Hey there reader, I hope you’re doing great. You probably saw the video of Dr. David Dao being forcefully removed by airport police from a United Airlines flight on April 9. Bloggers responded in typical fashion;
“While there may be something to be said for the ability for private businesses to summon the help of the police to remove people from their premises if they refuse to leave peacefully and their presence is unwanted, there is no excuse for the police to cooperate when the reason their presence is unwanted is not “causing a disturbance” or being violent or threatening to other customers, or stealing goods or services, or doing anything wrong at all, but rather wanting to peacefully use the service they legitimately paid for.”
Then pilot-wife Angelia J. Griffin published this piece; “Knowing what I know about airport security, I’m certainly not going to run back into a secured, federally restricted area at an airport flailing my arms and screaming like a banshee…because, you know, that just happens to be breaking a major federal Homeland Security law.”
“But that’s just me. Obviously.”
“The moment I made that particular ill-advised choice, I would become an immediate and imminent threat to the aircraft’s security. That’s kind of a big deal. I mean, come on, I once actually had to remove my infant son’s socks because they mimicked little baby sneakers. These guys mean business.”
Airport police didn’t brutalize Dao to secure the airplane, they brutalized him to enforce the Airlines’ private boarding priority policy which reads;
“If a flight is Oversold, no one may be denied boarding against his/her will until UA or other carrier personnel first ask for volunteers who will give up their reservations willingly in exchange for compensation as determined by UA. If there are not enough volunteers, other Passengers may be denied boarding involuntarily in accordance with UA’s boarding priority.”
Derek Thompson at the Atlantic wrote, “That “boarding priority” protects minors and disabled people and makes special commendation for “fare class [and] status of frequent flyer program.” In other words: Don’t worry, First Class folks, you’re safe.”
United Airlines is responsible for removing Dao, it’s their policy after all. Airport police escalated the situation after Dao refused to leave and they beat him. Dao suffered from a “concussion, a broken nose, a sinus injury and lost two front teeth” and will have to have reconstructive surgery as a result. But according to Griffin, all of Dao’s injuries were suffered for the sake of security.
I disagree, violence won’t yield security, violence multiplies violence. If violence equaled security, the U.S. would be the most secure place in the world. But it isn’t. Instead, American law enforcement agencies have an awful history of brutalizing and killing civilians, especially minorities. More than 1,000 civilians are killed by U.S. police each year.
Police brutality is so pervasive in the U.S., the United Nations condemned our law enforcement agencies for brutality in August, 2014. Critical thinkers know, it’s impossible to separate race from conflict in the U.S. It’s also impossible to separate violence from a system which enforces a classist, capitalist private boarding priority policy.
United Airlines would have been smart to hold an ad hoc auction. The Airline could have taken bids starting at $800 and increased them in $200 increments until they find a traveler willing to voluntarily deboard. The cost of finding a someone willing to voluntarily deboard, whether it was $2,000 or $20,000 would surely be less than the costs suffered from this public relations disaster.
Instead, the Airline chose to use airport police to forcefully remove Dao. And within two business days, “shares of United fell as much as 6.3 percent in pre-market trading, dropping $1.4 billion from the now $21 billion company by market cap. By early trading Tuesday, shares were down 4 percent.”
Airport security is for the most part theater. “When people are scared, they need something done that will make them feel safe, even if it doesn’t truly make them safer.” This illusion surely comes from our obsession over the events which happened on September 11, 2001.
It’s foolish to believe peace and security can be achieved through violent means. We’d be smart to recognize Dao’s removal for what it really was, the unauthorized use police violence to enforce a private agreement. Let us demand a better system from the police and airlines. I think the best way to prevent police brutality and airline abuse from happening in the future is to stop participating in these systems until we get the outcomes we desire.