Preamble: My thoughts and prayers to the family of Tommy McClain. There is nothing he did up to at the very worst a few seconds before the shots that lead to his dead that warranted death. We all know this and we grieve with you for your loss.
PART I: My bias
Unless irrefutable evidence is brought forward, Eureka and it’s culture wars will have another wound.
I think we are all familiar with the old school/transplant divide in HumCo. This culture divide may be something that Eureka and Humboldt have experienced since Europeans arrived here. But it’s pretty clear the culture wars have been happening with the waves of immigrants this area has experienced within some of our lifetimes. From the sixties “back to the landers” to the Bay Area economic refugees like myself to 100’s of others with stories that are not easily categorized.
The difference I’m experiencing on the left is not this obvious clash of cultures. It’s a political clash of cultures which I believe is generational. In short, I don’t share a default anti-authoritarianism which I believe stemmed from the events of the civil rights era in the south and then was repeated through the Vietnam era. Those protests were fundamentally different, but the enemy was the same. It was the status quo and their enforcers.
I hope everyone today see’s the righteousness of the struggles against authority and the hand of authority – the police – was in the South. Many, including myself, see obvious echos of the protests in Ferguson this Summer. However, I’m not sure how many of us are less impressed with the ultimate results of the anti-authoritarianism of the Vietnam era. I’m absolutely for sticking it to the man for a war one fundamentally doesn’t believe in. I honor and cherish the Ladies in Black who
will be (update 12:20 PM – “are”)under the flag at the Courthouse again today at noon protesting our continuing wars in the Middle East and South Asia. Having said that, there a disconnect in a reactionary anti-authoritarianism that I believe, locally, has it’s roots in the Bay Area in the 1960’s. No evidence for that, it’s just a hunch. That is the bias I go into this topic with.
PART II: Some thoughts on handling Mr. McClain’s death as a community
I think it’s important to acknowledge that Tommy McClain’s death under all but an infinitesimally small possible circumstances could not be considered murder. And it will not be considered murder when this is all said and done.
One of the first things they teach you – some would say indoctrinate you – with in the Army is the difference between killing and murder. The officers involved in the shooting that night were on the job and their argument for the killing will be self defence – which we all acknowledge is legitimate in theory (not necessarily in this case of course).
So the question is not about murder, it’s about how a man died, should he have died, and if not how will justice be served. These are really tough questions and most of us on the left want there to be a fair determination of what happened and consequences and actions to be meted out appropriately – importantly – including the very real option that Mr. McClain only died that night because the officer firing the shots made a mistake.
The best chance we have to find out exactly what happened and to have satisfactory justice served if there was a tragic and deadly mistake made is, ironically, to give Police Chief Mills the space to serve the public by focusing on exactly what happened that night, not on defending one of his own.
So on this Tuluwat Examiner post there are two things that jump out at me that I disagree with. a) It’s not murder, and b) I question the power and effectiveness of a Citizen’s Review Board. I think we need to Keep It Simple and have people focus their limited time for civic interest and activities to be focused on our employees who actually oversee (or should if they don’t currently) Chief Mills – The Eureka City Council (not on the internal dynamics of a Citizen’s Review Board which will be more easily to manipulate than the City Council). Let’s make sure we are putting pressure on the Council for an honest and transparent investigation of what ultimately lead to an unnecessary death of a civilian by those we hired to serve and protect. Let’s make sure that we the public – left and right – are able to wrap our heads around a situation where a mistake was made by a peace officer. We ourselves, or even family members of ours, might have made the same mistake – if there was one – given the circumstances. This is not to say there shouldn’t be serious consequences if it was a mistake – there should be because this potential mistake cost a life.
Rest in Peace Tommy McClain, and deepest sympathies to your family and friends. You should still be alive today.