To the editors:
At the end of Bill Wyman’s otherwise excellent account of the Public Enemy/Sonic Youth police riot [January 18] I was sorry to find a sermon of surreal proportions. Beyond offensive was Wyman’s patronizing addendum, characterizing the police’s attacks on bystanders as merely “the unfortunate result of cops being jerks and protesters being stupid.” He chides the crowd for their “interference” in what most saw as clear and savage violence directed blindly at anyone who dared ask what was happening. This “mistake” brought in a “zillion police with chips on their shoulders” who “then” (?) began bashing anyone they could get their hands on.
Since moving to Chicago 12 years ago, I have witnessed far too many examples of unprovoked police aggression to ever look unsuspiciously again on any police activity bar directing traffic. Why are Chicago cops allowed to conduct themselves so? Why is Chicago the first and only U.S. city with an Amnesty International investigation of torture by a police official under way (Commander John Burge)? Why do the Chicago daily newspapers engage in complicity with police violence by all but ignoring it? The Tribune’s shameful coverage of the Public Enemy fracas, a bizarre, smirking swipe at actor John Cusack, almost completely ignored the berserk cops’ victims.
Whether he intends to or not, Wyman is suggesting that we not become angry at out-of-control police because, hey, this is the big city, what do you expect? That it was really a visiting Milwaukee couple’s own fault that they questioned an unprovoked attack on a fellow citizen.
To encourage that kind of abeyance to brutality is to make us all less then human.