Wisconsin District Attorney Uses MLK Quote to Justify Police Murder of Tony Robinson

From left to right: Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, Tony Terrell Robinson Jr., and Madison, WI police officer Matt Kenny
From left to right: Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, Tony Terrell Robinson Jr., and Madison, WI police officer Matt Kenny

Madison police officer Matt Kenny, who killed 19 year-old Tony Robinson on the night of March 6, 2015 in his own apartment before (with the help of another officer) dragging the teen’s lifeless blood-covered body onto the front porch, will of course not be charged with committing any crime whatsoever. Kenny was responding to a 911 call made by a concerned friend of Robinson’s who wanted to get help for him after he’d taken some hallucinogenic mushrooms (commonly known as “‘shrooms”) and reportedly began acting erratically. According to the friend who made the call, he “was on his way to a local basketball game and called police to ask them to assist his friend [Robinson], who he described as unarmed, not trying to hurt anybody but in need of help.” Within 18 seconds of arriving at the apartment where Robinson was located – alone – officer Matt Kenny shot his gun at the teen seven different times. Kenny alleges that Robinson first punched him, though there is no one who can collaborate this claim. Regardless, it should not require use of lethal force to subdue an unarmed person.

District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, who was sweating profusely, prefaced the announcement that no charges would be brought against officer Kenny by first offering a list of his own “credentials”, remarking that,

“I am the son of a black woman, who still worries about my safety from the bias of privilege and violence that accompanies it. […]
I am a man who understands the pain of unjustified profiling. And I am the first district attorney of color, not only in Dane County but in the state of Wisconsin. […]
I conclude that this tragic and unfortunate death was the result of a lawful use of deadly police force, and that no charges should be brought against officer Kenny in the death of Tony Robinson Jr.” 

This preface (or is it a disclaimer) is meant of course to pacify resistance to the system of white supremacy. By reinforcing his own ‘blackness’ it’s as if he is saying, “How could I represent a criminal justice system that is inherently racist? After all, I’m a person of color and therefore I am living proof that the system is colorblind.” Of course in reality such tokenism means very little in the lives of everyday Black people across this nation. Justice Clarence Thomas currently sits on the Supreme Court and has time and again cast his lot with some of the most racist rulings in the modern era. The election of President Barack Obama has delivered little if any improvement in the lives of ordinary Black people, and he and his previous Attorney General Eric Holder have used the same language as their historical white counterparts to describe those participating in the righteous rebellions in Ferguson and Baltimore as “criminals” and “thugs“.

But back to Ozanne’s remarks. The District Attorney continues,

“Recent violence around our nation is giving some in our communities a justification for fear, hatred and violence. […]
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Violence brings only temporary change. Violence, by creating many more social issues than it solves, never brings permanent peace.'”

Naturally Ozanne wasn’t directing this quote at the police officers across the nation who continue murdering unarmed Black people in droves, but at those who respond to this state-sanctioned violence by rebelling.

Never mind that the quote he used by Dr. King was taken completely out of context. These remarks were made as part of a Nobel acceptance speech dealing with the issue of not only nonviolence as a means of achieving eventual peace but nonviolence as a principal that should be adopted by the American government which he rightly called “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today“. In other words, he was first and foremost condemning the violence used by the United States of America in its treatment of the rest of the world, particularly Vietnam. His critique would be far more accurately applied in our own time to the U.S. military industrial complex which assassinates people in far-off lands by use of not only bombs but drones, as well as to the police who use violence against the poor and people of color every single day and are never held to account for it. The last people who need to be lectured about “nonviolence” are those who are the most oppressed by violent actions of the state.

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10 thoughts

  1. According to the powers that be, violence by the state is always okay. They preach nonviolence because they want the state to have a monopoly on violence. Despite his skin color, Ozanne is an obedient puppet. He knows his position of privilege is based on his obedience. It has nothing to do with his qualifications.

    1. It’s a shame that MLK’s image has been so thoroughly whitewashed by the very people who would be denouncing him in every conservative AND liberal paper were he alive today the same way they do Cornel West.

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