Police Behaving Badly 6.1.15

From the use of excessive force to stealing drugs from suspects…from racial profiling to abusing the power of their badges…from sexually assaulting suspects to planting evidence…there is a never-ending stream of stories of law enforcement officials behaving irresponsibly, unethically, immorally, and/or criminally. Here are five recent examples from across the nation:

‘That’s what we do’: Florida cops shoot and kill suicidal man after girlfriend phones for help

We’ve already know that’s what so many cops do. We’d like it to stop. Actually, we DEMAND that it stop.

“I think [police] should come in using other things,” Kaitlyn Lyons said regarding the shooting death of her boyfriend, Justin Way. “And I think they definitely need to figure out how to handle suicidal people.”

And people with mental illnesses.

And People of Color-especially African-Americans.

Lyons contacted the police non-emergency dispatcher on May 11 after catching Way drinking and lying on their bed holding a large knife. She said Way, a recovering alcoholic, “had a setback” after losing his job but did not threaten her with it.

“The only person Justin threatened was himself and I honestly don’t think he wanted to die,” she said, adding that the two St. Johns County sheriff’s deputies who responded to her call, 32-year-old Kyle Braig and 26-year-old Jonas Carballosa, who were carrying assault rifles, looked like they “were going into war” when they entered the residence.

Why the heck did they bring assault rifles?

Lyons said she intended for Way to be institutionalized under the provisions of the Florida Mental Health Act.

According to the Florida Times-Union, the deputies instead shot Way in the stomach and abdomen.

Way’s mother, Denise Way, told the Beast that one official, identified as Detective Mike Smith, said the encounter was part of what he called a “new trend in law enforcement now — suicide by cop.”

Well Mr. Smith, that’s an assertion. Where is your evidence to back it up?

According to Denise Way, Smith also argued that her son had threatened Lyons — which she has denied — and told her that the deputies shot him after he refused to drop the knife, adding, “That’s what we do.”

A great many of you also lie about the circumstances surrounding fatal police encounters. What? We’re supposed to take your word for it that you were threatened? Not a chance.

Way’s parents believe that their son was shot while still laying in bed. His father, George Way, said that he believes a bullet was pulled from the mattress, arguing that there were no blood stains on the walls or floor nearby.

“If Justin was coming after them with a knife, at 6-foot-4, wouldn’t there be blood splattered all over the room?” he said.

Why yes. I think that would be the case. Surely the cops aren’t lying here.

Commander Chuck Mulligan told the Beast that it was standard procedure to send armed deputies without mental health professionals, “if the deputies feel that that is the appropriate weapon system to use,” arguing that using Tasers could pose a risk to the officers if they missed their target.

Your procedures ought to be reexamined then. Also, aren’t cops supposed to de-escalate a situation? Shouldn’t lethal force be the absolute last resort, rather than the first?

“Whether it’s a rifle or not, in many senses, is a non-issue,” Mulligan said. “A bullet comes out of a handgun, a bullet comes out of a rifle.”

Police should not treat citizens as wartime combatants. The use of military-grade weapons by police officers sends the message that the cops are here to fight an enemy rather than to serve and protect the citizenry. So yeah, there’s a bit of a difference between cops using assault rifles versus handguns.

* * * *

No sex assault charges for women in massage parlor sting

Honolulu’s top prosecutor is dismissing cases against 16 women arrested in a massage parlor prostitution sting after the sex assault charges they faced drew criticism.

The women were arrested this month during an operation involving Honolulu police and federal authorities. But instead of being arrested on suspicion of prostitution, police accused the women of sex assault.

“Although the conduct might have constituted a technical violation of the law, proof beyond a reasonable doubt could not be established,” Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro said in a statement Wednesday. “Therefore, these cases were dismissed.”

If convicted of sex assault, the women would have had to register as sex offenders and could have been sentenced to up to a year in jail, while a prostitution charge carries 30 days. At the time of their arrests, legal experts said the new tactic from the Honolulu Police Department is unusual for a law enforcement agency. Advocates for prostitutes and sex trafficking victims decried the arrests as re-victimizing the victims.

“I think the charges being dropped is a clear sign that this isn’t a method HPD should use,” said Kathryn Xian, executive director of Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery. “I think it’s been an embarrassing situation for law enforcement.”

Hawaii has a strange history with prostitution investigations. Until a year ago, police officers were legally allowed to have sex with prostitutes as part of investigations. State lawmakers changed that policy last year after The Associated Press highlighted the loophole.

Myles Breiner, an attorney representing some of the women, said in at least one instance at a massage parlor called Orchid Relaxation, an officer disrobed, took the woman’s hand and put it on his genitals.

A woman who answered the phone at Orchid Relaxation declined to comment.

“They’re experimenting with the limits of the constitution,” Breiner said after hearing that the charges were dropped. “Sex assault in the fourth degree is a nonconsensual touching of a sexual nature. How can you say it’s not consensual when the officers are going into these establishments intending to be touched?”

When asked if the department had any comment on Kaneshiro declining to prosecute the women, a police spokeswoman pointed to a letter posted on social media Tuesday.

“Some in the community have questioned the recent arrests of cosmetology and massage parlor employees, and more information will come out in court,” the letter said. Arraignments were scheduled for Friday.

* * * *

 Cop caught on video telling black teen ‘If you fuck with me, I’m going to break your legs’

“Can you tell me why I’m being arrested?” Hamza Jeylani asks an officer in a video captured on his cell phone.

“Because I feel like arresting you,” the officer, who the American Civil Liberties Union identifies as Officer Rod Webber, replies in the short video.

This exchange happens after Webber calmly threatens Jeylani, who does not appear to be offering any resistance whatsoever. “Plain and simple,” Webber tells Jeylani, “if you fuck with me I’m going to break your legs before you even get a chance to run.”

According to the ACLU, Jeylani and four of his friends — all of whom are black teenagers — were pulled over after making a U-turn in a parking lot in South Minneapolis. The four young men had been playing basketball at a YMCA. Despite Officer Webber’s statement that Jeylani was arrested because the cop felt like arresting him, the police claim that they suspected the four youth of stealing the car they were driving.

Jeylani, however, says that the driver of the car had documents showing that he owned the car. And the ACLU adds that “police said the stolen car they were after was a blue Honda Civic. The teenagers, however, were driving a blue Toyota Camry.”

Not like that matters. If the cops want to harass and terrorize black people, they will find a way.

(video available at the link)

* * * *

 Wife of Oklahoma pastor shot by trooper amid flooding challenges police account

Nehemiah Fischer was an assistant pastor at Faith Bible Church in Tulsa. Police said the 35-year-old was shot dead by a highway patrol officer who responded with a partner to a call about a motorist stuck in a truck in rising waters in a rural road south of Tulsa after 9pm on Friday night.

Seven people have been reported dead in Oklahoma as a result of severe weather that has also badly hit Texas.

According to police, the officers told Fischer and his older brother, Brandon, to leave their stalled car and move to higher ground. Some kind of confrontation ensued and Nehemiah Fischer was killed. Brandon Fischer was not hurt. He was arrested on suspicion of assault.

“They would not have gone after the trooper … they would not do that on their own volition,” the dead man’s wife, Laura, told FOX23 local news.

Fischer had a gun, said captain Paul Timmons, an Oklahoma department of public safety spokesman. He said he was unable to provide more detail about whether Fischer was armed at the moment of the shooting and who exactly fired the shots.

“A handgun was found,” he told the Guardian. “I can’t verify whether it was being brandished but the deceased individual did have a handgun … the investigators are still trying to determine how many shots were fired. We know there was more than one but an exact number, I don’t have that information available yet.”

Timmons said the officers involved would be placed on administrative leave, as is routine when police are involved in a serious incident, and more information, including their names, would be forthcoming later this week.

“It had been raining; that’s an area known to flood. I believe the road may already have been closed because of flood waters,” said Timmons. “The water was rising and running across the roadway rapidly and the troopers were concerned for these individuals’ safety.

“We’d already had numerous operations where we’d had to make water rescues around the state, so they were concerned for their safety, that they may be swept away by the rushing waters, so they were trying to convince them to come up to where they were so it would be safer.”

All of that sounds like a completely good reason to shoot the guy.


* * * *

Woman walking on sidewalk records St Louis PD taser her repeatedly

A silent protest organized by the Black Lives Matter movement under the banner of #ShutDownBaseball on Friday night began at Kiener Plaza around 8:15 p.m. before marching to the Cardinals game at Busch stadium in downtown St Louis. The goal: to raise awareness and call for an end to police brutality on people of color.

The demonstration was largely peaceful and fairly uneventful outside of people standing with signs, some of them in a line crossing the road at the entrance to the stadium, an area already closed off and crowded by baseball fans.

It wasn’t until the last 13 remaining protesters started to head home around 11:30pm when things got out of hand. People still motivated to bring attention to their cause had decided to leave the sidewalk and walk in the street. Faced with a myriad of options, when the commands given to leave the roadway were not met Lt Dan Zarrick made the decision to make arrests.  What we see in the video below (supplied by the female taser victim) shows what happened after that decision was made.

When the video starts off two people are already in custody and at least 6 officers are already on the scene. Some people had left the area already when arrests began, leaving 6 trying to walk away on the sidewalk. At that point you can hear an officer say “Grab anybody, they were all in the street,”  and then an officer with a taser in hand hurries to head off the people who were walking at a normal pace away from the scene of arrests. Seconds later aiming his less than lethal weapon at a man who was at the front of the small group that officer says “get back.”  Obviously not wanting to be tased and to avoid being arrested the man tries to evade the officer with a sidestep, when he is then tased.

The woman taking the video and the other 3 people are grabbed from behind when another officer begins to deploy less than lethal force by firing his taser on her. It is unclear why this officer felt it necessary to deploy less than lethal force on a woman walking away instead of simply or at least attempting to place her under arrest without incident. She is then heard agonizing in pain saying repeatedly “Ow my god, Ow my god” and asking “why did you do that?” I didn’t do anything.” An officer can be heard saying “put your hands behind your back,” she replies repeatedly “Please Stop, please stop, your hurting me, I can’t, it hurts, I can’t, it hurts so bad” when we hear the sound of her being tased yet again by the officer. She then says, obviously in a severe amount of pain “why are you doing this to me, I’m on the ground” before the video ends.

8 of the protesters were arrested.  Six protesters were arrested for impeding the flow of traffic. The remaining two protesters were arrested for impeding the flow of traffic and resisting arrest. All have since been released. Two of them went straight to the hospital to get checked. One for the tasing and the other for a head injury from being slammed to the pavement.

Police Behaving Badly 6.1.15

Ferguson, Racism, and more

Colorblindness: the New Racism?

Kawania Wooten’s voice tightens when she describes the struggle she’s having at the school her son attends. When his class created a timeline of civilization, Wooten saw the Greeks, the Romans and the Incas. But nothing was said about Africa, even though the class has several African American students.

Wooten, who is black, spoke to the school’s director, a white woman — who insisted that the omission wasn’t racially biased.

“Her first comment was, ‘you know, we’ve just been following the curriculum. We’re not talking about whether people are white or black,’” recalls Wooten, who lives in Bowie, Md. “I said that the children have eyes and they can see. And I’d like them to see that our culture was a strong, viable culture.”

That kind of story brings a groan from Mark Benn, a psychologist and adjunct professor at Colorado State University. He hears similar tales whenever he delivers lectures about race relations.

Such incidents are examples of  racial “colorblindness” — the idea that ignoring or overlooking racial and ethnic differences promotes racial harmony.

Trainers and facilitators say colorblindness does just the opposite: folks who enjoy racial privilege are closing their eyes to the experiences of others.

“It benefits me not to pay attention,” says Benn, who is white. “I never have to question whether or not my race is being held in question when I apply for a job. It benefits me not to question that (because) it makes it look like I got here on my own.”

Paying attention to the cultural experience of students is becoming increasingly important, given the differences between the demographics of American students and their teachers. 

According to reports from the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 80 percent of American teachers are white, while children of color make up more than 40 percent of the student body.

As the nation’s demographics shift, the sight of a white teacher leaning over the desk of a brown or black student is likely become more and more common. In order to be effective, teachers will have to learn about the cultural experiences of their students, while using these experiences as a foundation for teaching. The approach is called culturally relevant pedagogy. 

But that is hard to do if a teacher doesn’t see differences as valuable. That means the blinders have to come off, says Randy Ross, a senior equity specialist at the New England Equity Assistance Center, a program of Brown University’s Education Alliance. Ross facilitates workshops on racism and culturally responsive teaching. And in her experience, white people have the hardest time opening their eyes.

“I have never heard a teacher of color say ‘I don’t see color,” Ross says. “There may be issues of cultural competence [among teachers of color], but colorblindness is not one of them. The core of ‘I don’t see color,’ is ‘I don’t see my own color, I don’t see difference because my race and culture is the center of the universe.’”

Such tunnel vision is the reason a teacher can omit Africa from a timeline of world civilizations, Ross says. Still, she cautions, the flaws of the colorblind approach run deeper than curriculum.

Failure to see and acknowledge racial differences makes it difficult to recognize the unconscious biases everyone has. Those biases can taint a teacher’s expectations of a student’s ability and negatively influence a student’s performance. Study after study has shown that low teacher expectations are harmful to students from socially stigmatized groups.

“I don’t see skin color”

I’ve grown to hate that statement. Why?

It means that someone-usually a white person-is not paying attention to something that affects people who are not white-their race.  For white people, they don’t have to see color, because in their world, white is the norm.  It’s what society is wrapped around.  Our culture privileges white people, such that they don’t need to consider the struggles of others.  To say “I don’t see color” is to say “I don’t see, nor do I care about the story you have to tell about how your race has impacted your life”.  The problem is not one of “not seeing race”.  The problem is in seeing race and using that as the way you judge the quality of a person’s character. I want you to see that that I’m a black man. That’s one aspect of me. I won’t, nor can I, hide from that.  But I don’t want you to judge my character based on my skin color (judge me for my political or social views-that’s fair game).  When you judge the quality of a person’s character based on their skin color-that’s racism.  So white people?  Stop saying “I don’t see skin color”.




Westboro Baptist Church Announces It Will Protest Michael Brown’s Funeral In Ferguson

In case anyone didn’t know my opinion of these people, I think they are scum.  They are some of the most vile human beings on the planet, and I would be quite happy if they’d simply go live on an island away from civilized people and spend the rest of their days there.  



Racism and sidewalks

When your father last visited, he took you past the front yard at your grandparents’ house and sat beside you on a square of sidewalk. I had supplied the chalk — $0.75 on sale in the checkout line at a supermarket — but stayed at home both to relax and to give you two space and time to bond.

Your father is big like Mike Brown was. At 6’5″, his walk has heft, his forearms are a bit like boulders, and whenever I think of him making sidewalk drawings with you in the cool of an afternoon, I am newly amused. He sent me pictures of your handiwork, your name emblazoned in a multicolored blast. For you, the sidewalk became a concrete quilt. For you, it told the story of a family. For now, this is all it needs to tell you. For now, this is just as it should be.
You won’t know this for at least a year or two — we have not started to read books like Henry’s Freedom Box or Freedom on the Menu; you have not heard of Emmett Till, have not seen what it seems that every black child must: his bloated, disfigured face in an open casket — but someday you will understand just how many of our horror stories begin and end with sidewalks.


Struggling against white supremacy: Defiant dispatches from Ferguson and beyond

Police brutality, both physical and mental, are so prevalent that being pulled over by police fills me and most young black men I know with a sort dread I don’t think white people ever experience. It’s not an “this is an inconvenience” thing, but a “will the police officer act like he has any sense?” feeling. You feel like a second class citizen that somehow doesn’t have the same rights as everyone else.


The militarization of police agencies from Ferguson to the Middle East

Modern US police departments share a colonial history that gives context to police violence of today – recognizing this framework is essential when examining how police brutality has developed historically. From constables in the 1600s who made up a sort of “neighborhood watch,” wherein they would capture slaves and prevent them from organizing for payment, the slave patrols of the early 1700s, the brazen appointment of police officers by way of their political affiliations in the 1880’s and stop-and-frisk, adopted from English common law, we learn that not only is violence an inherent part of the institution itself but it is a necessary component which allows for the state to control its citizens, and it has emerged and developed in the most destructive of ways. Police officers are trained to use force and are given the most lethal of weapons in order for them to do so and, according to data presented in the June 2014 report by the ACLU, this violence is overwhelmingly directed towards people of color. “Sixty-one percent of all the people impacted by SWAT raids in drug cases were minorities” and a majority are Black


The 10 Point Plan of the Black Panthers

    We believe that Black and oppressed people will not be free until we are able to determine our destinies in our own communities ourselves, by fully controlling all the institutions which exist in our communities.
    We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every person employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the American businessmen will not give full employment, then the technology and means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.
    We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules were promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people. We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of our fifty million Black people. Therefore, we feel this is a modest demand that we make.
    We believe that if the landlords will not give decent housing to our Black and oppressed communities, then housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that the people in our communities, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for the people.
    We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of the self. If you do not have knowledge of yourself and your position in the society and in the world, then you will have little chance to know anything else.
    We believe that the government must provide, free of charge, for the people, health facilities which will not only treat our illnesses, most of which have come about as a result of our oppression, but which will also develop preventive medical programs to guarantee our future survival. We believe that mass health education and research programs must be developed to give all Black and oppressed people access to advanced scientific and medical information, so we may provide our selves with proper medical attention and care.
    We believe that the racist and fascist government of the United States uses its domestic enforcement agencies to carry out its program of oppression against black people, other people of color and poor people inside the united States. We believe it is our right, therefore, to defend ourselves against such armed forces and that all Black and oppressed people should be armed for self defense of our homes and communities against these fascist police forces.
    We believe that the various conflicts which exist around the world stem directly from the aggressive desire of the United States ruling circle and government to force its domination upon the oppressed people of the world. We believe that if the United States government or its lackeys do not cease these aggressive wars it is the right of the people to defend themselves by any means necessary against their aggressors.
    We believe that the many Black and poor oppressed people now held in United States prisons and jails have not received fair and impartial trials under a racist and fascist judicial system and should be free from incarceration. We believe in the ultimate elimination of all wretched, inhuman penal institutions, because the masses of men and women imprisoned inside the United States or by the United States military are the victims of oppressive conditions which are the real cause of their imprisonment. We believe that when persons are brought to trial they must be guaranteed, by the United States, juries of their peers, attorneys of their choice and freedom from imprisonment while awaiting trial.
    When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.


This may have b
een written in 1966, but it is still valid today.



Ferguson, Racism, and more

More Ferguson, MO and militarization of the police

One of Missouri’s top newspapers is under fire.  

The Columbia Daily Tribune recently published what many consider to be a racist cartoon:

The Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune is facing a bit of heat today after running the above cartoon by Gary McCoy on Wednesday’s editorial page, with people pointing out, “Dudes, that some real racist bullshit you got there.”

Of course it didn’t help that the Trib ran it in conjunction with the buttoned-down racism of Rich Lowry from National Review, who wants the blacks to quit making the normally super-nice police officers — who punish jaywalking with summary execution in the street — become even meaner and try to kill them in larger numbers which would be much harder for conservatives to defend.

Not that they wouldn’t try.

Yup. Racist.
It’s characterizing {largely BLACK} protesters as looters and rioters, instead of people with a long standing series of legitimate grievances against the government (this is racist for a variety of reasons, one of which is that this is a prejudicial view of black people that many Americans hold-that they’re thugs, thieves, scoundrels, and criminals with little redeeming value-this view is held not based on reality, but based on biases and prejudices held by people which they refuse to confront and examine; it’s also racist for the art-specifically the way black people are rendered in the cartoon). The cartoon makes the same mistake a lot of people have made-treating the looters (the people rioting have been the police) as if they represent the community of Ferguson, when in actuality a great many of them are from out of the St. Louis area, and there aren’t that many of them. Shifting the story to “Mike Brown stole stuff” or “Mike Brown was a threat to Officer Wilson” or “People stole tvs” moves the focus away from the violations of civil rights perpetrated against a community for a very long time, up to and including the execution of Michael Brown, and continuing through the brutal tactics of the police in response to protesters. On top of that, it ignores the role the police have played in denying reporters their constitutional rights. The people of Ferguson want, and deserve justice and accountability from the police as well as the government and they haven’t gotten that. This shit about rioting and looting is a smokescreen. A diversion from the story that matters-the denial of the constitutional and civil rights of African-Americans (and the press).


Elementary teacher suspended for asking white student ‘cops’ to shoot black ‘Michael Browns’

A Gun Happy toon:

The case of Michael Brown: Missing police reports, anonymous sources and shoddy journalism

Tiffany Mitchell was a witness to the killing of Michael Brown.  

Donors Choose Drive for #Ferguson

Officer Is Suspended After Telling Media in Ferguson: ‘I Will F*cking Kill You’

A police officer has been removed from his post after he pointed his gun at a group of people documenting events in Ferguson on Tuesday night and threatened to kill them, St. Louis County Police spokesman Brian Schellman told Mashable.

“On Tuesday, August 19, 2014, shortly before midnight, an incident occurred wherein a St. Ann police officer pointed a semi-automatic assault rifle at a peaceful protestor after a verbal exchange,” Schellman wrote in an email. (St. Ann is a St. Louis suburb not far from Ferguson.) “It was at this time a St. Louis County police sergeant walked over and immediately took action, forcing the officer to lower the weapon, and escorting him away from the area.”


The St. Ann police officer involved in the incident has been relieved of duty and suspended indefinitely, Schellman added, satisfying a request the ACLU sent to the Missouri State Highway Patrol Wednesday afternoon requesting they do just that.


Facebook talk on #Ferguson, race causing a friend fallout, chilling relationships

The end of childhood: How the violence in Ferguson will change its children:

Angela Mitchell-Phillips’ predominantly white church had a “come to Jesus” moment on race last weekend.

Her minister leaned over the pulpit and said something like: As God is my witness, I better not ever hear of anybody in this parish calling another human being an animal.

The congregation turned pin-drop silent. Mitchell-Phillips looked around the pews.

“I bet somebody did it,” she thought. “I bet he saw it on Facebook. And I bet he was pissed.”

The moment points to how raw and tense the issue of race has become in St. Louis, and around the country, since Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot 18-year-old, unarmed Michael Brown and the volatile days of protests since.


The end of childhood: How the violence in Ferguson will change its children

There’s a moment when a child confronts an unfairness so big it changes the way he or she looks at world.

It could be a significant trauma − abuse, a loss − or a simple awareness that the rules don’t apply to everyone the same way. There’s a moment when we question what we’ve been taught or assumed to be true in a way that shakes the ground underneath us.

For the past several days, some children in Ferguson have seen a slain teenager on the street, killed by a police officer, a childhood symbol of protection. They’ve witnessed police in riot gear in clouds of tear gas, night after night, heard barking dogs used to try to control the unrest, angry shouts from protesters and police. Th
ey have heard shots fired and seen a building burned, glass shattered.

“I know that in the coming days, weeks and months children will continue to re-experience this,” said Marva Robinson, president of the St. Louis chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists. It’s not just those living nearby, but also those who have been watching the news with their parents. Children could have nightmares for years to come. They may be hypersensitve or hypervigilant around law enforcement, Robinson said.


From their parents, they may be hearing about how their community is treated unfairly, targeted or hated. Instead of new backpacks, they may carry a sense of devaluation, anxiety, fear with them too as they head back to school.

What is the eventual impact of being exposed at a young age to violence and a feeling that the police can’t or won’t protect you? You build up a wall of mistrust. You are closed off to persons of authority. You find it hard to trust the guidance of school professionals or others who may want to help you. You see them as part of a system that killed someone who looks like you or doesn’t care about children who look like you.

“If they were innocent before this, the seeds are being planted in them of feeling dehumanized,” Robinson said. Those seeds bloom into a cycle that perpetuates scenes like what we are seeing in Ferguson.

Isn’t the loss of this innocence yet another injustice, which should outrage us and motivate us to do something?


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Holder’s stop in Ferguson is deeply person:

Attorney General Eric Holder flew to Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer leading an investigation into a police shooting.

He also arrived as an African-American who said he understands the racial tensions that have fueled days of protests that have been marred by violence and mass arrests since the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

“I am the Attorney General of the United States, but I am also a black man,” Holder told Ferguson residents at a community meeting. “I can remember being stopped on the New Jersey turnpike on two occasions and accused of speeding. Pulled over. … ‘Let me search your car’ … Go through the trunk of my car, look under the seats and all this kind of stuff. I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me.”

Holder was here primarily for briefings on the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into possible civil rights violations related to the fatal shooting. He offered perhaps his most forceful and personal assessment yet of how the 18-year-old man’s shooting has reignited a long history of racial “mistrust and mutual suspicion.”

As protests unfold, dad tells son racism lives:

Darius Pikes’ 10-year-old wants to know why black men are harassed.

Pikes tells his son the answer is racism.

“My son has asked me: Why is it that black males are harassed? He’s asking why is it, the police are supposed to protect and serve the citizens, then why does it seem like they’re bullying the citizens? He actually used that word,” Pikes said. “He said, can the principals of the schools, can they come and talk to the people about bullying because they talk about it in school.”

Pikes has been teaching for 13 years, currently as a music teacher in Ferguson, Mo. The death of Michael Brown, a black teenager, has sparked protests here for more than a week. Brown, who was unarmed, was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. For Pikes, the incident is a chance to have important conversations.

“A lot of the kids are confused about what’s going on, but I think this is a really good opportunity to talk to them about racism because racism is alive and well,” Pikes said.

The situation in Ferguson presents an opportunity for parents to speak with children about issues of fairness, said Jennifer Baker, director of the Robert J. Murney clinic in Springfield, Mo., which offers counseling and psychological services.

Parents should acknowledge to their children that bad things happen, but added that they should not unnecessarily expose their children to violence. Parents should also tell children they do everything they can to keep them safe.

Baker said parents can ask children questions about how they respond when they think situations are unfair or whether they have ever treated someone different because they were not like them. For children older than 10 or so, more specific conversations about racism may be appropriate, she said.


Petition asking cops to wear body cameras passes 100K:

A petition asking the White House to look into requiring all state, county and local police to wear lapel cameras has reached 100,000 signatures.

Obama administration officials have said they will respond to petitions that reach that threshold.

Late Tuesday, the petition, created by “J.C.” of Hephzibah, Ga., reached the required number. As of noon Wednesday, it had more than 128,000 signatures.


Mike Brown Law. Requires all state, county, and local police to wear a camera.

Create a bill, sign into law, and set aside funds to require all state, county and local police to wear a camera. Due to the latest accounts of deadly encounters with police, We the People, petition for the Mike Brown Law. The law shall be made in an effort to not only detour police misconduct (i.e. brutality, profiling, abuse of power) but to ensure that all police are following procedure and to remove all question from normally questionable police encounters as well as help to hold all parties within a police investigation accountable for their actions.


While the White House’s We the People Web page allows anyone 13 and older to create and sign a petition to the government, it doesn’t guarantee any action.

If a petition reaches 150 signatures within 30 days, it becomes searchable on the site. If it reaches 100,000 signatures within another 30 days, administration officials say they will respond to the petition. The police camera petition was created Aug. 13.

For a law to be passed, a Congress member would have to create a bill, have it pass committees within the House and Senate, have it pass votes of the full House and Senate and have the president sign it. Any initiative that has a cost associated with it would need to have a funding source.

ME:  I wish this stood a chance of becoming a reality.  Sadly, given our government,
this probably has no likelihood of passing, even if it became a bill.

St. Louis Police Release Video, Calls From City Shooting:

On Tuesday, two officers from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department shot and killed Kajieme Powell, who was 25 years old.

Powell was suspected of shoplifting energy drinks and donuts from a convenience store. The shop owner, believing that Powell was carrying a weapon, contacted police. Another witness, Ald. Dionne Flowers, who represents the area and owns a beauty salon in the same block, noticed that Powell was acting erratically and also called police. Flowers told police she saw a second knife, though only one was recovered at the scene.

Powell approached the officers when they arrived, yelling at them to shoot him already. When he ignored commands to drop the knife, the two officers fired a total of 12 shots. Chief Sam Dotson said the knife was like a steak knife.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said it will act with complete transparency. It has released the 911 calls, dispatch audio, video of the shoplifting, as well as cell phone video of the police shooting taken by a witness.

Documenting the Arrests of Journalists in Ferguson:

On Aug. 13, 2014, police in Ferguson, Missouri, assaulted and arrested two journalists for allegedly failing to exit a McDonald’s quickly enough while on a break from covering the protests. Since then, police actions against journalists in Ferguson have escalated in severity and frequency. Many have been tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets and at least nine more have been arrested.

It should go without saying that these arrests are a gross violation of the reporters’ First Amendment rights, and attempts to prevent journalists from lawfully doing their job on the streets of Ferguson are downright illegal. We will be documenting each journalist arrest below and are filing public records requests for the arrest records of the journalists who have been assaulted, detained, and arrested in Ferguson. All requests are publicly available on MuckRock.

Lessons from Ferguson: Police Militarization is Now a Press Freedom Issue:

The situation in Ferguson, Missouri—where four days ago the police killed an unarmed teenager—took another disturbing turn yesterday as cops decked out in riot gear arrested and assaulted two reporters covering the protests, Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly, as they were sitting in a McDonald’s, quietly charging their phones.

The arrests were undoubtedly a gross violation of the reporters’ First Amendment rights, and both the attempts to stop them from filming and their assault by police officers were downright illegal. But there’s another issue at play here, an issue which has led to the environment in which cops think they can get away with these acts: the militarization of local police.

The public has been gripped these last few days by disturbing photographs of police with automatic assault rifles, snipers, tear gas, body armor, tanks, LRADs(Long Range Acoustic Devices) facing peaceful, unarmed protesters in Ferguson. As managing editor Ryan Grim noted in Huffington Post’s statement their reporter’s arrest, “Police militarization has been among the most consequential and unnoticed developments of our time, and it is now beginning to affect press freedom.”

As folks who have closely followed criminal justice issues (or the Occupy Wall Street protests from two years ago) know, this is a problem that has been brewing for years. The quintessential book on the issue was written last year by journalist Radley Balko, who now covers criminal justice issues at the Washington Post. The ACLU also released a comprehensive report about police militarization earlier this year.


Joe Biggs, Reporter Threatened By Cop In Ferguson, Speaks Out

More Ferguson, MO and militarization of the police

Ferguson Update

The community of Ferguson, MO is still engaged in protests.  In the last 24-36 hours, we’ve seen the following:

(1) Police in Ferguson tear gassed unarmed peaceful protestors, including children. Again.
(2) Police in Ferguson driving a MRAP (because IEDs are a problem in suburbia?) played chicken with a group of people on foot.
(3) Police in Ferguson fired teargas into people’s yards and houses. Again.
(4) Police in Ferguson harassed/threatened media.
(5) Police in St. Louis arrested a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor for standing in a doorway.
(6) A CNN anchor wondered on air why the police in Ferguson weren’t using water cannons. She got an epic side-eye from her (black) co-anchor for this.

(thanks Esteleth)

As I’ve mentioned, the police have not made the situation better.  They would be better served laying down their weapons and joining the protesters.  One commenter at Pharyngula, Desert Son, OM, actually recommends this as a reasonable course of action, and I agree with him:

Here’s a genuine idea to try in Ferguson:

The police lay down their arms and disperse peacefully.

The police do this.

I suspect the result would not be an increase in violence and rioting. I suspect the result would be a mix of somber reflection on the tragic death of Michael Brown and a celebratory street-party expression of solidarity, compassion, and a renewed desire for tomorrow to be just a little bit better for just a little bit longer.

Amended suggestion: The police lay down their arms and join arm-in-arm with the protesters decrying the systemic oppressions—both micro- and macro-—in which we all play a part by virtue of cultural infusion.

Sadly, I don’t think this is even an option the local or state authorities are even considering.

Police in Ferguson are firing tear gas canisters manufactured during the Cold War Era:

As reported last week in Yes! Magazine, our ongoing analysis of the less-lethal weapons used in Ferguson shows the large majority of spent munitions found in the city have been produced by two US based less-lethal contractors: Combined Tactical Systems, a Combined Systems, Inc. product line used by the St. Louis County Police Department, and Defense Technology, a division of The Safariland Group, used by the local Ferguson Police Department and Missouri State Highway Patrol. In addition to munitions manufactured by these two companies, we have uncovered evidence of the use of two tear gas canisters so old that they cannot be positively dated.

St. Louis-area resident Andrew, who asked to be identified by his first name only, posted photos on his Instagram from the protest on Wednesday, August 13. The self-identified “firearm enthusiast” says he “wanted to document a part of history,” and wished to observe police weapons from the front lines. “I got some pretty strange looks,” he acknowledged. He bagged all the spent munitions he and a friend could find, and posted photos later.

One of Andrew’s photos from Wednesday night displays an arrangement of spent munitions, including types that protesters had not yet posted. Among them: two clearly outdated riot grenades manufactured by Smith & Wesson Chemical Company, a division of Smith & Wesson that was eliminated in the late 1980s, according to the company’s history.

Since Brown was killed, police from both Ferguson and St. Louis County have fired on protesters with rubber-coated bullets, pepper balls, beanbag rounds, tear gas, and other less-lethal ammunition on an almost nightly basis. The expelled debris made its way across social media, and eventually to national broadcasts. But before the national media descended on Ferguson, the community was subjected to gas on their own properties; on the night of August 11, police fired tear gas on residential streets. Residents photographed canisters, still smoking, in their and their neighbors’ front yards.

Andrew provided us with additional exclusive photographs that show the impact damage to these vintage canisters. While most canisters detonate and mostly remain in one piece, these were not intact, sustained a lot of damage, and could have sent shrapnel flying. Andrew witnessed, “police throwing tear gas canisters by hand,” rather than shooting them from a modern munitions gun or rocket launcher. He believes that these could have been the Smith & Wesson canisters. The area on the canisters where the handles attach appears to be rusted, an obvious safety and containment hazard. Andrew notes that the vintage canisters are made of “some pretty solid metal.”He later found what he thinks may have been a handle from the Smith & Wesson grenades, and notes that its metal is lighter than the metal of the canisters, perhaps tin.

What’s left of the labels identifies the products as Smith & Wesson Chemical Co. Riot Control Grenades, although it is unclear whether the gas inside is CS or the older CN. Although CN (2-Chloroacetophenone) is still manufactured and is the active ingredient in Mace, CS gas (0-Chlorobenzalmalononitrile) is “more stable, more potent and less toxic” and is commonly used in riot control agents. Smith & Wesson once manufactured CN gas, which has been phased out for United States use in favor of safer CS gas. Smith & Wesson packaged their CN gas in canisters similar to the ones found in Ferguson and Egypt. Yemeni security forces deployed CN gas against protesters there during the spring of 2011, causing extreme reactions including convulsions and muscle spasms. The physical effects among protesters were so severe that they initially believed they were being hit with nerve gas.


Similar products and models are listed occasionally on auction sites for collectors of antique and vintage firearms and ammunition. A Cold War-era Smith & Wesson grenade identification training poster owned by the Canadian Museum of History displays a model similar to one of the two older cans, listed as a “No. 5 Blast Dispersion Grenade.” A grenade container on an ammunition enthusiasts’ message board similar to the canister in the poster shows a manufacturing date of 1982, along with CS as the type of gas contained. (The label on one of the canisters found in Ferguson appears to read “Instantaneous Discharge,” rather than “Blast Dispersion.”) Similar vintage Smith & Wesson canisters were identified in Egypt at the height of the protests that eventually toppled Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2011, one with an expiration date of either 1980 or 1990. Modern chemical munitions, including those manufactured by Defense Technology and Combined Tactical, have a five-year warranty and expire five years after their date of manufacture.

Social media reporting during the Arab Spring brought new evidence ofexpired tear gas sales, drawing criticism from human rights organizations. Amnesty International, in particular, criticized the United States for selling military leftovers to oppressive governments such as Egypt’s and Bahrain’s. Tear gas has not been used this wantonly in an American city in modern times; even its deployment against WTO protesters in 1999 and Occupy Oakland in 2011 was isolated and largely away from residential areas. Chemical munitions deployed in residential areas can be deadly: Physicians for Human Rights, an independent organization, recorded 34 tear gas related deaths in Bahrain from 2011 to 2012, many from inhalation in close or confined spaces.

The chemical weapons convention prohibits the use of chemical munitions in war; the weapons sales angered activists and rights groups who saw it is as evidence of American companies profiting from attacks on protesters. Anexception to the chemical weapons convention, to which the United States is a signatory, is the use of chemical munitions for domestic law enforcement purposes; it is under this allowance that tear gas and other chemicals are now deployed in Ferguson.

The legality of the use of expired and/or vintage munitions must still be explored, but deploying such a weapon against a civilian population, especially in residential areas, demonstrates a significant disregard for health impacts. Outdated and expired tear gas canisters are ignitable waste as defined by the EPA Resources Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 and subject to containment and disposal as required by the Missouri Hazardous Waste Management Law.

(read the entire article here)

Overpoliced and Underprotected:  In Michael Brown Killing, Neglect of Black Communities Laid Bare

Eugene Robinson Ι The Rage in Ferguson Comes From the Ones Left Behind:

But the violence in Ferguson tells of a deeper, more fundamental narrative about what African-Americans have done, and what has been done to them, in the decades since the urban riots of the 1960s — the fire last time.

Tempted to conclude that nothing has changed? Please note that the Missouri highway patrol commander, brought in to bring proportion and discipline to what had been a provocative local police response, is black. The attorney general who interrupted his Martha’s Vineyard vacation to order a Justice Department investigation and a third autopsy is black. And, of course, the president and commander in chief — who also took time from a Vineyard holiday to address the crisis in Ferguson — is black.

Also note that this undeniable evidence of progress on the issue of race — which would have been unimaginable when Harlem exploded in 1964 over the police shooting of a 15-year-old boy — makes no apparent difference to the young men who have been rampaging through the streets of Ferguson.

Why not? Because the tremendous gains achieved by some African-Americans have not just left some others behind but made their situation more desperate and hopeless than it was 50 years ago.

When the unrest in Ferguson is over, I predict that there will be a flood of ambitious journalism seeking to assess the status of black America. Most of this analysis will be ignored because it will so contradict what many Americans see every day with their own eyes.

Millions of African-Americans took advantage of the opportunities created by the civil rights movement to climb into the middle class — and in some cases far beyond, as exemplified by President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Yet millions of other black Americans did not reach the middle class. This group, mired in poverty and dysfunction, finds the paths others took are blocked. They live in neighborhoods with failing schools that cannot prepare them for today’s economy. Secure, high-paying blue-collar jobs are a thing of the past. Racial bias in policing means they are much more likely to be arrested and jailed for minor nonviolent offenses, such as drug possession, than whites who commit the same crimes.

Increasingly, these African-Americans who were left behind are invisible. Their neighborhoods either get gentrified — which means they can no longer afford to stay there — or simply bypassed by development. What happens in poor black neighborhoods has less and less to do with the everyday lives of middle-class Americans, white or black.

Yet in Ferguson and other such pockets across the nation, millions of young black men and women grow up knowing that the deck is stacked against them. Did Michael Brown have a chip on his shoulder? Not according to his friends and family, although the convenience store video suggests otherwise. Would it be understandable if he did? Might he have wondered if white kids, living in more affluent parts of town, routinely got hassled by the police for jaywalking?

In Ferguson, the Violence of the state created the violence of the street

St Louis police fatally shoot ‘erratic’ man with knife near Ferguson

It would be nice to hear fewer stories of the police shooting and killing people.   Can’t they aim for a leg or foot?  Why do so many shoot to kill?

More Tweets:

Arrested for being out at night without Free Papers.


Missouri Lt. Governor:  We need Anglo-American justice in Ferguson, not racial protests:

Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R) on Tuesday called for Gov. Jay Nixon (D) to reinstate the curfew in Ferguson to allow the justice system — which he said was a product of “Anglo-American civilization” — to do its job.

Following Monday night’s clashes with police in the wake of the death of slain teen Michael Brown, Kindler told MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow that Nixon had been wrong to end the curfew in Ferguson.

“I don’t understand an argument for not reinstating it,” he insisted. “I don’t understand that. I’m not trying to be overtly political. I am saying, the people of Ferguson, the people of the state of Missouri are crying out for leadership.”

Before Farrow ended the interview, he asked the lieutenant governor if he agreed with Ferguson Mayor James Knowles that “the perspective of all residents” was that there was no “racial divide” in the city.

Kinder said there was “no question” that race was playing a role in what was happening in Ferguson.

“We do not do justice in America in the streets though,” he argued. “We have legal processes that are set in motion, that are designed after centuries of Anglo-American jurisprudence tradition, they’re designed to protect the rights and liberties of everyone involved.”

“That includes the Brown family, for justice for them and for the community. It also includes the officer who has not yet been charged,” he added. “Our constitutional and our Bill of Rights protections have to be followed here, and we do not do justice in the streets.”

“That’s one of the great advances of Anglo-American civilization, is that that we do not have politicized trials. We let the justice system work it out.”

Yes, it is 2014, and yes, you’re reading  of politician using coded language to say that “white peoples’ justice is superior to black peoples’ justice” as if the two are separate, and one is superior, while the other is inferior. He treats non-violent protests as if they’re not Constitutional rights of all Americans, and he seems to think that protesters are treating the streets of Ferguson as a courtroom.  This man is ignorant of what the community in Ferguson wants, and he clearly has prejudicial beliefs about black people, as well as as some biases about the superiority of white people that he really ought to reexamine.  Yes, I’ll remind you that this is 2014.

Ferguson Update