Mut(e)iny Moment

Man Down: D. C. Metro Police Attack Wheelchair-Bound Man

A video depicting two Washington, D. C. Metro police officers throwing a man in a wheelchair to the ground has gone viral. Once the man is on the ground, the officers handcuff him and stand over him as he bleeds. When the people passing by, some of whom recognize the man, angrily question the officers about what is happening, the officers ultimately dismiss them for “getting loud.”

According to a Washington Post article, the victim was a homeless man who the Metro police officers saw drinking an alcoholic beverage. The article goes on to say that the man “refused to comply” with the officers’ attempt to issue him a citation and that he ultimately “resisted arrest.”

Obviously, I have way too much bias as it relates to this story. I’m physically challenged, and I attend college in D. C. So, please excuse me while I go off…

On the Washington Post website, one reader commented suggesting that the officers were within their rights because the man was in a motorized wheelchair, and the consumption of alcoholic beverages while operating that machine could be similar to the effects of drunk driving, and thus dangerous to the public. In response to that weak  (to say the least) analogy, are we going to assume that this man was “driving drunk”  because Metro police saw him drinking ONE alcoholic beverage?

The article identified the man as homeless, so even if he did have one drink, I think it’s safe to assume that he didn’t necessarily have the means to obtain the number of drinks necessary to put his blood alcohol level over the legal limit for “drivers.”  Even if he did have the means to do so, who’s to say that he didn’t have the discernment of other drivers  not to consume an amount of alcohol that would hinder his ability to operate his motorized wheelchair, much like a driver might have a drink and still operate his or her vehicle without drinking so much as to be under the influence?

Here’s another question: Was he even attempting to go anywhere or to operate his “vehicle”?

Also, as someone who has operated both an electric scooter and an automobile, I can attest that although both tasks require similar knowledge and skills, they are different enough not to warrant the exact same procedures, cautionary or otherwise, that one might undergo before operating a car. (Hence, the reason why I have been operating my scooter for years, but I still do not have my driver’s license–they’re similar, but not that similar.) Those distinctions are enough to challenge that commentator’s genius logic.

Still, suppose I followed this person’s reasoning for a moment. The man was wrong for consuming alcohol in public, which is against the law, whether he was going to operate his motorized wheelchair or not. Am I supposed to believe that these two trained officers could find no other way to issue this mobility-impaired man a citation than by throwing him to the ground? Seriously? Write the ticket and stick it in the back of his wheelchair, for goodness sake.

As I listen to the complaints of the passersby and the officers’ responses to them about “getting loud”, I am immediately transported back to my NYC upbringing– images of protestors following the shootings of Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell and the assault of Abner Louima–and listening to commentators attempt to downplay the extreme nature of the police officers’ actions. “They fear for their lives. It’s a difficult job; we can’t judge. He resisted, made a threatening move.” ENOUGH. The fact remains that it is their job to respond to difficult situations in the manner that is the most efficient and appropriate. These constant, brutal attacks on people who are not threats to them (and even those who may be/are) have to stop.

Call me cliche if you want, but once again I saw two white police officers attacking a defenseless (literally) black man. Was he a threat to their safety too?

My guess, is that he was a challenge to their authority.  He didn’t make it easy for them to give him a ticket. Everybody knows that the first rule of encounters with police while “living while black” is not to talk back to them. The last time I checked, a bruised ego was not justification for brutalizing someone else.

This incident is especially important because in a world where the average person does not always take the needs or difficulties of the physically challenged into account, even the people who are charged with upholding law and order still do not seem to have the sense to protect those who are challenged when it comes to protecting themselves (even if/when they may be wrong).

And just because I see this argument coming…No, being in a wheelchair/disabled/physically challenged whatever, does not give anyone a free pass to violate the law, be rude, or whatever you might want to say. I am the last person to say that people should play the sympathy card when it comes to dealing with the physically challenged. However, it goes without saying (or at least it should) that if someone has extenuating circumstances that require him or her to need special services or assistance, that person should be treated with special care. Even children on the playground know that an unfair fight is never justified.

I cried while watching this video. I immediately wished I knew who the man was and that he had called an attorney. If he didn’t/can’t, I honestly wish I had the credentials to represent him myself. I want the Metro Police, D. C. Police Department, Mayor Vincent Gray, and the Department of Justice to handle this, but unfortunately, I have a feeling they probably won’t.

So, it’s my job to add to the outrage.


One thought on “Man Down: D. C. Metro Police Attack Wheelchair-Bound Man

  1. Rita says:

    his operating a motorized scooter while drunk is not at all the same as drunk driving. it’s more comparable to him staggering down the street.

    i fell like you did a good job of addressing all of my concerns with this incident – from police brutality to the sympathy card to was he even moving, everything. whatever the details, though, it was wrong. they didn’t handle this situation properly at all.

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