An inaccurate picture of police violence

An inaccurate picture of police violence

  • Updated

I am writing to express my disappointment regarding the Napa Valley Register's recent coverage of the "We Back Blue" action on the Third Street Bridge on Wednesday, June 17 ("After string of Napa protests against police brutality, We Back Blue rally supports law enforcement," June 18).

The photo essay, published to the Napa Valley Register webpage on Wednesday evening was misleading and devoid of context. Photo essay captions failed to explain that local Black Lives Matter organizers had requested (via social media channels) that Black Lives Matter protesters refrain from visiting downtown Napa during the pro-police demonstration. This request was a deliberate effort to combat the now well-worn, if untrue, narrative that anti-racism protesters engage in violence at demonstrations. The small group of Black Lives Matter protesters gathered on the bridge on Wednesday were self-organized, peaceful, and purposefully small in number.

While Howard Yune's follow-up piece "After string of Napa protests against police brutality, We Back Blue rally supports law enforcement" does provide needed detail, it fails to ground the Black Lives Matter movement and "We Back Blue" clan in the data.

According to Mapping Police Violence, police killed 1,098 people in 2019. In that same period, according to Officer Down, 147 police officers died in the line of duty (including 24 from 9/11-related cancers). The death of any individual is a tragedy and we mourn the loss of these souls. Make no mistake, however. Police - militarized and weaponized as they are in the United States - are not a more vulnerable class than the policed.

Of course, not all policed people are treated equal. Black people in the United States are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people, according to the Marshall Project. The same source also indicates that Black people are LESS likely to be armed during police interactions than white people.

It is irresponsible for the Napa Valley Register to present the "We Back Blue" group's action as a neutral response to the ongoing largely women and people of color-led Black Lives Matter actions in Napa. The data is clear. Police in this country are killing people on a near-daily basis. (Just this month, Sean Monterrossa's family buried him after he was shot and killed by Vallejo police). Police in this country are killing Black people and people of color at higher rates than white people.

In an effort to "fair and balanced," the Napa Valley Register has missed the point - We Back Blue is just fine with the status-quo (in which white people are protected by police while Black and brown people are vulnerable to them). The Black Lives Matter movement is about liberation from the status quo, about visioning a future in which Black and Brown people are safe while exercising, buying groceries, getting Wendy's, sleeping.

I'll close with an apology. I'm sorry that I was unable to cite federal government statistics related to police brutality and lethality in this letter. I can't because they don't exist. They don't exist because police unions, police departments, jurisdictions, municipalities - empowered by voices like We Back Blue - refuse to comply with local, state, and federal guidelines that would ensure that police reforms are data-driven and effective, and Department of Justice fails to strengthen and expand its rules.

Black Lives Matter. This is not up for debate.

Marisa Coyne


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