The media has not only taken on the role of constructing police brutalization as imminent, particularly for minorities, but they also characterize the police as predatory. The death of Cleveland native Tamir Rice has been billed an attack against an innocent Black youth playing with a toy gun (Lopez, 2014), and the death of Eric Garner the strangling of an asthmatic Black father (Bloom, 2014). The rhetoric used in the media appears to be by and large an attack on the police force. The media seems to be constructing a narrative to establish police as woefully disjointed. Canadian news sources are exemplifying the perils that exist in Canada by relating Indigenous treatment by police to the tragedies that took place across the United States with Black individuals.
Whether looking at the case of Tina Fontaine, a 15 year old Indigenous girl from Manitoba (Borsa, 2014), or Naverone Woods, a 23 year old Aboriginal man from Hazelton British Columbia (CBC, 2015), the media appears to equate the violence faced by Garner in the U.S. to that of the violence and lack of support Aboriginal individuals deal with here in Canada. The media has brought to light the large amount of people showing their discontent for the current status of police affairs, and has characterized these actions as innocuous and almost needed to lead to a change in police practices. Media outlets appear to be on board with the approach the public is taking in showing their dissent. The questioning of the governments reluctance to conduct the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Inquiry appears to be a focus of the media to bring into question government bias. Borsa (2014) appears to echo the sentiments of citizens around the country;
Many of Canada’s police forces have notoriously strained relationships with indigenous peoples, a failure to so much as acknowledge this as indicative of a wider problem is appalling. There is hardly a week that goes by in which another indigenous women isn’t found to be missing or murdered.
The tides have seemed to turn in this scenario, as police actions are being labeled dismissive, and dissenters’ protests are deemed necessary to sway public and government concern for people’s lives. The call for action from the police appears to have taken the lead in the media’s narrative. Whether it is Black individuals in the United States or Canada, or Aboriginal individuals in Canada, the idea of particular individuals being targeted and facing the brunt of the police brutality has become clear. Its been spoken about as a historical matter- the long overdue justice that marginalized individuals deserve is becoming the rhetoric in the discourse concerned with police brutalization; a discourse in which Fontaine and Woods are a poster child for the neglect and lack of attention given to certain types of people. As Borsa (2014) once again shows us;
Put simply, violence toward indigenous women in Canada has become normalized to such an extent that it is no longer seen as a cause for uproar. Apathy and ambivalence define both our prime minister’s and public servants’ understanding of the issue; it is a fact of life, a yawn, a shoulder shrug.
Making its rounds through every form of media, and a critical catalyst to the attention brought to Aboriginal victimization, the treatment of minorities by police officers has been in full view. The Black Lives Matter (#BlackLivesMatter, 2014) movement has never been as ever-present. Canada has faced its own fair share of these sentiments; Toronto City Hall and the downtown core has been subject to multiple “Black Lives Matter” protests (Martino, 2014). The media appears to be on board with the public consciousness that recognize the importance of promoting an end of police targeting Black individuals, and extreme uses of force in general. Martino (2014) helps depict the scenes around Canada and the United States; “Thousands of protesters are taking part in rallies across North America to bring attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police.” This statement is an indication of Matino’s, and much of the media’s, representation of police that begins the article. Declaring the notoriety the death of black men at the hands of police deserves, and with specific words such as “unarmed”, help to portray the light in which the media views these occurrences- tragic, and police triggered.
No longer, does the media seem complacent to leave minority experiences unquestioned. Instead, the media has taken it upon themselves to call into question political decision making, and “public servants”, in other words; the police’s handling of issues. As Sun News helps depict, the media seems apt to voice the concerns of the general population. Helping to spread the many slogans and hashtags that fill the current social discourse around police brutalization and racism (2014). Sun News is just one example of the extent to which the media appears ready to echo the voices of those being victimized to an extent never seen before. There is much to say not only of the extent to which the public has been given a voice by the media, but there must be something said to the lack of attention and air time given to the police. Often relying on the media to carry out messages to the social body, the police no longer maintain the same authority in which it could be the sole source of information for the media. Protesters and dissenters alike are now given the same privilege of making their messages heard through the breadth of media coverage.
Angered by Supreme Court decisions in the United States, dissent towards the lack of police accountability has spread across the world. Those showing dissent for police anti-brutalization reform appear to fighting an uphill battle. The militarization of police forces also does little to help, as they seemingly draw a greater divide between the police and communities. It seems the time has come that organizations like the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (C.O.B.P., 2014) and dissenters of the like have gained respect and notoriety from media outlets across the world. This type of police brutalization has existed for some time, but the medias’ decision to emphasize its importance and bring it to light in the public realm can be understood as a shifting discourse. The media has characterized the phenomenon of police brutalization as alive and ready to take advantage of the population at large. Media outlets appear just as willing to stand behind those who are ready to put an end to this violence, by any means necessary.
Black Lives Matter. 2014. “#BlackLivesMatter” Retrieved from http://blacklivesmatter.com
Bloom, Deborah E. and Imam, Jareen. December 8, 2014. New York man dies after chokehold by police. Cable News Network. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/20/justice/ny-chokehold-death/
Borsa, Tomas. August 25, 2014. While Ferguson mourns Michael Brown, Canada shrugs off Tina Fontaine’s death. Canada.com. Retrieved from http://o.canada.com/news/michael-brown-tina-fontaine-mmiw-inquiry-504033
CBC News. January 8, 2015. Michael Brown, Eric Garner deaths ‘echo’ aboriginal experience in Canada. CBC News: British Columbia. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/michael-brown-eric-garner-deaths-echo-aboriginal-experience-in-canada-1.2892903
Lopez, German. December 8, 2014. Cleveland police shot and killed black 12-year-old Tamir Rice as he carried a toy gun. Vox. Retrieved from http://www.vox.com/2014/11/24/7275297/tamir-rice-police-shooting
Martino, Fil and Toronto Staff. December 13, 2014. Hundreds march in Toronto ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest. City News: Toronto. Retrieved from http://www.citynews.ca/2014/12/13/hundreds-march-in-toronto-black-lives-matter-protest/
Toronto Sun. November 26, 2014. Thousands of Canadians rally in solidarity with Ferguson. Sun News. Retrieved from http://www.torontosun.com/2014/11/26/thousands-of-canadians-rally-in-solidarity-with-ferguson