By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Los Angeles’ newly elected Black female mayor Karen Bass is expected to weigh-in on the death of Keenan Anderson, 31, who died from cardiac arrest after L.A. police officers recently blasted his body for 90 seconds with a Taser gun during a traffic stop.
According to police reports, Anderson, a Washington DC teacher, had committed a felony hit-and-run and another person involved in the collision said Anderson tried to steal a vehicle. Eventually, an officer activated the taser on Anderson at least six consecutive times, at one point holding it against his back while the weapon buzzed for roughly 30 seconds straight.
Anderson was unarmed on Jan. 3, when LAPD officers used a taser on him during the aftermath of a traffic accident and he later died in an LA hospital. Newly released body camera footage shows LAPD officers restraining and tasing Anderson, who can be heard begging for help.
“It was a traffic accident,” Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors (a cousin of the deceased), said in recent news reports. “Instead of treating him like a potential criminal, police should have called the ambulance.”
According to a report in Mother Jones magazine, at one point in the violent encounter, Anderson is heard saying, “They’re trying to George Floyd me.”
An LAPD video shows a motorcycle arrived at the scene of a car accident near the corner of Venice Boulevard and Lincoln Boulevards and encountered Anderson jogging in the middle of the road. Anderson said, “Please help me,” and pointed the officer in the direction of the accident.
Anderson held his hands up and said, “I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry.” The officer then called for additional units over his radio, mentioning the possibility of a DUI driver. Anderson dropped to his knees and puts his hands behind his head. He told the officer again that someone was trying to kill him. “They were trying to put stuff in my car,” he said, though it is unclear what exactly he was referring to.
Bass, the newly elected first Black female mayor of L.A, said in a recent statement, “Full investigations are underway, and I pledge that the City’s investigations into these deaths will be transparent and will reflect the values of Los Angeles. I will ensure that the City’s investigations will drive only toward truth and accountability. Furthermore, the officers involved must be placed on immediate leave.”
But the president of the NAACP’s Legal and Defense Fund said a traffic stop should not have ended Anderson’s life.
“Keenan Anderson’s life should’ve never been threatened—let alone ended—as a result of a traffic stop encounter with @LAPD,” NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Director Janai Nelson said in a recent statement.
“We mourn with his family, friends & community & call for immediate investigation, correctives & concrete action toward an entirely new public safety system.”
Anderson’s death is one of three against unarmed people of color in LA in 2023.
Records show Charleston police officers apprehended Dylann Roof without fatal consequences after he fatally shot nine Black parishioners in a Charleston church in 2016. Police apprehended accused University of Idaho killer Bryan Kohberger in January 2023. Members of The Proud Boys and other Jan. 6 participants were safely arrested and charged along with Stewart Rhodes, the leader and founder of far-right Oath Keepers militia.
Equal justice required the eradication of poverty for people of all races, a transformation of a system that has left us, as Dr. King wrote, with “a gap of superfluous wealth and abject poverty,” and has “created conditions permitting necessities to be taken from the many to give luxuries to the few.”
Economic and racial equality, Dr. King understood, could not be achieved unless America curbed its growing and costly military adventures. So, Dr. King courageously spoke out against the Vietnam War, warning that the war on poverty was being lost in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
On his final birthday, Dr. King worked on putting together a Poor People’s Campaign, a multiracial coalition of working and poor people to march on Washington to demand equal justice.
He understood that justice required fundamental reforms – the right to a job or a guaranteed income, a living wage, universal health care, the right to affordable housing, equal access to the courts. His assassination took him from us when his leadership was most needed.
The civil rights movement transformed America and helped to further its ideals. We have come a long way. But Dr. King surely would be dismayed by how far we have yet to go. Today, legal segregation of schools has ended, but our schools are more segregated than ever.
The right to vote has been extended, but conservative judges have gutted the Voting Rights Act, and voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering and dark money undermine our democracy. Inequality has reached new and obscene extremes.
America has been enmeshed in endless wars throughout this century. The Pentagon consumes more than half of the annual spending Congress votes on.
Gun violence, mass incarceration and police brutality still rob too many of life and liberty. Now catastrophic climate change poses a rising and deadly threat.
Lasting change is hard. Every reconstruction gets met with a reaction. Cynical politicians stoke racial and national fears. Economic insecurities make us more likely to turn on each other than to each other. Dr. King’s example calls upon us not to adjust to these realities nor to accept them, but to act boldly to change them. “There is no gain without struggle,” he taught.
Dr. King held no public office, he amassed no personal fortune, he commanded no military forces – yet he led a movement that transformed the country. Politicians, he understood, adjust to prevailing winds.
It is people in motion that generate the wind and set the direction. True leaders do not echo popular opinion, they mold opinion. Let us celebrate his birthday by following his example and mobilizing to fulfill the dream.