So much of the violence we experience in America is mediated, composed through the prism of culture, critique, justification to the point of turning people into talking points, objects to be moved around a chessboard. But like so many names that have become familiar over the last few years, Philando Castile was not a chess piece. He was, of course, a human being with family and friends who loved him dearly. There are more people than I expected, who I know in real life, who have been directly effected by this tragedy. People who have to find the words and the courage to tell their children that someone they cared for, counted on, trusted is no longer among the living. People I know who had to brace themselves for the reaction after they told their child, “Mr. Phil was murdered.” If we can allow the repetition of the process of degradation and murder in America for the sake of controlling blackness, then we must force ourselves towards the same style of repetition in the reverse, telling ourselves and others, one time and one time more, that Philando Castile was a human being. Philando Castile was not an object. Philando Castile was not put on this earth to be made an example of.
About a half-hour ago I was sitting here in Beyond Repair with Steven and had a bit of a shock. Who stepped into the Midtown Global Market, looking around, confused, not sure where to go? None other than MPD Police Federation President, Bob Kroll. He soon walked off, looking for something. Intrigued, I left Steven in the shop and walked around the market looking for Bob. Was he searching for us? If not, was he hungry? Where would he eat?
It seems though, while I was gone, Bobby found his way to the shop. He came in, saw a stack of Sgt. Kroll Goes to the Office, took about four or five, and avoiding any eye contact or interaction with Steven of any kind, quickly walked out.
I’ve been extremely happy, and frankly somewhat surprised, at the overwhelmingly positive reception this action has elicited. Both from the public at large, as well as elected officials in MPLS city government. Furthermore, it seems the action has been effective enough to get back to Lt. Kroll, and drive him across town to what he refers to in the comic as our “shit-hole neighborhood!” But hey, art will compel you into worlds that, prior to exposure, one would never dare to venture. I congratulate Lt. Kroll for, once again, braving the wilds of South MPLS.
All this said, I feel it is important for me to make this public; after the release of Sgt. Kroll Goes to the Office many people have urged me to publicly state the fact that Kroll, MPD, and their allies could retaliate in some way. Maybe, maybe not. But I agree that it is important to state that this possibility is, in fact, logical to consider and on my mind.
As an example, after the production of the comic was made public, but not yet released, the car in the above photo parked directly outside our home one afternoon. Having constructed low-wattage radio stations in the past I was interested, but also confused, by the DIY antenna apparatus on the roof of the vehicle. Something was off with its construction and orientation. I took a photo and sent it to a friend who is far more knowledgeable in that area than I am. He stated that, while not definitive, his guess was that it was a “cell phone sniffer.” What’s that? Well, myself and the small group who organized the visit to Mayor Hodges house last November, on the night the police were cracking down at the 4th Precinct Shutdown, are well aware of what it is. Area journalists, through a FOIA request, were able to find out as well. It’s a device that can read your text messages and listen in to your phone calls. It’s a tactic that MPD used that night and what allowed them to meet us at the Mayor’s house in advance of our arrival. And who knows, maybe it’s what is on top of the van outside our home in this photo. Or maybe not.
All of this sounds terribly psychotic and paranoid. But paranoia often arises out of social landscapes that speak towards something larger than each singular, seemingly fantastical, worry or suspicion. A kernel of truth exists in each.
So, if I start getting pulled over a lot; if we suddenly have numerous coding violations on our home; if, god forbid, DHS and MPD knock down our door over alleged child abuse accusations (which happened not long ago to a friend here in town who is critical of the police and their tactics; if I happen to be walking home and have the shit beat out of me, well, we all know who’s hand is at play. (Hi, Bobby!)
And this goes for ALL the artists involved in its production, and everyone else helping with its distribution as well.
I was sad to miss Bob when he visited the shop. I genuinely would have liked to have talked to him about his actions and ours. I called the Police Union a short while after we missed one another, but he wasn’t there. So I left a message on his voicemail inviting him to call me back to talk about the work. Maybe even have a book signing at the shop?
So Bob, it’s apparent that you are, in fact, paying attention to all this. I invite you to talk about it, but please don’t hit me – or accuse me of anything, or fuck with my kids, or listen into my phone calls or read my emails – let’s just talk.
I’ll be at Beyond Repair noon tomorrow. See you here. I’ll buy you a coffee.
This is Willie. He was here in the market to have lunch and noticed our poster focusing on how the MPD took 61 seconds to kill Jamar Clark from the moment they arrived to the point of the shooting. Willie took a handful of posters to distribute to friends and family. Come in and grab some too. Let’s keep up the pressure. #byemike #justice4jamar