From February 14th, Think Tank Gallery will host the second of its photography festival-like exhibition experiments in YOU ARE HERE II. Los Angeles has long had a reputation as a city with a strong “riot culture,” and a large amount of this culture has come from perceived failures in law enforcement to fairly treat its citizens, in addition to the mistreating of these failures in the public eye by corrupted or misinformed media. While police brutality or unjust treatment of different social groups has been a consequence of a wide variety of governments all over the world, LAPD has unfortunately taken a large amount of blame through sensationalized news coverage and exposed cover-ups. With such events in our past as the Bloody Christmas of 1951 (covered up for three months by Los Angeles law enforcement) and the Chinatown Massacre of 1871 (all but erased from the history books until quite recently), and all the way up to the most recent and well-known event involving police corruption in the LA Riots of 1992 (ironically, sparked by media “cover-up” in a full-circle kind of way by excluding the footage of King charging the officers, effectively demonizing LAPD), Los Angeles is singled out as a location ripe for riots. And even if you have not taken part in these riots, they have affected your life if you live here – you are here, too.
But with cover-ups and the injustices inherent in such acts being pushed deeper into the history books through the advent and increasing prevalence of various technologies like live-streaming, social networks, and camera phones, law enforcement has been forced to respond one way or the other to the fact that their actions are becoming more and more broadcast to the world. Their responses include attempting more forceful cover-ups or attempting to more fully and effectively understand citizens’ rights and the law, and to act upon such understanding. While there are certainly some exceptions, it is Think Tank’s experience that LAPD has responded in a way that boasts upstanding law enforcement pedigree. And it is a crucial check and balance that we as citizens hold those who protect us accountable.
YOU ARE HERE II: Shoot a Cop aims to illustrate the fact that for the first time in history, everywhere that a police officer can shoot into a crowd, the crowd can shoot back. In a city that exposed the world to the power of photography in capturing the incidents surrounding Rodney King, lines of riot control officers stood along the streets outside LA City Hall during the Occupy LA protests, amidst chants that “the whole world is watching,” and in the face of signs printed with images of police brutality in New York, Davis, and Oakland as well as protestors armed with backpacks of up to eight cameras live-streaming in every direction in the occasion that another such image might be captured. But LAPD responded responsibly, and made it evident that even in a riot capitol of the country, and even in a moment that historically exhibits an us-versus-them mentality, the checks and balances of modern technology ensure peace.