Posted on 08-03-2012
Unnecessary deaths: Aurora to Anaheim
On July 20, people around the nation were stunned to hear the news of a heavily armed gunman shooting unarmed people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. A few days later people learned of unarmed people being assaulted in Anaheim, California by armed police.
James Holmes, who killed 12 people and injured an additional 58 people, while dressed in military style clothing and still armed with assault weapons, he was allowed to surrender peacefully to Aurora police. In Anaheim, people were peacefully protesting the murders of two young men; one was unarmed and the other may have been armed (or unarmed). The police response has been violent, shooting people with pepper pellets and bean bags and using attack dogs. Many people were horrified at the sight of a police dog attacking a young child in a stroller.
One obvious difference in these two cases is that one killer was a civilian, while the other killers were police officers. The other obvious difference is that the white murderer was given an opportunity to surrender, while the Latino men, Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo were shot under suspicious circumstances during the same weekend.
Both incidents occurred within days of each other. The people of this nation saw the news reports of both, but in Aurora, Colorado the victims were rightfully treated sympathetically, while in Anaheim, California the victims were considered thugs, and peaceful protesters (exercising their first amendment rights) were regarded as rioters, and wrongfully treated unsympathetically. I have to clarify here that the protests againsst police brutality began peacefully, but were attacked by the police, which resulted in people fighting back.
I'm not trying to compare the horror of both situations, or deny the brutal character of the Aurora, Colorado assault. Clearly, the gunman's attack was senseless brutal violence, causing deeply disturbing physical and emotional scars on all the survivors and took the lives of innocent people, including a child. I am deeply regretful and saddened by the events of that midnight massacre. I am sorrowful of the tragic loss of lives and the terror that the survivors had to endure.
But as I was in the process of trying to process the inexplicable acts of a gunman, who had legally purchased assault weapons, the types of weapons that are used in wars, and witnessed (via media) the fact that he survived and was taken into custody without incident was almost surreal. Yet following that incident, a few days later, I watched (again, via media) in disbelief as police officers attacked men, women and children. Then I learned that they were angry at the Anaheim, California police for killing two Latinos in two separate occasions.
My first concern was, how can we change laws so that people cannot legally buy assault weapons with automatic and semi-automatic capabilities with magazines or clips that hold large quantities of ammunition? Congress hardly reacted. This was also the case last year when Rep. Gifford was shot in Tucson, Arizona, along with innocent bystanders. Congress would not even take a stand when one of their own was a victim of a violent crime when an assault weapon was used. Assault weapons have greater killing capacity because they shoot more bullets.
Congresspersons are unwilling to challenge the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun lobby in general. The truth is, guns are big business. It should not go unnoticed that the NRA is conveniently silent about the Aurora massacre and is waiting for the affects of the shooting to die down.
My next concern is that when police are involved in killing people without justifiable cause, especially people of color, they are presumed innocent just because they are police officers. In this context it is presumed that if you call a Latino a possible gang member or may have gang connections that they deserve to die. One the men was unarmed. The other may have been unarmed, but was not armed when he was shot. In other words he may have had access to a weapon, but did not have a weapon in his hands when he was shot.
Furthermore, when people exercised their right to freedom of speech and assembly by peacefully protesting police murderers, they were assaulted. This is a violation of their rights. Once again, there is a presumption that they are in the wrong and are defending criminals. This represents a double-standard of justice.
Another concern I have is that here in this nation, where everyone is presumably guided by the same democratic principles, there were two opposite responses to the treatment of suspects. In one case where the murderer brazenly killed and wounded people, while people witnessed him committing the act, he was allowed to surrender to the police. In the other case where suspects were suspected of crimes, they were shot and killed by the police (even though they were unarmed at the moment they were killed).
If this nation is going to prevent tragedies, such as the Aurora, Colorado massacre, then laws need to be created that prevent the gun industry and gun lobby from profiting from the tragic losses of people's lives. There's an old saying that as long as guns are outlawed, only outlaws will own guns. But the truth is that the outlaws legally own assault weapons. I want to add that as long as we live in a nation where double-standards of law-enforcement and criminal justice exist and where laws unfairly protect police over civilians, and where people of color are treated without dignity then we will always have confrontations just like the protests in Anaheim, California. Civil and human rights should be universal and apply to everyone equally.
Joe Navarro is a retired teacher and former school board trustee from the Hollister School District. Maestro Joe http://maestrojoe.weebly.com is a website and blog site that contains analyses and insights into issues affecting public education.