From The Final Call Newspaper

Torrential rains decimate Texas

By Richard B. Muhammad and Charlene Muhammad -Final Call Staffers- | Last updated: Aug 29, 2017 - 1:37:51 PM

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(L) Melani Zurawski cries while inspecting her home in Port Aransas, Texas, on, Aug. 27 (R) Terranysha Ferguson holds her son, Christian Phillips as she sits with the rest of her family at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

Hurricane Harvey unleashed unprecedented rain, causing massive damage in just a three-day span, but the worst was yet to come for Lone Star State.

The terrible Texas storm system began as a tropical wave east of Barbados in the Caribbean gathered strength in the southern area of the Gulf of Mexico and then it struck.

Friends Franklin Halloween, 16, left, and Deleon Gambel, 14, fight the current from the overflow of Buffalo Bayou as they make their way through floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey while checking on neighbors in their apartment complex in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27. (Bottom) A flooded residential neighborhood in Southeast Houston, TX. Photo: MGN Online
It stalled over Houston for about 24 hours as a Category 3 Hurricane before hitting landfall, and then Aug. 25, Harvey was upgraded to a Category 4 and pummeled the city of Rockport, Texas with 130 mph winds.

Eight people died, according to reports, as Harvey dumped trillions of gallons of rain on Houston and other parts of the state and region. Meteorologists predicted rainfall would reach 50 inches or higher at Final Call presstime.

“You have to keep in mind that flooding is not abnormal in the Houston area, but this storm lingered over this area for so long that it spawned tornadoes that impacted parts of Missouri City and the surrounding areas, and the flooding that came, dropping gallons and gallons of rain,” said Jeffrey Boney, councilman-elect of Missouri City, Texas’ District B and associate editor of the Houston Forward Times.

In three days, Houston received the amount of rain it typically gets in a year and Harvey visited Austin, San Antonio, Central Texas, and moved further northeast and to the east, he stated.

“It was surreal in a couple of instances, just thinking about where do you go?  But you have no other place to go but back home and sit put and wait it out and pray and hope for the best,” Mr. Boney told The Final Call. 

“What makes this unprecedented is that it is not a 100 year, 500 year, but a 1,000-year flood event, which is to say that it is unprecedented because it goes beyond any records that have been measured in modern times,” said Dr. Abdul Haleem Muhammad, an urban planner, environmental consultant, and Nation of Islam student minister for the Southwest Region. He is based in Houston.

Harvey’s devastating floods poured into the nation’s fourth-largest city and rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground and overwhelmed rescuers who could not keep up with the constant calls for help.
A damaged car sits outside a heavily damaged apartment complex in Rockport, Texas, after Hurricane Harvey struck the area, Aug. 26.

The incessant rain covered much of Houston in turbid, gray-green water and turned streets into rivers navigable only by boat. In a rescue effort that recalled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, helicopters landed near flooded freeways, airboats buzzed across submerged neighborhoods and high-water vehicles plowed through water-logged intersections. Some people managed with kayaks or canoes or swam.

Volunteers joined emergency teams to pull people from their homes or from the water, which was high enough in places to gush into second floors. They urged people to get on top of their houses to avoid becoming trapped in attics and to wave sheets or towels to draw attention to their location.

Residents living around the Addicks and Barker reservoirs designed to help prevent flooding in downtown Houston, were warned that a controlled release from both reservoirs would cause additional street flooding and could spill into homes. Rising water levels and continuing rain was putting pressure on the dams that could cause a failure without the release.

Massive sinkhole in Rosenberg Texas. (Bottom) This man is a preacher checking for people inside cars at Interstate 610 and 288. Photo: MGN Online
The Army Corps of Engineers early Aug. 28 started the water releases at the reservoirs ahead of schedule after water levels increased dramatically in a few hours’ time, a Corps spokesman said.

The timetable was moved up to prevent more homes from being affected by flooding from the reservoirs, Corps spokesman Jay Townsend said. He added that water levels were rising at a rate of more than six inches per hour in both reservoirs.

Meanwhile, officials in Fort Bend County, Houston’s southwestern suburbs, issued widespread mandatory evacuation orders along the Brazos River levee districts.

County Judge Robert Herbert said at a news conference that National Weather Service officials were calling it an “800-year-flood level.” Judge Herbert said that amount of water would top the levees and carries a threat of levee failure.

Judging from federal disaster declarations, the storm early on affected about a quarter of the Texas population, or 6.8 million people in 18 counties. Some 50 counties  were declared state disaster areas.
“The breadth and intensity of this rainfall is beyond anything experienced before,” the National Weather Service said in a statement.

The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, predicted that the aftermath of the storm would require FEMA’s involvement for years.

Neri Sanchez cries as she hugs her grandson, Jonathan Sanchez, 1, after being reunited at a rescue boat pickup area along Edgebrook, Texas, Aug. 27.
“This disaster’s going to be a landmark event,” Mr. Long said.

Rescuers had to give top priority to life-and-death situations, leaving many affected families to fend for themselves. And several hospitals in the Houston area were evacuated due to the rising waters.

It was not clear how many people were plucked from the floodwaters. Up to 1,200 people had to be rescued in Galveston County alone, said Mark Henry, the county judge, the county’s top administrative post.

Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center was quickly opened as a shelter. It was also used as a shelter for Katrina refugees in 2005.

Gillis Leho arrived there soaking wet. She said she awoke to find her downstairs flooded. She tried to move some belongings upstairs, then grabbed her grandchildren.

“When they told us the current was getting high, we had to bust a window to get out,” Ms. Leho said.

Some people used inflatable beach toys, rubber rafts and even air mattresses to get through the water to safety. Others waded while carrying trash bags stuffed with their belongings and small animals in picnic coolers.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said authorities had received more than 2,000 calls for help, with more coming in. He urged drivers to stay off roads to avoid adding to the number of those stranded.
The deteriorating situation was bound to provoke questions about the conflicting advice given by the governor and Houston leaders before the hurricane. Gov. Greg Abbott urged people to flee from Harvey’s path, but the Houston mayor issued no evacuation orders and told everyone to stay home.
The governor Aug.  27 refused to point fingers.

“Now is not the time to second-guess the decisions that were made,” Gov. Abbott, a Republican, said at a news conference in Austin. “What’s important is that everybody work together to ensure that we are going to, first, save lives and, second, help people across the state rebuild.”

The mayor, a Democrat, defended his decision, saying there was no way to know which parts of the city were most vulnerable.

“If you think the situation right now is bad, and you give an order to evacuate, you are creating a nightmare,” Mayor Turner said, citing the risks of sending the city’s 2.3 million inhabitants onto the highways at the same time.

The Coast Guard deployed five helicopters and asked for additional aircraft from New Orleans.
The White House announced that President Donald Trump would visit Texas on Aug. 29. He met by teleconference with top administration officials to discuss federal support for response and recovery efforts.

Harvey was the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961’s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.
Evacuees wade down a flooded section of Interstate 610 as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise, Aug. 27, 2017, in Houston. The remnants of Hurricane Harvey sent devastating floods pouring into Houston as rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground.

A new normal for disasters?
“There is a reality that we have to come to grips with, and that is we are just beginning the process of responding to this storm,” said Gov. Abbott during an August 28 press conference from Corpus Christi, Texas.

“We need to recognize that this is going to be a new normal, a new and different normal for this entire region, but we will not stop until we get as far as we can,” Gov. Abbott said.

President Trump declared a state of emergency in Louisiana on Aug. 28, and pledged the government’s full support. He said recovery will be a long and difficult road, and nothing can defeat the unbreakable spirit of people in those states.

He asked for God’s wisdom and strength.

“We will get through this. We will come out stronger, and believe me, we will be bigger, better, stronger than ever before,” President Trump said during a press conference.

Fulfilling prophecy?
Harvey has been called a landmark event, storm of the century, and its aftermath “like a war zone.”
But Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan has continually warned President Trump that Almighty God Allah would use natural disasters to cripple America. He issued such a warning a week before Harvey struck.  “Let me tell you what my teacher told me,” said the Minister speaking Aug. 20 at Mosque Maryam in Chicago. “Whether you know it or not, America is a preserved area: No bomb is going to fall here, because the God has you here—and the White man knows he’s keeping you a hostage, because God is after you.  … 

I want to say something to the president of the United States, Mr. Donald J. Trump.  I would advise him, from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.”

“Brothers and sisters, Kim Jong-Un may get a nuclear warhead to put on his ballistic missile, but the God won’t let it come here. You are God’s people.  He said this area is preserved for Him; He is going to take your enemy out in His way. He said America is ‘No. 1’ on His list to be destroyed.  I didn’t say it.  God said it, so says the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.  ‘Well how are You gonna do it, God?’  He (God) said, ‘Well, he doesn’t have any defense against the force of nature.’ Allah is going to use the wind, the rain, the tornadoes, the hurricane, the fire, hail, sleet, snow. He’s whipping America bad. 

“Mr. Trump: The God is after America for her evils done to His people.  You have a chance to relieve yourself of some of the heaviness of the Judgment that is against you by letting my people go.”

“Don’t you ever laugh when you see nature doing its work under the direction of the God that I’m talking to you about,” instructed Min. Farrakhan, as he waved his index finger during his keynote address at the Family Summit Conference in Atlanta on Aug. 29.

“But our teacher Elijah Muhammad named four great judgments that will come against America and the first one was unusual rain!  Unusual snow.  Unusual hail.  Unusual earthquakes,” Min. Farrakhan continued.
Michael Thomas and his brother Deeantre try to collect belongings in their Saltgrass Landing apartment complex, destroyed by Hurricane Harvey, in Rockport, Texas, Aug. 26. Photos: AP/Wide World photos

“Is God angry?” he asked.  “I said to Mr. Trump that America is a preserved area, according to our teacher.  No bomb from a foreign government is going to fall here, according to what the Messenger taught me, but this area is preserved for God.”

“All of us talk about God, even if we don’t believe in him, but God desires to make himself known to us by doing something that no one else could do but he, himself, so that the scripture might be fulfilled:  Every knee will bow, and every tongue will be forced to confess that Allah is God,” Min. Farrakhan continued.

In his enlightening book, “The Fall of America,” Elijah Muhammad devotes a chapter to the “Four Great Judgments of America.” “To be plagued with too much rain will destroy property and lives. It swells the rivers and creeks. Too much rain floods cities and towns. Large bodies of water at the ocean shore lines will be made to swell with unusually high waves, dumping billions of tons of water over the now seashore line,” he wrote.

“Rain destroys property and kills cattle by drowning them in low lands. Rain destroys the hiding places of vicious beasts and reptiles bringing them out fighting in small towns in peoples’ homes and farms.

“Rain weakens and destroys railroads, truck line beds and bridges. Rain undermines foundations of all types of buildings. Rain makes the atmosphere too heavy with moisture causing sickness. Wind with rain can bring destruction to towns and cities, bringing various germs, causing sickness to the people. It produces unclean water by the swelling of streams and destroying reservoirs of pure drinking water used for the health of the people. Rain is a destructive army within itself.”

He also warned, “God, in the Person of Master Fard Muhammad, will not be defeated. The more evil, deceiving, tricking and making of false promises to the American so-called Negro only increases America’s divine chastisement—doom.”

“But God has chosen us to be His people, and He delights in fighting the enemy. According to the history of the former people, He delighted Himself by going forth against them when they exceeded the limit. So it is with America,” he wrote. “They must be separated. America will not agree to see the Negro separated from her until she has suffered divine punishment, as Pharaoh suffered. The same thing that other evil nations suffered before them is now coming upon this people.” “The Fall of America” was published in 1973.

Dynamic situation
Some  8,000 people were in shelters in Houston alone at Final Call  presstime, officials said. They asked for donations  of money, food, clothing and medical supplies.

The task is to now ensure aid reaches those in need, Mr. Boney said, noting that many plaintiff’s attorneys and consumer watch dog groups are urging disaster victims to file written notices of insurance claims before new Texas law which they argue restricts homeowners’ protections (House Bill 1774) takes effect on September 1.

Meanwhile, develop strategies for survival, particularly Blacks, who lack money and resources to evacuate, said Mr. Boney.

Callers have overloaded the 911 system, with 75,000 calls processed on August 28, down from 220,000 the day before. 

A long road to recovery
Roughly 8,500 FEMA agents have been dispatched to the region, 1,100 of them performing search and rescue missions, according to the FEMA administrator.

Gov. Abbott has deployed all 12,000 Texas National Guard members to help maintain public safety. Four people attempted looting, but have been arrested.

Some have questioned why some negatively targeted Mayor Turner alone, and not other officials who acted similarly.

“People have begun finger pointing, but there’s no need to point the finger.  If you’re going  to point the finger, point the finger at the Son of Man, because he is the one that brings rain, hail, snow and earthquakes,” said Dr. Muhammad.

There are also questions about how the GOP-controlled Congress will handle requests for  disaster aid and whether the will be budget fights and demands for cuts to offset increases in disaster funding.   
Far reaching implications
The Texas Gulf Coast is home to nearly one-third of U.S. refining capacity, and the U.S. Gulf of Mexico accounts for nearly 20 percent of total U.S. crude oil production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The American Automobile Association reported that gas prices shot up across the country as Hurricane Harvey blasted Texas.

“At $2.37, today’s national gas price average is four cents more expensive on the week and one of the largest one-week national gas prices surge seen this summer,” AAA stated on its web page Aug. 28.
About one quarter of oil refining capacity in the Gulf Coast had been taken offline, reported AAA, according to forecasts by Oil Price Information Service. That equals about 2.5 million barrels per day. AAA said Harvey also caused eight refineries in Texas to shut  down.

“For the rest of America, this is the lull before the storm, and we need to make note of what’s happening in Houston, because you’re gas price is about to go up,” Dr. Muhammad said.  “While you’re praying for Houston, pray for yourself,” he advised.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Final Call Newspaper

A White House meltdown? - Fallout from Charlottesville, infighting, racial divide dog Mr. Trump

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Aug 22, 2017 - 1:56:31 PM

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WASHINGTON—A primetime address on continued U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and a rally planned in Phoenix, Arizona, did not serve as a distraction from the latest fallout from what could be described as  a presidential administration meltdown.

After a tumultuous two-and-a-half weeks out of town, while the White House underwent major renovations President Donald J. Trump returned to Washington Aug. 20 after what might have been his worst week in office, less than a month after his previous worst week in office.
On top of more chaotic turnover among his White House staff including the ouster of controversial chief strategist Steve Bannon; the lowest approval rating of any president so early in his term; public scorn for his wrong-headed comments about violence and race hatred among his supporters in Charlottesville, Virginia; Mr. Trump has been subjected to disapproval from members of his own party in the Senate.

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)
“The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters in Chattanooga, Aug. 17, according to a video posted by local news website There must be “radical changes” within the White House in order for this president to be successful, he said after the president’s widely criticized comments about racially motivated protests in Charlottesville.

“He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great and what it is today, and he’s got to demonstrate the characteristics of a president who understands that,” Sen. Corker added. Another senate Republican agrees. He’s Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the only Black GOP member of the body.

“It’s going to be very difficult for this president to lead if, in fact, his moral authority remains compromised,” the South Carolina senator said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“He needs to hear something from folks who have gone through this painful history,” Sen. Scott said concerning the backlash Mr. Trump received after the Virginia incidents. “Without this personal connection to this painful past, it will be hard for him to regain that moral authority.”

First shot in the circular firing squad, attacking two other Republican Senators: Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Jeff Flake of Arizona; on Twitter over their criticisms of him.

The turmoil is reminiscent of frequent pre and post-election warnings by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam of what the election of Mr. Trump portends for America.
God put Mr. Trump in power, the Muslim leader told a standing room only audience at Chicago’s Mosque Maryam Aug. 20.

“I know you didn’t want Trump. I didn’t either.  But I said some words …  When I was on Cliff Kelley’s show, I said: ‘If you all vote for Trump, he will have you on a rocket ship to hell.’ The ride is getting a little rough …  But let me tell you something, if you don’t know God, you don’t see God’s hand,” said Min. Farrakhan during the address that was broadcast globally via internet.

“You say, ‘How could God ever put that White man in there that’s ruining everything?’  Did you ever stop to think that that’s his job?” the Minister continued. During his message Min. Farrakhan pointed out how Mr. Trump addressed Blacks during his campaign, his appointment of General James “Mad Dog” Mattis as Secretary of Defense and other cabinet appointments.

“Notice the shake up all in the government?  Have you ever, ever seen White folks so confused?  Well, can’t you see?  That’s bringing the man’s house down!  The scripture teaches, ‘If Satan casts out Satan, how then can his kingdom stand?’”

Bannon, White Supremacy and more fallout
This latest unraveling of the Trump administration, its agenda, its inner circle amounts to “Meltdown 2.0” just seven months into the president’s term. With the exception of Vice President Mike Pence, who is, like the president, elected to a four-year term, every other member of Mr. Trump’s White House inner-circle—National Security Adviser Michael Flynn; Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh; Communications Director Mike Dubke; Press Secretary Sean Spicer; Chief of Staff Reince Priebus; Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci; and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon—have all left the administration.

But even with the departure of Mr. Bannon, who immediately rejoined Brietbart, a right-wing media website, it remains to be seen what if anything will change in the Trump administration.

“Steve Bannon has unquestionably been a driving force behind the racial turmoil that threatens to tear this country apart. Such a divisive figure has no place in the White House. While it is appropriate that Steve Bannon go, his departure is not enough,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in a statement released the day Mr. Bannon left the White House. There are conflicting reports on whether he resigned or was fired.
Steve Bannon

The NAACP issued a statement expressing its pleasure at seeing Mr. Bannon gone.

“The NAACP is glad to see Steve Bannon out of the White House,” said Derrick Johnson, interim president and CEO of the NAACP in a statement. “Ousting one key staffer, however, can’t erase the words used by President Trump this week in defense of domestic terrorists, neo-Nazis and White supremacists. President Trump provided permission for these hate groups to exist,” the statement continued in part.

The ousters at the White House, taken together, amount to a Trump purge, wrote Domencio Montanaro in an article on  “It’s the president asserting himself and saying no one is above No. 1,” he wrote in an article titled, “What Trump’s Increasing Isolation Could Mean For His Presidency.”

“Re-election is still 39 months away. Until then, aides in the White House can have significant influence in how to shape White House policy and messaging. It’s hard to see how getting rid of all of them will make things easier for Trump,” Mr. Montanaro continued, before adding that Bannon’s exit could mean less chaos in the White House, but more outside.

“After news of Bannon’s exit, Breitbart editor Joel Pollak tweeted simply, #WAR. And a headline on Breitbart’s site was: “WITH STEVE BANNON GONE, DONALD TRUMP RISKS BECOMING ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER 2.0.”

Critics of the president also pointed to his scheduled Aug. 22 rally in Phoenix with precaution.
Organizers of a protest against the president as he prepared to visit Phoenix said they were expecting several outside groups to join. According to the Associated Press, Carlos Garcia of Puente, Arizona said protesters would meet the day of the rally around 4 p.m. and march from a downtown park to the Phoenix Convention Center, where Trump was scheduled to hold a rally at 7 p.m.

Immigrant rights activists have protested Mr. Trump’s several Arizona visits, at one point blocking a major road that led to a rally he held in Fountain Hills, a Phoenix suburb. The groups oppose Trump pardoning former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of misdemeanor contempt-of-court this year. Mr. Trump told Fox News he was seriously considering a pardon.

Staff turnover and Arpaio are still not the only things dogging Mr. Trump. Even two voluntary corporate panels were dismantled after several Fortune 500 CEOs resigned; then members of an arts council resigned in mass; and the president chose to become the first president ever, to not participate in the John F. Kennedy Center Awards for outstanding U.S. artists. Mr. Trump said it would  permit the artists to celebrate their honors without politics distracting from the award presentation. Three of those recipients had announced they would not attend a Trump hosted reception in their honor.
President Trump’s unpopular stance on the violence in Charlottesville caused his approval ratings to fall to an all-time low. Photo: MGN Online

Virginia after the violent clashes that resulted in the death of Heather Heyer Photo: MGN Online

Another un-forced error committed by Mr. Trump was his defense of Confederate monuments; his kind words about the neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members; and his statements equating the behavior of anti-racist counter-protestors with that of armed Klansmen and neo-Nazis, whose violent attacks left Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer dead after an alledged neo-Nazi sympathizer ran into a crowd with his car.

This led to Mr. Trump’s approval ratings dropping below the all-time low reached during the previous White House meltdown, when the Republican-controlled Senate refused to pass “Trumpcare,” the President’s signature campaign promise to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), as Mr. Trump seemed to attempt to manipulate an FBI investigation into possible collusion with Russian operatives by the Trump 2016 election campaign.

Meanwhile another battle is brewing and is on the horizon in opposition to the administration.
Heather Heyer

“The August recess isn’t over yet, but progressive organizations are using the time to mobilize against looming Republican plans—spearheaded by the Trump administration in the White House and by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in Congress—to give corporations and the nation’s wealthiest individuals massive tax cuts while putting services and social programs on the chopping block,” reports Common Dreams.

“Side-by-side, there’s no denying it: Trump’s draconian cuts to services that will harm working families are intended to pay for his massive tax giveaways to big corporations and the wealthy. Helping the American people understand what’s at stake is how we will win the tax fight,” noted Jon Queally in the article, “Progressive armies mobilize against GOP tax cuts for Corporations and wealthy,” on And, in another area of concern, the Secret Service, the agency charged with among other duties, the protection, safety and security of the president and his family, is running low on funds to perform those tasks.

“The Secret Service can no longer pay hundreds of agents it needs to carry out an expanded protective mission— in large part due to the sheer size of President Trump’s family and efforts necessary to secure their multiple residences up and down the East Coast,” reported USA Today on Aug. 21. More than 1,000 agents have reportedly already hit the federally mandated caps for salary and overtime allowances, meant to last the entire year, the newspaper reported.

What does the future hold?
The continued uncertainties and fears of what’s next with the Trump administration lurks in the mind of concerned citizens. Lavon Pettis, a community outreach and engagement specialist in Chicago said, “People are both laughing, but they are also horrified and scared by Trump. Because he sounds like a cartoon super villain,” she said.

“The situation in Charlottesville, Virginia. is pretty embarrassing for America and people are very agitated by this situation.  Most people are on high alert because Trump is such a live wire.  We have no idea what can happen and what Trump is doing, and what type of chaos this can lead to in the future.  Marginalized groups are impacted by trauma from police brutality, mass deportation, economic uncertainties, and human rights violations that are dismantling the social fabric and core of American communities,” she added.

There have been calls for Mr. Trump’s impeachment, but that will not make everything suddenly alright, noted activist and Patheos blogger Hakeem Muhammad.

 “White supremacy cannot be eradicated by impeaching Trump. It is time to correct our analysis. Don’t be duped by these big time White supremacist politicians condemning their small time White supremacists’ counterparts, White supremacy is White supremacy,” he told The Final Call.
Public sentiment toward Mr. Trump continues to echo a divide. When it comes to the direction of the country, the latest Rasmussen poll reported 30 percent said the country is headed in the right direction compared to 64 percent in the wrong direction. Rasmussen also reported 42 percent approval rating for Mr. Trump versus 57 that disapproved. A Gallup poll noted an approval rating of 35 percent compared to 59 percent disapproval. 

Although he is still popular among Republicans, his key constituency, his job performance rating has dropped among strong Republicans from 91 percent in June to 79 percent now, according to a Marist Poll released in mid-August.

A majority, 62 percent, of the 1,009 U.S. residents polled think the president’s decisions overall have weakened the role of the United States on the world stage. Mr. Trump’s recent “manufactured crisis” over North Korean missile tests has also raised anxiety at home and among U.S. allies.
But there will be no foreign bombs landing in this country, Min. Farrakhan declared. “The United States is a preserved territory,” for God Himself. “The more you can delay the (impending) war, the better it will be for you,” he said.

“God is after America for the evils done to His people,” the Muslim leader said in a direct warning to the president. “You have a chance to lessen your punishment by letting My people go.”
(Nisa Islam Muhammad, J.A. Salaam and Final Call staff contributed to this report.)

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.)

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.)

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.