by Steve Hampton
The Yolo County district attorney is charging five people, including three black men, with assaulting police officers in connection with the Picnic Day “brawl.” Prosecuting attorney Ryan Couzens will have a difficult job.
The first time I watched the video, I saw a crowd of mixed race, including black, young people on a street corner standing around and talking. Families rode past on bicycles and there were no signs of tension or conflict. It was a peaceful scene. I wondered where this brawl would come from.
Suddenly, this black van does a sharp U-turn and aggressively stops next to the crowd. This occurs at 1:58 in the dashcam video posted at the Davis Police Department website. Someone goes to the passenger-side window and it appears that words are exchanged. But not many words, because at 2:00 the door opens aggressively into the person, a large white guy jumps out with fist raised and by 2:01 another big white guy jumps out and all hell is breaking lose, with a bunch of the crowd members fighting off these two guys from the van.
The first time I watched, it was clear to me these apparently big drunk white guys basically attacked this crowd. Certainly, they transformed a peaceful scene into total mayhem in less than three seconds. In fact, it happens so fast that the Davis police released a slow-motion version of the video.
But now Bob Dunning, the Davis Police Department and the Yolo County prosecutor want me to believe that these two thugs were actually the cops and, that, in 2 1/2 seconds, they identified themselves as police officers (since they were plainclothes in an unmarked car — a funny way to do crowd control at a large event) and they presumably politely asked the crowd to scoot a few more feet out of the roadway.
Then, because it was an onerous request and a cause worth fighting for, I’m supposed to believe that the crowd members instantly, in whatever remained of the 2 1/2 seconds , decided to physically assault the police officers. Really?
The cops escalated the situation so quickly and so dramatically that it has the appearance of a pre-meditated attack, as if they were enforcing an old rule from apartheid South Africa, that blacks cannot meet in groups of three or more.
In Davis, at least, that seems to be a threshold that arouses suspicion. I don’t know what words were said in the first two seconds, but I do know it’s the cops that should be on trial.
Steve Hampton is a Davis resident