Excessive Use of Force

June 21st, 2020

Make Music Chicago
for solo viola, cello or violin
Paul Dwyer, cello

PROGRAM NOTE

Between May 26th and June 4th, 2020 there was an unbelievable amount of inarguable video footage that featured excessive use of force by police officers of various departments.

All of the victims were unarmed. There were many more during this particular week and previous, and many have been about race.

These are just a few:

May 25th
Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis – a cop who had at least 17 prior complaints of misconduct on the force – kneeled down on the neck of George Floyd for over 8 minutes. The video included Floyd saying “I can’t breathe” over and over again until he was unconscious, and the incident caused his death.

May 29th
After asking “why?”, a petite woman was shoved so hard by an NYPD officer in Brooklyn that she was flung across the street and hit her head on the curb. She went into a seizure. There were many others that night around the Barclay Center, including a Senator who was pepper sprayed.

May 30th
A 9 year-old girl in Seattle that was walking with her family to get home alongside a protest gets pepper sprayed in the face by a cop. Video shows her crying hysterically while bystanders run to pour milk over her.

May 31st
Video surfaces of a woman in Indianapolis being arrested on the sidewalk and held from behind. Video shows her jerking free after the cop’s hands graze her breasts. She is then beaten with a baton 6 times and sprayed with rubber bullets while another woman yells “Why her??” The other woman is then shoved hard to the ground and arrested by 4 male cops.

May 31st
Video of a swarm of cops in Chicago surround a car with 2 women inside. They are violently dragged out by their hair and one kneels on a woman’s neck for two minutes. They just arrived to go shopping.

June 1st
D.C. Security officers (including Secret Service, military police, U. S. Park Police, District National Guard, and Virgina police), advance on peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Square in order to clear the area in front of St. John’s Church for a photo-op featuring Trump with a bible. They use smoke canisters, shields, pepper balls, and horses to force demonstrators from the park to H Street.

In addition to the hurt protesters, The Australian government said it is investigating the videotaped assault of two Australian 7NEWS journalists by police while reporting on the protesters.

June 4th
In Buffalo, New York, video taken by a reporter from a local public radio station on Friday showed police pushing a 75-year-old protester to the ground. The man was left bleeding out of his ears on the pavement as officers walked by.

It sickened me to watch these videos and try to explain to my 13 year-old son that this is the world we live in.

On the night of June 1st, while still in shock over Trump’s “photo-op” incident, my husband and I watched a documentary on the legendary Woodstock Festival.

400,000 people descended on a farm in upstate NY 50 years ago for a weekend of concerts, love, and peace. New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller threatened to summon the National Guard, however a grassroots spirit of cooperation and collaboration between the hippies and the few police present resulted in an amazingly non-violent experience.

Imagine what would have happened if the National Guard was there.

On the last morning of the Festival, Jimi Hendrix wailed out a version of the “Star Spangled Banner” on his guitar, replete with sounds of the rockets and bombs that plagued the Vietnam war that everyone was sick of at the time.

“Excessive Use of Force” is my homage to that performance – only this time the quoted song is “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”, and the sounds are that much more gritty to convey the ugliness of these current times.