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The Absurdist Theatre of the NYPD

When NYPD officers turned their backs on de Blasio, they also turned their backs on us.

NYPD officers turned their backs on New York City mayor Bill De Blasio at Officer Rafael Ramos' funeral. Photo by Flickr user Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916.

By now, you’ve likely heard the story of how Ismaaiyl Brinsley—who once testified in a Georgia court that he suffered from mental illness—began the morning of December 20th. He entered his ex-girlfriend Shaneka Thompson’s apartment in Baltimore County using a key he wasn’t supposed to have, then shot and critically wounded her. A trip on a Bolt Bus and several chilling posts to Instagram later, Brinsley ambushed two NYPD officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, killing the men as they sat in their squad car eating lunch, before turning his weapon on himself.


Though similar threats have streamed into the NYPD—mostly from idiotic trolls outside the N.Y.C area—the general public tends to agree that this tragedy was detrimental to the cause for an end to out-of-control police tactics. (That a few might share the wrong-headed sentiment that murdering any officer is acceptable—or even some sort of victory for “the movement”—is a testament to the deep-seated pain caused by police overreach and violence.) Most have rightly disavowed the actions of Brinsley, casting him as a lone actor with a troubled mind.

Despite this common-sense stance, the department has been “on edge” in the wake of the deaths of Officers Ramos and Liu. (Were they not on edge before all this happened? If not, what kind of mood lead to the November 20th killing of unarmed Akai Gurley in a Brooklyn project stairwell by rookie cop Peter Liang; or the heavy-handed, militaristic response to protests earlier in December; or the laundry list of prior allegations of brutality and general wrongdoing by NYPD officers?)

Just three days ago, cops expressed their discontent by hiring a plane to fly above New York City, bearing a banner stating “De Blasio Our Backs Have Turned to You.” This wild stunt would foreshadow a throng of cops actually turning their backs on de Blasio at the funeral of Officer Ramos in a truly remarkable scene. The deaths of Ramos and Liu were undeniable tragedies. However—given de Blasio’s recent calls for the suspension of large-scale, peaceful protests of Eric Garner’s death-by-NYPD-chokehold (and the non-indictment of the officer responsible)—this display by those sworn to protect and serve careens into the realm of the absurd.

The loss of an officer’s life is absolutely a tragic thing. But as I stated here last month, those who serve on the force made a choice to do so; the men, women, and children who live on only as hashtags to most of us were not given such a choice in the matter of their brown skin. It’s possible to respect the duties and stresses of police life while also demanding police accountability and justice for victims of racial bias and violence from officers. It’s also possible to mourn the deaths of officers lost in the line of duty as well as those of civilians who make headlines (or don’t) after dying by a cop’s gun, Taser, or chokehold. These things are not mutually exclusive.

The NYPD’s pushback against both the public’s calls for justice and their mayor seems a concerted effort to remind us how valuable a cop’s life is (hint: more valuable than yours, especially if you’re black or brown), invoking the reverence for the department in the wake of 9/11—a reptilian-brain patriotism that ignores the recent corruption, racism, and violence plaguing police departments across the country, and the NYPD in particular.

An NYPD vehicle is vandalized with an image of a pig after the Eric Garner decision was announced. Photo by Flickr user Poster Boy.

In late October, NYPD’s chief of department (who is black) resigned rather than take a promotion from Commissioner William Bratton. Additionally, a detective has revealed that planting evidence, or “flaking,” was commonplace during his time on the force. And black officers are speaking out against racial bias within the department—and their own experiences with racial profiling while off-duty. Unequivocal support of a law enforcement system so clearly corroded by corruption, prejudice, and violence is no longer in our best interest as a society—nor even possible among officers themselves.

To be clear, Ismaaiyl Brinsley did not speak for anyone but himself. Even in the darkest recesses of who we are as a nation, the overwhelming majority of us don’t wish death on police—not even the officers who’ve taken the lives of unarmed civilians, yet remain protected against criminal accountability by a clearly biased justice system. The deaths of men and women in uniform will not bring Akai Gurley or Eric Garner back. The loss of life on either side is not conducive to the healing we’re all in need of right now.

And let’s be real: If your house is robbed, your car is stolen, or you’re assaulted, you’ll want to be able to call the police. How tragic it is then that so many of us fear and distrust men and women in uniform. In the wake of Brinsley’s unconscionable ambush, Bratton’s declaration that the NYPD is now a wartime department is at best a no-brainer for those who’ve long lived under its occupation. At worst, it means the game has gotten even more dangerous for those whom justice turned its back on long ago.

My only positive experience with a police officer—one in which I felt I was being genuinely looked out for and not regarded as a nuisance or a threat—involved a member of the NYPD. The young cop, decked out in tactical gear, shouldering an assault rifle, helped me decipher what seemed at the time like a labyrinth: the MTA subway map. With a smile on his face and a calm voice.

The killing of Officers Liu and Ramos is immensely unfortunate, because it drives a wedge further between the community and its officers, reducing the chances that a cop in the subway on a chilly night will be as eager to help a black kid in need. To protect and serve.

Articles
via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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Culture
via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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Politics
via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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