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Woman Witnesses Police Brutality and is Arrested | #JusticeForRodneka

unnamedIMMEDIATE ACTION STEPS:

  1. READ and SHARE Rodneka’s story with #JusticeForRodneka or share this article to your networks. LIKE the #JusticeForRodneka page for updates
  2. DONATE and SHARE THE DONATION LINK with your networks – www.gofundme.com/rodneka
  3. SHOW UP WEARING WHITE for Rodneka at 9AM at 2700 Tulane Ave, Section H on January 12th, 2018 for her trial date. Check the Facebook page for date changes.

Imagine you’re driving home from work. Expecting an uneventful ride, you’re surprised to see the blinding glare of police lights in front of you. As your eyes adjust to the scene, other things start coming into view.

A baby blanket.

The “slick and shine” of a baby’s head.

A woman who is holding the baby. A police officer who is choking and pulling the hair of the woman holding the baby.

Imagine your basic human decency kicking in, forcing you to intervene. You stop your car in the middle of the street and run over to them, thoughts racing of the potential fate of both woman and baby. You get ahold of the child and hand the child off to a bystander who had asked for them.

“Be human!” you hear yourself calling out repeatedly to the police officer as he stares blankly at you. “Be human!” you hear yourself calling repeatedly as a crowd forms and watches this officer, still with a “debilitating hold” on the woman.

Imagine the woman the police officer is choking exclaims she doesn’t know why this is happening to her, only for the officer to body slam her onto the ground. The crowd yells at her to “stop resisting” and you, having watched the entire episode, beg them to see her humanity, her natural reaction to being choked with a baby in her arms by saying, “she is not resisting”!

Imagine the woman is now face down on the ground, the officer on her back, with his arm around her neck. “You’re choking her!” you scream, only to be met with an amused look from the officer who shouts back, “look, I’m not choking her”. Never mind the small amount of foam discharging from her throat, drops of it seen coming out of the sides of her mouth.

Imagine you’ve tried once, twice, three times now to record the officer. You are less than five feet away from him and the woman he is assaulting. Your full attention is on her safety, even at the expense of your own. Before you notice, other officers, who you thought were on the way to help the woman, tackle you off your feet.

Within seconds, you no longer have to theoretically relate to the woman.

Now, your own Black woman body is against the concrete, handcuffs clamped around your wrists. As you’re dragged to the police car, you plead with a stranger to go to your job – not five minutes away – and tell a friend to come get your car. The stranger refuses to get involved.

You are arrested. You spend the next two nights in jail, not eating for 20 hours. You are unable to access your medical routine for 48 hours and your bail is set at $2500. Imagine for the next few months, you are faced with a series of financially and emotionally stressful court dates on top of the stress and trauma caused by the initial assault by the officer(s).

If you #TrustBlackWomen, then you don’t have to imagine any of this story. This is the reality for New Orleanian Rodneka S. On April 23rd, 2017, Rodneka experienced this ordeal on her way from work (read it in her own words and SHARE on Facebook here).

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 And she is not alone.

Her case highlights the continued mistreatment and abuse of Black people by law enforcement agents and the ways the system continues to punish and criminalize Black people after they’ve had their rights and bodies violated by agents of the state.

In the United States, when it is the word of a police officer against that of a civilian, the officer’s account is usually taken as truth (this is why, initially, people were so excited about body cameras on police officers). This happens despite the multiple times we’ve seen officers find cover hiding behind the “blue wall of silence”, and the times we’ve seen officers manipulate the law to criminalize others in order to avoid accountability for their crimes.

In 2015, Daniel Holtzclaw, a former Oklahoma City Police Department patrol officer, was convicted of multiple counts of rap­­e, sexual battery and other charges. Holtzclaw had systematically and strategically targeted and violated 13 low-income Black women while on duty. Through gross misuse of power and an even grosser understanding of society’s inability to #TrustBlackWomen, Officer Holtzclaw was able to sexually abuse these women. As the prosecutor on the case, Lori McConnell, stated, “He didn’t choose CEOs or soccer moms; he chose women he could count on not telling what he was doing…He counted on the fact no one would believe them and no one would care.”

These same intersections of race, gender and believability in the United States collide in an exhaustingly familiar way in Rodneka’s case, where she is charged with battery of a police officer and resisting arrest for stopping to help someone else that fateful night.

The charges against Rodneka are equally telling. Somehow, we are expected to believe that this Black woman who was minding her own business coming home from work leapt out of her car unprovoked to assault a police officer.

The story sounds ridiculous to me, but then again, I do not subscribe to notions of Black people’s criminality or violent nature as many still do in the United States and around the world. It is this same narrative of Blackness as violent and uncontrollable (and in need of being controlled) that allowed Officer Darren Wilson to shoot Mike Brown in cold blood, then say he feared for his life. After all, according to Wilson, Brown looked “like a demon”, and had reached into Wilson’s car without reason, punching him in the face, initiating the need to protect himself through lethal violence.

Rodneka joins the list of Black people charged with resisting arrest when making calls for their basic humanity to be considered during arrest. According to her story, Rodneka was close to the officer, but did not initiate

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Court support for Rodneka. You can support from afar by donating at: www.gofundme.com/rodneka

contact. Yet, when other officers arrived on the scene, she was immediately tackled and arrested. Her call to be treated like a human being was twisted into assault against others, which is too often the case when people who are intimidated by the police assert their rights. This portion of her story reminded me of Earldreka White, a Black woman who was pulled over for a traffic stop then violently arrested and charged with resisting arrest, not for any alleged traffic crime she had committed. In this country, the very existence of Black people is criminalized. The Earldreka’s and Rodneka’s of the world don’t have to do anything in order to be eligible for arrest. It is especially telling in cases in which resisting arrest is the only charge issued.

On January 12th, 2018, Rodneka faces her next court date. This means we have just over a month to rally our communities behind this young woman. Rodneka’s ask is simple – treat her with the human dignity the police officers didn’t accord her. Believe her story. Share her story.  And, if you can, show up and let her know she doesn’t have to be the sole author in this story of struggle.

The Movement for Black Lives Matter began when Trayvon Martin was killed. It has since been reduced by mainstream media to the lethal police violence faced by mostly young Black men. However, the Movement for Black Lives has a much more expansive definition of state violence that includes cases like Rodneka’s. In order for #BlackLivesMatter to actually be realized, our lives have to matter while we’re still alive. #BlackLivesMatter is not just a call to mourn our deaths when we’ve been unjustly and often brutally killed – it is a demand for our right to live full lives without fear of violence by individuals or the state from the moment we are born.

Rodneka has one more desperate plea specific to the New Orleans community – if you were filming or simply present the night of the incident on April 27th, 2017, PLEASE REACH OUT to the #JusticeForRodneka campaign at RodnekaStands@gmail.com or through the Facebook page.

Rodneka had this to say about her experiences since that night: “This whole situation has impacted my life greatly in every aspect. The greatest is psychologically as it has shattered my pseudo reality that I am free in 2017. I am certainly not free of harm by law enforcement and I have been exposed to the system that allow this to be. It has also however confirmed to me that there is a community of ppl in my city of New Orleans who look like me that love, work unnamed-2for, and sacrifice for the ppl like me contrary to popular belief. We are not desensitized and we stand for each other and that’s the world I live in. The only thing I regret is that I have not obtained a dash cam to record the events of April 23rd. I wish the lil Sistah believed that she was worth the help. Sometimes I wish I’d never had to witness what I saw but there’s no fixing a problem that is not acknowledged. I think it’s important that we all understand that in the stride to be sane or mentally functional, humans sometimes have to believe notions that aren’t true. Both victims and beneficiaries of abuse. It keeps us functional but it also keeps us prey to the problems we refuse to see before us. The problem now is what happened to me has happened to others and can happen to you. Let’s work on fixing the problem. It’s not so hard when we work together.”

Standing up for or against injustice is often difficult, thankless work. Despite this, Rodneka did her part, alone, on the night of April 23rd, 2017. As a community, let’s make sure she doesn’t have to face her­ next steps alone.

IMMEDIATE ACTION STEPS:

  1. READ and SHARE Rodneka’s story with #JusticeForRodneka or share this article to your networks. LIKE the #JusticeForRodneka page for updates
  2. DONATE and SHARE THE DONATION LINK with your networks – www.gofundme.com/rodneka
  3. SHOW UP WEARING WHITE for Rodneka at 9AM at 2700 Tulane Ave, Section H on January 12th, 2018 for her trial date. Check the Facebook page for date changes.

 

 

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