Johan Thomas is a reporter for NEWSONE
, a website that specialises in news pertaining to black Americans. He lives in Brooklyn, and covered the incident at the “Monumental” record release party for the website.
In New York, the police seem to have a lot of natural aggression toward hip hop because of the idea that it is associated with drugs, violence and other stuff like that. When police show up to a hip hop how, they’re prepared to go to war.
According to what I’ve heard from people who were there, everything was all good in the venue before police stormed the club for reasons that are still unclear.
The police came in with an aggressive and overzealous attitude. They grabbed one of the artists, Luis Pena, and asked everyone to clear the venue. He was the first to be assaulted.
This first moment of violence sparked more violence, because people were trying to defend their friends, and the police began to feel aggressed.
Before camera phones there were camcorders, but because of the size people didn’t really go walking around with them. You either had to be in the right place at the right time, or a member of the media.
It’s an important moment in history for the black community. Now, we have the power to monitor the police and to document incidents of brutality.
It’s funny, because it seems like it’s the camera phones that anger the police, but it also seems like the camera phones are the only things controlling them.
I’ve been watching this evolution for some time. I’d say it’s only been since 2006 that people [in the black community] have really been using this technology [to document these types of incidents].
The first time people really began to realize that a camera could be used as a tool to document police brutality was in the Oscar Grant situation
. Oscar Grant was a young man who was detained by police while in BART in Oakland [California] on New Year’s day, 2009. People in the area took videos of the cops shooting this kid, who was unarmed at the time.
The police officer was sentenced to jail for two years over the killing. This was really controversial, because some people were arguing that two years wasn’t a long enough sentence for killing someone, but a lot of other people argued that he wouldn’t have been jailed at all had it not been for the camera phone footage”.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Rachel Holman.