‘That video was what the video caught’

By News | Last updated: Jul 14, 2014 - 11:40:51 PM

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Los Angeles gets spotlight in videotaped highway police beating of Black woman

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Lifelong Los Angeles resident David Diaz struck a blow against police brutality when he videotaped a California Highway Patrol officer’s beating of 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock, a defenseless Black woman who is homeless and mentally ill. The video was shot July 1. Mr. Diaz shared with Final Call National Correspondent Charlene Muhammad, in an exclusive interview July 12, why he shot the video, why he regrets he didn’t do more, why he feels more people need to video police incidents, and, what it takes for the abuse to end. Here is the edited interview.

Charlene Muhammad (FCN): First of all what is your reaction to media coverage of your video?

David Diaz (DD): At first it was overwhelming and I never thought that I was going to get some worldwide notoriety on it. But in a way it gives me hope that there is real coverage on the real issues here. In fact, I’m kind of, kind of proud that our media has really stepped up and really made this an issue … someone needs to speak on this.

FCN:  Break down that picture for me, you are riding, and you see it.  What is your first reaction?

David Diaz photographed during Final Call exclusive interview July 12. Photo: Malcolm Ali
DD: As I’m getting on to the ramp, I see a lady come down, then I see the officer in the corner of my other eye, and basically, you know,  things happen. There is now some confrontation between the lady and the officer. They were jostling and were positioned around a red truck. Red truck goes off then the cop takes the woman to the left, cop grabs her, throws her to the floor, gets on top of her and then repeatedly as you see in the video, hits her in the head mercilessly.

FCN:  And then a plain clothes officer arrives and he stops. So what is your reaction when you are seeing this?

DD: You are in shock, you get desensitized by violence, a lot through the media, through the movies and TV. But when it’s actually there in your face, this is the realness coming at you. It’s shocking. You get paralyzed. And I’ve been taking a lot of criticism all throughout the Internet, people saying why didn’t I get involved? Why didn’t I do something? But when you’re there, you are paralyzed. It’s like you don’t believe what is happening.

FCN: We would like to say Mr. Diaz that you did in fact do something. What do you think would have been happening without your video?

DD:  It would have been—from what I know she’s homeless and she has no voice—pretty much this would have been shoved under the table and disregarded really fast.

FCN:  You couldve driven by like a lot of people did. Why didnt you just drive on by?

DD: You know in L.A. you get, nothing is impossible. You don’t know when you are about to see something, until you see it. I have a habit of having the camera open. If nothing happens, then nothing happens. We can move on. But if something does happen, I want to make sure there is detailed proof of it. I don’t want it to say my word versus her word. I didn’t add effects to that video. I didn’t do anything. That video was what the video caught.

FCN: We would say youre like an anti-police brutality activist’s dream, heaven, a cop watcher, people who encourage others to take out their videos and report the police. Have you had any of that type of training? Do you know any of those organizations?

DD: No, I mean, I don’t know. I’ve always been a political person myself, haven’t really been an activist, but you know, I just happen to be, always been aware of my surroundings, so when something like this happens, you know what, I can’t help to pull out a camera.

FCN: Are there any elements of your story that are not being told you think, elements of the story and what you actually saw?

DD: I didn’t allow that to happen... The first thing I did was went to every news station. You saw me on CNN, CBS, so the story couldn’t go out with anything wrong. Now they have tried to justify it and rationalize it, which they’ve been doing for years. So, you know, that doesn’t shock me that they are coming with their own story to it, but at least I got there and said my piece and it got aired.

FCN: Victims and eye witnesses are often intimidated. Have you gotten any death threats?

DD: No. I am going to be fair and honest … I have been hearing it from family and relatives to be careful of where you are, who are you talking to. They are definitely putting this, this notion in my head that my life might be in jeopardy.

FCN: What do you think about what your family and others are warning you of?

DD: You know there’s an old saying that goes I would rather be a lion for one day than a sheep for 100.

FCN:  Would you like to add anything?

DD: Yes. I didn’t bring out this tape to make this a hate police (thing). I didn’t want this to create more violence. I made this video, or I shot this video, so we stop it. We need to stop going against each other, one another, bringing more hatred. This is what I want to make sure that we understand. They keep, keep asking me what happened before these events. What I want to tell them, it’s the hollowing out of the system of education, the hollowing out of our medical system, the hollowing out of our moral values and this is the result of it. America has become an empty shell of what it once was. We need to stop hollowing out. We are a Ferrari with no engine. We have become nearly but mere eye candy for Third World countries and once they come into this country, they realize the truth and they realize the economic disparity. They realize that we have become this engineless Ferrari. And I am bringing this out to say, this is bigger than a woman, a man, a cop beating another African American female, it’s bigger than this. This is the result of years of defunding our schools, defunding our hospitals, you know, not caring about America as a whole and seeing this economic disparity, this is what happens. This shouldn’t happen, shouldn’t be like this. It’s not rocket science. This is the mere, mere consequences of everyone allowing this to happen. Don’t blame the cops. We need to blame ourselves … You want someone to blame? Change yourself first. Because we, everyone wants to change the world, make a movie, do some sort of song to change the world. Change the world around you and people will follow you. I guarantee you leading by example is the most effective way of making real change. Don’t blow it up, and if we can make smaller changes, things will happen around you, and that’s my point. All I did was stick out a camera and look at what we can do. Look what I can do with one camera, look what can you do for the world around you. Just start there. The world will get bigger and you will get the real world.

FCN: Mr. Diaz have you made contact with Ms. Pinnock yet, or her family? Have you spoken to them?

DD: I have spoken to the lawyers, to her lawyer, Ms. Harper,­­­ I believe.

Charlene Muhammad: Any words from the family to you?

DD: No. I have received no message from them. I hope she is doing well. I mean, it’s sad and sometimes I look at it and I feel guilty and that I didn’t do enough, that I could’ve done more, and I have to deal with that for the rest of my life.

FCN:  More like what?

DD: I don’t know. Maybe I should’ve stayed for the end. Made sure she was okay, followed the ambulance, made sure that they didn’t put a bullet in her head. At that point who knows what could be possible? And you know what? I feel bad that when I drove off I felt like “oh, there’s enough people watching” and that’s exactly what I don’t stand by. We can’t. We need to stop passing the buck and I think we’ve done that enough. They (California Highway Patrol) don’t get enough action and the first action they get, they start wailing on people.

FCN:  Thank you.