The conversation surrounding unnecessary and lethal police violence, is often rooted in biases. Racist biases, anti police biases, but wherever your biases lie, you can at least admit this: there will never and has never been a realistically justifiable reason to taste a 87 year old woman cutting dandelions in her front yard. Yet that is exactly what happened in Chatsworth, Georgia when Martha Al-Bishara had the police called on her for cutting dandelions in her own front yard.
This began when a Boys and Girls Club in Chatsworth, Georgia called in a report of a knife wielding woman near the premises. The knife wielding woman was 87 year old Martha Al-Bishara, who was using a steak knife to cut dandelions from her garden to make her husband a salad. When the police arrived, three officers jumped out, told the woman, who did not understand English, to drop the knife she was actively gardening with in her own home. The woman, a Syrian immigrant who did not know English, did not understand the police’s requests. One of the police officers then put his own knife on the ground to try to get the woman to understand. The woman continued to nt understand, leading the police
Just to repeat, this was an 87 year old woman who did not know English cutting plants in her own front yard.
Who really is the woman behind the mug shot? Family members say she’s the Al-Bishara family matriarch, a wife of 71 years and an American citizen for nearly 20 years. Watch the full story on her background here. pic.twitter.com/lT72AZXPVB
— Taylor Stewart (@TaylorStewartTV) August 15, 2018
The incident, like so many others has garnered the same predictable defense from the police department.Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge, who, when seeing the public wondering if storming someone’s property to electrocute their grandmother for non threateningly holding a knife was maybe a bad thing to do, had this to say according to policemag.com:
“There was no anger, there was no malice in this. In my opinion, it was the lowest use of force we could have used to simply stop that threat at the time. And I know everyone is going to say, ‘An 87-year-old woman? How big a threat can she be?’ She still had a knife.”
We’re going to stop this argument right now. A police force who sees each and every object as a threat is not a good police force. There is only one party in this situation that terrified, and then attacked the other party, and it was not the confused old woman doing the attacking. The police often wants understanding in cases like these, but vehemently denies even the smallest shred of responsibility while demanding that the citizens it polices calm and understand THEM and not the other way around. The responsibility is thrown onto the citizen.
It should not be on the citizens to not how to control the police. This is not an equal relationship. The old woman threatened no one. The police threatened and electrocuted her. There is a knife in every kitchen, in every garden, and the police should be trained to be able to see the difference between an attack and not.
What’s more the call from the Boy’s and Girl’s club, in a quote from NBC.com, alerted the police that this was a mostly harmless situation, saying on the 911 call:
“She’s old so she can’t get around too well, but. Looks like she’s walking around looking for something, like, vegetation to cut down or something. There’s a bag, too.”
No word on the punishment the threatening bag received.
The old woman is recovered and is currently terrified to leave her house, with her great grand-daughter, Martha Douhne telling NBC.com:
“She is OK. She is still repeating the incident over in her mind and telling us she didn’t mean for this to happen and apologizing that she didn’t want to bring this on us. She is having trouble sleeping and is stressed.”
If you want to watch an excellent television series about casual police violence such as this, I can’t recommend Wyatt Cennac’s “Problem Areas”, which covers both the crimes and the attempts to better and stop police violence by both the police and its citizens. You can find it on whatever app you watch HBO on the most readily.
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