Police Brutality

A local instance of police brutality involved us in unsuccessful organizing efforts in the summer of 1969. Two black soldiers, in uniform, were arrested by white police officers, outside a night club. The case was tried and for the first time a Massachusetts jury verdict found a police officer guilty of brutality. The two black soldiers, were awarded damages totaling $3 !!!! The award of damages was blatantly racist, assigning almost zero value to those black soldiers! We thought there would be an immediate public outcry. We publicized it as the “$3 Justice Case”, organized for a new trial and decision. Astounded at the generally easy acceptance of the verdict, we learned a lesson about the blindness of white eyes, unwilling to see. But there was no outcry, and our aborted efforts illustrated both the maddening lack of public concern, and our organizational impotence in the face of an intransigent system. That experience prepared my heart to understand later, that the denial and intransigence was rooted in a long history. James Baldwin was already working my spirit.

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