Civil Rights

Beachhead Interviews Cleo Battle, Sister to Samuel Calhoun Arrington

Cleo Battle

(Note: This interview was conducted on April 26, 2015)
Beachhead: First of all, I would like to ask you how you think things are progressing with Samuel?
Cleo Battle: In what respect?
BH: Well, overall. Do you feel like the case is going well, that there is enough evidence to succeed and therefore change lives not only for Samuel but for people like Samuel?
Battle: As far as the evidence in the case, I think it’s more than enough to prove that he was unjustly targeted, abused, beaten, and degraded. That his humanity was stripped away from him with that incident occurring in front of onlookers, innocent bystanders who they themselves were outraged at what was occurring. Yeah, there’s more than enough evidence for him to seek justice and
receive justice.
BH: I have to agree with you. My husband and I were going for a walk and we were at the part where people were yelling at the police. I’ve never felt so much outrage, personally, on incidents in Venice. You definitely could see that something had just happened that was very — to me — scary. Secondly, I know that Nazareth Haysbert (Samuel’s lawyer) said Samuel had a long road ahead as far
as his recovery from the four years of abuse. I was wondering if you could also comment just as a sister on how you feel about that because it is not just a one time incident.
Battle: I can tell you that prior to my brother being brutalized by the LAPD — he is still a peace loving, God fearing person– however, the happy go lucky brother that I knew growing up into his adulthood and prior to all of these incidents occurring — he has been changed forever. If I’m able to recover him at all, there will still be damage psychologically from what has occurred. It’s as simple as that. He does not trust anyone, certainly not the government. I don’t know what to say beyond that. His trust in humankind has been damaged, has been changed because of this.
BH: That’s awful. So, in your mind, because it has that kind of effect where you can’t really reverse the damage, for you personally what would be the best results that you would like to see happen on a federal level? From your point of view, going through this experience, how can this benefit people even if it doesn’t benefit Samuel?
Battle: Well, what I think that what we need to have in America is a national conversation on the people with the least amount of power. How we treat those who don’t have power. The downtrodden. The helpless. The ones dependent on a society that is suppose to be a democracy. That is suppose to care about its citizenry. We in America are always talking about being proponents for democracy all over the world, but we deny that same sense of democracy and level of care to our own citizens. That has to change. We, in America, are currently in a downward spiral due to our lack of care of the least in our society. In America, we are only as strong as our weakest link. So, when we choose to abuse, degrade, and dehumanize that weakest link, we are, in effect, destroying the very fabric of our own society and what it does is create lawlessness. And you can see that all over America now. We have a problem with terrorists. We are creating our own terrorists in America because we have a lack of concern for the citizenry in our own nation. So, it has to change. I’m retired from the Air Force. I fought for my country. I defended my country. I’ve lived over seas and seen what lawlessness can do first hand. We have to change. America has to wake up. It’s time. You know, we need everyone. If Los Angeles were to experience a catastrophic earthquake right now, I can assure you that every person living here would need everyone willing to reach out and help. That is the kind of brother I have. And when you have taken away his humanity and caused him to fear, then you have taken away your own safety.
BH: Absolutely. That is absolutely true. I fully agree with you. In what capacity did you serve and when were the years you served?
Battle: Twenty years in the United States Air Force. I’m a financial manager. I lived in Germany for a good part of that twenty years — eight years solid, straight. I was there when the Berlin wall came down. You know, I experienced terrorism first hand over there with a bombing at the airbase where I worked, directly across the street a bomb blew up and killed multiple Americans. I was there. I know what terrorism looks like.
BH: Wow, that’s amazing. Thank you for all your service. I’m sure as a woman, too, you have stories about that. Yes, I think that gives you a definite insight into things that a regular citizen might not have. Do you feel like many activists that the police have been overly militarized deliberately in this country?
Battle: Absolutely. I can assure you, I can tell you first hand. With us being over there in the Middle East and us disengaging ourselves from the conflicts over there in an attempt to — you have a lot of security forces that went over to the Middle East that defended our country. Those same service men and women are coming back to America with their own issues of PTSD. But they are separating, retiring, and being hired as police officers. You have people in the forces, in the police forces of America, that have their own issues. They are treating American citizens as though they are combatants. We’re not, you know. There needs to be more training, there needs to be more screening, there needs to be more engagement at every level. The equipment that was sent over to the Middle East is making its way back. It’s making its way back to the smallest cities and towns here in America, not just in large cities like LAPD in Los Angeles. I live in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. We have our own MRAP’s, the military vehicles that are used in enemy situations. Those
kinds of weaponry are not necessary. What are we arming ourselves against here in America?
BH: It makes you wonder. And then what you brought up about the PTSD, that seems to be something that has to be supported more too when service men and women come back and are actually treated properly for it.
Battle: In America, we have a problem with the mental health system already. I hope that from Sam’s case, it will be a watershed event, hopefully, for all mentally ill, especially the homeless, but for anybody mentally ill. We need to have a national conversation. And it needs to start today.
BH: Thank you.