By Danny Hulkower
I was walking to work for a midnight shift the night the riots came to NYC. Heading up 8th Ave, I was approaching 41st, by Port Authority, when the radios of all the police officers announced simultaneously: "Large crowd moving west on 41st, towards 8th. All officers be prepared." They may have been, but I sure wasn't. Within seconds a trickle of kids on bicycles gave way to a massive wave of screaming rioters. The crowd swarmed 8th ave, crossing 42nd, paralleling my route to work. Businesses I recognized; the 711 where I once bought a drink, the souvenir store I recommend my tourist friends go to for gifts; I watched as their glass was shattered and their contents looted. In the name of social justice? I guess so, I mean that's what the signs they were holding proclaimed. Although I will say that of the rioters I spoke to, most seemed more interesting in the looting aspect than social reform...
As the police moved in, the crowd rushed forward into a stampede. I ducked into a doorway, when a rioter decided to smack my drink and phone out of my hands. Two hours later, I would be sent by my job to 34th street, just blocks from my home, to tend to the aftermath. Shattered storefronts, glass and merchandise were strewn everywhere. For years, the public sat silently as police and judicial misbehavior became an expected part of being American, and when the powder keg reached its bursting point, the people turned on each other, instead of the system that lit the fuse. This is not the first time. Now our cities are burning, and what could have been a fantastic opportunity to demand changes to the policing and judicial systems has crumbled. Americans are turning on each other creating a two ring circus of left vs right, instead of a solid: "US". Never once demanding that those career politicians who have perennially perpetuated our broken system be tried, and held accountable; instead choosing to burn down locally owned businesses in the name of: "Social justice". The dedicated street fighters, either don't care, or are blissfully unaware, that no matter which president you vote for, the outcome will not change. Let's not delude ourselves into believing that our policing and judicial systems were hunky-dory right up until 2016. People in suits come and go, it's the system that sustains; and if you think torching the local mattress store is going to change that system, then I have a beach in Kansas I'd like to take you surfing on.
No matter how personable a politician is, no matter how much he seems to care about you, his devotion is to the platform he stands on, not the stairs that brought him there. Just ask any Old Bolshevik who, during the great purge, couldn't figure out why as a loyal supporter of Stalin, he still found himself on the "oh blyat" end of a Tokarev. A generation of fed-up Millennials, on both sides, have dug deep trenches between each other, instead of meeting in the "no-mans-land" to conduct discourse and find dialectic. That's not how the system works, silly! Hate each other, fight each other, blame each other, but never once realize that you're all one. You're all American, you're all human, and any injustice against one of them, is an injustice against all of us. If they can shoot him for no reason and get away with it, they can do the same to you. 2020 has been a year of nothing but chaos, and with this volatile election hanging only weeks away, both sides threaten civil war should this election not go the way they want. Somehow people have forgotten that true strength is in diplomacy, discussion and compassion. Forget who wins the big chair. Let's instead agree that income instability, non-sequitur laws, unmitigated qualified immunity for law enforcement, in addition to low hiring standards and, the continued destruction of the American middle class, are the problems that everyone faces. Our leaders have cherry picked the nouns by which we protest. If you listen to them, instead of recognizing the problems in our collective reality, you'll never actually accomplish social change, you'll always be doing their bidding. It doesn't help that social media has become a hot box for both sides to preach the same stale arguments to their respective congregations, keeping the window tightly shut, deterring any new ideas from billowing in.
Light an incense! Better yet, open that window, open your mind. Instead of focusing on problems that can actually be fixed, your leaders keep you living in the past. The past isn't going to change, and all the protesting and looting will not bring back the lives lost to police brutality. But in their name, should we all work TOGETHER to bring justice to the people who the system has failed, but can be saved and manumitted. In their names demand the end to qualified immunity. Require body cams to always be running. Bring on a higher standard of a police officer; educated, and given mental health and de-escalation training. Police brutality ends when the system becomes forced to hold its own accountable for their actions.
In my previous article I discussed Sean Worsley, the disabled veteran, arrested for possession of medical marijuana in Alabama, and railroaded by a corrupt system. Well, Mr. Worsley is back in the news. After spending the summer lodging in Pickens County jail, Mr. Worsley's court date has come. And it's not good. A case that should have been laughed out of the courtroom has instead turned into a nightmare. An Alabama judge decided that instead of allowing Mr. Worsley to plead to community supervision and treatment, the Iraq war veteran is being sent to prison... for five years. Despite a company promising him a job, and housing assistance, free and continuous PTSD treatment, and guarantees from the VA to monitor Mr. Worsley, he is currently awaiting transport to begin his sentence. Nevermind that Alabama's prisons are, technically speaking "a shitshow"; underfunded and overcrowded. Regardless of the mental toll being in a harsh environment like a prison will have on a combat veteran with PTSD, the law must go on. And no matter how trivial the law was, Sean Worsley broke it, and now has to pay. According to Leah Nelson from the Alabama Appleseed Project: “In Mr. Worsley’s case, Alabama’s justice system worked exactly as it was designed to." “The arresting officer, judge and prosecutor each exercised discretion at various points, but ultimately, what happened to Mr. Worsley is a predictable outcome of Alabama’s grossly punitive drug laws and the United States’ refusal to meet disabled veterans where they are or provide them with the services they need.”
Sean Worsley was failed by the system. Putting his race aside, anybody can find themselves on the wrong side of this merciless system that can be directed in any way the official at the joystick sees fit. As long as Marijuana / drug laws remain confusing the government can use them as they please, against anyone they please. Joe Bidens' anti-crime bills wrecked already destitute neighborhoods by allowing asset forfeiture; giving the state authority to confiscate anything deemed to have been bought with the proceeds of criminal racketeering. Kamala Harris, as the top cop in California, built a career putting non-violent drug offenders in prison. Now that they're running for president and vice-president, Ms. Harris has suddenly called for weed to be federally "decriminalized". What does that mean? I don't know, but I'm sure it'll do nothing to help Sean Worsley or any of the other thousands of non-violent weed offenders sitting behind bars (many of them victims of Biden and Harris' own policies). Do you see what I mean about loyalty to the platform?
Weed being illegal is part of the system, and like I said in my previous article, if you take that away, the cops will have fewer excuses to turn traffic stops into searches, fewer reasons to conduct no-knock raids. Biden and Harris, Trump and Pence. None of them are looking to upset that status quo. Many of the laws designed to allow cops the right to snoop around your car were born out of prohibition rum running. Prohibition ended but the laws stayed around to help put millions of non-violent drug offenders into prison. The war on drugs isn't a failure, it's a crony capitalist success story! $51 billion dollars a year isn't evaporating into thin air! It's lining the pockets of the people who profit off the system as it is; from private prisons, to government agencies paid to bust grow ops. DEA, FBI, local task forces, state police. Then of course there are the companies supplying them with equipment. Capitalism is about supply and demand; if there is no organic demand, make your own!
If you're a Gen Z millennial and you're stocking up on bottles to use as molotov cocktails, if your favorite puppet isn't elected in November, STOP. If you believe that defunding and demobilizing the police will lead to a better society, it's not gonna happen. If you think more intensive police are needed that's not the answer either. Breonna Taylor was shot by cops but murdered by a system. A system that permits no-knock police home invasions for drug offenses. Eric Garner was murdered by a system that cares more about cigarette taxes than human life. All the mentally ill people killed by cops, were all murdered by a system that treats the mentally ill as criminals instead of patients. Overall it's a system of "us vs them". This is a flaw in the system that won't be pried out by burning and looting, but by coming together and finding dialectic. Finding common ground, and most importantly compassion for each other. For everyone, especially marijuana users and patients, all of us are always one minor traffic infraction away from being thrown into a cell. Who the president is doesn't matter. What matters is that we all prioritize fixing the system we all live under, demanding our constitutional rights not privileges, and ignoring the urge to destroy our cities which does nothing to remedy our societal inequalities. The war on intoxicants has been the biggest threat to our constitutional rights since its inception. Only we can demand our rights back, and the end to the war on drugs, especially marijuana, is the first step.
In the meantime, Sean Worsley sits in jail awaiting a horrible future behind bars in one of Alabama's infamous prisons. He doesn't deserve this. Before you answer the call of the streets, look into the number of non-violent drug offenders rotting in prison. Now realize that you can help get these people their lives back. Call and write to Pickens County. Organize a PEACEFUL protest if you live down there. Heck, organize one where you live! This ordeal has cost the Worsley family time, aggravation, and money. Donate to them, and not to a cause run by some rich crony bidding for the two party system. There is nothing in the world that you can set fire to that will change the situation for Mr. Worsley. What he and his family need is support and love; from everyone. Once we get him freed we work to get others freed. Then we free ourselves.
I know you're set for fighting, but what are you fighting for?