The actions of two Baltimore County police officers are now under review after they were captured on video last week violently detaining a 16-year-old child who was in need of help and clearly in distress.
Fox Baltimore reports that on Feb. 22, police were called to respond to reports that a 14-year-old girl (who has not been identified) had threatened Alonzo Cox, 16, with a knife during an altercation across from Baltimore County’s Woodlawn High School.
Upon the officers’ arrival, the girl allegedly responded to commands to stop while Alonzo resisted arrest.
Why Alonzo was being arrested in the first place has not been made clear.
“I was scared,” he told reporters the day after he was attacked by the officers. “I thought I was going to get shot; that’s all that was going through my mind. ‘Please don’t shoot me,’” he added. “I was scared for my life.”
He was scared for his life.
According to Fox Baltimore, Cox faces charges of second-degree assault, resisting arrest and second-degree assault on police. The 14-year-old girl was charged with first- and second-degree assault.
Trigger warning: Police brutality, anti-black violence, violence against children.
Former Baltimore City Police Commissioner Ed Norris sees nothing wrong with the officers’ actions.
For Norris, it doesn’t matter that Alonzo is a child. It doesn’t matter that he was an unarmed child justifiably scared for his life because he knows that some of the killers in his city wear badges. He knows that Baltimore cops can get away with severing someone’s neck from their spine, as they did with Freddie Gray.
He’s old enough to know that police officers don’t even need the appearance of a reason to get away with murder.
According to Norris, though, the burden is on unarmed children to ensure that police officers don’t feel threatened by them.
“The problem is they’re trying to put handcuffs on this teenager and he’s resisting,” Norris said. “He put his hands on the first officer and he’s continuing to resist, they’re trying to handcuff him, he’s fighting, he’s screaming, he’s fighting and they can’t get him handcuffed, it’s very difficult to handle.”
Norris added, “If you resist an arrest against a uniformed police officer they don’t lose and they’re going to do whatever they have to do to get you in handcuffs because they want to go home at night. People forget as well, even though this teenager is unarmed and he may not be a hardened criminal by any means, but when you start fighting an arrest with the police there’s a gun in the fight, because the officer is wearing it and that’s always on their mind. People need to be cognizant of that.”
I am cognizant of the fact that black children are not allowed to be children outside of the narrow safe spaces achingly carved out inch by inch by people who love them.
I am cognizant of the fact that fear of the black body—the terror and loathing that it incites in the twisted minds of people who have been trained to target it, incarcerate and destroy it—is foundational and central to whiteness.
I’ve written about writing through the tears as police officers kill without consequence. I’ve written about our children being found guilty of being black and free, and how it is hard not to hate, hard not to want to turn to reciprocal violence, just once, to send the message, “Our children’s lives are fucking worth it.”
It was only recently, though, while reading Marc Lamont Hill’s book Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, From Ferguson to Flint and Beyond, that I realized how deeply this trauma runs. The recitation of facts that we know so well: Trayvon, forever 17 years old, was just walking to the store during the halftime show of the NBA All-Star Game when he was profiled, stalked and ultimately killed by George Zimmerman; Jordan Davis, forever 17 years old, was just listening to music at a convenience store when he was murdered by Michael Dunn ...
And I had to stop, I literally had to close the book, because I still hear Trayvon’s terrified, frantic, high-pitched screams and how they pierced my heart. He was a baby.
I still see Jordan’s friends recount how they had to speed away with their friend, their boy, bleeding out in the car, after they had all been shot at by an angry white supremacist.
And those images, those screams, that blood, that death, is what I saw when I heard Alonzo Cox’s piercing screams.
Because we know that it is only the luck of the draw that he is still alive.
We know that is the reality of being black in America.
I watch my eldest son, only 12 years old, grow larger and taller, and I can’t help envisioning him at the wrong gas station, walking at the wrong time, moving too fast, too slow, not smiling widely enough, smiling too wide, asserting his rights, living, breathing, existing, and a white supremacist or a cop—not that the two are mutually exclusive—deciding that he’s just another dangerous, soulless black body.
They won’t care that he has a mother waiting at home for him. They won’t care that he has a father waiting at home for him. They won’t care that he has brothers and uncles and aunts and cousins who love him.
In this country, whether my sons will eventually encounter police officers predisposed to killing them is not a matter of if but when; whether they leave that encounter still breathing is a nightmare that strangles my heart until I wake up gasping for air.
All I can do is keep writing for our lives; keep speaking out about this deep-seated structural brutality that gives permission for adults sworn to protect and serve to assault unarmed children; keep speaking out when they gun them down and go on paid vacation for their troubles.
That’s all I can do, and it’s not enough. It can never be enough.
What those Baltimore cops did to Alonzo was cruel and it was unnecessary, but I have no doubt that they slept just fine after assaulting an unarmed child, because that’s what monsters do.
Still ... I always wonder if monsters can hear the screaming.