by Kyle K. Mann
Gonzo Today editor-in-chief –
On May 31, 2020, a Sunday, I was on the phone with GT Contributing Editor Karene Horst when her voice stopped and my phone started making that awful Amber Alert sound.
The text announcement read that a Los Angeles County curfew was starting in 30 minutes.
Sorry, you were cut off,” I said once her voice resumed. “I just got an official notice of a countywide curfew.”
Karene, who does not live in L.A. County, was calm but incredulous.
My first reaction was “Yep, it’s really falling apart around here.”
I had seen the complete George Floyd raw video on YouTube a few days earlier, on May 26. I knew right away what it was, an incendiary documentation of arrogant evil, and posted it on my FaceBook page at once, with the caption “It’s murder.”
I wasn’t surprised when the protests started up, the violence began, and the mania took over. But the countywide curfew was something else. I was here in the early 90’s when the Rodney King riots hit. Even then, we didn’t have a total lockdown of the streets.
Of course, we were told not to go outside during the COVID-19 lockdown. People over 60 were especially warned, which I resented. I shaved off my white facial growth and took an eyebrow pencil to the hair over my eyes, so I could pass for late 50s, maybe. I went out.
Last summer we here in Topanga were under evacuation orders during the Woolsey Fire. The wind was blowing the fire towards the ocean, I could see clearly. And the local grocery store stayed open. I stayed.
But the L.A. County curfew, which is in effect as I write this on early June 3 2020 is a dramatic escalation in the march to the imposition of martial law in the USA.
My Recent Brush With the Cops
A couple months ago, just before COVID-19 hit I was driving down from Topanga Canyon to the Pacific Coast Highway at night. At the edge of town there was a huge white light. It looked like a film crew light, but extremely bright. It appeared to be coming from the roof of an SUV.
“Cops,” some part of my mind warned me. But I didn’t want to believe it. This is Topanga, after all, land of peaceful aging hippies. There’s no reason to harass us here. Right?
Wrong. The SUV, blinding light and all, pulled out behind me on the two-lane road. Increasingly distraught, I finally just pulled over, still not sure what was happening. I got out of the car, and a robotic loudspeaker voice barked out “Get back in the car at once!”
O Kay. A few minutes passed while they presumably ran my license plate. Two figures approached, ordered me out, and zip-tied my hands behind my back. “Do you have any guns?” one of them asked loudly.
“I’m an old hippie,” I replied. “I’ve never owned a gun in my life.”
The cops looked at each other. “You popped out of your car quickly.”
Amazed, I stared back. “I wasn’t even sure you were police. Your flashing light wasn’t on, just that big bright thing.” I summoned up my outrage. “What did you expect? I wanted to see why someone was following me with a huge light.”
Puzzled by my logic, the cops retreated to talk by their car. I stood still, hands still restrained behind my back. I could hear them on the police radio. No current warrants, so they came back and cut me loose.
“I’ve been living in Topanga on and off for decades,” I said quietly. “And in all that time, I have never seen anything like this.” Then a surge of pique hit, and I got loud. “Don’t do that!”
The cops stared at me in astonishment, and silently turned away. As I drove off, it all began to sink in. Among the many thoughts was a strident message from my self-preservation department… “You idiot, why did you say that?”
The answer, for better or worse, is that I was fed up with abuse of power. I’m not alone.
The George Floyd Video
There are already plenty of minute by minute breakdowns of the nine minute video of the cop with his knee on Floyd’s neck, with his pleading for his life and the bystanders shouting at the cops. It’s too harrowing for me to watch more than once, and I know plenty of people who can’t watch it at all.
It remains a powerful indictment and a shocking symbol of the impunity to murder that too many police feel comfortable with.
The cop in the video doesn’t care that Floyd is repeatedly saying he can’t breathe. Mind you, Floyd is already down on the ground, handcuffed, with three men on him. The cop doesn’t care that onlookers are witnessing, and shouting, for the cop to let him take a breath.
But here’s the kicker. The cop with his knee on Floyd’s neck doesn’t even care that he’s being recorded with a cell-phone video. He stares at the camera defiantly, hand in his pocket as if he’s posing casually. At one point he appears to reach for his mace can, but seemingly thinks better of it. He goes on grinding Floyd’s windpipe into the pavement, for minutes even after Floyd is obviously unresponsive.
The presumption of immunity from consequence is, well, breathtaking.
So now the cop is in jail up on murder charges. That would be unlikely if the video had not gone viral.
Police violence is not a new story in the USA. But what is different is the proliferation of cellphones in the past 25 years, turning average people into an army of journalists.
I will not be surprised if the police manage to block all cell phone operations in a quarter mile radius in the future to stop videos from being filmed. “Emergency powers” or some such phrase will be used.
It’s probably being worked on as we speak. Because the rage that has triggered this days-long curfew threatens the elite power structure based on intimidation and control, in a world where a handful of men own half of all the wealth on the planet.
Money, Power, Race and Politics
The first race war was probably Cro-Magnon vs. Neanderthal. Strictly speaking, it was a species war. The Cro-Magnons won.
The Greeks vs. Persians was essentially a race war, and in some ways that war is ongoing, with Iran. Alexander the Great won, for a while, and then died young.
The Crusades were a race war over religious turf, and also arguably still ongoing.
Power means someone can tell you what to do, or they will punish, harm or kill you. After I took LSD at age 15, I never cared for power myself, either way. I hated being told what to do by my parents, teachers and authorities. For the most part, those people were wrong.
My friends and I protested the racist money-making Vietnam War at our high school in the 60s. We did it to stand up to the abusive military attack on the Vietnamese people that killed a million. We collectively failed to stop the deaths, but there would have been more killed if we hadn’t marched at the risk of pushback. Many of those who protested paid a heavy price, as the Chicago Convention and Kent State killings showed.
In the 2000s we had the racist money-making Iraq War. I marched down Market Street in San Francisco with my family and tens of thousands of people in horror and disgust. Again, we collectively failed, though we may have shortened the occupation.
Then came Obama and his drones, sanitizing racist killing and paving the way for the brutal attack on Libya and other lands. Obama, a person of color, killing other people of color, somehow was ok with liberals, and conservatives mostly shrugged. And people of color were still oppressed. I lost dozens of friends pointing out that fact, that Obama was an empty symbol. Protests? Not so much.
Now it’s Trump the Terrible, gassing people in front of the White House and waving a Bible for a photo op. It’s absurd and obscene, of course, just as burning buildings is. Violence begets more violence.
The Trump bombing of Syria drew no street protests that I saw, except Code Pink.
Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. show the way… mass nonviolent protest. Racism is wrong no matter how it’s directed. I’ve lived in Hawaii, where I was called a haole, and in Mexico, where I was called a gringo. It was not an advantage being a white male, I assure you.
Would Biden make things better? I strongly doubt it. He said the other day that police should learn to shoot people in the leg, not the head. That comment alone shows how clueless he is, not to mention his vigorous support for Dubya’s and Cheney’s Iraq War Shock and Awe. That’s brain dead racism. Can’t support that, or Trump.
During the OJ Simpson trial I was in a small store in L.A. which had the teevee news on. I watched for a minute, then said to the Asian clerk, “I don’t wanna seem like a racist, but…”
He held his hand up to stop me. “Everybody’s a racist,” he said.
What Now, White Boy?
It’s 3:30 AM, Wednesday June 3, 2020. Outside, the curfew continues. An eerie silence hangs over Topanga Canyon, where you usually hear a bit of traffic even at this time of night. Not a coyote’s howl, or an owl’s hoot. It’s unsettling.
We as a nation are in serious trouble today. It ain’t just Trump, it’s most all of us. Why do we let a few people tell us what to do, while they run the country into the ground? Racism, poverty, militarism, blatant banking theft, all protected by an occupying army of weaponized cops and a corrupt court system and privatized prisons. Street gangs of thugs both black and white square off for battle, armed to the teeth.
I can’t yet work, my job is shut down. I can’t yet play live music, and though the clubs will soon reopen, I can’t play harmonica with a mask on. I can’t travel, though it may be possible later this summer. I now can’t legally walk in Topanga State Park after six PM, which is when I usually go to see the sunset.
I will continue to write. I will do this because I am compelled to, not because I make any money at it. I will attempt to reason, to argue for meaningful dialog and take a stand against death-dealing powermongers.
Back in the late 80s I was hired to be a morning drive deejay in Maui at radio station KLHI. The show was popular, I believe, because I took risks and thought outside the box. I was fired by the Program Director for lambasting President Reagan and his corrupt Attorney General Ed Meese, who resigned over the Wedtech Scandal.
I’ve never gotten over that moment. The Program Director’s name was Barry Folkes, and he tried unsuccessfully to deny me unemployment benefits while taking over my radio show and then attacking ex-president Jimmy Carter. In other words, he did what he said I could not do. He was later fired by the station’s new owners, and died of cancer about 20 years ago. The evil part of me was not displeased. I felt zero compassion, but I’m working on it.
It’s not easy, but I say a blessing for all beings and spirits. Even that guy. I believe he wanted my morning drive job, and took what I said about power personally.
And what exactly did I say that got me fired?
“The problem with power is that those who want power are almost always the people who should NOT be given power.”
Stay safe, and thanks for reading.
Kyle K. Mann
June 3, 2020