By Frederic Friedel
Sometimes you get up in the morning, switch on the computer, check the news — and your day is completely ruined. We have achieved a high level of numbness and take reports of suffering, killings, unnecessary violence in out stride. Tut-tut, so sad. But with the advent of video news things have become almost unbearable. I challenge you to follow the poignancy and horror of the following two stories that greeted me yesterday and today (December 9 and 10, 2017) in the news. You are going to need nerves of steel.
Saturday it was the starving polar bear. National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen, founder of conservation group SeaLegacy, an organisation we should all support, was in Canada’s Baffin Islands. There he saw an emaciated polar bear scavenging for food. He recorded the scene, which has become a cautionary tale of the bleak future so many species face, with polar bears becoming “unwitting mascots for the effects of climate change”. Watch this short video — it is deeply distressing and will ruin your day. If it is taken down simply search for “starving polar bears” on YouTube for the full video with comments, and many other similar examples. Polar bear extinction brought about by a Chinese hoax.
Paul Nicklen writes: My entire @Sea_Legacy team was pushing through their tears and emotions while documenting this dying polar bear. It’s a soul-crushing scene that still haunts me, but I know we need to share both the beautiful and the heartbreaking if we are going to break down the walls of apathy. This is what starvation looks like. The muscles atrophy. No energy. It’s a slow, painful death.”
Devastated? Well, Sunday morning brought the following video, which is even more gut-wrenching. It shows man, Daniel Shaver (above), crawling on his hands and knees and begging for his life, trying desperately to obey barked out commands of a Mesa, Arizona police officer, Mitch Brailsford, who shot him dead when he made a perceived “false move”. This video footage was recorded in 2016 by the officer’s body camera, and was released one day after Brailsford was acquitted of second degree murder and the lesser charge of reckless manslaughter.
If you are unable to watch this abjectly horrifying 18-minute video document, here’s a text description. Shaver, who was 26 and had two daughters, had met a woman earlier in the day and showing off the pellet gun he used in his job in pest control. They did some “rum shots” into the air out of the fifth-story window of a at a La Quinta Inn. Neighbours reported this to the police (sound track of the call), and the two were confronted by Brailsford, who was carrying an AR-15 rifle with the phrase “You’re F***ed” etched into the side.
“If you make a mistake, another mistake, there is a very severe possibility you’re both going to get shot,” an officer says. “If you move, we are going to consider that a threat, and we are going to deal with it, and you may not survive it.” For five minutes the officers give the prostrate Shaver a series of instructions: put both hands on top of his head, cross his left foot over his right foot. They tell the woman to crawl down the hallway, where she is taken into custody. Shaver remains on the ground in the hallway, his hands on his head.
The officer tells Shaver to keep his legs crossed and push himself up into a kneeling position. As Shaver pushes himself up, his legs come uncrossed, prompting the officer to scream at him. “I’m sorry,” Shaver says, placing his hands near his waist, prompting another round of screaming. “You do that again, we’re shooting you, do you understand?” an officer yells. Shaver says “I’m sorry,” and begs “Please do not shoot me.” He crawls down the hallway, sobbing, and at one point, he reaches back, probably to pull up his tracksuit shorts, which were falling off. Brailsford immediately opens fire, hitting Shaver with a AR-15 burst of five shots, killing him.
The Washing Post tells us that Shaver died in one of at least 963 fatal police shootings in the US last year. Here are two related stories I wrote a while ago, both contrasting the situation in the US and in Germany: