Texas Democratic Representative Beto O’Rourke, who represents Texas 16th congressional which includes El Paso, is running for the Senate seat currently held by first term Republican Senator Ted Cruz, probably the most disliked senator on both sides of the aisle. Sen. Lindsay Graham jokingly once said, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of …
Tag: police brutality
Aug 23 2018
Aug 03 2016
New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton abruptly announced yesterday that he would resign his position effective September 1. He had already signaled that he would not remain after the end of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s term ends in 2017. He will be taking a position in the private sector and will be replaced by …
Jul 12 2016
A nurse and mother from Pennsylvania, Ieshia Evans, stood alone on the street in Baton Rouge, Louisiana protesting the murder of a 37 year old black man by that city’s police. She was unarmed silent in front of a wall of heavy armed police. Yet, she was confronted by two heavy armed officers and arrested …
Dec 29 2015
Is anyone surprised at the decision by a Cleveland, Ohio grand jury’s vote not to indict the white police officer who fatally shot Tamir Rice, an African American 12-year-old? A grand jury declined to indict officer Timothy Loehmann, who opened fire on Tamir less than two seconds after arriving at a park where the 12-year-old …
Dec 01 2015
I’ve been really much too angry to talk about many of recent events both here in the US and overseas. Since the bombing of the Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctor Without Borders) hospital by the US military in Kunduz, Afghanistan to Friday’s mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, trying to remain objective …
Sep 30 2015
In an address at Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston, established by her late predecessor, Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) got to the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement and what everyone should be doing to end racial inequality.
Transcript for the speech as it was written can be read here
Aug 11 2015
It is one year since a young black man was gunned down by a white police officer on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri for jay walking. Michael Brown’s death and the subsequent cover up of his murder by the police and prosecutor’s office sparked months of demonstrations that were marked by more police brutality and violation of the constitutional rights of the protestors and the press.
Seven months later, the Justice Department cleared the white police officer, Darren Wilson, of civil rights charges. However, in a scathing report the police and the courts routinely demonstrated racial bias and violated the constitutional rights of the black citizens of Ferguson with illegal traffic stops, arrests without reasonable suspicion and excessive fines for minor infractions. Then Attorney General Eric Holder misguidedly thought that this report would effect change. The still mostly white Ferguson city council rejected the report and its reforms. And, as seen by this week’s violence, arrests of reporters and use of excessive police tactics during the demonstrations on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, nothing has changed and once again there is a state of emergency in Ferguson and St. Louis County.
The state of emergency was precipitated by the shooting and critical wounding of an 18 year old black man by undercover police who claim that the young man was firing at them. The officers were not wearing body cameras and unmarked vehicle they were in was not equipped with a dash camera. So there is only their word.
In the original New York Times article, this quote, cited by Esquire‘s Charles Pierce, from State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal, whose district includes Ferguson, was removed:
“After a year of protest and conversation around police accountability, having plainclothes officers without body cameras and proper identification in the protest setting leaves us with only the officer’s account of the incident, which is clearly problematic,” Kayla Reed, a field organizer with the Organization for Black Struggle, said in a statement. State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal, whose district includes Ferguson, said on Monday that she was seeking information about the shooting. “I’m just trying to figure out the timeline of events and ensure that police officers are following protocol,” said Ms. Chappelle-Nadal, who has been active in protests here. The shooting, which came toward the end of an otherwise peaceful day, was another vexing turn for activists and the authorities alike. It was the second consecutive night of gunfire on West Florissant Avenue.
There is also the issue of arresting reporters on bogus charges supressing freedom of the press:
Huffington Post, Washington Post Reporters Charged For Doing Journalism In Ferguson (UPDATE)
by Michael Calderone, Huffington Post
“You’d have thought law enforcement authorities would have come to their senses about this incident.”
Reporters from The Huffington Post and Washington Post have been charged with trespassing and interfering with a police officer’s performance, a chilling setback for press freedom coming nearly a year after their arrests in Ferguson, Missouri.
The Huffington Post’s Ryan J. Reilly and Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery were arrested while working out of a McDonald’s on Aug. 13, 2014, just four days after white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.
Police claimed the journalists, who were covering the unrest that followed the police killing, didn’t leave the restaurant fast enough. Reilly described a police officer shoving his head against glass during his arrest, while Lowery said an officer pushed him into a soda machine. Both Lowery and Reilly were quickly released and not charged with any crime at the time.
The decision to charge Reilly and Lowery now is especially surprising, given that St. Louis County settled just last week with two other journalists arrested while reporting in Ferguson.
Until recently, Reilly and Lowery believed their incidents with police were long over with. The Huffington Post reported last month that the St. Louis County Police Department filed incident reports in late April describing the two reporters as trespassing in the McDonald’s. Police referred their cases to the St. Louis County counselor’s office, which, given a one-year statute of limitations, had until Thursday to bring charges.
Peaceful, unarmed protesters and reporters doing their jobs are harassed and arrested. Now, the vigilantes have arrived:
Heavily-armed members of a controversial right-wing “patriot” group added an extra dose of unease to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, early Tuesday.
The Oath Keepers organization says its members – all former military, police and first responders – pledge to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
However, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar described their presence as “both unnecessary and inflammatory.”
Protesters and police confirmed that a handful of Oath Keepers with what appeared to be assault rifles, bulletproof vest and camouflage gear were seen early Tuesday on the streets of Ferguson, which was under a state of emergency following demonstrations pegged to the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.
Several protesters confronted members of the group, asking why they were allowed to openly carry weapons.
“I’m happy that we’re able to defend ourselves,” one Oath Keeper replied in footage from NBC station KSDK. “It’s been our right for a long time.”
The St. Louis County Police Department said it would consult with the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorneys Office about the legalities of the issue.
Missouri allows individuals with concealed weapons permits to openly display firearms, unless it is done in an “angry or threatening manner.”
Shawn McGuire, a spokesman for St. Louis County Police, said he did not believe officers had confronted the Oath Keepers or told to leave.
Holy crap on a pogo stick, protesters are arrested for lawful assembly, two reporters are being railroaded, black men are still being indiscriminately shot by white cops, yet, civilian white men, armed to the teeth are allowed to roam free on the streets of Ferguson, unchallenged by the police or courts. Seriously, nothing has been learned from last year. Not one damned thing.
Jul 23 2015
With the latest incident in Waller County, Texas that ended in the suspicious death of Chicago civil rights activist Sandra Bland three days after she was arrested for a minor traffic infraction, the discussion of racism and brutality by officers in police departments across the United States has again been raised. The account of Ms. Bland’s arrest and death are being questioned by the family, civil rights groups and the media.
Footage has emerged of police allegedly slamming the head of a woman to the ground as she was arrested just days before she committed suicide in jail.
Sandra Bland, a Chicago civil rights activist, was found dead in her cell at Waller County Jail in Texas.
She had been booked three days earlier on grounds of assaulting a public servant after the fraught arrest by the side of a highway, during which she angrily accused officers of harming her.
An autopsy performed a day later classified her death as suicide by hanging – though friends and family have said there is no way Bland would have killed herself.
Bland was part of the #BlackLiveMatter movement and posted videos about civil rights and racism on social media.
In an effort to quell the public outcries for more thorough investigation, Texas authorities released the police car dash-cam video. However, this raised even more questions since the video not only contradicts arresting officer Brian Encina’s written account of the traffic stop and the events that led up to Ms. Bland’s arrest, the video also appears to have been edited which the Texas Department of Public Safety is denying.
In the video, which is more than 52 minutes long, there are several spots in which cars and people disappear and reappear. When it released the video, the Public Safety Department did not mention any editing. The audio ends more than a minute before the video images do.
One of the more conspicuous anomalies comes 25 minutes and five seconds into the video, when a man walks from a truck off screen and then reappears suddenly at the spot where he began walking. The image flutters for a moment before resuming.
There are no breaks in the audio during this time. People are heard talking through the video gaps.
In another spot at 32 minutes and 37 seconds, a white car appears on the right side of the screen and then disappears. A moment later, what appears to be the same car comes back into the frame and turns left. During this time, Encinia is talking about what occurred during the arrest. There are no breaks in his speech.
What look like the same cars keep appearing in the same locations, following their same paths, beginning at 33 minutes and 4 seconds.
Again, the audio continues uninterrupted.
The glitches in the video sparked a wave of skepticism and questions in social media, with many critics arguing that the evidence had been edited.
Ed. Note: The original video in the article was disabled by the user, presumably the Texas Department of Public Safety, who said that a new video would be posted later. This a full, unedited copy of the one that was originally posted.
One of those critics is “Selma” director Ava DuVernay who said in a tweet
— Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC) July 22, 2015
Racism and brutality are ingrained and systemic in many police departments. Worst of all it is condoned and covered-up by those who are charged with oversight of these departments. The host of MSNBC’s “All In” Chris Hayes discussed the problems encountered by former Chicago Independent Police Review Authority Investigator Lorenzo Davis, who was fired from his job for refusing orders to reverse his findings of unjustified shootings by Chicago police officers.
After being confronted on stage at NetRoots Nation in Phoenix, Arizona by “BlackLivesMatters protestors, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called for major police reforms after he watched the dash-cam video. While much racism is rooted in economic issues, it is also systemic in our society and the heritage of white supremacy. The battle for equality for blacks and other oppressed minorities is far from over in this country. “BlackLivesMatter. Let’s start making it matter to the criminal justice system and hold these officers of the law accountable for the laws they break.
May 28 2015
In the wake of the acquittal, in a non-jury trial, of white Cleveland police officer of Michael Brelo in the murder of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, Cleveland once again has come under the scrutiny of the Department of Justice.
Federal officials will review the trial testimony and evidence, and a city panel is investigating Mr. Brelo’s actions and police conduct in the episode. Five supervisors face misdemeanor charges for their oversight of the case.
There are also two ongoing investigations of police shootings in November. One is looking into the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy who was holding a replica gun when a white Cleveland police officer shot him. That shooting, captured on video, has also garnered national attention and resulted in protests.
In the other, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office is investigating the death of Tanisha Anderson. Ms. Anderson, a 37-year-old black woman whose family said she suffered from bipolar disorder, lost consciousness and died in police custody after being placed face down on the pavement. The medical examiner ruled her death a homicide
In an attempt to ease the tensions, the Cleveland Police Department reached a settlement with the Justice Department accepting tougher standards and oversight to insure that the rules are followed.
The agreement is part of a settlement with the Justice Department over what federal officials have called a pattern of unconstitutional policing and abuse in Cleveland. The department found in a review released late last year that police officers here used stun guns inappropriately, punched and kicked unarmed people, and shot at people who posed no threat. The episodes often went unreported and uninvestigated, investigators found.
The new rules in Cleveland prohibit officers from using force against people for talking back or as punishment for running away. Pistol whipping is prohibited, and so is firing warning shots, the agreement says. The city has agreed to allow an independent monitor to track its progress. If the city does not put into effect the changes specified in the settlement, a federal judge has the authority to demand them.
Cleveland also agreed to hire a civilian to lead its internal affairs unit and to appoint an inspector general to investigate police misconduct and analyze policies and trends. The federal authorities believe that those changes, along with an internal panel assigned to review use-of-force cases, will ensure that police keep accurate records and conduct genuine investigations. The city will also form a civilian advisory panel to review policies and advocate better community relations.
This is a good start but there is a lot more within these cities that needs to be done.
More prosecutions of the police who are abusing their powers would go a long way to ease the distrust in cities like Cleveland, Ferguson and New York City. It would would be better if those cities did it themselves rather than the Justice Department. Aside from Baltimore, however, it appears quite unlikely. It’s in your court, AG Lynch.
Apr 29 2015
Since the protests in Baltimore over the death of a 25 year old black man while in police custody have closed the streets around the Baltimore Orioles’ home playground, Camden Yards, the team has had to cancel two games. At ESPN, a sports news media conglomerate, radio host Brett Hollander got onto a Twitter exchange with Orioles COO John Angelos, who schooled Mr. Hollander on the importance of the Constitutional right to protest the racial and economic inequalities in America. This is the transcribed Tweets by Mr. Angelos that were posted This is the transcribed Tweets by Mr. Angelos that were transcribed here for clarity by USA Today Sports:
Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.
That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.
ESPN’s TV host, Keith Olbermann also weighed in on the side of Mr. Angelos praising him for his “elegant response”.
“Without protesters inconveniencing non-protesters, indeed with protest, you wouldn’t have a Declaration of Independence, a Constitution or a First Amendment to misquote that way,” Olbermann told Hollander on his show Tuesday night, before turning to the “far more elegant and serious” response from Angelos.
“In a time of trouble, when owners tend to dissolve behind spokesman and generalities,” Olbermann commended Angelos for his comprehensive reply. The host noted that the tweets were written on Saturday before the violence escalated, but said, “That a sports team owner should make that point, that he should act as if his city and the citizens that city represents, all its citizens, were more than just a name to stick on the team’s road uniforms, that is a rare thing indeed.” [..]
“This is not to applaud, condone or minimize violence against authority or by it. But if you are somehow ticked off that the Orioles aren’t playing, while they aren’t, maybe go reread with John Angelos wrote, “Olbermann concluded. “And at least rid yourself of the idea that the protesters are just doing this because they feel like it.”
Today the Orioles will play the Chicago White Sox in a home game in front of an empty stadium.
Jan 25 2015
Finally saw the movie Selma last week, right after the MLK Day march. Found it to be an exhilarating fictionalized rendition of one of the more important moments in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It is, above all else, a reminder that this struggle is primarily of, by and for black folks. And yet, most of the press, even prior to the movie opening, was about how it was historically inaccurate and, more importantly to these critics, misrepresented and denigrated (I chose my words carefully here) the role of Lyndon Baines Johnson who was president at the time of the struggle.
In Politico’s “What Selma Gets Wrong,” (12/22/14), LBJ Presidential Library director Mark Updegrove charged that the fictional film’s depiction of the epic voting-rights battle in the Alabama town portrayed the relationship between [Martin Luther] King and President Lyndon Baines Johnson as “contentious.” This served, Updegrove scolded, to “bastardize one of the most hallowed chapters in the civil rights movement by suggesting that the president himself stood in the way of progress.” Johnson adviser Joseph Califano struck next in the Washington Post (12/26/14)suggesting that in fact, Selma was LBJ’s idea.” Califano asks of the filmmakers: Did “they” [quotes are mine] feel no obligation to check the facts? You even had Post columnist Richard Cohen (1/5/15) lamenting that Selma is a lie that tarnishes Johnson’s legacy to exalt King’s.
Without getting too much into the details of the controversy and who gets to determine “facts”, the accusation here is that the black female director Ava Devernay (and by implication the black community)was willing to distort the history of the white role in the civil rights movement to promote black biases of black importance in the struggle. In other words, the black community doesn’t care about accuracy, about truth and “justice,” but only about “just us” (i.e.the black community promoting its own importance in history).
There is, in fact, evidence to support DeVernay’s representation of LBJ and I would submit that it is the white supremist myth of white people bringing justice to the poor downtrodden blacks that is the bias that DuVernay is challenging and has caused all the criticism of the film. That the “us” in “just us” is really white folks angered that it is the myth of white moral superiority that is being challenged and that DeVarnay’s film provides a healthy corrective.
It is important to note why the fight about Selma The Movie is so important now. The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner highlight the increase in police violence in low income nonwhite communities or perhaps it has just increased the exposure of police brutality due to the new technologies of cell phones and social media. Either way, it has increased racial tensions. At the same time, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 combined with efforts to roll back voting rights with new voter suppression laws in many states, has also contributed to increased awareness of racial inequality. In volatile times, society and the dominant culture are especially interested in how they can control the “story” to maintain the status quo.
While there are many documentaries which present an excellent and accurate record of the civil rights struggle (notably in my mind, “Eyes on the Prize”) this is more about how popular cultural representations shape a society’s perspective. I would venture to say that most Americans’ deepest emotional beliefs about their identity and place in history and the world are formed at least in part, if not wholly, through the cultural representations around them rather than through academic research and factual reasoning. In this context it appears that most white Americans still believe that white people are innately superior to black people by virtue of our role in helping black people escape their oppression and poverty (the cause of which is conveniently vague –oh yeah, there was slavery, but I wasn’t alive then so its not my fault, besides we were the good guys in WW!! saving the Jews from the Nazis–which gets two weeks in most American high school curricula while slavery gets one day).
Of course these days popular and social media far outweigh what you learn in school as the social arbiters so I would like to take a moment here to put Selma in the context of the factual history vs. the other fictionalized media accounts of racial struggle and racial advancement in the last few years.
Dec 30 2014
First let me say this: Supporting the police while calling for reform and justice are not mutually exclusive. Lives matter, all of them. This is not a zero sum game. That said, some of the members of the NYC Police Department and the bigots that support the institutionalized racism of the agency have gotten on my last nerve.
The vast majority of police officers are good people, just as the vast majority of people who are protesting in the streets across this country are good people. But some of the leadership, politicians and talking heads in the mainstream media need to shut up and listen. The people of this country deserve to be heard. The heads of the police unions in NYC seem to have forgotten that they are the employees of the people of NYC. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was elected by 74% of those who voted in November, is their boss. He was elected to reform an increasing out of control and militarized police department. He’s doing a good job. You can tell by the squealing of the racists who can’t see beyond their own hatred of people who just want to live in peace, make a decent living and raise their children in a safe city. People should not have to fear the police.
For the last 20 years under two Republican corporate administrations, the NYPD was expanded and given unprecedented powers. The commissioners that were appointed by Mayors Rudolph Guiliani and Michael Bloomberg, that includes the current commissioner William Bratton, ran the department like it was an army and felt that they were not accountable to its citizens. The policies of “Broken Glass” and its offshoot “Stop and Frisk” were inherently racist and have led to the feeling of distrust in the minority communities of the city. It has led to the abuse and deaths of mostly young men of color and, now, two good men, NYC police officers, have been assassinated by a deranged man seeking vengeance. The union heads, especially NYC Police Benevolence Association President Patrick Lynch, decided to make the death of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Lui a political football for their hurt feelings.
What is Lynch so fired up about? He is vilifying Mayor De Blasio because the mayor, as the parent of mixed race children, spoke the truth about what every parent of a child of color must tell them about the police:
“This is profoundly personal to me,” de Blasio said. “I was at the White House the other day, and the president of the United States turned to me, and he met Dante a few months ago, and he said that Dante reminded him of what he looked like as a teenager. And he said, ‘I know you see this crisis through a very personal lens.’ And I said to him, I did.”
De Blasio went on to note that he and his wife, Chirlane McCray, who is black, “have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face.”
The mayor described his son as “a good young man, [a] law-abiding young man who would never think to do anything wrong” — but he noted that “because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.” [..]
he mayor described “that painful sense of contradiction that our young people see first, that our police are here to protect us, and we honor that, and at the same time, there’s a history we have to overcome.”
“For so many of our young people, there’s a fear,” de Blasio said. “And for so many of our families, there’s a fear.”
It has been bad enough that since the mayor made that statement that Mr. Lynch went tirade in an attempt to make the police the victims and not the innocent people they have abused and killed. He and other members of the NYPD have only exposed their racism.
Besides the incredibly insulting act of turning their backs on Mayor de Blasio as he was leaving Woodhull Hospital after the deaths of the two officers, what got me really angry with these bigots were two incidents that showed just how completely ignorant some of the police really are. The first was this stupid and, very likely expensive stunt by an anonymous “group of current and retired NYC Police Officers, Detectives, and Supervisors”
Friday morning, a small plane flew over New York City with a banner attached that read: “De Blasio, Our Backs Have Turned to You.” The sign, a reference to some NYPD officers protesting against Mayor de Blasio following the shooting deaths of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos last weekend, was the work of a “large and unified group of current and retired NYC Police Officers, Detectives, & Supervisors,” according to blogger and former cop John Cardillo. [..]
Ashley Chalmers, the owner of the plane, told the New York Daily News that the people who rented it “wish to remain anonymous,” though Cardillo said he was contacted by the NYPD group on Friday and asked to release a statement.
Stay classy, guys, exposing, not only your bigotry, but the need to learn to write a sentence.
Then while attending the funeral of Police Officer Rafael Ramos, some of the police officers decided it was the place to throw a temper tantrum insulting the memory of a fallen officer and his grieving family:
Thousands of police officers from across the nation packed a church and spilled onto streets Saturday to honor Officer Rafael Ramos as a devoted family man, aspiring chaplain and hero, though an air of unrest surrounding his ambush shooting was not completely pushed aside.
While mourners inside the church applauded politely as Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke, hundreds of officers outside turned their backs on him to protest what they see as his support for demonstrators angry over killings by police.
The rush of officers far and wide to New York for Ramos’ funeral reminded some of the bond after the Sept. 11 attacks and Superstorm Sandy. Vice President Joe Biden promised that the “incredibly diverse city can and will show the nation how to bridge any divide.”
Still, tensions were evident when officers turned away from giant screens showing de Blasio, who has been harshly criticized by New York Police Department union officials as a contributor to a climate of mistrust that preceded the killings of Ramos and his partner, Wenjian Liu.
All this poutrage by Mr. Lynch, former Mayor Guiliani and company directed at Mayor de Blasio is because he spoke to the terrible fact that police departments throughout this country treat people of color differently and minority children, especially the boys, must be given “the talk.
“If you are stopped by a cop, do what he says, even if he’s harassing you, even if you didn’t do anything wrong. Let him arrest you, memorize his badge number, and call me as soon as you get to the precinct. Keep your hands where he can see them. Do not reach for your wallet. Do not grab your phone. Do not raise your voice. Do not talk back. Do you understand me?”
The mayor gave the talk to his biracial teenage son so this wouldn’t happen to him.
And as John Cole at Balloon Juice noted
And let’s remember what is so particularly ugly about this- this is motivated as much by the desire to not reform and to maintain the current institutional racism as it is the current contract talks and union elections. Fuck Patrick Lynch and his goons.
If some members of the NYPD don’t like the reforms that Mayor de Blasio was elected to enact, they can go find other jobs. There are plenty of qualified people, who are working two and three underpaying jobs, to replace them. Either that or learn to listen.