A police officer's brutal assault on black and brown teens attending a Friday pool party in the majority-white town of McKinney, Texas has sparked nationwide outrage and local plans for a March for Justice under the call, "We won't stand idly by while children are terrorized in the street."
"We are gathering to do a peaceful demonstration and standing in solidarity to show that we are a community and we stand together," Keyaira Saunders Alexander of the Texas-based civil rights organization Next Generation Action Network told Common Dreams, explaining that the march is slated to take place Monday at 6:30 PM. "We want justice for those teens that were affected."
The incident was captured in an approximately seven-minute video clip that went viral over the weekend, racking up nearly five million views on YouTube. The footage shows white police officer and patrol supervisor Eric Casebolt outside the Craig Ranch North Community Pool aggressively chasing and detaining teenagers—most black, all people of color, and none appearing to pose a threat—while slinging insults and curse words at them.
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At one point, officer Casebolt proceeds to violently throw an African-American girl in a swimsuit, reportedly 14 years old, to the ground as she cries for her mother. When other teenagers of color attempt to aid the distraught child, the officer draws his gun on them, prompting them to flee. The officer then pins down the young girl by placing his knees on her back and pressing her face into the ground.
The white youth watching the incident can be seen being left completely alone by the police. White 15-year-old Brandon Brooks, who recorded the video, told Buzzfeed, "Everyone who was getting put on the ground was black, Mexican, Arabic. [The cop] didn’t even look at me. It was kind of like I was invisible."
The following footage of the incident may be disturbing to the viewer:
The McKinney Police Department claimed in a statement released Sunday, "The initial call came in as a disturbance involving multiple juveniles at the location, who do not live in the area or have permission to be there, refusing to leave."
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But this official version of events appears to be crumbling.
Black teenager Tatiana Rose, a Craig Ranch neighborhood resident, said she and her family members hosted the pool party and cookout, which was disrupted when one of the white pool-goers began hurling racial slurs at youth and telling them to "go back to Section 8 housing." Her account, which was reiterated by teens who spoke to Buzzfeed, was posted to YouTube on Sunday:
No matter the official justification, civil rights advocates charge that the video unambiguously shows police targeting black and brown children with excessive force. "From what we have seen on the video, the treatment is inhumane and especially since we are talking about teenagers," said Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas State Conference of the NAACP. "These are our children."
The incident is garnering broad condemnation amid a growing nation-wide movement against institutional racism and police killings under the banner of "Black Lives Matter."
Some who are active in this movement say that the McKinney incident, in particular, highlights the ways in which police violence specifically targets black women and girls. "[I]t is the young girl, forced by her hair to the ground as she screamed for her mother, that chilled me the most," wrote Kirsten West Savali in The Root.
— Black Lives Matter (@Blklivesmatter) June 8, 2015
As Yoni Appelbaum pointed out in an Atlantic article published Monday, the violence must be evaluated as part of broader U.S. history, in which pools have been key "battlefields" for desegregation, with many choosing to make pools private rather than racially integrate them. "Whatever took place in McKinney on Friday, it occurred against this backdrop of the privatization of once-public facilities, giving residents the expectation of control over who sunbathes or doggie-paddles alongside them," wrote Appelbaum.
Furthermore, Appelbaum notes that McKinney itself has a troubling history of racial segregation: In 2009, the city settled a lawsuit that charged it with "illegal racial steering" by blocking Section 8 housing in the more affluent, white part of town.
Many have argued that the fact that some white neighborhood residents have no problem with the police response, and are even thanking police for Friday's assault, underscores the deep racism that pervades the community.
The police department, for its part, said the video "raised concerns that are being investigated by the McKinney Police Department," and announced that officer Casebolt has been placed on temporary administrative leave. The mayor of McKinney, Brian Loughmiller, stated that he was "disturbed" by the incident.
But Alexander emphasized to Common Dreams that the racism that black children—and all youth of color—face extends far beyond this one video. "We hope the world is able to see, we are coming together and speaking out," she said. "We need social change."