By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Iconic images are propelling change

Indelible photographs and videos can launch movements and transform lives: the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima; a man on the moon; the Saigon execution; the wailing student at Kent State; the tank man at Tiananmen Square; the hooded prisoner tortured at Abu Ghraib.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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Two such iconic images are helping to define and shape a current culture change related to race and law enforcement.

One still photo, taken from a video, shows Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin looking up with an air of nonchalance as his knee slowly chokes the life out of George Floyd. The incident triggered weeks of worldwide protests against current day police brutality as well as centuries of racial discrimination and violence.

Chauvin, whose past record should have ended his police career, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Another photograph captured the sprawling body of 75-year-old Martin Gugino on a Buffalo, N.Y. sidewalk, bleeding from his head as police march past him in full riot gear. Police lies attempted to conceal the incident, as happens too often. But video tapes portrayed the unnecessary shove causing a trip and fall, followed by total police indifference to Gugino’s severe injury.

David Leonhardt, writing in The New York Times, described efforts seeking “lasting change to reduce both racism and policy brutality, and reducing the frequency of false reports by the police.” The story included this quote from Tucson police chief Chris Magnus:

“If I had my way, officers who lie wouldn’t just be put on a list, they’d be fired, and also not allowed to work in any other jurisdiction as a police officer ever again.”

Police unions have a different perspective, reflected in this response from Buffalo Police Organization: “These officers did nothing wrong but execute an order to clear the Square. They do not deserve to be vilified and treated like criminals for simply following orders.”

Two Buffalo officers were suspended, then charged with second-degree assault. There were no orders to cause injury and walk away.

Racial discrimination and police brutality are so intertwined that people across America are calling to “defund the police,” including a protest group that spilled into this week’s McMinnville City Council meeting. “Defund,” for most, does not mean the elimination of law enforcement.

This against the backdrop of a pandemic that itself has redefined our lives. Such times produce change, and this change appears destined to impact law enforcement and race relations throughout America.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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