Cop Watch

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Videotaped beating in New Orleans—the ugly face of police repression

When New Orleans resident Robert Davis returned to the city last week to check on some homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina, the devastation inflicted by the storm to his family’s property was not the only shock awaiting him. Davis, a 64-year-old retired school teacher, would become the victim of a brutal beating by New Orleans police officers that was videotaped and broadcast both across the US and worldwide.

Last Saturday evening at about 8 p.m. Davis, who is black, was walking on Bourbon Street in the New Orleans French Quarter. He approached an officer on horseback to inquire about the city’s curfew. “I’m talking in a nice, cordial way to a black officer on a horse,” David told the press on Tuesday. He said another officer on foot then “interfered and I said he shouldn’t.”

As he crossed the street, Davis said, “All of a sudden, the white officer hit me in the eye and dazed me and threw me up against the wall.” A cop yelled, “I’m going to kick your ass,” Davis recounted. He was then hit and pummeled to the ground, face down, suffering fractures to his cheek and eye socket. Two white officers were involved in the beating.

While such behavior may find a particularly sharp manifestation in New Orleans, it is indicative of the repressive and violent response of the ruling elite and its police agencies to the growing social polarization gripping the entire country. Like many of the developments witnessed since Hurricane Katrina made landfall August 29, it has further exposed the rot at the core of American society.