The horrifying news of police violence on innocent citizens in Ferguson, Missouri shocked and disgusted observers all over the world this month. What began as a heinous murder of 18 year old Mike Brown by policeman Darren Wilson (who shot the unarmed man six times, including twice in the head) has evolved into a race and class war adopted by the international public. The above footage shows hundreds of Angelenos who gathered for a peaceful protest in downtown Los Angeles this week to show not only solidarity with the city of Ferguson and the memory of Mike Brown, but also for a lesser known case right here in LA: another wrongful shooting death of Ezell Ford by LAPD.
Earlier this summer, I reunited with an old friend and we discussed the differences between the US and Switzerland, where he is from. One of the most emphatic points he made was how much of a “police state” the US seemed to him. He remarked on the sheer number of cops on the streets that did not look like they were on their way to help people, but rather looked like they were going out of their way to search for “who knows what." His experience with police in Europe is basically summed up by, “You’ll deal with them when you call them for help with something.” This certainly wasn’t the first time I heard this, and I doubt I’m the only American who has felt this sentiment by visitors from abroad.
I heartily agreed with his observations on America’s “police state” status, obviously not knowing that only a few weeks later, the entire world would be watching (and judging) our law enforcement practices. Unfortunately—and it doesn’t take a legal expert to realize this—US laws do not do much to help the families of people murdered, unjustly, by those who are supposed to protect and serve the public. Despite our many freedoms here in America, this is one aspect of our country that remains disturbingly anachronistic.
Inflatable cobblestone, action of Eclectic Electric Collective in cooperation with Enmedio collective during the General Strike in Barcelona 2012. © Oriana Eliçabe/Enmedio.info
Considering the impeccable timing, I am quite curious about the latest exhibition at the V&A Museum in London: Disobedient Objects. The exhibit explores how political activism inspires new ways of looking at art and design, and shows “arts of rebellion from around the world that illuminate the role of making grassroots movements for social change: finely woven banners; defaced currency; changing designs for barricades and blockades; political video games; an inflatable general assembly to facilitate consensus decision-making; experimental activist-bicycles; and textiles bearing witness to political murders.” While protest is an evergreen theme in art, Disobedient Objects may strike viewers with even more relevance during this very eventful summer of 2014.