The Police Attack on Quentin Tarantino – and the Urgent Need to Stand Against It

November 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


by Annie Day

Eve Ensler, Carl Dix, Cornel West, and Quentin Tarantino march with families representing people murdered by police

Eve Ensler, Carl Dix, Cornel West and Quentin Tarantino in march on October 24 with families of people murdered by police. Photo: Special to Revolution

On Saturday, October 24, the prominent filmmaker Quentin Tarantino stood before a protest of thousands as part of Rise Up October to Stop Police Terror/Which Side Are You On? and stated: “I am a human being with a conscience and when I see murder, I cannot stand by and I have to call the murdered, the murdered and the murderers, the murderers.”

For this, he has faced an intensifying and vicious attack with high stakes and big implications for all of society.

The following day, Patrick Lynch, head of the NY police union (PBA), issued a statement: “New Yorkers need to send a message to this purveyor of degeneracy that he has no business coming to our city... It's time for a boycott of Quentin Tarantino's films.” The nationally prominent police commissioner of New York City, Bill Bratton, said, “Shame on him... basically, there are no words to describe the contempt I have for him and his comments.” A number of commentators on Fox News, including the notoriously racist ex-cop Mark Fuhrman*, have gone so far as to say that police should make it impossible for Tarantino to film in U.S. cities (denying him permits, refusing to redirect traffic, etc.). Police unions across the country have joined the chorus, including from Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, New Jersey state, and more. Now, the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) has called for a boycott, distorting Tarantino's comments and the protest: “As a high-profile figure, Tarantino’s language is utterly irresponsible, particularly at a time when the nation is seeing increasing and persistent calls for the killing of officers. Anti-police rhetoric like Tarantino’s threatens the safety of police and citizens alike.” They added, “We ask officers to stop working special assignments or off-duty jobs, such as providing security, traffic control or technical advice for any of Tarantino’s projects. We need to send a loud and clear message that such hateful rhetoric against police officers is unacceptable!”

What these fascists and police organizations actually find unacceptable is that someone with the prominence and stature of Quentin Tarantino had the courage and morality to speak out against unjust police violence which goes unpunished time and time again.

Which Side Are You On?

At the same time, people have pushed back and defended Quentin Tarantino. This includes those who have been directly victimized by – yes – police murder; as well as other prominent artists and voices of conscience.

Nicholas Heyward, Sr., whose 13-year-old son was murdered by the NYPD while he was playing with a brightly colored toy gun, said: “I need to give a big shout out to the brave and noble man, Mr. Quentin Tarantino... Unlike far too many who see this injustice going down on a nationwide level, Mr. Quentin Tarantino could no longer stand back and not say anything... because he did what many are afraid to do and say, the police unions in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and others are going to boycott his movies, in a cowardly stand which is saying to all others like brother Quentin Tarantino with celebrity status that if you speak out against the injustice of this system, the system will target you to bring you down... I am asking that everyone who believes in truth and justice to please stand up and support Mr. Quentin Tarantino for standing up and being unafraid to say: enough is enough...”

Lsana D'Jahspora, father of Cinque "Q" D’Jahspora who was murdered by police in Jackson, Tennessee in 2014, said: “...First you kill our loved ones and deny us justice, you criminalize us and our families, and then you incriminate any like Tarantino who dare to stand with us and call it what it is. The police call for boycott is a throwback to the blacklist of the ’50s and ’60s, and dares anyone to stand on behalf of people of color. Tarantino stood with us, stood with those suffering profoundly from the terror; he connected with the families as we sought to connect with each other. Stack up Quentin Tarantino's moral stand and authenticity against the government-sanctioned criminal terror raging across this nation, and it is clear who is on the right side of history.”

Several challenged others in Hollywood to have the courage that Tarantino had in speaking out. Alicia Kirkman, mother of 17-year-old Angelo Miller who was murdered by Cleveland police on March 23, 2007, said: “I loved that Quentin Tarantino stood with the families! It showed he cares. Even though he is a famous person – he is on the front lines with us – saying he won't put up with murder by police either. He put himself in our shoes. He walked with us. It's not like he's too famous and can't be touched – no, he walked together with us and we feel good about it. More celebrities need to support us like he did. It's not like others who watch police murder our children on TV, but then don't come out because they are scared about their image. It's what they are trying to do to Mr. Tarantino – boycotting his movies, attacking him for doing right – that other celebrities are afraid of. Don't be afraid. Treat us like human beings like he did...”

These are tremendously significant, and more voices of those who face these attacks should be coming forward in support.

There have also been statements from other prominent voices of conscience, including Cornel West, filmmaker Charles Burnett, First Amendment lawyer Martin Garbus, musician Arturo O'Farrill, actor Peter Coyote and others. The National Coalition Against Censorship called out the dangers of “this disturbing message” from Lynch and others. The novelist Joyce Carol Oates tweeted: “It should not require unusual courage to protest police brutality as Quentin Tarantino has done but, evidently, it does.” Burnett – one of the most prominent of independent Black filmmakers – said that “I can’t say enough about Tarantino. He said what needed to be said. I hope his rage encourages all of us to speak out against genocide. When his new film opens, I will be there to show my support.”

These statements against the attacks on Tarantino are important and have garnered some media coverage. But there need to be scores of people speaking out against these attacks – prominent actors and directors, musicians, writers and intellectuals of all nationalities have a responsibility to stand up against this kind of dangerous threat and intimidation. When artists come under attack in this way, when their livelihood and ability to create their work are threatened, other artists and prominent voices of conscience need to stand with them and make it known that they are not alone.

Why the Police are Attacking

People have seen video after video of Black and Brown people being brutalized, beaten, tazed and murdered – in their cars, in their homes, walking down the street and now in their schoolrooms – and the police are exonerated almost every time (even if they are fired or suspended in a case which sparks widespread outrage and protest, they almost never end up on trial, let alone convicted). In the face of this increasing exposure, and in the face of resistance against these crimes, sections of the ruling forces in society are trying to put this protest on the defensive. They do not want the brutality of the police forced into the light of day any more, and they are very afraid of those who do not experience this terror directly standing with those who do. Tarantino came under attack for his role as part of a group of artists and other voices of conscience who stood with the loved ones of police murder victims at Times Square on October 22 and (in the case of Tarantino) again two days later at the big demonstration in NYC demanding police terror STOP. Attacking Tarantino in this way is a sign of their tremendous weakness and their fear that other voices of conscience will also bring their platforms and spotlights onto the reality of what this means for the victims. Stung by the exposure of their ongoing, constant and illegitimate brutality, the police are hitting back harder, attempting to bully people into submissive silence.

Carl Dix, co-initiator of Rise Up October and representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party said, “The police threats against Quentin Tarantino amount to a mafia-style protection racket, only the payoff being demanded is toeing a political line, not cash. 'Don't dare criticize police who kill people, or we'll make it impossible for you to work in our towns.' It is aimed at sending a message, not just to Tarantino, but to anyone whose voice carries great weight in society: if you speak out, we will come after you, threaten your livelihood and attempt to scare you back into silence. They want the people who suffer the brunt of this brutality alone and ignored...

Those are heavy stakes, and people cannot allow that – silence is complicity, and Quentin Tarantino must be defended. This is far more important than narrow self-interest, individual career-above-all-else or even real, but in this context secondary, differences with those who are unjustly under attack. And if we DO step forward… if we DO defeat this attempt at isolation, pillorying and censorship… we can actually open up new space for people to step out and speak out. And that would be very good indeed.

* Fuhrman was a witness at the O.J. Simpson trial whose testimony was impeached when tapes of an interview with him in which he bragged of fabricating evidence and openly professed vile racist views came to light; for this he has become an “expert” commentator on Fox! [back]




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