Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Boston and Moscow: A Tale of Two Police Forces

00 police lights


Of all the mayhem that took place last week in Boston, there was an image I willed to stay with me… a photo showing a local police officer in a bulletproof vest, carrying two gallons of milk in a residential area. The caption of the photo, which made the rounds on Facebook over the weekend, read that the officer elected to help a family with small children that was out of milk and stuck at home during the lockdown. As the mother of a small child, I could immediately relate to the horror of being forced to remain at home with an empty fridge. Forget terrorists… the screaming alone would kill you.

As a Moscow resident, I also thought about the image of our own police officers. Several of my Russian friends shared the photo with disdainful comments of their own, messages that amounted to, “Try getting a Moscow cop to do something like THAT during a lockdown. Fat chance”. Of course, one should probably try imposing a lockdown on Moscow and see how that works out (hint: It won’t work out), before one judges. Yet, I understood the sentiment my Russian friends were expressing. In a city like Moscow, authority figures simply can’t appear too caring. It’d go against everything they were taught. It’d make them look soft, possibly vulnerable… and vulnerability is frequently punished.

However, I remembered a story that happened to a former Moscow neighbour of mine a couple of years ago. This story will never go viral on Facebook… and not just because there’s no photographic evidence. Simply put, most people wouldn’t believe it. Yet, as a witness to part of it, I can at least confirm some of the details. This neighbour, an ancient lady of the sort one might describe as “old Soviet intelligentsia”, had a nasty run-in with a member of Moscow’s nouveau riche. He nearly ran her over on a pedestrian crossing in his luxury car, and she injured herself while lunging out of the way. The guy tried to speed off, but ended up losing control of his vehicle and crashing it into a construction fence.

I wasn’t there for the immediate aftermath, but was living in that neighbourhood at the time, and hearing about what had happened, elected to meet her at the police station and walk her home. She didn’t need hospitalisation, but she was badly shaken and, worse still, humiliated by the man who’d nearly run her over. Apparently, he’d screamed at her that it was all her fault, that she was an “old bag” and “too slow”. This may seem shocking, but if you know anything about the Moscow nouveau riche, you wouldn’t be shocked at all. I waited for her from across the street and saw her walk out, shaking, barely able to retain her composure, after giving a statement to the police. There was a little hat with velvet flowers on her head, and the hat alone broke my heart. For an older woman, she’d taken such great pains to always look her best… and here she was, looking fragile and lost, with the hat askew on her gray hair.

As I made my way over to her, an old cop car drove out of the parking lot adjacent to the station, and a policeman inside rolled down his window. He said, “Get in, we’ll drive you home, it’s only a few blocks”. My neighbour asked if I could join, and they nodded, so I got in. On our way back to her building, the two policemen sitting up front consoled this old, lonely woman the best way they knew how. From what I gathered later, they’d witnessed her being berated and humiliated after having been nearly run over by the member of the so-called “elite”… and took umbrage. Therefore, they told stupid jokes, made her laugh, and told her that things would be OK. It was a very short and surreal ride in a Moscow cop car, but I haven’t forgotten it. I haven’t forgotten the officers’ eyes in the rear-view mirror, as they told her that the guy would surely “get his due”.

I never did find out what happened to the guy in question… whether he suffered any consequences, whether he at least had his license suspended, or if he pulled strings and got off scot-free, as people like him frequently do. My neighbour died soon after, when I was away. She had a chronic illness she had taken pains to conceal. Her heirs, who live far away, I didn’t know very well. Nevertheless, I do think about this woman, already in the last weeks of her life, being helped out of that police car and walked all the way to her apartment. I think about those two cops… one older and one younger. They weren’t being heroes that day, but they did act like human beings, which can be heroic in the right kind of context. I hope they’ve continued to act like human beings… and I hope that one day, they too will go viral on Facebook for performing a small act of kindness. If only to remind us that Moscow’s cops can also be kind.

22 April 2013

Natalia Antonova



Editor’s Note:

Nicky and I had an encounter with an “entitled” nouveau riche similar to the one that happened to the old woman in Moscow. We were pulling out of the Russian store on Central Avenue, and a BMW started rolling down the alleyway that provided access to Central Ave. The driver jumped out of the car, and started to scream at us in Russian and English, and you could tell that they considered themselves “better” than the rest of us, and that “their shit didn’t stink”, as the saying has it. They were thoroughly nasty, but you could tell that they thought themselves “oh-so-superior” to the common herd such as us.

Let’s not be coy. Crapitalism encourages such behaviour. After all, they “earned” what they have… and, we, lazy layabouts, didn’t deserve equal (or even decent) treatment. It’s why I oppose people such as Victor Potapov, James Paffhausen, Alexander Webster, Terrence Mattingly, Rod Dreher, and Freddie M-G… they’re cheerleaders for the Affluent Effluent and “Economic Freedom”. Reflect on this… they’d tack up Our Lord a second time, and they’d back Caiphas to the max. Why? After all, you can’t have working-class rabble-rousers stirring up the envious hoi-polloi, can you? It does make you wonder about the Christianity of certain loud “Christian” sorts, doesn’t it? Oh, yes… there was only ONE “educated” ApostleJudas Iscariot. Think on that one, too… it’s a meaty Lenten meditation (pun intended)…

It won’t last forever… God will NOT be mocked…


Saturday, 17 November 2012

17 November 2012. You Can’t Make Up Shit Like This, Visual Version… Goofy Russian Cops Unwind


Goofy Russian coppers letting off steam at the station house. Oh… I forgot… I’m supposed to excoriate them for their supposed “excesses”. Trust me, most Russian cops are like their Western analogues; they go out, they do their jobs, they face a lot of danger, and they do it for peanuts. Before you attack these guys, let’s clean up our own house first… we could start with the Southern sheriffs who like roughing up union organisers and ordinary folks… that is, we’ve got dirt on our shields, too.

Live and laugh… that’s human…


Sunday, 30 September 2012

30 September 2012. Only in Russia…FUN in Novosibirsk… PARTY!


Click here for a fun vid of a mass flash-mob in Novosibirsk dancing (there’s an advert, first). Those are real coppers at the end, I’m told… that’s OK… John Law wants to party hearty, too!


Friday, 11 May 2012

Police Scandals Continue in USA


Again, California police are in the midst of a scandal caused by unjustified cruelty and abuse of authority. This time, two officers from Fullerton will appear before a court on a murder charge, for a killing they committed in July last year. It’s hard to say why police officers killed a 37-year-old homeless man who suffered from mental disorders, but in any case, their behaviour wasn’t helpful to the image of US cops, whose reputation has already suffered in recent years. According to court papers, on 5 July 2011, the cops arrived at a car park after receiving a message about a suspicious man looking at the cars. The man was 37-year-old Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic, very well-known to the local police.

Video camera footage showed that, after a short talk, the policemen attacked Thomas. They weren’t satisfied with an ordinary arrest; they kept beating him cruelly, hitting him with electric torches, and using tasers. He arrived at hospital unconscious. On 10 July, in spite of doctors’ efforts, Kelly Thomas died. The autopsy showed that the cause of death was chest compression, which prevented oxygen from reaching the brain, and serious head injuries.

The investigation lasted for almost a year. It’s worth noting that the town authorities tried to pay the victim’s father a considerable sum in return for abandoning his claim. It’s also symptomatic that the police officers charged with murder refused to plead guilty. Their lawyers believe that the officers’ attack against Thomas was a logical and legal response to disobedience of their orders. Sadly, for the defendants, this version doesn’t hold water. The video cameras that registered the incident in detail prove that Thomas was absolutely no danger to the policemen. It’d be difficult for the defence to explain why the cops cruelly beat Thomas even after they pinned him to the ground and he couldn’t move. In addition, the local police knew Thomas very well because they’d repeatedly arrested him for minor offences. For this reason, the officers could easily realise that they were facing a mental patient.

Irrespective of the court decision, public attention to Kelly Thomas’ murder isn’t promising a rosy future for the Californian authorities. Last year, police in the state managed to get involved in a number of glaring scandals, which delivered a blow to their reputation, which already lacked irreproachability. For example, police beat a veteran of the Iraqi War who took part in an Occupy action. He arrived at hospital in a coma after a police attack against the protesters. During another incident, police fired tear gas into the faces of participants in a peaceful student meeting on the campus of a college in San Francisco.

Police of other states are as good as their California colleagues in demonstrating amazing cases of cruelty and lack of professionalism. Do recall a recent scandal in Georgia, where police officers put handcuffs on a 6-year-old girl and placed her in a solitary cell. It’s worth noting that Americans started to pay much more attention to the actions of their authorities after the killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin. True, the cops didn’t kill Martin, a civilian Neighbourhood Watch volunteer did; however, people were indignant that the police tried to shield the murderer.

US police don’t have a reputation for kindness and restraint. Moreover, over the last months, US authorities have definitely been playing with fire. The Occupy movement continues to gain momentum and shows that Americans won’t put up with lawlessness. Cruel and unprofessional behaviour on the part of cops is stirring up public discontent with the government and its structures.

10 May 2012

Vladimir Gladkov

Voice of Russia World Service


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