What Walking Around a Blocked Sidewalk Looks Like in a Police State — This is Why People are Angry
Article first appeared at The Free Thought Project.
Edina, MN — Larnie B. Thomas didn’t do anything ‘wrong,’ per se — but that, unsurprisingly, did not prevent a typically ugly interaction with police intent to enforce one of thousands of needless laws governing daily life.
Edina, Minnesota, police felt construction blocking the sidewalk did not constitute sufficient reason for Thomas to enter the roadway, even though he hugged the right shoulder’s white line — so a plain-clothed officer paid with taxpayer dollars halted his forward progress to harass and then arrest the man for attempting forward progress.
Janet Rowles stopped her vehicle and watched the incident unfold along Xerxes Avenue and — as has become a necessity in the American police state — whipped out her cell phone to tape the unnecessary confrontation.
Lt. T.F. Olson, identified later, grabbed the back of Thomas’ jacket and then escorted the man back toward his waiting, unmarked SUV.
“Come over here,” the white officer in an oxford shirt and khakis tells the man whose elbow he grasped.
“For what?!” Thomas replies, understandably angry at having been accosted for essentially no reason.
Rowles emphasized she began taping, not because she has a general issue with U.S. policing, but because she took issue with Olson’s needless harassment of Thomas.
“I’m not against the police,” she said in an interview Friday, quoted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I was against what he was doing.”
In the now-viral video, Thomas becomes increasingly irate at the pointless harassment by police — and, as many have noted, likely had luck on his side to ultimately walk away without being brutalized senselessly by either Olson or additional responding officers.
As a professional mediator, Rowles pulled over to film the confrontation — during which Thomas stayed calm but became increasingly agitated — because, as the Tribune cited her saying, she “was watching something that I didn’t think was very fair.”
“You can’t just put your hands on me like that,” Thomas implores the officer as he’s escorted to the waiting stealth SUV.
Olson explains the man had, however, made the altogether egregious error of “walking down the middle of the street.”
Incensed at having been hijacked for stepping outside the State’s arbitrary lines in the road, Thomas slams his backpack to the ground and asks the surprisingly calm officer if he’ll be taken to jail.
“You’re gonna take me to jail for that shit?!” Thomas demands.
Rowles, filming close by — and as a mediator familiar with difficult situations — tells Olson, “Maybe you could just tell him where a good place to walk is.”
As the confrontation continues, Thomas’ fury intensifies, and — although he struggles from Olson’s firm grip several times — neither the white officer nor the justifiably enraged black man become violent.
“I don’t fault him for being agitated,” Rowles later explained. “I’m a mediator, and I see people all the time be upset in ways that aren’t very pretty. We’re human. It’s the job of the police to deal with it in a good manner, not the [one]who is being falsely accused.”
Clearly, the police in this incident needlessly apprehended Thomas as he tried to avoid a blocked pathway — and was not, as Olson implied, ‘walking down the middle of the road.’
“Maybe you could just suggest he go to the other side and help him,” Rowles tells Olson in an apparently fruitless attempt to mitigate the situation. “Maybe you could just help him know where the right place to walk is.”
“Ma’am. Could you please step back,” the officer tells her, ignoring her sensible suggestion.
While Rowles’ intentions as a mediator naturally included the instinct to alleviate escalation, it would normally be inadvisable to interact with either party when filming a police encounter.
Olson continues his somewhat demeaning grip on Thomas’ jacket, refusing to be reasonable about the altogether marginal infraction.
“I know my rights,” Thomas implores, “I didn’t do nothing. You got your hand on me.”
As the man explains to the officer he had to tread into the roadway due to the construction blocking his path, Olson says, “We’ve gone beyond that.”
“No we haven’t,” Thomas exclaims. “That’s bullshit and you know it!”
“Why are you being this way?” the authoritarian officer, ignorant of the inanity of his harassment, rhetorically asks the man.
“Because … look … the fuck you got your hands on me for?!”
This exchange continues for several minutes as the level-headed cop repeatedly tells the justifiably outraged man why stepping outside the arbitrary lines constitutes a grievous error, until, eventually, a backup officer is summoned to the scene.
Thomas, at one point, tires of Olson’s disrespectful grasp on his jacket, and wriggles free of both it and his shirt.
Eventually, Olson arrests Thomas, cuffing him shirtless in the frigid Minnesota air. Several times, Rowles asks the officers to give the obviously freezing Thomas his jacket — but they refuse, saying he’ll soon be in the back of a patrol car.
Rowles’ video of the absurd confrontation, which occurred on Wednesday, has been viewed nearly 100,000 times — forcing the Edina Police Department to issue a statement, saying,
“Recognizing the risk to the safety of the public, the officer pulled in behind the man with his lights and an audible signal in an attempt to advise him to get out of the roadway. The man, who was wearing headphones, turned and looked at the officer and continued walking in the lane of traffic.”
This, of course, ignores that Thomas posed no legitimate threat to the public, since vehicles passing by would clearly see him and be able to move slightly to the left to give him safe passage. Continues the statement:
“The officer smelled alcohol on the man’s breath during the incident. A breathalyzer later confirmed the presence of alcohol” — as if imbibing and walking were somehow a crime.
Rowles explained later she felt her occupation demanded she advocate for Thomas during his ridiculous encounter with the cops, and that — had she not been filming their actions — the situation could have worsened in potentially dangerous ways.
Thomas was cited for “disorderly conduct and pedestrian failure to obey a traffic signal,” and was later released.
“I worry about these relationships that [the police are]destroying,” she said, according to the Tribune. “It calls for extra patience.”
Tragically, police patience with the public seems — with this and few other exceptions — to be a thing of the past.