Police Helicopter in the Sky at St. Paul and Mount Royal

Helicopter in the Sky at St. Paul and Mount RoyalWednesday’s ride was all commute, happily since Monday’s rain-out meant a super crowded bus ride home. It was so crowded, in that way that reminds you how relative that whole “no touching” dictum is. I mean, if the kinds of physical contact happening on that Monday bus ride were to happen at the workplace, somebody’d be out of a job. Wednesday’s ride home was a different kind of slow slog, this one taking place right after I heard that Eric Garner’s killer was not indicted. That means the grand jury didn’t think there was enough evidence for any reasonable person to even possibly find the killer guilty of any kind of crime. It sucked the air right out of me, but I had the privilege for that to be a passing feeling, and I returned to breath, shallow for a bit, but there. I thought about the case as I rode my bike up the hill toward home, counting police officers–the private guards for University of Maryland Med Center, the bike cops on that corner, the car parked over there, and the sounds of police helicopters swirling above. I thought about how normalized that sound is, how at my house, when the copters fly over it bungles the tv reception, and we laugh about it, how when the sound’s really loud I wonder what’s going on, but otherwise it fades into the background. It’s a privilege that it can do so, because I can trust it’s not watching me, until it is. But more than this, I thought about how the normalization of the police in our everyday risks producing us as folks with no imagination for another way of organizing the world. Even as some of us are critical of policing, the cops are often the people we think to call first when there’s trouble. That’s partly because we haven’t built another kind of system for ourselves (though many have, and many are working on that project), but also because cops are just common sense. But that system isn’t working–it isn’t keeping us safe, it’s killing one of us every 28 hours, and it’s become state-sponsored terror. Terror. That’s real. I stopped to wait for the light at Mount Royal and St. Paul, and all I could hear was the thwap-thwap-thwap of that police helicopter (I could read that on the side of the thing–sometimes they’re for news, but not this one), probably out tracking the uprisings in response to the Garner decision. I tried to snap a picture, but by the time my phone camera focused, it was out of frame. That’s how they work, though, always as moving just out of range, always setting the narrative themselves. Thwap thwap thwap, that’s it, that smudge of light in the corner. And then I pedaled the rest of the way home, turned on the television news, and watched video of two murders. They didn’t even warn me to take my kids out of the room as they showed me video of two different murders, and I wondered: what are they seeing that they can just show that on tv?

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