Friday, July 25, 2014

Breathing While Black?

Anger, protests and vows not to forget Eric Garner's death in NYC Police custody

By Saeed Shabazz -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Jul 23, 2014 - 2:15:33 PM

Bookmark and Share

What's your opinion on this article?
Printer Friendly Page

protest_nypd_07-29-2014.jpg  Hundreds of protestors chant ‘I can’t breathe’ at rally in Staten Island after death of Eric Garner. Photo: Matthew Muhammad

 


STATEN ISLAND, New York (FinalCall.com) - Six employees—two police officers and four Emergency Medical Technicians—were removed from street duties after the death of Eric Garner, 43, an unarmed Black man who police say was selling individual cigarettes, “loosies,” on a street.
A stunning videotape of the tragic encounter sparked outrage, condemnations from leaders and angry street protests after apparent police use of a chokehold on the victim. Mr. Garner died July 17.

One of the police officers, Daniel Pantaleo, an eight year veteran turned in his gun and badge and was placed on modified duty. Officer Justin Damico, a veteran of four years, was put on desk duty, according to the NYPD. The EMTs were not identified, but a seven-minute video shows EMTs not giving any medical assistance to the fallen man.

“The police commissioner promised me there will be a thorough and transparent investigation,” Councilmember Debi Rose of Staten Island told The Final Call.

The officer identified as possibly using an illegal chokehold should be suspended from duty until the investigation is complete, said Damon Jones, New York representative of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America.



Mr. Garner, according to family members, suffered from asthma and may have died of cardiac arrest after application of what looked like a chokehold with officers wrestling him to the ground. Officers were saying he was resisting arrest. The large Black man never pushes, punches, strikes or makes an aggressive move toward the officers in the video. He asks to be left alone and says the officers keep harassing him.

Commissioner William Bratton, speaking to the press July 18, said, part of the investigation will focus on what happened, despite the video, to understand all circumstances surrounding the incident. The video seems to be clear that the officers knew Mr. Garner, said the police commissioner. Mr. Garner “made it quite known to them that he was not going to allow that arrest to occur. I do not expect my officers to walk away from that type of situation. But let’s be quite clear that one of the things the video appears to show is that the officers were in fact in the performance of their lawful duties,” he claimed.

A reporter asked Mr. Bratton if what was seen on the video was a chokehold: “Yes, as defined in the department’s patrol guide, this would appear to have been a chokehold. As far as the department is concerned it’s a violation of our policies and procedures. The Staten Island District Attorney determines if it is a violation of law,” said Commissioner Bratton.

“Tell me what your thoughts were after you saw the video?” a reporter asked Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was at the press conference.

“It was very troubling I watched it the same way a family member would watch it and it is very sad to watch. But that being said, we can’t pass ultimate judgment based on one video. We need the facts of a full and detailed investigation,” said the mayor.

eric_garner_nypd_07-29-2014.jpg
Screen shots of video showing New York law enforcement surrounding Mr. Garner as one officer applies an apparent chokehold around the man’s neck forcing to the ground.
Hundreds of angry Staten Islanders marched to the 120th Precinct July 19 demanding justice for Mr. Garner, chanting “I can’t breathe!”

“A blatant abuse of authority, the officers should be suspended without pay,” said Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam’s Muhammad Mosque No. 7 and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s New York representative. “Let’s be real we have all seen the video,” he told The Final Call. “Here is a Black man because of his size is seen as a threat—subdued in a full-nelson thrown to the ground and tasered—no weapons on him.

 I can only continue to say an abuse of authority,” said Min. Hafeez Muhammad.
Civil rights leader Al Sharpton held a pre-rally press conference along with local pastors, Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a long time civil rights activist, community leaders and an assortment of elected officials. The only elected official from Staten Island in attendance was Councilmember Rose.

This will not be a “drive-by protest,” vowed Rev. Sharpton. “We will be here until what we see in that tape is clear in the halls of justice.” Family members of Mr. Garner appeared earlier at the National Action Network headquarters in Harlem with Rev. Sharpton.

Public Advocate Letitia James, speaking at the press conference, said there must be answers to why the banned choke hold was used by a veteran police officer. “This will test the mettle of the city,” Ms. James said.

Commissioner Bratton told reporters he did not view use of the chokehold as a widespread problem, this was my first exposure to this issue in six months as commissioner, he said.

But the Civilian Complaint Review Board released a statement July 20 saying as of July 1, the board had received 58 chokehold complaints against the NYPD this year, but only one was substantiated. Over 1,000 New Yorkers have accused the NYPD of using the banned hold in the past five years.
“Police management has failed miserably in keeping the officers of the NYPD accountable,” Mr. Jones of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America said.

Councilmember Rose told The Final Call she came was politically targeted by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which represents New York City police officers, and other police unions for opposition to stop and frisk tactics used by officers in the 120th Precinct. “I was one of two councilmembers targeted because of my votes, which I saw as a civil rights issue,” Ms. Rose said.
According to police, there were 11,190 people stopped in 2013 within the precinct jurisdiction. Blacks represented 58.9 percent of the stops, Latinos were 24.7 percent and Whites were 13.7 of people stopped. Only 18 percent of the stops resulted in a summons or an arrest.

According to Census data, the total population of Staten Island is 468,730 with Blacks making up less than 10 percent of the population. Eighty-two percent of the Black population lives in the neighborhoods patrolled by the 120th Precinct.

“This is about racism,” said Gary Taylor, who saw the encounter between police and Mr. Garner. “The police officers involved were all White, and that has been an issue around here for a long time.” he said. “Just by the way they treated him, he was just sitting on the stoop when they came up to him. He had just broke up a fight, not selling cigarettes.”

“I have known Eric for 20 years, and in all of those years I have never seen him argue or fight with anyone,” Twan Scarlett told The Final Call. Mr. Scarlett and an unidentified White woman agreed that all of the arresting officers being White was a problem. “We never see Black police officers in this neighborhood,” said the woman.

According to media reports, Officer Pantaleo has been involved in two civil rights charges, one recently resulted in a $30,000 pay out by the city. The second charge of violating a Staten Islander’s civil rights is pending in Manhattan Federal Court. While he could face departmental disciplinary charges, it is not yet clear if he will face criminal charges in the death of Eric Garner.

Mr. Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr thanked the more than 500 protesters who took to the streets. “This shows how much Eric was loved,” she said from the steps of the 120th Precinct.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Walking While Black in America

Calif. highway patrol beating demands more than cops probing cops, say analysts

By Starla Muhammad -Assistant Editor- | Last updated: Jul 9, 2014 - 1:22:55 PM

Bookmark and Share

What's your opinion on this article?
Printer Friendly Page

The family of a woman seen on video struck repeatedly by a California highway patrolman is filing a civil lawsuit against the department on her behalf. Shock and outrage was the response to the latest videotaped violent law enforcement encounter involving a Black woman and a cop, this time happening on the side of a Los Angeles freeway.

Cell phone video of the July 1 incident shows a uniformed California Highway Patrol officer repeatedly striking 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock in the head.
chp_beating_07-15-2014_1.jpg
In this July 1, 2014 image made from video provided by motorist David Diaz, a California Highway Patrol officer straddles a woman while punching her in the head on the shoulder of a Los Angeles freeway. The woman had been walking on Interstate 10 west of downtown Los Angeles, endangering herself and people in traffic, and the officer was trying to restrain her, according to a CHP assistant chief. The officer, who has not been identified, has been placed on administrative leave during an investigation. Photo: A/P World Wide Photos

'How dare we tell China or some other country about human rights violations? We see them sitting right in our front door'
—Dr. Julianne Malveaux, activist and president emerita of Bennett College for Women

According to police, Ms. Pinnock was walking barefoot alongside the Santa Monica Freeway, ignored commands to stop and became “physically combative.” Nothing in the police report says or suggests she was armed. 

The video shows the woman struggling and trying to sit up while the officer punches her in the face and head until an off-duty law enforcement officer appears and helps handcuff her.

Passing driver David Diaz recorded the incident and provided it to media outlets including The Associated Press. He told the AP in a phone interview July 4 that he arrived as the woman was walking off the freeway. She turned around only after the officer shouted something to her, he said.
“He agitated the situation more than helped it,” said Mr. Diaz, who started filming soon after.

The officer, whose name has not been released, was placed on administrative assignment. Ms. Pinnock was arrested and at Final Call presstime was still being held in a hospital on an involuntary psychiatric hold at the Los Angeles County Medical Center.

Chris O’Quinn, asst. chief of CHP, said there was no need for an independent investigation and the department’s “internal investigation process is very, very detailed.”

“As of today, we are investigating this use of force and (the) status is that we are looking into why he (officer) came into contact with the pedestrian on the freeway and what transpired and as of now the investigation is ongoing,” Officer Edgar Figueroa, CHP public information officer told The Final Call. He said no charges have been filed against Ms. Pinnock and that “everything is still under review.” There is no timetable for how long the investigation could take.

Pinnock’s family attorney Caree Harper announced plans July 6 to file a lawsuit stating the mother, grandmother and great-grandmother received multiple injuries on her face, arms and shoulders.
The Final Call left messages for Atty. Harper but received no response.

There have been calls for a federal investigation into the incident.

“There were many times on the tape where he could have just put handcuffs on her and he just kept beating her and that is unnecessary,” said Dr. Julianne Malveaux, activist and president emerita of Bennett College for Women. The community and leadership response in this case should be as vocal as it was for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, she added. That case, in which Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder, touched off a nationwide firestorm of activism. 

“Just like those leaders who went to Florida, rallying around Zimmerman’s slaughter of Trayvon Martin, there needs to be some people, the same leaders, in Los Angeles, rallying around this sister,” said Dr. Malveaux.

Mental health, instability, treatment and how law enforcement is trained to deal with these issues must also be addressed, she added.

Attorney Nkechi Taifa, a social justice attorney, agreed.

“The woman was barefoot. Obviously something might not have been right about her. At what point is your training supposed to kick in and say this person might need some services as opposed to the type of brutality that ensued?” asked Atty. Taifa.

Dr. Malveaux agreed an independent investigation is needed.

“They should take every effort to make sure that this is fully investigated and does not mean simply a group of police officers checking on another police officer. They need some civilians on the committee that investigates this incident. They do not need to make this an internal matter,” added Dr. Malveaux.

Amirah Sankofa Kweli, national minister of information for the New Black Panther Party, said from what she saw of the video it is a clear case of police brutality and excessive force. The community must organize around the issue of police brutality, she added.

“We can go about it in taking it to the streets in a very responsible manner, informing the people through education and letting them know exactly what’s going on because some of us don’t know about it,” Ms. Kweli told The Final Call.

She said citizen review boards are critical in terms of having a system in place to monitor police action. Defining “excessive force” cannot be left up to police departments, she added.

The Final Call asked if the U.S. Justice Department should be called in to investigate and review this latest incident.

“Having them come and review? They’ve been reviewing all these different cases and nothing has ever come of this. We’re still getting beaten, abused. They’re still Tasering, it’s lawful and it’s causing people to die and have heart attacks,” she said.

Atty. Taifa said many times police feel they can get away with brutality. If a pattern of abusive behavior is subsequently uncovered, litigation, a federal probe that could initiate civil rights actions could happen as it has in other states, Atty. Taifa told The Final Call.

As one goes down the police hierarchy, discretion increases, she explained. “The cop on the block, on the beat, the California Highway patrolman that perpetrated this case have so much  better discretion at their disposal and as a result they feel that they are accountable to no one and they feel that they are justified in what they are doing.” 

“How dare we tell China or some other country about human rights violations? We see them sitting right in our front door,” said Dr. Malveaux. 

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Friday, July 4, 2014

This Holy Month of Ramadan: Cultivate the Character of Allah in yourselves

By Imam Sultan Rahman -Guest Columnist- | Last updated: Jul 1, 2014 - 9:40:03 PM

Bookmark and Share

What's your opinion on this article?
Printer Friendly Page
imam_sultan_2014a_1.jpg
“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil.” ~ Chapter 2:183, Holy Qur’an

Ramadan Mubarak! Blessed Holy Month of Ramadan to us all!
In spirit and deed, we join nearly 2 billion Muslims around the Islamic world in the annual fast of the Holy Month of Ramadan, the 9th month of the lunar calendar. We rejoice at its coming and thank Allah (God) for another opportunity to observe the rites of self-purification of the heart, mind, body and spirit for the purpose of self-improvement to better the condition of ourselves and people through self-discipline and seeking to attain nearness to Allah (God).
holy_quran.jpg

It is through prescribed self-restraint, during this month, that Allah (God) says He Teaches us how to “guard against evil’ or develop Taqwa—God-consciousness. We are all equal in the Eyes of Allah, except in one way: Our duty, our God-consciousness (Taqwa). It is by our duty that Allah (God) differentiates us in accord to our vigilance of our duty toward Him and our fellow human being.
It is in this month that we are asking for Allah’s help and His mercy. It is mentioned in the Tradition of Muhammad (peace be upon him) that in the beginning of the Holy Month of Ramadan, the Gates of Allah’s Mercy are opened to the Believer. We see a type of this blessing that comes upon us when we begin our fast. When we begin our fasting, we see it may be a little difficult to get into the swing of the fast, if we have not been preparing ourselves.

Sometimes we may forget we are fasting, especially in those first few days or weeks. We might find ourselves with a mouth full of water during fasting time, two or three days into Ramadan, and in the middle of swallowing and we catch ourselves “Ahhh! My God. I’m fasting.” It is habit that when we are thirsty we drink, hungry we eat, when we want sex, we have sex, and when we want sleep—we sleep. It is this habitual behavior we pick up that makes us continue to drink, eat, have sex, and sleep even when we do not need it. 
hajj_mecca.jpg

The Month of Ramadan’s Fast is a habit breaker as it takes about 21 days to break a habit we have a month to break the ego of self. It is a common mistake that we accidently eat or drink something during the Month of Ramadan, without thinking or intentionally doing so. This makes the food or drink taken, considered to be a gift from Allah (Most High). We are granted forgiveness and should continue our fast upon recalling. This is truly a fast of Mercy. However, do not let deceptive intelligence take over and we complete a meal or a full glass of water–all the while thanking Allah (God) for His gifts! (Smile.) This would most definitely break your fast and the day missed would have to be made up.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has stated,“The Fast of Ramadan, the Discipline of Prayer and Reflection through the reading of the Qur’an at prescribed times during the days is the greatest aid in developing discipline.” Prayer and fasting strengthens our discipline. We must purge the Enemy’s mind and thoughts from ourselves. We fast externally by abstaining from marital relations with our wives and husbands and from eating or drinking any beverages during the daylight hours. We are not only fasting externally (physically) from eating, drinking, and the passions during the daylight hours but we are also fasting internally (spiritually) by staying away from arguing, anger, lewd behavior, gossip, and other negative character traits, while seeking to cultivate the best of ourselves through self-restraint.  Fasting in Arabic is called Sawm, which means “to be still” or “to be motionless” as it relates to a specific activity or desire by practicing restraint.

Allah says in the Qur’an in Surah al-Furqaan, 25:63, “the servants of the Beneficent are they who walk on the earth in humility and when the ignorant address them, they say: Peace.” When someone ignorant comes to you with ignorance, do you respond with the like and become ignorant like that ignorant one? Or do you maintain your stillness, maintain your peace and give to that brother or sister who is in ignorance and turmoil a prayer of Peace? Surely, they are in need of Allah’s Peace to be upon them.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad has stated in How To Eat To Live, “The Muslims do not eat nor drink from before sunrise until she, the Sun, has set. If you take it, the fast of Ramadan with them (the Muslims) you are doing the right thing until this evil world has vanished.”
We are practicing fasting of the eyes by not looking lustfully at the opposite sex. We are practicing fasting of the tongue by controlling ourselves from speaking obscenity. We are even fasting with our feet by not taking ourselves where we should not be. How can we say we are fasting if we are standing in a night club surrounded by temptation and lewdness?
ramadan.jpg

The ear should be fasting. We don’t spend our time listening to music all day with low influences designed to fan the fires of passion and other “pastimes” such as indulging in sport and play.  The Prophet (peace be upon him) has said, “He who does not desist or stop from obscene language and acting obscenely during the period of fasting, Allah has no need that he did not drink or eat.” Every aspect of ourselves should be subjected to the stillness of restraint from engaging in immoral activities as well as activities that are empty or vain.

The Holy Month of Fasting in Ramadan is a secret between the Believer and Allah (God), Most High. For Allah knows best of our fasting; He knows if we are keeping to clean thoughts, the pure actions. He knows whether or not we have cursed our brother or sister out. He knows if we’re sneaking in the refrigerator in the midday. These are aspects of the self that we must eradicate by changing these bad habits of egoism that we all have suffered from.

We are not fasting to lose weight. We’re fasting to lose our egos. If we fast with the right mindset, we are putting aside the basic hungers of life. When we are able to put our hungers aside the Enemy cannot control us through our stomachs and low desires. What beautiful advice we have from the Holy Prophet of Islam in these words, “cultivate within yourself the Attributes of Allah (God).”

Who among us is vying or competing for a level of God-consciousness that would allow us to stand out among people because of our good works toward others as one seeking the path of the Straight and Narrow? Not for the sake of vanity but the pleasure of Allah (God). In a Tradition of the Prophet (Peace be upon him), he was asked by one of his companions, “(What do you say about when) a man does a deed for the sake of Allah, and people love him for it?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “That is the immediate glad tidings of the Believer.”

In the love of people for a person and his or her good works Allah sends us good news of the reality of our belief. If you are one that people have said, “Oh, that’s a good brother. I can always count on him. That’s a good sister. What a beautiful support to the community that brother is.” Know that reputation you are building with the brotherhood and sisterhood is the confirmation of the same reputation that you’re building with Allah (God), Most High, when our intent is pure.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad writes in Message to the Blackman in America, pg. 84, Islam “heals both physical and spiritual ills by teaching what to eat, when to eat, what to think, and how to act.” Let us in this Holy Month look into our fasting as a means of cultivating our character by staying away from obscenity and acting ignorantly toward one another. Let us conquer our desires. Let us through righteous works, good deeds, and self-discipline conquer the darkness of self by going to war with the ignorance of self and the ignorance of society in this month.

(Imam Sultan Rahman Muhammad is the National Imam of the Nation of Islam and resident Imam of Mosque Maryam National Center, tweet him @ImamSultanM or email him at sultanmuhammad@me.com.)