Sunday, November 27, 2011

For shame

With the onset of winter (and a certain degree of media fatigue) the Occupy movement has either cooled off, gone into hibernation, or is entering a new phase; pick one, depending on your point of view. But, before winter set in, I watched video footage of what might have been the movement's defining moment.

I write of the pepper-spraying of UC Davis students. The clip below begins with a striking image, of a portly cop casually spraying mace, with about as much apparent emotional involvement as you'd expect to see if he was spraying his roses for aphids. When it gets really compelling though, is when a large group of students surround the UC Davis police chanting "Shame on you!" The students first surround and then put the cops to rout armed with... camera phones.

As defining moments go, getting pepper sprayed while at an Occupy sit-in doesn't really compare with being shot at Kent State, but in today's far-more-mediated culture, that may be all it takes.

Moron helmet-cams. Oops, I meant 'More on' helmet cams

That footage, a recent op-ed piece from the L.A. Times, and the funny clip I posted the other day of the wild turkey attacking a motorcyclist, reminded me that I've been meaning to write about Anthony Graber, a Maryland motorcyclist who was busted for speeding by a gun-wielding off-duty cop. Whatever punishment Graber actually got for speeding and reckless driving was probably justified, because he certainly was riding like a fucking moron.


It would not have made the news but for one thing: he was wearing a helmet camera, which recorded the bust. When he posted the video on YouTube, Maryland prostitutes, oops, I meant 'prosecutors' obtained a grand jury indictment against Graber on felony wiretap charges. He could go to jail for up to 16 years.

Here's (some of) Graber's video, which is still available on YouTube...

There's a lot that I find interesting about this. First, let me say again, Graber (who, at least prior to this incident was a U.S. military serviceman) was riding like a complete moron. Did he deserve to get pulled over? Hell yes. Did he deserve a monster ticket and/or loss of license? Definitely.

But what else is happening in the video? Enough to keep Sigmund Freud busy for a second career. First we see Graber speeding and wheelying through traffic. Let's be honest about motorcycles as phallic symbols; maybe that's not always the case but the whole wheelying-in-traffic thing... "Look at what I have between my legs, LOOK AT ME, WATCH, I can make it STAND UP."

God damn it, that's tiring.

When he takes that off ramp after his speeding and wheelying session and comes to stopped traffic, he just stops too even though he clearly had space on the shoulder to filter forward. Really?!? After breaking every traffic law you can think of, you just stop when you reach the first congestion point? Graber wasn't just riding like a moron, he obviously actually is a moron because one of the cars he passed was the off-duty cop we later see busting him, and it's obvious that on-duty cops were also on his tail, because there's a marked car visible a minute or two into the stop.

So far into the video, the universe is unfolding about as it should, but let's now dissect the behavior of the second moron to make an appearance in Graber's video, the off-duty cop who busts him.

Freud himself once apparently said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar," and I guess sometimes a motorcycle's just a motorcycle, but pulling a big wheely as you pass a cop is basically challenging a guy who is more than likely an ex playground bully to a pissing contest (and let's not get into the high probability that the cop's already on a hair trigger thanks to 'roid rage' - an investigation into one New Jersey doctor found that he'd prescribed steroids and HGH to two thousand cops.)

The cop, who was just effectively cuckolded while driving his anonymous, effeminate car jumps out to confront Graber, who is still straddling his own giant, powerful substitute dick.

So what does the cop do? He pulls out his own substitute dick! Yes, he draws his gun on Graber.

OK, let's think this through for a second. Cops and the media have gone to great lengths to convince us all that they operate in a deadly maelstrom of violence almost all the time, and that amongst other things any traffic stop can become a life-and-death confrontation at any moment. Nothing could be further from the truth, in point of fact. Being a cop is nowhere near as dangerous as, for example, being a farmer. By far the largest danger in a traffic stop is, in fact, simply traffic -- something we motorcyclists deal with every time we ride.

But even if you grant cops the infinitesimally small chance the guy they're pulling over might pull a gun on them, IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN WHEN THE GUY'S ON A FUCKING SPORT BIKE!!!

This is not the first time I've heard of stunters being arrested by cops with drawn guns, and it's total bullshit. Have you looked at a modern sport bike? They're so densely packaged you'd be hard pressed to find a spot to carry a pen-knife, and if you could find one, it would take 10 minutes and, probably, an allen wrench to get to it. There was absolutely no chance Graber was sitting on a .45.

So what was the message sent by the drawn gun, if it wasn't a dick comparison? Was it, "If you pop the clutch and take off, I'll put one in your back"?

If all this wasn't pathetic - two morons who deserve each other - it would be pretty funny. I love the moment where the cop says, "Show me your hands." Hey, idiot, he's on a motorcycle. You can SEE his hands. He's not rooting around in the dark recesses of his car. Graber, hilariously, responds by taking off his gloves.

"My hands. Uh, sure, you can see my hands."

And now, the third moron enters the picture (figuratively speaking.) Yes, the Maryland prosecutor who charged Graber with operating an illegal wiretap.

You're fucking kidding, right? Wrong.

So what are the facts here?

1.) Graber's camera was ON HIS HELMET, IN PLAIN SIGHT
2.) He was videotaping in a public place
3.) U.S. courts have, over and over, upheld citizens' rights to videotape police actions
4.) You can be sure the Maryland prosecutors will happily use Graber's tape as evidence against HIM.

As Jonathan Turley, the law professor who wrote that L.A. Times op-ed piece noted, without a videotape Rodney King would have been just another guy with a prior record claiming that the LAPD had abused him. Cameras have become the public's best weapon against police excess.

To Graber, and that idiot cop, and the Maryland prosecutors who maliciously persecuted Graber in order to deflect criticism of the gun-wielding arrest, to all three I have this to say...

Shame on you.
Shame on you.
Shame on you.

1 comment:

  1. I've had almost exactly the same experience as Graber, three times. Once I was passenger in a car carrying a rolled up poster that the cop thought was a gun (I have no idea how he thought a 3 inch diameter cardboard tube was a gun, perhaps there'd been a spate of armed robberies using 12 pounder cannon), twice I was riding a motorcycle and riding around not quite as mad as Graber but nearly.

    I responded by putting my hands on my head and holding very very still. It was the days before onboard video.