Tuesday, August 15, 2017

From The Final Call Newspaper

Murder, violence and terror in Virginia

By Charlene Muhammad -National Correspondent- | Last updated: Aug 15, 2017 - 12:53:09 PM

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James Alex Fields, Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder, and allegedly drove the car that rammed into the Charlottesville, Va. rally. Photo: MGN Online
James Alex Fields, Jr., an alleged White supremacist, has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of an anti-racist demonstrator and injuries to 19 others during a weekend “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Heather Heyer, 32, died at the scene. Some of the other victims were still in critical condition at press time. State troopers Jay Cullen and Burke Bates died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the protests.
Using a car as a weapon has become a common tactic among those described as Islamic terrorists, now the tactic appears to have been deployed by White Righters in America.  The Justice Dept., has promised a full investigation as local authority pursue charges.  Not many are confident, however, that there will be a proper federal response.
Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a driver slammed into a crowd of counter protesters during a rally in Charlottesville.

Mr. Field’s arrest is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough in a country plagued with racial division and violence, say activists, politicians, organizers, and news pundits. They feel more arrests are warranted due to extreme violence that ensued at hate rallies held by neo-Nazis, members of the Alt-Right, and the Ku Klux Klan. 

Judge Robert Downer declared the 20-year-old indigent, and did not set bond during his first court appearance on Aug. 14. His next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 25.  

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the Richmond FBI Field Office, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have opened civil rights investigations into the car attack.

Rochelle Bilal, president of the Guardian Civic League, Inc., said police officers should have been there to keep everybody safe. But like many witnesses reported, she saw a lot of law violations coming from the neo-Nazi groups, such as the pepper spraying of counter-protestors, with no repercussions, she said. The Guardian Civic League, Inc., is the Philadelphia chapter of the National Black Police Association.
Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after a White nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. Photos: AP/Wide World photos

“Where were they? Did they want the people to fight? I was amazed by that. How did you allow people to come face-to-face? I’m trying to figure out were (police) there, too,” she told The Final Call.

The law enforcement veteran also could not understand how an area in which people were marching wasn’t blocked off from vehicles, at least for a 2-3 block radius.
A vehicle plowing into demonstrators, reverse, then still drive downtown before police caught him should never have happened, Ms. Bilal continued.

“I think whoever the chief of police is, there needs to be some emergency management training here, there needs to be some people trained in reference to protests and protocol, or they need to find a new chief of police, because this, somebody dropped the ball on this one,” Ms. Bilal concluded.

Domestic terrorism
Daryle Lamont Jenkins, executive director of the anti-racist organization One People’s Project, told The Final Call he was driving to Charlottesville when things were starting to escalate.
“When I got there on Saturday, it was still relatively quiet, because when we went into town early morning, there were still some neo-Nazis representing Identity Europa, National Policy Institute, the KKK, the Proud Boys, American Vanguard, and Traditionalist Workers Party floating around the park at the time,” Mr. Jenkins stated.

“As the day went on, and it was basically a ‘who’s who’ of notable White supremacists, plus the younger folks that were coming in, and they were coming in armed,” he continued.
The hate groups had side arms and AR-15 rifles. “They were walking in military formations and shields and helmets and clubs, so they were there to fight, and we knew that! That’s why we also came strapped up,” he said.

Pepper spray was all over the place, clergy were getting thrown around, and once he got sprayed, he was done.

Mr. Jenkins said what happened in Charlottesville similarly occurred in York, Pennsylvania in 2002, except no one died when a Nazi plowed his car into anti-racists.

“By the time the nonsense happened, the state of emergency was declared, and I saw the ambulances going by,” Mr. Jenkins said.
A vehicle reverses after driving into a group of protesters demonstrating against a White nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12.

Many counter-demonstrators took the White supremacists for cops, because of their attire, Mr. Jenkins underscored.

“I kept telling them, those are the militia groups—the Oath Keepers, the type of people that were over at the Bundy Ranch—and I had to let people know … they cannot give you orders you are duty-bound to follow!  I had to keep telling people that, because they thought they were the cops. Where were the cops? Who knows!”

Virginia’s Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, who declared a state of emergency for public safety on Aug. 12, placed blame on the neo-Nazis and White supremacists. 

“Our message is plain and simple: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you,” Gov. McAuliffe said. “You pretend that you are patriots, but you are anything but a patriot.”
Terry McAuliffe, 72nd Governor of Virginia
According to media reports, Gov. McAuliffe defended police, saying the White nationalist militia were better armed than officers.

Virginia State Police Chief Al Thomas said during an Aug. 14 press briefing police were not intimidated by the fire power of the Alt-Right, but it was prudent to make sure that officers were equipped to deal with the violence at hand. 

He said officers were out in their everyday uniforms because they were hoping for a peaceful event. 

Police were prepared for the rally at Emancipation Park, he said. However, on Friday, Aug.11, members of the Alt-Right groups abandoned plans and entered the park from different directions, causing police to change their plans, Chief Thomas explained.

Police also were spread thin, once the violence began, and it took probably an hour to gain control of the streets, he said.

“We regret this tragic day. We regret that we had a tragic outcome, and we lost lives,” Chief Thomas, who is Black, said.
Virginia State Police cordon off an area around the site where a car ran into a group of protesters after a White nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12.

Empty words?
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America,” said President Donald Trump, in an initial statement Aug. 12.

After scathing criticism for failing to label the incident domestic terrorism, and call out the White supremacists, he stated Aug. 14, “Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, White supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

Dr. Ava Muhammad, attorney and student national spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, said the statement was weak, because those groups are part of his base. And they have more sympathizers throughout White America than anyone would ever acknowledge, she said.

“What we’re witnessing is what the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Minister Farrakhan have warned us, this is the culmination of the incapacity of White people to tolerate the presence of Black people in America in any capacity other than as slaves and servants. That’s what this is,” she stated.
“That’s not going to happen,” said Min. Farrakhan in a 2016 year-end interview with The Final Call.
“Our people are not going back to that; they’re not going to accept that.  So, the more we awaken, the more we challenge the powers that have kept us down, the more we challenge those powers it brings great pain and suffering to us,” Min. Farrakhan stated. 
White nationalist demonstrators use shields as they clash with counter demonstrators at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12. Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Aug. 12 after violence erupted at a White nationalist rally in Virginia. At least one person was arrested. Photos: AP/Wide World photos

In this photo taken, Aug. 11, multiple White nationalist groups march with torches through the UVA campus in Charlottesville, Va.

To those who are appalled, and question why neo-Nazis would come out with weapons, kill people, drive a car into a crowd and take somebody’s life over the removal of a statue of a Confederate leader, Dr. Muhammad said, “They would do it because it represents an attack on the very core of their belief system.”

“I think that anyone who says this incident is surprising is lying to themselves or has had their eyes closed for the past at least five years,” said Martese Johnson, University of Virginia alumnus.
As a third-year honor student there, he survived a confrontation by Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control officers on March 18, 2015. On October 12, 2015, he filed a federal $3 million lawsuit for false arrest and excessive force against the agency and three of its agents.

The former brand strategist is back home in Chicago and works as an educator, but his heart is also in Charlottesville, where he feels their safety was violated both physically and mentally. Contrary to popular belief, many had already begun moving into their dorms when the White supremacists marched onto campus.

He was appalled to learn the Alt- Righters showed up, unannounced, on the campus, where they weren’t given approval.

“When you look at the fact that in 2014 on this very same weekend, Michael Brown was murdered and the start of this whole Black Lives Matter movement began, you’d literally have to have your eyes closed for the past three years to think that racism in America wasn’t an issue,” Mr. Johnson said. 

Mr. Johnson doesn’t feel the age dynamic is such a huge thing, because the truth of the matter is there are recent university graduates who are participating with the Alt-Right, and protesting alongside 50- and 60-year-old men, he said.

The calamity in Charlottesville drew the attention of Americans, some were shocked.
University of Virginia youth, huddled with their heads down, holding a banner decrying racism though surrounded by tiki-torch-wielding Nazis, stood their ground as long as possible Aug.11 until the White supremacists started attacking them, anti-racist activist and author Tim Wise observed. Problems escalated when the neo-Nazis wouldn’t let them leave, he said.

“You can’t just hold people against their will, so Richard Spencer and every single one of those men and maybe a handful of White women … ought to be arrested and charged. They won’t be though, and the reason they won’t be is because the Charlottesville police, evidently, were there to protect the Nazis and not to protect the anti-racists,” argued Mr. Wise.

Proof of that was after Mr. Fields allegedly mowed protestors down with his car, witnesses alleged there were police who watched the whole thing, watched him back up and didn’t do anything.
“We all know what happens if a Black man takes a car and plows into a group of the White supremacists, and there are cops watching, I have a feeling there will be some guns unholstered,” Mr. Wise told The Final Call.

Meanwhile, rallies and candlelight vigils under the hashtags #FightWhiteSupremacy and #CvilleStrong erupted across the country in cities including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, D.C., as news of the violence spread.

In Seattle, anti-racist demonstrators and police clashed, as the protestors attempted to reach a rally organized by the right-wing group Patriot Prayer some two blocks away, according to media reports. That rally was planned before the “Unite the Right” rally in Virginia, according to the Seattle Times.
“Maybe the most optimistic reading is that this is the last gasp of a group that feels that they’re losing everything they’ve ever had, and in a way, they are. White men are losing hegemonic dominance. We’re not losing opportunity. We’re not losing our rights. We’re not oppressed,” Mr. Wise told The Final Call. He is Caucasian.

He added, “If this is what White folks do, when we are still less as likely to be unemployed as Black folks, and still have 12 times as much wealth on average as Black folks, think of what we would do if we were actually oppressed … if we really were being violated, because this is what we do when we we’re still on top.  This is what we do when we’re still in power!”
(Nisa Islam Muhammad contributed to this report.)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

From The Final Call Newspaper

Min. Farrakhan Banned in UK!

By Richard B. Muhammad - Editor | Last updated: Aug 7, 2017 - 1:48:50 PM

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Crowd on London’s Kensington Park assembles for African International Day of Action.

From left: Michael Muhammad, Abdul Hakeem Muhammad, Ras Sugar Dread and Sheba Levi Steward listen as Stella Headley of the Rastafari Movement UK reads permit including restrictions that banned Minister Farrakhan or any Nation of Islam representative from speaking.

Barred from speaking in United Kingdom

Free speech, religious rights violated as Farrakhan is targeted by government

Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam have no rights that UK political leaders are bound to respect given a new low in the denial of free speech and free exercise of religion inside the onetime colonial power.

The 30-year-old campaign against the honorable minister and the Nation escalated as the Minister was denied the right to speak via videotaped message or live stream to a London audience. And a Nation student minister and Muslims in the UK were denied the right to speak—or even pass out literature about their faith and beloved minister the same day.

The astonishing denial of religious, free speech and human rights came during the Africa International Day of Action in London’s Kensington Park in early August.

Despite almost a year of planning, meeting and dialogue with local political leaders, who controlled the park permit for the annual event, event organizers were informed of the major restrictions at the last minute. Hundreds assembled in the park Aug. 5 were angered and shocked by the unjust decision, said event organizers.

“It was clear to me that they are outlawing Islam as taught by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,” said Abdul Hakeem Muhammad, the European representative of Min. Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam based in London. Student Minister Hakeem Muhammad and N.O.I. officials are working on a proper legal response to the decision but are troubled at the blatant rights violations and apparent widening of a campaign against Min. Farrakhan.

As a citizen of the United Kingdom, Student Minister Hakeem Muhammad should have had the right to share his views and express his faith at the festival. A message from Min. Farrakhan was billed as the highlight for the three-year-old event. Instead the Lambeth Council, a local elected body, muzzled him and denied basic rights through prohibitions in the park permit.

Police were also clearly on hand to enforce permit restrictions, said event organizers.
The permit explicitly forbade any video or livestream of the Minister, any words from representatives of Min. Farrakhan and the Nation and the distribution of any N.O.I. literature or information. The edicts came late on a Friday night before the Saturday event and too late for a court challenge.
Sheba Levi Steward Photos: Thabo Jaiyesimi

It would appear strange that a hyper-local political body would act in such a major way, except that the justification for the denials came from the Home Office of the United Kingdom. The Home Office, headed by former Prime Minister Teresa May, is similar to the Department of Homeland Security in America, explained Abdul Hakeem Muhammad, who was formerly known as Hilary Muhammad. He was renamed by Min. Farrakhan.

Abdul Arif Muhammad, general counsel for the Nation of Islam in Chicago, agreed with Minister Hakeem Muhammad that the Lambeth Council actions “very clearly” exceeded the scope of a ban on Min. Farrakhan wrongly imposed three decades ago.

Under that wrongheaded and ill-motivated action, the Minister was denied entry into the United Kingdom. Part of the reason the ban stayed in place, despite N.O.I. UK battles to overturn it, was the government argument that Min.  Farrakhan was able to reach his followers through communication such as telephone hook-ups, satellite transmissions, literature and videotapes at that time. The UK government’s argument was the Minister’s views were accessible, but his person was not desired in the country. The Lambeth Ban now seems to take away those and more current methods of communication and expression.

“The question of the origin of that violation is important because you have freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The human right of the human being to speak freely and practice religion in America is considered sacrosanct and similarly in the UK. The council were actors, but on whose behalf? They are a local council,” observed Atty. Arif Muhammad.
While the legal strategy is hashed out, there are moves underway to contest a local councilor who supported the Lambeth Ban and oppose his reelection next year.
Crowd gathers at Kensington Park on Aug. 5 for African International Day of Action in the UK.

The anti-Farrakhan campaign
The Africa International Day of Action was organized and co-sponsored by the Rastifari Movement UK and the Nation of Islam and has been observed since 2014. This year’s theme was devoted to “healing and repair” and was a far cry from any extremist or hate falsely smeared on the Minister. The day’s theme reflects messages and preaching about reconciliation and healing wounds that are major elements of Min. Farrakhan’s ministry. Authorities justified the Lambert Ban by saying there were worries about public or counter protestors from the far right, gay groups and Jewish organization opposed to Min. Farrakhan’s words. The theme of the Minister’s address for Aug. 5 was “Reparations: What Does the U.K. and Europe Owe Us?”

Drummers perform during African International Day of Action.
It was bad enough that the person of Min. Farrakhan would be banned but now his word is being banned, Abdul Hakeem Muhammad said. It is a logical step, he observed. The word is powerful and that word is now spreading throughout Black households in the United Kingdom, he said. In a twisted sense, the opposition to Min. Farrakhan is confirmation of how powerful and important his words are, added Min. Hakeem Muhammad.

Glenroy Watson of the Global African Congress, which grew out of the World Conference Against Racism in 2001, joined other organizers and supporters of Africa International Day in condemning the Lambeth Ban.
The trade unionist referred to the action as an “absurd situation.” Even the political wing of the Irish Republican Army was allowed to speak in this country, but “Africans living in this country not allowed to speak with other Africans? They wish to muzzle our mouths and cut off our legs,” said Mr. Watson, who is Global African Congress co-chair. “We are going to have to take this on heavily.”
A peaceful festival and a false controversy
Abu Akil, chair of the Global African Congress, denounced the Lambeth Ban. In the UK, people are being funded to seek out internal threats and concern about terrorism was used to cover opposition to Min. Farrakhan, he said. The reality is a divided Black community is coming together with a demand for reparations and that is seen as a significant threat, said Mr. Akil.
The Council of Lambeth in London's permit requirement containing the "special requirements".

Absolutely nothing about the park event could be construed as linked to terrorism and the event has been peaceful, never violent nor extremist, he noted. The only driver for the Lambeth Ban could have been the Home Office, Mr.  Akil added.
Lambeth Council, which represents a ward
with a high Black population, made the permit process very difficult, he said. Event organizers noted that in the past, members of the Lambeth Council have expressed support for the event and even spoken at the festival.

Africa International Day of Action is a free day devoted to highlighting the Black and Caribbean communities through consciousness raising, empowerment, cultural activities and a focus on health, business and entrepreneurship, youth enterprises, an arts and crafts market, traditional African, Caribbean and healthy cuisine, music, speakers, dancers and singers, games, sports, drumming, information and guidance for services and support and reggae performances.

According to The Voice, a Black newspaper in the United Kingdom, “ethnic minorities now account for up to 14 percent of the UK population, with a purchasing power of more than £300bn ($390 billion) and rising—with approximately 2 million Afro Caribbean in the UK, half of which live in London.”

“There is on one hand a denial and idea that somehow race no longer matters and anyone who complains is belly aching, but then we are marginalized in education, health care and business and that process is very sophisticated,” continued Mr. Akil. “We are being marginalized like never before and in some ways turning on neighbors and family members, instead of our oppressors.”
So, there is a fear Blacks will organize and mobilize for reparations, which is the issue for the 21st century, Mr. Akil argued.

Sheba Levi Steward of the Rastafari Movement UK explained how the Africa International Day of Action followed a 2014 march on Parliament from Brixton, an historic Black community in London. It included a declaration about Black concerns and plans for the international day to be observed annually for the next 10 years as part of the United Nations-declared decade for people of African descent. It included positive measures the community would take to restore and repair itself, she said. The aims of the day and the day’s program was well known, she argued.

“Africa Day of International Action showcases the work that we do and share with other organizations and groups and collaborate with other groups,” said Ms. Levi Steward. “We are mindful that no other race in history has gone through what the African race has gone through.”
“Though we are Rasta, we are African and one blood not willing to be divided by force or intimidation,” she vowed.

There were meetings with the Lambeth Council to discuss “concerns” and the council is aware of the Rastafari Movement UK’s work, business plan and N.O.I. assurances in writing about the positive nature of the event, said Ms. Levi Steward.

“The community came out to show our day is something we are entitled to, hearing our people is something we are entitled to, and with human rights we have a right to have a day and event. The Nation of Islam has always been dignified and disciplined,” she said.

The council also failed in its duty to ensure Black people, who are supposed to be protected by UK equality law, were not harmed in its decision, added Ms. Levi Steward.

Stella Headley, of the Rastafari Movement, pointed out that the organization works to strengthen itself internally and runs community and international programs. Among the efforts are economic and entrepreneurship programs and workshops for the development of girls and women, media and radio, and craft making. International work includes a nursery school in Gambia, programs in Ghana and Ethiopia, she said.

Ironically Kensington Park is known as the birthplace for democracy in the UK and is a place where anti-slavery movement and Black leaders met in the 18th century to declare concerns about Black life in this country, she said.

Min. Farrakhan would have been projected onto a giant screen and sound would have piped throughout the park. Instead Ms. Levi Steward read the permit and its prohibitions to the crowd as Min. Hakeem Muhammad stood by her side. Then he directed the crowd to the Minister’s Facebook page where they could view the Minister’s message, which he delivered Aug. 5 via social media, on their phones and personal electronic devices. Min. Hakeem Muhammad also invited the crowd to come to Muhammad Mosque No. 1 in London to view the message the next day.

The mosque meeting was packed, he said.

Ras Sugar Dread, of the Rastafari Movement UK and a radio host, said, “This event opened people’s eyes to what is happening in the UK and the world.”

The event cost over $20,000 to put on, said organizers. Min. Hakeem Muhammad said he obeyed the Minister’s instructions and did not violate the terms of the permit. If I had started to speak, the police would have intervened, it would have been chaos and opened the way for the N.O.I. UK to be banned as an extremist group, he said. Even the extreme weather, which included rain, lightening and sunshine, helped thin the crowd and avoid a confrontation, he said.

What does the UK and Europe owe?

Blacks are in the Western Hemisphere because they were brought here by enslavers and colonial masters and were torn from Africa, said Min. Farrakhan, in a message from his social media accounts.

Reparations is a serious matter and deal with what the UK owes the sons and daughters of Africa in the Caribbean and in Africa, he said. Both suffered the cruelty of domination, whether through slavery or colonization, said Min. Farrakhan.

We have been subjected to tyranny, the loss of freedom and the cry for justice and our pain has been ignored, he said.

What does UK owe those formerly colonized and enslaved? asked Min. Farrakhan.

If the biblical law of justice, a life for life, is observed tens of millions of us have been destroyed in the Transatlantic Slave Trade with tens of millions destroyed on the African continent, he observed.
If Europe paid for loss of life under colonialism and slavery, not too many White Europeans would be left alive if that law was applied, said the Minister.

Europe benefitted from evil and death heaped on Blacks, where ill-gotten gains built beautiful capitals and cities, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome and Palermo, Italy, said Min. Farrakhan.
The stones in the streets and beautiful buildings were built on the backs of those Whites enslaved and colonized, but did Whites think the pendulum of justice would not swing back to them? he asked. The Bible says God is not mocked, what a man sows he shall reap, warned the Minister.

Whites owe us everything, but can’t pay with all their lives, yet some payment must be made, he said. Reparatory justice is the cry of Africa, the Caribbean and Asia, said Min. Farrakhan.

But Europe does not want Black people anymore and the skills and brain power of Black people must be put to work in the Caribbean and Africa, he said. We are not feeding ourselves in the Caribbean or Africa and a genocidal plot is afoot with unhealthy food and food loaded with carcinogens coming from Europe and America, he said.

We must separate from these people as Great Britain and Europe are not as great as they once were and cannot create employment for their own jobless people, Min. Farrakhan said. Blacks must separate from the mindset of their former owners and colonial masters and strike out on their own, he continued.

Unity can bring some level of justice but the future is in self-help and development of the Caribbean and Africa, with economic, education and justice systems created by Black people for Black people, he said.

Blacks must reject envy, hatred, jealousy, petty dislikes and division based on European languages, skin color and places their ancestors are from, warned Min. Farrakhan.

“Europe is not going to give you reparations but the repair for us is already here.  In the Bible, it says I will send my messenger from before my face and he will prepare the way for me. And that messenger would have healing in his wings. … The wings of a messenger of God is knowledge. What you are suffering from is ignorance and the manipulation of our ignorance by the forces of power,” he said.

“You, England, should be afraid of the wrath of God,” the Minister added. There should not be fear of my words, he said.

Uniting with one another and with God will bring reparations and success that Blacks desire, said Min. Farrakhan.
(Read edited text of Min. Farrakhan’s Aug. 5 message to the UK.)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

From The Final Call Newspaper

Federal oversight of police reform: functional or futile?


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Controversial police officer-involved-shootings and other abuses across the country has spurred activists, grieving families and concerned citizens to continue the push for increased federal oversight in monitoring and enacting substantive changes in law enforcement practices on local levels.

But even when the U.S. government becomes involved, the question remains, do consent decrees and oversight of the police departments who violate the law even matter? What are the consequences, if any, for police departments that fail to adhere to these federal mandates?

According to some civil rights attorneys and legislators, there has been of good and bad in regulating police departments nationwide. Some victims’ families and police reform activists feel the government’s efforts toward justice have been a waste of time, money, and resources. These resources should be put elsewhere to solve the problem, they argue.

“First of all, all the laws from the government, period, don’t include us, so anything, I don’t care how they name it, since it doesn’t include us or protect us, it’s worthless to us,” stated Harry “Spike” Moss, who’s been fighting to end police brutality in Minnesota since 1966.

Consent decrees are effective, said Congresswoman Maxine Waters, adding that evidence has shown they have resulted in reductions in the overall use of force by police departments and improvements in police training on de-escalation.

As for improvements to the process, she told The Final Call, “First, we need an Administration and a Justice Department that cares about Civil Rights issues and is invested in police reform, and we don’t have that with Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. Second, more can be done to look at how we ensure that police reforms and improvements that are made while consent decrees are in effect are long-term and last after the consent decrees are lifted.”
For instance, she stated, some data has indicated that, although there are dramatic reductions in litigation against police departments while the consent decree is in effect, that trend reverses once the decree is lifted. The federal oversight of a police department under a consent decree is meant to be temporary, but the police reforms need to be permanent, Congresswoman Waters added.

The U.S. Department of Justice began implementing federal consent decrees in 1997. It launched pattern-or practice investigations of police departments where institutional failures were seemingly contributing factors to police misconduct.

In 2001, a consent decree was used as an accountability measure on the Los Angeles Police, following a series of high profile incidents involving police shootings and heavy-handed tactics toward mostly Black citizens.

Among these incidents, included the nationally-publicized beating of Black motorist Rodney King and subsequent acquittal of the officers involved and the Rampart police division scandal, which exposed gang unit officers planting evidence, framing suspects, stealing drugs and money.

Cities or territories currently under a federal consent decree include: the Virgin Islands, Seattle, New Orleans, East Haven (Conn.), Puerto Rico, Portland, Warren (Ohio), Albuquerque, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department-Antelope Valley, Cleveland, Meridian (Miss.), Maricopa County (Arizona), Ferguson, and Newark, according to the Justice Department.

The way consent decrees function is the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division files civil lawsuits against police departments with patterns or practices of misconduct. Consent decrees are designed to look at systemic issues within police departments, such as complaints of constant, excessive force issues, racial profiling, training, and other misconduct problems.

Cases may go to a jury, but the majority of cities settle, and agree to correct specific problems within a certain time-frame. Since it began, the investigations and filings of the Justice Department’s cases against all but six cities ended in settlement without going to trial.

In addition to the Justice Department, state and local officials, as well as other entities also are involved. Those include organizations, advocates and activists from affected communities, who are a part of reporting whether police misconduct has gotten better or worse.

The federal government appoints independent monitors to track progress and compliance. Any violations trigger penalties outlined in the consent decrees, usually fines.
The Justice Department could press the issue of violations in court. Then a federal judge could hold individual officers accountable through criminal charges.

A group of Penn State University students organized a protest in reaction to the killing of Michael Brown, Jr. The City of Ferguson in Missouri reluctantly entered into a consent decree with the DOJ. Photo: MGN Online

When asked why the Justice Department has chosen the approach of consent decrees instead of prosecuting cops or police departments for their misconduct, Lauren Ehrsam, spokeswoman and Media Affairs Specialist invited the Final Call to its website to “look at the work that this administration has done using consent decrees, and said in regards to them.”

Ms. Ehrsam also provided a few press releases issued this April, but the question remained.

The LAPD consent decree was lifted in 2009 amid lots of dissatisfaction and disappointment in the community.

L.A.-based human rights lawyer Nana Gyamfi concurred with Mr. Moss, that decrees don’t matter when it comes to Black and Brown people. This is because police come out of the function of oppressing, attacking, and killing on behalf of the state, capitalism and White supremacy, she stated.
A police commission with various powers and structural changes within the LAPD came out of that consent decree, she noted. “But at the end of the day, three years running, it’s the most murderous police department in the country,” Atty. Gyamfi told The Final Call.

According to Atty. Gyamfi , the lack of real structural change is due to powerful police unions, and Black political leaders weakened by the financial backing they receive from those various unions throughout the country.
Because consent decrees are founded in lies, such as, “what we’re dealing with is just a few bad apples, that generally the police are wonderful and great people who mean no harm to the community …” it’s not producing any type of result other than the same result that we’ve seen before,” said Atty. Gyamfi

Uphill battle

In 2015, the U.N. Human Rights Council condemned the U.S. for human rights failures, particularly with regard to racism and police murders of Black men and boys.

“When you have that kind of laws and policies, we’re like road kill for them. … I’m almost convinced that the Nazis, the Skinheads, and the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) have told their membership to join law enforcement all over the country, because look how it’s changed from the 60s, how it has become that all of them have the spirit of those organizations,” Mr. Moss stated.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has shown that apparently he doesn’t see any benefit in consent decrees, said civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump. Mr. Sessions has said the federal misconduct lawsuits undermine respect for officers, and he’s ordered a sweeping review of 14 active federal consent decrees, which began under the Obama Administration.

Atty. Gen. Sessions said in a March 31 memo to staff that effective policing depends on local control and accountability. “It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non federal law enforcement,” he stated.

In Los Angeles County, reforms address a pattern of singling out people who receive federal housing subsidies for unconstitutional stops, searches, arrests and uses of force linked to community bias against people poor enough to qualify for such assistance.

Baltimore entered into a consent decree in Jan. 2017, nearly two years after the death of Freddie Gray in April 2015. A federal judge refused Atty. Gen. Sessions’ request to hold the decree for more time to review it, saying negotiations were over.
City officials are in the process of selecting the monitoring team which will track compliance for three years as set by the decree.

Investigators found police there exhibited a pattern or practice of systemic violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, focusing on the failure to make reasonable accommodations when interacting with people with mental health disabilities.

“To me, to be honest, I’m so sick of all this reform talk, because at the end of the day, let’s be clear, this is a constant conspiracy to obstruct justice,” said Baltimore activist Tawanda Jones. “If they are doing criminal acts, they need criminal charges,” Ms. Jones told The Final Call.

Tyrone West, her brother, died in police custody on July 18, 2013. According to media reports police tackled him after a traffic stop, claiming he resisted arrest.

Ms. Jones maintains he was beaten. Maryland and Baltimore recently agreed to a joint $1 million settlement with his family. She said real accountability is for State Attorney Marilyn Mosby to reopen the case now that the civil suit is over.
The City of Ferguson in Missouri reluctantly entered into a consent decree last year, following the Aug. 2014 killing of Michael Brown, Jr. According to the Justice Department, it has missed critical deadlines, such as not setting up an operating independent civilian review board of the police department by Jan. 15. Ferguson officials said the work was hard, but that they’re further ahead than other cities under similar mandates and have made progress.

Penalties for violating consent decrees are supposed to range from revoked funding to criminal repercussions, such as holding officers and supervisors responsible, according to Atty. Crump. However, Ferguson has not been penalized. The chances are slim, he said.

“It’s really not set up for them to go to jail or anything, but it’s set to be a financial incentive or financial albatross for them, depending on if they comply with the consent decree,” Atty. Crump explained.

There were more consent decrees in Pres. Obama’s eight years in office than all other U.S. presidents combined, said Atty. Crump. Now, the consent decree doesn’t have nearly as much weight as it would have had under the last administration, he stated.

“It’s not surprising. Folks talk about how they’re yearning for the good ’ole days when Eric Holder was attorney general and the federal government and the Department of Justice was more interested, allegedly, in addressing these issues with respect to police violence and state sanctioned violence at the hands of the police, when in fact, I think when if we look at what really has occurred, we haven’t seen a federal prosecution yet. … There’s not a single federal prosecution, out of all those murders of Black folks at the hands of the police,” Atty. Gyamfi said.

That was even with two Black attorney general’s during Pres. Obama’s two terms, including Mr. Holder and his predecessor Loretta Lynch, who served at the end of his administration, she added.

“I know a lot of times in the media it’s gloom and it’s doom, but you have to remember, in most of these federal agencies, at least from my understanding and my experience has been, you have a number of people who are there regardless of who the President of the United States is,” said Dwayne Crawford, executive director of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).

He said he understands the rhetoric about being tough on crime and that his organization is finding that the work which began under the Obama Administration is continuing. According to Mr. Crawford, at least 18,000 agencies seem to be interested in continuing the police reform efforts begun in recent years.

“I’m not here to say that consent decrees are perfect. I’m not here to say they solve everything, but I am here to say that I really think that many of these agencies are trying their best to ensure one, community engagement, transparency, accountability … but I also want to say to everyone that there are men and women, both within the profession, within federal government, who are doing their best, in my mind, to continue these reform efforts,” Mr. Crawford told The Final Call.

The federal government can also check police misconduct through patterns and practice investigations which can result in federal mandates like the one brought by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson in Oakland, Calif., in 2003.

The city went under federal observation after four former officers in West Oakland were charged for misconduct ranging from planting drugs on, beating, and falsely arresting poor Black people. The case ended in a $10.9 million payout to 119 victims. Three of the officers, Matthew Hornung, Clarence Mabanag and Jude Siapno, were acquitted. The fourth, Frank Vazquez, fl ed the country, and remains a fugitive.

Oakland officials agreed to implement various reforms such as around training, and better investigating citizens complaints.

According to Atty. John Burris, a civil rights lawyer who helped bring the case, there’s something very positive about a consent decree, at least in terms of its objectives. But they don’t work without cooperation and accountability, he said.

Otherwise, consent decrees can go on indefinitely, as it has with the Oakland case, he said.

The problem is praising departments and police officers for making “some progress,” and then extending their time-frame for improvement, according to Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, whose nephew, Oscar Grant, III., was shot in the back by a former BART officer on a station platform in 2009.

Increasing crisis intervention training or requiring cops use body cameras haven’t brought justice, because at the same time, the killings, shootings, and violations continue, said Mr. Johnson stated.

“The policy and outlook of police work may have changed, but the actual culture of police work has not changed. The corruption that it has been known for still exist,” said Student Minister Keith Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 26B in Oakland.