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Statement on Spring Valley High School cop assault

By Sarah Scott
Seattle Radical Women

The assault by cop Ben Fields against a black female Spring Valley High School student is the latest in a string of police brutality acts caught on camera. New media has given civilians the ability to document police officers in the act of committing crimes. It has brought attention to the public about racist incidents that have always been commonplace. But video evidence does not ensure justice.

Officer Fields was fired, but this is the bare minimum that should happen. A grown man who body slams a teenaged girl should be charged with assault—period. Instead, Sheriff Lott of Richland County publicly blamed the victim for inciting the attack. Now she faces criminal charges!

As a half-black woman who grew up in a very white Seattle suburb, I know that if any police officer had tried this with one of my white peers, the officer would have been both fired and charged immediately. And the girl’s classmate surely would not have been charged with “disturbing schools” for merely verbally objecting to the assault.

Also in spite of the cell phone footage of the attack, charges against the victim and her classmate have not been dropped. This shows that no matter how Orwellian the scenario, relying solely on cameras will never be enough to truly end police brutality or institutionalized racism in the U.S.

The discrepancy of treatment between officers and students has much deeper racist roots at the core of our criminal injustice system. While it is important to charge the officer and fire the officials who defended his actions, making examples of individuals will not create lasting change. We must change the capitalist system in order to end racism.

One step towards humanizing society is to end economic and social segregation. It is much easier for a white family in Seattle to ignore the plight of a young black girl in South Carolina if they feel like she’s a stranger. If one had to consider that these teachers, administrators, and officers might come into contact with their own loved ones, the public response would be much more visceral.