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St. Patrick’s Day Arrest of New York City Postman While Delivering Packages

2016-03-29

The New York Times (NYT) has reported that a postman who was delivering packages in the city was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.  Certain facts about this arrest are undisputed: the postman had a package in his hand that he was trying to deliver when he was handcuffed, and the four plain-clothes policemen who arrested him took the package and left the postman’s delivery truck unattended on the street as they took him to the police station.  It is unclear how long the postal vehicle was left unattended, but even a short period of time would be sufficient on this crowded street for anyone to help himself to the packages and  mail in the truck.  The postman was released after being cited, but his vehicle could have been stripped of everything it contained during the interval.

Another undisputed facet of this case is that the arrest was videotaped by a bystander and is included with the report.   The video shows the policemen yelling at the postman “Stop resisting” and the mailman replying “I’m not resisting” while there is little or no movement by either the police or the postman.  There are a number of bystanders in the video, some of them yelling at the policemen.

According to the postman, Glen Grays, he was backing out of his van when an unmarked car turned the corner at a high rate of speed, nearly hitting him.  He reversed his course and stepped into the van, at the same time yelling at the driver.  Instead of continuing on, the car reversed, backed up, and one of the four undercover policemen in the car told him, “We have the right of way because we’re policemen.”  The car then stopped, all four got out, and as he tried to deliver the package he had been taking out of his van, they followed him to the doorway of the building and confronted him.  This is where the video begins, as the policemen are trying to handcuff him.

What about the Mr. Gray’s conduct represents “disorderly conduct”?  Is it the fact that he yelled at them for nearly hitting him?  Or statements he made, or his behavior between the time of the near-collision and when the video begins?  It is hard to believe that he could have done anything unlawful during that period of time.  As one commenter pointed out, for a New Yorker to yell “Hey, I’m walking here” is a common and accepted verbal exchange in this city.

Another commenter, a former policeman, states that we should wait for the statements of the police involved before we “rush to judgement” about the situation shown in the video.  In many cases, what has occurred before the video begins is essential to understand what is happening as the pictures unroll.  However, in this case, it is hard to imagine what excuse the policemen involved could give, and easy to consider that whatever they say is likely to be a lie concocted to justify unjustifiable behavior.

The postman also stated that after he was put in the back of the unmarked car and it was driving away, without him in a seatbelt, the driver turned around, looked at him and made a “taunt”.  As the driver was looking at him, he ran into the car in front of him, throwing the postman into the back of the front seat.  It is difficult to imagine what excuse the policemen could give for this occurrence.

Is it necessary for me to mention that the postman was black and was delivering packages in an all-black neighborhood, while the undercover policemen were light-skinned, apparently “white”?  Of course, when I say “black”, I mean African-American, dark-skinned, with Negroid facial features.  I’m pointing this out because it conforms to and confirms a narrative that is played out every day all over America.  The mere sight of a “black” person seems to drive some white people into a rage.  Why?

I think the facts speak for themselves.  This type of encounter between policemen and black Americans shows that prejudice and ill-treatment is endemic in America.  How long will it take for the police and agents of the power structure to realize that their behavior is obviously inappropriate and contributes to resentment and hostility, from their victims and even by white people who reason and can perceive the true state of affairs?  How long before they realize that their own behavior is driving the animosity that they so disparage?

There appears to be an attitude or state of mind among some white people that all black people are either displaying an attitude or thinking something which is unacceptable to them, to the extent that the very sight of a black person causes them to make disparaging statements and any encounter with a black person in which they fail to receive the expected deference causes them to strike out violently.  This white attitude is difficult to understand or explain except as the result of conditioning from childhood by their parents and peers.

Because of the deeply ingrained nature of this white attitude, there is little chance of changing it except by exceptional, intensive experiences.  In the absence of such an experience, the only recourse is laws that protect black people and other persecuted people (and there are many others who suffer) from discrimination in all its forms.  Such laws are likely to be unpopular, but they are necessary, and in America, it will take action by the Supreme Court to see that they are enforced.  In this regard, it is fortunate that Antonin Scalia has passed away, leaving the rest of the justices who have this same white attitude (Thomas and Roberts in particular) in the minority.

Prior to Scalia’s passing, the Supreme Court made a number of judgments which only reinforced this white attitude, including gutting the Voting Rights Act and trashing anti-discrimination laws.  The situation now in the Court is similar to that after the Dred Scott decision in 1857, in which the Republican Party (no relation to today’s Republican Party) was forced to defend militarily the integrity of the federal government.  Let us hope that the Supreme Court reforms, writes decisions that enforce anti-discrimination, and prevents another Civil War.

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