In a story that has received scant mainstream attention, a Hawaiian man was savagely beaten by a Honolulu Police Department officer in 2014 for offering a prayer to a monk seal; the entire (apparently unprovoked) assault was captured on cellphone video by a bystander.
On September 10, 2014, 41-year-old Jamie Kalani Rice was walking on Honolulu’s Nanakuli Beach when he came across a monk seal lying on the beach in apparent distress. Rice, who is Native Hawaiian, knelt several feet from the monk seal and began a prayer ritual which he later said was to offer the seal some of his mana; the ritual included chanting and rubbing himself with sand. Video shot by witnesses show that this ritual continued for several minutes, and Rice was seen occasionally lightly throwing small handfuls of sand at the seal to urge it back into the water; the seal only reacts at one point to the sand (minute 4:20 mark in the video, after the jump), but mostly appears non-responsive. Monk seals are a protected species, and Nanakuli Beach has signs warning visitors not to disturb these animals if they are encountered.
The trial against NYPD officer Peter Liang, who fatally shot Akai Gurley late last year in a darkened stairwell of the Louis H. Pink public housing building, began this week with Judge Danny K. Chun denying the defense’s motions to have the charges dismissed. Liang is charged with six counts, including manslaughter in the second degree, reckless endangerment, and official misconduct. Revealing for the first time a number of details in the circumstances surrounding Akai Gurley’s death, the New York State District Attorney’s Office unsealed a document outlining the case against Liang.
To read the 57-page document is illuminating, and it weakens the argument made by some that Officer Liang’s indictment is an instance of racially motivated scapegoating. Indeed, the prosecution meticulously outlines a series of reckless violations of police protocol by Liang and his partner Officer Shaun Landau in the minutes leading up to Akai Gurley’s shooting at approximately 11pm on November 20, 2014, and Gurley’s death an hour later.
But I took a step back, and read about some of the Chinese people who were in support of Liang. Some of them felt he was scapegoated. Some claimed the Liang case was about political maneuvering. Some said they were tired of being pushed around. What was going on here? How was the information on this case being broadcast in non-English media? It’s hard to get more than 100,000 Asians in America to sign onto anything — who got them to sign on to support this officer?
To some, it all may seem cut and dried. Asians are just being selfish and anti-Black again, only coming out of their wannabe white lifestyles to support one of their own. But then what about the cases where Asians have been the victims of police violence that don’t draw anywhere near the same zeitgeist? How do those instances of racist violence against Asians, statistically not as frequent but still racist, fit into our understanding of state sanctioned violence against Asian bodies?
This post was published hours before the verdict in the Rekia Boyd manslaughter trial was announced. This post has been updated to reflect the outcome of that trial.
Earlier this month, 50 year old Walter Scott was shot and killed by North Charleston police officer Michael Thomas Slager following a routine traffic stop for a broken tail-light. Slager’s cruiser dash-cam shows that Scott — who was Black and unarmed — fled his car moments after being stopped. Slager gave chase and says he hit Scott with his Taser. Scott again fled, and that’s when Slager pulled out his handgun and fired eight shots from 20 feet away. Five hit Scott from behind, fatally wounding him.
We know these details of Walter Scott’s final moments because of eyewitness video captured by Feidin Santana (embedded after the jump). Understandably, many have focused on the first few minutes of the video: Scott and Slager are seen in the middle of a physical altercation. A black object drops to the ground while Scott turns to flee. He breaks into a determined run. Slager reaches for his gun and pauses, then fires seven times in rapid succession into Scott’s back. A momentary silence, and then Slager fires one final shot. Scott crumples to the ground.
This is easily the most gut-wrenching moment of the Walter Scott shooting video; but, it is not the only remarkable moment. There is a second portion of the video that also demands our attention.
A minute after Scott falls to the ground, Slager radios his dispatcher saying he shot a suspect who went for his Taser. Then, after he handcuffs an unresponsive Scott, Slager jogs back the 20 metres to the site of the initial altercation. He picks up the black object that fell to the ground. As a second officer arrives on the scene, Slager strides back and casually drops the object — his Taser — next to Scott’s prone body.
Later, Slager claimed through his lawyer that Walter Scott was shot after he allegedly overpowered Slager. Slager claimed he “felt threatened” when Scott got control of Slager’s Taser. That narrative, combined with Slager’s moving of his Taser from its original position, might have been accepted as the official account regarding Walter Scott’s death — had it not been for Santana’s surreptitious cellphone footage.