“I Can’t Breathe”: Michigan Police Viciously Beat Unarmed Black Man


William Melendez; alleged thug cop

The beating of an unarmed retired Detroit auto worker is another disturbing example of the lawless conduct some cops engage in when they encounter African-Americans on the streets of America.

What will it take for politicians to enact “zero tolerance” legislation to discourage those who violate the rights of citizens and members of the public, while wearing a policeman’s badge?

Do the authorities irresponsibly want to wait until frustrated victims start taking retaliatory actions?

By now, many have seen the police dash-cam beating of 57-year-old retired auto worker Floyd Dent, which occurred on January 28—and which, some say, is reminiscent of the 1991 beating of Rodney King by police officers from the Los Angeles Police Department.

In this police video, two officers, from the City of Inkster, pull Mr. Dent over for, supposedly, failing to use a traffic signal and disregarding a stop sign. Even assuming these charges are true, the video shows conduct unbecoming of law enforcement officers. There is nothing on the video to justify the vicious attack Dent was subjected to. He was unarmed and not resisting arrest and complying with the officers’ instructions.

First of all, the video shows Officer William Melendez drawing his gun—and there seems to be no good reason for him to do that. Then when Dent opens his Cadillac he is immediately dragged from his car and put in a chokehold by Melendez. And with another officer also holding him, Mr. Dent is repeatedly pumelled on the head—16 times!—by Officer Melendez. While he is on the ground Dent is also shot with a stun gun by another officer who arrived on the scene.

The video shows Officer Melendez clearly out-of-control and violently assaulting Mr. Dent. The behavior of this officer is beyond atrocious; it’s a prime example of why protests erupted across America last year after the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police officers and later the refusal to indict the killers.

If this officer didn’t think twice to commit such an outrage on the police camera, can you imagine what they do when no one is watching?

Much has been made about the introduction of body cameras for police. The idea is a good one. However, until politicians legislate harsh punishments for cops who step over the line, some cops will still violate the rights of people—knowing that they will not have to pay a serious price for their atrocious actions. Consider that Garner’s killer, Daniel Pantaleo is still a member of the New York Police Department (NYPD).

The police in Inkster claim Mr. Dent was driving with a suspended license—and was carrying cocaine in the car. These charges are no doubt meant to defame Dent—and to justify the indefensible conduct of these disgraceful officers. Their behavior is easily more criminal that any of the alleged criminal charges they brought against Mr. Dent.

Even if his license was suspended, Mr. Dent never violently resisted so there was no reason to pull a gun on him—or, attack him viciously. Why was Dent thrown to the ground? Why was he placed in a deadly chokehold?

According to Dent, at one point, he told the officers “I can’t breathe.” We’ve all come to remember these words after the killing of Eric Garner, in Staten Island by Pantaleo.

A key detail in this story is the fact that Dent was driving a Cadillac. A Black man driving a nice car has always been more than enough reason for White cops—and even backward Black cops—to pull him over.

Many Black men have been accused of being drug dealers or criminals because of the cars they drive. Black men with any trappings of financial achievements are often quickly singled out for harassment by cops.

Here we should talk briefly about comedian Chris Rock.

On Tuesday, he was pulled over by police, in Los Angeles, and took a selfie picture while being pulling over. According to Chris Rock, this is the third time he has been stopped by police—in less than two months. After talking the selfie, Rock tweeted the picture saying “Stopped by the cops again wish me luck.”

Indeed, Black men need luck anytime they encounter law enforcement officers in the streets of America. Black males have every right to be suspicious of any cop who is stopping them. Black lives matter little to most White police officers, or, to most politicians—including Black politicians— and that is why Black people must make them care, by continuing to protest and by applying maximum political pressure to punish those who aid and abet the continued oppression of Black people.

Now, Officer Melendez claims he found cocaine in Mr. Dent’s car. Why should we believe this officer, since he was previously involved in a case where he was accused of doing—among other things—planting drugs? This case is an example of what happens when rotten cops are allowed to abuse their power.

Since last summer, all the cases we’ve witnessed including the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner scream for wholesale police restructuring across America. But those, in Congress, who like to run their mouths off about the “rule of law” remain silent on the pressing need to address police abuse and corruption. Their silence makes it clear that they have no problem with police maiming and murdering Black people.

We should be scrutinizing every politician who receives major votes from Black America. We should be taking note of what—if anything—they are doing to stop police brutality. We also need to evaluate the conduct of our Black political “leaders.”

Here is a question we should seriously ask ourselves: who are the Black politicians who are stepping up boldly to tackle this problem? Here in New York, we know that the name Charles Barron has been synonymous with fighting against police abuse. Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams, a relative newcomer, has been doing some good things. But why is the large group of Black politicians so absent on such a crucial issue?

Where are the Black leaders in Washington?

Attorney General Holder has done us a great service by pushing the envelope on these matters with the stinging report recently released by the Justice Department about the Ferguson Police Department. President Obama’s endorsement of body cameras is surely a good thing. But where are all the Black congressional leaders?

If we can’t even get Black politicians on Capitol Hill to raise their voices, how do we expect to get White politicians to address the issue? Every Black leader who remains silent on the issue of police brutality should be considered a traitor working against the interests of Black people. Black America should force Black elected officials to take a stand—or be removed from office.

Another target that African-Americans should look at are those businesses who make massive money in the Black community. These entities should be compelled to speak out to politicians on our behalf—in a manner similar to the way in which business interests have now pressured the governor and politicians, in Indiana, to back down on a proposed law that would have allowed religious groups to discriminate against gay people.

Why is it more acceptable for police, who are supposedly officers of the law, to brutalize African-Americans.

The brutal assault against Mr. Dent in Detroit should be denounced in the strongest terms. It’s another  reminder of how much work there is to be done to get justice for those whose rights are violated by police. Black America has much work to do to stop this scourge against our people. Protests and marches are only part of the solution.

It is time for us to disrupt the “business as usual” attitude of those politicians and business people who remain silent while we are being attacked by corrupt cops.


Send any cases of police assaults of unarmed civilians to [email protected] and [email protected]

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