On October, 24, 2015, Quentin Tarantino traveled to New York City to participate in what would be the end of three day protesting police brutality called Rise Up October. The director spoke briefly to the crowd–less than a minute–before turning the stage over to the family members of people killed by police of the last year. But what he said in the few seconds he had the mike was enough to set up a firestorm of public controversy, and one, high-powered threat aimed in his direction.
The words that set off the controversy were the ones used by Tarantino to explain why he was there:
I’m 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 I have to call the murderers the murderers.
In context, Tarantino could be seen as referring to controversial cases like those of Tamir Rice (a 12-year-old Cleveland, Ohio boy with a toy gun who was shot dead by police), Walter Scott (A North Charleston, South Carolina man who was shot in the back five times after a routine traffic stop), and Eric Garner (a Staten Island, New York man who died after police administered a choke-hold on him during an investigation into Garner selling illegal cigarettes). Out of context, it seems like Tarantino was called each and every police officer in the United States a murderer.
Police unions and many right wing pundits decided to run with the out of context interpretation of Tarantino’s speech. Bill O’Reilly said the controversy would end Tarantino’s career. Brietbart.com took pains to remind us that the writer/director wrote a scene of police torture into his first film. Greg Gutfeld felt the need to call Tarantino a “loud-mouthed putz,” “flat-faced fool,” and a “clueless cretin”. Police unions from New York to Los Angeles organized boycotts of Tarantino’s forthcoming film, The Hateful Eight.
Whether you think these people took Tarantino’s words out of context or not, or even if you think the cases listed above are genuine cases of police brutality or honest mistakes done by good cops, these people have as much right to state their opinion and organize all the boycotts they want as Tarantino has to say what he said. However, one law-enforcement official decided to take the righteous outrage to a nebulously dangerous level.
Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, seen at left in an undated picture, talked to The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday and promised that the organization would have a “surprise” for the director:
“Tarantino has made a good living out of violence and surprise,” says Pasco. “Our officers make a living trying to stop violence, but surprise is not out of the question.”
The FOP, based in Washington, D.C., consists of more than 330,000 full-time, sworn officers. According to Pasco, the surprise in question is already “in the works,” and will be in addition to the standing boycott of Tarantino’s films, including his upcoming movie The Hateful Eight.
“Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element,” says Pasco. “Something could happen anytime between now and [the premiere]. And a lot of it is going to be driven by Tarantino, who is nothing if not predictable.
“The right time and place will come up and we’ll try to hurt him in the only way that seems to matter to him, and that’s economically,” says Pasco.
When asked if this was a threat, Pasco said no, at least not a physical threat. “Police officers protect people,” he says. “They don’t go out to hurt people.”
Pasco would not go on record to say what exactly they will be “surprising” Tarantino with. Maybe it will be just giving him a ticket every time he drives 1 MPH over the speed limit. Or maybe there was some nefarious lawbreaking that Tarantino did that the police overlooked that the will not overlook any more. But it is definitely a threat and it sounds pretty ominous.
All I have to say about this is that if you are from a organization that represents an occupation that is coming under fire for its members abusing its authority and illegally targeting a specific group of people, threatening to use your authority to hurt one specific person who offended you is not a great way to improve that message.
Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, seemed to back-off Pasco’s rhetoric on Saturday in a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter, promoting the boycott–and only the boycott–in response to Tarantino’s words. I guess we have to wait and see if their vengeance takes on any other form.