Updated: 2 hours 31 min ago
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 14:44
Ferguson experienced its first night of relative calm since Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown nearly two weeks ago. That doesn't mean the town's been offered meaningful answers or lasting resolution.
Racial isolation has contributed to white people's inability to understand what Ferguson's black residents dealt with on a daily basis that made the town a veritable powder keg, writes Robert P. Jones over at The Atlantic. White people simply don't experience police harassment and racial profiling like blacks in the U.S. do, but that distance is exacerbated by social and residential segregation. But, white people, there is a place for you in this moment. Kate Harding's list of action items for Dame Magazine published last week was written with you in mind, and white people have been among those who've protested Michael Brown's death.
Meanwhile, Matt Yglesias turns the media obsession with "black-on-black" crime on its head, and cheekily explores "white-on-white" crime for Vox. And what do you know? It's "out of control."
Social media has been instrumental in myth-busting and truth-telling at a time when mainstream media's overly concerned about so-called "rioters," Elon James White told Al Jazeera America. "You have no idea. When you can't walk in your own community and can't feel comfortable and safe in your own space, and the people paid to protect you are actually the ones you're afraid of?"
Seventh and eighth graders in St. Louis are back in school, and grappling with the events in their community, reports Dave Jamieson for Huffington Post. Their young minds are paying attention, even as so many of the facts don't add up. Writes Tykese:
I feel like the things that are happening in Ferguson are unfair. I thought after Trayvon Martin the killing will stop but it comes back again. What did Mike Brown do for the police officer to kill him?
If he was a caucasian male will he still shoot?
And Matt Pearce, reporting for The Los Angeles Times, provides a glimpse of the local McDonald's on West Florrisant, source of proven tear gas salve (mini bottles of milk), the site of reporters' arrests, and a pitstop for snack breaks and gulps of air-conditioning.
Ifama Kellin, another worker, took off after her shift one recent night to join the protests, still wearing her uniform.
Kellin was wearing a "Justice for Michael Brown -- Hands up!" button pinned to her shirt one recent evening as she stood outside the store's smashed windows, smoking a cigarette in the August heat.
"It's my people," she explained, holding up a picture on her phone of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, standing in the McDonald's.
She told how recently a man had come up to the counter to order and yelled, "Hands up!'"
She was stunned at first. Then the man said, "You're supposed to say, 'Don't shoot!' "
Kellin said her manager stood there and looked at him.
"So I said, 'Don't shoot!'"
What are you reading today? We'd love to know, and we'll see you back here tomorrow for the Friday edition of Following Ferguson.
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 14:43
In concert at the Hollywood Bowl Wednesday, John Legend wore a t-shirt that read “Don’t Shoot,” a slogan that has been used by protesters in Ferguson for the past week and a half, following the killing of Michael Brown. Legend paid tribute to Marvin Gaye and sang “What’s Going On,” a song that came out during the Vietnam war era—which still seems very fitting, given current events.
Some fans tweeted about it, making the connection to Ferguson:August 21, 2014
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 12:50
Foreign media outlets have been dispatching war correspondents to Ferguson to bring stories back to their readers and viewers. Several have been arrested, including two correspondents from Germany's Die Welt. Ansgar Graw and Frank Hermann say they were held for three hours, during which time they denied water and the ability to make a phone call.
"This was a very new experience. I've been in several conflict zones: I was in the civil war regions in Georgia, the Gaza strip, illegally visited the Kaliningrad region when travel to the Soviet Union was still strictly prohibited for westerners, I've been in Iraq, Vietnam and in China, I've met Cuba dissidents. But to be arrested and yelled at and be rudely treated by police? For that I had to travel to Ferguson and St. Louis in the United States of America."
Graw also explains that he asked the arresting officer for his name. "My name is Donald Duck," the officer responded.
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 12:50
I’ve got multiracial coalition on the mind today and so, clearly, do others. As Deepa Iyer wrote for The Nation, non-black people of color have a stake in the search for justice for Michael Brown.
But, efforts to move non-black people of color by reminding them of their own horrid experiences with the cops only have so much power. As Soya Jung, a Korean-American activist, writes for Race Files,
I do not move through the world in the crosshairs of a policing system that has its roots in slave patrols, or in a nation that has used me as an “object of fear” to justify state repression and public disinvestment from the infrastructure on which my community relies. I am not public enemy number one in the ongoing U.S. domestic war over power and resources that has systematically denied black humanity.
Communities of color have unique experiences that should not be equated with one another. People of color in the U.S. all live amidst white supremacy, but not everyone lives as targets of anti-blackness. Jung argues that Asian Americans have three options: “invisibility, complicity, or resistance.”
Far from being an academic issue for race nerds to debate, Asian-American business owners in Ferguson are immersed in the conversation in a very real way, and have called for “unity,” reports The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak. Mak’s story was slapped with an inflammatory headline though, which described the looting of stores as “Ferguson’s Other Race Problem.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA executive director Stewart Kwoh took issue with that characterization, and released a statement saying so:
In the coming weeks, we will likely hear stories from Ferguson about ongoing protests by African American community members and allies, similar to the days following the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles. At that time, the media pitted communities of color against one another. We cannot allow this to happen again. This is about dangerous, harmful law enforcement practices and the need to end racially-motivated police practices that target communities of color. The Asian American and Pacific Islander community stands in solidarity with the African American community in this fight.
Meanwhile, The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein spoke with U.S. mayors of cities where police have killed young men of color in high-profile case. Two said that looking back, heavy police repression in response to community outrage was a mistake which only further incited the community. Besides Ferguson’s aggressively militarized police response, what else was going on in the area before Michael Brown’s shooting set off his aggrieved, outraged community?
As Jamelle Bouie reports for Slate, a whole lot:
Everyone—or at least, every black person—can recall an incident. Everyone can attest to friends and relatives who have been harassed, assaulted, or worse by the police.
Perhaps one of the most disturbing cases was last year’s shooting of Cary Ball Jr., a 25-year-old black student at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park. The official police report is that Ball crashed his car after a high-speed chase, ran away, and aimed his weapon at officers after they confronted him. Witnesses say Ball had thrown his gun to the ground and was walking toward police—hands up—when he was shot and killed with 25 rounds. A federal investigation cleared the officers. Likewise, that February, surveillance video from a casino showed St. Louis police slamming a black man’s head into the bumper of a vehicle, after a dispute over gambling and trespassing. And in March of this year, a videoshowed St. Louis police officers beating a mentally disabled man in his home, after the family called police for help.
What are you reading today on Ferguson? Please share, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow.
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 12:50
Non-black people of color have a stake in Ferguson's fight for justice for Michael Brown. So writes Deepa Iyer, an activist and writer who is on the board of directors of Race Forward, which publishes Colorlines.
Iyer writes at The Nation:
African-Americans are the primary targets of law enforcement profiling and violence, as the killings of Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Jonathan Ferrell and Eric Garner all attest. But during this past week, Latino, Asian-American, Arab-American and Muslim organizations have all released statements of solidarity informed by similar experiences with discriminatory law enforcement practices, as well as an urgency to collectively identify and implement solutions.
In fact, Latinos and Asian- and Arab-Americans have a critical stake in reforming discriminatory police practices. While African-Americans in Ferguson must remain the primary voices and decision-makers calling for action to address the murder of Michael Brown, other communities of color can and must join Ferguson's fight by linking the impact of racially motivated policing with the structural racial inequities that exacerbate it.
Latinos and immigrant communities are well acquainted with racial profiling vis-à-vis their experiences with immigration enforcement. Arab Americans and American Muslims are deeply familiar with what it's like to be discriminated against and profiled under the pretext of national security, Iyer writes.
But amidst calls for multiracial coalition it can be tempting to equate these types of experiences. The fact remains that African Americans are uniquely and disproportionately impacted by police repression--which includes routine non-lethal harassment and over-policing that never grabs headlines. It's dishonest to pretend otherwise. The call that communities of color ought to speak up because racial profiling and over-policing impacts them too, is true. But non-black people of color ought to be speaking up because Michael Brown's killing and the police repression that came in its aftermath are a human travesty.
"When law enforcement trample on the rights of any group, we must all resist: the oppressive, militarized tactics on display in Ferguson have undermined people's basic rights to peaceful assembly and movement," Iyer writes.
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 12:49
Ms. Lauryn Hill posted a new track called "Black Rage." Hill says she recorded the track in her living room:
Hauntingly set to the show tune "My favorite things," here are the lyrics:
Black rage is founded on two-thirds a person
Rapings and beatings and suffering that worsens,
Black human packages tied up with strings,
Black rage can come from all these kinds of things.
Black rage is founded on blatant denial
Squeezed economics, subsistence survival,
Deafening silence and social control.
Black rage is founded on wounds in the soul!
When the dogs bite, when the beatings,
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember all these kinds of things and then I don't fear so bad!
Black rage is founded: who fed us self hatred
Lies and abuse while we waited and waited?
Spiritual treason, this grid and its cages
Black rage was founded on these kinds of things.
Black rage is founded on draining and draining,
Threatening your freedom to stop your complaining.
Poisoning your water while they say it's raining,
Then call you mad for complaining, complaining
Old time bureaucracy drugging the youth,
Black rage is founded on blocking the truth!
Murder and crime, compromise and distortion,
Sacrifice, sacrifice, who makes this fortune?
Greed, falsely called progress,
Such human contortion,
Black rage is founded on these kinds of things
So when the dog bites
And the ceilings
And I'm feeling mad,
I simply remember all these kinds of things and then I don't fear so bad!
Free enterprise, is it myth or illusion?
Forcing you back into purposed confusion.
Black human trafficking or blood transfusion?
Black rage is founded on these kinds of things.
Victims of violence both psyche and body
Life out of context is living ungodly.
Greed falsely called wealth
Black rage is founded on denying of self!
Black human packages tied and subsistence
Having to justify very existence
Try if you must but you can't have my soul
Black rage is founded on ungodly control
So when the dog bites
And the beatings
And I'm feeling so sad
I simply remember all these kinds of things and then I don't feel so bad!
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 12:49
A police officer that threatened to kill unarmed protesters in Ferguson Tuesday night has been removed from duty after ACLU of Missouri sent a letter to Colonel Ronald Replogle, who serves as superintendent for Missouri’s State Highway Patrol.
The officer was caught on livestream yelling “I will fucking kill you” to protesters in Ferguson. When asked to identify himself, the officer refused and said “go fuck yourself,” instead.
ACLU of Missouri’s letter stated:
[T]his officer’s conduct—from pointing a weapon, to threatening to kill, to responding with profanity to a request for identity—was from start to finish wholly unacceptable. Such behavior serves to heighten, not reduce, tension.
ACLU-Missouri tweeted that the officer has been removed from duty Wednesday:August 20, 2014
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 12:49
The top federal official in charge of investigating the death of Michael Brown and upholding this nation’s civil rights knows what it’s like to be harassed by the cops. And he told young people and community gathered at St. Louis Community College so on Tuesday.
“I understand that mistrust. I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man,” Eric Holder said, Politico reported. The head of the nation’s Department of Justice spoke about being stopped, not just as a young person, but also as an adult working as a federal prosecutor.
Politico’s Lucy McCalmont reported:
Holder recounted to the group of 50 how he was stopped in New Jersey twice, accused of speeding as officers searched his car.
“I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me,” he said.
Holder also recalled how he and his cousin were stopped in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., while heading to a movie, and his cousin started “mouthing off.”
“I’m like, ‘This is not where we want to go. Keep quiet.’ I’m angry and upset. We negotiate the whole thing and we walk to our movie,” the attorney general said. “At the time that he stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. I wasn’t a kid. I was a federal prosecutor. I worked at the United States Department of Justice. So I’ve confronted this myself.”
For more on what Holder is up against, read Kai Wright’s breakdown of what Holder is facing in Ferguson.
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 12:01
Meanwhile, back in New York City…yet another questionable death at the hands of NYPD. Ryo Oyamada, a 24-year-old from Japan who was studying in the U.S., was struck and killed by a speeding patrol car in February 2013. At the time, NYPD said the police cruiser was rushing to respond to a 911 call and had its sirens flashing. Now, more than a year later, evidence emerges that contradicts that account and strongly suggests a coverup to avoid holding the officer accountable in Oyamada’s death, Gothamist reports.
Witnesses at the time of the death told Gothamist and other local media that the officer, Darren Ilardi, didn’t turn on his flashing lights until after hitting Oyamada. After the accident, which took place in the early morning hours near a public housing complex in Queens, witnesses gathered around and responded angrily. They were quickly dispersed and never interviewed for the police report, according to Gothamist. Now, Oyamada’s family lawyer has obtained through Freedom of Information requests a video of the accident recorded by the public housing complex’s security cameras. The video is an edited compilation of footage from two cameras. Gothamist reports:
At the 1:35 mark, the headlights of an NYPD cruiser allegedly driven by Officer Ilardi appear in the upper left-hand corner of Camera 1. It speeds out of the right side of the frame at 1:42, after crossing the intersection of 40th Avenue and 10th Street. (This next block is where Oyamada was killed.) Pausing the video at several points appears to show that the cruiser’s flashing lights were not on, which is consistent with witness statements to the media and contrary to informal NYPD statements, as well as the police report.
At the 1:45 mark, Camera 1 appears to show the first indication that the NYPD cruiser’s flashing lights are on, judging by the reflection of lights on a street sign. This sudden reflection of lights would correspond to witness statements that Officer Ilardi only turned on his flashing lights after colliding with Oyamada.
The Oyamada family’s lawyer told Gothamist he believes the tape has been edited to remove the moment of the accident; the version that is in NYPD’s possession has not been made public. Further, the family charges in its recently filed lawsuit that records reveal Officer Ilardi was not even assigned to the 911 call to which NYPD claims he was responding.
The case raises still more questions about a culture of lawlessness among police in New York City. In July, Eric Garner, an unarmed black man in Staten Island, was killed when police put him in a chokehold while detaining him for selling untaxed cigarettes. And earlier this month, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara released a 79-page report documenting a “culture of violence” among corrections officers who have abused teenage inmates at the city’s jail on Rikers Island. The report found that more than 4 in 10 male teens in the jail had been subjected to use of force by guards as of October 2012, and that there was a “powerful code of silence” among the jail’s staff that prevented officials from being held accountable for abuse.
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 11:47
California Highway Patrol officer Daniel Andrew, caught on video by a passing motorist straddling and repeatedly punching Marlene Pinnock on a Los Angeles freeway, may face criminal charges, Los Angeles’s ABC7 reported.
CHP sent its investigation on the incident to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, which now will decide whether to file charges against Andrew, ABC reported. CHP is also conducting its own internal investigation into the incident.
Last month, Pinnock and her attorneys filed a lawsuit alleging that her civil rights were violated.
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 11:43
Attorney General Eric Holder strode into St. Louis County today with a much larger agenda than investigating Michael Brown’s killing. Whatever comes of his intervention into the case, Holder’s aggressive posture in Ferguson points to what many Washington observers understand to be his most deeply held goal at the Justice Department: rebuilding its beleaguered Civil Rights Division and restoring its pre-Bush relevance. Publicly, much of Holder’s tenure has instead been marked by his legal defense of the Obama administration’s national security policies. But as an unnamed Justice Department official told the Los Angeles Times today, “The attorney general has always been about race.”
In Ferguson, he steps into a treacherous political landscape. St. Louis County prosecutors began presenting evidence to a grand jury this morning, a process that County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said will take until “the middle of October.” McCulloch is a Republican who’s held the office for 23 years, and his history with grand juries is checkered. In 2001, a St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation caught him lying about damning testimony submitted to a grand jury in another fatal police shooting. McCulloch’s history, and his overall political posture as a bullish supporter of cops, have prompted calls for his removal from the case. That was a legal impossibility until Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency, which among other things gives him the power to remove McCoulloch. But the two politicians have been open enemies for far too long for Nixon to move so decisively—particularly given Nixon’s calculations as a moderate Democrat in a conservative state who is none-too-subtly positioning himself for a vice presidential nod in 2016. All of which is to say, there’s not a lot of hope for a clean, clear criminal case against Darren Wilson, at least without something forcing McCulloch to stand down on his own.
But even with a more fair-minded prosecutor, the deck is consistently stacked in favor of law enforcement when police violence goes on trial. Julianne Hing reported on this hard reality for Colorlines as she covered the trial of Oakland transit cop Johannes Mehserle and the post-Katrina violence in New Orleans. A criminal case is just really tough to make. Here’s how Julianne explained it:
The challenge is that the legal bar for convicting cops of murder or wrongdoing is higher than for civilians. Cops have the benefit of qualified immunity, which allows them not to be held individually responsible for their actions, as long as they can establish that another competent and informed officer would have acted similarly. That’s a problem, for sure, if police brutality and racialized attacks are symptoms of a systemic disease.
So it will be extraordinary in the history of our legal system if Wilson is convicted of murdering Michael Brown. That’s something close observers know, and it’s surely one reason why the Justice Department is already in Ferguson looking for a civil rights case. Typically, that sort of inquiry would come only after a local, criminal case concludes; Holder has sped up the timeline. That’s significant: It means that as the local case takes its predictably disappointing course, particularly if led by McCulloch, everyone will also be able to see a federal inquiry in progress. That may turn out to be more symbolic than anything, but symbolism matters, too.
Holder reportedly saw the national import of Brown’s killing right away and began rallying his staff within hours. That’s not surprising, since he’s opened at least 20 previous civil rights investigations into police misconduct, according to the New York Times. Throughout President Obama’s time in office, Holder’s been a gadfly prodding racial justice onto the agenda of a reluctant White House. He has been most visibly aggressive fighting voting rights challenges, reaching down into local politics with spirited legal actions during each election cycle. But he’s also pushed the administration’s political boundaries on sentencing reform and, importantly, on a simple willingness to name publicly the beast of racism.
Lurking behind all of this is the larger mission that Holder set for himself in 2009. The Bush era was not kind to the Justice Department’s civil rights work. The Civil Rights Division was a focal point for the Bush administration’s most far right members. They transformed it from a watchdog of local wrongdoing into a place to exert political leverage over state attorney generals and begin gaming local level voting processes. Over half of the staff quit or got reassigned when Bush came into office. Up until 2006, the only voting rights inquiry they’d opened was to investigate black politicians in a small Mississippi town, charging that they’d denied the rights of white voters. The sort of openly racist emails that became the hallmark of the tea party right were back then already circulating freely among the federal leadership tasked with protecting the nation’s civil rights. Holder’s confirmation hearings were dominated by discussion of this perversity and of the disaster Bush’s people had made of the department’s civil rights work—and he vowed to fix it.
So Holder’s actions in Michael Brown’s killing thus far suggest he’s identified Ferguson as a place to show off a newly restored Civil Rights Division. He’s dispatched 40 FBI agents, conducted an independent autopsy and sent in the division’s “most experienced prosecutors,” he wrote in a op-ed in today’s Post-Dispatch. “The full resources of the Department of Justice have been committed to the investigation into Michael Brown’s death,” he declared. The civil rights sheriff, he seemed to be declaring, is back in town.
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 11:35
The Washington Post reports that out of the 155 people arrested and taken to St. Louis County jail in connection to the demonstrations against the killing of Michael Brown, 123 are from Missouri--and out of those, nearly all are from the St. Louis area. Just last week, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson blamed protests on what he called "outside agitators." The numbers obtained by the Washington Post paint a very different picture.
Not included in Washington Posts's data are the numbers of people who were booked into municipal jails, so it's possible these percentages will change. And we don't know who, exactly, was arrested. For example, it appears that at least 12 out-of-town journalists may have been booked into St. Louis County jail; if that's the case, the percentage of activists arrested from states other than Missouri drops down to just 13 percent.
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 08:51
Constance Malcolm and Frank Graham, parents of Ramarley Graham, led a rally to the office of US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, on Wednesday to demand a federal investigation into the killing of their son.
In 2012, NYPD officer Richard Haste killed 18-year-old Ramarley Graham in his bathroom after breaking down the door to his apartment. The case went to a grand jury and Haste was indicted on manslaughter charges only to have the charges thrown out by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Steven Barrett on a technicality. When another grand jury convened, they failed to indict Haste. In 2013, the Justice Department said the case was under review but Ramarley Graham’s parents have not gotten any updates since then.
During the rally on Wednesday, Frank Graham spoke to the crowd, saying, “my son has been dead almost two-and-a-half years … and I’m still waiting for our day in court.”
The petition delivered to Bharara states:
Dear Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara,
On April 12, 2014, Ramarley Graham would have been celebrating his 21st birthday, but two years earlier he was gunned down in his own home by plainclothes NYPD Officer Richard Haste.
As is so often the case involving Black victims of deadly police violence, Ramarley’s killer has not been brought to justice by the Bronx County District Attorney’s office. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has a duty to protect our community against racial profiling and the violence that it creates, especially when local or state prosecutors fail to do so.
This case has been under review by the DOJ and the United States Attorney’s Office since last summer. It’s time for federal officials to take action. By holding Officer Haste accountable for his deadly actions, you can send a strong message to law enforcement across the country that your office will protect our community against racial profiling and senseless police violence.
We demand that you conduct a full and thorough investigation and bring federal charges against Officer Haste.
(h/t Huffington Post)
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 07:01
Here's what I'm reading up on this morning:
- The U.S. sent special forces to Syria to rescue James Foley following a ransom demand, but failed to find him.
- Ferguson has its first relatively calm night since Michael Brown was killed a week-and-a-half weeks ago.
- Another Israeli airstrike kills three Hamas commanders in Gaza.
- 34 sailors are kicked out of the U.S. Navy for cheating on tests.
- The California High Patrol officer who beat a grandmother on the side of a freeway may face serious charges.
- One of the four remaining Twinkie factories is closing.
- Meet Mortao, selfie queen.
- Two of three U.S. citizens who were infected with Ebola and miraculously treated will be released soon.
- Meanwhile, the poor in Liberia just aren't so lucky.
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