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Second Essay (Rough Draft)

Tucker Brookshire


English 101

This is Definitely a Shitty First Draft on Police Brutality

Freedom of speech. It is stated in our bill of rights and given to every citizen of our country. Although such a basic principle seems to be available to everyone that does not mean that it is not without it’s “grey” areas. One of the ideas that we are often not allowed to speak about is the police, it is one of the few ideas that can be found with restrictions and is often met with hostility if ever criticized. For this reason, is why I chose to analyze two speeches that do just that, criticize the police and even greet them with threats.

The first is a speech delivered by a newscaster name Lawrence O’Donnell who has his own show on MSNBC news network entitled “Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell”. During a segment on his show on September 26th, 2011 he lashed out in a nearly nine minute tirade regarding the NYPD’s unfair and improper use of force during a protest on Wall Street. The message he delivered was clearly directed at the audience who watched his show but unmistakably was also directed at not only the police located at the the protest in New York City, but as well as police all across America.

The second speech is a poetry reading done on the once popular television program “Def Poetry Jam”. The poem is both read and written by Grammy winning rap artist Common. Common also lashes out against police authority in this piece which he calls “Letter to the Law”.

His audience is the audience attending that particular taping of Def Poetry Jam, as well anyone who watches the taping later. However it is clear that his words have intent much further than that of just a stage or television audience, his words are also directed at the police, as well as anyone who has ideas of rebelling against police authority.

The first thing I notice in the speeches is the way in which they have been arranged. The arrangement of the speech is incredibly important due to the fact that it allows the reader or listener to understand what exactly is being presented to them as well as what problems are being addressed.

In the speech delivered by Lawrence O’Donnell he immediately jumps right into to addressing his audience by teasing the audience with the topic of which he was about to deliver his discourse upon. O’Donnell then immediately cuts to an intense video clip filled with yelling and screaming surrounded by fervent moments of chaos. After reaching a climatic point in the video it once again cuts back away to Mr. O’Donnell. He again lashes out at the target of his protest which at this point has been identified as the police force trying to control a crowd of people who have erupted into a near riot. Lawrence O’Donnell continues in this fashion of presenting his audience with a clip filled with chaos, then cutting back to him analyzing the footage and calling out the attacker for nearly the entire remainder of his nine minute speech. It is only for the last few minutes when he lashes out in a final tirade that wraps up his overall view and message. I believe Mr. O’Donnell adopts this strategy in order to provide a very shocking amount of evidence that captivates his audience, upon capturing their attention he then delivers a precise and electrifying argument that capitalizes off his previously shared evidence. This is a very effective form of speech arrangement that Mr. O’Donnell profits off of very well.

Common’s speech is arranged in a completely different form as compared to the speech given by Mr. O’Donnell. Instead, Common delivers his speech in one slowly paced two minute piece of spoken word poetry. His poetry is arranged in a very simple, yet effective, a-b rhyme scheme. Common relies more on short yet intense and forceful vocabulary which leads to his speech being arranged in such a simple manner. This arrangement causes a majority of his sentences to carry a heavy impact while still maintaining the powerful message he is trying to deliver. Common arranges his speech in this manner in order to allow each of his words to carry the respective punch he feels they deserve, yet at the same time allows the audience to focus on what is being said without being too distracted by complicated rhyme patterns.

Secondly, the speeches of both men include very distinct style. The style of each gentleman’s speech is fierce yet strict with its intention toward not only their audience but as well toward the implied audience of police and their abuse of power.

Lawrence O’Donnell starts off by referring to the policemen involved in the scandal as “troublemakers”, a word seemingly reserved for young children who are too immature to handle any serious responsibility. He then continues his strong use of vocabulary by plainly describing the action of one policeman as “police brutality”. This is key due to the fact that it is such a serious accusation that O’Donnell delivers with complete confidence in what it means, as well as confidence that he can back up his accusation. Throughout the rest of his speech Lawrence O’Donnell consistently emphasizes words like “anyone”, “anything”, and “everyday”. This is done in order to drive home the point that the same treatment that this mob of people faced can happen to any regular citizen. Not only is this an attempt by O’Donnell to connect with his audience but it is also an effective use of reiterating a point that he later mentions when he says that the problem of abuse of police power is a reoccurring problem that must be fixed. O’Donnell’s use of strong and intimidating vernacular allows him to convince the audience that he should be taken seriously and has a valid point to make.

Common’s style is distinct and very demanding. He is clear with his choice of vocabulary that proves his demanding style. Common’s posture is very confident, as he stands tall, yet leans into each of his words. His posture lends to his believability as each word is delivered with the waving and pointing of his hands that draws the audiences attention to him. The vernacular of Common is fierce and intense, calling for violence as well as threatening the very police that he speaks out against. He calls himself a “warrior” as well as saying he carries an “uzi that weighs a ton”. Both statements seem to indicate that Common is prepared to bring violence to the door of the police, as well leads to the fact that he is prepared to defend himself in a violent manner. Common also speaks on “popping a gun”, once again supporting the idea that he is expecting violence at any time. Common uses this style in his speech to set the tone of what he is saying. He wants his audience to be aware that his message is not that of peace, but one of conflict and protest. This is clearly established through his strong and agitated vernacular and vocabulary.

One of the most glaring differences in both speeches is the delivery used by both men. Although the same point is being argued, it is presented by each speaker in completely diverse and clashing styles of delivery.

Lawrence O’Donnell delivers his speech in a stern and rigid manner. His tone carries an almost demeaning message. It is comparable to that of a parent scolding a child, or a teacher disciplining a student. This delivery however is not meant to be directed at the audience watching the television program, instead it seems his delivery is directed more toward the police officers themselves. As well as using a stern and demeaning delivery O’Donnell also manages to maintain a delivery that draws the attention of the audience toward his words. His speech is calm, yet still maintains the necessary candor that allows each of his words to be heard and felt with the emotional impact he intended them to have. This style of delivery is very successful as it both captivates the audience as well as maintains the idea that his speech is being given to criticize not just to inform.

Common’s delivery although very stern carries much more of an agitated and fiery tone. He does not yell, he does not scream, nor does he raise his voice beyond that of a conversational volume. Instead he makes a stern delivery obvious through the timbre and emphasis of his words as well as through the use of excited and flamboyant hand motions. Upon stating how he watches the government just as much as they watch him, he vehemently points his finger at the crowd. Motions like these display the passion that Common has for his topic, as well as display the intensity and emotion involved in his delivery.

The invention of each speaker is very clear, as both speeches address the idea of police and their abuse of power as well as unfair treatment of civillians. It is important to realize the invention of each author in order to understand what perspective they have on the topic they are delivering a discourse on.

Lawrence O’Donnell clues the audience into his perspective on police brutality in the first few seconds of his speech when he refers to the police as “troublemakers”. Although this is not a clearly stated view it is very clear that O’Donnell seems to be speaking against the police force. He continues to develop the invention of his speech through the use of accusations upon the officers when he accuses them of unlawfully assaulting bystanders, as well as pointing out specific video evidence showing what crimes had been committed. It is not until nearly the seven minute mark when he finally states that “…everyday in America police are too tough…”. It seems O’Donnell waited till this point to give a sure statement on his perspective in order to present a large amount of supporting evidence before making a final judgement. This strategy boosts the logos of Mr. O’Donnell as it showed he has come equipped with facts to support such a bold claim.

Common develops the invention of his speech very slowly. He doesn’t directly address who is the subject of his discourse within the first few seconds. Instead he makes broad generalizations that could be connected with any particular audience. It is not until he delivers the line “tell the law my uzi weighs a ton” when the audience becomes aware of who exactly Common is addressing. However even after making this statement he still doesn’t make it completely clear, only addressing the law a few more times throughout the rest of the speech. Common adopts this strategy of keeping his target audience concealed and mysterious in order to allow his message to be applied universally to other ideas such as government abuse of power. He does not want his message to be seen as only directed at one specific event or group, instead he wants it to be seen as a speech that can be applied to numerous issues.

The final part of the speech is the memory used by each speaker. Memory helps to develop the opinions and perspective that is utilized in the speeches. Each speaker relied on different life experiences and historical knowledge to develop their rhetorical appeal.

O’Donnell utilizes a particular example of memory when he references the infamous incident of Rodney King. He uses this example right after he accuses police officers of being too tough. He even goes as far as saying that “…everyday there is a Rodney King…”. He also uses the not guilty verdict of the Rodney King case to point to the fact that the same officers who abused their power against the crowd will not face any charges. This is a valid point as it turns out that only 33% of police that are charged with misconduct end up with a conviction according to O’Donnell uses such historical moments to back up his previously made accusations against the officers. Mr. O’Donnell is somewhat successful in his use of memory, however his speech would have been more effective had he included even more.

Common relies heavily on memory in his speech citing numerous examples to support his reasons for anger towards authority. He makes a reference to the infamous lynchings of African-Americans when he says “In Cincinnati, another brother hung”. Such a statement immediately brings up previous events that are universally seen as despicable. This connection to his audience is very useful as it is a statement that evokes passion as well as draws the attention of the audience to his side. Common continues this connection between the audience and the historical violence against african americans when he says “….from project building seen a fiend being hung…”. This statement once again reminds the audience of the dark history of America while placing it in modern times allowing the audience to visualize previous events occurring in the modern era. Common uses memory in a very effective manner drawing connections from the past as well as the present.

In conclusion, both speakers argue the same idea of fighting back against police abuse of power. However they use completely different techniques in how they argue it. Each speaker takes advantage of the rhetorical canons of invention, arrangement, style, delivery, and memory. While Mr. Lawrence O’Donnell takes the calm yet stern route in his criticism, Common takes the fierce yet angry and violent side of the argument. Both serve their purpose and both make their mark on the argument of police brutality.

Works Cited

(done with

Dantes, Edmond. “Police Brutality Statistics | Cop Block.” Cop Block | Reporting Police Abuse, Brutality, and Corruption. 13 Apr. 2011. Web. 02 Oct. 2011. <>.

“Def Poetry – Common – A Letter To The Law – YouTube.” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. 27 Jan. 2007. Web. 03 Oct. 2011. <>.

“MSNBC on NYPD Police Brutality during Occupy Wall Street Law – YouTube.” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. 27 Sept. 2011. Web. 03 Oct. 2011. <>.


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