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Lying, not English, is the national language | Helen Ubiñas

We lie to one another and ourselves all the time — no matter what side we’re on.

A file photo of of police lights by night.
A file photo of of police lights by night.Read moreAlexandru Cuznetov / MCT

The videos of reporter Josie Huang being thrown to the ground and arrested last weekend by L.A. County sheriff’s deputies are disturbing.

I’m a reporter!

I’m with KPCC!



Watched in the context of the police department’s official statements, and they become downright chilling.

Huang had been documenting an arrest of a man who had reportedly been taunting police after the ambush of two officers earlier that night. Shortly after she was arrested, and while she was still in custody, police posted this statement to Twitter:

"(1/3) #LASD Century Sheriff’s Station Watch Commander reports the following: After deputies issued a dispersal order for the unlawful assembly of a group of protesters blocking the hospital emergency entrance & exits, a male adult protester refused to comply and cooperate…

(2/3) During his arrest, a struggle ensued at which time a female adult ran towards the deputies, ignored repeated commands to stay back as they struggled with the male and interfered with the arrest…"

(3/3) The female adult, who was later identified as a member of the press, did not identify herself as press and later admitted she did not have proper press credentials on her person. Both individuals have been arrested for 148 P.C."

That tidy description hits all the right notes for justifying the arrest of a journalist. And it might have held up were it not for those pesky cellphone cameras that the entire nation now walks around with.

So, now that videos of the aggressive arrest have gone viral, let us count the lies:

  1. “ran toward the deputies”

  2. “ignored repeated commands”

  3. “interfered with the arrest”

  4. “did not identify herself as press”

  5. “did not have proper press credentials”

Let’s start with the obvious: What are the odds that a working member of the press, being tossed around like a rag doll by police, would keep quiet about her profession and what she was doing there? (Just ask my colleague Samantha Melamed.)

What do the videos show?

I’m a reporter!

I’m with KPCC!


KPCC ...!

And if there’s any doubt the officers heard her:

“Do what you’re told if you’re a reporter,” says a deputy sheriff, as you hear what sounds like handcuffs being fastened and then Huang shouting out in pain.

There have been plenty of stories that break down how the department’s statements don’t add up with video and eyewitness accounts. Sound familiar, Philly? Remember when we were told in June that teargassing civilians who marched onto I-676 was “a last resort” after they flooded an open highway, surrounded a state trooper’s car, and threw rocks at officers.

Yeah, that was a lie. Admitted only after a damning New York Times compilation video of facts that The Inquirer had previously reported.

» READ MORE: The curious case of Philly leadership’s delayed response to teargassing civilians, solved | Helen Ubiñas

Same, as far as I can tell, with the lies L.A. police are peddling.

Nothing I saw in multiple accounts and videos shows Huang ignoring police commands, as they reported. In fact, in a video where you hear a cop screaming “Back up!” you can see Huang doing exactly as she’s told moments before she’s thrown on the ground. Her ID hangs around her neck as she repeatedly identifies herself.

Later, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, in responding to questions about the inconsistencies between video and police accounts, claimed KPCC is not a household name, despite it being one of the most-listened-to public radio stations in the United States. Villanueva has appeared on the station several times. He also took a question from Huang at the news conference hours before her arrest. The incident is still under investigation, but the inspector general recently said that preliminary evidence suggests parts of the claims made by police may be false.

But then, it shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been paying attention to the police mistreatment and murder of Black men that police narratives should not be taken as gospel; I only wish more journalists who think their jobs depend on a cozy relationship with cops understood that.

Police lie. Not all, but enough for this long-overdue reckoning.

Bad news for all the folks always screaming about English being the official language of the United States:

It’s not.

Lying is.

Yes, we all know that the current president lies incessantly to the American people. But he’s not the only one. The truth is, the American people have been lying to themselves since long before the nation’s founding.

We lie to each other and ourselves all the time — no matter what side we’re on.

I thought of that recently while reading my colleague Julia Terruso’s story about a white Pennsylvania town established with taxpayer dollars by New Deal Democrats to help out-of-work coal miners and other struggling families, who are now all about Trump because they’re worried — without a hint of irony — about those other poor people (read: Black and brown people) looking for a handout.

» READ MORE: A Pennsylvania town once known as ‘communism on the prairie’ is all about Trump now

But I’ve also been struck by people who consistently respond to the near-daily atrocities under the Trump administration by declaring that they don’t recognize their country, that “America is better than this,” while Black and brown people have been living with injustice and inequity for as long as they can remember.

America is better than this?

Says who? To whom?

Even the latest outrage (however righteous) over the forced hysterectomies at a Georgia Immigrant and Customs Enforcement Detention Center fails to contend with the history of the reproductive-health crimes against Black, brown, poor, Indigenous, and incarcerated people long before Trump became president.

Make America Great Again isn’t just a lie because it’s a campaign slogan weaponized by a racist president pandering to his fanatical supporters.

It’s a lie because for many, this country has never been great, or good, or even fair, to them.

And only when we face these lies — the ones we tell one another and ourselves — will anything ever change.