In the last post regarding spaces and the April 12th shooting on 13th and Bannock Street I concluded with the idea that the personal stories of the members in a space can help to feed not only the context of that situation but can create meanings that link past and present contexts together. The rapidly politicizing nature of the space around the shooting lends credence to the idea that people do not simply develop a position on happenings in a vacuum of knowledge about the past. For instance, while we were there a family with a small child came to ask us what was happening. When we told them what was going on the young child quickly asked whether the victim was black, he wasn’t, but the nature of the question was fascinating in itself.
While examining online spaces we defined intercultural communication as a clash of contexts, or paradigms, which different people develop based upon their own perceptions and experiences (Martin and Nakayama, Pg. 50). In the last post I spent some time developing the context of this space as an area that became political as people created a story of what had occurred and assigned meaning to those pieces. The question which still needs to be answered, at least in my mind, is why that context became so rapidly political? For all we knew the police shot a suspect in the process of serving a warrant; what happened was not intrinsically wrong or even uncommon so, to use the popular turn of phrase, ‘why the hate?’ My suggestion would be to look for the answer in this clash of contexts, or ideas related to spaces and events, which inevitably happens around events which people can relate to their other experiences.
The answer is pretty apparent, especially when individuals are at the scene saying things like, “a year ago they took my son,” the hate comes from the past. In the days following the shooting several facts came to light in the sparing, and I mean sparing as in 4 or 5, stories which chose to cover this issue.
First, it became clear that Dion Damon did no have a weapon. Second, it came to light that his wife and child, who previous sources suggest were in the car at the time of the shooting were not. And finally, we find that the suspect was shot a round total of 7 times… seems excessive but the Denver Police Department gives no regulation for what is excessive force at the point in which deadly force has been decided on (i.e. if you are going to shoot them the DPD will not tell you how many times you are allowed to do so).
The public standing around the scene did not know how many times the suspect had been shot or that he was unarmed, in fact, all that we knew at the time was that a man had been shot while police attempted to serve him with a warrant. So where did our assumptions that he was unjustly shot, or as the child stated that he was black, come from? My suggestion is that these assumptions are manifestations of the Past-Present-Future dialectic at work in our lives and that it is these contexts playing upon the current contexts that allowed us to develop so many opinions of the issue so quickly.
Media framing of events has always carefully chosen the facets of a story that are released. Not only do they choose what to say but they have an annoying tendency of choosing how it is said, a character trait which has allowed the media to incite and drive massive swings in political opinion based on things as simple as wording. Sadly, one of the primary areas in which media framing of issues tends to abuse this power is in the case of tragedies such as this happening on 13th and Bannock, the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown or even the Florida death of Trayvon Martin. As sad as the death of these individuals might have been media portrayals, and their constant linking of these past events to current ones, helps to create a mantra of wrongdoing spreading an us/them mentality which separates the population from those designed to protect them. Ultimately, this mantra fails to remember the individuals for who they were instead posting them as unwilling victims of an ever-willing state.
Skepticism of any power is never wrong but when skepticism turns to outright hostility and suggestion of wrongdoing even in the going about of regular business, as it did in the case of the 13th and Bannock shooting, we have to ask where the bile comes from.
Whether legitimate or illegitimate there is a reason that a young child asked if a man shot by the police was black. Legitimate or illegitimate there is a reason that media surrounding the Trayvon Martin case took special care to call George Zimmerman a “mixed race Hispanic man” as opposed to calling him Hispanic, or better yet not mentioning his race at all as it doesn’t fucking matter. And legitimate or illegitimate there is a reason that when a man is shot during the routine service of a warrant a large crowd gathers which comes to the conclusion, on its own, that the man was illegitimately shot and that this serves as yet another example of police brutality. Somehow the contexts of the past have found a way to haunt our present but sadly they won’t haunt it for long.
The day after the incident the tape was taken down, the suspect’s car removed and businesses reopened (specifically the paid parking-lot which had to shut down due to the event). Several news stories about the incident scrolled across the Denver Post’s website and a few dedicated protestors brought up the event at a rally a little ways away, but apart from that what changed, nothing. A space, an entire street, which had been transformed, first into a space of morning and then into a space of narration and political formation, simply by the act of surrounding it with yellow tape, was once again nothing more than a street.
What amazes me is that our society can have such a strong sense of collective memory when we are in the midst of these clashing contexts and yet, a day later, people walking into the Denver Environmental Health building probably have no idea that less than 24 hours previously the police killed an unarmed man in a car 100 feet away.