Behind Every Police Uniform is a Human Being

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Behind Every Police Uniform is a Human Being

Alyssa Urff, Reporter

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5:30 am. The alarm clock is buzzing as it invites you to wake up. You shift your feet from under your covers and place them on the cold floor. Each step guides you to getting ready for your work day whether that’s showering, making food, reading the news, etc… . Before leaving, you kiss your loved ones or pet your furry friends goodbye and hope to return to them once the work day is over. The average working American can closely relate to this peaceful process of preparing themselves for the workday ahead.

However, what most working individuals can’t relate to is preparing themselves for a work day inundated with dehumanizing comments, persecution, and maltreatment simply based on their choice of occupation.

After going to a local protest at Reid Park on August 18, 2018, I witnessed that this is the reality for many law enforcement officers at events like these.

An officer stands outside protecting the event.

This was my first protest that I’ve attended. I was there to observe. I did not attend to agree or oppose with any of the individuals present. While driving there, I was excited and ready to report on the causes and multiple movements there. I was eager to attend an event that had every day Americans exercising their right to protest and free speech. My thoughts of anticipation when I arrived were quickly greeted with thoughts of disgust and concern of the treatment of the law enforcement working to protect everyone there.

Woman (center) wafting burning sage at the cops.

The officers from the Tucson Police Department were being verbally abrasively harassed by many from the opposing groups. As I arrived to the event, there was a young man who was screaming at the cops, “If I get shot, will you protect me? Are you gonna protect me? Can I depend on you to protect me? Are you gonna shoot me too?” Caution tape was being ripped off, worn, and  used to parade around with. Later, there was an angry individual (not specifically identified from any of the groups protesting)  in front of five cops with a megaphone, yelling ‘… you’re [police officers] perpetuating that ****  in by the fact that you don’t take the law and citing your institution, means you’re too weak to stand up, too weak to make a stand, …”.  Multiple people rallied and screamed with him as he cursed, spit, and abused the cops. The same individual continued to yell at the cops,” You get paid to oppress us. You get paid to defend Nazis. You’re ******* racist. You’re defending white supremacy. You’re scum.” An older female was going around and asking others to chant “No government, no cops, no problems.” Officers were told to “go home”, “leave”, and to “**** off”.  Officers were having burning sage be wafted towards them. While leaving, there was a man in the parking lot directly yelling at 4 of the officers ” **** off! Go home! We don’t need you white supremacists defending us! You’re ****! We don’t need Nazis here!”  While this is just some of  the cruelty I witnessed, this doesn’t account for the rest of it I didn’t see.

The officers had to remain tolerant and civil among the impertinence. No amount on a paycheck justifies what they endured. Standing out in the stifling heat in full uniform (bulletproof vest, work boots, work belt, heavy-material pants, etc…), hearing abhorrent remarks, and being publicly humiliated is something that should not be bid upon anyone respectfully doing their job. While there may be incidents or situations where cops don’t always perform correctly, generalizing and punishing the rest of law enforcement who go through their entire career as an impeccable asset to preserve the safety of others, is crude and ignorant.

In cases like these, they defend yet remain defenseless. Of course they can defend themselves with their weapons when needed, but they are not verbally allowed to share their mindset or opinions. They can’t ask someone to stop ridiculing them, they just stand up straight, keep their mouth closed, and hold their heads high. The remarks were like verbal fire hoses shooting water at the police officers trying to maintain a civil domain. There were plenty of reverent protesters; I don’t have any issue with them. I have a problem that almost every officer left the event with some sort of disgrace and verbal attack against them. I’m not asking for police officers to be held to the highest social and political standard. I just wish for a place of protest to be a more amicable environment where law enforcement can work without worrying about their safety. Yelling, intimidating, and belittling the officers is not going to accomplish anything besides making yourself look like an imbecile. After all, a protest is not a riot.

Countless officers from the Tucson Police Department, even including the Police Chief , Chris Magnus, were all present at the event. The officers ranged from many different backgrounds, ethnicity, and gender. There were female, male, Mexican, Asian, African-American, white, young, old, short, tall, you-name-it-all, types of officers. Even though their background was diverse, they all dealt with the same mistreatment.

Temporary fencing was set up to prevent violent confrontations.

While the officers could not express their opinions in regards to the protest, I did receive basic information. One officer said that they observed at least 4 different groups protesting.  The protest was originally organized by Patriot Movement AZ but quickly attracted other opposing groups like ANTIFA, Black Lives Matter, and the LGBT community.  Temporary fencing was set up as a result; the fencing surrounded the ramadas with the Patriot Movement AZ inside.

Numerous amounts of officers were stationed in, outside, and around the entire area at Reid Park. Every disagreement or heated conversation sparked the officers to immediately respond. Their attentiveness and overall awareness of the occasion was imposing. At events like these with various types of people, dangerous situations are more prone to occur. However, even as chaotic it was, there wasn’t a second I didn’t feel secure and safe. Even after being turned down for a statement by one of the officers, she personally escorted me to some of the surrounding people and asked if they would help me. While the officer has to remain anonymous, she was helpful, friendly, and polite.

TPD was not there to protect just one protesting group, they were there to defend everyone. Despite the sweltering Arizona heat, terrible comments, and provoking people, they remained strong, optimistic, and persevered through it all. This event is the perfect example of why you shouldn’t undermine or attack the ones who put their lives on the line to defend us all.