Black lives are devalued in Barstow, California

A woman in Barstow, California found herself wrestled to the ground and arrested in the wake of a traffic dispute. The dispute involved an unidentified white woman and Charlena Michelle Cooks, an African-American woman who was pregnant at the time of the incident. Here’s the video:

In police body camera video obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal), an officer is responding to an apparent traffic dispute between Charlena Michelle Cooks, who is 8 months pregnant and black, and an unidentified white woman.

The officer first talks to the white woman, who accuses Cooks of acting “all crazy.”

“I don’t see a crime that has been committed,” the officer admits after examining the woman’s car. After promising the woman a police report, the officer heads over to talk to Cooks.

Cooks explains that the argument occurred because the woman disagreed with the way she was driving in the parking lot. Cooks also said that the woman frightened her daughter, who was in second grade.

“She called the police for whatever reason, I don’t know,” Cooks says. “Should I feel threatened by her because she’s white? Because she’s white and she’s making threats to me?”

At that point the officer asks for Cooks’ name, but she insists that she does not have to tell him.

“I actually do have the right to ask you for your name,” the officer replies.

I wonder-did the officer ask the white woman to identify herself, or was this request made only of Cooks?

“Let me make sure,” Cooks says as she makes a phone call to someone.

The officer says he will give Cooks two minutes to verify his right to ask for her identification. But less than 20 seconds later, the officer and a colleague are performing a painful wristlock takedown on Cooks. The pregnant woman screams as she is forced belly first into the ground.

Translation: “I know I said I’d give her 2 minutes to verify, but my life was threatened by a pregnant black woman talking on the phone. Do you hear me?! My life was threatened! No, I don’t have to justify my fear. I’m a cop. We don’t have to do that.”

“Why are you resisting?” the officer demands.

Oh, I don’t know, maybe she was resisting because she was in a painful wristlock and was forced belly first onto the ground, which isn’t something many pregnant women are likely to be comfortable with. Y’know, given the actions of this cop, the forced birthers should be out in droves supporting Cooks. After all, assaulting her could have harmed the fetus.  And we know how concerned they are for fetuses.

ACLU SoCal staff attorney Adrienna Wong pointed out that Cooks had a right to refuse to show her ID.

“It would be a wrongful arrest, but it would be an arrest,” she noted. “Even if an officer is conducting an investigation, in California, unlike some other states, he can’t just require a person to provide ID for no reason.”

Interesting. At least one cop in Barstow is unaware of a law that he ought to be knowledgeable of.

ACLU SoCal staff attorney Jessica Price observed that Cooks, who is black, was handled very differently than the white woman.

Happens quite a bit in this country. Why, it’s almost like the lives of black people aren’t valued as much as the lives of white people.

“Imagine getting wrestled to the ground and handcuffed in front of your child’s elementary school,” Price remarked. “Imagine interacting with other parents afterwards. Imagine what kids who saw the incident tell your child. And if you think the whole incident happened because of your race, how does that impact your view of police?”

Oooh, I know!

It might cause you to distrust the police more than you already do.

The charges of resisting arrest against Cooks were also dropped, but the city insisted that it acted properly in that case.

“The Barstow Police Department continues to be proactive in training its officers to assess and handle interactions with emotionally charged individuals while conducting an investigation, for the protection of everyone involved,” the city said in a statement.

“This incident was in no way racially motivated, as implied by the ACLU,” the statement said. “Barstow is a racially diverse community, as is our Police Department, and we affirm our Police Department’s commitment to protect and serve all of our residents.”

It’s proper to detain a citizen for no apparent reason, demand they identify themselves for no apparent reason, use a painful takedown maneuver on them for no apparent reason, and then wrestle them to the ground for no apparent reason?  If that’s proper and not racially motivated, why was the white woman treated differently?

To make matters worse, Cooks was banned from her daughter’s school until the charges were dismissed. She said that she has not decided whether or not she wants to sue the city. But ultimately, her goal is to move out of Barstow as soon as possible.

“I’m still trying to process everything and get in a good state of mind,” she told the Desert Dispatch. “I’m in a very fearful state of mind. Barstow is so small and I used to be comfortable living here. Not anymore. I really felt like after all that happened I had some of my everyday freedoms taken from me.”

Sadly, that’s what happened. Your freedom to move about in the public was infringed upon by the state for absolutely no fucking reason.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been that terrified in my life,” Cooks continued. “I never saw that coming. I told him I was pregnant so he could proceed with caution. That didn’t happen and the first thing I thought was I didn’t want to fall to the ground. I felt the pressure on my stomach from falling and I was calling for help. But those guys are supposed to help me. But who is supposed to help me when they are attacking me?”

And that’s one of the scariest things for many African-Americans terrorized by law enforcement officials. There’s nowhere for them to turn to. No one to help them. And that includes the courts. Sure, victims of police brutality and harassment can sue the city. They often win such cases too, but that doesn’t ensure that they’re safe from police harassment and brutality in the future.

Btw, if the Barstow PD thinks that is protecting and serving their residents, they have a warped view of what it means to serve and protect. Or maybe they devalue the lives of black people. Or both.

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Black lives are devalued in Barstow, California
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