During a virtual appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” Thursday, actor Don Cheadle opened up about his past experiences with the police amidst nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Growing up in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo., Cheadle said that he didn’t truly understand racial discrimination within law enforcement until his family moved to the suburbs.
“That was when a lot of bullying started when I was at school, and it definitely predicated on race,” Cheadle said. “That’s when it started to be clear that the cops were not on ‘Team Don’ and there was a different treatment.”
When he moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting, Cheadle told Fallon that his interactions with police officers continued to escalate. Cheadle referenced Operation Hammer, a policy put in place in 1987 by former Chief of Police Daryl Gates that heavily targeted Black people in an attempt to halt gang violence in the city.
“I don’t know if it was officially coined that it was to stop and harass Black and Brown people, but that was the sort of unofficial official interdepartmental language that they used for the Hammer Program, what it was for and what it was designed to do — to intimidate and to make sure everybody knew who was really running things in L.A.,” Cheadle said.
He revealed that he has been stopped by police many times.
“I got stopped more times than I can count and guns put to my head,” Cheadle said. “I always fit the description.”
Although recent video recordings of police brutality have sparked public outrage, Cheadle affirmed that police violence toward Black people is nothing new.
“I have good friends who were almost killed by the police for nothing,” Cheadle said. “So this is not something that was new to me once all of these videos started to come out. This was something that we knew very well was happening, they just weren’t being filmed.”
Cheadle also spoke to Fallon about the upcoming presidential election and his decision to participate in a town hall with Joe Biden on June 4.
“He’s going to have to continue to show up and he’s going to have to continue to really earn the spot, I think,” Cheadle said of Biden. “It’s going to be an uphill battle. We still haven’t dealt with a lot of the voter fraud issues, a lot of the voter suppression.”
Watch the full interview below.