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Anderson Cooper Can Shove It

Back when I first saw Anderson Cooper's sensationalized and almost context-free 60 Minutes report on the so-called Stop Snitchin' campaign, I didn't really want to comment on it because it is the type of media dreck that should not get any more attention than it deserves. Apparently the gist of the report is that black communities have all of a sudden stop reporting crimes to cops because they have been influenced by rappers like Cam'Ron, and also by thugs and drug dealers, against talking to the police. Although some of the interviewees tried to get the real story out, they have been silenced by Cooper's larger narrative. In other words, typical garbage from the white establishment media.

But then today comes Bob Herbert, that New York Times columnist who usually indulges in writing missives steeped in bleeding-heart platitudes that preaches to the choir but is unpersuasive to those that hold differing views, comes out with one of those rare columns that justifies his place in the punditocracy:

No one is paying much attention, but parts of New York City are like a police state for young men, women and children who happen to be black or Hispanic. They are routinely stopped, searched, harassed, intimidated, humiliated and, in many cases, arrested for no good reason.

. . .Last Monday in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, about three dozen grieving young people on their way to a wake for a teenage friend who had been murdered were surrounded by the police, cursed at, handcuffed and ordered into paddy wagons. They were taken to the 83rd precinct stationhouse, where several were thrown into jail.

Leana Matia, an 18-year-old student at John Jay College, was one of those taken into custody. “We were walking toward the train station to take the L train when all these cops just swooped in on us,? she said. “They cursed us out and pushed the guys. And then they handcuffed us. We kept asking, ‘What are you doing?’ ?

Children as young as 13 were among those swept up by the cops. Two of them, including 16-year-old Lamel Carter, were the children of police officers. Some of the youngsters were carrying notes from school saying that they were allowed to be absent to attend the wake. There is no evidence that I’ve been able to find — other than uncorroborated statements by the police — that the teenagers were misbehaving in any way.

Everyone was searched, but nothing unlawful was found — no weapons, no marijuana or other drugs. Some of the kids were told at the scene that they were being seized because they had assembled unlawfully. “I didn’t know what unlawful assembly was,? said Kumar Singh, 18, who was among those arrested.

According to the police, the youngsters at the scene were on a rampage, yelling and blocking traffic. That does not seem to be the truth.

I spoke individually to several of the youngsters, to the principal of Bushwick Community High School (where a number of the kids are students), to a parent who was at the scene, and others. Nowhere was there even a hint of the chaos described by the police. Every account that I was able to find described a large group of youngsters, very sad and downcast about the loss of their friend, walking peacefully toward the station.

. . .Capt. Scott Henderson of the 83rd Precinct told me that the police had developed a “plan? to deal with youngsters going to the wake because they suspected that the murder was gang-related and there had already been some retaliation. He said he had personally witnessed the youngsters in Bushwick behaving badly and gave the order to arrest them.

Many of the kids were wearing white T-shirts with a picture of the dead teenager and the letters “R.I.P.? on them. The cops cited the T-shirts as evidence of gang membership.

Thirty-two of the youngsters were arrested. Most were charged with unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct. Several were held in jail overnight.

On Cooper's broadcast, he interviews a group of black schoolchildren. One of them, a boy named Alex, tells Cooper distinctly that he doesn't trust the police precisely because he has been profiled by them too many times. If Anderson Cooper had any talent for real journalism other than a "rap artists are violent" story, he might have explored that angle of the story even deeper and entirely abandoned the vanities, plutolatires and fake machisimos of the corporate rappers.

But instead Cooper took that grievous fact about black experience as a given and has decided to spin the story in a way that blames the victims. In case Anderson Cooper and the rest of country recognize that the distrust of the police predates any type of rap music and is based on gross miscarriages of justice like the one highlighted by Bob Herbert, nothing will be done even if we get rid of all the Cam'Rons of the world.