by Natasha Reid
‘Sterilize them all’
What is that feeling of sickness grumbling deep in my abdomen? Did I drink too much coffee? Is the caffeine inducing some nervous, sea-sickness-like feeling? No, that’s not it. It’s the fear. These people have gotten to me; scared the living wits out of me.
“The Harding family are thugs inspired by their money grubbing mother. Both Harding boys removal from society is a step in the right direction.” – comment by Atomic in the SF Examiner.
I enjoy reading the occasional comment war at the end of an online story: The comments give you a little idea of what some corporate press readers really think about some issue or another. It can be rather enjoyable really, but you have to be up to it. If unprepared, the fear can consume you, render your lower jaw a quivering mess while the flutter, flutter, flutter of insistent, maddening, flapping butterflies hover in the pit of your coffee-filled belly.
“Sterilize them all!” – comment by Gobilly in the SF Examiner.
The comments in reference to the case of Kenneth Harding are frightening. Allow me to give you a brief background of Kenneth’s case.
Kenneth was killed on July 16 upon failure to provide a Muni transfer for inspection by the police as he stepped off the train. Kenneth ran from the scene, was shot at by the police and died from fatal gunshot wounds. All witnesses at the scene confirm that Harding did not fire any shots and did not appear to have any weapon. He ran away with his hands in the air, according to eyewitnesses.
But, of course, this occurred in Bayview Hunters Point, San Francisco’s last largely Black neighborhood, and all the witnesses were Black. In case you’ve been living under a rock, in this country, that means you don’t have a heck of a lot of credibility. So the mainstream press has been running the police version of the events which first stated that there were 10 shots in total, the first one from Harding aimed towards the police and into the crowd, and nine from the police who successfully assassinated Kenneth Harding.
The next police version of the story was that the gunshot wound that caused Kenneth’s death was in fact self-inflicted. They discovered that the wound was caused by a .380-caliber bullet, a bullet that they do not carry in their weaponry. If it is impossible that the police officer who fired at Kenneth had any weapon using a .380 caliber, why can’t his name be released and an investigation into his acquired weaponry be underway?
Following on from that, if Kenneth only fired one shot, as police originally stated, how can it be that he fired at the police and into the crowd and directly at himself? Who was this kid, Harry Potter? And besides, if he had fired the first shot, like they said, at himself, why the need to shoot him a further nine times?
Now, the police have finally found Harding’s alleged weapon, a mere seven days after the incident, on July 23, according to Police Chief Greg Suhr.
SFPD declined to release this information until yesterday, July 28, and the only commentary given as to the recovery of the weapon was that police recovered it with the help of a citizen.
But how did this gun flee the scene in the first place? From video footage, it is clear that the police were beginning to circle around Harding like a pack of vultures, guns aimed at his soon-to-be corpse. Yet somehow, with their undivided attention on the young man getting nearer death by the minute as blood poured generously around him, they didn’t see what happened to his weapon. Who picked it up, ol’ chaps? Oh never mind, you didn’t quite see it; easily done boys, easily done. Crack open the Dom Pérignon . Society has been relieved of a distasteful young cretin, tally ho!
“Now if more criminals would follow his example, the quality of life in the Bay Area would be great!” – comment by EPI in the SF Examiner.
In truly typical crime reporting, the press has zoomed in on the fact that Kenneth Harding was on parole for a case where he allegedly tried to pimp out a 14-year-old girl. And in addition – now the press really rubbed their hands together when they found this – he was a “suspect” in a Washington state homicide case. Funny thing is, he wasn’t even a suspect. He was a “person of interest,” wanted for questioning in the case of Tanaya Gilbert’s killing. But oh, whatever, same-same; he was practically guilty!
And of course, the latest juice is on Kenneth’s older brother, Ondrell Harding, who is a suspect of another Washington state murder. Well, let’s just call the whole family a poisonous bunch of scum and be thankful that the police did a great old thing in eliminating the littlest brother. Innocent ‘til proven guilty? What kind of a concept is that anyway?
“Sorry to the mom, but this dude (and his brother) were sociopaths and it’s probably for the better that he’s dead. In some sense, they’re probably less culpable than other murderers/thieves/pimps since they grew up in such a terrible situation, but still we’re better off without them.” – comment by George Fletcher in the SF Examiner.
Note that Ondrell has not been charged, and reports from today state that he will be released.
Remarkably, the thing that people are missing is the fact that the police officers who shot Kenneth Harding in the back did not even know that he was Kenneth Harding. All they knew was that some young Black kid was running away from them because he hadn’t paid his $2 fare and BANG, BANG, BANG – if you’re to take a leap of faith and believe eyewitnesses’ accounts.
Or, if you’re to believe police accounts, all they knew was that Harding was running away upon failure to pay a $2 transfer, spontaneously shot himself, and BANG, BANG, BANG.
So, why the need for all this attention on unproven details of his and his family’s history? Nobody so much as knew his name or that he was from Seattle until the day after the shooting. So how does all of this business about him being on parole and being a “suspect” justify the police killing him when they didn’t know any of this at the time?
Let’s deal with the real issue here, please. Pretty, pretty, pretty please?
It seems some corporate press enthusiasts are more interested in discussing the personal lives of all involved in this case and indeed about the people from this community.
“The Hunters Point Bayview area is an armpit because of the racist uneducated people who live there. They all hate cops and all hate White people. The probably say Nicole Simpson deserved to die and defend OJ Simpson to the end. That is the screwed up society of the Bayview, where 55% of the Afro males are behind bars and the rest of the 45% afro-american males go for severely overweight White women leaving all the Afro-women manless. Sad, real sad. Get off welfare and get off alcohol!” – comment by Professor Black in the SF Examiner.
But why talk about people when we can talk about ideas? The idea that the police are misusing their power; the idea that this can and should be stopped; the idea that the police be held accountable. Can’t we reserve our hunger for drama kicks for “Desperate Housewives” or “Grey’s Anatomy” and try to pay attention to what’s important in real life?
Let us develop a system of police accountability. Let us develop a means for independent investigation into cases like these. Let’s do great things! Let’s not fall for the demeaning depictions of victims in any given case. It’s bad enough that Kenneth was murdered. Do we have to murder his character and that of his family, too?
I am on Kenneth’s side, but I will not try to say that he was the Dalai Lama. In fact, I make no suggestions as to what type of person he was. I didn’t know him so I cannot comment. And why should you? All I know is that it could have been me or you on July 16. And it could be me or you the next time around.
Natasha Reid is a writer of Zimbabwean and Scottish descent. She holds an honors law degree, though her real passion lies in journalism and political awareness. You can contact Natasha at firstname.lastname@example.org.