By Brenda Robinson
He has been referred to as fake, opportunist, trouble maker, racist, and even a man who preys upon the very people he claims to help. However, his critics got it wrong. The Rev. Al Sharpton has historically held America accountable for unfair practices and downright racism. The most recent incident, a California highway patrolman beating of a black woman on the state’s freeway, was not a priority media story. However, the Rev. Al Sharpton does what he does best. Sharpton is determined to challenge law enforcement injustices. In his own words, “many in our community have to live in fear of both the cops and the robbers,” and he is making certain these kinds of stories get attention.
Upon the Rev. Sharpton’s outrage, the story was all over the media. This California woman, Marlene Pinnock, was walking on interstate 10 and summoned to exit, according to authorities. She appeared to follow the order, but discontinued and returned to the freeway. The video of the incident, recorded by David Diaz, a passing driver, revealed the officer, with clenched fist repeatedly striking this 51-year-old great-grandmother. According to California Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Chris Q’Quinn, this woman was endangering her life and other motorist. Q’Quinn added the officer was trying to restrain the woman and the video was a small part of what happened. The officer who administered the blows is on paid leave from his job.
Frost readers who viewed the video witnessed a horrible scene. The officer’s blows, directly to the woman’s head, appeared forceful and deliberate. The portion aired showed no resistance, other than Pinnock’s folded arms, cupped above her head to reduce the impact of the attack. Awaiting full disclosure before concrete judgement is rendered is necessary. However, the Rev. Sharpton is correct with his challenge and we are correct in being suspicious of the unidentified involved officer.
We have been there before. Rodney King was a victim of police brutality back in the day. Following a high speed chase, in March 1991, five Los Angeles police officers surrounded King and he was beaten by several of the officers. A witness video taped the ordeal. All of the officers were acquitted by the state court. The federal government took the case and in 1993, four of the five officers were tried and convicted of violating the late Rodney King’s civil rights.
More recently, in 2012 Trayvon Martin, a 17 year-old, was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman. He was released by the local Florida police department the same evening of the shooting. The police chief said there was no evidence indicating Zimmerman lied when he said he shot Martin in self defense. Martin was unarmed.
Also, there was the fatal shooting of ReMarley Graham, as he ran unarmed into the home of his grandmother. The pursuing New York City Police officer said he thought Graham had a gun. Graham was holding a bag of marijuana. This case is still pending.
Finally, there was the reported suicide of Chavis Carter who was seated in the rear seat, upon arrest, of an Arkansas police car. Carter was handcuffed and according to police, had been searched twice. Yet, while handcuffed and following the search, Carter shot himself in the head.
The Rev. Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, raised his voice, both on his radio and MSNBC broadcasts, for justice. He called for investigations and organized marches. President Barack Obama referred to Sharpton as the voice of the voiceless and a champion for the downtrodden. According to a 2013 Zooby Poll, one out of four people said Sharpton is the person who speaks most for them. He was the highest person polled for the most effective civil rights leader. He was the only African American listed in the top 12 most influential leaders in New York City.
Some American law enforcement agencies have indicated they have some bias with black offenders and/or identifying whether a particular black person is or is not an offender. Further, indications are blacks are more often victims of fatal shots and unnecessary violence from law enforcement officers. Pinnock is the latest known victim. We must be grateful for Al Sharpton. He will keep this horrific incident in the media and make a strong effort to get justice for Pinnock. This victim and the Pinnock family can be assured, with Sharpton, they’ve got the right one baby.