Wednesday, January 19

They lost loved ones to gun violence. Then his pain was politicized | US News

WIlliam Gude spends his days trying to hold the police accountable. As the creator and outspoken monitor behind @filmthepolicela, a Twitter account that attracts thousands of followers, he regularly criticizes the LAPD by filming and tweeting about its activity, from traffic stops to clashes with protesters.

But one night in June, his tweets got personal. That night he told his followers that his son, Marcelis William-Gude, had been shot. After pressing send, Gude drove to the hospital where a doctor told him his 22-year-old son died after being shot multiple times in South Los Angeles.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Gude said, adding that he couldn’t even see his son’s body. “He loved life and the world is not a better place now that he’s gone.”

But a few days later, Gude saw a headline from a local ABC affiliate that stopped him in his tracks. “Frank LAPD Critic Now Trusts LAPD to Find Son Killer,” read the now-deleted headline. A request from The Guardian for comment from the news organization was not responded to.

Gude says his criticism of the LAPD should have nothing to do with finding the person who killed his son, more than suing a doctor would prevent him from receiving future medical care. “Apparently there are those who think that if you force the police to follow the rules, it somehow impairs their ability to solve the murder of my son,” he said. “And that doesn’t make sense.”

Gude joins a cohort of families whose lives have been engulfed in a national debate over calls to withdraw funds from police departments, a movement that has gained traction over the past year and has even seen some cities begin to divert funds. of the police towards violence prevention efforts. But the debate has also become increasingly politicized, as politicians, police unions, and others cling to the narrative that rising homicide numbers are proof that defunding the police has caused and it will continue to provoke more violence.

It’s the latest chapter in an old playbook, using the devastating number of gun violence victims in Black and Latino communities to denounce the alleged failures of progressive policies. And along the way, the stories of Marcelis William-Gude and others like him get caught in the middle, intensifying the trauma of grieving families.

William Gude and his son Marcelis William Gude.
William Gude and his son Marcelis William Gude. Photograph: Courtesy of William Gude

“There is always the possibility of politicizing people’s harm and that can exacerbate the pain they are experiencing. It is part of the policy to fight crime ”. said Nikki Jones, a professor of African American studies at UC Berkeley. “But we have to figure out what it means to keep people safe so that we can have a conversation that is not about fear, but about developing solutions.”

Furthermore, the narrative of “increased crime” often lacks important context; For example, overall crime rates in the US, however, murders have risen dramatically since mid-2020 and the gun violence that appears to be driving the increase is not evenly distributed. Rather, the shootings remain concentrated in low-income black and brown communities that have long borne the burden of gun violence, and where outreach work in schools and hospitals that helped at-risk residents stay alive was disrupted by the pandemic.

Violence disruptors and grieving family members say these political debates obscure alternative and holistic solutions to gun violence, reducing gunshot wound victims to anonymous or complicit snippets of discourse on crime, violence and the police. .

There’s a broad range Opinions Among African Americans Affected by Gun Violence and Crime. Some are critical of the police and would like to see their budgets allocated to community-based intervention efforts. Others feel safer with more police patrolling areas where violence is concentrated. However, even crime survivors with different views find common ground in the importance of cure and prevention in interrupt the cycle of violence.

“I see that victims and survivors want justice and for the person to go to jail for what he did, especially if he took his own life. I also see that law enforcement has done a good job of harnessing that trauma for their narrative, ”said Paul Carrillo, director of the community violence initiative for the Giffords Law Center.

“It is an effective way of arguing that the police need more funds,” he continued. “But, I would expect those same law enforcement officials and personnel to help the survivors with whatever they need to recover.”

The death of a young man, caught up in the Oakland police debate

When Teyanna Johnson woke up to two missed calls from Precious Lewis, her niece’s mother, one Saturday night last month, she knew something must have been wrong. The last time Lewis called her that was to break the news that Johnson’s mother had passed away. He returned Lewis’s call the next morning and learned that his nephew, Da’Shawn Rhoades, had been shot and killed. Upon hearing the news, Johnson fell to the ground, unable to breathe, and began to sob.

Rhoades was one of eight people shot, but the only one killed, in Oakland’s popular Lake Merritt during a June 16 celebration. Johnson he remembers his nephew, who is affectionately referred to as “Dede”, as a doting father who loved hip hop and even rapped with DMX lyrics as a child. “Everyone in our family is devastated because his energy, his laughter and his spirit were so free. And it’s so crazy that we won’t see a part of it, ”Johnson said.

But before Johnson could begin prosecuting the murder of the young man he helped raise, he saw a flood of articles suggesting that Rhoades’ murder was possibly related to a dispute between regional gangs. Oakland police said the shooting appeared to be gang related in a statement to the Guardian, but did not reveal which, if any, groups were involved.

Police officers on the scene at Lake Merritt in Oakland, following a shooting on July 19.
Police officers on the scene at Lake Merritt in Oakland, following a shooting on July 19. Photograph: Dylan Bouscher / AP

Johnson watched as coverage of the shooting quickly turned from shock to suspicion of gang activity and whether pressures to defund police were to blame. The shooting also coincided with a highly debated vote on the Oakland Police Department’s decision. budget, which eventually saw the city divert $ 18 million from police to social services and a non-police program to respond to mental health calls.

For the Rhoades family, the subsequent media coverage and political debate were “a whirlwind,” Johnson said. “They tried to portray him as a gang member and he wasn’t.”

As this narrative gained traction, there was pushback from local officials and the Rhoades family. Family members, including Rhoades’ mother and other aunts, emphatically defended him in interviews with journalists, while organizers took to social media to denounce what they saw as a racist stereotype of a young black man.

“This is a recurring problem when we lose our youngsters,” Johnson said. “And the media is trying to portray my nephew as a gang member as if he deserved what happened to him. No, his life mattered. “

Families and survivors call for community efforts

“Those conversations continue the perceived pathology of the victims and the people who look like them without even addressing the source of the problem,” echoed Carroll Fife, a member of the Oakland city council, who called for transparency in the investigation. Rhoades case police.

Local officials and police officers have seized upon the Rhoades murder as a reason to increase police funding and to scrap efforts to realign their budget elsewhere. “The litany of victims of violent crime has already shown that Oakland’s strategy of ‘defunding the police’ has failed,” the Oakland police union said in a statement following the council’s budget decision, just two days after the Rhoades assassination.

But Johnson said she’s not sure more cops on the street would have saved her nephew’s life, especially given the strained relationship between the officers and the black and brown residents.

If our tax dollars pay your wages, why are we paying for agents to abuse them in our communities? She asked. “Since I was young I knew that the police were not going to save our lives, especially if the police are causing more tension and aggression.”

Johnson would prefer that the money go to community efforts, particularly to help young people with the “depression and trauma of fighting a war that started long before they were born,” he added.

For William Gude, this experience has opened his eyes to the myriad ways in which violence can be prevented without the involvement of the police. He remembers wanting revenge after his son’s murder, but credits a source of friends, family, and supporters online with calming his nerves, helping him see past his pain and anger, and starting to heal.

“The police don’t prevent crime, they investigate after it happens. And they get a disproportionate amount of our money, but we don’t get the refunds, ”Gude said. “Police often want to deploy crime survivors and families to say, ‘Look, we need police.’ But I want people to be offered grief counseling and preventative things.”

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