Society and Culture

Quentin Tarantino Takes on Police Brutality

By  | 

On October 24, the RiseUpOctober group held a three-day rally in New York to protest police brutality. The biggest story of the rally was Quentin Tarantino’s attendance and the director’s fiery remarks. He has since received incredible backlash for his comments, from pundits as well as some police unions. But the twisting of his words and generally poor coverage of the rally highlights the media’s chronic inability to cover groups and events that try to bring attention to the issue of police brutality.

In a three-day rally against police brutality, the media decided to only focus on Tarantino’s comments, as opposed to the families of unarmed individuals killed by police officers. When given a chance to speak, Tarantino addressed the crowd by saying “I am a human being with a conscience, and when I see murder I cannot stand by, and I have to call the murdered the murdered, and the murderers the murderers.” A number of people expressed disapproval with Tarantino’s remarks and criticized him. Pundits, as well as his own father, went as far as to call his comments “dead wrong.” They criticized him for denigrating police officers and many people misquoted him as calling all police officers murderers, even though he was referring to the specific instances of killings of unarmed citizens that the rally was focused on.

Recently Jim Pasco, the director of the national Fraternal Order of Police, warned that the union has a “surprise” in store for Tarantino, a veiled threat that follows the Pasco’s plea for police officers to boycott Tarantino’s next film. While he does not represent the viewpoint of all police officers, it is unfortunate that someone so influential has decided to escalate this issue, instead of taking the value of the entire rally to heart. Granted, Tarantino’s comments were certainly inflammatory and it is totally fair for people, especially police officers and their relatives, to be unhappy. Still, this does not make what Tarantino said any less valid. It is important that we as a nation remain open to critically analyzing all of our social institutions to ensure that they are operating as best as they can. By making it taboo to criticize law enforcement, we keep one of the most important foundations of our society from being the best it can be.

The rhetoric surrounding Tarantino’s comments is not new; rather, the false dichotomy between protesting police brutality and respecting police officers is constantly present in the media. Critics of the BlackLivesMatter movement, and other attempts to address police brutality often equate criticizing excessive police force with hating police officers. Some blame these protests for the recent spike in crime in some major cities–often called the “Ferguson Effect.” Proponents argue that this increase in crime can be traced to changes in police tactics due to a fear of excessive force. Even if this were true, this logic is faulty. Firstly, these movements are not directly responsible for the changes that have occurred in police tactics. Secondly, even if there appears to be an overcompensating response, this does not invalidate these movements. It is important that police brutality be addressed and prior to the activities of such groups, this issue was largely ignored.

Finally, one of the biggest issues with the coverage of the BlackLivesMatter movement is the assumption that it is a single-minded movement. The actions of anyone who associates with the group are taken as a representation of all the members. In reality, like any social movement in history, individuals have different ideas, tactics, and goals, even if they associate with the same movement. Unfortunately, pundits will change the subject to black-on-black violence, and accuse the movement of promoting violence instead of dealing with the actual issue of police brutality. Like so many issues nowadays, police brutality is poorly handled by the media, which leads to a polarized and sometimes uninformed public and prevents the issue from being addressed. This failure in media is disheartening and it is the same reason why Quentin Tarantino has received undeserved backlash for his comments.

Maurin Mwombela
Maurin Mwombela is a member of the University of Pennsylvania class of 2017 and was a Law Street Media Fellow for the Summer 2015. He now blogs for Law Street, focusing on politics. Contact Maurin at



Send this to friend