6.29.18: Philadelphia – (Society): Mr. Ismael Jimenez, a Philadelphia public school teacher whose family last week had the cops called on them because they requested a refund from a University City movie theater, didn’t expect to be caught up in a national news cycle. He figured the Supreme Court’s Janus and travel ban decision, combined with the continued effort to reunite migrant families, would’ve drowned out his story, which included a demand for the General Manager at the 40th & Walnut Street Cinemark theater to be fired.
But Mr. Jimenez soon realized the opposite was true and that he was a part of a cultural moment in this country where unsuspecting African-Americans are being forced to confront law enforcement for the most mundane of occurrences.
“When you see it on T.V., it seems so distant,” he said.
In April of this year, the former store manager of a Center City Philadelphia Starbucks location called the police on two black men who she claimed were loitering. The arrests were filmed by a customer and it made international headlines. Since then, the frequency of such narratives appears rapid.
Later that month, a white woman in Oakland, California, made news after she called the police on a handful of black people who were using a charcoal grill in an area where it was supposedly banned; a black woman was violently wrestled to the ground at an Alabama Waffle House after refusing to pay extra for plastic utensils; and on April 28th, a former White House staffer in New York City was moving into an apartment at 11pm on a Friday when someone called the cops on the 29-year-old black man.
In May, a black female student at Yale University was napping in the Commons area when a peer dialed 9-1-1 to report her for trespassing and Bob Marley’s granddaughter was in California for a music festival and was swarmed by police after a neighbor reported seeing unfamiliar faces leaving an Airbnb and loading suitcases into a car.
This month, the country met Alison Ettel, a white woman dubbed “Permit Patty” after she called the police on an 8-year-old black girl who was selling waters on the street without a permit. As a result of the bad publicity, Ms. Ettel resigned from the Bay Area cannabis company she founded.
Mr. Jimenez said he talked with his kids about all these cases and they were well aware of "Permit Patty." But when it was their family last Friday surrounded by a dozen Philadelphia police officers after a minor dispute, “it became real” to the eldest son, Mr. Jimenez said.
The 11-year-old boy on Friday spoke at a rally organized outside the theater by his father and attended by dozens. Ismael Jimenez, Jr., wore a t-shirt depicting a scene from Jurassic World, the movie the family paid to see seven days ago but was unable to because of the brouhaha.
“I was scared because cops were arguing with my mom and dad. And usually when cops argue with black people… in America... they will get shot or go to jail.”
The junior said seeing his parents not back down to the cops made him realize he doesn’t have to be fearful.
“My boys are learning they can stand up,” the senior Mr. Jimenez said proudly.
Political consultant and activist Melissa Robbins was among the speakers on Friday morning.
“This is an injustice! You can’t be more outraged by what happened at Starbucks and not be outraged by what happened to the Jimenez family,” she declared.
Ms. Robbins, a Tuesday morning host on WURD Radio 96.1FM/900AM, demanded accountability for callers who dial 9-1-1 when they aren’t actually in danger. It’s a waste of taxpayer dollars and resources, not to mention the claim is fraudulent, the mother of black boys said.
Ms. Robbins raises a salient point: given the seemingly increased amount of these types of calls, the government has a responsibility to mitigate the waste of resources and do it in such a way that’ll deter future frivolous complainants.
The 9-1-1 call has been weaponized. Rather than reporting emergencies, white people across the country are using the threat of police to settle petty squabbles that shouldn’t rise to the attention of a block captain, let alone law enforcement.
These 9-1-1 callers deserved to be taxed or fined. That would make it clear to people like "Permit Patty" or “BBQ Becky” that police officers are not your referee. Governments and communities should use this moment to explore what can be done to ensure their residents have the tools and vocabulary to resolve minor conflicts. Because calling the police, especially on black people who don’t present a threat, should always be the last resort.
Thanks for reading! Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® and I’m Drumming for Justice!™
Author’s bio: Christopher “Flood the Drummer®” Norris is an award-winning journalist, online content producer and professional drummer currently serving as the CEO of Techbook Online, a Philadelphia-based news and event company, and the host of the Drumming for Justice podcast. Subscribe here.
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