Eric Garner and the Plague of Police Brutality Against Black Men
If you haven’t heard about Eric Garner yet, let me fill you in. He was a 43-year-old father of six who lived in Staten Island, and he died in the street on Thursday after as many as four New York police officers choked him and slammed his head on the ground. The NYPD told the Associated Press that they stopped Garner because he was selling untaxed cigarettes, something he’d been arrested for before. However, witnesses who spoke with local news website Staten Island Live have basically said that’s bullshit. Ramsey Orta, who was on the scene and shot a now infamous video that is making the rounds, can be heard in the clip saying that all Garner had done to get bothered by the police was break up a fight.
In the video, Garner denies any wrongdoing and asks why he’s being hassled. “Every time you see me you want to mess with me,” he says in an exasperated tone that most men of color across this country can relate to. Garner, who was 400 pounds and has been described by people who knew him as a “gentle giant,” suffered from chronic asthma and police claim his death was the result of a heart attack suffered during the arrest.
Police say that Garner made a “fighting stance” and resisted arrest. Which, based on the video clip, is complete nonsense, considering we can see him pleading to the officers, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe!” before going completely silent as several officers pile on him.
The video of Garner’s death is disgusting, but I can’t say I was shocked or even outraged the first time I watched it. At this point, as someone who’s read and written about some of these stories time and time again—and who’s had firsthand experiences with the way cops treat black males—this kind of reprehensible shit is not surprising at all. After so many cases like Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell, you start to feel desensitized by the seemingly insurmountable injustice that plagues communities of color.
Murderers Are the Best Restaurant Workers
When I started working with actual criminals, I realized that they were easier to get along with because they knew how bad things could get.
A Guide to Europe’s Secret Drug Capitals
If you’re not in Colorado or Washington, and you’ve ever spent more than $100 on weed at once, you’ve probably taken a relaxing vacation away from criminality in Amsterdam. That’s because smoking a joint legally in a beautiful European city, surrounded by both erudite Dutchmen and shit-drunk Scottish stag parties, is generally much more preferable to hot-boxing your friend’s car in a parking lot, slamming the music off and ducking behind the seats every time another car drives by.
But where are other Europeans supposed to go to snort, smoke or ingest in peace? Coke-heads used to have that Bolivian jail where you could buy fishscale direct from the prisoners, but that’s now banished to backpacker lore, ruined by swaths of international media attention and a warden who realized that presiding over a state-funded gak factory probably wouldn’t look great on his resume.
In 2013, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) conducted a study of 42 European cities, analyzing local waste-water (sewage, essentially) to determine which drug was most widely used in each area. Some of the results were as you’d expect, but there were a few in there that stuck out a little, and those are the ones we’ve laid out below in our guide to Europe’s secret drug capitals.
Photo via Jean-Pol Grandmont
Shockingly, Antwerp—a city full of diamond traders and fashion students—is also full of cocaine. In fact, Europe’s coke capital is so keen on the stuff that nefarious pigeon fanciers have started doping their racing birds with performance-enhancing gak.
One potential reason behind the Belgian capital’s fondness for blow is that almost 25 percent of the cocaine shipped to Europe from South America makes its way through the country, and a large chunk of that through the port of Antwerp. Conveniently—and kind of unbelievably—only two percent of the containers passing through the port each year are actually screened, meaning not a lot gets seized.
And lucky for the city’s residents, that bountiful supply translates into low, low prices; at an average of $68 a gram, it kind of makes sense that it’s so widely used.
Cannabis growing all over the hills of Lazarat. Photo by Axel Kronholm
The bucolic town of Lazarat is slightly different from many other pastoral Albanian towns, in that its green pastures are mostly made up of cannabis plants, which produce around 900 tons of bud every year. Families can survive off a harvest for a whole year—and growing really is a family business, which is probably why it’s not a good idea to fuck with the kush farmers of Lazarat.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, 800 police surrounded the town. Upon realizing they were boxed-in, residents decided to base their response on the archetypal Michael Bay drug dealer—by grabbing some RPGs and machine guns, and blasting the overwhelmed cops off their turf. Thousands of plants were destroyed, but in the end the police retreated.
You Can Kill Anyone with Your Car, As Long As You Don’t Really Mean
On May 29 of last year, Bobby Cann left the Groupon offices in Chicago, where he worked as an editorial tools specialist. Traveling north on his bicycle, he rode up wide, sunny Larrabee Street. As he entered the intersection at Clybourn Avenue, a Mercedes SUV traveling over 50 miles per hour slammed into him from behind. The impact threw Cann into the air. He landed unconscious, blood streaming out of his mouth and his left leg severed. Bystanders, including a registered nurse, rushed to help. Shortly after transport to a nearby hospital, he died.
What makes Cann’s story notable among the 700 or so bicyclists who are hit and killed in America each year is that San Hamel faces charges in Cann’s death. According to a recent report by the League of American Bicyclists, barely one in five drivers who end bicyclists’ lives are charged with a crime. The low prosecution rate isn’t a secret, and has inspired many towonder whether plowing into a cyclist with a car is a low-risk way to commit homicide.
The Cann case is an exception that proves the rule. “The criminal case is sort of about the outrageous nature of what happened,” Todd Smith, a civil attorney for Cann’s family, concedes. “[San Hamel was] driving under the influence on the city streets where things are congested, and [there was] the complete lack of braking of any sort, the enormous impact of a car of thousands of pounds going in excess of 50 miles per hour, hitting just the human body.” San Hamel’s blood alcohol level was 0.127 at the time of the crash.
Photo via Flickr user rick
Bicyclists who pushed for prosecution also helped the cause. Last summer, over 5,000 people signed a petition asking state’s attorney Anita Alvarez to refuse a plea bargain from San Hamel. Local activist Robert Kastigar, who started the petition, says he believes it encouraged the state to pursue the case. A representative of Chicago advocacy group Active Transportation Alliance says the involvement of activists is likely to influence stiffer sentencing.
Nationwide, incidents like Cann’s often result in misdemeanor charges, tickets, or nothing. Leah Shahum from the San Francisco Bike Coalition told the New York Times last year that her organization does “not know of a single case of a cyclist fatality in which the driver was prosecuted, except for D.U.I. or hit-and-run.” Kristin Smith, also of the SF Coalition, says that “Last year, four people were hit and killed in San Francisco and no charges were ever brought,” including for a collision captured on video that showed the driver was at fault. Last year in New York City, the bike advocacy organization Time’s Up pushed for changes in police investigations of bicyclist deaths by painting chalk body outlines on streets, marked with words familiar from NYPD reports: “No Criminality Suspected.”
Why Stoners Should Want to Implement the New Weed Breathalyzer
Yesterday, Kayla Ruble of VICE News reported on the rapid progress of weed breathalyzer technology
. It seems that as enforcement of the prohibition on marijuana slowly grinds to a halt, cops have to turn from hassling people just for having weed, to hassling people because they used it before they got behind the wheel.
The thing is though, this is as it should be. If stoners know what’s good for them, they need to push for an accurate and sane field pot test to be implemented in all jurisdictions.
The test that’s making news this week, the Cannabix Breathalyzer, was invented by retired Canadian Mounty Kal Malhi, who complained to his local paper, The Province, that “Young people have no fear of driving after smoking.”
Noticing the lack of a practical solution to the problem, he developed his device at home in Vancouver. It’s similar in appearance and operation to an alcohol breathalyzer. In fact, it’s too similar. It should be green or something, but cops are notorious for having no design sense.
But ugly or not, it offers a major benefit for stoners: It detects stoned drivers, not just drivers who have smoked weed lately. The Cannabix is only supposed to bust you if you’ve smoked in the past two hours.
Why Are So Many Aboriginal Women Being Murdered in Canada?
In February, the frozen body of 26-year-old Loretta Saunders, a pregnant Inuit woman from Labrador, Canada, was found dumped onto a highway median in New Brunswick. Saunders, a student at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, had been writing her thesis on missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada—in a tragic twist, she became one of the subjects of her own research, the latest in what is estimated to be hundreds of murders and disappearances of indigenous Canadian women. Just this month, the head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told reporters that 1,186 aboriginal women had been murdered or went missing over the past 30 years.
The sad irony of Saunders’s death shed light on a human rights issue that has been quietly brewing for years in Canada, a progressive country that is generally known for treating its citizens—including most women—well. The Canadian government doesn’t collect data on the race and ethnicity of missing persons, but a new database compiled by independent researcher Maryanne Pearce documents 4,035 cases of missing and murdered women and girls, 883—or nearly 25 percent—of which involve aboriginal women. That’s a shocking statistic, considering that aboriginal women make up just 2 percent of the population in Canada. While some of the cases date back to the 1950s, the majority took place between 1990 and 2013.
“This is part of a larger phenomenon of violence against women, period,” Pearce said. “It’s such a complicated issue. We have to look at every layer, with a special focus on systemic racism. There isn’t one answer—there isn’t one person or group who can address this. It has to be everybody—the First Nations governments, the provincial governments, the police forces, and the national government. And the Canadian public has a responsibility too.”
Uruguay’s President Mujica is a former revolutionary (some might call him a terrorist) who was shot six times, imprisoned for 14 years, tortured, and kept in solitary confinement for upward of three years, only to be released, renounce violence, enter politics, win election to the nation’s highest office, and lead Uruguay as it rose out of recession, all the while legalizing gay marriage and abortion, which is noteworthy for a country that counts Catholicism as its dominant religion. He donates 90 percent of his income to charity, lives at his small farm rather than the country’s lavish presidential palace, drives a Volkswagen Beetle, almost never wears a suit, and rails against the excesses of consumerism and the West’s reliance on it as economic ballast.
President Chill: Uruguay and Its Ex-Terrorist Head of State May Hold the Key to Ending the Global Drug War
Meet the Vigilante Prisoner Who Beats Up Jail Rapists
T-Bone is a 6 ft 5 ex-Marine who’s become something of a legend in the west coast prison system for taking a one-man stand against rapists in American jails. He believes it’s his Christian duty to protect weaker inmates from being sexually abused, and has been stabbed and beaten to within an inch of his life for doing just that. He’s currently serving time for robbery (he maintains his innocence), so I sent him some questions about his anti-rape crusade and the issues of sexual assault in American prisons.
VICE: Hi T-Bone. When did you first decide that you were going to make a stand against rapists in the prison system?
T-Bone: It was in 1986, when I saw a young kid of 18 being pushed around for food and being told to smuggle crystal meth and heroin into prison inside his butt. When the kid brought the dope in, the two guys who’d made him do it both got high and raped the kid, which made me decide to take action.
How common is rape in American prisons? As prevalent as TV and movies would have you believe?
It’s very common, and it happens in a variety of ways. When I was in one particular prison here in Arizona, every single night someone was getting raped. All night long, I heard male flesh pounding against male flesh, guys getting fucked up the ass. Anyone who couldn’t fight back was game. The rapists were the size of apes. They’d put the victim in a chokehold to make them unconscious. Regular guys—not homosexuals—were getting punked and were scared to admit it. I also saw big guys kissing little white boys on the lips and neck like they were women. Gang members would sometimes hold someone down and stick things in his ass—stuff like cans, soda bottles, shampoo bottles, broom handles, or metal shanks.
Shaun has told me that your Christian faith played a part in inspiring you to take action against rapists.
My belief in God gives me the divine power to do all things through His spirit. Some people say that God doesn’t hurt people and that I hurt those rapists on my own because I wanted to run things in prison, but I believe that God didn’t tell the rapists I encountered over the years to force themselves on young inmates just because they could. I never ran across the yard and jumped on people because of their behavior; I prayed, I talked to a lot of people on the yard who felt the same way I did, and I asked God for protection.
I’m not a Superman or someone special. God’s power is much stronger than mine, and His will will be done. Making rapists stop hurting other people was God pushing and guiding me. I didn’t win all of my fights with rapists—I almost lost my life more than once when I was stabbed and smashed in the skull with rocks in socks. I believe the only reason I’m alive is by God’s grace.