Where Is Hope? documentary fundraiser

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Emmitt Thrower (Wabi Sabi Productions Inc) and Leroy Moore (Krip Hop Nation) started a documentary project on police brutality against people with disabilities in 2011. Then, Leroy and DJ Quad produced a CD mix-tape of original songs and poetry on police brutality in 2012. I have the CD and love it. This kind of work is so crucial because law enforcement isn’t keeping track of how many disabled people are victims of police brutality or killings. Thanks to how easy it is for the people to film encounters and put the videos online, we have more and more real, first-hand evidence of many ways police can escalate encounters where they were called in to assist. You can even find videos of officers dumping or attempting to dump wheelchair users head-first on the ground or into the street. Head-first. In what law enforcement situations are police trained that they should push someone to the ground to land on their head? Yet it happens.

Please don’t write these actions off as the work of “a few bad apples.” Even if it really was only a few officers doing it, that’s too many. When Brown, Black, disabled, and/or houseless people are demeaned, injured, or killed by officers, the end of their lives or harm to them should be as painful as for the lives of white, non-disabled people with homes. Without question.

Enter the “Where Is Hope?” Documentary Project. And they are currently having an online fundraiser on Go Fund Me you should check out.

This project is much larger than a documentary film. It includes the CD, the film, music videos, and activist efforts and pushes for police reform and accountability. All of it is being created and produced by people with disabilities, people inside the experiences talked about. In fact, Emmitt Thrower is also a retired police officer. So his first-hand knowledge of being Black, disabled, and an officer will surely bring whole new levels of truth to the way the story is told.

This blog post, documentary project, and fundraiser aren’t an attempt to demonize police or lash out for the sake of it. They are about truth-telling and bringing more attention to something that is very real, extremely painful, and harmful to the disability community, communities of color, and society as a whole.

Sometimes police are called in to bring safety to a situation where someone with a mental illness is unstable. If they come without understanding of how (or willingness) to diffuse this type of crisis, are untrained as mental health first responders, and bear the common mentality that people with mental illness are expendable, inferior people, police escalation and violence are frequent. Read more about Teresa Sheehan’s situation here, as her case has finally made it to the Supreme Court. Her argument is that her federal rights were violated when she was not given appropriate accommodations by police in their encounter with her. Some have argued we should just stop having the ADA apply in police encounters. Excuse me? Civil rights only some of the time? Violence is perpetrated against D/deaf people, Autistic people, people with cerebral palsy. The list is unending, and society usually says oh, give them more training so they will understand! Click that last link and get back to me if you think it’s simply a lack of training. Because, as this article about the killing of Jason Harrison talks about, there are some very real patterns to the violence, especially for a Black, disabled man such as Harrison.

One of our very own in the TBI community, Tommy Manning, is famous in the Pacific Northwest. Washington State even named an act after him for the state government to collect and portion out money to support services for TBI survivors and education around brain injury. Despite his activism and fame from it, Tommy has been incarcerated in mental institutions repeatedly, though his disabilities come from TBI. This Disability Rights Washington article is extremely disturbing. If you scroll down to “Tommy Manning-Pierce County jail” you can read about how the jail abused and neglected him. You may choose to skip the article if you’ll be triggered by graphic description of mistreatment of a disabled man in jail.

Here in Portland, the Center for Intercultural Organizing has been extremely hard at work on a bill to ban profiling in our state. At an earlier stage, “perceived disability” was listed as a protected class along with “race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, national origin, language, housing status, sexual orientation or gender/gender identity.” I’m sad to report that “perceived disability” isn’t on the list right now. I hope it’s a typo on their website. I think police escalation is the bigger issue, but profiling should still be talked about in the disability community too.

Please join me in supporting “Where Is Hope?” at gofundme.com/whereishope.

This audio file takes you to a great radio interview about the documentary project from January, 2015 on 94.1 KPFA.