We’ll call this the open line. But there’s news today. Crowds marched in cities across the U.S. today to protest police mistreatment of black people. The crowds were huge in New York (above) and small (but vibrant) in Little Rock (below). The Washington, D.C. march also was robust.
The occasion is a good time to mention a deep article by Evan Demirel in Sporting Life Arkansas on Jonathan Williams, the Razorback football player, who apparently made history as the first athlete to make a “Don’t Shoot” gesture in a sporting event after a touchdown reception against Missouri. He’s pulled back from his public advocacy after a remonstrance from Coach Bret Bielema. But it remains an important and, for some, controversial event.
It shouldn’t be controversial. We tolerate symbolism of all sorts from college players, religious gestures particularly. The “I Can’t Breathe” messages being worn by some athletes have even been welcomed in some pro quarters as social awareness by ball players, whose lives, after all, are about more than playing ball.
The nasty critics of Jonathan Williams want to boil his gesture down and subject it to scrutiny as if he took a side on the conflicting — and by no means one-sided — testimony before the St. Louis grand jury on whether Michael Brown had his arms upraised when he was shot. The gesture has become — and will remain — a universal and readily understandable symbol, Demirel writes:
Williams hasn’t gone into detail about what he exactly meant by the gesture. Nationwide, many people have criticized the gesture he used as inaccurate, citing witnesses who have said Michael Brown did not actually raise his hands in a defenseless pose when a policeman shot him. The gesture, of course, was triggered by the circumstances surrounding a death in a St. Louis suburb but it ultimately isn’t about who did what, when and where in any one specific incident. On a higher level, it represents a way to give voice to concerns and fears that have frustrated millions of African Americans for centuries.
Yes. Too many unarmed black men lie dead, with no accountability for those who shot them in sometimes questionable circumstances. Little Rock has its own Michael Brown in Eugene Ellison, 67-year-old father of two Little Rock police officers, shot dead for raising a cane at two police officers who entered his apartment for no good reason, causing an unhappy reaction from him. The police investigation is marked by shoddy investigative work, special treatment of the cops who did the shooting and had relatives in the investigative unit and a lack of any public disapproval of their actions by city officials. You’d think somebody would have said by now that two armed police officers — who blundered into a private place they didn’t belong for no good reason — should have been sufficiently trained to subdue an old unarmed man without killing him. Yet the city of Little Rock continues to fight to represent the officers in a civil lawsuit, contending they should be immune for their actions. The city argues, laughably, that they acted in the interest of the well being of a man who was alive until they walked in.
Jonathan Williams may be the last to put his hands in the air for the Hogs. But until the situation improves, expect to see more athletes’ hands in the air, including in real-life situations o the street. Whether it will be a protection against shooting resins to be seen.