Shocking dashcam footage released today by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota shows a police officer brutally attacking a Laotian American man during a traffic stop last summer in Worthington, Minnesota. The ACLU says that the assault was both unconstitutional and excessively violent, and that “[p]eople should not fear that they could be attacked by the police for no reason or while being detained for investigative purposes.”
In the dashcam video (after the jump) which was captured by a second officer at the scene, Anthony Promvongsa (who was 21 at the time of the incident) is seen in the driver’s seat of his parked vehicle when Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force Agent Joe Joswiak (who was off-duty at the time of the incident) approaches the car door with his gun drawn. Joswiak is heard profanely ordering Promvongsa to exit the vehicle. Immediately upon reaching the car door, Joswiak flings it open and begins forcibly pulling Promvongsa from the vehicle. Joswiak appears to knee and punch Promvongsa several times as he forces him to the pavement and handcuffs him. Midway through the video, another uniformed officer — Sgt. Tim Gaul — is also seen inexplicably turning off the audio of the recording dashcam, leaving no record of the verbal exchange between the police and Promvongsa for the remainder of the arrest.
Now, Promvongsa is facing several criminal charges stemming from the traffic stop while Joswiak does not appear to have any sanction for his obvious use of excessive force. The incident took place on July 28, 2016 — just three weeks after Philando Castile was shot and killed in St. Anthony, Minnesota last year by a police officer during a routine traffic stop.
An as-yet-unidentified 69-year-old Asian man was physically assaulted by three Chicago-area police officers after he allegedly refused to give up his seat on an overbooked United flight scheduled to depart Sunday evening from Chicago to Louisville.
In several eyewitness cellphone videos (after the jump), the man — who was seated in a window seat — is approached by the three officers. Within moments, they physically grab him and throw him from his seat. His head can be seen slamming into a nearby armrest, bloodying his face as one of the officers grabs his arms and drags his stunned form up the aisle of the plane.
I first became aware of Minnesota’s outlier status when I lived there between 2002 and 2006. The Twin Cities are vibrant havens for Native American life. Black heterogeneity invites East Africans and African Americans to commune and code-switch across their differences. The infamous anti-communism among Southeast Asians is absent; refugees of the Vietnam War vote for and run for office as Democrats. Minnesota was the lone dissenting voice to back Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential election, when Ronald Reagan was swept into the White House following ballot box victories across America’s other 49 states.. Throughout much of America’s history, Minnesota has stood valiantly, if understatedly, in opposition to much of the rest of the country.
I lived in St. Paul, a half block away from either the right or the wrong side of a gentrification line, depending on how one sees it. Three buildings away, a poorly maintained apartment complex crumbled from neglect by its slumlord owner. An equal distance in the opposite direction stood a house that debuted the market with an asking price of over half a million. Just north, one might find an overpass for Interstate 94, which runs through the bowels of the old Rondo neighborhood. Every year, the predominantly African American former residents of Rondo host a festival to remember their beloved space, and to lament its destruction in the 1960s to make way for an increasingly automobile-centered society. Many of them were (and still are) reliant on public transport, yet they lost their homes to make way for our cars. In this and other aspects, Minnesota is typical—its inequities are congruent with those of the country at large.
On July 6, Officer Jeronimo Yanez pulled Philando Castile over during a traffic stop just five miles away from Rondo, in the nearby suburb of Falcon Heights. He had a broken taillight. When Castile reached to present his ID, Yanez panicked and fired five shots into his body in front of his panicked girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter. Castile died shortly thereafter in hospital.
The fact that Castile was African American is significant. Numerous studies, historic narratives and contemporary accounts testify to the existence of police aggression targeted at black people — an unbroken thread stretching from slavery to emancipation to the present day. That Yanez—whom Castile’s companion described as “Chinese” in the video she live-streamed of his killing—is phenotypically Asian is also significant. Days after Castile’s death, Yanez’s name and race – he is Latinx – were revealed to the public. Nonetheless, the questions surrounding race and solidarity between Black and non-Black people of color as raised by Philando Castile’s fatal shooting and its aftermath need some parsing.