I heard a woman screaming outside my apartment. Tuesday night. At first she just sounded messed up on drugs and rowdy, a sound I have gotten accustomed to in my neighbourhood. But then her yelling got more intense in volume and urgency.
I always wonder what my course of action should be when I hear this. Should I reach for my phone, 911 ready? Should I yell out the window, ‘hey, are you ok?’ Or try to intimidate the aggressor I assume is making her yell out for help? Should I open the door wide and shine a light in her direction? Should I stay in and hope it stops? Call my sister on the phone, hide, grab some deadly object, write a blogpost?
So I opened the door, my phone nearby, and decided that I would yell, ‘hey I’m going to call the cops!’ to try and intimidate the creep I assumed was harassing her.
I open the door. There are four police officers. All men. Two with bike helmets. Two from the cruiser that all four of them where forcing the woman into. They hauled her off the ground roughly and forced her into the back of the car. There was another man there getting on a bike. A cop patted him on the shoulder. He rode away on his bike.
This is what I saw. I don’t know what lead to this, I don’t know what relation the fifth man on the bike was, I don’t know why the woman had been in the park, and I don’t know why there were so many police officer’s hands on her body. What I do know is that seeing the end of this interaction made me feel sick in my stomach.
Any other case and this would have been cause for serious alarm by anyone who saw it: four men forcing a woman into a car against her will. But they were police officers. They were law enforcers. This violent snapshot blew my chosen method for dealing with it, threatening to call the cops, clear out of the water.
Who do you call when the police are the aggressors? What do I yell out my window to threaten an aggressor to stop what they’re doing, when they’re cops? What’s my threat? What is the recourse for a violent member of the force, in a moment like that; a door opened at the end of a conflict, my onlooker words against theirs?
Maybe the woman had been doing something illegal. Maybe she stole something. Or was caught with drugs. Or maybe her circumstances lead her to breaking a law that favours people with the means to options.
How do I look out for women who may have broken the law, but NEVER warrant violence by anyone. Ever.
In the Underwater City we look out for each other. In the Underwater City all the doors on the block and beyond would have flung open at the sound of a woman panicking. We would have flooded the scene and made sure she didn’t need water or wasn’t hurt or wasn’t being triggered by the police officers’ violent behaviour.
In the Underwater City we are accountable to each other. Uniforms look like any other clothes, and actions are judged regardless of what the people doing them are wearing. That scene would not have been ok, and we would have made that clear. In the Underwater City, my neighbours wouldn’t have just kept the doors shut and turned up the tv.