“How To Start A Revolution” by Christa Avampato

Revolt July 21, 2011 18:32

topic: REVOLT medium: TEXT

The facts remain:

Mr. Bond lived in a Harlem apartment building at Saint Nicholas Avenue and West 113th Street;
On March 5, 2009, Mr. Bond and some friends were moving a couch, wrapped in twine to keep the cushions in place;

Two police officers in plain clothes entered the building under the pretense that they were following two suspect black teenagers (according to the officers, the teenagers “looked lost”);

The police officers told the group of men moving the couch to put their hands up against the wall;

Upon search, a folding knife was found in Mr. Bond’s pocket. The police officer tested the knife and declared it a gravity knife, illegal in New York City. Mr. Bond was arrested;

The jury’s task was to determine if the knife was a gravity knife. Not if the law was ridiculous. Not if Mr. Bond knew the knife was illegal. Not if the knife was indeed Mr. Bond’s and was found in his pocket. Not if he had any intent to use it to do anything other than cut the twine. Just the classification of the knife, please.

By definition a gravity knife opens via gravity or centrifugal force, and the blade locks open. Under this definition, it was a gravity knife. Case closed. And off went Mr. Bond to serve 3.5 to 7 years. His family hung their heads and cried. Mr. Bond, tragically, didn’t even appear surprised. He didn’t have any expression on his face at all. If I were a black man living in a section of Harlem infamous for drugs and violent crime, with a white judge, white district attorney, white police officers, white court-appointed defense attorney, and a mostly white jury, I would feel the same way. During the trial, I wanted to shove aside the defense attorney and do the job myself. At least then Mr. Bond would have had some defense presented on his behalf. I went home and cried, too.

Now Mr. Bond will spend time in a prison system that will deprive him of dignity and freedom, returning him to a society that deprives him of those things as well. With a felony on his record, finding a job or attaining public assistance will be next to impossible. How will he rebuild his life?
If a friend gave me a gravity knife to cut twine, could I be searched at random by a police officer and charged with a felony? I could, but the truth is I wouldn’t be. And if by chance I were searched, the police would just confiscate it and send me on my way. I’m a white professional woman living on the Upper West Side in a full-service building. Mr. Bond and I live only a few blocks apart, but we might as well live in different countries – the laws that govern his life may, on paper, be the same as the laws that govern mine. In reality, it doesn’t play out that way.

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