THE OTHER KIMANI GRAYS: Twenty-five-year-old Manuel Diaz was hanging out in Anaheim, California, on a sunny Saturday last July when two police officers began to approach. Diaz ran off, and Officers Nick Bennallack and Brett Heitmann pursued him. Moments later, Bennallack shot and killed Diaz—who was unarmed—on an apartment complex lawn. On March 20, the Orange County District Attorney’s office announced that the shooting was justified.
Video taken immediately after the shooting is chilling. One bystander screams, “He’s still alive! Call the cops!” Officers on the scene appear confused and frantic, and eager to push back the growing crowd—but never once do they check on Diaz’s vital signs. Another bystander, speaking in Spanish, encourages people to capture what’s happening on video by reminding them that “the law allows you to tape” the police.
That video sparked outrage last year, as residents took to the streets in protest. Those demonstrations were met with increasing violence by the Anaheim police—who used dogs and fired beanbag bullets at dangerously short ranges not only against men and women, but toddlers as well.
Anaheim is not alone. In Brooklyn, 16-year-old Kimani Gray was buried on March 23 after being killed by plainclothes New York Police Department officers in East Flatbush. Writing for Ebony, Rosa Clemente wondered whether we’re using the right terms when we talk about this specific kind of violence: “Kimani’s killing is not just a case of police brutality, it is yet another example of the ongoing human rights violations against mostly Black and Latino/a young people in New York and cities across the country.” She’s right—“brutality” hardly begins to capture this violation of the fundamental entitlement to life that we should all enjoy.
We’ve largely come to accept that some young people of color will be shot and killed with impunity, and that a community’s outrage will be quelled with unbelievable force. In Anaheim, camouflage-clad SWAT teams paraded the streets and intimidated protesters, while police in Brooklyn reportedly declared a “frozen zone,” which essentially freezes First Amendment rights.
Back in Anaheim, an essentially segregated city is grappling with the fact that another white officer has killed another unarmed Latino man and will not be held accountable for doing so. Sadly, it won’t be the last time. AURA BOGADO
WAR IS PERSONAL: On March 18, on the eve of the ten-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, paralyzed Iraq War veteran Tomas Young published an open letter on Truthdig, addressed to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, calling for accountability for their crimes. Titled “The Last Letter,” it is written in the name of Iraqis and Americans alike, “on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.” Nearly a decade after the Sadr City ambush that left him paralyzed, Young has decided to cease medical treatment. “My life is coming to an end,” he wrote. “I am living under hospice care.” Truthdig editor in chief Robert Scheer called his letter “the defining obituary on the Iraq War.”
The story of wounded veteran Tomas Young was documented in 2006 by the great photographer Eugene Richards, then a fellow at The Nation Institute, who worked for several years to capture the impact of the Iraq War here at home. A number of these searing photo essays appeared in The Nation, including several images of Tomas in his wheelchair at home in Kansas City, his body covered with burns from the cigarettes (and fingers) he could not always control. Phil Donahue would later cite these photographs as part of the inspiration for his compelling documentary Body of War, about Tomas and his involvement in the antiwar movement. Richards also contributed portraits for the Nation Books title Collateral Damage, in which journalists Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian interviewed fifty returning veterans on the unreported truth of their time in Iraq, giving voice to their testimony on the savagery of US treatment of Iraqi civilians.
Later, in 2010, Richards and his wife, Janine Altongi, published War Is Personal, a book that gathered his fierce and emotionally unfiltered photo essays on the lives of American soldiers and their families. Four of the pictures from that book are featured in an exhibit at the Gasser/Grunert Gallery in New York City (524 West 19th Street) that opens March 28. HAMILTON FISH
‘OBAMA’S GENERAL’ RIPS DRONES: Retired four-star Marine Gen. James Cartwright, who has been called “Obama’s general,” has spoken out forcefully against the unchecked use of drones. A longtime skeptic of the war in Afghanistan, Cartwright declared that drones fuel anger and resentment among the Muslim populations experiencing the attacks, and suggested that their use will cause “blowback” against the United States.
In a speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, reported by The New York Times, Cartwright said, “If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.”
Cartwright also said that he wasn’t enthused about the idea of shifting responsibility for drone warfare from the CIA to the military. He expressed concern that there would be a “blurring of the line” if the military takes control of what is essentially a covert program to wage war in countries with which the United States has not technically gone to war.
Perhaps because of his unorthodox views, Cartwright lost his chance to be named as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Instead, Obama picked Gen. Martin Dempsey, even though the president and Cartwright were close. Last year, Cartwright came out in support of large reductions in America’s nuclear weapons arsenal, another break from the establishment. ROBERT DREYFUSS
STOP-AND-FRISK ON TRIAL: Earlier this month in a New York City courtroom, the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy went on trial. Nation contributor Ross Tuttle obtained an audio recording that is part of the prosecution’s evidence that the NYPD’s tactics amount to racial profiling. The audio, made in 2009 by Officer Adhyl Polanco, is part of a series of recordings originally released to the media that year. In the recording, an officer describes how the police union helped set quotas for summonses and arrests. You can listen to the audio at TheNation.com.