An Open Letter Regarding the Death of Israel Hernandez


Israel Hernandez was an 18-year-old artist who wanted to “change the world somehow through art.” On Tuesday, August 6th, he was electroshocked by a taser after running from the cops for painting graffiti on an abandoned McDonalds. Half-a-dozen officers chased him down until he was tased in the chest. Later that morning he was pronounced dead.

Dear Readers,

I’m sick of it. Yet another rant about Florida; another rant about law enforcement; another rant about police brutality; another rant on how many claim all graffiti is “vandalism”; and another rant on some of the people we put in power.

Again, I’m sick of it.

I’m sick of the despairing nature of this whole story: a story that revolves around the sole fact that Hernandez was an 18-year-old boy who weighed in at 150 pounds standing 5’6’’, and yet between six officers they decided it would be ideal to use a taser to the chest to stop him. Furthermore, let us point to this: six officers decided to chase this kid down for a petty crime (HE SPRAY PAINTED AN “R” ON AN ABANDONED BUILDING) for blocks, until it came to the point where they used excessive force. After, the officers decided to “high-five” as he lay motionless on the ground.

I’m sick of the way the officers decided to carry this out. It would be one thing if Hernandez was running away for murder, burglary, rape or any of the other major felonies, but again, and this is important, the kid was painting an “R” on an abandoned McDonalds. The officers could have let it go, they could have given him a warning or they could have used lesser tactics to take down the kid when he was cornered. But no, they chased him down as if he just murdered Mayor Regalado. I’m just glad they didn’t use bullets.

I’m sick about the fact that this isn’t the first overreaction the Miami Police Department has taken part in, let alone authorities around the country. In 2011, a man was struck dead with 16 bullets for driving erratically after Miami Police shot over 100 bullets at his car. There were multiple injured bystanders.

I’m sick of the people who don’t get it. They continually question why this is such a big deal because Hernandez was a “criminal.” Listen folks, excessive force can’t be excused by blaming the victim. You need to look past that and analyze how the actions were committed.

I’m sick of the people who claim graffiti is merely vandalism. You know what? Fuck that. In terms of hip-hop, graffiti is a way of expression. Graffiti in a nutshell is a visual stimulant of hip-hop, just like breaking is an expression in the physical form. From Darryl McCray and his Cornbread tagging in Philadelphia to TAKI 183 in the streets of New York City, graffiti and tagging have supplied hip-hop with a visual form of expression and thought that goes beyond the meaning of a 16 bar lick. There are galleries around the world devoted to graffiti, and even the ancient Greeks and Romans established themselves in the art. So please, don’t tell me graffiti is merely vandalism if it’s used in a positive way through hip-hop.

With this story, I’m not only sick, but I’m saddened. However, we must take a positive view and spin it in a way where our society can benefit from such a tragedy.

If anything, the first thing we should be focusing on is more police training and education, especially regarding circumstances like this. What constitutes an officer to use force? Should you commit six officers to chase down a graffiti artist for tagging a building? Why is tasing someone in the chest NOT OKAY? With this we must also recognize the difference between good police work and bad police work. In most cases, good police work DOES NOT require force. Take Robert Saylor’s story, a truly sad example where the cops knew the situation and still decided to use force, which resulted in a death. Sometimes it’s always easier on both sides if you lower the stakes. For this to happen though, we need to express this concern regarding enforcement officials. We cannot simply wait for it to happen, as if one day the idea will spring into a commissioner’s head. If we do not voice our say as a community and people of this country, we will get nowhere, and events like Israel Hernandez and Robert Saylor will continue.

Furthermore, hip-hop heads and figures in the culture need to use this story as a continuing example of the forces that still oppress the people in this country. If graffiti artists are getting tasered and killed for exploring the realms of art and expressing themselves, then our freedom is being tested. Why stand and let these events unfold before our very eyes?

I have hope, and I will always have hope, and we cannot let our voices falter.

Remember this if anything:

“Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. The grave will supply plenty of time for silence.” –Christopher Hitchens

Thanks for letting me rant.

-Daniel Hodgman

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One thought on “An Open Letter Regarding the Death of Israel Hernandez

  1. kurleedaddee says:

    Reblogged this on kurleedaddeewestbay650 and commented:
    R.I.P. Israel. Another graf writer gone too soon. And another young person killed by the fucking pigs we pay out of our salaries. FUCK THE POLICE!

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