police in Watts, Los Angeles and an argument between the officer and the motorist escalates into a 6 day riot which claims the lives of approximately 34 people and results in over 3,000 arrests. People at the scene felt that the police acted unfairly in yet another example of police brutality that had been going on there.

1968 – The Civil Rights movement culminated with the assassination of Martin Luther King and the passage that year of the fair housing act which made it illegal to discriminate against people in the sale or rental of housing. This particular law actually served to exacerbate White Flight because White people simply did not want to live near Black people and moved to different communities to avoid integrating.

Richard Nixon was voted into office. His strategy for winning election is commonly called the Southern Strategy which basically called for using thinly veiled racist appeals to unite white voters under his platform. Racism and a reaction against the cultural revolution happening during the 1960s proved to be a powerful combination.

1971 –President Nixon initiates the “War on Drugs” which results in increased police presence in urban areas and a precipitous rise in the number of African Americans arrested.

1973 – The Drug Enforcement Agency is created and begins conducting drug raids within the African American community, further exacerbating already severely heightened tensions between urban communities and police. This is the beginning of the militarization of policing of domestic activities.

1980 – During the 1980s these actions lead to unprecedented levels of arrests and drug raid activities which continue to exacerbate racial tensions and result in the increase of racial profiling activities such as “stop and frisk” by police departments. These activities are targeted at African Americans in urban areas in particular but spread to other areas and result in widespread targeting and harassment of African Americans by police. The historically antagonistic relationship between the police and the African American community continues to be intensified over this time period.

1992 – The beating of Rodney King is captured on tape and played for the entire nation. The police officers involved are acquitted of any wrongdoing. This results in the Los Angeles riots which are the worst unrest in the city since the aforementioned Watts riots in 1965. These riots results in over 50 deaths and over 11,000 arrests.

1996 – Congress approves 1033 which expands the authority of the department of defense to provide police departments with excess military equipment. This further militarizes the police and makes the presentation of police closer to that of an occupying force in urban areas.

2001 – War on Terror leads the police department to become even further militarized as a result of its increased involvement in counter-terror activities even as policing duties remain engaged in urban areas with American citizens.

2012 Trayvon Martin is murdered by George Zimmerman after Zimmerman racially profiles him and attacks him in a misguided attempt at community policing. Notably George Zimmerman is not a police officer, but a self appointed neighborhood watchman. He is acquitted of any wrongdoing.

2014Michael Brown is controversially shot and killed by a police officer. The police officer is not indicted of any wrongdoing, however the Justice department finds that the Ferguson, St Louis police department is rife with racism. The event led to “racial unrest” that still persists.

Eric Garner is choked to death by a police officer in Staten Island, New York. The choking is filmed and goes viral on the internet. Millions see the event within days. The police officer involved is acquitted of any wrongdoing.

2015Freddie Gray dies while in police custody in Baltimore, Maryland. Protests turn into riots in the city. The police officers involved are eventually charged with manslaughter.

Dylan Wood shoots nine people in a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina after being radicalized by Ku Klux Klan propaganda on the internet. He claims that someone has to do something about black people and engages in the shooting in the hopes of starting a race war. The shooting eventually led to the removal of the Confederate Flag which had been on the capital grounds since 1961 as a symbol of the racist attitudes which still had some throughout the nation.