For example, send us poetry, jail writings, songs, etc.
And tell us what you want us to do with it!
Below is a letter that I wrote to editor concerning the state of affairs with law enforcement. and replying to a letter. City and County did away with the taser evidence from when the cops tried to kill my son. There were three tasers deployed. They said one taser was broken, and my son had to pay for it to be repaired. Now all the evidence has disappeared. I filed and administrative law suit with in 6 months of the incident. His belongings that he was booked with also disappeared. These items probably contained evidence of the brutality that happened that night.
Mr. Cuthbertson, Your intuition sucks, you should be getting mad at the ones sworn to up hold the law but do not, let’s say drunk driving. I and CHP went to the Sheriff that you mentioned in your letter, in 1986 to reprimand him for arriving on the scene of an accident in Klamath very intoxicated. The firefighters were informed by the fire chief to look at this staggering sheriff. I have wrote this story before. I guess it is ok for some to break the law and get by with it? So Mr. Cuthbertson which category does this put you in?
Yes law enforcement is difficult but the officers know what they are getting into when they begin the job, and brutalization nor lying should not be apart of it. One officer is named in several law suits because of his unlawful actions. What does this tell you; well it should say there is a pattern of misbehavior. Theses officers should be weeded out.
We have some very wonderful officers, Grant Henderson is a model officer, never hear a complaint against this man. Majority are fine and upstanding, but when you get an officer tasing a man when other officers are presently tasing the man already in cuffs, this is excessive by any standard. This is what I talk about and this must stop. Law suits will break this county if they keep coming and they will if people’s civil rights continue to be violated.
Our department seems to loose evidence. I can tell many stories about fouled up evidence, this is criminal in itself. I have seen this with my own eyes, I do not have room here to tell all, although the many letters that I have wrote have told the stories that I personally know of.
Sorry if this makes you mad. If you go along with these brutal actions, do not believe it happens, or just think it is justifiable to beat the scumbag up, then so be it,. I do not like hearing that a wedding ring was stolen from and dead person by his grieving wife, or Drug task force stealing drugs after their grand busts or sheriffs driving drunk. When the Watchdogs get letters and calls about abuse happening, we will act on it. Equal justice and law for all.
PO Box 339
Crescent City, CA
Watch Dogs New Number 707 457 2098
In many instances, the second pre-trial hearing for Johannes Mehserle could be seen as a victorious day for the family and supporters of Oscar Grant, who was fatally shot by Mehserle as he lay unarmed on a platform in Oakland on New Year’s Day 2009.
After weeks of nervous speculation, presiding Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry rejected motions put forth by Mehserle’s legal team to reduce his bail amount and remove the Alameda County district attorney from the case.
While Perry acknowledged that prosecutors employed some questionable and perhaps unconstitutional tactics during their investigation, those acts failed to substantiate the extreme requests of defense attorney Michael Rains.
Victory also extended to outside of the courtroom as scores of activists and supporters braved the early morning chill to hold signs, recite chants, and talk to onlookers — all in the name of making the often-apathetic L.A. populace aware of one of the most significant court cases in state history.
While the number of people who attended the recent rally this time was slightly smaller than that at the first hearing, the crowd contained an impressive intensity, dedication and discipline that was appropriate and effective.
However, in the midst of countless examples that spoke to the triumphant potential of this case, it was difficult for me to enjoy the moment. In the background of the day’s court rulings and grassroots activism stood the realities of an unjust system that leaves too many families – particularly Black and Latino – mourning the loss of a loved one at the hands of law enforcement.
In Black and Latino communities across the United States, there are too many women like Oscar Grant’s mother who have to learn how to live again after having their child’s life ended prematurely by those sworn to “protect and serve”. This tragic situation is compounded by the fact that police murder – unlike murder committed by civilians – often leaves the family with little or no hope of ever receiving legal justice.
While some may receive financial settlements, the court system fails time and time again to convict and sentence police officers for murder. For Black people in particular, this perpetual lack of legal re-dress for one of the oldest problems impacting our community has created deeply entrenched pain, fear and anger. No matter the social status, economic class or skin tone, almost every Black person in America has experienced a nervous moment whenever a cop came near.
This is not because we are a community of cowards – rather it is because we recognize that the police can arbitrarily kill us without any threat of jail time.
The Mehserle trial is so important to all of us because it can establish a more humane legal precedent in terms of police conduct. A just verdict of murder can help shift policies and practices of law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles, Inglewood and across the country.
In order to ensure victory in the case however, we need every resident – especially Black and Latino – to become aware and active in the work.
We need established civil rights organizations and leaders in the city to step out of the shadows and become public advocates for the Oscar Grant family.
In a case so important, no one who yearns for the full expression of justice can afford to sit on the sidelines and carry on like business as usual. For if we choose that route, another unarmed Black man will be murdered without any accountability and our current attempts for social revolution will be exposed as a hollow and weak impersonation of the 1960s.
As the great Afrikan leader Amilcar Cabral taught us, we cannot “claim any easy victories”.
Victory in this case not only means the conviction and sentencing of Mehserle, but as Dr. Maulana Karenga teaches, a corresponding re-building of a strong movement capable of instituting progressive practices and policies throughout the society. Lets get to work.
About the Author
Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi is a community organizer with the Families for Community Safety Campaign, a grassroots effort to create a more just and peaceful society by holding law enforcement officers accountable for their actions. Kokayi is also founder of the MA’AT Club for Community Change. He can be reached Bro.Kokayi@gmail.com.
If you are interested in supporting the family of Oscar Grant, please contact Los Angeles Coalition for Oscar Grant at 213-663-6316.
This article can be found in several places, one is: http://www.lawattstimes.com/opinion/opinion/1594-lessons-from-the-oscar-grant-tragedy.html
“So I continue… seeking to make, or to create, revolutionary connections between the full identity of my love, of what hurts me, or fills me with nausea, and the way things are: what we are forced to learn… trained to ignore”
- June Jordan
Dear friends, family, acquaintances and people with whom I share house party dance floors and supermarket lines,
A few weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine attended a police lineup, pointed at someone, and sent them to jail or prison. Last night, a friend’s roommate called the cops about something happening outside, and the effect of that action was a young man getting tasered.
So I’ve decided to write you a letter. All of you, but especially those of you who, like myself and the two people mentioned above, are white and/or grew up middle class and/or didn’t grow up in NYC. I’m writing to you, also, if you’ve smiled your way out of a speeding ticket, if you’ve been most afraid of cops at mass protests, or if you generally feel safer when you see police around. If these things are true for you, it’s possible that you are more distanced from the real impact of policing on low-income communities of color. But whether people in your life experience those impacts regularly or not, whether you’ve spent a night in jail, done work to support political prisoners, or haven’t thought much about police brutality since Sean Bell… if you hold a commitment to making the world a better place, I’m writing to you, because there’s work to be done.
I, and many people I know, want to see a world without prisons, we want the whole industry of keeping people in cages (the Prison Industrial Complex) abolished, we want no more police.* We want a world where responses to harm are community-based, transformative and actually create safety. Where that safety comes from strengthening relations of community, where interpersonal violence dissolves along with the structural violence that facilitates it.
Many of us don’t believe in calling the police. Right now, right here, even before we’ve sufficiently built all the alternative structures for responding to harm. Both in an attempt to create the world we want to live in, and/but also because the impact of prisons and policing is brutal, oppressive, racist, traumatic. We see almost no good coming of it, certainly no transformation, no making things better. We don’t trust police, we don’t think of them as the “good guys,” and we don’t think calling them is going to change anything.
After the above-mentioned acquaintance pointed out the person in the lineup, my partner and I took a long walk. Neither of us could imagine sending someone to jail or prison, and certainly not for the act in question (a mugging). We were shaken, appalled, angry, disgusted. How could he do that? How could he send someone into a cage, especially when no one’s safety was being threatened in that moment – when he (the finger-pointer) wasn’t backed into a corner by the situation? It felt crystal clear to us how little positive impact this will have on our world, on the person who is now going to be in jail, on the woman who was mugged. It won’t fix anything, and for the person going to jail things are probably just going to get a lot worse. Prison causes harm: people locked up are subjected to abuse, assault, humiliation and torture. Thinking through the possible consequences, we wondered if the man who our acquaintance had pointed to had immigration papers. What will happen to the people who might rely on him for support or resources? Whose heart is being broken right now?
As we paced in the cold night, we moved through our questions, anger and frustration. We thought about how everyone we know—even in a community that mostly wants a world without prisons—has had different experiences with harm and violence, different experiences with police, and, most likely, has a different “threshold” at which they can imagine not calling the police.
I believe in a world without prisons. I’ve spent some time and effort working to address harm through non-state responses that are meant to create real change (for example, addressing partner abuse through facilitating a community-based accountability circle). However, as the conversation my partner and I were having turned to ourselves, our safety, and our worst nightmares, I wondered, in what situation might I find myself calling the police? I acknowledged that there would be situations in which I might call the cops because I haven’t yet imagined an alternative. I half-suggested we go down that road: finding those worst-case scenarios, and then starting to envision alternative responses. We didn’t have it in us that night, but something about it seemed smart—like knowing how to stop-drop-and-roll in a fire.
We live in a world that’s deeply damaged by policing, in which immediate and effective community-based responses don’t necessarily exist, or we don’t know how to find/create them. Our imaginations have atrophied, our resourcefulness has withered. There are moments when immediate intervention will save someone’s life, and it needs to be fast, and the readily available structure for that immediate intervention is the police.
We live in a world in which we can feel deeply powerless or afraid. It feels terrible when we, or the people we care about, get hurt or experience harm. When I think of the moments in which I could possibly imagine calling the police, I think of people I love, and of things I hope they never experience. Why do we feel afraid? Sometimes we feel afraid because we have experienced harm, because we have experienced trauma. Sometimes we also feel afraid because we have bought into aspects of racism, classism, and media-perpetuated images of danger. Sometimes it’s the complex combination of all these things—imagination, memory, and prejudice. For women, our experiences with physical safety are complex and painful—women in my life have understandably chosen and sought police intervention when it has seemed like the only available safety measure in situations of interpersonal or sexual abuse. So given these complicated realities, how can we assure that if police are called it’s an active, intentional and reluctant choice, not a knee-jerk reaction? What can we do to push ourselves further, to take another step towards a world without prisons, without police, and without the racism and brutality they reproduce?
I started to think about the choking posters in restaurants. I’ve never done the Heimlich maneuver, and it’s not something I can practice on someone unless they’re actually choking. I can’t know how it feels to do it, or if it will really work, or if I’ll have the confidence to pull it off. But I’ve taken first aid classes, and I can feel under my rib cage for my diaphragm, and I stare absentmindedly at those restaurant posters all the time. I started to think about practice and preparation, about pre-thinking our possible responses. Theoretically, if someone beside me in a restaurant starts choking, I’ll feel brave, my mind will be clear, and I’ll remember what I’ve thought through. Hopefully my response will be helpful, instead of causing additional harm.
So, when that roommate of my friend called the police and a young person got tasered, I wondered if she’d ever thought about not calling them before. In a moment of fear or confusion, we default to what we’ve practiced. Did she have practice not calling the police? Probably not. What would it take for her to do something different next time? Most likely, she thought someone was in danger and that she was helping. Maybe whatever was happening outside her window was loud and it was scaring her and the only thing her sleepy brain could think to do was dial 911. Maybe she doesn’t know her neighbors. Maybe the only alternative she could imagine was running outside in her nightgown, which didn’t feel safe or useful. Maybe her experiences with police have felt orderly and professional, and her first association is one of trust, not of violence and abuse. Whether these things are understandable or not, when you call the cops, you participate in a regime of violence against poor and working class people of color in this city. It’s part of gentrification, it’s part of racism and it’s part of genocide. If we’re calling the police, we’re voting for that system—instead of putting time and effort into creating real and new responses to harm and engaging with the people around us in that process. Next time, how can you do differently? I believe we can teach ourselves skills, do some unlearning, and find ways to not call the police next time. This letter isn’t about someday-visions, this letter is about what you’re going to do tomorrow.
So whether this is all pretty new for you, or you’ve heard this one before, or you think of yourself as a prison abolitionist, I have a suggestion: I think we all need to think through not calling the cops. We need to explore our own personal thresholds, we need to create the Heimlich Maneuver posters that will inspire us to be brave, avoid knee-jerk dialing 911, and take the steps to create the alternative responses we wish were more common, more available.
In this spirit, there are some questions and activities below. Please do them soon—this weekend, tomorrow, tonight. Make a little window of time. Don’t wait for some magical day when there’s nothing left to read or clean or check off your “to do” list. Think about it this way: you could save a life.
With love and respect,
1. Read a poem, article or story you haven’t read before about prison/prison abolition, policing/police brutality, or alternative responses to harm. Then share the article with a friend. (Some resources and articles are listed at the end of this essay).
2. Find someone you can talk with about heavy stuff, or grab a pen and paper.
> Have you ever called the police?
> Have you ever chosen not to call the police when it seemed like an option?
> Feel for the edge of your own police-calling “threshold”:
> Are there situations where you and your friend disagree on whether or not you would call the police? What can you learn from your friend? What can you push them on?
> Would you call the cops on an institution (like a loud business, a safety violation at a school, etc)? Do you think this is different? How? What might alternative responses look like for you?
> What about times when you’re a bystander to police activity? What do you do when you see a cop stop someone on your block? Think through an action plan for spontaneous cop-watching and for ways you can support people who are being detained by the police. For more information about cop-watching, check out: http://mxgm.org/web/people-s-self-defense-campaign-psdc/mxgm-copwatch-video.html and http://www.berkeleycopwatch.org/
3. Collaborate and Share: Pass this letter along. Bring it up over dinner. Ask these questions to your family, friends and roommates. If you have a story of a community-based, non-state response to harm, consider sharing it with the Story Telling Organizing Project: http://www.stopviolenceeveryday.org/have-a-story/ .
4. Keep learning about privileges you may have and the ways they manifest, keep listening and working to be a better ally to the people around you.
Click here or go to the previous post for Resources, Poems, Stories & Articles
* If this is a new idea for you, it might seem outrageous. You might be thinking, “Sure, too many people go to jail for nonviolent offenses, but… no prisons at all? What about murderers/rapists/child abusers?” It’s a good question, and one that is worth exploring. When I imagine a world without prisons, I see lots of transformation: transformation in the way we prevent harm and build healthy communities, transformation in the way we respond to harm and create safety for each other, and a commitment to supporting the transformation of individuals who have caused harm. There are lots of people who have been thinking hard about this, and there are resources listed at the end of this letter—check them out.
Critical Resistance Statement on Policing
Critical Resistance Vision
Not So Common Language
Stories of community-based responses to harm
Child abuse and social justice
Poem responding to Duke violence
Gender violence and the prison industrial complex
Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA) on anti-violence and resistance to the prison industrial complex
Building community-based safety for LGBTSTGNC people
Prison Activist Resource Center (PARC) multimedia resource library
Interview about immigration and police collaboration
Angela Y. Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? Seven Stories Press, 2003.
Leonard Peltier, Prison Writings: My Life is My Sun Dance. Saint Martin’s Griffin, 2000.
Tara Herivel, Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarcerations? New Press, 2008.
Elaine Brown, The Condemnation of Little B. Beacon Press, 2002.
Tanya Erzen: “Turnstile Jumpers and Broken Windows” essay from Zero Tolerance: Quality of Life and the New Police Brutality in New York City, edited by Andrea McArdle and Tanya Erzen. New York University Press, 2001.
Poem about Police Violence
Tell me something
what you think would happen if
everytime they kill a black boy
then we kill a cop
everytime they kill a black man
then we kill a cop
you think the accident rate would lower subsequently?
sometimes the feeling like amaze me baby
comes back to my mouth and I am quiet
like Olympian pools from the running
mountainous snows under the sun
sometimes thinking about the 12th House of the Cosmos
or the way your ear ensnares the tip
of my tongue or signs that I have never seen
like DANGER WOMEN WORKING
I lose consciousness of ugly bestial rapid
and repetitive affront as when they tell me
18 cops in order to subdue one man
18 strangled him to death in the ensuing scuffle
(don’t you idolize the diction of the powerful: subdue
and scuffle my oh my) and that the murder
that the killing of Arthur Miller on a Brooklyn
street was just a “justifiable accident” again
People been having accidents all over the globe
so long like that I reckon that the only
suitable insurance is a gun
I’m saying war is not to understand or rerun
war is to be fought and won
sometimes the feeling like amaze me baby
blots it out/the bestial but
not too often tell me something
what you think would happen if
everytime they kill a black boy
then we kill a cop
everytime they kill a black man
then we kill a cop
you think the accident rate would lower subsequently
Maya Angelou once wrote...
"Like the moon and the stars.... We shall RISE...."
Unless of course, it is 2 a.m., New Year's Eve 2009, on the Oakland Plantation.
You, unarmed, pleading for your life as a young Father, at the tender age of
while a rogue Bay Area Rapid Transit cop (Tony Pirone) punches you, then
crushes your neck with his knee, quickly followed in his enthusiastic -racist, vicious rage by Officer Joannes Mehserle, who shoots you in the back, murdering
the Assassination of Oscar Grant:
"BARTing While Black"
by mesha Monge-Irizarry
(Idriss Stelley Action & Resource Center)
Check out and support Justice 4 Oscar Grant
BOOBY TRAPPED ROAD TO FASCISM
Mohawk Nation News June 14 2009.
Fascism is when the oligarchs put together enough force to enslave society in the interests of a few. It starts with fervent nationalism. Scapegoats are picked. Genocide is planned. Properties, authority and resources are seized. Territory is expanded.
THE LEADER is charismatic and backed by huge corporations. He’s an ideologue with an uncompromising belief system. He seizes power and directs the state to implement his ideas on how the world should operate. He becomes the supreme commander of the armed forces and the high court until a new election is called, if ever.
A strong central government is created under a hard line paternalistic leader. Appointees must submit to him. Rivals are silenced or eliminated through wild unfounded accusations and smear
campaigns. Members of the government vote in favor of these measures in return for protection. Otherwise they could be barred from attending sessions.
The constitution is suspended by declaring emergencies. Checks and balances are removed. No
questions can be asked. Power is exercised through emergency decrees blamed on an unworkable parliament or congress. Laws and decrees are passed to protect the dictator from criticism,
corruption charges, criminal activities and abuse of power. His term becomes indefinite.
Other parties are banned or dissolved. State and provincial governments are abolished.
MILITARY AND PARA MILITARY power takes over the national police and military. Old army officers and reserves are called into service. Stockwell Day suggested that all agents and government employees wear uniforms.
SCAPEGOATS are created. Some are attacked and almost beaten to death. Public anger and frustration are focused on one target who have been labeled terrorists or insurgents to cause hysteria. The military takes them out of the civil court system, i.e. Guantanamo Bay. Their
communities are boycotted. Agents are sent in to vandalize their properties and make them look bad. Strict penalties are set for anyone who conducts alleged phony “economic sabotage”
such as protecting the environment, resources and territories.
PROPAGANDA is brainwashing to support the views of the fascists. The occult or forced conversion to one world religion causes confusion, conformist thinking and escapism. Non-followers can’t get jobs or food or services.
Media and access to information is controlled.
Small groups are infiltrated, especially the youth. Obama has created a youth corps to keep an eye on their parents and neighbors. A snitch line has been set up like the 911, Crime Stoppers and hot lines to spy on anyone anonymously.
Party supporters are sent out to distribute information and to recruit. Frequent meetings are
held to feed into the frightened state of mind in troubled times.
Public meetings are stormed. Declarations are made. Destruction of opponents is demanded. Suggestions are made to set up or support a new strict government. Organizers cause dissention inside dissident groups.
Agents set up a coup-like atmosphere like marches and demonstrations. They wear out the people and give police and military practice in controlling and scaring the public.
The state makes decisions over peoples’ lives and gathers information from the cradle to the
grave. Microchips from central data banks contain information on medical records, licenses, education, social services, travel, etc.
AN ECONOMIC depression is created. If the head of Bank of Canada or Bank of America disagree with the emperor, they are replaced.
Local business interests are forced to cooperate with the fascists. Large multinational companies like Wal Mart are brought in to destroy small businesses.
Appeals are made to the working class, petit bourgeois like bank clerks, middle management and those who are ambitious. They see fascism as a way to rise up in the system and become heads in the new regime. Industrialists, monarchists and the monied class fanatically support fascism. Foreign collaborators, rich authoritarians, opportunists, media moguls and business men finance the party.
Labor unions are brought under control or wiped out.
Economic engineering includes debt flotation and military expansion. Financing is based on currency manipulation including credit debts. High unemployment is maintained. Arms production is accelerated. Built are dams, highways, railroads and civic works like prisons, labor camps and holding facilities for indefinite periods.
More cops are hired. Court workers and judicial officers are increased. Legal aid, social assistance, housing and other social services are cut. Child welfare agencies are given more power to seize children. Prison sentences are longer. Control mechanisms include more probation officers, judicial supervision, conditional sentences and supervisory court orders.
Women stay home. The state takes the kids. The Fuhrer becomes their father. The standard of living is kept down. Wages are reduced. People are told to make sacrifices for the mother land.
AGGRESSIVE LAW AND ORDER campaigns are started to keep the fascists in power. Periodic
demonstrations like the Nuremberg rallies are set up so the head honcho can give long confusing public speeches.
HABEAS CORPUS is suspended. Freedom of speech and assembly are suppressed.
REVOLUTIONARY DEALS are kept secret. The people have to be kept asleep so they don’t ask questions.
PRETEXT EVENTS are staged like 911 to justify bringing in anti terrorism laws and repressive measures to take away liberty in the name of security.
FOOD RATIONING is established. Hydroponic centers chemically produce food to replace farmers.
EUGENICS - Get rid of “Useless eaters”, anyone who refuses to become part of the laboring or slave class is dispensed with. Pressure is put on people by limiting access to their needs.
WAR - Adjacent territories are taken over and become protectorates as part of empire building. Everybody becomes a citizen of the world under one global order. Cultures and languages are wiped out. Americans and their supporters declare themselves to be carrying out their manifest destiny.
Government must appear to be moderate. Everybody else is being stubborn. While they call for
peace, these inhuman tyrants start small local conflicts before going into a large war. If you think this is a conspiracy theory, it’s already happening. Look for yourself!
Mohawk Nation News, www.mohawknationnews.com
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The manslaughter verdict returned against former BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) cop, Johannes Mehserle, for the videotaped murder of Oscar Grant, sent hundreds of protesters back into the hot streets of Oakland, California, Grant's hometown.
The corporate media scratched its collective head, essentially asking 'Why protest when the guy was convicted?"
The protesters knew, however, that the court system bent heaven and earth to return the lightest verdict possible; involuntary manslaughter' and that Mehserle faces a possible sentence of probation to a maximum of 4 years in prison.
They knew that Mehserle got a non black jury, hundreds of miles from Oakland.
They knew that each of those hundreds could've been Oscar Grant, unarmed, shot to death on tape and the same thing would've happened.
Of course, the corporate media doesn't get it.
Consider this: If Oscar Grant were the aggressor, and charged with killing Mehserle; would he have been able to leave the state (Mehserle fled to Nevada days after shooting Grant)? Would he have been able to transfer his trial hundreds of miles away? Would he have been able to select an all-black jury - or one from which all whites were purged?
Would he have been convicted of involuntary manslaughter - in the face of videotaped evidence?
Everyone who considers these questions honestly knows the answers. What does that say about the system? What does this say about the courts?
What does this say about our supposedly 'colorblind' present?
It says, quite loudly, that there's one law for some; another law for others.
It says that life in dark flesh is not equal to life in white flesh- and those hundreds in Oakland's streets knew this in their blood.
--(c) '10 maj
The Power of Truth is Final -- Free Mumia!
Rampant Police Violence
How Many Kicks to the Head Does It Take?
By BEN ROSENFELD
A suspect crashes his car after leading El Monte, CA police on a dangerous, sometimes high speed chase and flees into a residential neighborhood. Soon cornered, he gives up in a backyard and lies face down, arms and legs out, surrendering. An El Monte police officer runs up, gun drawn, and kicks him full force in the head. He is inert after the blow, possibly unconscious. This does not stop a second officer from punching him repeatedly in the ribs. A third officer arrives and lets a police dog bite him once on the leg. The first officer slaps the K-9 officer a high five. All of them, the three officers and the dog, have their extra-judicial treat for catching a bad guy. In court, it would be the scofflaw’s word against three sworn police officers, except a news helicopter catches the whole incident on live video.
The suspect goes to the hospital, and the officers goes back to work, while the ACLU calls vainly for placing the officer who dealt the kick on administrative leave. (He has since been reassigned to desk duty.) Los Angeles, which has in the past erupted in riots over such brazen police abuse, is mercifully quiet. The El Monte Police Chief Tom Armstrong responds measuredly that he is withholding judgment pending the facts. “I worked internal affairs for four years and I have learned that you do not make a decision in a vacuum,” Armstrong explains. “I do not know what was in the mind of that officer, as to why he did that. I saw the individual turn his head toward the officer.”
As a police misconduct civil rights lawyer, I can say that what was in the officer’s mind is probably the same as what is evidently going through his Chief’s head: What can I get away with here, while the public isn’t looking? In my ten years of practice, I have seen scores of ordinary officers accused of brutality insert their cover stories into the gaps in the video and other evidence. It is in such gaps that they often blame the victim by pretending that s/he reached into a waistband for a weapon, or reached for the officer’s weapon – veritable police clichés. But there are no gaps in this video. It is shot from overhead, clear, continuous, and unmistakable. The officer lost his cool and punished the surrendering suspect on the spot with a potentially lethal kick to the head. That much is painfully obvious. If he stopped to think first, it was only to calculate, incorrectly, that no one was looking.
But are we looking? What possesses a Police Chief, who is responsible ultimately for the safety of both his officers and the public they come in contact with, to let such an unhinged officer return to work and to dither so before condemning his actions? Why should he not be arrested forthwith and charged with felony assault or attempted murder like any civilian in his shoes would be?
The self-evident answer is that Chief Armstrong is not interested in accountability but in cover-up – notwithstanding his pious intonations that he worked in internal affairs. An honest internal affairs investigator does not supply an excuse for the officer under investigation by saying, as Armstrong did, “I saw the individual turn his head toward the officer...” Look for that dot dot dot to form the foundation for the official excuse – unless the absurd excuse supplied by the police union’s lawyer Dieter Dammier gains traction first: that the kick was a justifiable “distraction blow” to thwart the suspect from getting up or reaching for a weapon in case he might try to do so. But if the video did not depict his complete surrender, it is hard to imagine what that could ever look like.
Chief Armstrong may equate such excuse-making with the wellbeing of his police family. If so, it is a dangerous equation. A good and sensible police chief would instead consider what the lack of swift condemnation of such brutality spells for the dynamics between police and the public. Countless people in this country live amid an epidemic of police violence. Rare videos like this one only serve to assuage the mainstream that brutality is rare, is addressed when it arises, and therefore does not demand systemic reform. On the contrary, rampant police abuse is creating a widening gulf of mistrust between police and the public they putatively serve. Common to many but alien to the rest of us, it may help explain why someone like the 23-year-old evader in this case would run from police in the first place.
On the police side, the failure to prosecute assaultive officers only exposes responsible officers to danger by an incensed public robbed of any reasonable hope for official accountability. John F. Kennedy famously warned: “Those who make peaceful protest impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” Officers, made more fearful as a result, turn even more aggressive. So goes the vicious cycle. Have we learned nothing from the Rodney King beating and riots?
But who could expect responsible local government action when the federal government sets such an atrocious example? The President inveighs that prosecuting the architects and executors of U.S. torture policy, and releasing photos evidencing torture, may undermine agents’ morale and expose soldiers in combat zones to retribution or death. But have we calculated the cost, in potential future attacks, of failing to show the world that we can police ourselves and abide by our own standards, let alone the cost to our own moral fiber? No arrested criminal, or victim of U.S. torture, gets the benefit of such nuanced, exception-based analysis. These double standards will undo is. It is not for the perpetrators to let bygones be bygones and only look ahead, as the President counsels. The victims do not soon forget.
William Brandeis, a wiser Supreme Court Justice than most, observed: “Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself.” (Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928)).
Unless we are willing to apply consistent legal standards, we will only spin further to the edge of our moral compass, and will find ourselves putting down ever more justifiable rebellions by ever increasing excessive force.
Each extra-legal kick to the head which does not jar us to our senses becomes one more intolerable exception to democracy. We only get so many exceptions before we simply cease to be.
Ben Rosenfeld is an attorney in San Francisco
"To Kill or Not to Kill...
Be Killed or Not Be Killed...
....That is NOT our Question ! "
Lovelle Mixon, Oakland Incredible Black Hulk ?
(and the OPD Blue Wall of Silence & Corruption)
By mesha Monge-Irizarry
The delirious Police melodrama-version of what supposedly happened on March 21, 2009, when Lovelle MIxon would have ALLEGEDLY killed 4 cops in 2 separate instances, before being blasted away by OPD is fuller of holes than Swiss cheese, and does reek like something is badly stinking in the kingdom of Oaktown.
1) Have you ever been subjected to a "Traffic Stop", in Oakland, California of all places, and in an alleged "Crime Ridden street corner"?
One cop approaches your car; while other(s) stay at a safe distance, so to eventually call for back up or cover their partner.
"Step out of the car, License and Registration".
All the while, the cop's hand is firmly holding the gun at his side, just to cover all bases.
You panic and try to speed off, the cop grab your steering wheel through the car window,
and the cop shoots you dead.
Or, you reach for the glove compartment or under your car seat to grab your license and registration, you are assumed to "reach for a gun",
and the cop shoots you dead.
Or, you comply too fast and make a "furtive move",
and the cop shoots you.
The cop feared for his life, you dead.
RIP Brother Jody Mac Woodfox, 28, Oakland, 2008
RIP Brother Oliver "Big O" Lefiti, 35, San Francisco
Or, you just run for your life.
Wrong move on the Plantation of the "Slave Catchers", the very origin of the Police Department in the US of A.
Long Live Surviving Warriors Tyrelle Taylor, 17, shot 5 times By Sf Bayview PD, 2005;
and Laronte Sturdville, 15, Oakland, 2007, who committed the violent crime of pulling up his sagging pants while running from OPD, who "feared for their lives".
2) A "desperate man afraid of going back to jail" does not CALMLY blast away two cops, execution style. A desperate man afraid to go back to jail jumps out, cusses and hollers, and starts shooting in a sweeping motion.
RIP Iraq Veteran Hermano Michael Philip Dorado, 21. Salinas, 2008
Or, begs for his life, "Please Don't Kill me!! I live here!!"
RIP Brother Asa Sullivan, 26, shot as many times as his age, 6 times in the face, by SFPD.
3) A "Cleaner" does not take off on foot, without cover, for an ENTIRE BLOCK.
If the Cleaner is struck by a moment of.... unprofessionalism or temporary insanity and sets off running, the surviving cop(s), enraged at their partner's death, takes a clean shot.
RIP Brother Marlon Ruff,32. San Francisco, 2007
4) A "cop killer".... uses TWO DIFFERENT WEAPONS? in TWO SEPARATE SPREES?
less than an hour apart ?
Someone slap me upside the head anytime now, please, my brain is misfiring.
Monster Black Dude, on an incremental rampage, blindly shoots through a closet door, and cleans 2 more cops with precision shots to the head, and as the Monster true to his rap sheet, takes a heroic risk at blasting away his own sister Enjoli Mixon in the process, for good measure.
5)"We are all Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Kathryn Johnston, Oscar Grant".
But the cops makes sure we think twice...
about wanting to feel that we are ALL
"Incredible Black Hulk Lovelle Mixon" !
A meticulously crafted Monster-Profile, (punctuated with three mug shots, taken much earlier than at the current age of Lovelle at the time of his execution), is quickly drafted by OPD Public Relations and the corporate press, hardly hours after the killings:
* "long criminal history";
* ALLEGED rape of a 12 yr. kid;
* an estranged wife;
* parole violations;
nothing is missing in terms of speedy, convenience demonization, so that only a handful of Faithful to the Struggle would dare claim:
"We are all Lovelle Nixon !"
6)Then, almost instantly, the pressure applied on Lovelle's Grieving Family gets too intense for words.
His parents publicly apologize to the families of the dead cops, and Caroline Mixon, Lovelle's first cousin, make am astounding statement at the "Oracle" (notice the allegory, almost evoking a canonization....),stage of the cops' funeral, contending that she LOVES the police, on which the Oakland Domestic Violence shelter, where she is employed, heavily depends.
Lovelle's family timidly & periodically cries out
"You know, he was no monster",
too little, too late.
7) A new "Hero", besides the four dead ones, is born:
Officer Patrick Gonzalez, the racist, deranged assassin of Young Brother
Gary King Jr., 21, (Oakland, Sept, 20, 2007),
the very sinister character who priorly Murdered a Black teenager and permanently disabled another Black youngster, paraplegic for life... (tragically, ALL Stolen Lives at the hands of Gonzalez were... Interracial Black Youth with "dreadlocks".... what's up with that....) survives the "second shooting" and instead of nursing his very superficial wounds, "courageously" attends to his agonizing colleagues....
It's... Kill Two Birds with One Stone Time:
Overcast the People's awareness of Gonzalez as serial Killer,
and waste another of 'em "Brothers",
yet another negligible casualty of the War at Home.
8), Although many Justice 4 Oscar Grant Campaign activists and supporting organizations vehemently refuse to draw a parallel between Lovelle's and Oscar's shooting death,
....not to mix apples and oranges and potentially offset the legitimacy of Oscar Grant III Campaign,
the People's critical thinking is rapidly connecting the dots:
*The bar of Oscar's wrongful death law suit filed by Oscar Grant III Family's attorney, John Burris, has been raised to 50 Million;
* 80,000 petitions are being gathered by a Bay Area Interfaith Coalition, towards the firing of Oakland DA Tom Orloff and dismantling Bay Area Rapid Transit Police (incidentally Homeland Security Personnel, to fend off the remote possibility of "terrorism" on Bart);
* and the Free the 100 (protesters arrested during the "Oakland is Burning Riots") movement is gaining formidable momentum.
Ouch, goes "Top Brass".
My department, my White Fraternal Order, my Mayor, My DA, my corporate constituencies, are in deep trouble.
Next "they" will demand an "INDEPENDENT" Police Oversight....
We should better think of a way to crush that "Movement", pronto.
From Racist Murderers to Street Warriors and Heroes, there is just one simple demagogic step for us to take.
Lose some, win much.
Four sacrificial pigs vs. thousands of newly mesmerized lambs,
through one day of madness and alleged sequel shooting rampage,
and we are the Savior Platoon all over again,
"Protecting" and "Serving"their dumb asses,
so they'll think.
Let's pick one of 'em foul N... Among our Industrial Prison Complex.
Let's see...The least likely to muster public empathy....
Let's see....Surely there gotta be one of 'em born losers waiting to exhale his last breath with a bang or two without raising suspicion...
Mixon ! Brilliant !
* Patrick Gonzalez and Tony Pirone ,
we promise you a rapid promotion.!
* Johannes Mehserle,
not to worry Buddy !
We'll cover all your legal fees,
we'll get you out of that slump with flying colors
and added stripes on your bloody sleeve !
"To Kill or Not to Kill ?
Be Killed or Not Be Killed ?
That is NOT Our Question"
Lovelle Mixon, the Oaktown Incredible Black Hulk ???
Think again, "Blue Code of Silence"Monsters.
Reporter Mesha Monge Irizarry can be reached at ISARConelove@cs.com
Or by calling Idriss Stelley Action and Resource Center Law Enforcement Accountability Bilingual Spanish Hotline at (415)595-8251
Silence that speaks out loud...
από Silence that speaks out loud 1:32μμ, Τρίτη 9 Δεκεμβρίου 2008
Many children starve. You keep silent.
Many children have got no future. You keep silent.
Many children are humiliated. You keep silent.
Many children are beaten. You keep silent.
Many children are raped. You live next door. And you keep silent.
A child dies. You keep silent.
Windows clash. You scream.
The phantom of liberty always comes with a knife between the teeth
The ne plus ultra of social oppression is being shot at in cold blood.
All the stones, torn from the pavement and thrown at the shields of cops or at the façades of commercial temples, all the flaming bottles that traced their orbits in the night sky, all the barricades erected on city streets, dividing our areas from theirs, all the bins of consumer trash which, thanks to the fire of revolt, came to be Something out of Nothing, all the fists raised under the moon, are the arms giving flesh, as well as true power, not only to resistance but also to freedom. And it is precisely the feeling of freedom that, in those moments, remains the sole thing worth betting on: that feeling of forgotten childhood mornings, when everything may happen, for it is ourselves, as creative humans, who have awoken — not those future
productive human machines known as “obedient subject,” “student,” “alienated worker,” “owner,” “family wo/man.” The feeling of facing the enemies of freedom — of no longer fearing them.
It is thus for good reason that those who wish to get on with their business as if nothing happens, as if nothing has ever happened, are worried. The phantom of liberty always comes with the knife between the teeth, with the violent will to break the chains, all those chains that
turn life into a miserable repetition, serving to reproduce the dominant social relations. Yet from Saturday, December 6, the cities of this country are not functioning properly: no shopping therapy, no open roads leading us to work, no news on the government’s forthcoming recovery initiatives, no carefree switching from one lifestyle TV show to another, no evening drives around Syntagma Sq. etc., etc., etc. These days and nights do not belong to merchants, TV commentators, ministers and cops: These days and nights belong to Alexis!
As surrealists we were on the streets from the start, along with thousands of others, in revolt and solidarity; for surrealism was born with the breath of the street, and does not intend to ever abandon it. After the mass resistance before the State murderers, the breath of the street has become even warmer, even more hospitable and creative than before. It is not in our competence to propose a general line to this movement. Yet we do assume our responsibility in the common struggle, as it is a struggle for freedom. Without having to agree with all aspects of such a mass phenomenon, without being partisans of blind hatred and of violence for its own sake, we accept that this phenomenon exists for a reason.
Let’s not allow this flaming breath of poetry to loosen or die out.
Let’s turn it into a concrete utopia: to transform the world and to transform life!
No peace with cops and their masters!
All in the streets!
Those who cannot feel the rage may as well shut their traps!
Athens Surrealist Group, December 2008
INTERVIEW WITH RICHIE PEREZ
Founder, National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights
& The Justice Committee
Edited by Blanca Vazquez
1. Personal History
2. Policing in the Rudolph Giuliani Era
3. Anthony Baez: Organizing for Justice
4. The Families
5. Alliances with Street Organizations
7. The Blue Wall of Silence and the Courts
8. Civil Disobedience
9. Rudolph Giuliani and the NYPD
11. Zero Tolerance
12. Arrest Quotas
13. Crime Rates
14. The Social Justice Movement
15. Police Accountability
16. Amadou Diallo
17. Gary (Gidone) Busch
18. Two Societies, Separate and Unequal
19. Racial Profiling
20. The Power Over Life and Death
1. Personal History
I’m a product of the South Bronx and went to public schools in New
York City. I became politically active during the movement for
community control of the schools. I was a public school teacher at the
time. I was tremendously influenced by Evelina Antonetty and United
Bronx Parents, who mentored me. In the late sixties I joined the Young
Lords, which was a Puerto Rican organization styled after the Black
Panther Party. I worked very closely with the Black Panther Party. I was
a student and youth organizer and I dealt with issues of police brutality,
among many other issues. I taught for fifteen years in different
universities, primarily in Black and Puerto Rican studies. In the early
eighties I became a founding member of the National Congress for
Puerto Rican Rights, a national civil and human rights organization
aimed at ending discrimination against Puerto Ricans. Since that time
I’ve concentrated my work primarily on police brutality and racially!
motivated violence and all the criminal justice issues that affect young
people in general, such as disproportionate incarceration rates and lack
of alternatives to incarceration.
Note: For more on Richie Pérez’s life and work in his own
words see A Young Lord Remembers, Parts 1, 2, 3
2. Policing in the Rudolph Giuliani Era
Having been involved in organizing in the community and working withfamilies around police abuse, and having myself been a victim of policebrutality a number of times in my life, the Giuliani election in 1994 wasvery significant. Giuliani ran for mayor on a platform opposing a civilian>complaint review board which we had been fighting for decades. We hadjust gotten an independence review board established in New York a few
months before his election. A number of things concerned us. Therabble rousing that he did with the police unions at City Hall, the factthat during that riot police hurled epithets at the then!mayor David Dinkins and black city council members, and the fact that black police officers just stood by while the police basically rioted were all signs that this was a backlash candidacy. This wasn't subtle These were clear overt messages that the clock was going to be turned back and that the civilian review board was under attack. It seemed that the message was that the police were going to get pretty much a free hand.
In Mayor Giuliani’s first week in office #after he was inaugurated in January$ three things happened that were very significant. One was that the Harlem Mosque was invaded by police officers and the Giuliani administration refused to meet with any Harlem leadership. Second was that in the first week a young African American man in Queens was shot to death in a building by police officers; witnesses said he had his hands raised. And then the third was the killing of Anthony Baez by a chokehold. So all of these things came together very quickly, and soon after a number of other things occurred.
3. Anthony Baez: Organizing for Justice
A friend of ours who was distantly related to the Baez family called us and told us that Anthony Baez had been killed and that there was going to be a rally around his death at the Bronx Court House. We went as supporters and observers. Iris Baez was there with the members of her family. The details of the case were stilling coming out, it didn’t come out all at once: the fact that he had been killed by Frances Livoti with an illegal chokehold, the fact that Livoti was in a forced monitoring unit and he was supposed to be monitored by a sergeant the night he killed >Anthony Baez. A lot of that information hadn’t come out yet. But we knew a young man had been killed in the Bronx. At the rally I saw Iris, her family and some clergymen who supported her. It became clear to us
that she was very religious and tremendously heartbroken. We went over to her at the end and told her that we were available for assistance in
whatever way she wanted.
A few weeks later, as the family began to overcome the initial trauma
and began to figure out what they had to do, they reached out to us and
we had our initial meeting. It was very clear to us the first time we met
that some of the clergy people were telling her that the police
department investigation would bring justice for them. It was clear to us
that some of the more conservative clergy people and some of the
elected officials in the Bronx had wanted her to stay away from us, that
there was no need to work with an organization who in their eyes was
confrontational. It was a form of red!baiting.
So the family had their suspicions about us. They didn’t know who we
were. They were people who, like many of the families, believed in the
system. When this tragedy hits they’re not political activists. When you
come from a political orientation you have a mindset that these things
are possible, that they’ve occurred historically and they will continue to
occur until there are real systemic changes. But the Baez family, and all
the others that we’ve worked with, are initially all believers in the
system. And then when they lose a loved one and find that the system
that they believed in begins to close its doors on them at every level,
from the police department to the mayor’s office to the D.A.’s and the
elected officials, they find themselves in this David and Goliath situation
where this monstrous complex system has now closed the doors on
them. And the other thing to remember is that all they want to do is to
mourn, they really don’t want to be involved in a battle to break down
these barriers. We understood that and we laid it out to them. All we
could tell them was our experience. We’ve got decades of experience.
We’ve worked on cases. We’ve actually won cases. We’ve gotten people
who were innocent released from prison. We’ve gotten guilty police
officers prosecuted. We always make a point of telling people, including
the Baez family, that we can’t guarantee justice, but we can guarantee
that if they want to fight they don’t have to fight alone. That we’ll share
with them the cumulative experience that our community has gained
over the decades, because that’s part of our role. We’ll share our
expertise as organizers with them but they have to make all the decisions
and they’ve got to determine the pace and the language and the imagery
and all of those things.
I think that Iris and her family relied in the first phases of this on the
people who said they would support her. The Baez family had a very
friendly relationship with the precinct from which Livoti came. After
Anthony was killed that relationship soured and police officers
continued to harass her other sons. Some of the elected officials put
some distance between themselves and her. And some of the clergymen
failed to come through with the kind of mobilizations and church!based
support that they had promised. As the doors began to close, and as
some of the people she thought were going to be allies really weren’t, it
was a natural thing for her to say, “Well, where are my other allies?
Where are the resources that I can rely on as all of these things start to
happen to me?” It became obvious after the initial shock of losing a
loved one that this was going to be long and complicated, that they were
not just up against the police department, that the mayor was already
talking about giving the cops the benefit of the doubt. The media was
starting to spin this. Iris Baez stilled lived in the middle of the precinct
where her son was killed and where her other sons were being harassed.
Given all that, the family reached out and we began to build a
relationship that took a long time to build.
4. The Families
One of the things we’ve learned over the years is that we can empathize
with people who lose loved ones, but nobody can really connect like
another family who has gone through it. So what we always try and do is
to connect the families with one another so that they can get strength
from each other and so that the newer families can learn from the older
families. We were working with on the Manuel Mayi case, a racial
murder case in Queens. Mrs. Altagracia Mayi has worked with us for
eleven years. And like every other family she believed in the system, but
as the years went on the system locked her out. The police department
failed to do a vigorous investigation. Because it was white kids killing a
Latino kid in Queens, it didn’t have the same cache as if it were reversed.
We immediately connected the Baez family with the Mayi family and a
few other families that we had been working with previously so that they
could exchange the experience of loss, so that the Baez family could see
that it is possible to struggle, it is possible to turn your loss into focused
anger and still maintain your humanity. Because part of what happens is
that you’re so angry that it really threatens to take away your humanity.
The families began to help each other. Later on Iris joined the group and
we were then able to connect to newer families like Anibal Carrasquillo’s
mother, Yong Xin Huang’s family, Frankie Arzuega’s family, all of these
families who had lost children. Iris became part of the group, and
eventually they joined with Margarita Rosario and Hilton Vega’s
mothers. The question is: how do you transform from someone that
everything is operating on you to someone who affects the world, who
determines what happens? Instead of just being a passive object in your
own life, you start to define how your life is going to be and from a
political perspective that means making choices. For the Baez family
they had to make choices as to who their allies were going to be.
5. Alliances with Street Organizations
At that time we were working on a gang truce between the Latin Kings
and the Ñetas, and the truce was holding. It was significant for the
Latino community because it meant a reduction of violence in the
community. Part of the gang truce was to involve young people in
political action, voter registration, demonstrations and political
education. One of the issues that resonated with gang members was
police brutality because they’re young people. It resonates with all young
people because they are the target of the police stop!and!search policies
and the mass arrests. So the issue of police brutality resonated with all
young people, including young people that were in gangs, because they’re
the ones who are stopped and frisked. They’re the ones who are illegally
arrested and harassed, whose rights are violated in the main. And they
became very active in the movement to get justice in the killing of
Anthony Baez, as did some young construction workers from Positive
Work Force from East Harlem, as did a lot of youth groups around the
city. It was almost as if it was a convergence of a lot of factors and I
think who Iris was, was one of the factors. Iris was the member of our
family who was religious, who was not political, but who had a steel
personality. She had that internal strength and commitment and clarity
and unfortunately people had to see this at a time of tremendous grief,
but her strength and her humanity came through even with all the grief.
And people felt that “Wow, if this could happen to this woman who is
such a good woman and had such a good family it could happen to any of
us.” And the fact that the Baez family believed in the system made it
even more touching for people because it also said, “See, if you believe in
the system it doesn’t guarantee that you get justice.” Now the family has
to grow because they’re in a situation where they’re confronting new
challenges that no one should really have to confront. But they’re forced
to do it if they’re going to get justice for Anthony. And one of the issues
is, who their allies are going to be? Who are they going to be seen with?
Who are they going to be pictured with? They were under a lot of
pressure to renounce the support they were getting from the gangs.
Some of the right!wing newspapers in New York trumpeted that gang
members were supporting this movement. And at one point a police
officer from the precinct from the 46th precinct was shot. And
immediately, without any evidence, newspapers began to speculate
without any evidence that it was gang members that were part of the
justice movement that had done this in retaliation for Anthony’s murder.
It turned out months later that it was an initiation by a drug gang. It had
nothing to do with the movement for justice. But for the first few days it
was all over the newspapers and the reporters were saying to Iris, “Will
you get these kids out of your movement, these gang members, will you
throw them out of the movement so that they won’t march with you?”
And she met with all of the families, because all of the other families
were confronted by the same thing. People in the neighborhood were
saying, “Why are you taking support from these kids?” That wasn’t the
only support they had. They had support from clergy. They had support
from professors. They had support from all kinds of people. But it was
an attempt to break the movement because the strength of the
movement was in the mix of the people that it brought together. Not in
the uniformity of the people, but in the diversity of the people. After the
families got together they called a press conference in front of Iris’s
house. They called the leadership of the Latin Kings and the Ñetas to
stand with them and they said, “We welcome these young people.” Iris
said, “I lost one son and I gained a hundred,” and that was so touching.
That was a real turning point because it also spoke to the possibility of
transformation and redemption for the people who had been in a gang
world. For many of them it was one of the first times that they had been
embraced in such a public way. It also meant that the Baez family was
being seen as the focal point of the families around justice, that the Baez
family was going to continue to welcome all of the supporters that came
around them and was not going to succumb to these forms of divide and
conquer. It was a really significant moment. I still remember it because
it touched people so deeply.
There were a number of things about this case, in addition to Iris’s
personality and her family, that made it a very significant story. Number
one: Livoti was a PBA delegate. He was also being monitored by the
department, which is highly unusual. That meant that he was a danger
and that the police department recognized it. The night Livoti choked
Anthony Baez to death the sergeant was in the car with him and didn’t
intervene as the whole incident built up and Anthony was choked. It
showed that the forced monitoring program was not effective. The 46th
precinct had been identified by the Mollen Commission, which had been
set up by former mayor Dinkins to investigate police corruption and
brutality, as a “problem precinct,” meaning officers testified about
routine brutality and cover!ups in the precinct. It was clear that the
Mollen Commission recommendations about that precinct were being
The fact that one of the top police officials, Louis Anemone, said after
this incident that Francis Livoti was the kind a cop the city needed
indicated that the entire police department was closing ranks to support
Livoti. The fact that Livoti’s dozens of CCRB complaints against him,
many of them for excessive force, were being ignored talked about the
institutional nature of the cover!up and that bad police officers were
being protected by the system. Not just by the other police officers who
lied at the trial, but they were protected by their superiors like the
sergeant who was on the scene. Like the officials in the precinct. Like
the top brass in the police department who closed ranks. What the case
exemplified was the inability of the NYPD to police itself. Livoti was a
living example of that. Later on we would see that other officers, like
those who tortured Abner Louima and the ones who shot Amadou
Diallo, had similar histories. It was well!known that Livoti had
protection at the highest level of the police department. At one point
Livoti actually physically assaulted a sergeant, and wasn’t thrown off the
force and wasn’t disciplined. That never happens unless you’ve got real
connections in the police department. It also told us that good police
officers who want to do their job are operating at a disadvantage because
the buddy system and the protection system inside the police
department sends a message to them. If a guy like Livoti !! who everyone
in that precinct knew was a hotdog, a cowboy !! can just go about his
business without anyone intervening and everyone knows it, then that
sends a message to all the cops about what the culture is, about what is
okay and what is not okay.
7. The Blue Wall of Silence and the Courts
I think when we look at the Livoti situation we need to see how he got
protection not only from the police department, but how he got
protection in courts as well. A number of police officers lied in court to
protect him. They said that after Anthony Baez was choked by Livoti
that Anthony got up and walked, meaning that Livoti didn’t kill
Anthony. If you remember at first they said Anthony died of asthma,
and that was what these officers were trying to say. One police officer,
Daisy Boria, a woman, testified that Anthony never got up again after he
was choked. She challenged the blue wall of silence. She contradicted her
partner. The judge said there was a nest of perjury in this case. None of
those perjurers have ever been prosecuted. Daisy Boria received death
threats. She couldn’t open her locker; they used to have the bomb squad
open her locker. The captain of the precinct told her she would have to
leave the precinct because he couldn’t protect her. Now how is it you
can’t protect a police officer in a police precinct? If the captain can’t
protect the police officer, who runs the precinct? Or is the captain
colluding with the ones who are threatening Daisy Boria? Eventually
Daisy Boria sued the police department and left the police force. The
people who tormented Daisy Boria never faced anything. That’s all part
of the blue wall. So it’s not just the cops, it’s the system that protects
liars, and does not protect a good cop who wants to tell the truth. And
we saw it in the court. We saw it later on in the precincts. Now what
message does that give to cops? The message it gives them is, “Keep your
mouth closed and go with the flow or you’re going to catch hell.”
The typographical error is another example. The typing is being done in
the D.A.’s office. Does anyone check it? When we heard about it we
said, “Of course, they did it on purpose.” There were rumors that Livoti
had friends that worked in the D.A.’s office, but even if he didn’t, the
D.A. is responsible. How could such a thing have occurred? After it
occurs, the Bronx D.A. says to the Baez family that that he’s going to
appeal the typographical error. An appeal could take as much as two
years. Now two years means that you put your life on hold for two more
years. The movement’s momentum dissipates and you don’t know what
the outcome of the appeal is going to be. The Baez family said, “We
have lawyers who told us that’s not his only option. His other option is
to re!indict, go to a grand jury and re!indict and this time make sure
there are no typographical errors.” That was the reason we did the sit!in
in the Bronx D.A.’s office, to call public attention to the fact that he
didn’t have to wait two years for an appeal. He could re!indict
immediately, and that that’s what the family wanted him to do. We
brought press with us to the sit!in, we were prepared to go to jail. We
forced him to come out of his office to deal with the press and tell Iris
Baez and her family why he was making the decision that he had made,
and then he reversed the decision and re!indicted Livoti. We think that
that was part of the cover!up, and that he’s responsible, and the
lackluster prosecution that was eventually done up in Albany in the
Diallo case also goes to the Bronx D.A.’s office. It becomes very difficult
to tell people to believe in the system when at every step along the way
parts of the system protect the person who killed your son, and Iris has
said this herself.
I think the paperwork error in the Livoti indictment was done by people
who work there and that the Bronx DA wasn’t on top of the case. I don’t
think he ordered it. I think it was done by other people who were there,
but he didn’t make sure it was correct and nobody ever got punished. Let
me tell you, that’s a very serious error. It’s not just a typing error in the
sense that someone typed a “t” instead of a “d.” This was a substitution,
they put in the wrong charge. Instead of putting one degree of murder
they put another degree of murder. It’s a totally different word. It’s
almost impossible for me to believe, and I think for the rest of the city
to believe, that it was an accident. That had to be intentional. Someone
did it on purpose. The D.A. wasn’t on top of the case. He didn’t take
care of it. He runs a slipshod office. That’s what people felt. I mean at
each step along the way the perjurers are not responsible, the person
who did the typographical error is not responsible, the sergeant who is
supposed to be monitoring Livoti is not responsible, nobody’s
responsible for anything. At the same time we’re being told how
responsible we have to be for the kids in our community, but the whole
system is not responsible for the implementation of justice and law.
That’s wrong. People see the hypocrisy. If I made a typographical error
like that I’d lose my job. I mean that’s a serious mistake, but nobody lost
their job, nobody was reprimanded. What the D.A.’s office did was to
close ranks and say, “Okay, we have to appeal.” And the Baez family said,
“No, we’re not waiting for an appeal. We want you to re!indict.” The
D.A.’s supposed to work with the Baez family too, he’s supposed to work
with the victim. He didn’t call them and say, “Let’s look at our options
here.” He made a choice. He never consulted them. The choice was the
worst possible choice for the Baez family. It was the best choice for
Livoti and the police department, so what conclusion should we reach?
8. Civil Disobedience
The radicalization of Iris Baez was not of her own choice. She was
radicalized by the way the system responded to her. The system locked
her out. It refused to speak to her. Her requests were always reasonable.
The criminal justice system and the political system that sits on top of it
didn’t hear her request. They didn’t treat her like a human being and
they shut her out. When we did the sit!in at the Bronx DA’s office, Iris
Baez came with this huge leather bound Bible, and in the course of the
sit!in she was pounding on the Bible. And I say that because this was a
religious woman. She was relying on her faith, but also her God told her,
“You have act. It’s not just enough to pray to me, you have to act to
make things happen.” And she was acting, but she was acting in good
faith. She didn’t operate off of preconceived notions. As she went
through the twists and turns of the case in the criminal justice system
she started to see ugliness and evil and undemocratic authoritarianism
and inhumanity. It was in the course of trying to find out how could this
happen to her son and her family that she started to see all of it and it
radicalized her. The fight for justice radicalized her. She wasn’t a radical,
and in turn she realized that she now had an obligation to every other
family to share with them what she had gone through.
Our strategy for the sit!in in the Bronx D.A.’s office was to shame the
Bronx D.A. into re!indicting Livoti. We pulled together a team of
people; there were about 12 of us. We brought a couple of friendly
reporters with us to the sit!in and we told them, “We’re going to do civil
disobedience. We’re willing to go to jail to pressure the D.A. to re!indict
Livoti. We want reporters to be there. We want you to question him
and we want you to watch them arrest us.” Before we did this we had a
meeting with the Baez family. People were pretty despondent after the
typographical error because it seemed to us like the system had closed
ranks and was pulling some dirty tricks. We looked at all the options
that we had. One option was to let them do the appeal, which could take
up to two years. During those two years the movement would dissipate.
Anthony’s name would move to the bottom of the list. The momentum
that they had built would be gone. Everyone rejected that option and
then we said, “Well, the other thing is to force the D.A. to re!indict.”
How do we force him? Public embarrassment, public pressure. What’s
the greatest form of public pressure? Make him arrest Anthony Baez’s
mother. It’d be easy to arrest us, the radicals, the community activists.
It’s not going to carry the same the weight. The press isn’t even going to
be that interested. The story is Anthony Baez’s mother, his sister, other
mothers and other families members willing to go to jail to demand this.
The D.A. had already messed up by not talking to them about the
options after the so!called “typographical error.” And so we presented
this to them. We had to operate within a window of time of a couple of
weeks because he was going to make a decision. We thought that the
greatest impact would be that we were prepared to go to jail, but that it
would have less impact if we did it without the Baez family, that the
greatest impact would be if they were willing to do it. And after
discussion they agreed and we kind of trained everybody for civil
disobedience and we took the action.
Iris and her family were very highly motivated. In civil disobedience
training a lot of times you have to get people to understand that no
matter what happens this is about non!violence, but Iris is non!violent.
It’s is not a tactic for her; it’s her way of life. More of the training was
about exactly how we’re going to do it, where to meet in the morning,
how to come up in the elevator, what we should anticipate after we’re
arrested, what to bring with you, what not to bring with you, jail house
solidarity, how none of us would go home until everybody was out of jail
no matter how they staggered the release. We had some legal
preparation to understand what charges we would have. We wanted
trespassing charges; we didn’t want any other charges because we wanted
to be out in a day or two. That was really the preparation and everything
went exactly the way we had anticipated. We came up in the elevator,
we brought the reporters in with us, we marched right past the
receptionist. We didn’t push our way through, we sat down right
between the doors and the elevator and started chanting. We had a
written statement which we read and gave to the D.A.’s representatives
and to the press. One of the reporters was from an all day news radio
station and they were broadcasting live from the sit!in. The media part
of it worked out well. We had supporters outside and we had legal
people outside. We demanded that the Bronx D.A. come out and meet
with the families. After a couple of hours they threatened they would
arrest us and we said “bring it on” because that’s why we were there. A
few hours went by and then Bronx D.A. Robert Johnson came out.
There was a back and forth between him and Iris and Margarita Rosario
that was filmed and broadcast by the camera crew that we brought with
us. Then he went back in. He was angry. We continued the sit!in. But
they decided they weren’t going to arrest us. They didn’t want
photographs of Iris Baez in handcuffs. Public opinion was inflamed
against the Bronx D.A.’s office after the so!called typographical error
and he didn’t want to add to that by arresting the mother. We went in at
about nine in the morning, and at nine o’clock at night they told us,
“We’re not arresting you. If you leave we’re not going to allow you to
come back in, but we’re not arresting you. If you want to stay all night,
you can stay all night.” They locked up everything and they left us in the
building. The police were downstairs. If we had wanted to leave we could
have. By about nine o’clock at night we hadn’t been to the bathroom and
no bathrooms were available. The story had already been reported in the
media and the media had gone home. We decided that our point had
been made and we left.
I think the problem is the symbiotic relationship between the D.A.’s and
the police. They live off each other. D.A.’s can’t succeed without the
cooperation of the police, and they definitely are afraid of bucking the
PBA, to which Livoti was a delegate. He had juice there, and he had
juice inside the police department up to the highest levels, and I think
that speaks for itself.
Some people said at the end of this that the Baez family got justice, that
the system works. What we said is, “No, the system doesn’t work.” Yes,
the people got justice, but the system failed consistently at every point.
The fact that this family was able to gather allies and mount a four!year
movement to put one cop in jail is a testimony to the family. And it’s a
testimony to the community. It’s not a testimony to the police
department. They were forced, in the end. Actually, I shouldn’t even say
they were forced because they didn’t do it, the federal government came
in and tried Livoti on civil rights violations. The police department never
dealt with that situation. They were forced to confront it and the lesson
for us is: how many other families have experienced things like this? It
took a four!year effort which for this family was day and night. Iris went
all over the country to speak. She went all over the city. Her sons, her
husband, everyone was out there talking and organizing. We built a
movement around the case because, aside from the human factor, the
case embodied our criticism of the NYPD and the political cover!ups
that help the police department. But that was an extraordinary effort
and if it takes an extraordinary effort like that !! tens of thousands of
people marching, petitions, voter registration drives, TV shows, an
extraordinary effort where everyone put there lives on hold to deal with
this at great personal cost to themselves emotionally and financially !!
then it means that justice is not routine. We need justice to be routine.
That’s what it is supposed to be. It shouldn’t be an extraordinary effort.
So we look at this and say, on the one hand, “Congratulations to all of
those who participated in that.” On the other hand we say, “What about
the families that are not able to put this extraordinary effort together?
How do they get justice?” What it means to us is that the system is still
rigged against individual families and individual victims, and until justice
is routine then we really don’t have justice. What we have is the people
forcing the system to court and winning. I’m talking about tens of
thousands of people in demonstrations for four years, and some of those
were at six o’clock in the morning in the freezing weather, in the rain
and in the snow, marching in the street. We built a tremendous
movement of support for them because this case for us embodied every
thing that we had been saying about the inability of the police
department to police itself, and that people in politics like the mayor at
that time were willing to support the police department no matter what.
The cover!up was systemic, it was built into these institutions, and it
went beyond the police department right up into City Hall. In the end
that effort won. We were able to force a federal indictment after the
case failed locally. But an extraordinary effort like that means that justice
is not routine. That’s not fair. How many families can mount the kind of
campaign and pull together the personal resources and the community
resources to make something like this happen? Livoti going to jail didn’t
mean the system had changed. That didn’t mean that inside the police
department things had changed. It means that every other family still
has to the same. It means that an extraordinary effort must be expended
every single time this happens. And we tell the families that until we
have systemic institutional change, every family has do this. And we’ll do
it with you, but understand what the cost of it is going to be.
9. Rudolph Giuliani and the NYPD
We have to understand Anthony Baez’s killing in the context of what
was going on inside the police department and with the mayor. The
police department had instituted a new policy. Remember this was a get!
tough mayor. He was going to clean up the town. There was a new
sheriff in town, and the police department instituted “zero tolerance.”
Their policy was, You stop and frisk everyone, and you’ll find
something.” We’ve had a number of lawsuits that have challenged that,
but the reality was that in the first two years of the Giuliani
administration, tens of thousands of people were stopped and frisked
illegally. No forms were filled out. The zero tolerance campaign and the
cleaning up the streets campaign was really a war against young people of
color. All of a sudden we had the criminalization of activities that were
never criminal before. People riding bicycles on the sidewalk could be
stopped. People just walking around could be stopped. Although the
U.S. doesn’t have a national ID card, if you were stopped by the police
and you couldn’t prove who you were they might take you in. We saw
the number of arrests rising. In the first year of the Giuliani
administration the number of juvenile arrests rose by 98,000. And what
this reflects is increased contact between the police department and
young people of color. Inevitably there were going to be cases, because
we see police brutality as a spectrum of stop!and!frisk, beatings and
killings, but the killings were the far end of the spectrum. The iceberg
was the tens of thousands of people whose rights were being violated to
the point where young people in the black and Latino communities
understood this as part of their lives. They internalized that this is how
life was. The police officers themselves started getting the message that,
“Anything goes and that the system will protect us. You can do stops!
and!frisks. You can throw people on the ground.” We have cases of
members of our organization whose kids were thrown on the ground at
gun point and then let go and told to, “Get the fuck out of here before
we shoot you. See if you can outrun a bullet.” That kind of brutality, and
just constant police pressure on young people, was what was going on.
This was part of the Giuliani plan to clean up New York City. It was the
underbelly of the Giuliani success story. It’s always a marginalized group
that feels the pressure first, and then those tactics began to spread to the
rest of the city. You had people who were being arrested for allowing
their dogs to drink from the fountain in Central Park. Then white
middle!class people began getting arrested and put through the system
because now everyone was being put through the system. There were no
desk appearance tickets. People began to realize that the danger to civil
rights and human rights is never confined to one group. It always
extends to the larger society. You say, “Yeah, we need to suppress them”
and it eventually comes knocking on your door. They learned that in
Germany, and every other country where democracy has been
undermined has had the same experience. We had it here.
Anthony Baez’s killing has to be seen in the context of this get tough,
zero tolerance, anything goes, the!police!will!be!supported!no!matter!
what attitude. We used to confront Mayor Giuliani at Town Hall
meetings and challenge those policies, because they did not make the
city safer for us. What they meant was that families now not only had to
worry about their kids getting caught in a crossfire of gangs or drugs,
they had to worry about police officers with arrest quotas they had to
fill. Cops felt free to stop my son, anyone else’s kids and demand
identification. And if they didn’t have identification, or if they didn’t
show the respect and deference the police officer wanted, they were
going to take them in. And the numbers showed that was exactly what
was happening. Kids were languishing in jail because they couldn’t make
bail. So the term “criminalization of a generation” is not an exaggeration.
The criminalization of young people of color, the same young people
who have no place in the economy because the economy has been
restructured. They’re part of a school system that has deteriorated and
are being subjected to this tremendous pressure by the police in every
one of our communities under the guise of making us safer, And now we
have to worry about police officers who view our kids as criminals. We
view them with love !! they’re our children, they’re our brothers and
sisters % but they view them all as perpetrators or potential perpetrators.
We want to be safe. Our communities are the ones that face the highest
crime rates, so we want to be safe. But the hallmark of democracy in
every society is that in trying to deal with social problems it
simultaneously has to pay attention to what makes it a democracy, which
is civil and human rights. And so we can’t have the stopping!and!frisking
of everyone because that’s against the law. There’s a reason we have that
law. You can’t just round up everyone and then see if you can find a
knife on somebody. Because in any community you go to, if you round
up every one in the community you’re going to find a couple of knives,
but everyone else is going to have their rights violated. So the issue of
safety is one that’s important to us. The issue of the safety for police
officers is important to us, too. But you don’t make police officers more
safe by enraging the entire community because of indiscriminant police
sweeps. I’ve seen them and I’ve been in them, where entire areas are
cordoned off and everyone inside that area has to prove why they’re
there. And if you can’t prove why you’re there, if you don’t have
identification and you can’t prove why you’re there, you’re taken in. A
friend of mine left his house in the Bronx to get a container of milk one
night in his slippers, and didn’t take identification. The area was
cordoned off and he was caught up in a drug sweep. He was taken into
custody because he couldn’t prove why he was there, even though he
said, “Take me up the block, my wife will tell you I live up the block.”
But he couldn’t prove it so he was taken into custody. Does that make
him more bitter? Does that make him less likely to cooperate with the
police? Yes, it does. So that’s a self!defeating way of making us
supposedly safe because it turns everyone in the community into a
potential criminal in the eyes of the police department. That’s not the
way to make the community safe, nor is it the way to make police
officers safe. The challenge for political leadership and for the police
department is to deal with crime and at the same time to maintain what
makes America a democracy, those rights that make this country
different. People used to say that under Mussolini the trains always ran
on time. There was no street crime in Nazi Germany. Those things are
true but is that the price people are willing to pay? I would venture not.
When crime starts to peak in suburban communities, they don’t put the
entire community into a state of siege, because those residents have
more political clout than poor residents in inner city communities. They
look for ways to target, to be precise, to increase the effectiveness of
policing and the use of science and forensics and a number of other
things. They don’t turn the entire community into a target area.
11. Zero Tolerance
“Zero Tolerance” policing was taken to a higher level under Giuliani
because he openly said he was going to follow the broken windows
theory, which is a criminology theory that says you crack down on small
crimes and it helps you deal with big crimes. That’s a reductionist,
simplified way of saying it. But what it meant was that they were adding
a lot more crimes so that drinking an open can of beer in the street is
now a crime. I would venture that a lot of people who will see this film
have had an open can of beer in the street. How that law is enforced
matters; it’s enforced disproportionately in certain places. If you’re
sitting in front of your house in the suburbs drinking a can of beer, or in
your backyard, no one arrests you, but in urban centers there are no
backyards, so if you’re sitting on your stoop you can be arrested. So we
have people being arrested for a beer. You have people being arrested for
loud radios, you have people being arrested for number of other things
that before the Giuliani era were not crimes. Now they’re crimes, and
more and more things are being added to the list of what is a crime.
That’s going to make this country a different place, and soon all of the
residents of the nation are going to have to ask, “Is this the only way to
do this? Are we safer or are we now becoming a different place?” Those
are real questions. Our opinion of that is that we are moving towards a
more authoritarian country with less checks and balances on the police
department and that that is dangerous. Given America’s racial history,
those racial and ethnic groups that had been most marginalized are going
to be the ones that these new things are tested on. And that once they
are tested there they become part of the general culture of the nation
and that we will see a steady erosion of our rights. And the consequences
of that are an expanded prison system and young people who have
records. If you ask people in this country, “Should our prisons be filled
with non!violent criminals?” the majority of people say, “No.” The drug
war is filling the prisons with non violent criminals; two!thirds of those
in prison are non!violent. There should be alternatives to that. There are
alternatives that should be looked at and we’re not doing that. The
problem is a complex one, but the policing strategy is a simplistic one.
It’s “Round them up, lock them up.” And there are real limitations to
the rights of people. Giuliani used to argue this all the time, that there
were limits to freedom of speech, freedom of the press. That’s why he
was in court all time. He lost every single one of those court cases
around freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of
assembly. He constantly looked to restrict those freedoms that are
guaranteed in the constitution. The problem was that it takes a long
time to go to court and in the meantime the freedom has been
12. Arrest Quotas
There were additional policies put in place in the police department that
led to abuses. For example, there were quotas for arrests in every
precinct, not just for issuing tickets, there were quotas for arrests. And it
didn’t matter if the arrest was a good arrest or not. When I say “good
arrest” I mean, did it withstand a court test? It didn’t matter. There were
arrest quotas for police officers and for precincts. And with the
institution of what was called the Compstat program, which was a
computer tracking system that told you where crimes were taking place
in a precinct, and where arrests were taking place, police commanders
and precinct commanders were called down to One Police Plaza and
they had to answer questions. They were put on the hot seat, so the
pressure came from the top to make more arrests. It got to the point
where police officers couldn’t make more arrests for real crimes, so they
began to make arrests for things that were minor. They began to dumb
down the policing process, and to massify it, even if the arrests were
thrown out. But if you were making a lot of arrests it looked good when
that computer!tracking chart was put up on the screen. And that was
one of the things that set this into motion. It wasn’t the quality of
arrests, it was the quantity of arrests. Even the majority of gun seizures
by the Street Crimes Unit were thrown out of court. That’s bad. We
want guns thrown off the streets, so do it the right way. We need
professional policing. Don’t blame anything else except the lack of
professionalism. Spend more time on professionalizing police officers
and preparing them and training them. We want guns off the street, but
at the same time we’re not willing to pay the price of living in a police
13. Crime Rates
There was a perception that crime was really bad in New York, and that
it went down after Giuliani and Bratton instituted this “get tough”
policy. But there’s a debate that still rages among academics about what
the factors were that led to crime going down, in addition to policing.
There were a number of factors, including the aging out of the groups
that commit most crimes, the fact that crack cocaine was replaced as the
drug of choice, because crack is a violent drug. The fact that community
movements against drugs and violence began to proliferate. The gang
truce movement also led to the decline of crime. There were a lot of
factors at play. A lot of clergy and community people worked hard
against violence in the community, as well as youth themselves who built
Stop the Violence movements, and they need to be given credit. It was
not simply punitive policing. It was also the proactive part that came out
of communities themselves. So those things need to be looked at. There
are arguments made that other cities have reduced crime, such as San
Diego, without instituting the same kind of policies. I know it’s smaller
than New York City, but other cities have reduced crime at a level
greater than New York by instituting different kinds of policies. I would
say that those things are worth studying to see what the best practices
are. To uphold punitive policing and to refuse to scrutinize this “get
tough” New York City example excludes all other factors. Our
movement was part of the anti!crime movement; we fought crime in our
communities. We fought against the proliferation of drugs in the
communities. We fought against the proliferation of guns in the
communities and fought against violence in the communities. We fought
for conflict resolution training for young people. We fought for a lot for
things. Young people themselves turned their backs on that violence.
Not everybody, but large sectors. Those were important factors. To say
that the only factor that plays here is policing by itself is undemocratic.
The Giuliani administration and some of the other politicians who
followed him have made everything into a police issue. Everything needs
a police solution. Immigration problems? Police them, arrest them.
Homeless people? Arrest them. The problem of homelessness is not a
problem of criminality. We need housing for poor people, there’s a
shortage of housing. So arresting everybody that is homeless doesn’t
solve the problem of the shortage of housing. Same thing around jobs
and the economy. The economy was in the toilet. Unemployment rates
in inner city communities were tremendous. Young people couldn’t get
work. Summer youth programs were disappearing. All of the programs
were going out the window, as we’re going to see in the future with these
big budget deficits. So you need to look at those factors, because there’s
no social scientist that doesn’t see a link between the economy and
crime. It’s a fact that when the economy goes down crime goes up. All
kinds of crime. We need to look at it. It’s simplistic to say tougher cops
did it all. And I think the reason people in government do that is
because they find they find the Constitution and the Bill of Rights a
burden and they could live without it. It’s easier to make the trains run
on time and deal with street crime if you’ve got an authoritarian non!
14. The Social Justice Movement
We had already been active for years when Anthony Baez was killed in
1994. There had been a movement around a Civilian Complaint Review
Board. We had fought throughout the nineties around different cases,
winning some of them and building mass movements around them all
over the city. At that point, we were still fighting around specific cases
and Iris came into the middle of that. In the succeeding year we added
Yong Xin Huang, Anibal Carrasquillo and a number of other people to
the list of cases. Exactly a year after Anthony Baez was killed, Anthony
Rosario and Hilton Vega were killed in the same precinct. In that year
Frankie Arzuega was killed. Antoine Watson was killed in Brooklyn.
Dozens of other killings occurred, and again I have to say the killings
were the far end of the police brutality spectrum. What was going on
daily was stops!and!frisks and abuses. Part of the reaction of the
communities to the killings was fueled by the daily experience that
people were having of being illegally stopped!and!frisked and having
their rights violated. That was the movement that was forming, and it
crystallized in late 1996 ! 1997 while Iris was still fighting for justice. The
battle around the Anthony Baez case helped that movement, as the
community went through the twists and turns of that case, and there
were many twists and turns. The militancy amongst the families grew.
The movement grew and became more and more visible and many of the
issues that we had raising for years moved from the fringe to the
mainstream. The context of this has to be seen. It was the tens of the
thousands of illegal stops!and!frisks and arrests that created the
groundswell. The killings became the explosions that triggered it all, but
the foundation was the fact that in communities of color tens of
thousands of people were experiencing various forms of police abuse.
And when the killings finally occurred everyone said, “That could’ve
happened to us. Amadou Diallo could have been us and Anthony Baez
could have been us.” So people said, “We’ve got to stop this.” The
killings attracted the greatest attention, but everyone wanted to stop the
whole pattern of abuse, including those many incidents that were not
killings but were violations of human and civil rights.
The number of killings by police officers went up in ‘95 and ‘96. The
number of stops!and!frisks went through the ceiling, but that didn’t
become obvious until after Amadou Diallo was killed. We did a lawsuit
to get the documentation about the Street Crimes Unit and found that
all these anti!crime units across the city were actually roving bands of
cops that were just rousting people left and right. This was not good
policing, it was racial profiling based on the color of a person’s skin, their
accent and the community they lived in. Entire communities were being
designated as drug!prone criminal areas. That was being done to
facilitate police stopping everyone inside that community. Now, that’s
not community policing. One of the strategies we would urge is
community policing. In the case of Amadou Diallo, for example, if you
lived in that community you knew he was Muslim. Everybody knew the
building where the Muslim brothers lived. They prayed there. They
didn’t drink. Everyone in that community knew that. If the cops had
been part of the community they would’ve known it also and they would
not have reacted the way they reacted. So our work around the Baez case
and around the other cases connected to a lot other issues. It connected
to the stop!and!frisk issues. It connected the special units whose job was
to cordon off areas of the community. It connected to the issues of
15. Police Accountability
There was a sergeant sitting in the police car when Anthony Baez was
choked. He came out afterwards to help arrest the rest of the family
members, but he was supposed to be monitoring violence on the part of
Livoti and he didn’t do anything. He didn’t go to jail. He was never
brought up on charges. In the Diallo case you had a Street Crimes Unit,
four guys who hadn’t worked together before who were pretty new, who
had no supervisor with them. They so much didn’t know where they
were that after they killed Amadou Diallo one of them had to go to the
corner to see a street sign so that they could call in their location. Now
who’s responsible for that? This is not good policing, this is not scientific
policing. This is a mess. But somewhere there’s a hierarchy of people
responsible, and ultimately it’s the police commissioner, and the mayor
who appoints that police commissioner. These are policies and practices
that are set in place. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the
Congressional Black Caucus, all of them found that there were policies
and practices in New York City that violated people’s rights, and that’s
important. We’re citizens of the world as well as being residents of the
U.S.A. and so when international human rights organizations look at this
and say, “There’s a pattern, there are policies that led to these abuses,”
it’s important. This is the picture that the world gets of America. And
it’s true. It’s not true throughout, because these policies are first tried on
the most marginalized communities. Eventually they will become law
and culture in America, and then the whole of our society will start living
with the diminution of their rights and an expansion of police power in
the name of us being safe.
During this period we were getting lots and lots of phone calls. There
were so many cases of peoples’ rights being violated by police that
lawyers were having to set up a hierarchy of cases they could deal with.
And because all of the cases were going to cost money #the lawyers were
telling us that a typical case would cost &10,000$ if there weren’t
&10,000 in damages it wasn’t even worth taking the case. I had some
young people who came up here to visit me who were stopped and
frisked and forced to drop their pants at the train station downstairs, in
what the police laughingly said was a search for drugs, which was really
just a humiliation and a lesson to these kids. That case wasn’t worth
prosecuting in monetary terms. It would have cost tens of thousands of
dollars for those kids to follow up on the case. The lawyers had to say
that if there was no physical injury they wouldn’t even deal with the case.
The courts wouldn’t deal with them.
There was a tremendous groundswell. That’s how we knew it was
happening, because people were calling us about their kids. People were
afraid for their kids. They were afraid for themselves. The killings spiked
it, but on a daily basis we were getting calls from young people and from
their families about stops and frisks, being taken into custody, being put
in line!ups. All kinds of illegal abuses were taken place. Being told, “You
look like the guy we’re looking for,” and that could be anything.
We had studied the Mollen Commission report and it told us about
patterns of police abuse that had been discovered right before the
Giuliani administration came into office. We fought police brutality
under Dinkins, we fought it under Koch, we fought it before that. We
fought it under Giuliani, and we’ll fight it after Giuliani. It’s not one
mayor or another, although the ideology and perspective of a mayor in
terms of human rights and civil rights is very important, because that will
inform how far they’re willing to go. So we felt the accumulation and
that’s what we really need to talk about is an accumulation of grievances.
And let’s remember that every commission that was set up after the
rebellions of the 1960’s riots said that the trigger event was police
brutality. Before each of those explosions there was an accumulation of
grievances that had occurred, and then an event sparked it. And we saw
this coming because we saw the movement growing. We saw people’s
anger growing. We saw the issues we had been raising previously !! the
need for independent prosecutors, the need for civilian oversight of the
police department !! these issues began to move to the center of political
discussion in the city. They was no longer marginal issues, because case
after case was proving that we were right. The way that information got
out was because there was a mass movement. It forced media coverage.
It forced politicians to start to deal with some of this. And let’s
remember that we’re dealing with demographic change. The city was
changing. We’re in a city where the majority are people of color. But
that majority doesn’t have political power, and that majority is the target
of these policing strategies. Inevitably that majority is going to start
pushing back and forcing politicians and the media and power brokers to
pay attention. Unfortunately it took the deaths of people to really
highlight it. The media would lose interest in a case in a day unless the
movement was able to sustain itself over a long period of time. Every
time we stopped activity, the cases disappeared. That takes
extraordinary effort, and if you have to do it for every single case that
calls for an extraordinary effort that is almost beyond human capability,
especially when you’re grieving.
16. Amadou Diallo
The outcry around the Amadou Diallo case was in some ways the
culmination of many of the things we had been talking about: the
number of shots that were fired; the circumstances, that he was in his
house, he wasn’t breaking into somebody’s house, he was in house. The
issue of racial profiling !! they saw a dark face lurking. This was the
antithesis, the opposite of community policing. These cops didn’t know
the community. They didn’t know where they were. That proved why
you need community policing. The number of shots fired proved why
you need oversight. The fact that they thought they were in danger
because Amadou Diallo had something in his hand, that really scared
people, because what’s your natural inclination? You want to show ID.
So now people started giving classes to kids to tell them not to go in your
pocket when you’re stopped. If they ask you for ID tell them, “I’m now
going to put my hand in my pocket.” I wouldn’t do that. I don’t train
people to live that way. We live in a democracy. We shouldn’t have to
live with that kind of fear. And it’s wrong for young people to have their
expectations lowered to the point where when you see a cop you lower
your eyes, move out of the way, do everything that they say, don’t ask
any questions. God forbid you should ask for a license plate number or a
badge number. I’m not going to do that. And people got scared. People
got scared that a person of color who was in his own building could be
gunned down in that manner. And their fear turned into anger and
outrage because it was the confirmation of things that people had been
seeing and feeling. Then there was the leadership of a movement that
got organized and galvanized for a series of protests, including the mass
arrests at One Police Plaza, to keep the pressure on. That was
There was an explosion of activity after Amadou Diallo was killed, and
there were hearings in the City Council and in Albany. It was on the
front page of magazines all over the country. It was on the front page of
the world press. And that attention was welcomed, but it was really
bittersweet for all of the families, because every time someone else is
killed your child’s name goes lower down on list. As the number of
people who are killed grows, the one that you loved, the one that you
miss at Christmas time, that name goes lower down on the list. On the
other hand you celebrate that perhaps some family will get justice and
you celebrate that the public is beginning to look at these issues. The
things that you’ve been saying, that your son was denied justice, that
there was a cover!up, now perhaps more people will believe it because
they see that indeed there is cover!up, that there are these things wrong
with how policing is carried out in the city. And, yes, the mayor does
play a big role in this and you hope that this will influence people to view
your situation differently. So it really is bittersweet; in some ways it’s
painful for the families. To their credit, they always embrace new
families even though every new family means that attention to their case
is reduced. I mean it’s a real dilemma, and your heart has to go out to
them because in truth they have become the moral backbone of the
police brutality movement. There’s been a significant change in the
movement because of the presence of families who refuse to be victims
and are actors in their own lives. They’re saying, “We are going to have
justice for our children and we’re never going to stop struggling.” Every
person who has a child or someone they love out there says, “That’s how
I would feel if my loved one was taken from me.” They’re not political
activists, they’re not operating out of an ideological pre!orientation.
They’re operating out of love and loss. So it touches everybody, and once
they’re touched they begin to develop a political perspective about why
this tragedy occurred and how to prevent it from occurring again.
Because every single family says, “I’m not doing this because it will bring
back my child; I’m doing this because I don’t want any other family to
ever have to go through this.”
Among the interesting things that we live with, like these bursts of
activity that occurred around Amadou Diallo, is what it does is to
advance the starting point of the struggle. It doesn’t resolve the struggle,
but it advances it. It makes it easier for power brokers, elected officials
and policy makers to consider issues they didn’t want to consider before
because they are risky, such as the need for oversight of the police
department. What we saw around Amadou Diallo was significant. It was
a flurry, a burst of activity, and we’ve seen those before. We saw it
around the Baez case. We’ve seen it in extraordinary situations. And
what each of those do is that they advance the starting point for the next
piece of the struggle. Many of these mass activities force policy makers
and elected officials out of their caves. When thousands of people are
taking a stand publicly and willing to risk arrest, they’re less afraid to
take a stand on something that’s controversial. It creates a crisis of
confidence, but at the same time it emboldens officials who are afraid of
public opinion to come forward and say, “This is an issue my
constituents are concerned about.” It mainstreams these issues. It
demands an analysis we have been trying to make public for a long time
about the need for institutional change in the police department. It’s
been a major struggle. There has not been institutional change in the
police department. There are still cover!ups. There are still police
beatings, but the starting point has been advanced. We have
accumulated new knowledge, new experience, new forces, new tactics,
new credibility, new mass understanding of the issues. So when you have
a beating in California where a kid is choked on videotape and banged
up against the car, the reason more people are able to identify with that
is because of all of the things that have come before it. So our view is
that this is a long struggle, because policing is at the heart of social
control in America. And social control becomes more important when a
country is in economic crisis and in political crisis. As the economy is
less able to provide meaningful labor for its people, social control
becomes more of an option. And we expect to see more of it rather than
less. With the dangers of terrorist attack we can expect to see more of it.
Our struggle has created another context and a new wealth of
information for people to utilize to analyze what government solutions
are being proposed. But we still haven’t seen institutional change and
that’s why we can’t relax our vigilance. Because while Livoti is in jail, the
killers of Anthony Rosario and Hilton Vega are not in jail, the murderer
of Anibal Carrasquillo who was shot in the back is not in jail. Frankie
Arzuega was shot in the back of the head, and his shooter is not in jail.
The list goes on, and the policies that led to those killings have not been
repudiated. As a matter of fact they’re being replicated around the
country. The problem of police brutality and police corruption remains
an endemic problem in American society.
So because the movement for justice for Amadou Diallo was a worldwide
phenomenon, officers were indicted, but the system still functioned to
protect the officers. The trial was moved out of New York City to a
conservative section of Albany where the officers were acquitted. We
think that the prosecutions of those officers was slipshod. It was not a
vigorous prosecution. There were many things that weren’t raised in that
case that should have been. Part of the reason is that D.A.’s prosecute
cops reluctantly because they rely on police officers to make their cases.
D.A.’s need cops. Article after article has come out saying you need an
independent prosecutor because D.A.’s and cops have a symbiotic
relationship. They need each other. As a matter of fact, D.A.’s who have
prosecuted cops have been punished by police unions. If you remember
way back in the Eleanor Bumpers case '1984(, the police union mounted
a massive protest at the Bronx court house against the D.A. who was
prosecuting the cops who killed that grandmother. There was
tremendous pressure with the Diallo case. It was an international case,
there were headlines everywhere. His body was flown back to Guyana,
his family came here and were very eloquent. They started to organize, as
all the other families have, and they embraced Iris and all the other
families. That makes it very powerful. But the fact that the cops don’t go
to jail, the fact that the system colludes to move the trial to Albany,
those are important facts for us to remember because again to get a trial
takes an extraordinary effort. We get the trial, and then the trial is
moved. So what do people say? They say that the system is rigged. Every
time we make an advance the rules of the games are changed. So now the
cops don’t have to be tried in the city where they work. They can be
tried in an area that has different voting patterns, different racial and
ethnic patterns. People say, “Yes, the system is rigged to perpetuate
itself and the Diallo case is one example of it.”
17. Gary (Gidone) Busch
Five months after Amadou Diallo was killed, Gary Busch is shot down in
Borough Park, Brooklyn, in a hail of 19 bullets. Witnesses say that he
was not close to the officers. Again, another tragedy, another mother
forced now to confront the system that has taken her loved one and has
closed ranks against her. This is how we understand this. The police
department has policies that were put in place after Eleanor Bumpers
was killed in the 1980’s. They were policies for dealing with “emotionally
disturbed people,” which is what they classified Gary Busch as. Those
policies weren’t followed in the Busch case. There was no supervisor
there. Again, we say that when you don’t educate police officers about
what the policy is on a daily basis, this is going to happen. They’ve got to
be reminded on a daily basis what the policy is. Supervision is crucial.
The review of shootings is crucial. Cops need to know that when they
shoot they’re going to be on the hot seat. This is a leadership problem in
the police force. When you don’t do all of those necessary things, you’re
going to have Gary Busch.
I think the Gary Busch case is an example of how once you unleash the
force of a police department, once the restraints are off and there is no
oversight, no making sure officers understand policy, it’s going to affect
everyone in the society. I think Gary Busch was a victim of that. We
believe that the problems that were concentrated at first inside the
communities of color are going to seep out and affect white
communities as well. It’s inevitable because police officers are being
unleashed, their power is unchallenged. They’re not self regulating
because they’re being told they don’t have to be because the system will
cover for them if they make a mistake. So they go into all of these
situations with a military point of view. They go in with a sense of, “If I
think I’m in danger I’m taking out my gun.” There’s a saying in the
police department, “It’s better be judged by twelve than to be buried by
six.” And what does that say? We have loved ones that are on the job as
well in the police department. We work with police officers. We know
what the internal life and the culture of the police department is like.
It’s inevitable, if you unleash police officers and you tell them that they
will be supported no matter what, that this is going to spill over into the
larger community. Just as heroin was a problem in the minority
communities, eventually we knew it was going to seep into the larger
society, and indeed it did. And then it became a social problem. Gary
Busch is a victim of that. Had there been supervision, had policy around
emotionally disturbed people been drummed into the heads of
everybody, there would have been no reason for them to mace him when
he was down at the bottom of the steps. He was in a contained area.
That’s the policy on dealing with emotional people. You keep them in a
contained area where they can’t hurt other people. You don’t
antagonize them. You look for non!lethal ways of resolving the situation.
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough emphasis on what the non!lethal ways
of resolving confrontational situations are. Nor are police officers
trained in how to diffuse confrontations. More often than not they
inflame the confrontation by their words, by their actions, by their body
language, by what they actually do.
In 1996 I testified at the Philadelphia City Council. They were
discussing adopting Giuliani’s zero tolerance policies. I think the
significance of the Giuliani!Bratton policing strategy is that it is being
adopted for the entire country and is being exported to other parts of
the world. So it has significance beyond New York. It is a strategy that I
think has not been analyzed properly. It’s not a cookie cutter strategy
that you can just pick up and apply in Mexico or in California or all over
the place, but that’s what’s being done. It’s simplistic. People like
simplistic solutions. “All you have to do is to do it this way. Round up
the squeegee men. Arrest the homeless people. Start terrorizing the kids.
Lower the expectations and lower the mobility of young people so it’s
harder for them to move around and that’s how you control crime.” For
us that’s simplistic because crime continues to go on. The overwhelming
majority, something like 95" of the people who are stopped, have
nothing do to with anything and the result is actually a lowering of the
expectations of communities. You expect to be stopped. People expect
their kids to be stopped. That’s a crime being committed against people.
We’re beginning to internalize the abuse of our rights. I work with
young people who say, “Oh no, it was just a regular stop!and!frisk. I
didn’t know they were looking for a burglar. I thought it was a regular
stop!and!frisk, a regular rousting.” Or, “Five O rolled up on me, they
drove the car on the sidewalk on my way to school.” Kids live with this.
We testified at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. A young
man from Youth Force in the Bronx testified that he spends his day
having four or five situations of contact with police. He says that the
kids have to avoid the police in the morning on their way to school. That
if they’re late for school they have to avoid police because they’re outside
school after the bell has rung. After they get out of school the police
frequent the areas where kids congregate and they roust them all the
time. And the kids know it. It becomes part of their life. That’s wrong.
That really is wrong. What that does is lower these young people’s
expectations. They begin to expect this is going to be part of their life. It
doesn’t have to be.
18. Two Societies, Separate and Unequal
I know that white people don’t know this because I once did a segment
on “Sixty Minutes” and the question was, “Is there a renaissance in New
York City?” The producers of the show were two young women from
the Midwest. Somebody referred them to me and we eventually filmed
the segment. But during the preparation for it I was telling them many
of the same things I’m discussing with you about stop!and!search, street
sweeps, the reality of life for kids of color and their families. They said
they couldn’t believe it, not in their world. But in 1968, after the riots of
that era, the Kerner Commission said that we live in two separate
societies, one is black and one is white. I would say that we still live in
two separate societies and that it’s not only race that separates the
societies, it’s also class. The economy has led to separate societies as
well. There’s a deepening economic polarization in New York City; we
see it all the time. We see the middle class disappearing and the top and
the bottom sectors of the economy growing. Those police practices
we’re talking about are concentrated in sectors of the city that are
racially and economically segregated. A great majority of white America
will not know those things. One of the reasons racial profiling demands
so much attention is because racial profiling affects people of color no
matter what economic status they have. It means that you’re a target
because of your skin color or your language or your accent. So there is no
escaping that, no matter what. If you’re driving a BMW it’s not because
you’re an economic success, it’s because you’re a drug dealer. White
America doesn’t have to understand it, they don’t have to live with it.
People of color understand it because they live with it all the time. Even
those who are successful, who move out of the ghetto, who move out of
the areas that are designated as drug areas are impacted because
America’s racial history continues. We still live in two separate societies.
I have a friend who’s in real estate and who lives out on Long Island.
He’s got a nice car and he gets stopped all the time. And he’s not a hip!
hop guy. He doesn’t wear sweats and fleeces. This is like a suit and tie
Black entrepreneur and he gets stopped all the time. And it happens
over and over again. He’s lived in the same place for years. Sometimes he
gets stopped by the same cops. I mean it’s ridiculous. So he has
heightened political awareness just for that reason. Economically he
doesn’t see similarities between himself and poor people because he’s
struggled to get out of poverty, but he can’t escape his skin color in
America. It’s a reality, as it was for Amadou Diallo. Grappling with this
and trying to explain this to people is hard. Trying to understand it for
ourselves is hard, because the first thing is that people blame the victim.
So first we have to get past the “blame the victim part” and understand
the societal context that all of this is operating in.
19. Racial Profiling
Racial profiling is when the only factor, or primary factor, that motivates
police intervention is the race of a person. It has to do with the
disproportionate application of laws to certain racial groups. So that’s
where you get sayings like “driving while Black,” “walking while Black.”
It’s when everyone of a certain race, nationality, language or group is
targeted. They’re all potential perpetrators. And because it’s illegal, after
it’s done the cops make up other reasons. They’ll say, “Someone Black
did this crime and that’s why we stopped him.”
With Amadou Diallo the way this played out was through the Street
Crimes Unit, which was notorious for racial profiling, which was
reflected in its stop!and!frisk numbers. Even in communities that had
high percentages of whites, they only stopped Blacks and Latinos. It was
reflected in the numbers that Attorney General Elliot Spitzer found in
his investigation. The cops that shot Amadou Diallo drove into a
community that they did not know. They saw a Black face look out of a
doorway. To them that was suspicious. There were a variety of factors.
Four white cops in a community they don’t know, and a Black face.
That’s suspicious. Let’s go check out that Black guy. Because they were
looking for a rapist who was Black, but if you know that community 75"
of the people are dark skinned Latinos and Blacks. So what that means is
that you need more than just skin color to make that person a suspect.
They said that the person peered out of the building. Well, he lived in
that building. He was looking out. Even if they had been able justify the
stop!and!search, they couldn’t justify the shooting. But then they said
that he reached for something. Since I’ve been active in this, the “he
reached for something” argument has been one of the bedrocks of police
cover!ups. “He reached for a shiny object. He made a motion to his
waistband. He took something out of his pocket.” That’s always been
one of the major justifications. Professionalism in policing reduces those
kinds of arguments. The other reason we know that race plays in this is
because these things never happen in white communities. I mean,
they’re happening more, but you don’t hear the frequency of “he reached
Part of racial profiling is the assumption that you’re stopping a
perpetrator of some kind of crime, which automatically sets into motion
your adrenaline and your fear and increases the possibility of something
going .These cops always say. “We’re scared.” I have to tell you, we work
with Black and Latino cops as well, and they tell us that if you’re afraid
to be in the street you shouldn’t be a police officer. That’s what your job
is. If you’re going to go out with fear every single day, don’t be a police
officer, because the fear is going to trigger responses you don’t want.
That’s one of the reasons the White nature of a police department is a
danger when you’re policing communities of color, and when you don’t
live in those cities. If you’re not familiar with culture, not familiar with
racial patterns, not familiar with geography, all of those things are going
to be fear!inducing and adrenaline!inducing and if you operate from the
mindset that every Black face is the potential criminal that you’re
looking for, you’ve actually set up a situation that is already on the verge
of a tragedy. What needs to be done if you want to correct that situation
is that you need to be able to look back on it. You need to challenge the
things that feed racial profiling. A lot of it has to do with training, and
officers need to be trained about what racial profiling is. You need an
awareness of the community that you’re working in, and a familiarity and
a comfort with that community. We talked with cops that have been on
the job a long time, cops who have made arrests, cops who have never
used their gun but have been on the job for 25 years. Others who have
used their gun, but they will tell you, “If you’re afraid you can’t be a good
cop.” That’s one of the reasons why you need supervisors to ride with
these cops. You have four Street Crime Unit cops that meet Amadou
Diallo, and not one supervisor, and none of them had been in the Street
Crimes Unit more than a year. They’re inexperienced, in a community
that they don’t know, they’re all white, almost all of them came from all!
white communities. Even those who came from New York came from
the most segregated New York communities. All of those set in motion
potential tragedy, and Amadou Diallo was the person that it happened
to. I think that the public understood that that tragedy could have
happened to anybody. It wasn’t that Amadou Diallo did anything wrong.
It was that he fit the profile of perpetrator, whether or not he was in his
own home, whether he had money or he didn’t have money, whether he
was college!educated or not college!educated. The cops were operating
with a number of triggers in their heads. His skin color was the final
trigger that led to that confrontation, and that was part of the tragedy
because it could have been anybody. So people looked at it and said, This
is what racial profiling is and it’s connected to all of these other factors:
the lack of training, the lack of supervision, the overwhelmingly white
nature of the police department, or rather the fact that police officers
come from segregated white communities with very little interchange
with other people.” All of those factors need to be addressed inside the
police department. There need to be policies and trainings that address
all of that. You can’t have scared people with guns on the street because
you’re going to have tragedies, especially if they’ve been conditioned to
believe that the source of danger is a dark skin. And then they know that
if they make a mistake the department is going to back them up because
all they have to do is convince people that they were afraid for their
lives. Well, four guys with guns, a guy without a gun !! it’s hard to justify
how everybody was so afraid.
20. The Power of Life or Death
This is about the militarization of the police force, the adopting of
harsher policing strategies, the lack of responsibility inside the policing
structure and the attack against civilian oversight of the police force. No
one is responsible. One of the reasons it’s so important to have civilian
oversight of the police department is that we give the police the power
of life and death. We, the people of the country, give them life and
death. We have to make sure that that power is not abused, and that it’s
used correctly. We have to have oversight. It’s one of the most
important things. The police department is a paramilitary unit. When
you have a police department that is militarized, that almost functions
like an occupying army, when you have them operating without any
civilian oversight those are the characteristics of dictatorships, of police
state dictatorships. I’m not saying America’s a police state. I’m saying
those are the characteristics and that the danger of that building in this
country is very great.
It’s also crucial for the people to have faith in the police. Civilian
oversight, which the police department fights tooth and nail, is crucial
for that. But I mean real civilian oversight. I don’t mean a phony civilian
review board that’s run by police officers, that has a one%percent record
of substantiating complaints. I mean something with teeth, with
subpoena power, with investigative power. What the Mollen
Commission did was exemplary. It was a government agency. It looked
at these problems. It got police officers to come forward and admit to
corruption. One police officer in the 46th precinct where Anthony Baez
was killed, and Rosario and Vega were killed, was called “the mechanic.”
That was his nickname. They asked him, “Why do they call you the
mechanic?” And he said, “ Because everyone knew that I used to tune
people up.” His sergeant called him “the mechanic,” the precinct
commander knew he was “the mechanic” because he was beating people
up. And when they asked him why, he said, “To show them who was
boss.” When Livoti testified in the federal trial, he said he looked in
Anthony’s eyes and he didn’t lower his eyes and he knew he was going to
have to “break him down.” And when Louima was tortured in the
precinct in Brooklyn, Volpe came out and said “I just broke a man
down.” So a lot of this is about the mentality of the police officers, the
lack of supervision, the lack of accountability, and nobody being held
responsible. These are real dangerous things for a country to allow to
When we look at the New York policing model, and we look around the
country, one of the things you see is that there were tremendous
problems of brutality across the country and of police corruption. The
Mollen Commission was triggered by scandals in the police department
in New York. You had rings of cops that were selling drugs and selling
guns. They were called “the cocaine cops.” That’s what triggered the
Mollen Commission’s investigation. They found eleven or fifteen
precincts around the city that were problematic. This was being
repeated across the country. And what the Mollen Commission said was,
“Where you find corruption you find brutality, the two go hand in hand.
Brutal cops and corrupt cops are often the same and the tolerance for
corruption is a tolerance for brutality and vice!a!versa.” That the
supervisor that turned a blind eye to corruption was going to turn a blind
eye to brutality. That was important because these were problems across
the country, of both corruption and brutality. Giuliani’s strategy wasn’t
about corruption and it wasn’t about brutality either. It was about the
communities. What it did was shift attention away from the problems
inside the police department to say that the problems were not inside
the police department, the problems are in these communities. We have
to crack down on them. And that’s exactly what was done. And of course
the policing establishment across the country liked that better than
looking at systemic institutionalized problems inside the police
department. They liked that better because it doesn’t call for real
change. Sure, almost every big city has a scandal, so you have the
Rampart scandal in L.A., you have the scandal down in New Orleans,
you have one in Detroit, there was one in Chicago where they were they
were torturing prisoners. They’re willing to give up a few of the more
obvious bad cops. But the institutionalized daily brutality and violation
of rights, that’s never called into question. And if there’s not a big
movement externally even the big cases are swept under the rug. So the
Giuliani strategy points all attention to communities and no attention to
policing. The one piece of attention that it says is we’re going to pay to
policing is that we’re going to use Compstat for computer!tracking and
targeting. Compstat is a good management tool, but that’s all it is, it’s a
management tool. It’s not a tremendous innovation. Anyone who’s done
mapping for the census knows that it was a good innovation. Police
departments need to come out of the dark ages and get up with new
technology. But tracking is only as good as the policing that then follows.
What we should be demanding is the professionalization of policing.
Just like Compstat is a professionalization of data gathering, we should
demand the professionalization of law enforcement. It’s not enough to
say, “The only clue I need is a skin color and I’ll round up every one with
that skin color.” Could we have some have other factors in the profile as
well, like maybe what clothing was being worn? That’s why professional
law enforcement says that racial profiling is bad policing. It’s just bad,
unprofessional policing. Across the country this tough policing strategy
very frequently masks bad policing.
© 2004 AndersonGold Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
For permission to reproduce all or part of this interview, ,
Mr. D.A. Man,
You claim to speak “for the people,”
But you DO NOT speak for me!
For I am one of those who wants my good friend to be free!
How dare you claim to speak for me!
But we don’t have a choice.
We speak by our presence, though mute is our voice.
Cops with overhanging bellies dressed in uniform
To see society’s rules are kept; that we all stay in “the norm.”
You won’t let us speak out in court, to make our voices heard:
Our presence is silent witness, though our lips speak not a word.
Victims of The System, a system based on greed,
A system based on power and wealth can’t see another’s need.
A system based on punishment, a system with no heart!
Where injustice is called justice: Lives are torn apart!
We will stand strong together; see this through to the end.
Our friend who’s held unjustly will be set free again!
The System will grind on and on: A system based on lies,
A system based on hate and greed can’t possibly survive!
Injustice and corruption, with people’s lives at stake:
We the people have had just about all we can take!
There needs to be a lot of change, but what is the solution?
Will the changes happen peacefully, or will there be revolution?
Robin Johnson Holston
May 4, 1998
(it's interesting what you find when going through old diaries and notebooks!)
System made of humans, yet inhuman.
System where you can’t communicate
In any way, shape, or form to a prisoner in the courtroom,
System that makes it a crime to mouthe “I love you”
To a prisoner, they to you, or you to them.
System made of humans, yet dehumanizing.
System made of laws:
“The people vs. so-and-so,
You’ve violated section
123456789 of the penal code.”
Yada Yada Ya!
“And now that we have you where we want you,
You’re guilty till proven innocent.
We’ll see to it that you’re treated that way!”
“You’re a menace to society by virtue of the fact that you’re locked up!
We’ll keep you locked up,
Taking our own sweet time about letting you out,
Regardless of how you or anyone else feels about it!”
System with a stony heart, you dehumanize people,
Steal their heart away, drain their life force day by day!
You take away peoples’ sanity till they feel all is vanity!
All they can do is hope that you’ll let them off the rope.
Till then, they stay locked away, day, after week, after month, after day!
System, you don’t give a care
How long you leave us up in the air.
In the meantime an innocent man is locked away
While you steal his life force day by day.
System with no heart, I doubt you’ll ever get smart.
System made of laws that turns people into zombies,
What ever shall we do with you?
Take out the politics, take out the money,
You’re so corrupt it’s not even funny!
Care about people, care about lives,
Grow a new heart, then you will survive.
Robin Johnson Holston
April 23, 1998
Using "safety" as an excuse to indoctrinate our children is a specious argument. It's the way to go if you want to further a macho gang mentality caused by racism and inequality. The harder path is creating a more just society but that won't happen by showing off your guns and power to impress.
August 20, 2011
Thursday, August 18th, 2011 By KEVIN McCALLUM THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa Mayor Ernesto Olivares supports the decision by police to allow young children to handle fully automatic weapons during a recent community outreach event in the South Park neighborhood.
Santa Rosa police officer Perry Plattus on Saturday explained SWAT team weapons and other equipment during a community outreach event in the South Park neighborhood. (Courtesy of Attila Nagy)
The retired Santa Rosa police lieutenant said he helped organize the first such event three years ago and said it was “unfortunate” that critics have characterized the SWAT team display as inappropriate.
“They’re way off base,” Olivares said of those who suggested allowing children to handle police weapons might foster a dangerous fascination with guns.
Some residents attending South Park Day and Night Festival on Saturday took issue with the display put on by the Santa Rosa Police Department Special Weapons And Tactics team. Photos taken at the event and circulated to city council members showed a young boy holding and aiming an assault rifle and another grabbing for a riot gun. Both weapons were locked and unloaded and handled under the supervision of a SWAT team officer. An armored personnel carrier also was on display.
Attila Nagy, who took and circulated the photos, said the display of fire power and handling of weapons by children in a neighborhood that struggles with gun violence struck him as counterproductive.
”Is that supposed to make children feel secure?” Negy said. “I feel like the whole event was insensitive to the community.”
Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm has said the goal of the display was to “demystify” the role of SWAT and tools used by officers. Doing so helps build trust between police and neighborhood residents by breaking down barriers between them, he said.
Olivares said the festival began in 2009 and was spearheaded by the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force, which he ran until he retired in 2008 to run for the council. The SWAT team has been part of the event every year.
The festival was modeled after a similar program in Los Angeles that organized community events in high-crime areas, such as basketball tournaments between officers and neighborhood residents, Olivares said.
In such non-confrontational, educational settings, young people are invariably drawn to the hardware of the law enforcement trade: the badge, the handcuffs, the gun.
“The stuff attracts them,” Olivares said. “There’s still this mystique about all this stuff.”
Such interactions with young people — and often their parents, too — offer “teaching moments” that allow officers to get across important positive messages, such as the role police play in crime prevention or about gun safety, Olivares said.
As an officer raising his own children, Olivares said he made sure his daughters had the opportunity to hold his service weapon in his presence. He did so because he didn’t want them to reach for it out of curiosity when an adult wasn’t around.
He said he viewed the Saturday event as performing a similar function between SWAT officers and the families in the South Park neighborhood, with whom he says police have “ongoing relationship building.”
By JOSHUA HENRY
1) Shorty Short Stop/Umoja BSU/Doin Me ENT = Joshua Henry
2) Artist on 1st & 3rd= Joshua Henry aka Shorty Short Stop
3) Artist on Chorus & 2nd verse= Marty Lesperance aka Marty Jay-R
4) Director Guy Jarreau Jr., Umoja Security/ Co- Director
5) Director & Camera Man, Rosco Film= Daniel Gonzalez
A music-video project for Napa Valley College involving the four men
described above and their respective businesses, ended in the life of one of
the participants being taken by the Vallejo Police department. The life of
Guy Jarreau Jr. was ended on December 11, 2010, when the Vallejo Police
wrongfully shot him as he fled up an Alley off Sonoma Boulevard in Vallejo
These 4 classmates and residents of Vallejo Ca were in the process of
recording a music video for Napa Valley College’s organization named
"Umoja" Umoja means Unity in Swahili and was established at Napa Valley
College to promote unity and fellowship between students of all races. The
music video that was being filmed on the day in question was for a song was
entitled, "I am sick of living like this." This song was created to express anti
violence sentiments, and the frustration of dealing with hard times, and
In the song, Shorty Short Stop says, "Its crazy how this whole situation
turned out. This statement reflects the anxiety involved in coming of age in
the context of the developing consciousness of human existence.
One night in the month of November 2010, I, Shorty Shortstop got into a
verbal altercation with my late brother Guy Jarreau Junior. After we had
went our separate ways that night, I went home and wrote and recorded the
first verse and chorus to this special song It wasn’t until much later did I
come to realize the significance of this song and the pivotal role it would play
in my and our lives.
Soon after the song had been completed, Napa Valley College and the Umoja
organization produced a talent show to highlight the talent of the members
of the college and the local community. It was after the talent show that my
late brother Guy recommended that I enlist Marty Jay-R, the winner of the
Umoja Talent show to sing on the chorus of this special song.
During the recording of the song at our studio, my late brother Guy said,
"This is going to be a Hit!" Guy got excited during Marty Jay-R's session of
recording, and said it within the flow and rhythm of the song. Later when we
were editing the audio portion of the song we decided to keep Guy’s
spontaneous outburst on the song. I believe it was at that very moment that
the song” I am sick of living like this” took on a life of its own.
As I look back at the whole series of events, similar to the late great music
artist Tupac Shakur, when Guy made that spontaneous outburst in perfect
time with Marty Jay-R’s verse, Guy was predicting his own death. I feel God
was giving Guy and everybody present in the studio at the time a sign that
the song “ I am sick of living like this” was going be a hit! A real hit,
metaphorically speaking to the way Guy would end his life and by doing so
transfer his life into the life of the song.
Everyday Guy played this song, he repeatedly played it, so much so, that I
began to hate the song. But my late brother Guy loved this song and believed
in its message and success. I believe my late brother Guy connected so
strongly with this song for the same reason the bond of our friendship was so
strong- through all the obstacles and injustice that we have struggled
through during our respective lives, when we look up out of our pain, we
share the sentiment “we are sick of living like this’.
December 11 2010 was the day we planned to shoot the video for the song.
The location we chose was on Sonoma blvd in Vallejo Ca, right near where
Guy used to reside. Guy wanted to shoot the music video near his residence
because he wanted to shine a light on the positive aspects of the community
in which he lived. Shooting the video close to home also would give him the
best opportunity to protect the members of our production and the
equipment. In hindsight, I believe that Guy cared so strongly about this song
and watched over the members of the music-video production because
unwittingly he would end up giving his life for them.
December 11, 2010, the day my late brother guy was unfairly shot and killed
was a cloudy and overcast day- a perfect day to communicate the vibe of the
song. I shot my part of the Music video in my brother’s room. Later, we got
the camera and crew ready outside to shoot Marty’s portion of the music
video. He had been shooting for no more than 15 minutes before police in plain
clothes arrived and told all of us, "Get the fuck out of here!" essentially
kicking us off the property because we were recording the music video. So we
all decided to leave.
However, more police in plain clothes arrived demanding different orders
which confused me, so I decided to flee, that was until a officer pointed a
gun in my face. I continued to record on my video camera, pointing it in the
direction of my late brother Guy walking away towards the alley. The officers in plain clothes never yelled freeze, stop or anything towards Guy.
Then, I heard two shots fired. While I was being detained on the ground by
the Vallejo Police I didn’t hear any ambulance arrive until approximately
30minutes after the shots were fired. The fact that the ambulance arrived
30 minutes, such a long time, after the gun shots were fired when two
hospitals were situated so close stood out in my mind as was strange.
When I asked whether my brother Guy was okay, the Vallejo police officer
told me to shut up. Then the officer said something that I will never forget
as long as I live "I don’t care if he lives or he dies, I will shoot you if you
I was detained at the Vallejo police station and questioned about the
incident, but the Vallejo Police would still not answer my repeated inquiries
into the condition of my brother Guy. After being released by the Vallejo
police, I called to see what hospital they had taken Guy. I found out and
called immediately. A nurse would not tell me what Guy’s condition was but
gave me the number to the Coroner’s office. At that point I knew in my
heart my brother Guy had died.
After Guy's death, a portion of the music video, featuring the chorus portion,
was played on the news. For a moment I was excited, thinking to myself my
brother’s spirit is really pushing this song to be heard. My late brother Guy
would always tell me, " This was his life on this beat." I wanted to tell my
perspective of everything that happened, however, everyday I have to fight
the feeling that Black men do not have the right and privileges pertaining to
citizenship in the United States of America and the police and media are Evil
Here is the song and the link to the news of the story.
Im on the 1st and 3rd verse
Marty does the hook and 2 verse
I recently was pulled over by the Arcata Police Dept. The two officers approached my vehicle and asked me to open my door. I complied but did not unlock the rest of the doors. While the officer on the driver's side was talking to me about why he stopped me, he unlocked the doors. I re-locked them, and he said " leave the doors unlocked!"
As I was handing him my information, I looked over and noticed a secondary officer had opened my passenger side door and was looking through things that were in the frontseat. I did not consent to a search and feel that my rights were violated. I received a minor violation ticket that I intend to pay. However this tactic of distracting the driver, unlocking the doors and having another officer proceed to search through my stuff made me feel as though my rights were violated. I do not use illegal drugs and I had none on me at the time, nor do I ever, but the fact that they were searching the passenger side without my consent is a violation of the law. They NEVER asked if they could search my car. Had this happened to a someone transporting drugs [and something was found] its very likely he would have had the case thrown out because there were video cameras around the business that I pulled into documenting the entire event.
Dear Redwood Curtain Cop Watch,
Does ‘Dereliction-of-Duty’ Just Happen Serendipitously?
Law enforcement personnel, police officers and department line-of-command should be held to a higher standard than civilians--not in terms of normalhuman foibles but in terms of law and order. They've gone to college in many cases, then onto the academy, taken sworn oaths, are sent annually totraining courses to keep up skills and acquire additional skills all to uphold complex laws and to work to keep communities more safe, morepeaceful. Law enforcement officers are considered 'experts' by the public and, given their years of specialized training, would be expected to understand what is right and wrong not only in spirit but by the letter ofthe law.
In my opinion the public should call for the immediate appointment of a Grand Jury to investigate EPD and DA management (or lack of management) ofthe entire matter. A Grand Jury would first be expected to receive a full set of the EPD's written policies and procedures. At this point, the GrandJury could compare and contrast all of the current evidence in the case in order to make a recommendation to indict one or more members of theentrenched EPD culture based upon who was responsible for both developing exceptional cops and for disciplining cops who aren’t able to live and workup to the high expectations this and any community has of their well-paid, well-insured and well-pensioned police force.
And one doesn't need to attend the police academy to know that the harmless homeless soul just walking across the wrong plaza at the wrong time of day is consistently approached under the auspices of local panhandling ordinances. Upon contact with the citizen, an ID is requested, a search for warrants conducted, a citation issued (or, worse, a visit downtown to finger-paint with print-grease). And given the particulars, most of us who have seen even a few crime dramas on the Lifetime channel know that bail is set and, if the citizen has no assets to post bail, countless numbers simply sit in tiny cells throughout the process, often for months. Most of the most vulnerable amongst us who are charged with non-violent offenses are never simply booked and released. For most of us, its strictly ‘by the book.’
An immediate probe into this matter by a Grand Jury will go along way towards re-establishing any trust the local community had for the Eureka Police Department before this matter became the scandal it is quickly becoming. At this point, the entire situation just doesn't smell right. Unless we search for and find the rotting source of the smell, the smell usually just gets worse.
Looks like a few folks got some 'splainin to do.
Given what is emerging daily surrounding this inexplicable matter, I’m calling on my fellow citizens to demand that a fair and impartial Grand Jury be assembled and appointed by the end of next week (22-Apr-2011). A Grand Jury, once appointed, would promptly examine whether or not behavior outside of the crimes alleged to have been committed by Officer Kalis might have contributed to a once valued police officer being denied the help he needed far earlier in the process and before the unknowing public was exposed to an Officer who it may turn out, was unfit for duty long before his departure from the department on April Fools day. Among other things, victims of Officer Kalis’ alleged crimes could have been spared their suffering and loss. And finally, the as-yet uncounted number of criminal cases in which Officer Kalis participated in seeing through to resolution must now all be re-examined by defendants’ attorneys, many of whom work as public defenders. Such individuals still serving time in prison may now petition the court to have their cases re-processed or dropped altogether. This all translates into a tremendous burden on local institutions when we are far from flush. And the embarrassment of it all.
Such an embarrassing scandal does NOT represent or promote the famed Humboldt brand and does not attract tourism or industry from outside the community nor does it inspire pride from within. Where oh where did this train veer so far off the tracks? And why? Weren’t there policies in place that were carefully followed and more carefully documented?
Only a Grand Jury will be able to tell us. I implore the county Board of Supervisors to call for an emergency meeting this next week in order to appoint an investigative body now, not later. If we’re lucky, all of this will be behind us soon and we can again look with pride upon those professionals who take on the dangerous, unpredictable task of keeping the Peace.
KMUD All Sides Now 15-Apr-2011 Transcript:
Go to Friday, April 15th at 6:30 PM time slot.
Click on Play (or download) but Play works well.
You'll hear the last 2 minutes and 15 seconds of the 6PM news. Unless you can forward through the timer on your player to the two minute, 15 second
spot, just sit and listen until the timer arrives at "00:02:16."
My name is Anita Wills, and I am writing about my son, Kerry Baxter Senior and my grandson, Kerry Baxter Junior. My son, Kerry Senior, received a sentence of sixty-six years, in 2001, under three strikes. He was accused of killing an innocent bystander, after an altercation with a twenty year old and his gang. The Detective in charge was Oakland Homicide Detective Brian Maderias, who took over from Detective Longmire. In fact Longmire was looking at Jahmani Jones and had arrested him. When Maderias took over the case he and the DA gave blanket immunity to Jahmani Jones, and focused on my son. I now know that Jones was being used as an informant for a Documentary on Oakland Street Gangs. The Documentary starred none other then Sgt (nowLieutenant), Brian Maderias. Jones was on Felony Parole in Maderias County and yet hanging out in East Oakland. During his Blanket Immunity Jones continued to rob and assault citizens of Oakland. My son also had a Felony on his record from when he was eighteen years old. He shot a young man in the shoulder, AFTER OPD told him that this young man killed his friend. We later found out that his friend was very much alive, and the bullet only grazed his skull.
Kerry was getting on the right path and worked for Naval Air Station, as a Journey Level Mechanic, and as a Journey Level Carpenter. When he was arrested Kerry was days away from going to work on the Bay Bridge. Although Madeiras knew this about Kerry he told the newspapers that Kerry was a Gang Member and drug dealer. When he was arrested Kerry was thirty-one years old and a father to two young sons. His case has been appealed through the States Court and upheld, and he is now in front of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The California Supreme Court upheld his case, after stating that it appeared his Right to A Fair Trial had not been upheld. Yet, they still upheld the conviction, giving Kerry no choice but to go to the 9th Circuit. The three strikes my son were; One strike from when he took a plea to Armed Assault when he was eighteen years old. The second strike was under the DA and Madeiras theory that Kerry had gone to the bar that night to kill Jahmani Jones. However, they did not mention that Jahmani Jones and his gang, actually approached Kerry in the bar and asked him to step outside. Twenty year old Jahmani Jones had a long and extensive record of Gang Activity, Robbery, and Assaults in Oakland and in Merced County. It was Officer Maderias and the DA who traveled to Merced County and asked them not to Violate his parole. After my son was convicted a documentary on Oakland Street Gangs came out featuring Maderias as an expert on Gangs in Oakland. The third strike was because of the death of Anthony Blake, who was an innocent bystander. After Kerry, Jahmani, and his gang left the bar that night, Anthony Blake stepped outside to take a smoke. Kerry, Jahmani and several others were across the street on Georgia which runs into MacArthur Blvd. Witnesses testified that they heard several gun shots ring out,although Kerry stated that he only shot one bullet into Jahmani Jones foot, after he pulled a gun. The entire incident was because Jahmani believed that Kerry was accusing him of shooting out a window in my SUV. That was a couple of months earlier and the window had been replaced. Kerry fixed the window and told me that it was probably some of the youngsters hanging around the club. However, I was not called as a witness by the Defense or the prosecution, which is curious to me.
Maderias told Kerry that the one bullet he shot ricocheted across MacArthurBlvd and hit Anthony Blake in the heart. Although Jahmani Jones was questioned and given a GSR test at Highland Hospital, the information did not show up in the trial. They also gave Jahamani a Lie Detector test which he failed. I know about the Lie Detector Test because I have the results. I also have the records showing that they gave him a GSR test, but do not have the results, which is interesting. They also questioned the four gangmembers that were with Jahmani that night but none were called to testify. Even Jahmani Jones said that the youngsters had a lot of respect for Kerry. Maderias and the DA painted Kerry as a Drug Dealer (he has never been arrested for dealing drugs), Gang Member (yet the name of his gang nor any members were every mentioned), and all around Thug. They had the help of the Oakland Tribune who ignored our request to portray Kerry in a different light. All of the blacks were stricken from the Jury and Kerry was convicted by an all white jury. He received sixty-six years to life for second degree murder, in 2003.
Compounding the situation is the death of my grandson, Kerry Baxter Junior,who was nineteen on January 16, 2011. Little Kerry told me of several occasions when OPD harassed him, including in December when he said they took his California ID. Kerry lived in Oakland (Sobrante Park), with his mother and two younger brothers. The Oakland Police Department has spent more time trying to cause friction and disunity in our family, then solving my grandsons murder. He was not just my grandson, but my oldest grandson, and like one of my own children. We were very close until he became a teenager (of course), but the bond was never broken. The last time I spoke to Kerry Jr., he told me he was going to College. He had graduated from High School when he was seventeen and decided to take a break. So it was a double tragedy that he made that decision and then someone took his life.
I filed a complaint with the Oakland Police Review Board is because Maderias is now a Lieutenant of Homicide, and overseeing the investigation into my grandson's murder. They have blocked me out and will answer no questions about the murder. They do not just ignore me but are rude and disrespectful when I call down there. At this point Kerry needs an Attorney for his Federal Appeal and I need Legal representation. I have been harassed over the years by OPD, even though I live in San Leandro. The latest incident came, when an Officer from Homicide called my grandsons mother (Lawana Wyatt), and told her I was impeding the investigation into my grandsons death. What followed was a week of harassing phone calls, and emails from Lawana Wyatt, her family, and friends. At one point they threatened to come to my house if I did not stop interfering with the Police. I was in the process of getting a restraining order, but now things have cooled down somewhat. This is the way OPD works getting someone to do their dirty work for them. That is why it is not beyond the realm of possibility that they had my grandson killed. He was not just killed, but executed in front of that Church. The Papers say his assailants were trying to rob him. But no money was taken from him they literally chased him down and shot him in the back. The Police have not posted a description of the assailants, nor posted a reward for their capture. When I designed a flier and took it to them, they did not return it to me, but call my grandsons mother.
I have been assisted by Pueblo Foundation, in filing a complaint with the Citizens Police Review Board. My ultimate goal is to get the State or Feds to come in and investigate the murder of my grandson. I told them that it is a conflict of interest for Lt. Brian Maderias to over see the investigation into my grandsons murder and I want him removed. He is mentioned in my son Kerry Seniors appeal to the 9th Circuit, as is the Judge, and DA. I am getting flack from all three of these entities some of it is more subtle than other. However, I know who they are and that they are trying to take the focus from my son's case by creating chaos in my life. The death of my grandson was a blow that stopped my son and I in our tracks, but we are back on track again. Anita L. Wills
Making Some Sense Of Memorial Day U.S.A.?
Somehow to get beyond honoring personal acts of bravery
and performing ones duties, which must and will be done,
while knowing so much has been in vain.
Vietnam was that time when the divining rod of human consciousness was starkly and inwardly displayed to our own troops, atrocities and hypocrisies of what they were unleashing daily upon an innocent people in the name of honor, having become a living nightmare, their marching orders and their own acts in carrying them out, appearing despicable and insane. All those back then were victimized. . . yet for those more opened to its truth, its hideousness tearing them apart and worsening with every new act of violence. All of it becoming more impossible to bear, always under orders in this mounting mortifying self contempt.
Cambodia, the height of what was then "covert operations", secretive and these undermining government lies and corruptions, without the consent of Congress or knowledge of the American people, annihilating hundreds of thousands of Cambodian people across borders, over three-million tons of bombs rained down upon this neutral country in a 14-month clandestine campaign of 3,700 raids, "The US not only helped to create conditions that brought Cambodia's Khmer Rouge to power in 1975, but actively supported this genocidal force, politically and financially, whose wrath against their own people annihilated millions in what was to be known as the Killing Fields.
Fast forward and first Afghanistan, then Pakistan, then U.S. covert actions again 'cross borders, all of it including special opts to assassinate wherever they please, but now such covert actions becoming "normal" , widespread solutions, torture prisons and mercenaries like Blackwater all becoming new age acceptable brutalities, government and corporate veiled lunacy so many people so prepared to tolerate since 9/11. And too those framing and so well proven lies used as evidence against Iraq in shock and awe. U.S armies destructions of anothers whole culture and murdering millions of its peoples, still all this goes on, as certain as it is now these U.S. culturally tolerated afflictions.
Memorial Day and what are we to make of this? What have we become as a people and how long will we bear this terrible infamy? Who are we to honor of this military now in arms carrying out such mixed orders at best, with mostly atrocious acts thrown in, including torture against still more innocent peoples? Of course we care for those of our own victims returning broken and left to find some meaning to their lives at home. . . and to those who gave their lives in these trials of our history and those emotions we must bear. Our feelings in continued warp, in face of long endured and brutal exploitations of this empires armies out rampaging through our world.
Like so many of our military today, all of it becoming increasingly impossible to live with, in this mounting mortifying self rejection. . . or refusing to go further and finding some redemption. When will truth be so honored. . . or ought we just have it be another kind of memorial day?
On Richard Nixon's tombstone it reads: "The Greatest Honor History Can Bestow Is the Title of Peacemaker."
We have a seated President who has received the Nobel Peace Prize which stipulates:
"one who shall have done the most or the best work
for fraternity between nations,
for the abolition or reduction of standing armies
and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.
What honors will be bestowed upon Bush?
Communities For Justice and Peace, Humboldt.Co. Ca.
A message from Troy Anthony Davis September 10, 2011
I want to thank all of you for your efforts and dedication to Human Rights and Human Kindness, in the past year I have experienced such emotion, joy, sadness and never ending faith. It is because of all of you that I am alive today, as I look at my sister Martina I am marveled by the love she has for me and of course I worry about her and her health, but as she tells me she is the eldest and she will not back down from this fight to save my life and prove to the world that I am innocent of this terrible crime.
As I look at my mail from across the globe, from places I have never ever dreamed I would know about and people speaking languages and expressing cultures and religions I could only hope to one day see first hand. I am humbled by the emotion that fills my heart with overwhelming, overflowing Joy. I can’t even explain the insurgence of emotion I feel when I try to express the strength I draw from you all, it compounds my faith and it shows me yet again that this is not a case about the death penalty, this is not a case about Troy Davis, this is a case about Justice and the Human Spirit to see Justice prevail.
I cannot answer all of your letters but I do read them all, I cannot see you all but I can imagine your faces, I cannot hear you speak but your letters take me to the far reaches of the world, I cannot touch you physically but I feel your warmth everyday I exist.
So Thank you and remember I am in a place where execution can only destroy your physical form but because of my faith in God, my family and all of you I have been spiritually free for some time and no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.
I can’t wait to Stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form, I will one day be announcing,
“I AM TROY DAVIS, and I AM FREE!”
Never Stop Fighting for Justice and We will Win!
Troy was found guilty of murdering a police officer 19 years ago, based upon the testimony of 9 witnesses. Today, 7 of those 9 have recanted their testimony entirely, and there are enormous problems with the testimony of the remaining 2 witness accounts. There is NO OTHER EVIDENCE. The murder weapon was never found. There is no DNA to test. Troy is scheduled to die by lethal injection on September 21, 2011.
In the December 17, 2010 Santa Rosa Press Democrat there was a very predictable story titled: JUDGE: SANTA ROSA POLICE JUSTIFIED IN 2008 KILLING. Wish we had a nickel everytime some version of that headline has been printed in our local press. Below is a statement (also sent as a letter to the Editor) from Jesse’s mom Valerie Barber. I’ve worked with Val for the past two years since her son’s death and she has been very generous with her time and energy reaching out to other families in similar situations. She went through the laborious process of finding an attorney and putting in the hundreds of hours it takes to build a case—a process that the local Leday and Sullivan families are now going through. Even getting the names of the officers who commit these killings is difficult and the deck is stacked big time against any sort of justice... for families left suddenly and unnecessarily without a loved one. In Sonoma County most of those killed in the past twenty years have been people freaking out in the middle of a mental breakdown---not in the commission of a crime. Please pass this on to your friends so more people can understand this isn’t some rare instance—in fact it has become quite common. --Mary Moore
This is in response to the article "justifying" the death of my son Jesse Hamilton, who was killed January 2nd 2008 by the Santa Rosa Police. Jesse, a severely mentally ill, had been officially "conserved" by the County of Sonoma for over six years. Under the direction of the Sonoma County Mental Health Department he was placed into the "care" of Telecare Corporation.This corporation is contracted to provide care for those mentally ill people that the county wishes to place out in the community. Under the supervision of their Psychiatrist, Telecare employees gave my severely mentally ill son sole responsibility for his medication box which consisted of a full weeks supply of nine different medications. During the five days before his death they did not check to see if he was taking them nor did they notice what must have been increasingly aberrant behavior as the days went by. A fellow mental patient living in the house told a Telecare employee the day before the incident that Jesse needed to be 5150ed, however this mans warning was ignored by the employee that he told.
On the morning of the day Jesse died it became apparent to staff that he was having trouble and had not taken his medications for five days. The employee gave him one morning dose of his medications, and Jesse cooperated with this. She did not call Psych Emergency Services which would have hospitalized him and then stabilized him on a full regimen of medications. Unfortunately the one dose this nurse gave him was an antidepressant with stimulating properties. A severely paranoid and psychotic individual, (now artifically stimulated), left unsupervised and unmedicated to wander around a house which was equipped with a knife drawer filled with sharp knives. Jesse was told to "self soothe". He repeated that he just wanted to sleep. At some point he left his room and got the knife . An alarmed fellow patient then ran to the Telecare office which was only two blocks away and where the doctor testified he left right around the time 911 was called. The fiasco continued to unfold. Although they were in contact with other patients who were in the house officers made no attempt to evacuate them prior to confronting Jesse. Although he had the knife he was sequestered in his room with the door locked. Less than 5 minutes after the first officer arrived my son was called out of his room.
Tased, shot four times only a half second later, and then contact tased continuously for 25 further seconds while they ordered him to put his hands behind his back, (an impossible feat even for someone who hadn't just been mortally wounded). The judge had an opportunity to set precedent in our case but chose to go with the trend of the times and absolve the police of all wrongdoing. As the defendants in our civil case would like to see it this was just a series of unfortunate events. I was advised that our suit against Telecare corporation would go nowhere because they could just say that the police were the ones who shot him. I had hoped that through the court system it could be determined who was responsible for my sons death and now I have discovered that no one is. Every one of our defendants should live with this incident for the rest of their lives and should know that there may be a higher judgment in store when they arrive at the place they sent my innocent child. thank you.
I read with some interest the articles in your paper printed in October and November of last year on Michael Gainey described as a veteran deputy of the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office. They painted a picture of someone who expected to never be taken to task for committing a serious crime, or what I had previously thought to be a serious crime. A crime for which even a small instance of was considered grounds to impeach Bill Clinton. It seems that a veteran deputy seemed to take it for granted that he had a license to do this, so much so that he didn't bother even to use the name of a real company when he lied and said that audio evidence in a case that put a man away in the earth's largest prison system for 2 years had been analyzed and proven to be particular people's voices. The lies he told on the stand in a court of law to excuse the first lie were just as blatantly bogus. He was compelled to resign. I suspect for getting caught more so than lying as we know is often the case.
Recently I went to the courthouse here in Eureka to witness the arraignment of Critical Mass bike riders accused of different violations of law including an alleged assault and battery on a CHP officer by one Katherine Zimmerman that allegedly left the officer with serious injuries. I took my camera and stood outside of a tightly packed courtroom trying to see what was going on and maybe get a couple of shots for the Communities For Peace website. Seeing a lone woman of large stature sitting handcuffed in an orange jumpsuit I snapped several images of her. Then Ms. Zimmerman was called and someone else came to the rail. I almost burst out laughing. Ms. Zimmerman is not a large woman by any stretch of the imagination and I would think a person who's job required the physical aptitude of a police officer would be ashamed to admit to such an injury (torn rotator cup cuff I think) even if it had been inflicted by this small woman of intelligent and mild demeanor. The charges against her seemed unlikely. The fact that, like many people sucked up into the world's largest and possibly most inherently corrupt "justice system", she had only the court appointed public defender to defend her jumped out at me.
The public defender, Mr. Robinson, a pleasant and apparently intelligent man who seems to have at least a normal human level of empathy, has since told me point blank in a hurried moment, that he has far too large a case load to properly defend people and must use much of his time in the defense of people facing very serious punishments such as life in prison. While current attacks on Paul Gallegos are focused on his cutting the number of attorneys employed by the county I would counter that the system is clogged with innocent indigent people, petty drug offenders including a steady stream of people there for small amounts of marijuana and untold numbers of malicious and frivolous litigations. The Sheriff's deputies can often be observed searching for homeless people sleeping in fields and woods, stopping people on the street for what appear to be dress code violations, settling domestic disputes and acting as the county dog catcher.
Very few people really dispute that the "system is broken"; the real argument is whether one is a beneficiary or victim of the system. If you have a lot of money you will be likely argue that justice is being done and if you make less than $50,000 or so a year you are likely to argue that the system is not fair. But, again, the real argument is whether or not one is a beneficiary or victim. Like most people, I believe that more lies are told in courts than anywhere else and that right and wrong, guilt and innocence are virtually irrelevant in the form over content world of the courtroom. Some money may help to mitigate a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, a malicious civil action based on fictitious or flimsy allegations to silence free speech) or criminal complaint but the system's corruption is now advancing exponentially like a malignant cancer raging in it's last stages prior to total, lethal, self consumption.
Free legal assistance has all but evaporated here in Humboldt County as I am sure it has elsewhere in the last days of democracy in the United States as we plunge into a new feudalism. Even those who are fighting this cancer in it's many symptomatic forms, are stuck with little or no defense when charges are leveled at them. Homeless people and the rapidly expanding peasant classes also have no hope of fairness in the courts. With perjury apparently an acceptable tool to use in court even more innocent people will be sent to the concentration camps of the new USA Incorporated.
The landed gentry and the (not so)noblemen above them will be able to deal freely with the peasantry as the whim moves them. We must fight this. With the neocons no longer even bothering to pay lip service to the militant "Christian" fundamentalists who put them in the White House or the militant "Muslim" fundamentalists who consolidated the neocon's power after the Reichstag Fire of the 21st century, the unopposed September 11th attacks on America's iconic buildings and the people therein, they are placing pro-corporate fascist yes men on the Supreme Court. We prevailed here in Humboldt County in a class action suit against the gross excesses of the CAMP program to the benefit of not only the innocent people who had their property destroyed or stolen in broad sweeps but to the improved the effectiveness of that program by holding them, at least to a small degree, to standards of human civilization. Recent pepper spray litigation dragged on for years with a mixed outcome. In the case of the Class action suit against CAMP, Judge Aguilar, who found for the victims was soon himself victimized in a vicious smear campaign and forced to retire. It will be an uphill battle but we must fight this battle.
Two ideas I favor personally are the creation of a legal defense fund for political activists and low income people and a class action suit on behalf of the thousands of railroaded citizens of Humboldt County. I would suggest naming it after Patrick O'Brien who was driven from his meager Southern Humboldt trailer in Melody Trailer Park a few years ago by drug addicts and finally arrested for trespassing (AKA homelessness) here in Eureka and held indefinitely in the Humboldt County "Correctional" Facility with some of the same people who had harassed him on the streets of Redway and Garberville who were in for beating a homeless man to death as he slept on the loading dock of the Redway Post Office. Pat finally "strangled himself" in the jail. Pat was a most harmless individual and his crime was innocence and poverty. This paper was kind enough to publish another rant of mine on that incident and the segment of society that encouraged "making homeless people feel uncomfortable" at that time. I have set up a fledgling website at http://www.HumboldtCorruption.org as an advocacy site for cleaning up Humboldt County. Not homeless people, junked vehicles and so on but the vile corruption of the government and the society that has spawned it. I am not close to being competent to manage the things I have suggested and possibly not even this website but hope this site and these ramblings will simply reach the ears of people who can do something. There may well be better ideas than a new more powerful legal defense network or a class action suit. These two appeal to me for political reasons and practical reasons. As a forum to put these vital issues into the forefront of community discussion and as a practical way to bring civilization to everyone and unclog our courts and jails.
"The abuse of buying and selling votes crept in and money began to play an important part in determining elections. Later on, this process of corruption spread to the law courts. And then to the army, and finally the Republic was subjected to the rule of emperors" Plutarch - Historian of the Roman Republic
Redwood Curtain CopWatch remembers and misses Noel, who died October 30, 2008. All people could learn from Noel's writings, honesty and humility, and dedication to justice, children, kindness, and humor.
2nd Anniversary of Oscar Grants Foul Killing marked by Vigil/Rally at Fruitvale BART.
On new years day 2011, a racially diverse crowd of 150-175 people marked Oscar's murder at the hands of BART police with statements from Grant family members, reminiscences of Oscar, and pledges from family and community alike to carry on and intensify the struggle to get justice for all of the many victims of unjust police violence. The Vigil/ Rally was called by the Grant family with solidarity from the family of Derrick Jones ,another unarmed black man from the east Oakland neighborhood near Fruitvale BART who was recently shot up and killed by the OPD.
The "Oscar Grant Committee to Stop Police Brutality and State Repression" that includes Oscar's 'Uncle Bobby' and family friend Jack Bryson among its active members, played a prominent role in organizing and sponsoring the event. The event was organized in a little over two weeks time, using the OGC's and Grant family's network of contacts.
The first part of the action was a candlelight vigil focusing on members of the Grant Family, including Oscar's mother Wanda, and was MC'ed by Uncle Bobby. This was a collective sharing of grief and love with several prayers offered by ministers of different faiths including both Christian and the NOI [Nation of Islam] minister Keith Mohammed. Frank Jones, father of the slain Derrick Jones also spoke passionately and made common cause with the Grant family and vowed that this is only the beginning of a struggle for justice. The well known attorney John Burris spoke on the epidemic of unjust police killing cases that have come to his office recently. Dan Siegel, the attorney from the National Lawyers Guild who is working with the OGC and recently helped to defend the 152 protesters arrested in Oakland on Nov. 6th, also spoke.
During the 2nd part of the event, Uncle Bobby turned it over to OGC organizers, who broke out colorful OGC and SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] picket signs and distributed them throughout the crowd. The signs touched on the rally's themes, included: 'We Are Oscar Grant', 'Jail Killer Cops', 'Stop Police Terror', 'An Injury To One, Is An Injury To All' , 'Without Struggle, There Is No Justice' and a series of signs that said 'Stop Police Brutality, Justice For ______' , with the blank spot filled in either with 'Oscar' or one of the other unarmed victims of lethal police violence that the OGC has voted to fight for such as Derrick Jones, Martin Cotton, and Guy Jarreau.
Several active OGC members/leaders including Lesley Phillips, Dave Welsh, and Elizabeth Adams spoke on the group's organizing projects and battles for justice. Lesley informed the gathering of the recent Vallejo police killing of a returning black NVC [Napa Vally College] student during a film project that the OGC is looking into and working with locals on. OGC members encouraged the gathering to join with them and car pool down to Santa Cruz on Sat., Jan.8th to protest the unjust 'State Repression' focused on the heroic whistle blowers, Bradley Manning and Wiki-leaks Julian Assange.
Other community and political organizations spoke or slammed some poetry during the open mike time or were present to show solidarity including the Grey Panthers, BAMN [By Any Means Necessary], the IBT [International Bolshevik Tendency], the ISO [International Socialist Organization], the SDS/MDS [Movement for a Democratic Society] , Berkeley Liberation Radio, America Needs To Know [public tv program] , Peace & Freedom Party, Speak Out, and the Green Party -among others.
Members of the OGC presented small bunches of picket signs to the Grant and Jones famies that said "We Are Oscar Grant" and "Stop Police Brutality, Justice For Derrick Jones". They were warmly and gratefully received.
The two dozen police squad cars and armored personnel carrier staged around the corner had no call to move against the peaceful action and even the gods seemed to be smiling on us, as the rain clouds broke apart and the sun came out just long enough to conclude the rally . Unlike our previous 3 events which got drenched.
All in all, I'll call it a peoples victory and a great way to start the new year off, uniting the the people and fighting for justice. I'm very proud of all the brave street solders that shook off their new years hangovers, disregarded the rain clouds, feared not the the shadowy police state presence and came out to stand up for justice on new years day.
Stop Police Terror
We Are Oscar Grant
We are Derrick Jones
Happy to report that I receive phone calls today from 2 different high schools teachers to set up 15 hr internships for their students at Idriss Stelley Foundation, prompted by the Mehserle Verdict and the police assassination of Derrick Jones.
Our internship includes Youth Know your Rights interactive training so that the kids can later conduct their own workshops in their schools.
We also take the kids on mural sightings in SF , depicting the saga of police brutality in our city, and hook them up with Hermana muralist Laura Campos to participate in murals currently in process. We train kids on how to apply for YEFAB (Youth Empowerment Funding Advisory
Board), and the SF Youth Commission. We also take the kids on tours of the Office of Citizens Complaints and prepare them to make public comments at the SF Police Commission.
Many of the kids we mentor have PTSD due to sustaining the loss on Loved Ones on the street.
Last year, we graduated kids from Balboa High School and June Jordan High School for Social Equity. ISF provides free counseling and support groups for survivors of Police Misconduct and Grieving Families of Loved Ones Killed by Law Enforcement.
Your hotline is 415-595-8251.
We are located ay the Redstone Building, half a block from 16th St. BART Station, 2940 16th St, Suite 209, corner of Capp
Street. We provide also Pro Bono Civil Rights Atty referrals, and moderate over 160 yahoogrooups for our clients and Social.RacialJustice activists,and have assisted over 6000 Sisters and Brothers since 2003, when we offically opened our doors in 2003.
We seek no money, and do not advertise, most referrals are from word of mouth or through the editors of the SF Bay View newspaper though which I have been as an investigative reporter on law enforcement accountability issues. i do not do emails due to lack of time,
but you can reach me on our hotline or on my facebook page. POWER 2 our Youngstas !
feedback welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org, especially if you've read the various statements! ~Verbena of RedwoodCurtain CopWatch
I know that this might be difficult for people to understand, but I am urging you not to vote for Prop 34, the Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act (SAFE California Act). Never would I believe that I would stand in the way of abolishing the death penalty, but as with many propositions, bills, and ballot measures brought to the people in the past, with promising names (i.e. the horrendous and misleading "Victim's Rights Bill", Prop 9 in 2008) or the appearance of good ideas, it is necessary to look deeper- WHO created the bill? WHO is advocating for it? WHO is against it? WHY? Propositions put in petitions and on our ballots are not always as simple or righteous as they sound.
I have been talking some with people who have worked with prisoners and have fought for years against the racist, classist, unjust, and cruel jail and prison system of the U.S.- which has about 2.3 million people captured in its cages, and many more under the constant scrutiny and control of the injustice system (run by some of the worst crooks/criminals on Earth). And this does not account for the U.S. immigration detention centers, holding thousands of captives. So, I sought out some opinions from people I trust, especially after speaking with a local woman who has been doing prisoner support and prison abolition work, and she was not excited about Prop 34. The large majority of people on death row in CA, apparently are not in favor either. That says a lot.
It is my strong opinion, now, that we should not allow Prop 34 to pass. And we should get busy creating a better ballot measure to end the death penalty, which puts funding in a just direction for those so harmed by the injustice system.
Below are four writings from prisoners on Death Row in San Quentin. One of the writers, Kevin Cooper is an outspoken artist, writer, prisoner who was framed (like many black men) years ago for murder and has been fighting to be freed from prison and from death row for many years. I think he raises important questions to examine... WHY were death row inmates never consulted by the proponents of this Act? Who are the proponents?
PLEASE READ the statement from the Campaign to End the Death Penalty as to why it "cannot add its name to the list of organizations endorsing the California SAFE Act." Here is the link:
by Jarvis Jay Masters (on San Quentin's Death Row)
Please DON’T vote in favor of “The SAFE California Act” to end California’s death penalty.
You need to know that your vote for this act would throw away the key for all the innocent men and women on death row and, instead, sentence all prisoners on death row to spend the rest of their lives in prison without the possibility of parole and without effective legal representation.
The way I see it is, behind the scenes, the “Act” has been to cast Jeannie Woodford, former prison guard, former San Quentin warden, former director of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and current director of Death Penalty Focus, an organization striving to abolish the death penalty, to build support for this “Act” from, among others, the prison guards union.
I am not the first to say how deeply troubling it is to see this initiative being advocated for by a woman who presided over state executions without ever offering an OPEN apology.
There is something even more troubling about depending on a flawed prison system and its employees to go ahead and make this decision, when the men and women at risk have never been asked for our two cents about matters that affect our life and death. PLEASE KEEP READING!
Despite what I have been told, I believe this “SAFE California Act” will remove the statutory appeals guaranteed under the present law. This new law will assume that all those on death row are uniformly guilty. Don’t I matter? What about the innocent men and women presently on death row, these same men and women who will no longer have the effective legal means to a genuine appeal?
If having effective legal representation has anything to do with the state’s money crunch, then, make no mistake, innocent human beings will die in prison. If Californians really want to save the state money, here’s an idea: Why not eliminate the “vengeance sentencing” of the Three Strikes Law. Eliminating Three Strikes would close prisons and save millions of dollars every year.
Those supporting the SAFE California Act on economic grounds – that eliminating the death penalty will save money for a cash-strapped state – I have never heard them mention the moral and ethical issues of putting a fellow human being to death. You would not be casting a real vote to answer the prayers of prisoners by ending capital punishment. Let us first be human beings.
No! For myself and others here on San Quentin’s death row, the way we will eliminate the death penalty is to look at what other states have done and work to provide more effective legal representation to show and prove there are more and more innocent men and women on death row.
It is a fact that, again and again, the greater public and their legislators have changed their opinions about the death penalty after discovering innocent people who were condemned to death.
Why not start proving the cases of innocent people and free them to tell their truths, tell of their years of horror, and then let the state decide: Do you morally want to have a legal system that will put to death human beings, even the innocent ones?
Jarvis Jay Masters has been incarcerated for 32 years on San Quentin’s Death Row. He is the author of “Finding Freedom: Writings from Death Row” and “That Bird Has My Wings: The Autobiography of an Innocent Man on Death Row.”
The SAFE California Act to replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole will be on the November ballot in California. Here are links and short blurbs from the perspectives of three men on San Quentin’s death row.
by Kevin Cooper
I have been asked what I think about the “SAFE California Act,” which is being pushed as a real alternative to this state’s death penalty. [It would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP).] I have been asked by activists, death row inmates and certain family members of death row inmates. I have also asked myself this same question. After all, it is our future which is being voted on by the people of California in November 2012.
I must add this. At no time was I or, to my knowledge, any man or woman who resides on death row within this state asked our opinion about the SAFE California Act by the sponsors of this initiative, the people who bankrolled it or the people who collected signatures in support of it. I wonder why that is?
I am personally against this initiative, and I do not support it for a couple different reasons. First and foremost, this “act” is just another version of the death penalty. We who will be affected by it will still be living in inhumane conditions. read more... http://sfbayview.com/2012/death-row-debate-yes-or-no-on-the-safe-california-act/
Kevin Cooper was sentenced to death in 1985 and maintains his innocence. In 2008, five federal judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals signed an 82-page dissenting opinion that begins: “The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man,” 565 F.3d 581. He has exhausted all his legal remedies and, should the lethal injection litigation settle in California, Kevin is one of the 14 currently in line for imminent execution barring the governor and California Supreme Court granting him a pardon or clemency.
Don’t miss the recently released true crime story, “Scapegoat: The Chino Hills Murders and the Framing of Kevin Cooper,” by J. Patrick O’Connor, editor and publisher of Crime Magazine. Available online through major booksellers.
by Donald Ray Young
This is our time to abolish capital punishment in California via the ballot box. If we allow this killing machine to resuscitate, we can expect executions of the more than 725 death-row prisoners at a rate that will send shock waves throughout Texas. read more... http://sfbayview.com/2012/death-row-debate-yes-or-no-on-the-safe-california-act/
by Correll Thomas
The Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act (SAFE California Act) is an atrocity and I question the author and sponsor(s)’ motives behind the initiative. Who are they really working for? Who are they really working with? read more... http://sfbayview.com/2012/death-row-debate-yes-or-no-on-the-safe-california-act/
Supporter’s note: Correll Thomas is one of numerous men and women on California’s death row, who are currently unrepresented and wait for counsel to be appointed. You will often hear the pro-death penalty forces talk of the “years” it takes to find justice, but most people are unaware of the years many prisoners wait as witnesses disappear, memories fade, evidence is lost and they even die awaiting justice. And they have no counsel appointed to represent them. If the SAFE California initiative passes this November, these men and women will most likely never have their cases reviewed.
Click HERE to see the STOLEN LIVES report from M. Gloria Hernandez of Fresno. The key to the acronyms used in the list are at the bottom of the document.
Ah... so it seems the more I dig the more I find.. Jerry Dyer was appointed chief
after Julian Boo Boo Celeya died.
So count the victims attribated to Dyer's leadership after Boo Boo. Its been ten
years since his appointment and I count 47 deaths and those are the ones we know of...
The Stolen Lives list for Fresno was compiled from the following:
-District Attorney's letter to the OIR [Office of Independent Review]
-letter from the OIR to the District Attoney which included their lists of open/closed cases
-response to my Public Records Act Requests back in 2006 and 2009
-information from Color Lines Articles and Fresno Bee articles over the years
-latest list provided by a lawyer representing the police during a deposition of July 28, 2010.
What I gleaned from the articles:
Seems to me that the dates and some info don't match. For example at all times regarding Demtri Hallin the Fresno Bee articles and his obituary, the date and FPD id number 03-99484 match my list which was obtained from the California Public Records Act info. However one exhibit given to me identifies him as Jared Jackson MB 06-02-78 and has two case numbers on it; one the same as on my list and the other is case number 03-99474.
Also the exhibit has different officer names for some of the shootings.
|stolen lives 2010 fresno.pdf||109.79 KB|
Our legal system is a circus one act after another. Officers go out and make
arrests and the legal system plays with the lives of that person until they
get to plea to something, then they all get applause. It is a three ring
circus. The Cops arrest,,... The DA makes big charges and the court appointed
attorneys wheel and deal with a bargain that make all winners.. Except the
accused and they are always guilty of something ,,.cause they keep the
The cops go out and make the arrest, and make their reports? Well I have
found them to be inaccurate more often than not. This is so important these
guys must do report writing classes continually. This is reported as one of
the greatest problems we have in the system. Mis-reporting on reports and
missing evidence. Evidence is lost regularly. Three taser reports .. Three
officers.. and two seperate agencies.. all reports missing..In a court
hearing this month, I heard a Probation officer testify that they lose paper
work often. As she was on the stand testifying that a client did not show
up, and he received a probation violation for that, she did not have her
clients paper work but testifies that he did not show up. Thank God the
client was able to produce a copy of the receipt he had kept and he had
talked to her that day.. There was a Federal Subpeona she was asked if she had a
copy of this, and she said she thinks she remembers it coming across her
desk. We are talking serious stuff, people's lives are at stake, in the hands
of people not being accountable to accurately do their jobs, and not treat
people like scum especially at the hand of their own mistakes.
The DA's office wants to win, they have to show they are fighting crime of
corse. A person is arrested on a violent crime. The Da 's office goes
before the judge saying what a terrible crime this person commited, based
upon the cop's report. Almost Killed his wife. A gun was supposedly use in a
crime. She was brutally beat up according to police reports and pictures.
She was in Harrington house several times over the summer. They give the man
lots of felony charges and recommended prison time. The person was so
supposedly bad that there was no OR or Bail. But when the Plea is made, the
man gets a good chunk of jail time for a crime that gives him the best deal
for his punishment phase. Although at this time the restraining order
against the victim is dropped, and they are allowed to visit in jail. Back to square one. I made a bet with the Deputy DA that this man would be back within a year if he stays in this county when he gets out. I am very good friends with the family and they will let me know. What about rehabilitation for these abusing folks in our town costing lots of money by us allowing this to continue. It is costing big bucks for these people to continue to go through this system. The woman was lodged in
Harrington house several times last summer alone. Now he is lodged in our
county jail for months.
Court appointed attorneys have told me straight up- they do not have time to
research a person's case. They do not get paid enough money. They do not
communicate or advocate, they just make deals.. It ought to be called "lets
make a deals because there is no defense brought into court on your behalf,
or else it is very half-hearted. These attorneys that you are putting your
lives into their hands do not work for you but the county. And the circus
continues to continue.
[Sent to us from dedicated, caring, strong Del Norte WatchDog, Lenda Beck.]
Presentation On The Inglewood, California Police Beating of Donovan Jackson-Chavis by Michael Zinzun, Coalition Against Police Abuse, July 13, 2002
On Saturday, July 6, 2002, shortly after Donovan Jackson-Chavis was beaten by the Inglewood P.D., his father Coby Chavis and his cousin, Taliba Shakir, a woman who had been a member of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in L.A., called CAPA. What is CAPA?
The Coalition Against Police Abuse (CAPA) was formed in Los Angeles in 1976 in response to a wave of police shootings, beatings, and harassment, and rapidly expanded because of the 1979 LAPD killing of Eula Mae Love. CAPA's membership over the years has been drawn from the Black and Latino communities, workers' organizations, churches, the gay community, the women's movement, and concerned individuals. In the wake of the beating of Rodney King, CAPA pushed forward a plan for an elected civilian review board and special prosecutor, which was derailed by the inadequate reforms of the Christopher Commission. During the exposures of routine police brutality and criminality in the Rampart Division, CAPA, uniting with Mothers ROC and other groups, led a campaign for community control of the police exposing the systematic involvement of the courts and the prosecutors in this abuse. We exposed the fact that the same crimes are being committed throughout the LAPD, not only in Rampart but in Southeast, Foothill, Hollenbeck and all communities of color. Members of CAPA have ourselves been subjected to physical abuse by the police. A measure of our effectiveness is that the LAPD was caught infiltrating and trying to disrupt our group, and 80 other groups and individuals who worked with CAPA. We sued and forced them to adopt a local Freedom of Information ordinance, to pay $1.5 million in damages, and to expose the names and identities of the undercover officers illegally engaged in political espionage. CAPA maintains extensive files both on individual officers and the systematic practices of police abuse, which we have shared with families victimized by the police and all those fighting back.
CAPA believes that the reign of terror by the LAPD, and by police and sheriff's departments in L.A. and across the country - including the FBI, CIA, and INS - must be opposed and can be stopped. This means mobilizing and uniting a wide base of forces into a mass movement against police crime and abuse. CAPA is committed to calling attention to the many instances and the systematic nature of police abuse, and to bringing public pressure to bear in order to obtain justice. We want to educate people about our human and civil rights. We are training new leadership so that people can unite to defend themselves and their democratic rights from further attack. We seek to unite as many people and organizations as possible from all races and nationalities, so that in our numbers we will have the unity and strength to defend our homes, families and human rights. We intend to mobilize, rely on, and give concrete direction to the people in our communities to stand up for their rights against police harassment, beatings, racist insults and murders. Only an aroused and united community can control the police.
Many of you will find or have found yourselves thrust into leadership roles in organizing in this and other fights for justice. James Forman, a leading organizer with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) once said, "The acid test of effective leadership by political organizers is their willingness to submit their role for examination, evaluation, and criticism. They must be willing to do this with the people with whom they are working and within the unit they represent. It is their responsibility to lead this discussion and to always insist that their role is up for constant evaluation. Naturally they must be willing to evaluate their own efforts, to admit mistakes, to correct them and move on, for there is work to be done."
He continued, "They must pay attention to details and follow through. Lack of follow-up is the graveyard of most ideas and plans. This death often flows from taking on too many jobs, inadequate planning or record keeping, and some times downright laziness."A step some political organizers must take if they are to be effective, Forman said: "They think they know, and yet, they may not know. The others may be right, for organizers must learn from the people with whom they work. Others can teach something and they must learn it. There is no place for a dogmatic position nor for a belief that 'I, the organizer, am absolutely right: I must have the last word.' This attitude may well lead to the final word, but there will be few people around willing to listen". It's important for the community to take the lead in this fight for justice, and then the politicians can follow our lead.
THE REIGN OF TERROR
The latest documented attack, on Donovan Jackson-Chavis, occurs in a context. I want to focus on the recent history of police in this country and the L.A. area, but we must also look further back. Bear in mind the historical period when many police laws, customs, and practices were developed. Post-slavery America was rife with white supremacy, victimizing Blacks, Latinos/Indigenous and Asians in every part of the United States. Lynching, segregation, and invasions and destruction of Black, Mexicano and Chinese towns by white mobs went unchecked from Florida to California. Many public police departments grew out of private slave catchers and strike breakers, or vigilantes like the Texas Rangers. It was a time when legalized racism was basically upheld by the Congress, state governments, and social institutions nation-wide.
Over the last few years, corrupt politicians and corporate media hype have tried to create hysteria about crime and terrorism to build support for aggressive policing. But in reality, crime is falling in every category, and the grass-roots "gang truce" efforts have reduced violence. There is, however, one category of crime that has steadily increased, and one source of terror on the streets that has gone unchecked - the reign of terror by the police against the community.
A few high profile cases of brutality or murder, such as the beating of Rodney King, the torture of Abner Louima, or the killings of Johnny Gammage in Pittsburgh, Anthony Baez and Amadou Diallo in New York, Margaret Mitchell in L.A. and Malice Green in Detroit, make front page headlines. These accounts claim such cases are "aberrations" or exceptions. Yet night after night, day after day, far from the headlines and the TV cameras, the police harass, abuse, brutalize, and kill without fear of discipline or punishment. The same week that New York City cops rammed a toilet plunger stick up the rectum and down the throat of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, police in Chicago, Baltimore, and several other cities shot and killed unarmed young Black men; an officer in Philadelphia set his girlfriend on fire; another cop in Texas was let off for killing a mentally challenged person. None of these incidents were even mentioned in the national coverage of the Louima case.
In Los Angeles and surrounding cities, the police and sheriff continue to shoot civilians on the average of once a week, and to kill someone on the average once a month. This was true under Gates and remained true under Williams and Parks. In Philadelphia, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Washington DC, and here in Los Angeles, massive scandals have erupted about police criminality and planting of evidence. In cities everywhere in the U.S., police abuse, brutality, corruption, and murder are rampant. The situation continues to get worse, in spite of every civic reform, because the police act as enforcers of the wretched and oppressive conditions of this society. Many police act as storm troopers, an occupying army who beat down any person who opposes or resists or speaks out against growing exploitation and poverty. It's not a question of individual "good cops" and "bad cops." The real criminals are the economic and political elite, the owners of the huge international corporations that extract billions of dollars in profits by forcing people into slavery, whether in child labor, "work-fare" systems, or the prisons. They use the police as their enforcers. This is why the police are being increasingly militarized, with helicopters, armored personnel carriers, heavy automatic and chemical weapons. Even so-called reforms, like "community oriented policing," are part of this military assault on our communities. Police describe "community oriented policing" as the domestic equivalent of "psychological operations" in the military. "Psy-ops" are the attempt to control the thinking of the population or the enemy. The real answer is not community oriented policing, but community control of the police.
HAVE THINGS CHANGED SINCE THE LA REBELLION OF 1992?
Yes, things have changed in California since the LA Rebellion of 1992.
We have a DA's office which relies on local police departments to investigate their own, and to refer a token few criminal cases against police officers for prosecution without any real independent investigations, resulting in far fewer charges being brought against police, and far more police getting away with crimes.
We have the Three Strike Laws, and the governor's attempt to eliminate parole.
We have Proposition 21 (The Anti-Youth Law, to send children to adult prisons).
We have more attempts to criminalize our youth through programs like Operation Weed & Seed and anti-gang task forces, which racially and geographically profile many innocent youth as gang members or drug dealers.
We have the further expansion of racial profiling to include walking, shopping, traveling, and flying. This plot is expanded by police chiefs refusing to document the ethnic make-up of those being stopped by police officers for public review.
We have had a so-called economic expansion that produced an increase in jails and prisons, not jobs, schools or justice.
Since 9/11, we have witnessed an attempt by the government, by local police, and police commissioners to further expand police power, even at a time when most major departments are under some form of investigation for corruption, police crimes, cover-ups, and abuse of power. As economic conditions for the masses of poor and working people deteriorate further, this increase in repressive police power will only accelerate.
THE BEATING IN INGLEWOOD
As I said, on Saturday, July 6, 2002, I received a call from Taliba, a relative, and from Coby Chavis, the father, of Donovan Jackson-Chavis. Coby stated that his son had been beaten by the Inglewood P.D. I informed Coby of his son's legal rights, took a report and told him to make sure he took his son to the doctor. He stated he had taken his son to the doctor but would be going back. Little did we know that a good Samaritan, Mitchell Crooks, visiting from out of town, had not only video taped the beating, but clearly revealed the continuing failures of present police policies, which had not deterred police abuses and corruption. You and I know that such beatings and abuse occur regularly. The one that gets videotaped is the rare exception, the tip of the iceberg that brings the problem smack in the face of the larger community and galvanizes people. This beating doesn't indicate a problem with one bad officer or one bad police department, but rather a systematic crisis being repeated time and time again across the country. These racist attacks by police aren't confined to healthy males but include the mentally challenged, seniors, and women of color. An increasing number of women are being killed by the police - two Black women killed by the cops in Long Beach in recent months are only a recent local example. This most recent beating comes on the heels of corruption, brutality, and police cover up in neighboring Los Angeles police departments' crash units. This pattern of abuse will not go away by focusing on just one officer.
Our demands in the Inglewood case are:
Criminal charges must be filed against all those involved in the beating and those officers who stood by and allowed the abuse to continue, or attempted to cover it up.
We need a special prosecutor with parallel powers to the DA, whose sole purpose is to prosecute abusive, criminal police officers countywide.
We need punitive damages levied against corrupt, abusive police. Make them pay out of their own pockets! Why should taxpayers have to pay for police violence? City governments consider settlements and payouts for police abuse to be a 'cost of doing business.' This must stop!
We need an elected civilian police review board with the power to hire and fire police brass and officers, change police policies and practices, and conduct independent investigations, a board with subpoena power.
People, we need to take a pro-active stance to protect our civil, constitutional, and human rights. We can't wait to re-act after the fact. We need to get organized in every precinct, on every block, to defend our rights, prevent police abuse and criminality, and to document it when it occurs.
In closing I would like to include several more key demands for you to internalize and call for:
Expose and stop the written and unwritten policies, practices and customs that allow police to criminalize, abuse, shoot, and maim us.
Stop the so-called "margin of error" allowed police. It is within this margin of error that most abuse takes place: "My foot slipped," or "I thought he had a gun," or "I feared for my life." It's within that "margin of error" that juries acquitted the cops who beat Rodney King and those who killed Amadou Diallo.
Stop the practice of people being "arrested for suspicion of." This is where an individual is arrested by police for suspicion of a crime; fingerprinted, photographed, found to be the wrong person, and then released. This "booking" stays on your record for the rest of your life, undermining your opportunity to get employment and better paying jobs. In New Jersey last year, such an arrest on suspicion led to the police killing the suspect in custody, before the real culprit was found.
End racial profiling immediately, in all forms. Since 9/11, it is important to know that there haven't been that many new oppressive laws: What has happened is an expansion of existing police powers - to spy, detain, harass, and jail the people of this country who speak out about unjust policies, locally, nationally, and internationally. New groups have been added to the racist profile.
Stop the criminalization of our youth and eliminate the national and local police "gang" database.
Repeal California Evidence code 1043 and Penal code 832.7. This would release citizen complaints filed on officers who were accused of beatings, abuse, shootings, and corruption statewide. We don't need any more government cover-ups. Doctors and lawyers are subject to public scrutiny. Only the history and record of police officers, with the power to beat and kill, is protected. WHY?
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
He may be a very nice man. But I haven’t got the time to figure that out. All I know is, he’s got a uniform and a gun and I have to relate to him that way. That’s the only way to relate to him because one of us may have to die. ~ James Baldwin
Last year on Malcolm X’s birthday I had a bit of a disagreement with a police officer that could have possibly landed me in jail or worse. I was on my way to work and dropping my daughter off at school when a policeman, on foot, yelled towards me “Hey, pull over.” It was one of those “click it or ticket” campaigns where police officers set up stings to ticket people who aren’t wearing safety belts. I had just handed my daughter a piece of fruit and did not have my belt on- I was wrong. I still ignored him, cut through a parking lot (I now know this is also a traffic offense) and proceeded on my way. I mean really, who yells at a moving car “hey” and expects a response? Well, I suppose this White officer did, and in some way I offended him by not responding, because he hopped in his patrol car and blocked off three lanes of traffic to pull me over. Needless to say, he was livid and beet red by the time he approached my car. He was immediately aggressive towards me, a woman with a small child watching, in a way that was inappropriate and extreme. I met his screams and aggression with choice words of my own, including the fact that he had absolutely no right to speak to me in the manner that he was, and that if he was going to cite me he needed to do it and allow me to be on my way. I thought he was going to drag me out of the car. I was afraid, yes, but not quite afraid enough to let his treatment of me go unannounced. He went on, “You don’t tell me how to speak”, to which I replied, ” I do when you’re speaking to me.” The ugly exchange continued with him finally saying that I was just upset because I was wrong and because I was being ticketed. I looked him square in the eye, and commented, “No Officer Matthews, YOU are wrong, there is absolutely no reason for you to speak to and gesture towards me this way for a traffic offense.” I looked in the back seat at my child, who was obviously frightened by this strange man’s behavior towards her mother, and looked back at him.
The officer went to his car, calmed himself, and came back to explain the details of my citation. He now appeared to be more embarrassed than angry because, I believe, deep down he understood that he was wrong. It was his responsibility to enforce the law with calmness and restraint, and he had failed. I was very clear in noting that failure when I filed a report against Officer Matthews. Had I been, possibly, his White wife with his small White child in the back seat, I am almost certain that I would have been treated with more respect and decency by an officer such as himself. We both understood that without having to say it. The truth sat there between us as he silently wrote my ticket and I put on my sunglasses refusing to further acknowledge his antics.
My four year old told me the other day, as I was approached with a compliment by a Black male officer, that all police do is put people in jail. At first it was peculiar and almost funny, I believe because it was so absurd. Here sat this child spitting the fire of truth to this man and me without provocation. However, as I dug deep inside myself, I realized that she understood and unspoken legacy within our community- that police often brutalize us instead of protect us. I would imagine that children should consider public servants heroes, champions even, but I knew that I had never felt that way though never having been told that I shouldn’t. She’s yet to see any Black Panther “off the pig” video footage, or photographs of police officers firing hoses or unleashing attack dogs on Blacks during various Civil Rights demonstrations. My child has not seen pictures of Black men hanged from trees, strange fruit style, as proud sheriffs stood by beaming, almost ecstatic about the savagery that had been committed while ending the life of someone who was probably innocent. Perhaps though, she did not have to see those images, maybe those images are ingrained in her mind or her DNA. Possibly, there is a pocket in her brain where our story lies and in that story is a space that describes just how much anger and fear we have towards those who police us.
I don’t want my daughter to end up like the young woman punched in the face by a police officer recently in Seattle for a jay walking offense, but I wonder how much control I have over such an occurrence. Clearly, I plan to teach my daughter how to interact with the police, to object to them if necessary, in a civil way that won’t have her in the back of a patrol car with a swollen face. If I one day have a son, I’m sure my knees will bruise from kneeling in prayer with hopes that he will not become an Oscar Grant, a Sean Bell, even a police officer like Omar Edwards who was shot and killed by a fellow White officer as he attempted to identify himself while in plain clothes. There really is no rationale, no safe space, for Black people when dealing with the police, because as the above mentioned James Baldwin quote asserts, we often feel that we may be beaten, maimed, or killed regardless of what we say or do to them.
I am fully aware that the young women in that video were aggressive towards the policeman that fought to restrain them. I have many questions about how it all started, what made these young girls snatch away from him, what the initial interaction was like. In the end however, I realize that regardless of how these teenage girls behaved it was the responsibility of the adult man, who has specific training on peaceably detaining crime suspects, to end that situation without assaulting that young woman in that manner.
Many ask, why Black people behave so negatively and sometimes so violently towards police? The answer to this question lies in the history of this nation’s policing system and the institutionalized racism that sits at the foundation of it. As I sit writing this I am fortunate enough to scan my personal library and find the book Slave Patrols which provides some insight into how the abominable relationship between Blacks and the police came about. The book essentially chronicles the foundation of local policing in South Carolina, specifically in Stono where a slave rebellion saw more than two dozen White slave owners and families killed in 1739. Slave owners were realizing that those enslaved were outnumbering them exceptionally and in turn began to fear that those enslaved would retaliate against them. Somewhere in the midst of this fear, this idea of chickens coming home to roost, a construct of Black rage was adopted and poor White southerners were hired to become “paddy rollers”, ensuring that Blacks were kept under control. You see, prior to slavery, rebellions such as those in Stono, and enslaved Africans constantly attempting to free themselves from bondage, there were no local police systems operating in the US. Sure there were national and regional military groups who basically protected US borders, but no community police forces. This fact is what one should consider when questioning the relationship between Blacks, the police and the effort of policing. In essence, police systems were created to control Blacks who were tremendously feared by Whites and as a result labeled collectively as criminals, deviants and savages. And if this is historically the case, how can we not expect Black people to look at police as freedom stealers, invaders, and enemies of the community?
Those paddy rollers have become patrollers, and not much has changed in the way that Blacks have been brutalized and murdered by them. Sure the happenings are less frequent, but the fear on both sides still persists, and it is this fear that I believe fueled the actions of both the arresting officer and the young women arrested in Seattle. I am further reminded of this fact as I read this article from NPR news that discusses a settlement in a case from the Civil Rights era in Frankin County, Mississippi where local law enforcement agencies were found guilty of aiding and abetting the Klu Klux Klan in murdering and covering up the murders of Charles Moore and Henry Dee in 1964. And what of this story concerning Jon Burge who has been accused of torturing more than 100 (read way more than 100) Black men in Chicago, many of whom plead guilty to crimes they did not commit because they simply feared dying at the hands of this tyrant?
When we isolate events, as many did with the Seattle beating, and choose not to view those events wholly and historically we dis-serve ourselves and our communities, and we fail to see the culpability of officers like the one I filed a complaint against and the one who used excessive force in Seattle. Wiliam Flax makes the following observation here, ” The differences in neighborhood reactions to Police action, arise not in any innate characteristics of any people, but in the calculated responses of certain organizations, which long predate contemporary incidents.” Policemen who wore badges during the day and white sheets at night go forty plus years without ever being accused of any wrong doing, much less of murder, as was the case in Mississippi, when we don’t address police wrongdoing holistically. Commanders like Jon Burge, who literally terrorize entire cities like Chicago, get pendants and honors, while our justice system incarcerates and possibly murders innocent men and women who fall victim to such tyrannies. It’s atrocious and sickening, and shame on you if you don’t understand that. A young Black woman believing that she is fighting for her life when she counter-attacks a police officer after being detained for jaywalking is not necessarily a monster. Maybe, as Baldwin commented, she is just a person who believes that violence is the way to relate to the police. And if this young woman believes this to be so, who exactly is to blame for that perception?
As Tolstoy asks in his epic novel War and Peace, “what is to be done?” Cornel West in the introduction to Race Matters asserts, “To engage in a serious discussion of race in America, we must begin not with the problems of black people but with the flaws of American society- flaws rooted in historic inequalities and longstanding cultural stereotypes.” Essentially, we can not begin a conversation on healing our ailing relationship with police organizations by further perpetuating images of Black rage and criminality. We must, instead, be honest about the reasons why stereotypes and constructs such as these exist and why we, after all of this time, are still unable to escape them. I don’t have the magical answers that I hope for in these matters of policing, of solidifying relationships with the police that allow us to overlook our collective past experiences, but I do know that we MUST teach one another methods of interacting with them in a way that may save our lives. I believe one should begin here: