Last Wednesday in Ferguson County 24-year-old LaShell Eikerenkoetter spent 18 hours shivering on a thin sheet of plastic, listening to the cries of a man with cancer as he begged police for medication he must take every two hours.
"It is traumatizing. I automatically felt like my life did not matter to them at all. It did not matter that I was cold. It didn't matter that I was thirsty. It didn't matter that I was hungry," LaShell said.
LaShell recalls a line of about 11 officers, the SWAT team, and Army members, walking the streets, antagonizing people. LaShell, a videographer, was jailed because she recorded police harassing a man on crutches who was not moving as fast as they wanted him to.
Officers yanked her, nearly broke her camera, and threw LaShell and several others in an airless, hot, police SUV.
A heavy set man who could not fit in the van was shoved on its floor. He screamed at police, telling them he could not breathe and had no cartilage in his knees. The officers told the man they did not believe him and left him crying on the floor of the van.
LaShell has never taken the stance as someone who hates the police, in fact, she believes there are good cops out there, but she had a revelation while she was jailed; one most black men, jailed without reason, must know.
Within the first two hours of sitting in the jail cell, LaShell realized that if anything were to happen she would have to trust the police with her life, the same police officers who mistakenly cut her while releasing her hands from a plastic wire and mocked her when asked for an apology.
"It's like how can you be so inhumane?" LaShell said.
The same police officers who refused to give her water and intentionally placed her in a jail cell with a broken water fountain.
When I spoke with LaShell I could tell that she was shaken by her first personal encounter with police brutality but I could also hear her determination to keep fighting for peace.
Her Instagram features a picture of a young boy holding a sign that says:
"Protect and serve? That's a LIE!!! They don't care when Black kids DIE"
As she snapped the photograph, LaShell could see the fear in this young boy's eyes. She believes that young black boys may not fully understand the reality that is police brutality but they do know that they may not make it to 20 years of age. Every 28 hours a black man is killed by a police officer.
On Thursday, Aug. 14 I attended a National Moment of Silence vigil in Chicago honoring Mike Brown and other victims of police brutality.
I wanted to record the footage to help combat the mainstream media's misleading understanding of who is honoring victims of police brutality. It is not just the people in Ferguson. There are people all over the world -- of different races and ages -- honoring the civilians that die at the hands of American cops every single day.
As I shouted, "Black lives matter," in a crowd of beautiful, remarkable souls I realized that police brutality is not only negatively effecting the black community. It is also playing a large role in negatively shaping the mindsets of all members of our society.
LaShell and I had a conversation about how mainstream media is failing us. This is the reason she is not sending her footage to news outlets but is instead, taking the power and putting daily footage on her Instagram account.
On one Instagram post she says, "I've seen articles, interviews, footage of a whole bunch of bs that is doing nothing but trying to defame this teenager or paint protestors to be an angry mob. Yet, you're not showing the egotistical, evilness of the some of the police out here. The media is failing us."
We live in such a politically correct world that our own president cannot openly tell us that he is outraged at the obvious murder of a teenage boy. Our country is so politically correct that media companies are convinced that they will not survive if they openly tell the honest truth.
As a journalist I know a lot about 'media speak,' the proper way to speak objectively as a member of the media. 'Allegedly' and 'claim' are two words we are force fed in journalism school but who made that happen? When did being real stop being an option? Black men are murdered every single day in situations similar to Mike Brown's and the 'alleged' claims, unnecessary speculations, and continued disconnect between the media and the people are key to the maintenance of police brutality. Police officers know how to manipulate the mainstream media. Prime example: It was clearly known by officers that Mike Brown stealing cheap cigars was unrelated to his murder yet that information was released as a tactic to defame him and devalue his life. Now there is an article out questioning his enrollment in college. In my opinion, the media, knowingly or unknowingly, is doing a lot to help police end black lives.
LaShell has taken a lot of footage of the police brutality occurring in Ferguson and even though major outlets have requested the footage none of them have used it. Instead the media is focused on irrelevant details that have nothing to do with the fact that Mike Brown was shot six times, twice in the head, and his body was left outside for four hours then whisked away in a shady van.
In this new, technological age we can capture police brutality on camera but can that really help us combat it? It does not seem like videography provides enough evidence to bring down police brutality. Why is that?
At the vigil in Chicago I raised my hands up with my neighbors for four minutes, one minute for every hour Mike Brown's body was left lying in the street. After four minutes of having my arms raised high in the air of course they ached. But every single minute was a minute well spent.
The vigil was important, not because we were honoring black life but because we were honoring all life. All life matters. American citizens deserve better.
When LaShell was arrested protesters were being peaceful and praying on the concrete, but the forceful police created a hostile environment.
"They're treating us like we're the ones who killed somebody," LaShell said. "The picture that's being painted is that it is us but we aren't the problem. They are."
LaShell was filming at a peace rally in Ferguson while I interviewed her over the phone and a woman that overheard our interview admitted that the police had gotten violent with her and her company as they marched.
"You have hundreds of people who are out here trying to get justice. I'm just so frustrated because the police and media are hindering the progress that is trying to be made," LaShell said. "The real revolution isn't being seen around the world. I'm not counting on the news to know what's going on because it's not the truth."
Last night at 9:30 p.m., LaShell stood on the top of a hill, looking down at tons of police lights flashing. Last Saturday the police enacted a curfew of 12 a.m. but this night they threw bombs at the marchers three hours before the curfew.
"The police is nothing but a gang. They just have each other's back," said LaShell.
On her Instagram page LaShell said, "I'm fighting so nobody will be shot down in the street nor abused during an arrest! We're doing this for you."
LaShell is now a victim of police brutality but she is also a survivor. She understands the role she must play in order to end police brutality and create peace. A lot of the people reading this article, myself included, have yet to experience police brutality. We do not know that agony or that pain. So what is stopping us from being as brave as LaShell and ensuring that the police are policed?
One of my favorite novels is Black Boy by Richard Wright. It is the tale of Mr. Wright's childhood, his life growing up in the Jim Crow South. In one scene in the novel Wright describes how he felt submitting to the authority of his oppressors.
"I felt drenched in shame, naked to my soul. The whole of my being felt violated, and I knew that my own fear had helped to violate it. I was breathing hard and struggling to master my feelings."
If you were to read this quote to a young black man in America and ask him if he could relate I guarantee he would say yes. Before we hire police officers we need to make certain that all officers value all life and that all officers make it a point to end the devaluation of the black man.
The topic of police brutality is popular right now but it has always been an issue.
As a young man from St. Louis exclaimed at the vigil in Chicago, we must capitalize on this moment in history and force change.
In LaShell's words, "From all this that we're going through there has to be some type of light at the end of the tunnel."
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