[Pnews] Trump, Lynch, And Who We Call Animals: A Safety Alert

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 22 13:18:14 EDT 2018


  Trump, Lynch, And Who We Call Animals: A Safety Alert

May 22, 2018.

*BY SUSIE DAY | *Did you hear Trump call undocumented immigrants 
animals? It’s stirring up — rightly — a lot of concern. Among humans, 
“animal” is the essential, go-to word to deprive people of their 
humanity. It’s the permission some people give themselves to ridicule, 
enslave, and commit genocide against other people. “Animal” is a term we 
read as a danger signal, even in a society such as ours, which was built 
on ridicule, enslavement, and genocide. And “animal” is often used by 
law enforcement to describe anyone accused of assaulting a police 
officer. Interesting, how we’ve let this one go.

Over and over, my friend Herman Bell, who spent almost 45 years in New 
York State maximum-security prisons, has been called an animal. Herman 
was convicted in 1975 of killing two New York City police officers and 
sentenced to 25-to-life — meaning that, after 25 years, he was eligible 
for parole. Thanks to his accomplishments and compassion over the years; 
thanks to advances in state parole regulations weighing who a person has 
become and not just the “nature of the original offense”; thanks to 
enormous love from family and friends, Herman was released in April, 
after his eighth appearance before the Parole Board.

But this column isn’t about Herman. It’s instead about the institutions 
and the people who wanted him to die slowly over more decades in prison. 
As an animal.

When Herman’s parole decision came down last March, Patrick Lynch, 
president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA*)*, declared at 
a press conference, “We’re gonna get you, we don’t care why you’re 
behind bars… We just care that you are behind bars.” The PBA also issued 
a “safety alert” to NYPD officers: “In the event of Bell’s release, all 
PBA members are urged to remain vigilant, both on- and off-duty, to 
ensure their own safety and to provide back-up to any other law 
enforcement officers in their vicinity.”

The danger to public safety posed by Herman Bell out of prison roughly 
approximates the danger posed by 99.6 percent of undocumented immigrants 
inside US borders: NONE.

The real danger — which most of us are sleeping on — is the vigilante 
mentality that powers our law enforcement. Since way before Stonewall, 
cops have rounded up queers; they can still arrest and brutalize us at 
street protests. But queer communities don’t necessarily see how the 
cops also work alongside the prison system. So here’s another safety 
alert; /this/ one’s about the police.

Be on the lookout for:

*/Use of Scathing Pejoratives/*: Words like “monster,” “vermin,” 
“blood-thirsty,” and, of course, “animal” used by police as synonyms for 
actual people accused or convicted of crimes. This degree of loathing is 
designed to authorize the deepest kind of lynch-mob contempt. These 
names are, in fact, used so often to describe people of color that you 
wonder if they’re simply society’s latest ploy to get away with saying 

*/Lurid Press Coverage/*: This is the aorta through which 
“law-and-order” pejoratives and vigilantism enter the public 
bloodstream. Mainstream media repeat — unquestioned and un-fact-checked 
— whatever police officials tell them. “Cold-blooded cop-killer” 
headlines boost ratings. Meanwhile, the press is too busy buying 
tough-on-crime accounts wholesale to ask journalism-101 questions, such 
as why a law officer such as Pat Lynch threatening, “We’re gonna get 
you, we don’t care why you’re behind bars” isn’t … well … /illegal/?

Copying down “cop-killer” denunciations, reporters seldom bother to 
question if adjectives like “cold-blooded” and “monster” are close to 
accurate. NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, on hearing of Herman’s 
parole, wrote that Herman should remain in prison because, “His mind has 
not changed, his heart has not opened…” Mainstream news outlets never 
asked how James O’Neill knew this.

It’s inconsequential that O’Neill (also Lynch, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and 
any other official denouncing Herman’s parole) never met Herman Bell or 
evinced an interest in records describing how Herman’s changed over the 
years. This sidelining of journalistic curiosity in favor of garish 
headlines is the foundation of media and police collusion. Through it, 
we’re bullied out of wondering if “criminals” might actually be people a 
little like ourselves.

*/Backlash Against New Parole Board Regulations/*: In another press 
conference, Patrick Lynch lamented the “coup” at the State Parole Board, 
where “right-minded” commissioners were ousted and replaced by those 
with an agenda. Already, conservative state senators, who only noticed 
progressive regulation changes after Herman’s parole, have passed 
several bills overturning these advances.

Although the bills still need Assembly approval, they include 
regressions such as mandatory life sentences without parole for a broad 
range of offenses; requiring the Parole Board to accept statements from 
third parties — specifically, the police — which would remain 
confidential; and extending the waiting period between prisoners’ parole 
applications from two to five years.

These bills would enforce a penal structure denying mercy and equality 
to thousands of human beings who, for a moment, had hopes of not being 
seen as animals. Already, tabloids are carrying stories about why the 
Parole Board should not make the Herman Bell mistake and should deny 
parole to other “cop-killers.” Already, the PBA has bought radio ads to 
keep Herman’s co-defendant in prison for the rest of his life.

*/Assuming the Life of a Police Officer Weighs More than that of a 
Civilian:/* In a May 17 editorial titled, “Will every cop-killer in New 
York now go free?”, the New York Post writes, “cop-killers strike at the 
core of public safety. That’s why there was long a presumption against 
ever granting them parole.

But the PBA’S “public safety” means protection from “animals” — not 
protection /for/ people like Eric Garner or Sandra Bland. It encourages 
a “worst-of-the-worst” category, which, once established, endangers 
everyone’s humanity. Recently, in The New Yorker, Masha Gessen wrote 
about the plight of immigrants and refugees, of Hannah Arendt’s concept 
of “the right to have rights.” These rights, in theory, “belong to every 
person by virtue of existence.”

So either we /all/ have this right to have rights or we buy into a 
safety that ultimately removes our individual agency. Accepting that we 
don’t matter as much as the person in blue with the badge and the gun 
provides a cornerstone of an oncoming police state. And — remembering 
why Hannah Arendt wrote in the first place — that kind of thing has 
happened before.


/Susie Day is the author of “Snidelines: Talking Trash to Power,” 
<https://www.amazon.com/Snidelines-Talking-Trash-Susie-Day-ebook/dp/B00PBHEENQ> published 
by Abingdon Square Publishing./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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