The favorite chant “Whose streets? Our streets!” mean nothing when you can’t actually proceed down a street because the police are armed for war. Literally. They can barely walk.’
On Monday, the 26th of October around 4pm, two black police officers called to the Cobbs Creek neighborhood in Philadelphia encountered a white man, later identified as Michael Pompeo, who was holding a knife. Officers ordered Pompeo, who they had been informed suffered from mental illness, to drop the knife but he didn’t. He is reported to have ‘advanced towards’ the officers. Both officers fired several times. Pompeo fell. He was put in a police vehicle and driven to a hospital where he was pronounced dead a short while later. Protests erupted in Philadelphia and are still continuing.
No. This is not what happened. A man, carrying a knife, was shot and taken to a hospital. He was pronounced dead. He was mentally ill. It happened in Cobbs Creek, Philadelphia. Protests did erupt in Philadelphia. That much is true.
Before we continue, let us be clear here about equivalency: there’s nothing to say that black cops would have done the same if the script was flipped.
What did happen, then?
A man died. A man was murdered. A black man was murdered. A black man was murdered by white cops. Yet another black man was murdered by white cops. Yet another black man was murdered by white cops in the United States of America. It’s all about how much of the story you want to tell/know. It’s all about putting things in all contexts, small and large. It’s about telling or not telling. And we’ve had a lot of silence. Too much of it.
Mike Pompeo, the real one that is, the one who is the US Secretary of State, former head of the CIA and ex-officio boss of the MCC, the one who is right now visiting Sri Lanka, knows the story. He’s part of it. The gun-toting part of it.
So let’s get the story right. The murdered man’s name is Walter Wallace. Twenty seven years old. He had a knife, yes. The cops had guns. They fired and Wallace’s parents saw it all. They saw their son being shot dead. Weapons-trained and armed, it is unthinkable that the said cops, even in a tense situation, could not have subdued a man holding just a knife without having to kill him.
Here’s a brief, telling, account.
‘Walter Wallace 27. Recently married father. Wife about to deliver another baby. Shot 14 times in front of his mother. Terrible. Protests last night and today. But it’s impossible. The favorite chant “Whose streets? Our streets!” mean nothing when you can’t actually proceed down a street because the police are armed for war. Literally. They can barely walk.’
So what’s with the headline here? Well, Mike Pompeo is highly unlikely to suffer a fate similar to that of Wallace. He’s white. He’s rich. Even if he was not, even if he was mentally ill, even if he was brandishing a knife or a gun, even if someone called 911, even if cops arrived, even if he walked towards the cops, even if he looked threatening, it is highly unlikely that the cops (be they white or black) would have fired with intention to kill.
That’s the relevance. There are Pompeos. There are Wallaces. What’s the difference? Race. Why this outcome? Institutionalized racism and police brutality.
We don’t wish ‘kneeing’ on Pompeo. Or anyone else. Pompeo is breathing. Wallace is not.Just saying.