Lots of police-on-civilian violence in the news coming from within the USA recently. I thought I’d share my Russian version of things.
My mother, my little brother and I were living in Vladivostok, Siberia. We had just gotten up to our apartment, through the locked exterior door, up the key-activated elevator, and past the locking hallway door of our floor as well. We walked up to our steel barricade of a personal door and my mother began punching in the code. Between carrying bags of groceries in one hand and my little brother in the other (I have no idea what I was carrying), she still managed to get the massively heavy door to swing open, as she did every day, then proceeded to unlock the wooden interior door.
Only a hundred or so doors to go!
Maybe by now you have noticed two things.
1. We must have been fairly well-off to have had all this security.
2. Holy shit, that is a lot of security for a crummy two-bedroom apartment in a part of town where serial murderers were a monthly occurrence!
Just the other week, a woman was strangled to death with her leggings in one of our building’s elevators. Apparently, the current serial rapist was a ‘leggings fetishist’, so women were advised not to wear any lest they tempt him with their womanly wiles.
SO asking for it
At this point, stumbling into our ‘stylishly undersized’ apartment, she went about prioritizing between the placement of her children and the placement of the groceries. That is when the alarm went off.
Spinning about, my mother rushed to the door — it had stayed ajar too long and triggered the siren.
Fumbling with her keys she yelled (over the noise) for me to watch my little brother as she rushed through the door to get the land-lady down the hall to turn off the alarm, closing both home doors behind her.
The alarm soon died and I went back to putting away the food. My attention was sparked, however, when I heard a thump against our door. Walking back over to it, I found my little brother standing there, looking at it with his hand in his mouth — he had heard it too.
I stood next to him, a few feet away from the door, staring at the flimsy but pretty inside door. There were then a series of small popping explosions and the metal exterior door came crashing inward, taking the wooden one with it.
Six men in military camouflage gear, wearing helmets and ski masks, wielding automatic rifles and strapped with grenades, piled into our living room.
Welcome to adulthood! I think puberty just hit all at once!
To put this surreal situation another way, I just had the SPETSNAZ breach my steel front door with explosives and point their AK-47s at me and my 2 year old brother while screaming at us to identify ourselves. I was 10, starting down the barrel of (into the barrel of?) a rifle. I think its right around then that I came to terms with the fear of death – saving my little brother was more important than worrying about mortality.
Everything seemed to slow down and it appeared to me that I had all the time in the world to decide what to do (I later learned that this is called an ‘adrenaline rush’ and can take years to master willingly in stressful situations).
Having had this ‘time’ to consider, I pulled my brother behind me, puffed out my chest, and answered that ‘we live here’.
The lead-man hesitated and pulled down his mask without lowering his rifle.
“What did you say, boy?” he asked.
“WE LIVE HERE,” I repeated, matter-of-factly. The strangest sort of calm had come over me and it seemed to stun this soldier.
This isn’t actually funny. Brazilian cops are paid to beat street urchins to death.
Why soldiers were responding to a police alarm in the first place, I still do not know. Maybe SWAT was occupied elsewhere. Maybe the bribes were better working street. Maybe they were just passing through.
Whatever the case, at this point, my mother rushed in swearing and screaming apologies, shoving past the armed men as she threw literally handfuls of money at each of them (“for their trouble”) before finally getting to the point-man and handing him the rest of the considerable amount of cash she had with her.
As they happily filed out, the leader sternly reminded her to promptly keep her (detached) door closed at all times to avoid this in the future.
Now, imagine if she did not have a lot of money. Or that the SPETSNAZ man didn’t hesitate to blow away some ten and two year old professional burglars/terrorists. Or that we weren’t well-off by their standards. We would have been entirely at their mercy (as opposed to just being able to bargain for it).
That is the situation for 99% of the people on the planet who have to deal with overzealous police-departments. Instead of sending well-manner police officers, or — I don’t know — just a regularly lethal strike team, they might send FUCKING SOLDIERS.
Don’t we all feel safer?
“It is the job of the police to protect the people, and the job of the military to fight the enemies of the state. When the military are the police, the people tend to become the enemies of the state.”
~From Russia with Love