By Mark Lane and Shane Parmely
We went to the Tuesday, July 24, National City Council meeting to speak out against the police brutality that left Earl McNeil brain dead.
For almost six weeks, we’ve peacefully and loudly protested at the National City Council meetings. For six weeks, we’ve asked the National City Police Department (NCPD) to release the videotapes pertaining to the in-custody death of Earl McNeil. For six weeks, we’ve been ignored by the three men who control the National City Council and the NCPD. For six weeks, we’ve been treated to excessive force and violence by the NCPD.
And last week, after an hour of the police, including Chief Manny Rodriguez, repeatedly and openly pushing us and other people attending the meeting, we sat down on the floor and were subsequently arrested.
Media coverage of our protests has varied, but after the City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 17, we were shocked to see a local reporter telling San Diego we planned on collaborating with the National Black Lives Matter group, promising riots in the streets of National City.
A local news reporter’s unconscious bias was on full display. The reality is this issue is not limited to one white woman reporter. There was an entire news team that produced, broadcast, and then published her segment, and at no time did any one of them recognize there was a problem with what she had said.
NBC7’s unconscious bias was on full display. Unconscious bias in the media is extraordinarily dangerous because it gives cover and justification for overtly racist acts that follow, like those we witnessed this past Tuesday as we exited the City Council meeting to find the street lined with sheriffs in riot gear. The racism of National City’s leaders was on full display and the physical safety of people exercising their First Amendment rights was now in danger.
…the only deputy who had his baton out, Deputy Neumann, reacted with fear when an African American journalist from KPBS walked past him. He immediately focused his attention on her and began massaging his wooden baton.
We watched these deputies for two hours and noticed when the only deputy who had his baton out, Deputy Neumann, reacted with fear when an African American journalist from KPBS walked past him. He immediately focused his attention on her and began massaging his wooden baton. Was that his unconscious bias or overt racism on full display?
Of the 11 peaceful protesters who have been arrested to date by NCPD, six of us have been injured. The past six weeks of excessive force and brutality climaxed after dark on Tuesday, July 24, as 10 members of the press stood with 30 of us as we waited to ensure our six arrested friends were not brutalized like Earl McNeil.
We were confronted by three lines of riot police from six different local departments. At no time had NCPD given us directions to disperse or to even come to talk with us to assess or de-escalate the situation.
Again, the question is why? Unconscious bias or overt racism? From the overheard fear-filled comments spoken by NCPD officers to the overkill response of calling in a police helicopter and six other local police departments, it’s clear the leaders of National City do not see us as teachers, counselors, nurses, IT techs, mothers, grandmothers, and community members demanding accountability for the death of a black man in police custody.
They saw us as a mostly melanated mob to be brutally dealt with, not good enough for the community of National City or any other community in San Diego County.
If the media, elected officials, and law enforcement officers are truly interested in promoting and maintaining public safety in our communities, then they need to seek out and fully participate in quality training. They need to be able to recognize unconscious biases so that we, as a whole community, can identify and dismantle the racist policies, procedures, and practices these biases maintain and perpetuate.
This, combined with de-escalation training, can help prevent someone else from becoming the next Earl McNeil. And when the media, elected officials, and law enforcement officers inevitably fracture our communities with public displays of unconscious bias, we need to sit down, look each other in the eye, and have a restorative conversation so our communities can be made whole again.
These conversations can be facilitated formally by independent Community Review Boards for local police departments or informally by community members trained to run Restorative Justice circles.
It’s important to note that National City’s Citizens review board has not met in 2018 and has many vacant seats as the mayor only appoints his friends.
We reached out to NBC7 this week asking to set up a meeting with their news team, and with the people who were directly affected by their insinuation of a riot. They accepted this request to meet, hear the community and learn how to restore relationships damaged by unconscious bias.
Mark Lane (National City) and Shane Parmely (Bonita) are some of the people National City Mayor Ron Morrison has labeled “professional activists.”