Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nudity and Law Enforcement

or bending the law and paying the price at Coachella.

Warning, this video starts out innocuous enough- I was planning all sorts of tongue in cheek comments for the blog- but ends up quite graphic and disturbing. Don't watch it if you're bothered by nudity (although as the caption says at, the neo-hippie has such an incredibly small penis that it doesn't really feel like he's naked) or if you're bothered by incredibly inept policing that leads to violence.

This video is both baffling to me and a sign of the times. There are people coming up to the incident and taking pictures constantly, and the dude who actually shot the video pans around to the crowd and EVERYONE is holding a camera or a camera phone. Nothing is private anymore, everything is documented, and everything is semi-permanent. When you read books about the past, things get reconstructed- "insert-historical-figure-here probably thought this or saw that or met insert-other-historical-figure-here at Coachella and had a run-in over nudity." Or, "According to so-and-so, he was arrested due to nudity." Not anymore, now we have live, unedited video proof, sometimes as it's happening. Or Twitter proof, which is another subject entirely. It means you can't get away with shit, either, or maybe you can. Rodney King got beaten up in 1991, and it was historical because we had this craptastic video. That kind of stuff just didn't get seen. It happened, but the public just didn't really see it. They knew it was there, but it was the-average-(often person of color's)-dudes word against the establishment (read: law enforcement). When you watch the next video, two things (at least) will stand out- the amazing quality, and the fact that this is not the only video. Also, it is accessible to everyone, right away. It's on the internet- we can all see it. When Oscar Grant was shot on BART on New Years, it was all over the Bay Area before the day was over.

Now to the baffling part. What on earth were these police officers thinking. There are three of them, standing around a naked dude. They want him to put his clothes on, he doesn't want to. It's not quite clear what he's saying at the beginning, but the interaction is not violent, nor even particularly confrontational for at least 1.5 minutes. The whole interaction lasts about 5.5 minutes. He throws his clothes in the opposite direction, the police ask them to put him on, his tiny penis is on display. He drinks some water, pats one cop on the shoulder, etc. It's all calm. There are three of them. They don't call for reinforcement, or if they do, they don't wait for the reinforcment to show up. Various concert goers come up to the scene, take pictures, talk to the cops and the naked man, walk away. At about 1 minute and 39 seconds, the cops have had enough. It's not clear what the provocation is. They take his hands into a restraint hold, but they don't seem to do it very well. One cop has each arm. It's not clear what he's in trouble for (nudity, obviously), but if he's breaking concert laws, why they don't just remove him, or handcuff him, or take him away. Instead, the third cop brings some of his clothes back, and the video shows a guy not involved yelling something. At this point, one of the cops is pinning naked dude's arm behind his back. WHY? Then two of the cops start sort of bending him forward, for no clear reason. Dude is not resisting- in fact, at no point, from the beginning of the discussion to the end, does he resist in any way other than verbally, though it's not even clear that he resists verbally. Now the third cop grabs ND (naked dude's) head, and one of the two cops the arms kicks his knees from the front. That doesn't really work, so they stumble over sideways- two cops and ND. A cop starts to pull ND's long hair. This is starting to feel like a playground bullying session. The other cop is doing something to his back arm that we can't see. The hair pulling continues for about 10 seconds and they roll ND over onto his back. Again, still no resistance from ND, his body is fairly relaxed, no kicking or screaming, and his arms are straight up where they could easily handcuff him. At 3:00, the cop who had grabbed his head makes a sudden knee to his chest. Just leans down and knees him. At this point, ND has had enough and stands back up. The other two cops had let go that awesome restraint they had just performed (the hair pulling one). Someone hits ND with a taser and he hits the ground. The crowd is now really forming. ND writhes around on the ground. The cops circle ND, still on the ground, and then one of the cops holds the taser to ND's chest and shocks him for approximately 10 seconds. He is STILL not resisting. He starts to get up, they do it again. He starts to get up a second time and they shock him a third time in the back of the neck. It appears they then shock him a fourth time in the chest. The cops now grab each wrist and appears the handcuffs finally go on one wrist. At minute four. They restrain him AGAIN and fall to the ground. The video pans through a now angry, but idle, crowd. When the video gets back to the scene again, ND is lying on his stomach with a cop kneeling on top of him, hands cuffed behind his back. This is at 5 minutes. They throw his clothes onto his butt. One cop pats his shoulder and says "Relax man, calm down." He pats him again and says "Calm down man, you need to relax." ND is not moving or struggling. The crowd is booing and yelling "The whole world is watching." The cops lovingly cover ND's butt up.

WHAT THE FUCK!?!#%^ Why didn't the cops escort ND away? Why didn't they handcuff him and leave? Why did they taser him? ND never posed a threat to THREE officers. The cops created a dangerous situation with an entire crowd of concert goers around them. What was so threatening about a neo-hippie with a tiny penis? (sorry, ND) This is why people have such an issue with law enforcement. Problem with authority is justified, when you see shit like this. And as the astute heckler says, the whole world is watching.

Naked Wizard Tased By Reality from Tracy Anderson on Vimeo.


julialikesu said...

all i can say is wow. i think they tasered him 5 times or more... that is just ridiculous, i have a feeling this will be talked about the news at some point, or at least it should.

a guy in nashville died from being tasered 10+ times, he was unarmed, but was pretty screwed up on pcp, still not an excuse. i think his family got a hefty sum of money from that fiasco.

i think part of the problem is that (because of cops like those) cops are afraid of people, even unarmed naked ones... its sad.

Meera said...

I can't get myself to watch after reading your description. I hate that law enforcement has these rotten eggs who get off on their power trips. (It also bothers me that nudity is such a huge crime, but whatever.) I'm thankful to the internet generation for allowing people to see this. It sucksthat in a situation like this, the spectators felt unable to intervene (and get tasered themselves?).

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, think straight. Imagine if you were in the same situation as the officers were. You see this guy who is naked and obviously on drugs.
First of all, he is breaking the law, which means he should be arrested. Second, he is on drugs, which makes his actions much more unpredictable.
The police here were very lenient with this guy, they gave him numerous chances to get dressed. Once he didn't, they tried to arrest him, and he resisted arrest and was beginning to get out of control. The police have every right to be worried for their safety and had every right to use a taser on him because he was on drugs, breaking the law, and resisting arrest.

themacinator said...

wow, anonymous, that's not what i saw in the video at all. he may have been on drugs, but he wasn't violent, and he wasn't particularly upset or unpredictable. he sure didn't get dressed, but they had him restrained numerous times and he didn't fight back. they could at any point have handcuffed him and escorted him out. there were three of them and one naked dude. i'm pretty sure that he wasn't hiding any concealed weapons.

although i don't love wikipedia as a reference, i was taught this as well: when a conflict is between law enforcement and a law breaker: "The continuum of force progresses from verbal orders, through physical restraint, up to lethal force. The general rule for application of force is that only necessary force may be used." it sure seems to me that this was above the necessary use of force. even if dude was naked, even if dude was on drugs, what is the point of pulling his hair and tasering him? can you point to where he resisted arrest in any method other than running away after they physically assaulted him?

in my use of force class, we were told most things were kosher if we could articulate why a reasonable person would do what we did given the totality of the circumstances. i sure wouldn't be able to articulate that use of force. they way you described it, sure. but given that video? i'm not quite sure this was a criminal that should make three cops fearful enough for their safety enough to require this use of force.

Anonymous said...

From about 2:15 to 2:55 he is not cooperating with the police when they are trying to cuff him, he then runs away. That is resisting arrest. He is physically resisting the police, that is a crime. The situation was getting out of hand. The police exercised their right to use a taser. The law gives the police the right to use tasers if the subject is "actively resisting" the officer. You can disagree with the law, but the fact is that it is there. Case closed.

themacinator said...

that's really interesting- i saw that part of the video as a particularly bungled restraint on the part of the police. he didn't look like he was physically resisting to me, and again, he's outnumbered.

absolutely- the police did what they were legally allowed to do. there is the "spirit of the law" and the "letter of the law." they were correct under the "letter of the law" but in doing so, gave law enforcement a bad name. i also have the power do do all of the things they did, up to the taser. if i ever wrestle anyone to the ground and yank on their hair, it's time for me to give up my uniform. there are so many more ways to handle this kind of incident without it turning into a physical confrontation.

something else i've noticed a lot, too, is that where ever there's a uniform or a marked car, there's spectators, and the ante is upped. obviously, here there were a bajillion spectators. i just don't understand why one officer didn't grab the clothes and the other officers didn't escort dude off of the private property and do what needed to be done in a lower-stress environment with less concert goers watching. it's always easier to deal with enforcement in a quiet, less public venue.

Valerie said...

I also have law enforcement training and found this to be a major bungle on the part of the police. The cops were ineffective and created more of a public disturbance than nekkid guy (with tiny pp) did. IMHO, this was a classic case of What Not To Do.