This evening I treated myself to a scrumptious dinner at a restaurant I discovered yesterday, and will surely return to before I depart Trondheim on Sunday. As I waited for my meal I browsed the newspaper stack in the foyer hoping to find an English language paper.
My eyes caught sight of a familiar name displayed in the bold font headline of one newspaper, the name,”Obiora”. I recognized this as being the name of Eugene Ejike Obiora, the Norwegian-Nigerian man who died last year from a controversial and evidentially lethal restraint maneuver used by Trondheim police.
Regrettably I won’t have enough free time to try and find the African immigrant community if there is one during the remainder of my stay. However, I did have it on my agenda to follow up on the Obiora story during my visit. Interestingly, there was only one copy of this paper while there were multiple copies of two other newspapers. I felt it was meant for me to discover this paper with the express purpose of getting updated on the case.
Until recently the police officers involved in the incident have remained silent. The paper features extensive coverage of the police version of the incident. When I returned to the hotel I asked the reception desk staff to help me decipher the article.
The latest news is that the police were recently cleared of all and any wrongdoing including possible criminal charges. The photo spread in the paper shows the officers demonstrating the restraint tactics they used to subdue Obiora.
As I listened to the male hotel staff assisting me with the translation, I couldn’t help notice how visibly uncomfortable he appeared while explaining the controversy around the police brutality case. He was polite and facilitative but clearly unaccustomed to candid discussions about race matters.
I didn’t let on that I was familiar with the case because I didn’t want to put him on the defensive or have him quit translating the article. I attempted to remain dispassionate and genuinely inquisitive. As he translated the selected passages from the article he repeatedly interjected his own commentary in defense of the police. “They used proper procedure.” “It really wasn’t their fault.”
I thanked the fellow and tried to communicate non-verbally that I wasn’t passing judgment on him or his countrymen. I wanted to lighten the mood by saying something like “I ain’t mad at you or your homies, Boo-Boo.’ Or something sly about Trondheim police taking a page from the LAPD/Rodney King and NYC/Amado Diallo playbook. I thought better of it and decided to leave it alone.
My experience here in Trondheim particularly during my interactions with local white folks has been pleasantly engaging and instructive. Since day one, I haven’t encountered that vexing “scared of black folks” dynamic or TIRED patronizing culture vulture thing. I do get the sense that if I dig deeper I would discover some very messy race avoidance issues beneath the surface of this lovely village town.
Rest in peace Eugene Ejike Obiora.
Link: Death At The Social Office