Many, many police officers and their supporters are
going ape shit very upset at a group of student artists at Westfield High School in New Jersey for daring to exhibit their artwork. Why? Because the art in question is based on the theme “Law Enforcement – Police Brutality.” I guess cops can give a punch (or a taser shot, “rough ride” or a bullet) but they can’t stand to see any artistic expression of that behavior, symbolic or otherwise. And so they are lambasting the high school and the student artists whose only crime, as far as I can tell, was using their own life experience of interactions with police to inform what they create.
Artwork depicting scenes of police brutality displayed in a Westfield High School art show has set off a firestorm of comments from police supporters who have called the images “a gross misrepresentation,” “ignorant” and “one-sided.”
The artwork depicts images of officers with guns drawn, a target on a silhouette with his hands up, a bloodied body stabbed by a police shield and other scenes on a poster board that reads “Law Enforcement – Police Brutality.” The silkscreens were part of an annual project where students depict their takes on controversial topics, according to a student.
A storm of protest on social media erupted after the images first appeared on the school’s facebook page, with a large number of people calling for the firing of the Superintendent for the school district, Dr. Margaret Dolan. Here’s a screenshot of some of the tamer responses to the exhibit posted on the school’s facebook page:
Of course, Fox News couldn’t resist covering this story. Here’s Eric Bolling’s fair and balanced take on this matter, where he implicitly blamed the teachers at Westfield High for attacking the police, and demanded the exhibit be “taken down.”
Superintendent Dolan, as result of this “controversy” posted a response attempting to defuse the criticism from people who posted comments such and attacked the school district for “teaching kids to disrespect the police.”
I am sorry that information that has been passed along via social media and elsewhere has not told the entire story and has led some to believe that we do not respect law enforcement. We do, and we are teaching our students to do the same.
Ironically, it was the kids at the school who chose the subject – not the Superintendent, not their teachers. They were told that it was their choice to make and that, as one of the students, Kayla related to NJ.com:
“We submitted several different topics of our choice and finally narrowed them down to three – Law Enforcement- Police Brutality, Modern Technology Advances and Gender Equality,” said student Kayla McMillan. “The students were allowed to choose either side of the arguments and were told they would not be in trouble for their own opinions.”
Welcome to the real world, Kayla, where people will not respect your right to freedom of expression if it upsets their delicate sensibilities. Obviously, the student artists who created these images didn’t do so in a vacuum, nor did their teachers brainwash them to “hate the police.” The reality in America today is that police violence against all citizens, but particularly minority populations is commonplace, despite falling crime rates. We’ve all seen overzealous and violent law enforcement responses to peaceful protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street, and far too many shootings, and other instances of police violence against African Americans and Latinos, may of them unarmed and often while they were already in custody (e.g., Freddi Gray).
The cops and their supporters can loudly proclaim all they want that these “incidents” are infrequent and represent only a few bad apples. However, as more stories come out of officially sanctioned abuse and outright torture, such as what occurred in Chicago’s infamous Homan Square station, and as more and more people capture video of these brutal outrages (e.g., Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Eric Garner) where innocent people are murdered by cops, the harder it is to defend the police, especially since so many of them remain silent in the face of their fellow officers’ open criminality.
Frankly, in this case, the kids got it right.