Monday, July 25, 2005

Being Cool and Anglo Under Fire

Of course, there's an opposite view. That de Menzenes is to blame, and the victim got what was coming to him for not being as cool and Anglo under fire as the typical right-wing, never-get-caught-dead-near-public transit boys. It's quite hilarious to read one of them try to empathize with an imagined family saved from the putative terrorist.

"You notice that he's wearing a long trenchcoat despite the 80-degree heat and what looks like a bulky sweater underneath, and that he looks terrified."
– Captain's Quarters, "Collateral Damage"

If you read my previous post, you'll note the writer has increased the temperature by 18 degrees, turned a padded jacked into a long trench coat, and added a bulky sweater. [Editor's note: Our thermostat reads 75 degrees. I am wearing a t-shirt. My wife is walking around in a turtleneck and complaining about how the house is over-air-conditioned.]

Let's try empathizing in another way — with the man who was actually the victim. The way that matters.

You live in a tough neighborhood, but it's all you can afford. London offers more opportunity than you had in Brazil, but the winters are brutally chilling and summer is only slightly better. (It's well north of Winnipeg and nearly as far north as Irkutsk, Siberia. Not at all like the moderate climate back home.) You've gotten a call to go fix an alarm system. You're not sure what the problem is, so you bring along a few extras, just in case. You wish you had a truck to haul all your tools and parts, but that's out of the question.

You've considered buying a motor bike so you don't have to take the subway. Like everyone in London, you're a bit jumpy after the bombings. But right now, that's just a dream.

You notice some men are following you. You quicken your pace to the underground, thinking they wouldn't try to mug you on a crowded subway platform. They speed up, too, so you begin to trot. They hurry after you. One of them appears to have a gun.

That's one difference from Brazil. here, the police don't carry guns. Although now you wish you could find one who did. You hurtle down toward the train, jumping the turnstile in hope of gaining a few steps on them. There are extra police down there because of the bombing threat. You'll be safe.

They are shouting. What are they saying? You know some English, but you are running and the blood is pumping in your head. What are they saying?

People are watching you, but no one is helping. No one is helping. No one...

Mark Whitby, a passenger who was sitting just yards away, said the man was 'hotly pursued' on to the train, adding: 'I looked at his face. He looked from left to right, but he basically looked like a cornered rabbit, like a cornered fox. He looked absolutely petrified ... It was a very, very distressing scene to watch, and to hear as well ... I saw them kill a man.'


Blogger John Clifford said...

Thanks for linking to my post... but the second link needs to be edited to refer to the person/blog you are quoting.

Re blaming Menezes instead of the police... people (from everywhere but especially in the US) need to realize that the rest of the world doesn't have the same regard for individual rights and freedoms as exists here in the US. And, even here, if we had been through one horrific bombing attempt at, say, Atlanta/Hartsfield (country's busiest airport) and a second abortive attempt at the same place within a couple of weeks, then rest assured that security there would be at a VERY high state.

Menezes lived in London and he certainly knew what was going on and had an idea of the mood of the citizenry and the heightened alertness of the police. Given all that, he was a fool to run from the police.

Menezes made a lot of bad choices... pretty much every choice he made was bad. If he had made these choices in June, say, he would be alive. But he made them after 7/7 and 7/20, and just as a scared trainee pilot flying towards the Capital or the White House in late September 2001 who failed to respond to air traffic control directions, the authorities acted forcefully... and understandably.

If a pilot had strayed into DC airspace and ignored ATC then you can believe his plane would have been shot down. Similarly, and unfortunately, Menezes' actions inadvertantly exactly imitated those of a homicide bomber and the police responded accordingly.

The lesson here: don't run from the cops. Menezes did. That's why his death was his fault.

1:06 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

"The lesson here: don't run from the cops. Menezes did. That's why his death was his fault. "

Were not the police in PLAIN CLOTHES? and was not one of them carrying a pistol, something you would NEVER associate with the Police? For all YOU KNOW, he BELIEVED he was running from bad people!

I live the US and my wife is from India... she wears sweatshirts in the summer.

Thank God we belive in innocence until proven guilty. Oh wait, that's going out with the bath water and baby too!

4:29 AM  
Blogger Charlie Quimby said...

Edit made.

John, you are right, to a point. You and I certainly would not have run. And you are correct that "the rest of the world doesn't have the same regard for individual rights and freedoms."

For example, Brazil.

I think it's entirely possible to have a different view of whether it's a good idea to end up in the hands of the police if you grew up in a country without those rights. Likely, even, if you are poor and dark and on an expired visa during a time of hysteria.

Our forces protecting Washington DC airspace have shown restraint while still defending the city from stray civil aircraft. I spoke yesterday with my sister, the FBI agent, who does work in domestic terrorism, and whose job includes checking out local reports of suspicious characters, erroneous or not. She did not have a high regard for the London police action. "Maybe now we don't look so bad," she said.

My whole deal here is not to blame, but to understand and try to prevent mistakes in the future. By any of the good guys.

As Phillip asks, aren't we all Brazilian electricians?

6:02 AM  
Blogger John Clifford said...

Let's think about this for a moment.

Yes, everyone is innocent until proven guilty... in a court of law. What happened didn't occur in a court of law. It occurred on the streets of a city that was reeling from two terrorist attacks in two weeks and expecting more.

What happened didn't happen to some guy just sitting there. It happened to a guy wearing a heavy, padded jacket, a guy with a dark complexion who could have been Arabic, a guy who when confronted by the police chose to flee so that his expired visa wouldn't be discovered.

Menezes knew by the time he reached the Tube station (and before he jumped the turnstile) that the police were chasing him. He knew because a bunch of them were in uniform. He still chose to flee.

The police perception was, here's an Arabic-looking man who just left a house under surveillance wearing a heavy jacket on a warm summer day. We have probable cause to approach him, and so we approached him and identified ourselves and he ran. We chased him, still identifying ourselves, and he ran into the Tube station and headed for the trains. Does this not EXACTLY fit the profile of a homicide bomber?

Now, we're in the station yelling for everyone to get out, praying that he won't detonate his bomb until we can get to him. We get on the car with him, he tries to run again and trips, we jump on him knocking him to the floor, and because he's struggling one of us puts 5 rounds in his head before he has a chance to blow himself, and us, up. We get up, our ears ringing, and Thank God we are going to go home to our families instead of having to be scraped off of the walls.

Only later, after the EOD guys get here and carefully examine the corpse, do we discover that this guy wasn't a bomber after all... and only much later do we discover he wasn't an Arab and was fleeing for the silliest of reasons. Oops. Yes, we feel badly... but in the same circumstances we'd make the same decisions.

Rather than looking bad, the police look like heroes to me. How many of us would willingly charge into a subway just behind a homicide bomber, jump into a subway car with him knowing the odds are very high that he'll blow himself up, wrestle him to the floor while waiting for that big BANG, and then manage to finally neutralize him? I hope that our police will do the same thing if the same circumstances occur over here. If Menezes HAD been a bomber he wouldn't have acted any differently, and the police would rightly be lauded for their heroic actions.

Police action doesn't happen in a court room. It happens on the street. This situation was as predictable, and as lamentable, as the 16-year old kid who points a realistic toy gun at a cop and who gets shot for his pains. Judgement calls are made in split seconds, based upon what the police know at that second. The police will ALWAYS err on the side of greater public safety, and make the hard decision. I don't envy them, and I do admire the courage it takes to be able to make the hard decisions, and live or die with the consequences.

No, we're not all Brazilian electricians, wearing heavy jackets in the summer, with expired visas who flee when approached by the police. There are some things that responsible people don't do, especially in times of heightened alertness. Running from the cops is one of them. Menezes didn't deserve to die, but the police did everything right here.

10:33 AM  
Blogger John Clifford said...

"You notice that he's wearing a long trenchcoat despite the 80-degree heat and what looks like a bulky sweater underneath, and that he looks terrified."
– John Clifford, "What Not To Do When Challenged By The Police"

Yo, blogger! This is an excerpt from someone else's article and does NOT appear in my article, so please fix the attribution!

BTW, I do feel for Menezes' family. I'm sorry that he died, but he acted foolishly which led directly to his death. My empathy is also with the police. I'm sorry that they killed an innocent man, but I believe their actions were faultless.


- jgc

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

"You and I certainly would not have run. "
"...a guy who when confronted by the police chose to flee so that..."

Can you say for sure that he knew they were police? They were not dressed as police. They were armed, UNLIKE police. Maybe he thought he was running for his life or safety? Could he even understand the language properly? Stop, Bobby does sound alot like what perhaps he would expect, Halt, Policia, does it?

The point is that YOU do not KNOW. Hell, neither do I. All we DO KNOW is that someone was killed when he should not have been.

"...his expired visa wouldn't be discovered."

Not worth killing someone is it?

Benjamin Franklin said it best, "He who wouyld sacrifice liberties for security deserve neither."

This was a case of police hysteria. It may be accounted as an innocent and forgivable mistake... but it sure doesn't make it right!

Shoot to kill goes against everything America stands for. I surely hope that you Americans see that!

5:25 PM  
Blogger John Clifford said...

Hello Jim,

Yes, I can certainly say that before Menezes reached the Tube station he knew he was being pursued by police. If witnesses of the pursuit knew then it's almost certain that he did.

I've been in London recently. Police uniforms there are readily recognizable, especially if you've seen them before. As a foreigner, I would have stopped if ANYONE in an official-looking uniform yelled and gestured towards me even if I couldn't quite understand what they were saying, just as I'd do the same in Mexico.

Yes, Menezes spoke English well enough to understand "Stop!" He was able to communicate well enough with his English customers to stay in business.

Re expired visas not worth killing someone... Menezes made the decision that the risks of fleeing the police were certainly less than the risk of being deported. As with all of his choices that morning, he made the wrong decision. The police decision was, does stopping a homicide bomber and preventing the deaths of numerous other innocents justify shooting him without giving him a chance to surrender? The answer is, yes, it does.

No one is saying that the police should shoot suspicious-looking people on site. I'm saying that the police have probable cause to, and should, challenge any suspicious-looking person, and if that person chooses to flee into the subway and gives all appearances of being a homicide bomber, then shoot him before he has a chance to detonate himself.

I'm sure that police in London don't have a "shoot to kill" mentality, but instead shoot to stop as the police do here in America. Menezes wasn't shot because the police wanted to kill him, he was shot because police wanted to prevent him from possibly detonating a bomb and shooting him in the head repeatedly was the best of a lot of bad choices by that point. Do you not agree that Menezes, by his actions and appearance, fit the profile of a homicide bomber exactly? What would you have the police do to homicide bombers in such situations... and remember they don't have hours, or even minutes, to make that decision.

I'm also saying that the fault here lies with Menezes, not the police. All he had to do was STOP.

5:48 PM  
Blogger Charlie Quimby said...

Okay, John, sorry for attributing the hilarious Captain's Quarters scenario to you. That's the last time I do corrections after midnight.

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

1 "No one is saying that the police should shoot suspicious-looking people on site." said John Clifford

That IS EXACTLY the policy that has been given the green light in London. Do you not follow the news! "British police on Sunday defended a policy of shooting to kill... "

2 "The police decision was, does stopping a homicide bomber and preventing the deaths of numerous other innocents justify shooting him..." said John Clifford

Yes, stopping a homicide bomber to prevent the death of innocents is justified. BUT, stopping an innocent to prevent the dea.. uh.. prevent NOTHING is wrong! Say it isn't so!

3 "I'm sure that police in London don't have a "shoot to kill" mentality..." said John Clifford

You forgot to wear your deodorant now didn't you. You may have been sure, but as you can see from #1, you are SURE wrong!

4 "Menezes wasn't shot because the police wanted to kill him,..." said John Clifford

Oh, so 5 shots to the BACK of his head were meant to just slow him down? I am really getting to believe there is no logic to your to your... er logic!

5 "Do you not agree that Menezes, by his actions and appearance, fit the profile of a homicide bomber exactly?..." said John Clifford

Yes I do! It sure seems fate had it in for the poor chap that day. BUT, you can't go executing someone because you THINK he is a bomber. If these people were watching the house and truly felt he was a bomber, they should of confronted him sooner.

6 Also, the report said they were PLAIN CLOTHED. Not in uniform as you TRIED to imply, "if ANYONE in an official-looking uniform yelled and gestured".

You can try to justify the killing of an innocent man, but you can't... just by the fact they are noted as "innocent".

4:07 AM  
Blogger Charlie Quimby said...

Until I figure out how to close comments on this post, let's give this string a rest. We're at risk of crossing the divide with invective and deodorant sticks, and this isn't the place.

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...


I will cease and desist as asked... but please allow me one more tidbit of evidence. Consider it a sucker punch :o)

"Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he believed he was legally in the UK."

Thank you for allowing us to discuss this issue here on your blog.

Good Day!

10:20 AM  
Blogger John Clifford said...

Okay, my last comment on this post... just to correct the record.

Seems Menezes' work permit WAS expired and he had a forged stamp on his visa. This came out in the past couple of days. Menezes evidently knew that his permit had been expired for almost two years, thus the reason for fleeing.

I don't envy the London police. Damned if they do... and dead if they don't.

5:04 PM  

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