The Other Columbus: Bull Connor at the Gallery Hop

Scott Woods
A different, early April noise demonstration

Watching a video of the protest on behalf of Masonique Saunders that took place in the Short North during May's Gallery Hop, I was struck by something I hadn't seen in any other video observing police actions. Halfway through the video, two firemen unrolled a white sheet and held it between them in an attempt to block the view of people who were recording how police were handling the protesters who had chained themselves to an art car. While this is happening, an officer was next to the person shooting the video and, ever so politely, trying to explain why such a measure (not to mention pepper spraying others) was not only acceptable, but for their protection.

I have seen all manner of videos portraying police action: abuse, planting of evidence, actionable murder. None of those instances instilled in me what the sheet-raising in this video did: terror. In taking such an obvious measure to hide the actions of officers, I was forbidden from witnessing what a police force known for abuse was doing to a citizen. This is not a right I need to establish; I already have it. Filming police isn't against the law. And, yet, they felt the need to go beyond the usual tactic of blocking a scene with fire trucks and cruisers and resorted to a literal laundry defense.

The minute the sheet went up, I had nothing but questions and doubts about the veracity of their intentions, and no citizen should feel that way about people who have “serve and protect” written on their cars.

No one is truly on the fence about police abuse anymore. Videos today convey the same message they did when the subject was Bull Connor: This is what police can and will do to maintain whatever they feel order should be. Then it occurred to me that I was watching the Gallery Hop video almost to the day that Connor released firehoses and dogs at the Children's Crusade on May 3, 1963. The tactics are different, but the message is frighteningly identical.

It is so common now to declaim America for its political regression that even culprits are using the language of protest in their pitches to voters. (See the recent bond issue for “affordable housing” that will likely give what it collects to the very people making affordable housing impossible.) But civilization isn't on fire because we can't agree to disagree, or because we are historically ignorant. It's just a matter of caring versus comfort.

So, please, keep shooting all of the videos. And if someone at City Hall wants an easy vote from me, force police to not mask scenes in this manner from observers. Let us at least pretend at transparency.