On Tuesday June 21, at 5:20pm at the East Town Mall on Madison Wisconsin’s east side, Genele Laird was brutally beaten, tasered, had a bag put over her head (ostensibly to prevent her from spitting on officers, one would be remiss however, to not point out the extremely degrading and what appears to be, violent nature of the act of putting a bag over a human’s head after they have been subdued) and then carried like so many hog tied animals, to the back of an MPD squad car. In the now viral video, MPD officer Andrew Muir can be seen running on the scene to Laird already being aggressively restrained by the first cop on the scene who is having trouble getting Laird to the ground. Muir tries once to leg sweep laird to the ground unsuccessfully and then proceeds to knee Laird in the stomach and ribs, slams Laird down on the concrete, hitting her head on it. At about the 1:51 second marker of the video, Muir, after tackling Laird to the ground, and landing on top of her body with his, has Laird completely subdued, he has her arm completely under control and is putting all of his weight on it attempting to hyper-extend it and injure Laird. At this point the officers could have easily handcuffed Laird and ended the entire situation, instead, Muir decides to continue brutalizing Laird, revealing his desire to engage in inhumane behavior at that moment, revealing that his actions at this point are completely primal. Muir then knees Laird three more times in the ribs, punches her in the stomach, tasers her once in the ribs and then holds the taser down continuously for 58, undoubtedly excruciating, seconds on her leg. All of this happens while the cop is screaming “stop pinching me” and calling Laird a “bitch.” After putting the bag over her head, the police then made a point to use the door of the vehicle that was furthest from where Laird was picked up and man handled, without even a slight attempt to allow her to walk on her own, where they finally deposited the 18 year old, approximately 120lb Black woman. Whether the cops intended to do so or not, it all made for a thoroughly theatrical experience, currently being consumed by society at a vigorous pace. For some, the consumption of this wanton violence on Laird’s body may be, whether subconsciously or consciously, driven by the id, a sort of, uncoordinated instinctual trend of internalized thought which mainstream civil society has been responsible for molding.
Before the cops arrived on the scene, Laird, an assistant manager at Lids hat store in the mall, had her very expensive new phone stolen. Her coworker called the police in an attempt to get help retrieving the stolen phone from the person who stole it. Then, according to the mainstream media, Laird allegedly approached an employee at Taco Bell in the food court at the mall brandishing a knife and threatened their life if they didn’t return the stolen phone. At the moment this narrative is hearsay whereas the disproportionate and indiscriminate escalation of force that the Madison cops used on the young woman is factual. The fact that the police were called to assist Laird with her stolen phone can explain her resistant behavior with the cops when they first met, expecting the cops to help her and be on her side, when she was immediately met with force and aggressively handled, Laird was probably very confused.
The incident is now in the national eye. The responses to the incident are typical. Liberals and conservatives are quick to repeat the tired mantras; “you shouldn’t resist arrest, that is what you get when you do,” “it didn’t look so bad, what’s the big deal” and even “the Blacks should just stop being loud and cocky in public (read; be more white) if they want to not be victims of police beatings” to the more extreme “they should have killed her.” These pundits of the mainstream are all the while unaware of their roles as cogs in the ideological machinations of this repressive capitalist police state. All of these reactions from the gratuitous violence on Black bodies that are coming from the center left, the center, the right and the far right are indicative of an underlying societal paradigm in which mainstream civil society has a psychological dependence, defining what it is even, off of Black people suffering, a lingering effect of a society that for so many years brought family members and held jovial picnics amidst the lynching of myriad Black Americans. Many are no doubt familiar with the idea that videos like this are like racist porn for mainstream white folks.
We should be very skeptical of the narratives that the liberal and reactionary denizens and the mass media adopt and use in regards to violence against Black bodies in general. With careful attention you can notice the “neutral” language the media outlets use to give the appearance of being a “third party” with “no prejudices” but in reality employing the language most beneficial to the police and the state. After all, the government is a huge source of stories for these local news companies, why would they want to burn bridges with it? They would be fucking around with their own pay checks!
The question of was there “appropriate use of force consistent with state guidelines,” is and will be part of the mainstream conversation. The question is irrelevant from the perspective of people living in over and racily policed communities. The only question that those impacted by the racist and exorbitant policing should be asked is, are members of the community okay with the force continuum that was used. Why in the hell would we trust the racist capitalist state to define what’s acceptable police conduct in the community? We know very well who’s interest they have in mind!
When analyzing the incident, let’s not fall in to the trap of the rogue cop narrative. If you argue that this is not how police are taught to act, that it’s not their job to act like this, I would say you are incorrect. The police department, the chief of police, the courts and the fraternal order of police will all condone the officers’ actions. The conclusion should be that the action this “rogue cop” took can actually be considered procedure since it is being encouraged by the state institution by institution and on down the line by their silence. Much like when #MattKenney killed two different unarmed men, one a Black child of 19 years in the throes of a psychotic episode, RIP #TonyRobinson, and then the police go on to give him A MEDAL OF VALOR, a paid vacation and a position training new cops in Madison! How is that not the repressive police system saying the murdering of unarmed Black people is now an acceptable procedure? And so when the mother and grandmother of Tony Robinson suddenly become targets for police harassment, including being pulled over for going “too slow” and being questioned about whether her grand kids, who are Black, are actually hers because their skin color doesn’t match, to being unjustly charged with a felony after nearly being pushed in to the lake in her car, possibly by a racist white supremacist seeking revenge on her because she spoke up when MPD murdered her Black son, and then the police department is silent, even after numerous formal civilian complaints about the conduct, they have effectively condoned these “procedures.” All of this is happening while the family has filed a tens of millions of dollars civil suit in federal court against the Madison Police department for the murder of their beloved, is this a coincidence?
When the inspiring resistance that is arising after this brutal incident begins to figure out what its demands should be, we should take a deep look at the underlying mechanisms and systems at play here. In the words of Fred Moten; “I don’t think he [Muir] meant to violate the personhood of …[Genele Laird], he was… [beating] mobile black sociality …[asserting itself in] the street in a way that he understood implicitly, constituted a threat to the order that he represents and he was sworn to protect.” “Insurgent black social life constitutes a profound threat to already existing social order.” Looking at it through this lens, it follows that something other then having MPD conduct an internal review or having Laird go to restorative justice to be prosecuted for crimes she is clearly not guilty of, is in order.
Free Genele Laird and drop all charges against her, charges that were the result of the cops unnecessary escalation of force, indict officer Muir with felony assault, give the community meaningful lasting and effective control of the police and free the 350! The paradigmatic lens that sees violence against Black bodies as structural, dictates that the violence and racism won’t stop with just these reforms, although these reforms are a necessary and radical step towards justice, to end racism in this society we must aim for something much greater then them, we must smash the racist societal system and to do that we must smash capitalism!