YouTube video

Here’s something that should be funny, but isn’t: a uniformed police officer casually pulling out his phone to blast Taylor Swift while on duty. The move is apparently not due to the power of Swift’s emotional and infectious melodies, but the power of copyrighted music to prevent a video from being spread via YouTube.

This week, a tweet from Anti Police-Terror Project includes a video documenting a police officer demanding that protestors — including APTP policy director James Burch — remove #Justice4StevenTaylor banners from the steps of a city building, outside which a protest was taking place. The deputy first frames the banner as a “tripping hazard,” and when pressed further by protesters, he takes out his phone and begins backing the conversation with the melodious sounds of Taylor Swift.

The banner refers to an incident in 2020, when former San Leandro officer Jason Fletcher responded to a 911 call inside a Walmart store, involving father of three Steven Taylor, holding a baseball bat and in the midst of a mental health crisis. Taylor was tased twice and then shot in the chest within 40 seconds of Officer Fletcher entering Walmart. Last year the Alameda County District Attorney charged Fletcher with voluntary manslaughter. As the video of this new form of musical obstruction to police accountability makes the rounds, APTP is asking that watchers donate to the GoFundMe that is helping support Taylor’s children in the absence of their father.

It’s been said that no one considers themselves the villain of their own story, but the valid point raised by activists in the video is this: if police aren’t doing anything wrong, why the need to find new and better ways to eschew being held accountable for their behavior? Obviously, the victim here is Steven Taylor, and all people (especially those of color) who face wrongful discrimination and unchecked aggression from those charged and bound to protect and serve the public. But it’s a shitty cherry on top of a shit sundae to bring Taylor Swift into this. Why not go all the way, and play the “Imperial March” from Star Wars, or “Be Prepared” from the Lion King? Leave to cops to come up with something that’s even more of a bummer than Cop Rock.

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit — including at the Detroit Institute of Arts....