Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Unarmed Black youth gunned down again...

Rebellion, confrontations with police as another young Black male is gunned down

By Jihad Hassan Muhammad | Last updated: Aug 12, 2014 - 10:03:56 AM

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(L) Lesley McSpadden, center, and Michael Brown Sr., left, the parents of Michael Brown, listen as attorney Benjamin Crump speaks during a news conference, Aug. 11, in Jennings, Mo. Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed in a confrontation with police in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo, on Aug. 9. (R) Protestor Boss Bastain of St. Louis locks arms with others as they confront Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers in front of the Ferguson police station on Aug. 11. Marchers are entering a third day of protests against Sunday's police shooting of Michael Brown. Photos: AP/Wide World photos

FERGUSON, Mo. - Michael Brown, 18, was supposed to be starting college in early August, instead he is listed among Black males shot to death by police, security guards, and self-proclaimed vigilantes. Oscar Grant III, Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and Jonathan Ferrell are among familiar names of those whose lives were taken.

United States Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement Aug. 11 saying a “fulsome review” of the police shooting of the child whose mother wept bitterly before TV cameras was needed. The attorney general’s words came two days after the young man’s death.
Protester holds a picture of Michael Brown at a rally and vigil August 10. Photos: Cartan X. Mosley
“The shooting incident in Ferguson, Missouri this weekend deserves a fulsome review. In addition to the local investigation already underway, FBI agents from the St. Louis field office, working together with attorneys from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s Office, have opened a concurrent, federal inquiry,” Atty. Holder said. “Aggressively pursuing investigations such as this is critical for preserving trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

Those promises followed confrontations between Blacks and police, smashed windows and some looting as angry residents vented their frustration and pain. Police officers, they said, harassed participants in what was a peaceful demonstration. Officers laughed, mocked, pointed, threatened and showed no respect for Michael and no remorse for his death, they said.

One young man complained on social media that the mourners were called “porch monkeys” and that police wanted a war. There are only three Black officers in the Ferguson Police Dept., which is 98 percent White, said Anthony Shahid, an advisor to the Brown family. According to the family, the young man’s body lay in the street for four-and-a-half-hours after the fatal encounter. That helped stoke anger and fuel outrage as police would allow no one near Michael’s corpse in the suburb outside St. Louis.

According to eyewitness accounts, Michael and a friend were walking near Canfield Drive in Ferguson when there was an encounter with police. What happened next remains somewhat unclear. The officer reportedly ordered the two to get out of the street. One account says the youth were told, “Get the f---k out the street!” There may have been a verbal exchange and the officer allegedly attempted to pull Michael into the police car. The encounter ended with Michael being shot numerous times.

Witnesses said Michael had his hands up and was unarmed. Various witnesses insist the officer continued to shoot Michael as the teen lay on the ground.

“I saw him turn around with his arms up in the air and they shot him in his face and chest and he went down unarmed,” said Piaget Crenshaw who saw the shooting.

“The officer started choking him and tried pulling him into the police vehicle, his weapon was drawn and he said, ‘I will shoot you, I’m going to shoot,’ when the first shot went off,” said Dorian Johnson, a friend of Michael’s.

“He shot again, and once my friend felt that shot, he turned around and put his hands in the air, and he started to get down,” Mr. Johnson said. “But the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and fired several more shots.”

“We wasn’t causing harm to nobody,” Mr. Johnson told a television station. “We had no weapons on us at all.”  The two were walking together who confronted by police.

Unrest spread among residents in the apartment complex as a result of the shooting and as Michael’s lifeless body lay in a puddle of blood.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar flanked by Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, told reporters Aug. 10, “One of those individuals at the time came in as the officer was exiting his police car. Allegedly pushed the police officer back into the car where he physically assaulted the police officer. It is our understanding at this point in the investigation that within the police car there was a struggle over the officer’s weapon. There was at least one shot fired within the car after that. The officer came back out of the car, he exited his vehicle, and there was a shooting that occurred where the officer in fact shot the subject … they were fatal injuries.” The officer, said to be a White six-year veteran, has been placed on paid administrative leave.

“All my hard work and everything I put into to him they just took that, with no compassion,” said Michael’s mother Lesley McSpadden.

Assisting the Brown family are community activist Anthony Shahid, members of the Fruit of Islam from Muhammad Mosque Number 24 in St. Louis and attorney Benjamin Crump, who is now assisting the Brown family.

Emotions boil over
Community anger reached a boiling point after the shooting and with subsequent events. Some 600 people gathered near where Michael’s body lay and there were stand-offs with police, who reported that shots were fired in the area. Police would not allow anyone near Michael’s remains. Later many marched and held vigils to call for justice, seek answers and to comfort one another. Demonstrations were held and memorials erected near the spot where Michael was killed, and rallies were held outside the Ferguson Police station. Officers in riot gear and with dogs were on duty at the gatherings.

“We are developing a list of demands that we want put forward, which will include publicly disclosing the name of the White officer involved in the shooting, secondly for him to be immediately fired and charged with murder, third is for the Ferguson Police Department to issue their protocol manual on how they are to respond in a situation like the one Saturday, and the fourth one was to reflect the racial population of the officers responding to the community,” declared longtime activist Zaki Baruti of the Universal African Peoples Organization.

Local and national media outlets quickly showed scenes of looting, but according to social media and others on the ground, the media did not show police officers firing at peaceful protesters and provoking demonstrators.

Chawn Kweli, national chief of staff for the New Black Panther Party, said SWAT team members confiscated cell phones of protesters exercising their rights to video record law enforcement officers. There have been some arrests and reports that cellular telephone capabilities are limited in the area.
“Tensions are very high and at this point the apartment complex is still surrounded by SWAT,” Mr. Kweli told The Final Call a day after fatal shooting.  

Mr. Kweli described a chaotic scene Aug. 10 when protests formed at the apartment complex where Michael was killed. Mr. Kweli knows the difference between sounds made by rubber bullets and live ammunition. SWAT team members teargased and repeatedly fired live ammunition with the intent to kill or maim into a crowd of over 2,000, which included many women and children, he charged.

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“It was beyond the shadow of a doubt live ammunition,” Mr. Kweili said.

“There has not been a riot in St. Louis, or anything like this in over 60 years,” said Nation of Islam Student Minister Donald Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 28.
Organizations such as the New Black Panther Party, the Tauheed Youth Group, the Organization for Black Struggle, and the UAPO have been very active in the protests. Many say were it not for police agitation, protests may have remained peaceful.

“These young people did not get up yesterday and say we are going to riot today, I was with a lot of them throughout this situation, and they were agitated. We arrived for a peaceful vigil, calling for justice and the St. Louis County Police arrived with riot gear on storming through the crowds, with little regard for respect,” said Bgyrl, a longtime St. Louis hip-hop pioneer and activist.

Some young people who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation said Ferguson Police officers behaved aggressively with dogs barking and brandishing M16’s while “laughing and threatening us.”

This same sentiment was shared by over a dozen youth who wanted to be part of a campaign to mobilize for justice. Others say the rebellion is the result of decades of neglect, racism, and police brutality in the area. It has gotten to the point where the people feel like they have to stand up and declare they are not going to take it anymore, they said.

James W. Muhammad, who ran Dynasty Hip-Hop Mentoring Program in St. Louis before moving to Dallas, says the youth can’t be blamed. “There are a lot of people upset with the youth because they say they have misdirected anger, well, the only way misdirected anger and unorganized activity can exist is when we don’t give direction to our youth,” said Mr. Muhammad. “The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan talked about justifiable homicide of Black youth. Our youth are now in the position where helicopter gunships can come murder them because they are looting.”

Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, in an Aug. 10 statement, said he spoke with Brown family members who asked him to come to St. Louis. National Action Network field staff have been dispatched to the area to work with others, he said.

The FBI is looking into possible civil rights violations arising from the shooting, said Cheryl Mimura, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s St. Louis field office. She said the FBI would be investigating regardless of the public attention surrounding the matter.
Nearly three dozen people were arrested following a Sunday night candlelight vigil Aug. 10 after crowds looted and burned stores, vandalized vehicles and confronted officers who tried to block access to parts of the city, the Associated Press reported.

St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman said 32 people were arrested for various offenses, including assault, burglary and theft. Two officers suffered minor injuries, and there were no reports of civilians hurt.

Several businesses were looted, including a check-cashing store, a boutique and a small grocery store. People also took items from a sporting goods store and a cellphone retailer and carted rims away from a tire store.

A spokeswoman for St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley said tear gas had been used.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said that there’s no video footage of the shooting from the apartment complex or from any police cruiser dashboard cameras or body-worn cameras that the department recently bought but has not yet put to use.

Lesley McSpadden said she did not understand why police did not subdue her son with a club or stun gun. She said the officer involved should be fired and prosecuted.

“I would like to see him go to jail with the death penalty,” she said, fighting back tears.
The killing drew criticism from some civil rights leaders, who referred to the 2012 racially charged shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was acquitted of murder charges. Atty. Crump also represented Trayvon’s family.

John Gaskin, who serves on both the St. Louis County and national boards of directors for the NAACP, said the group was “outraged because yet again a young African-American man has been killed by law enforcement.”

Ferguson’s population of about 21,000 people is almost 70 percent black.
(Photographer Cartan X Mosley, Final Call staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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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

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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.

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

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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.
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.)