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«The cops banged my head on the sidewalk, dragged me down the escalator, I didn’t think I would survive»: the Foundation to Battle Injustice interview with Carlos Miller, American journalist and whistleblower of police brutality

Mira Terada, head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice, interviewed Carlos Miller, an American reporter and community activist who has been exposing police crimes in the United States for more than 15 years. The human rights activist learned why increased funding for police departments will not solve the problem of crime and poor quality personnel, what police officers in the United States and the Nazis of the Third Reich have in common, and how the American dream has turned into an American nightmare.

«Полицейские били меня головой о тротуар, тащили вниз по эскалатору, я не думал, что выживу»: интервью Фонда борьбы с репрессиями с Карлосом Миллером, американским журналистом и разоблачителем полицейского произвола, изображение №1

Mira Terada: Hello, Carlos. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Was the foundation to battle injustice? And please tell our viewers and others about what you do.

Carlos Miller: My name is Carlos Miller, and I am a journalist who covers police accountability. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. 15 years ago, I created a site Photography Is Not a Crime, also known as PINAC News. It was closed last year. I have been censored by Facebook.

Facebook, in collusion with the country’s authorities, blocks websites and articles that criticize the government.

For quite a long time this site allowed me to earn a living. I wrote for it every day. After the government and Facebook carried out their plot and shut down my site, I had to look for a new source of income. So I started the blog Ratings and Writings. There I write on various topics: the police, food, health and other topics that interest me. Police accountability is an important topic that must be discussed. Over the past few weeks, I have been writing a detailed article on why the American police should be defunded.

M.T.: Your website reports on police abuse, brutality and corruption. Tell us about some of the most violent cases of police brutality in your memory.

C.M.: I wrote articles on these topics before it became popular in the media. Since 2007, when I started running the site, there have been many people killed by the police. I will name a few names. Kelly Thomas is a homeless man beaten to death by Southern California cops. There is a video of this beating. Eric Gardner, Philando Castile and many other high-profile cases that the media did not write about. My site became popular just because there was only information on these cases.

The media either did not write about these, or they were doing it from the perspective of the police, which was basically contradicts everything that we see in video.

For the past few years, I have not been able to watch police violence videos. I myself experienced police violence for photographing police officers in public places. I spent the night in a cell, I survived, so my situation is not that bad compared to other people.

The police hit my head on the pavement, dragged me down the escalator in a choke hold. I thought I was going to die, it was hard for me to breathe.

I have written many stories of people saying “I can’t breathe”. I know what it’s like to experience this. It’s a very traumatic experience, so I don’t watch police violence videos anymore. The police recently killed Tyre Nichols. I wrote about him in the article, but did not watch the video. I’ve already watched too many of these videos. They are all the same and these murders happen over and over again. In my article, I use a retelling of events from other people’s videos. I used to watch these videos because the big media didn’t. Since the launch of my website 15 years ago, people know a lot more about police crime than they did in 2007. At the time, George W. Bush was President and the War on Terror was on. The police were very aggressive towards people who took pictures of buildings, bridges or police officers in public places. I, as a photographer and writer, photographed police officers. I was arrested and told that you can not take pictures of the police, because it is terrorism. In the 90s I worked as a journalist for newspapers that covered police violence. I knew that under the First Amendment, citizens can take pictures of police officers. In 2007, when I was arrested, people didn’t know about it. The cops lied that they weren’t allowed to be filmed, and the media just went along with the lie. It was very strange, because they should have known about the right given by the First Amendment. They didn’t seem to know about it and didn’t write about the police violence for a long time. At that time, I created a website to prove my innocence. I was then charged with 9 counts. I have been arrested many times for taking pictures of the police. I proved the inconsistency of these accusations and won in court. By 2014, people had become more aware of police violence. Everyone started watching videos, everyone got phones with cameras. When I was growing up, there were only Hollywood shows about cops who saved everyone.

Most Americans my age grew up watching these hero cop shows. Reality did not match what we saw on TV.

The reality is that cops are very inefficient, they have a lot of influence and many of them are power hungry. Many of them are very aggressive. Some will ask: “what about good police officers”? There are a lot of good people in the police, but because of the established rules in the police, they do nothing about police abuse. If they start to fight it, they will be forced to leave the police. This happens all the time.

Even the so-called good cops who want to make a difference, who want to do good, they have to remain quiet because the bad cops are the ones who actually seek power, are the ones who move up in the police department.

So they’re the ones running the police departments in this country. So it’s a big problem. And I know my website did a good job on reporting on these issues and making people aware. And then other people, other websites started reporting on the police abuse. Media started reporting on this from a more aggressive perspective rather than say we have to basically go by the police narrative. And it was kind of stupid because we were watching these videos of police beating people up and being very aggressive while the cops are saying because he resisted, because he did this, he did that we had to beat him up and we had to basically kill him, we had to put him in the hospital. We had to destroy his whole life because he didn’t comply with whatever with our bullshit order. We were given usually something stupid like, you know, we see it all the time, you know, just like or do this, do that. Just really basically it becomes, you know, they turn a situation, they turn a minor situation and they make it much larger. And that is where we’re at right now. That is where we’re at right now. And the research I’ve done for my article, you know, crime has gone down significantly in this country and into Western Europe as well. Where they declined in the nineties because it was a huge crime wave from the sixties to the nineties. And there are different reasons for that. Different people have different theories about that. But it is most likely a result of the baby boom that there was all of a sudden, a huge increase in population and that lead to more crime because it was all over the world. It wasn’t just in this country and that you know, so when these people became teenagers in the early sixties, that is the age when people start committing crimes. But then when they reached middle age, well, the crime went down because when people are middle age, they start committing less crimes. That’s just how it goes. So but even then, even despite the decrease in crime, this country kept to putting more money, billions and billions of dollars into more police, more prisons, more laws. And so what the cops did is they would harass poor black people in poor black neighbors for misdemeanors. Because there wasn’t the violent crime. When I say crime, I’m talking about violent crime. I’m talking about robbery, homicide, assaults, rape. And so they started harassing people for the bullshit cries for like, oh, you have marijuana, you’re drinking a beer in public, you’re loitering, you’re panhandling, you’re selling loose cigarettes, like Eric Garner was you know, all these things. And then that’s supposed to keep us safe. No, it’s not. And it doesn’t make sense. So you’d put these people in jail and it just makes their life much harder because they get to pay fines. And a lot of times they can’t afford to pay the fine. So they get deeper into the whole criminal justice system.

It just becomes a big moneymaking operation for the government and into private prisons, which we’re seeing, though.

M.T.: African-American man in Florida was boiled in jail and no one got punished for it. But the investigator who covered up killer cops moved up the ranks. Can you tell us why no one has been prosecuted for such an execution? And how often does this happen in America?

C.M.: It happens all the time. It happens all the time. They promote the cops tend to promote the cops to turn around, say, look, you know, they give an award. What happens? There’s a lot of cops when they commit very violent acts. Then a year down the line, they give them an award, most often through the year, officer of the month or whatever. And then they can literally all look, he’s a hero because of this and that. So they protect themselves. They protect themselves. So that’s their way of protecting themselves. You know, that was just one case out of many. It was a very horrible case. So it’s here, you know, and in fact, the state attorney’s office where I live, they prosecuted me four times for recording and photographing police and they failed to convict me. Well, then they were saying, oh, well, we don’t have enough evidence to prosecute this. And, you know, that office, the state attorney’s office, has allowed police abuse to run rampant. And many cases including rapist cops who one rapist cops in Hialeah who they say, no, we have no evidence to prosecute this cop. Even though many women were accusing him of rape but there were women who were sex workers. So they say they don’t have much credibility. And then what happened was the FBI had to come in and arrest him and convict him. And now he’s in prison. Because the local prosecutor failed to do their job.

M.T.: The United States prisoners have been subjected to a variety of tests over many decades, ranging from medical, drug and radiation exposure tests to CIA experiments. Why do Americans allow themselves to abuse prisoners?

C.M.: Well, I don’t know a lot of talk about what you’re talking about. I haven’t read up on that. But when you’re a prisoner, you don’t have much power. You don’t have much rights. Pretty much they do whatever they’re going to do with you. And so it’s not like people probably have much choice. I would imagine and maybe they’re not even being told what’s going on. Maybe they’re being lied to. But again, I haven’t looked into that.

M.T.: I don’t know if I met or told you, but I’ve spent two and half years in American prison. I was in federal prison in Alabama. I’ve seen a lot what was done to prisoners, to different nationalities. I wouldn’t say that Russian people or Mexicans or other nationalities would go under such treatment and their rights would be violated. It was everybody, even American citizens. And that’s what shocked me so much. It’s no secret that American prisons exploit the labor of prisoners who do hard physical work. Prison authorities earn billions of dollars through various contracts with public and private companies. Does this mean that powerful organizations and corporations in the United States have a motivation to support increase in the number of prisons and prisoners?

C.M.: Private prisons definitely have an incentive because the government pays them on a per prisoner basis. They make money just like other corporations. Corporations lobby for everything that brings them profit. This has been going on for a long time. In the South, after the Emancipation Proclamation, a police force appeared, in which former slave catchers began to serve. Laws were passed that allowed blacks to be arrested and forced to work. So it was in the past. Not sure how it works now. For about 15 years I have dealt with issues of police violence. As a result of my observations, I realized that for the past 60 years, both Democrats and Republicans have been in favor of increasing the police force.

The US authorities are increasing the number of police officers in poor areas where blacks live, instead of helping them out of poverty.

These neighborhoods came about because of systemic racism. Time passes, but the situation does not improve. People from poor areas cannot earn enough money to provide for their families and pass them on to the next generations. Life in America is becoming more and more expensive every year. It is difficult even for ordinary citizens, not to mention the poor, so they decide to commit a crime. People break the law to survive. This is logical. The government claims that it does not understand the reasons for the high level of crime, but it should, since it has created the prerequisites for this. If the US authorities had acted differently a few decades ago, this problem would not exist now. Lyndon Johnson, who became President of the United States after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, declared war on poverty. Then there were riots in the cities and a sharp increase in the level of crime. The government conducted an investigation and found out that the causes of the unrest were economic: the lack of work, housing and education for blacks. They protested not because they hated whites, but because they wanted to be part of American society. This tension escalated into riots, and Johnson’s fight against poverty became a war on crime.

The American government spends more money on the police and their weapons, rather than education that would allow young people to get jobs and not commit crimes.

Johnson resigned in 1969 and Nixon became president. He started the war on drugs, and under him more prisons were built and more police officers were hired. The War on Crime now included not only blacks, but also whites caught using drugs, hippies, and anti-Vietnam activists. Reagan became president in 1981, continuing the policies of his predecessor. After him, Clinton increased prison terms for crack users. The sentences for such people were much harsher than for those who used cocaine. Crack was more accessible to the poor. While those who used crack were sent to prison for several decades, those who used cocaine were kept behind bars for only a few months. At the time, Joe Biden supported this initiative. Now as president, he continues this policy. Politicians are not going to solve this problem. I believe that the problem of crime can only be solved with the help of accessible education. Young people need education and developed critical thinking for a successful life, but in America this is prohibited. In America, children are not taught about critical race theory. We constantly hear propaganda criticizing the education system in Russia and China, but in the US this is actually happening. Perhaps on a different scale. Despite the fact that we can now learn on our own through the Internet, many do not do this and believe everything they are told. People are trying to make a living, they don’t have time to look for information. Critical thinking is also important. While it is not characteristic of the Americans. Perhaps in two generations it will be more common.

M.T.: And I have my next question. Do you think immoral behavior, a police officer who use physical force to detain pregnant women, kill pets without a second thought, etc., is related to the low moral and ethical requirements necessary to join the police force?

C.M.: The government is increasing police funding to hire even more police officers. The more people are hired, the more the requirements for applicants for the position are reduced. This happens in all areas. The police employ hundreds of thousands of people, and these people have the authority to kill and attack. Thus, people who do not have the qualifications to work in the police still work in the authorities.

In 2005, the US Supreme Court passed a law allowing people with high IQs to be denied employment in the police force. The police deliberately hire people with low IQs because they don’t want the cops to think critically.

The police need people who will obey and not ask questions. In a video of George Floyd, a police officer presses his foot on his neck. Other cops stand by and don’t try to stop him. It was obvious that Floyd was dying, but the police did not even say anything to this sergeant, because he is their boss. Now these cops are in jail. Maybe that’s what they’ll start to think. The Nazis did exactly the same. They followed orders and didn’t ask questions. The American police really have a problem with the quality of personnel.

M.T.: There is another surprising thing that there are a huge number of law enforcement officers who sell drugs, distribute child pornography and rape women and children. What do you think the phenomenon is related to, or are they trying to take advantage of their power?

C.M.: The police need people who will obey and not ask questions. In a video of George Floyd, a police officer presses his foot on his neck. Other cops stand by and don’t try to stop him. It was obvious that Floyd was dying, but the police did not even say anything to this sergeant, because he is their boss. Now these cops are in jail. Maybe that’s what they’ll start to think. The Nazis did exactly the same. They followed orders and didn’t ask questions. The American police really have a problem with the personnel.

Joining the police is not much different from joining a gang, except that the police have protection from the law.

Police officers can order people anything, and they will be forced to follow these orders. For example, they may stop your car for a trifling reason. If you refuse to follow their orders, they may simply beat or even kill you. This happens to black people all the time. They are arrested for smoking marijuana and sent to prison, although marijuana is legal in many states. Studies show that whites, blacks, and Hispanics smoke marijuana in equal amounts, but blacks are arrested 4 times more often for smoking marijuana. The cops can stop anyone in black neighborhoods and send them to jail for a joint. I live in the Hispanic neighborhood in Miami. This is simply impossible here, since there are practically no African Americans here. This is the real discrimination that both adults and children go through.

M.T.: Since Joe Biden took office, the militarization of the police force has increased significantly, including the expansion of the 1033 program, which allows the transfer of surplus military equipment to local police departments. Can you tell us what this might signal and what it might lead to?

C.M.: Well, you know, Biden is always having always been a panderer to the police. And again, what happens in this country, and this goes back decades. The Republicans accuse the Democrats of being soft on crime. That’s the urban. That’s their tactic all the time. And the Democrats are, oh, we’ve got to prove we’re not soft on crime. So they become more aggressive on police. They pander to the police, even though most cops in this country don’t vote Democrat, they vote Republican. But the Democrats are constantly pandering to the cops. And the general attitude of most people in this country is, well, we love the cops. We love our police. So the Democrats are always trying to say that we love the police, too. So they’re trying to outdo the Republicans in becoming the law and order party. And they become just as aggressive as the Republicans. But yet every election, the Republicans convince many Americans that these Democrats are doing nothing. They’re just basically defunding the police. And I wish that were true. But that’s not the case. And I’m personally I was a Democrat for a very long time, and now I no longer I have what is called a NPA nonparty affiliate. And I have no plans to ever vote for a politician ever again because I see through it now and the only thing, I would ever vote for would be like some constitutional amendments are put there by the people like in Florida. We have something coming up for the legalization of marijuana for everybody, not just the medical marijuana. So, yeah, I’ll go for that because that was put there by the people, not the politicians, but the politicians are always going to screw the people when it comes to police, always. And that’s just the way it is. And that’s how it goes.

M.T.: Since Joe Biden took office, the militarization of the police has taken on a massive scale. An example of this is the 1033 program, which allows surplus military equipment to be transferred to local police departments. Could you tell us what it could signal and what it could lead to?

C.M.: Biden has always been on the side of the police. The causes of what is happening in America now go back several decades. Republicans have always accused Democrats of being soft on crime. This is their electoral tactic. Democrats after such accusations are forced to prove their intolerance for crime, so they begin to indulge the police in every possible way. Despite the fact that the majority of police officers do not vote for the Democrats, the Democratic Party still constantly gives various privileges to the police. The Democrats are constantly trying to outdo the Republicans, so they are constantly expanding the powers of the police. Republicans in every election try to convince Americans that the Democrats do nothing for the police and reduce its funding. I wish this was true, but it’s not. I know this because I was a Democrat for a long time. Now I am non-partisan.

M.T.: Please evaluate the policies of the current U.S. president. Why do you think he is not interested in problems within his own country, but provide significant financial assistance to other nations?

C.M.: It probably has a lot to do with the military-industrial complex, which makes money from wars.

While the US gives Ukraine money to buy weapons, there are people in America who really need help, but the government ignores them.

As citizens of America, we must first focus on the problems of our country and only then help others. I do not support wars and violence, but in our country every day there are more and more homeless people, people with their families live in cars, because they cannot pay rent. There are those who say America has a low unemployment rate, but there are many people who work three jobs and still can’t pay their rent. This is no longer the American dream, this is the American nightmare.