To Take Their Breath Away

To Take Their Breath Away (Spiritus Eorum Auferte), 36 x 48 acrylic.

It is difficult to know how to address the current situation, how to speak out against the police violence and purposeful escalation of violent action against peaceful protesters, angry protesters, and protesters in the street speaking out against police brutality. They are often met with police brutality.

I’ve watched too many videos where police drag a protester into the middle or catch one on the side and physically assault them while they are “arresting” them. All the other officers crowd around the officer beating someone to make sure no one else interferes. They all cover each other. It’s protected assault.

Officers have qualified immunity from work related violence that they do as part of their job. If they can say they needed to do it, then they can do it. They never have to be held criminally liable. Oh they MAY get fired, but then transferred to a new precinct, a new city, ready to start the abuse over again.

The Blue Code, the Blue Shield, Blue wall of silence, or other names, is an unwritten code of conduct that police officers buy into—protecting each other’s abusive or illegal activity. Even if they go in with the best of intentions, they will end up following the code and not turning in other officers, not speaking out, for fear of what might happen to them.

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Portrait of the Columbus Ohio Police Department, 2020

Portrait of the Columbus Ohio Police Department, 2020,” acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48.

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#BlackLivesMatterAt the end of my statement there are Columbus area black artists to follow, and a long list of video links to the Columbus Police using violence on Peaceful Protesters. #WeBearWitness

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Normally I do joyful paintings about queer heroes and monsters, about large hairy men in love, or portraits of friends and family, but last Friday, protests for racial justice began in Columbus, Ohio during a worldwide pandemic. The combination of these two things prevented me from participating in the protest, as I’m immuno-compromised. And so, like for the last two and a half months, I was sheltering in place but watching the videos of my friends and fellow Columbus-residents as their peaceful protests were met with violent, overreactive police retribution. They were sprayed, gassed, shot at, beaten, arrested during a peaceful protest meant to highlight the problem with police brutality. Well, nothing highlights police brutality like more police brutality.

For one protester who made a video, there was a moment all the violence started: when a police officer socked a protester. When the protesters objected to being assaulted by shouting, they were all sprayed with pepper spray. (Bryan Battle Jr video is also linked below)

Video after video surface from the #columbusprotest showing the Columbus Police using excessive force and assaulting citizens of Columbus (whose taxes pay for police and whose right it is to protest injustice–and whose taxes pay out the settlements in law suits made against the police.)

Infuriated by the videos and my inability to be there to support the movement, I did what I could. I took a screenshot of the video and created this painting.  

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