Tuesday, July 28, 2015

From The Final Call Newspaper

Broken promises, bias, brutality and bail
By Charlene Muhammad -National Correspondent- | Last updated: Jul 28, 2015 - 1:16:22 PM

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Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, wipes her eye as she is flanked by her attorneys Anthony D. Gray, left, and Benjamin L. Crump, right, during a news conference April 23, in Clayton, Mo. The parents of Michael Brown filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city of Ferguson over the fatal shooting of their son by a White police officer, a confrontation that sparked a protest movement across the United States. Photo: AP Wide World Photo/Jeff Roberson

Black attorneys battle inside a criminally unjust court system
LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) - The National Bar Association’s 90th annual convention’s message of fighting police brutality mirrored the fight Black Americans face every day.
The convention, with its theme “A Legacy of Service. A Promise of Justice,” centered on police brutality and highlighted problems and solutions to why Blacks continuously suffer injustice.
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Attorney Nicole C. Lee,
Co-Founder of the
Black Movement-Law Project

Members of the nation’s largest and oldest organization of Black lawyers met at the downtown Westin Bonaventure Hotel July 19-23.
 
“A number one issue this year was police brutality, and although I did not think that it would be the centerpiece of my administration, that’s exactly what it was,” said Pamela Meanes, outgoing president of the National Bar Association. 
During her president’s reception, a video showcased the year-long efforts of the organization’s Police Misconduct Task Force and Criminal Law Section.
 
During her tenure, members worked to back a movement against police brutality by hosting forums and discussions, proposing federal laws, educating Blacks about their rights when encountering law enforcement, and demanding Justice Department intervention in excessive force cases.  The organization’s fight against police brutality will continue, she said.
 
Federal legislation
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Attorney Barbara R. Arnwine,
Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for
Civil Rights Under Law
The National Bar Association is advocating for four federal laws tied to police reform:  One mandates officers wear federally funded body video cameras on duty; a second establishes federal standards for use of force training and tactics; a third requires police departments to conduct annual training in de-escalations, and a fourth would require police departments to enact a policy requiring officers observing other cops using excessive force step in.

Justice or Else!
The suspicious July 13 jail house death of Sandra Bland in Prairie View, Texas occurred one week before the Black lawyers gathered. Her death underscored one of many reasons why police brutality was prominently featured during their annual meeting, noted Attorney Benjamin Crump, whose firm, Parks and Crump, represents the Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Jr., Chavis Carter, Victor White, and families in other high profile cases involving police shootings or suspicious Black injuries or deaths.
 
“It’s unfortunate that we see these tragedies happening almost weekly now. It says a lot to the police culture as it relates to their interaction with people of color, in many instances as we see from video, unarmed people of color,” Attorney Crump said.
 
Even before he was sworn in as its 73rd president on July 23, Attorney Crump had endorsed “Justice or Else,” the 20th anniversary gathering of the Million Man March. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan issued the clarion call for the gathering on October 10, 2015 to answer a critical cry for justice.
 
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Attorney Nana Gyamfi,
Professor, Human Rights Activist and Host of
Inner Light Radio’s Conversations on the Way
Atty. Crump said he recently had the honor and privilege of meeting with Minister Farrakhan about the challenges facing the Black community and preventing what appears to be the sanctioned killing of unarmed people of color.

He applauded Minister Farrakhan for speaking out against injustice, saying if Blacks don’t speak up, stand and fight, nobody’s going to do it.
 
“All our civil rights leaders have to speak to the issue. We have to make the narrative very clear, straightforward that we are fighting for the lives of our children, and that’s why I endorse the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March-Justice or Else, because we like all Americans only want equal justice for our loved ones and our family and our children, too,” Attorney Crump stated.
 
Denying Blacks justice
According to Counter Current News, Ms. Bland’s arrest by Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia was illegal based on a Supreme Court decision.  The trooper violated the court’s ruling in Rodriguez v. United States that police cannot extend the length of a routine traffic stop unless there is a clear safety concern or additional crime committed in the course of the stop, the agency reported.
 
Police have long represented the front line in a criminal justice system where cops, prosecutors and judges have consistently acted to deny Blacks justice, advocates said.
 
Blacks are over-policed and criminalized, said Attorney Nicole Lee, co-founder of the Black Movement-Law Project, which developed last August in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death at the hands of Darren Wilson, then a Ferguson, Mo., police officer. 
 
Her expertise is documenting human rights atrocities like genocide or internal displacement in countries like Haiti, Columbia and the Sudan, she said. When she was called to help in Ferguson she initially declined, thinking she wasn’t needed.
 
But finally she did go. “I saw situations happening in this country that would actually put many of those countries to shame. They just would not allow it. You would not lob tear gas in Columbia for example while babies are in the middle of the street,” Attorney Lee said.
 
“You would not harass people and come to their homes and pull out their mom’s from bed just to harass them, not an offense charge, but just to show that you are powerful,” she said.
 
Black attorneys have a role to play in the movement, particularly by using their expertise to create legal infrastructure to help with the mass defense of hundreds of people, she told her peers. 
 
According to Attorney Lee, there were 253 arrests in Baltimore after people rose in protests after the fatal injuries apparently suffered by Freddie Gray, a Black man, in police custody. “One hundred-twenty of them were thrown out on habeas immediately because we had the infrastructure to actually process the writs for 120 people,” she informed. Another 50 were released so the system could avoid the wave of attorneys they thought just showed up from nowhere, but the lawyers were organized and strategic, Atty. Lee said.
 
Lawyers for protestors across America have also been dealing with police attempting to hide their clients in black sites, secret police interrogation compounds, she added.
 
Lawyers on the front lines
Attorney Lee helps to train attorneys to provide jail support for large numbers of protestors arrested in mass demonstrations, but she said more attorneys need to join youth already on the front lines, such as St. Louis activists Rika Tyler, a member of the Hands Up United activist group and T-Dubb-o, also a rapper.
 
The young people spoke to the Black lawyers about problems activists face on the ground in cities where Blacks are killed.
 
“We get followed still by police, harassed and targeted at protests while being active,” T-Dubb-o said. “We’re here to get answers just like you all. We don’t know what freedom is gonna look like, because we haven’t had it. We just know we’re fighting for it, and we’re going to continue fighting for it. We just need you all to fight with us,” he said.
 
“To make it as plain as possible, they’re killing us, in more ways than one,” the activist added.
Ms. Tyler took time to highlight the largely ignored plight of young Black women like Kimberlee King, who died in September 2014.
 
“Over the weekend they said she killed herself for traffic warrants but what they didn’t tell you is when they did the autopsy report, she had semen in her body and so she had probably been raped and killed in jail,” Ms. Tyler charged.
 
“The police target us because it’s a little bit easier to get a hold of us, but everyday life is like you get followed by the police and if you’re not getting followed by the police, you run up on something and wound up getting hurt or targeted by the police,” Ms. Tyler said.
 
Another reason Blacks can’t get justice is they’re policed by cops who don’t live in their neighborhoods and who could care less about them, Ms. Tyler noted.
 
Both activists said they were honored for the opportunity to speak to  Black lawyers that they feel need to wake up.
 
“I mean they’ve been doing work but they need to push it a little bit more. You are still a Black person before you are a Black lawyer, so if you think your life matters and you think our lives matter, you need to be doing work and use the access and tools, education that you do have as a Black lawyer to push forward,” Ms. Tyler told The Final Call.
 
Crimes of poverty
Police have a lot of power to jam up people’s lives, Attorney Lee pointed out, in the short and long term. In Baltimore, one-third of the cases brought to trial are dismissed by the time they make it to trial or get before a judge, she noted. 
 
What attorneys have seen in Ferguson and are seeing in Baltimore is people are picked up on ridiculous charges, held for two weeks, then released, the attorney said. By then, they’ve lost their jobs, or homes which they might have rented on a monthly or weekly basis, she said.
 
“I’ve met women in homeless shelters who’ve explained to me, ‘yeah it was a completely ridiculous charge, but I’m here because if I actually pay money on rent, then I can’t pay these crazy court fines even though it’s been dismissed,’ ” Attorney Lee stated.
 
According to the Vera Institute of Justice, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit center for justice policy and practice, some 12 million people are admitted to jail annually and Black men are disproportionately held because of their inability to pay. 
 
Their incarceration starts a vicious cycle of unemployment, debt, and the inability to post bail, the center indicated.
 
Krystal Muhammad, national chairman of the New Black Panther Party, also works for a bail bond company. She said in a phone interview her company in Harris County, Texas, receives 400 names of arrestees per day.
 
The majority are Blacks and Hispanics arrested for things like marijuana possession or DUI, which are pretty much crimes of poverty, she argued.  Many are taken in for resisting arrest, but they don’t have arresting charges, Ms. Muhammad observed.
 
“If a person is even given a misdemeanor, they have to look at really $2,000-5,000 just to get legal representation, and most people don’t have that, so they’re forced to either sit in jail or take a plea,” she said.
 
Power to the people
Activists in Houston have been fighting to establish an independent review board with powers to subpoena and prosecute police, according to Ms. Muhammad.
 
Civil rights attorney Barbara Arnwine argued during the Black attorneys’ Civil Rights Forum, the absence of an independent police review commission in the vast majority of America’s 13,000 police departments adds to the injustice against Blacks.
 
“Without the ability to subpoena people and to also render some kind of justice that is followed, they have very little power. Now where they do have that kind of power, amazing results, amazing compliance, amazing statistics on reduction of police brutality, police violence, etc., so it is a very important tool,” she said.
 
Human rights attorney Nana Gyamfi noted in Cleveland, days after a group of residents filed affidavits, based on a 1960s, law asking Cuyahoga County Judge Ronald Ardine to issue an arrest warrant for the two officers involved in the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, the judge refused.
 
He felt Officer Timothy Loehmann should be charged for murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty and Frank Garmback with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty, but left it up to the district attorney, and of course the DA’s office hasn’t decided to indict, Attorney Gyamfi said. 
 
She urged taking such processes outside of the court system and established political systems range and forming community tribunals.
 
“When cops look up and see billboards with their name and badge number, etc., with the verdict of the community about their actions, I think that we’ll start to see people either leave the force or changes being made that respond to that,” she said.
 
“It’s really gonna have to be because we give them no wiggle-room choice, and they’re actually begging us to stop whatever we’re doing and asking us what it is that we want,” Attorney Gyamfi said.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Racial Terrorism in America

 

By Brian E. Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Jun 23, 2015 - 9:41:28 AM

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (The Final Call) - Many are still trying to comprehend life in America where an act of murder occurs with deep racist motivation in a house of worship amid a growing climate of turmoil, mayhem and what can only be described as White domestic terror.

Shock and alarm gripped Charleston and the country after Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old White male allegedly walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopalian Church—one of the oldest Black churches in the South—and sat through the Wednesday night Bible Study. He then pulled out a gun and subsequently unleashed a barrage of deadly bullets, reportedly reloading five times. When he finished, eight parishioners, including the prominent church pastor and State Senator Clementa C. Pinckney were dead. A ninth victim died from wounds at an area hospital. After an intense manhunt involving local, state and federal authorities, Mr. Roof was apprehended less than 24 hours later in North Carolina, returned to Charleston and charged with the killings.
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Emanuel A.M.E. Church: Photo: Andrea Muhammad
Mr. Roof is now in the Sheriff Cannon Detention Center, on a $1 million bond for weapons charges and is expected to be back in court in August where the bond will set for nine counts of murder.

“I thought back on the history of our people and how in 1963, in Montgomery, Ala., a church was bombed and here we are 52 years later in 2015, and we have a psycho-terrorist massacring people in a place of worship.” said Mama Abena, an elder and self-described Pan Africanist native of Charleston who recently moved back home. “If I said that it was unbelievable, I will be lying to myself because it’s very believable … It’s not like these very horrific and heinous situations have not happened to us as a people.”

In the days that followed the June 17 massacre, prayer vigils and gatherings of solidarity and support were held throughout the country—primarily pastor led—where the messages were “we must forgive” and “love conquers hate.” Some called the show of togetherness nothing more than “symbolism” driven by the desire to contain an angry Black, Brown and poor people who live under the pressure of marginalization and oppression. “We symbolically talk about unity,” Mama Abena said further. But “that’s going to end … what are we going to do from here; from right now?”
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A memorial to those who lost their lives. Photo: Andrea Muhammad
“Black people still have a tendency to think that everything will be okay; that everything is still peaceful with us among White people. But in the midst of this you also have a class of people that’s tired … frustrated … fed up,” explained DeAndre Muhammad, Charleston representative for the Nation of Islam.

Some question whether healing and forgiveness exist absent of justice and repentance, looking at America’s sordid past and not so peaceful present. “This man was steeped in White supremacy, but that White supremacy is not just an individual thing, that’s something that stems from the whole of this United States from its foundation,” said Jack Turner, a White organizer from Atlanta with the Revolutionary Communist Party. “I think this outrage should manifest itself in resistance. People actually need to pour out into the streets.”

On Sunday, June 21, Emanuel AME Church opened its doors as a signal that the act of terror on its space and parishioners would not stop the spiritual calling and historical legacy the church has. Thousands stood in the blazing sun and lined the street outside the sprawling church as the sanctuary was filled to capacity as were the lower level rooms where the bloodshed happened. Supporters from around the United States and Canada, fellow Christians, Jews and Muslims from the Central Mosque of Charleston attended in a show of interfaith support.
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Najee Washington holds a photo of her grandmother Ethel Lance, one of the nine people killed in Wednesday’s shooting at Emanuel AME Church, as she poses for a portrait outside her home June 19, in Charleston, S.C. “She cared for everyone. She took care of people. She would give her last to anyone,” said Washington. “That’s what she was and that’s what she’ll always be.” Photo: AP/Wide World photos
Friends and family shared their gratitude in the midst of their pain with The Final Call for the outpouring of condolences and concern. Sherrell Nelson lost her 87-year-old aunt Susie Jackson and 26-year-old cousin Tywanza Sanders. “It’s overwhelming to see the outpouring of love with all the flowers and tributes,” she said.

Patricia Jones either worked with or went to school with at least four of the victims, saying she was “saddened by the whole thing” that rocked the tight knit church community.

The shooting happened at the church Denmark Vesey co-founded in 1818 that historically was a hub for liberation and organizing for self-determination, a cause that freeman Vesey lived, fought and was hanged for in 1822 along with 35 others. The church was dedicated to an anti-slavery agenda, and at one point was burned down by proponents of White terror, oppression and slavery.

Now the question of racial terror comes front and center again, at a time when people have been resisting injustice in the wake of police and vigilante killings of Blacks. The cases of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Renisha McBride, Tamir Rice and the brutal murder of Walter Scott, coldly shot in the back by now jailed former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager are among the most often cited.

There are concerns about a spate of Black men found hanging from trees in recent times, raising the reminder of America’s history of “terror lynching” where Black people were tortured, maimed, beat, burned to death and suffered slow, agonizing hanging deaths.
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Dylann Roof, 21, was arrested in the slayings of several people, including the pastor, at a prayer meeting inside The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Photo: MGN Online

A report from the Birmingham, Ala.-based Equal Justice Initiative called “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror” revealed between the American Civil War and World War II, Blacks were lynched regularly in the United States and an estimated nearly 5,000 men, women and children were lynching victims.

Between the 1990s to as recent as April 2015, Lennon Lacy, Otis Byrd, Roosevelt Champion III, Fredrick Jermaine Carter; Anthony Hill; James Byrd; Brandon McClelland and Andre Jones were Black men who experienced hideous deaths either by hanging from a tree, hanging in a jail cell or the horrific dragging of  bodies chained behind pickup trucks.

The history of these crimes along with the execution of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Ethel Lance, 70 Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Susie Jackson, 87; Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Myra Thompson, 59, in the basement of Emanuel AME adds to a wider context and question around White supremacist ideology and White terrorism targeting Black and Brown people.  Photos have surfaced of the gunman Dylann Roof wearing White supremacist iconography and reportedly told his Black victims: “I have to do it. ... You rape our women and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.”
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Charleston residents unite in prayer. Photo: Andrea Muhammad
“We need to be clear, this is not an aberrational event,” said Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to The Final Call after the first Sunday church service at Emanuel AME after the June 17 attack.

Mr. Brooks believes there is a national resolve to move forward and “be tragically inspired by this to prevent future tragedies from happening” but cautioned underlying racism and that the shooter was fueled by White nationalism must be addressed. To “blink that or ignore that, ignores the tragedy, he said.

There are reportedly 18 White supremacy organizations in South Carolina described as neo-Nazi, White nationalist, racist skin head and neo-confederate. A Federal Bureau of Investigation document on domestic threats notes that “white supremacy extremists specifically target racial, ethnic, and religious minorities; the federal government; and in some instances, even each other. Their tactics include assault, murder, threats and intimidation, and bombing.”

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics data obtained from interviews with victims, the number of hate crimes has remained fairly constant over the past decade between an astronomical 200,000 and 300,000 per year. Their statistics reveal the vast majority are perpetrated against Blacks.

Van Jones, political commentator and environmental advocate, told The Final Call he sees a double standard in how the shooter is being handled in comparison to how other communities are handled. Every time a Muslim does something crazy, every Muslim leader has to come out and explain, he said. If Black youth “riot” in Baltimore—every Black leader is expected to apologize and explain, he added. In contrast, he said, when White bikers shoot themselves up; nobody calls them thugs or talk about White on White crime. “White 20-year-old males continue to pull off massacre after massacre and nobody is asking where their fathers are and no White leaders are being asked to explain themselves,” he said.
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“You cannot overcome a demon until you face that demon,” said Mr. Jones. Many leaders refuse to face the demon of racism and it festered to the point of catastrophe at the church, he said.

 “At some point you have to have leaders—and I mean White leaders—who are willing to say we have a problem and ask tough questions of the White community. What are we doing behind our closed doors that leads to our children coming out to do such things?” asked Mr. Jones.

Malik Zulu Shabazz of Black Lawyers for Justice said to move forward and change things there must be a “stirring of the pot” against what he called a conspiracy to keep White supremacy in control of Black people. There is “collaboration between the power structure and a certain class of Blacks who have agreed to cooperate with the power structure,” he said.

There is a strong grip on the local clergy in South Carolina that must be broken, the lawyer said. They are dedicated to keeping the Black population “quiet and obedient” and the people need a lifeline they can’t get from local leadership that has “cut a dirty deal with the devil,” Attorney Shabazz charged.

Meanwhile White domestic terrorism, whether in the form of bullets from police guns or massacres as in Charleston, S.C., America and the Black and Brown victims of the domestic terrorism has reached a juncture of history for Justice … Or Else!

“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said God is going to force the enemy to treat you worse and worse by the day! Every day he is going to treat you more and more evil! So don’t think you’ve run out of hearing about ‘Black suffering’ and ‘Black death and slaughter’—oh, no … It’s going to increase! Increase for what? So that your ‘agreement with hell,’ as Isaiah the Prophet says, ‘will not stand.’ You’ll have to come away from your 400-year-old enemy, and build a nation of your own, or suffer the consequences,” said the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in a June 20 FaceBook posting.