A tempest in a Tiburon teapot is a microcosm of the war on police

Mostly lily-white Tiburon, in Marin County, is being roiled by a black store-owner's claim that a police officer racially harassed him.  In advance of a town hall to discuss the matter, town officials have released footage from the officer's video camera.  It is illuminating, to say the least, and shows the breakdown in civil order when people no longer respect a community's police officers.

As a starting point, you need to understand that the small town of Tiburon, which is one of the wealthiest communities in America, is also one of the most tightly policed.  The police make sure that the residents and businesses are safe and sound.

The historic downtown is filled with pricy boutiques for residents and tourists alike.  One of those pricy little boutiques is a store called Yema, owned by Yema Khalif and Hawi Awash, a husband-and-wife partnership.  He's from Kenya; she's from Ethiopia.  Both are black.

At around 1:00 A.M., on August 21, the entire downtown was shut down, except for Yema, where the owners and an employee were working late.  When an officer knocked on the door to check that everything was okay, Yema answered it but refused to provide any information about who he was or why he was in the store.  From the first, he was incredibly rude and defensive in response to very polite questioning:

Look at this whole thing from the officer's perspective: in a business community that shuts down at 9 P.M., he sees unusual activity in a store.  The person who opens the door refuses to provide any information.  That instant hostility alone arouses suspicion.  For all that the officer knew, the people in the store were robbers, or there was a hostage situation.  After all, an owner would usually be grateful to know that the police were looking out for his business.

Instead of being grateful, Yema played the race card.  The officers pointed to the fact that they always patrol the street.  On that street, it was unusual to see three people in a store that is always closed at 1 A.M.  Yema, however, insisted that they are racists.

What the cops saw was that Yema was doing what all arrogant (and usually guilty) people do when the police confront them.  They ask, "Do you know who I am?"  Yema's twist was that because the police failed to recognize him, as was the case here, they had handed him absolute proof that they're racist.

In fact, there was no reason for the police to have recognized him.  Police officers can't afford to live in Tiburon, so they wouldn't recognize Yema through their kids' school (which is how most younger Marin people know each other).  If the police are on the night shift, they never see the owners.  And even if they're on the day shift, the Tiburon police do drive-bys, not store walk-ins.

Imagine if Yema had responded by saying, "My name is Yema Khalif.  This is my wife Hawi Awash.  Here are our driver's licenses.  You can see our pictures on the wall.  Thank you so much for protecting our store.  We appreciate it. " Yema, though, wanted to create a racial moment.

And of course, Yema and his wife immediately went public with the interaction, posting their own video.  For the reporters, they went full victim:

"After it was over I was shaking," Awash said. "My whole body was shaking and I could not make it stop. It was fear. It came from knowing that in one split second they could end someone's life."


"I stood my ground that day, but this did not hit me until next day," he said. "I've not been feeling the reality of it. I'm like, wait, did this happen in Tiburon? Where people know me? A place where I've lived for nine and a half years? I cannot fathom how that could happen. I cannot lie and say I'm OK. I'm traumatized and my wife is traumatized."

Hogwash!  They weren't traumatized.  Yema was loaded for bear and anxious to create a scene that he could use to his advantage.

Ten years ago, the cops might have arrested Yema simply because his behavior was so suspicious.  In a BLM world, though, the police just stood there, helpless in the face of unjustifiable racial abuse, fearing (rightly) that they were about to be publicly pilloried.

From this moment on, the police can no longer effectively patrol Tiburon.  They've been gelded, and the bad guys are paying attention.  Don't be surprised if Yema's little store is the first place the bad guys target, especially black bad guys, knowing that the police have just been schooled to leave it alone.

Image: Tiburon Police Department video.

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