Shoved to the Ground

The shove to the ground is awful, but it's the number of officers who continue to walk by the elderly man without offering to help as the blood pours out of his ears while he remains dead still that upsets me the most. As I watched the video, I kept thinking of my dad. He would be bothered by the story I'm about to tell, but he would also admit more stories of abuse by the police need to be shared.

For over a decade he delivered food for Meals on Wheels for those less fortunate because of health issues or a dire economic situation. He loved that job. He enjoyed telling me and anyone who would listen about the people on his route. They were people who relied on him not just for meals, but also for companionship, even if for a few minutes every day.

He didn't need the money, but he was proud to help other people. He was so determined to help others, he even delivered food while my mom was having a major operation. (That didn't go over well, but when he's focused on something, he's hard to deter.) But that's all the more upsetting as to why he decided to quit driving.

In asking my mom what happened, she deferred to my dad to explain. For many years, my dad drove the same route. He would drive towards the Lake Michigan lakeshore to pick up the meals for his delivery. Every morning like clockwork, he would arrive 15 minutes early to pack the food in the car for the deliveries. He knew every mile of with such intimacy. Where to slow down to avoid each pothole, the best place for gas, and where he could make up time if delayed by the weather.

One day, while my dad was leaving the church parking lot, he noticed a Michigan State Trooper come up from behind rather fast. At first, he saw the distinct blue of the officer's car and didn't think anything of it as the officer passed him. But after that first sighting, my dad started noticing the cop car more frequently. The police cars the state troopers drive are this deep oceanic blue, so they're quite evident on the road.

Every morning when starting his route, the same trooper's car would come upon him and then fall back. Each time the aggressiveness of the officer started worrying my dad. He even said he felt nervous, even scared to drive his route.

This went on for several months. At first, my dad was hesitant to say anything to my mother about it. Once he did, she decided to ride with him to see for herself what was happening. She was astonished to witness the trooper doing this and was even more surprised he was doing this every time my dad was out for deliveries. It was as if he was playing mental games with my father.

Eventually, the state trouper pulled my dad over and cited him with a ticket for reckless driving, which resulted in my dad losing his license. Although well into his eighties by then, my dad had never had any form of a traffic citation in his entire life. The severity of the episode had left my dad quite despondent. Not only was he not able to deliver meals to those who needed it, but he had also lost his freedom to drive.

At first, I didn't know how to take this. I didn't expect a state trooper to behave like that, but it wasn't until I drove the route with my dad as his driver did I understand what he was talking about. For several days I delivered food with him for his journey as he waited to retake the driving test. Each morning we would arrive early and pack the meals. And every morning I saw the same state trooper car, but instead of my dad, he saw me driving. One time I made sure to stare at him as he passed, but he never looked my way.

Later on, from a contact at the Michigan DMV or through the news, we found out the state of Michigan was targeting senior citizens to discourage them from continuing driving. When my dad retook his driver's test, the DMV tester commented that my father was still an excellent driver and should never have had his license taken away in the first place.

It's been several years since the event, but every time we visit Muskegon, he worries about being pulled over and losing his license or making a mistake while driving with an officer behind him. Although minor in comparison to the abuse people of colour have experienced for centuries, the abuse my father felt at the hands of the police have been long-lasting, even scarring.

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