Saturday, September 4, 2010

On Monday Ditidaht carver John T. Williams, 50, was shot to death by a Seattle policeman for carrying a folding knife and a wooden board. Williams, who had been living in Seattle eighteen years, where he was known to many as a Pike Place Market carver, was asked three times to drop his “weapon,” but did not. After the final warning, he was shot four times in the chest.

How did this happen? According to police sources, Williams “made advances” on the officer. Four shots to the chest suggests the carver was indeed facing the cop, but whether he was moving towards him, or merely in the opposite direction, has yet to be determined.

I have seen situations like this before, where cops arrive in front of a “suspect”, stand their ground and issue demands. In this case, it was likely the cop had asked Williams to lie on his stomach and put his hands behind his back. Though deaf in one ear, Williams could see that the cop was working from a script, but chose instead to disagree with his “wild west” assessment of him -- as a savage. For that, John T. Williams is as important to us as Rosa Parks.

Some are saying that Williams’s murder is race related. It is. But knowing cops as I do, what is as dangerous as their racism is their refusal to have their authority questioned. That Williams’s murder happened in public, before a live audience, only heightened the drama, providing the cop-actor his motivation. Better to kill someone than have your narrative questioned. Gangsters do this all the time.

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