Social Media Causes Shift In Political Power

Friday, September 30, 2011

In early July this year Kelly Thomas, a homeless schizophrenic man was allegedly beaten to death by Fullerton, California police. The beating was caught on tape by a pedestrian with a cell phone. Paul Detrick of shows how the release of this video and images of Thomas on his deathbed have shown how the use of social journalism has changed the political power in today’s society.

After Thomas’s death, the Fullerton police department refused to release information as the investigation was still pending. Ron Thomas, Kelly’s father, attempted to contact local media outlets and was outraged that no media outlet would pick up the story. Ron then released an image of his son on his deathbed showing the graphic outcome of the beating.

Ron Thomas then release a video taken by a pedestrian who filmed the assault via a cell phone. The video’s audio track captures Kelly Thomas screaming out for the police to please stop. Eventually, Kelly breaks down and calls out for his dad.

The Fullerton Police continued to only provide vague answers.

The deliverance of this story via social media sparked outcry in the Fullerton area. Protesters now pack Fullerton city hall meetings and gather in masses outside the Fullerton police department in protest.

The citizens of Fullerton are an example of the power of citizen media. No longer are full stories controlled by police departments and other official agencies. With nearly every American carrying a cell phone with a camera if not video capabilities, we the citizens are becoming the source of truth.

As one outraged Fullerton citizen says, “Now, they’re under the watch of us.”

According to the LA Times, the two Fullerton officers involved with the case, Officer Manuel Ramos and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli have been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter against Ramos and of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force against Cicinelli. Both will be placed on leave without pay starting October 8.

Photograph compliments of CBS Los Angeles.


Megan Evans October 3, 2011 at 11:38 AM  

Other areas of the world have been using social media and new technologies like smart phones for much more than we do here. It has led to revolutions and movements in other countries, while many in the states use this to document their breakfast choices. I think having these capabilities gives the average citizen power and leverage never before experienced, and the man who filmed this brutality used this technology for something of substance.

Of course not everything we do will lead to ground-breaking outcomes, but if we focus a bit more on alternative way to use things like facebook and twitter, we may build a bigger movement than we ever could have expected.

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