First, a recap: Yesterday a firestorm erupted on pop-punk Facebook feeds after Joe King—aka Joe Queer of The Queers—posted his support of officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown. This prompted Joe Steinhardt of Don Giovanni Records to issue a candid response condemning Joe and Ben Foster—aka Ben Weasel of Screeching Weasel—(who reduced the level of discourse within the threads to homophobic and transphobic slurs). Admittedly, I helped stoke the fire by suggesting Joe Queer’s support of officer Wilson was akin to that of the KKK.
Late last night, after the Don Giovanni Facebook feed cooled down, Joe Queer e-mailed me asking if I would interview him:
Hey Derek how are you? Can you and I do a little interview you could post possibly? If you’d rather not I understand. How some people can equate my sticking up for a police officer with the KKK is insane! I’d feel the same whether it was a black cop and white kid. It had nothing to do with who is black and who is white. I can’t believe the BS that’s going on. Anyway thought I’d reach out to you. Thanks-JQ
For those of you who might not know me, I grew up a kid of pop punk, and seeing Joe and Ben post these words have had a personal impact on me. I told Joe I would gladly do the interview as long as it was via e-mail so everything was on the record. He obliged, and below is the exact transcript of the conversation.
Derek: Ok, so first of all, since you brought up the KKK-referenced line, I feel I should start with that. As I said in the piece, I think it is in the best interests of everyone to hold judgment until all of the facts are presented, so to choose a side now is to rush to judgment. In this case, your rush to judgment is inherently racist because the only facts we know so far is that a white police officer with a gun shot a black teenager without one (six times). Everything else is still subjective at this point. Your opinion is a valid one, and by some stretch of the imagination, I guess there is a possibility officer Wilson felt his life was threatened enough to shoot an unarmed teenager six times, but you have to realize that is just an opinion at this point—and it happens to be the same opinion as the most racist and bigoted people we’ve seen surface in all of this.
If you’d like to respond to that or clarify anything you wrote, please feel free to do that here. Questions to follow:
You said in your Facebook post that you feel Michael Brown was a “useless thug who jumped the police officer.” Do you feel this justifies being killed?
Joe Queer: If he jumped the police officer it might be justified. I’m hearing he did jump the cop in the patrol car and came charging back at the officer. I may be wrong but reading past the BS in the media I think this is what he did. It sucks he got killed but if he did indeed jump the officer he asked for it.
Since the “thug” vs. “normal teenager activity” argument rages on, I’m curious if you ever shoplifted, smoked weed, or wrote angry music in your teenage years?
Wrote music not really. Smoked weed yes. I think with teenagers we can’t all lump thug gangsters in with a lot of teenagers. You can’t lump all of them in one basket. In Atlanta there are a lot of gangs. My wife teaches high school and there aren’t any gang thugs with guns or anything. There are schools in and around Atlanta where there are some bad dudes. Just last week a school was locked down with some kid-a teenager-who had live ammunition tho not a gun. So it all depends on where you are and how these kids were raised. Hey I don’t blame a lot of these kids-they have no stable home life-a lotta times the father is long gone-they gravitate towards gangs for acceptance. The other family members-Moms and aunts etc have a heck of a time reeling those kids in. The lure of gang life is hard to ignore for a lotta these kids. Watch that show Beyond Scared Straight. That shows a lot of these thuggish teens there. I applaud the police for doing those programs and trying to help these kids.
Have you ever had any run-ins with the cops? If so, how did the officers treat you?
I’ve had a few dealings with with cops. Most were fine. A few were way out of control cops being complete dicks. One speeding ticket in Texas the cop immediately hated me. I was going a little over 80 on I-10 in the middle of absolutely nowhere. He came up just pissed off. Recently a cop pulled us over as we were driving in a hellacious snowstorm from Youngstown,OH to Cleveland. We had a trailer for some recording gear I bought and the tail lights were out. A fuse went out. It was a bad storm. That guy was a real jerk and looking for trouble. I asked if I could step out and check the lights in case the wire came loose he said only one person out and if anyone else comes out there will be trouble. With his hand on the gun. In a complete blizzard in the middle of nowhere at 1am. Not a car in sight. A real jerk. Then I have had some great cops-last speeding ticket I got on I-10 in Louisiana the cop was great and we laughed and shook hands after talking about the band. I actually wrote a note saying how I appreciated the officer being so nice when I sent in the fine. There’s definitely some idiot cops but I’m not against all of them by any means either.
Does it matter to you if Mike Brown had a weapon or not? Would that make a difference either way?
Not really. I mean if he jumped the officer and attacked him-I heard the cop has a busted eye socket-then his fists could be a weapon. You don’t need a gun to threaten someone or beat them up. I heard the officer saw Brown and the other guy walking down the middle of the street with a box of cigars which was just reported as stolen-Brown wouldn’t stop or something and a fight ensued after which he was shot. It’s not a black and white situation-no pun intended-but there’s many variables.
You also seemed to justify the police’s use of force in response to the protests (again, feel free to clarify if I’m wrong). The only way I can really phrase this is: As someone who’s railed against authority and conformity throughout his career, how could you side with a government-funded army in swat gear shooting at unarmed civilians?
Yeah I don’t agree with cops coming up all gangbusters. That’s a little overboard. The thing is if the protesters were just being peaceful and orderly that wouldn’t have happened. It seems the protesters just taunted the cops and baited them trying to get a rise out of them. I’m glad I’m not a cop in that situation. But yeah I mean these cops showing up with tanks and shit is a bit much. I think both sides needed to mellow out but of course there were faults on both sides as we saw.
Do you feel that the militarization of the police in America is ok?
No. Some of these police forces around Atlanta-I think it’s Doraville a little community on the north side of Atlanta-has an actual tank. How often do they need an actual tank policing the streets of Doraville where nothing much happens?
Do you feel the police protect citizens or wealth?
Yes. They’re the first people who are called when a crime occurs. Again there are definitely some dickbag cops out there. But most of them I’m ok with. Each situation is different though. I’m not ok with cops showing up and beating up skateboarders or something along those lines of course.
I would just like to say I can understand this as a “fuck you” to the majority and to those who are quick to dismiss un-popular opinions, which in many ways is in line with your career, but in my opinion I think you chose the wrong side this time. The side of a militarized police state that kills citizens—not even just black men, which is at a considerably higher rate—but so many citizens that it has been calculated as high as three people per day, is something every punk should rally against.
I realize this is an opinion and not a question, but you can feel free to respond to that as well or send any questions you may have.
Oh I understand your take on things too dude. Totally. But there are 2 sides of a pancake no matter how thin you make it. I’m not prepared to condemn cops on this one is all. There are plenty of cases I think the cops were totally corrupt. Case in point my pal Chris Wilson. Check out Secrets of the River on 48 Hours. He’s a pop punk fan into Lookout Records and a complete nerd. He got railroaded by the cops in his town of Wenatchee,WA and I think that force there is corrupt as hell. He’s innocent as hell but pled guilty to avoid a life sentence. He was terrified when he knew the cops were making stuff up about the dead girl’s DNA being in Chris’s old apartment. He knew that she had never been there when he lived there and didn’t even know the girl. It’s a strange case. Cops ignored everything that pointed to Chris being innocent-his cell phone showed he was in town all night when she was murdered-and made stuff up to fit their theory ie Chris must have been into Dexter cause they didn’t find any blood around his room. Apparently Dexter puts plastic all around the room when he murders people or something. Chris told me he never even saw Dexter. It goes on and on. A police informant actually said she knew some druggies killed her cause they thought the victim was a narc but police chose to ignore that information too. Check it out. It’s a real travesty of justice. I blame the cops cos I can’t believe every single one of those cops believe Chris did it. There are way too many questions left. That’s a case cops are dicks for sure.
Thanks for doing this Derek. I mean I understand where you’re coming from. But my saying I support the cop on this doesn’t mean I hate all black people and love all cops and I’m happy a kid got killed. and that I love police brutality. The next time I might be on the dead kid’s side-I don’t know. These people want to paint me in a corner and there are just so many different things we don’t know in this case that it’s stupid to jump on anyone about their view. I have close pals who totally think it’s police brutality by the way. We just talk about it and everyone has a wait and see attitude about it. We’re not calling each other names and hating each other. The racial climate in the US has never been so bad in my opinion. Since Obama came to office it’s been out of control. It’s caused so much shit no one can say anything possibly negative about minorities or they’re racist. Hey black people piss me off at times. So do Latinos and Asians and plenty of white people! Anyway thanks again. I really appreciate it.