From The Final Call Newspaper

No safe haven? The problems of domestic abuse, sexual exploitation during Covid-19 pandemic

By Charlene Muhammad National Correspondent @sischarlene

Many cities across the U.S. implemented stay-at-home orders to offer protection during the global coronavirus pandemic. But homes have not been safe for Black women suffering domestic violence or subjected to sexual harassment or exploitation.

Not only have they endured abuse, but with courts and services shut down, many fear there isn’t much help available, said advocates.

Detectives in Vallejo, Calif., said 50-year-old Raymond Jackson shot and killed his 53-year-old girlfriend and her 14-year-old daughter before turning the gun on himself in a double-murder-suicide. All three were Black. Mr. Jackson was living with his girlfriend at the time of the incident, police told The Final Call.

Her 12-year-old daughter was able to escape, according to police, who say Mr. Jackson was previously arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence and was legally prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Domestic violence was the number one topic on recent calls with San Francisco’s District Attorney Advisory Board and the Mothers in Charge advocacy group, according to Mattie Scott, a Bay Area-based victims’ rights and anti-gun activist.

“One mother on the call said she’s listening out, because she knows reports have gone up. But right now, it’s so quiet, you can’t really hear anything,” said Ms. Scott.

“Usually, it’s so loud, everybody could hear when something’s happening, but that’s even scarier (now) because you don’t know what’s going on in folks’ homes, if they’re alive or not. So, people are doing phone calls and check-ins. We are highly concerned about that and the fact that they’re not coming in for their normal meetings because of the shutdown,” she added.

Domestic violence-related tragedy has also struck close to home for Ms. Scott. Her family is mourning the death of a young relative. The mother of a three-year-old and her mother were shot by an ex-boyfriend after she’d ended a relationship when he became abusive, according to Ms. Scott.

“Because of that, people are scared! They are afraid to speak out,” she said.

Numbers vary but need for help is great

Service providers in the District of Columbia saw an initial uptick in calls for help and support, and crisis response teams have spent longer times on calls, according to Andrea Gleaves, strategic partnerships manager for the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Those reaching out for help need additional time and support to talk about what is happening, including their personal safety in this uncertain time, she explained.

“It’s really difficult at this point to have a really clear picture of how many calls and what the increase looks like and who is it impacting most. But we know from previous natural disasters and other sorts of public health emergencies that it’s not unusual for survivors to wait until after a crisis is over before they reach out for help,” Ms. Gleaves said.

Not all of the news, however, is bad and stats and circumstances vary depending on the place or part of the country.

Jan Christiansen, executive director of the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, believes the state’s community-based shelters and programs have done an amazing job in figuring out how to keep their doors open and quarantine people if needed.

Shelters are using hotels, the FaceTime video call application and even collecting information during food deliveries, she explained.

While some agencies across the country chart a rise in domestic violence through increased hotline calls and requests at shelters, advocates said few survivors were willing to speak to media for fear for their lives.

Josh Rubenstein of the Los Angeles police department could not offer specific numbers about increased domestic violence incidents. But, he said, calls for service were not only up for LAPD, but advocates were also seeing increased hotline calls.

In Los Angeles, existing emergency protective orders have been extended from one week to 30 days due to the pandemic, and law enforcement officials launched a “Behind Closed Doors” campaign asking people to report suspected domestic, elder and child abuse.

It asks delivery personnel, home repair workers, neighbors, family and friends to text or call 911 if they believe someone needs help. Grocery stores distribute posters which include free hotline numbers, shelter information and legal resources available to domestic violence victims.

In the Big Apple, the police department is taking reports and checking on New Yorkers in all five boroughs through phone calls instead of face-to-face visits, while sharing safety plans and code words to communicate with anyone facing danger.

Domestic violence has progressively declined since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and protections put in place with New York’s state of emergency declaration, said a police spokesperson.

Since the beginning of the year through March 31, domestic violence reports dropped to 2,809 from 2,826, and fell to 902 cases from 1,065 for March 2020 compared to March 2019, the NYPD spokesperson reported.

“New York City has seen a reduction in overall domestic violence complaints in April, though our NYPD leaders remain concerned that these figures reflect underreporting by victims,” she added.

Physical abuse from lovers or loved ones is not the only concern during the pandemic. Black women are also dealing with unscrupulous landlords. One suburban New York activist said many of her clients have been sexually pressured.

“He tells you if you’re short or something on your rent, meet him down in his office. And if you do give him sexual favors, all he’s gonna give you is $40 off your rent,” she told The Final Call.

“This is happening right today, during coronavirus! One girl I know, she pays $1,200. She has a studio, four children in this studio, and two of her kids suffer from autism, and her apartment is a mess. No doors on the bathroom, roaches, bed bugs, and he knows this is going on, and the social service system, they’re not on our side,” she complained.

This landlord has been known to assault tenants, she continued.

“He’s actually broken a tenant’s arm … broke her arm because she filed a complaint against him,” she said.

The activist asked not to be identified. While people need to be held accountable across the board and she’s compelled to speak out, she is also worried about retaliation.

“If we complain … where does she take her children? But it’s not just her! It’s all of us who live in this community, because we live in a very low income area, and that’s the Black women, so I can imagine what he’s doing to the Hispanic and undocumented that live in this building,” she continued.

There have been other reports of landlords offering to forgive rent payments in exchange for sex. The practice is illegal.

An eviction moratorium on some federally supported housing programs was included in the multi-billion dollar bipartisan federal CARES Act signed by President Donald Trump. It expires July 24, 2020.

The moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent and fees and related penalties applies to all tenants under the federal low-income housing programs like Section 8 or project-based vouchers, and programs administered by the Office of Public and Indian Housing. It doesn’t matter if employment was affected by Covid-19, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Any rent missed will still be due at the end of the eviction ban. Renters must also sign a repayment agreement.

The Trump Administration and Coronavirus Task Force also authorized the Federal Housing Administration to implement an immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium for homeowners with federally-insured single family, reverse mortgage, and direct home mortgages until the end of April.

The moratorium applies to all properties with a federally insured mortgage, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and properties covered by the Violence Against Women Act, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council.

Nearly 40 states, commonwealths and territories have moratoriums on Covid-19 evictions, according to research led by Emily Benfer, visiting associate professor at Columbia Law School. Tenants may access a map of eviction moratoriums, which is updated daily, at Evictions provisions vary by state.

Generally, landlords issue eviction notices, file lawsuits with courts, courts hold hearings, issue rulings, and sheriffs physically remove tenants who lose their cases. Few states cover all five stages despite the moratoriums.

New York has extended its moratorium until August 20, banned late fees and missed payment fees during that time period, and issued stays on orders or judgments.

The federal moratorium does not apply to eviction proceedings in process before Covid-19.

Los Angeles County expanded its rent freeze and eviction moratorium to cover all residential and commercial tenants in the county, except in cities that have already enacted their own policies.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed banned all residential evictions until July 22, except for those due to violence, threats of violence, or health and safety issues.

Oakland’s moratorium on evictions and rent increases above 3.5 percent during the crisis is set to end on May 31.

Evictions in the District of Columbia have been stayed until May 15, according to D.C. courts.

America under ‘house arrest’

“The entire nation is virtually under house arrest. As a result of that, many people

Student Minister Ava Muhammad

have undergone dramatic changes in their way of life that we don’t see through mainstream media,” stated Student Minister Ava Muhammad, national spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.

People are generally seeing visual images of the upper middle class to wealthy, who have the space, environment, and ability to satisfy the need for privacy, she said. They can retreat to swimming pools, basketball courts, and in-home gymnasiums, but most of the U.S. population doesn’t live like that, particularly Blacks, she observed.

Prior to Covid-19 stay home orders Blacks were often living in spaces inadequate for the number of people who stayed there, Dr. Muhammad noted. And, she continued, many deliberately stayed out all day or night to distance themselves from conflict and a lack of comfort in their apartments or homes.

“The problem is there’s been an environment created where there’s almost no relief because you’re not allowed to be outside unless you’re en route to a supermarket, a pharmacy or some ‘essential service’ and even then, not everyone has private transportation to do so,” she said.

Other people in domestic violence situations before the pandemic may have felt it was manageable, but things escalated with the virus, said Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis, an L.A.-based psychologist.

The abuser may now have the ability to restrict the movement of victims, she explained.

“This person may know all of their contacts. This person may not really let them out of their sight with all the surveillance, not to mention the psychological bondage, where they break the victim down so that emotionally, they don’t feel capable,” she explained.

Women who feel able to seek help or leave are confronted with challenges of finding somewhere to live in the middle of a crisis, Ms. Bryant-Davis said. There is the challenge of fleeing an offender and uncertainty about where to go, she said.

“Any form of abuse, mistreatment, disrespect is not love. Even the stress of the virus or if your partner was laid off, or whatever they’re facing still does not make it excusable or okay,” said Ms. Bryant-Davis.

Sadiyah Karriem, a Houston-based criminal attorney and advocate, has found that despite the abuse and having no place to go themselves, women often don’t want to put their husbands or significant others out.

The women fear there is no place for the abuser to go outside of jail, she said.

Domestic violence victims in Houston can press charges, but abusers will just be released due to efforts to keep jail populations down to avoid the spread of Covid-19, the lawyer added.

“Victims’ rights are really down because of the stay at home orders so people feel mentally that they’re forced to stay with the abuser. Children are suffering most, due to added stressors on parents, but no one’s really talking about that,” said Atty. Karriem.

“Our arrest and detention policies regarding those charged with domestic violence haven’t changed during the pandemic,” countered Jason Spencer, a spokesman for the Harris County, Texas Sheriff’s Department. Houston is in Harris County.

“We definitely respond to domestic violence calls and make arrests when we have probable cause,” he said.

Harris County Sheriff’s Department statistics indicate domestic violence calls shot up nearly 20 percent in March (1,558 calls) compared to an overall 10.28 percent decrease between January and February.

Police policy in the City of Angles hasn’t changed either, according to Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore.

“However, the courts have specifically changed the bail policy, and those that are kept in custody, and that has impacted persons who are being held, accused of domestic violence,” he admitted. “It has resulted in a number of their release, and in other instances, early release from sentences,” Chief Moore told The Final Call during a Covid-19 update call with Black community leaders and media.

Chief Moore said he’s deeply concerned about the release of some who were in custody on charges of domestic violence driven by changes to the bail policy and shortened sentences to downsize jail populations.

Police are taking steps to warn victims of perpetrators’ early release, he said.
And, Chief Moore added, through philanthropic agencies, Los Angeles has been able to increase the number of domestic violence shelters by 50 percent.

Those needing shelter or services available through Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Project Safe Haven’s Covid-19 Emergency Shelter and Support Services can call several hotlines.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), connects callers to over 5,000 shelters and service providers across the country. The hotline also helps with protective orders, counseling, support groups, legal help, and more.

From The Final Call Newspaper

'We're never safe': Cop killing of woman in her home, mob actions reminders of fragility of Black life, say analysts

By Brian E. Muhammad, Anisah Muhammad and J.A. Salaam The Final Call @TheFinalCall

A police shooting in Kentucky and vigilantes in Georgia and North Carolina once again exposed how fragile Black life remains in America and the New South.

The family of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old aspiring nurse and EMT in Louisville, Ky., have filed a personal injury and wrongful death suit against police officers with the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department in what lawyers called a botched raid on her home.

The family is charging battery, wrongful death, excessive force, and gross negligence and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Ms. Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, filed the suit in late April against three officers involved.

“The actions of the Defendant officers were made in bad faith, were performed with a corrupt motive, were outside the scope of the Defendants’ authority, were executed willfully and with the intent to harm, and were in violation of Breonna’s constitutional and statutory rights,” the lawsuit alleges.

Calls from The Final Call to the Louisville police department for responses went unanswered.

Ms. Taylor was gunned down in her own home in what family attorneys say was a “no knock” police raid at 12:30 a.m. at the wrong address.

“Police alleged that they knocked,” Lolita Baker, a Taylor family attorney told The Final Call. “Neighbors, however, indicate that they didn’t hear police officers make an announcement,” she added.

The cops, who were in plainclothes, used a battering ram to bust into the apartment, Attorney Baker said. Breonna and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, 27, thought they were being burglarized. Mr. Walker, a licensed gun owner, responded to the chaotic scene by firing on what he believed to be intruders.

“Her boyfriend fired a shot to protect his home … and hit one of the officers involved. Again, they did not know these were police officers,” said Atty. Baker.

The police returned fire with about 20-30 shots, eight bullets fatally struck Breonna.

Mr. Walker was arrested and charged with first-degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer, but was later placed on home confinement by a judge.

The lawsuit said the target of the warrant was someone who was in police custody before the fateful encounter.

“They had the main person that they were trying to get in their custody, so why use a battering ram to bust her door down and then go in there and execute her?” asked civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is also representing Ms. Taylor’s family.

The mantra “Say Her Name” tragically came to the fore again as Ms. Taylor’s family, activists and a sick and tired community grappled with another killing of a Black woman from bullets fired by officers sworn to protect and serve the very people they’re killing.

It was two months before the March 13 killing of Ms. Taylor was brought to national attention.

Momentum is building around the country for justice for Breonna on the heels of other cases where Black lives were brutally taken, including the killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Ga., by a White father and son. Gregory McMichael, 64, and his 34-year-old son Travis were charged with murder and aggravated assault. Authorities took 74 days to arrest the two, though the killing was widely known.

Mr. Crump said although there were many differences between the cases of Mr. Arbery and Ms. Taylor, neither case immediately attracted widespread attention, despite efforts of activists and family members.

“It seems that there is a pattern where there is a cover-up, then facts come out later,” said Jerald Muhammad, the Nation of Islam representative for Louisville.

Black mother, son terrorized

In Wilmington N.C., armed White men and women terrorized a Black family May 3. The mob knocked on the door of Monica Shepard and her 18-year-old son Dameon, supposedly looking for a missing 15-year-old White girl. It was a volatile situation reminiscent of early to mid-20th century lynch mobs. “I was vulnerable. They had the crowd. They had the weapons. I had nothing,” Ms. Shepard told Associated Press.

“I was standing before a crowd, but I had the faith. I didn’t have any fear for myself, and I think maybe that was displayed in my eyes, because I told them, ‘I don’t care. You’re not coming in my house, period.’ ”

In the aftermath, Jordan Kita, a White New Hanover County deputy-sheriff was arrested and charged in the matter. During the ordeal he was armed, in uniform though off-duty and acting outside the scope of his authority. There were several other armed people and local authorities say enough information exists to make additional arrests. The mob was also at the wrong home.

These are among several cases of White terror perpetrated on Black people either by cops or Whites in recent months, said analysts.

“It’s a reaffirmation of what Black people already knew,” said Dr. Ricky Jones, chair of the Pan African Studies Department at the University of Louisville. “We’re never safe, from taking a jog, to sleeping in our own beds.”

America has never been serious about addressing the reality that Black people are always in danger in this country, he told The Final Call in an interview.

An indicator is the most recent bias crime numbers released by the Justice Department in 2019. Tracking single-bias hate crime incidents for the prior year 57.5 percent were motivated by race and 46.9 percent of the crimes were against Blacks.

“What we’re seeing … is another example of how Black lives can be snatched away, then that death can be ignored on every level of the so-called justice and political system,” said Dr. Jones.

“When these things happen, whether its Ahmaud Arbery or Trayvon Martin or Tamir Rice and now Breonna Taylor, we never know what the outcomes of these cases will be.”

Even when there is video evidence of Black lives being taken, such as the killing of Mr. Arbery, justice is often not visited upon Whites who take those lives.

“In America Black lives don’t matter. To many in America, we’re throwaway people,” said Dr. Jones.

If Black life were valued, he argued, a commitment to thoroughly investigate the wrongful slaughter of Breonna Taylor would not have taken months and public prompting.

“We get a lot of projected symbolism and imagery suggesting that the country has changed, that there is equal opportunity, that whatever Black people suffer is a result of collective Black failure,” said Dr. Jared Ball, professor of communications at Morgan State University in Baltimore and the author of the newly published book, The Myth and Propaganda of Black Buying Power.

“But the reality is that, when we weigh the subtext of the messaging, the subtext of the education in this country and the subtext of commercial media, both liberal and right-wing, Black people are inferior, Black people are deserving of the inequality we suffer and, or Black people are unjustly taking advantage of what White society has produced,” Dr. Ball continued.

He said White America’s class problem and White people being locked out of the economy and put into desperate financial conditions contribute to vigilante, terroristic actions.

As more people suffer and lose jobs due to the Covid-19 crisis, White people will “satisfy that desperation with a return to old fantasies of their superiority,” he said.

Reverend James Woodall, the state president of Georgia’s NAACP chapter, placed the blamed on White supremacy.

“When I say White supremacy, I don’t simply mean a series of biases that ultimately lead to a White person killing a Black person,” he said. “I’m talking about a system and institutions in our country and in our world that continue to allow the kind of racialized terror that continues to go unanswered and unaccounted for.”

He said the country is not too far from the post-reconstruction era of the 1800s, when slave catchers would see Black people in the streets and arrest them, regardless of whether they were free or not.

“That same law is what we have here with the Ahmaud Arbery situation, where a White man who identified himself as a citizen had the authority under the law, in some people’s opinions, at least, to literally arrest a young Black man and assume that he was one, not a citizen, two, a criminal, and three, worthy to be shot to death,” he said.

Rev. Woodall sees the country going to a dark place of terror, violence and war.

“The only thing Black people need to do is live. Because the burden of resolving White supremacy is not on those who are oppressed. The burden of breaking down institutions and destroying systems of White supremacist terrorism is on the oppressor,” he said.

He urged people to not indict the people of Southeast Georgia in the Ahmaud Arbery case because they have worked tirelessly to ensure that justice for Ahmaud becomes reality.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference released a press release on May 7 calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the killing of Mr. Arbery.

In the press release, Dr. Charles Steele, the organization’s president, said Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill and other law enforcement officials who did not act in the best interest of the public must be removed from office.

“We do not need racists or people who cover up the actions of racists in these positions of authority and leadership,” he said. “Racism is no different than the Covid-19 virus. It is contagious, and it is a serious, silent killer in America. We have to eradicate it from our system.”

Dr. Greg Carr, chair of the African American Department at Howard University in D.C., also went back in history to define what is happening and why.

“Any random White person is effectively a deputy police person when it comes to Black people,” he said.

He defined the United States as a “state with nations in it.”

“Out of all the nations in the United States, it’s the White nations that are the least well-defined, because the irony is, in order for there to be a White nation, it has to have something to define itself against. Against the Native American nation. Against the Africans. Because if you take out the Africans, if you take out the Native Americans, the White nation dissolves,” he said.

He said the future of the United States depends on how people who live in it respond to that dissolution.

He mentioned three things Black people should do: study and follow the models of those who have had success in building a post-White world, organize around entities such as the Black church, the Black mosque, the Black school and Masonic organizations, and have faith.

The recent killing of 21-year-old Sean Reed in Indianapolis, Ind., who captured his fate on Facebook live as he fled pursuing officers and jumped out of his vehicle moments after the high speed chase, has made recent headlines.

The officers shot him at least 10 times while he lay on the ground after being tased.

Anthony Shahid, a St. Louis-based activist and veteran of the 2014 Ferguson, Mo., uprising after the police killing of Mike Brown, Jr., said he is hurt and upset at how Blacks are shot down like animals.

“They just kill us for absolutely no reason. They don’t treat us like human beings. There are certain times you can hunt for deer and you can’t shoot deer all year long. You better not get caught shooting their symbol, a bald eagle, you better not!” he noted.

“But, it’s never not a time that they’re not killing Black people. They have to kill us; they don’t need a license to kill us. They don’t need us anymore. We can’t call out racism anymore because they got a law. They are taking our lives, and not apologizing about it. They stand toe to toe and think it’s ok with what they’re doing.”

White fear of becoming extinct

Dr. A. Wayne Jones, a professor and spiritual teacher in St. Louis, said “In the light of the most recently reported incidents of the violent and vicious attacks and murders of Black man jogging and Black woman resting in her home, we must acknowledge that the illusion of legality and indignation against crime be brought into sharp unfiltered focus.

“The rage exhibited by the White perpetrators of these egregious crimes are expressions, not of hate, but of White America’s deep seated fear of Black America’s awakening from its aphasic stupor imposed and induced over the four hundred years straddling 1619 to 2019,” said Dr. Jones.

“This massive loss of employment, livelihood, and social movement has exacerbated the profound reflexive destructiveness that has always been the nature of Whites. Coupled with the realization that by 2050 he will become genetically extinct in that only four percent of his women of childbearing age are fertile, and procreation rates are woefully beneath the 2.1 percent replacement index. He fears his disappearance and is driven to take it out on those he presumes to be the most vulnerable scapegoats. We have awakened, we see the mask fallen,” said Dr. Jones.

“Donald Trump’s rhetoric has been the rocket fuel for hate groups and White supremacists. They are operating on high octane. They are feeling untouchable in the Justice Department,” added Adolphus Pruitt, St. Louis City NAACP president.

“Racial hatred and racial prejudice are deep seated in the fabric of America. While it is alarming, it is not surprising,” said Benjamin F. Chavis, president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. NNPA represents over 200 Black-owned newspapers across the country.

“I think the South is anything South of the Canadian border. The whole country is the South,” said Dr. Chavis.

He was asked if the incidents in Southern cities was indicative of old Southern ways superimposed on a New South image.

“It cannot be a New South until there’s a new America and there will not be a new America until there’s a reaffirmation of a new Black America,” he said.

“There is a history of overt violence on unspeakable levels in the South,” commented Dr. Ava Muhammad, the national spokesperson for Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.

She described the image of a New South as a “veneer of civilization” and “advancement that covers the dark underbelly” of White racism. She pointed to cities like Atlanta, Ga., and Charlotte, N.C., that have the trappings of “so-called more advanced” cities in response to Black people and people of color.

However, “a crisis always brings out the true nature of any living organism,” said Dr. Muhammad. “Because in the quest for survival, you don’t have time for the trappings of socially acceptable behavior. The true you comes out.”

What’s happening now is a manifestation of what has never gone away for Blacks in America, she added.

“You have the ‘ebb and flow,’ the violence is in cycles. A decade here and there of calm, then we’re back to the acute and overt violence again,” Dr. Muhammad observed.

“As Abraham Lincoln said, ‘they suffer from our presence.’ Our presence is a crime in America, and this is why our sister Breonna is dead,” said Dr. Muhammad.

The solution is for Black people to begin acting on the formation of self-contained communities, she continued. Separation if necessary, she argued, because for centuries Whites have been difficult to live with in peace.

“It’s a futile exercise to try and assimilate into White America and live in peace,” said Dr. Ava Muhammad.

She pointed to recent waves of racial killings of the worst kind in Texas, Georgia, Kentucky, and Indiana. “There is no safe haven for us except we have several states of our own,” she said.

“This coronavirus,” Dr. Ava Muhammad added, “as lethal as it is, it pales in comparison to the danger we’re in from White America.”

From The Final Call Newspaper

‘A lynching in the middle of the street’ Arrests of Whites involved in killing of unarmed young, Black male in Brunswick, Ga., is just the beginning in fight for justice
By Bryan 18X Crawford Contributing Writer @Asiatic18X

Stills from video that captures a few moments prior to the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Ga. on Feb. 23. Gregory McMichael and his 34-year-old son Travis were charged with murder and aggravated assault in a shocking encounter that left the young, Black man dead.

Seventy-four days. That’s how long it took for two White men to be arrested for the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Ga. Sixty-four-year-old Gregory McMichael and his 34-year-old son Travis were charged with murder and aggravated assault in a shocking encounter that left another unarmed Black man dead at the hands of White men with firearms.

The arrest May 7 came one day after a video of the incident was leaked to social media; a video that had been in the possession of authorities, but sealed under the excuse that it could not be released due to an ongoing investigation.

When the video began circulating online, it was unclear who recorded it and who released it. And while it’s been speculated that a third witness, William “Roddie” Bryan, is the person who may have filmed Ahmaud’s last moments alive, Alan Tucker, an attorney from Brunswick, admitted to being in possession of the video and releasing it to the public.

In a statement, Atty. Tucker, who isn’t representing anyone involved in this case, explained why he made the decision to leak the controversial and damning video.

“I released the video of the shooting on February 23 in Satilla Shores. There had been very little information provided by the police department or the district attorney’s office, but there was entirely too much speculation, rumor, false narratives, and outright lies surrounding this event,” Mr. Tucker wrote in his statement, adding, “I didn’t release this to ‘show that they did nothing wrong’ as is being circulated … My sole purpose in releasing this video was absolute transparency because my community was being ripped apart by erroneous accusations and assumptions.”

As this case gained national attention in a few days, after months of inaction by local authorities, the video release sparked a new wave of outrage; not just in and around the Brunswick community, but throughout the state of Georgia, and in Black communities around the country tired of seeing Black men and women brutally and senselessly killed by Whites with what feels like impunity.

It seems unthinkable, even in the face of a pandemic, that it would take more than two months to simply make an arrest and file charges in a murder case; particularly because if the roles were reversed. If two armed Black men were accused of following, confronting and killing an unarmed White man, an arrest would have been made and charges would’ve been filed immediately, Blacks said.

Protestors came to the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., with family members and others saying May 8 the arrests weren’t enough and a full probe and justice were needed.

Around the country, the hashtag #IRunWithMaud circulated widely as runners and joggers showed photos of themselves out and about showing support for the young man who ran down a street, was pursued and was shot to death.

“Another huge WIN for #JusticeForAhmaud! At the family’s demand— a special prosecutor will replace Tom Durden the S. GA prosecutor that sat on the case until video of Ahmaud’s murder was leaked. Joyette Holmes is out of @cobbcountygovt. Her office is being reviewed for conflicts,” said Lee Merritt, a lawyer working on the case in a May 11 Twitter post.

A father’s anguish and an old double standard?

“If me and Ahmaud pursued McMichael’s son and killed him, we’d have been arrested on the spot,” said Marcus Arbery, Ahmaud’s father during a virtual press conference. Mr. Arbery added, “And if we’d have gotten away with it [once they found out], they would’ve had police with guns around our house, ready to kill us. It’s just not fair.”

“If the shoe was on the other foot, would this be charged as a hate crime? There’s a lot of people who believe that there are two justice systems in America: one for Black America, and one for White America. We believe that is something that has played out in the history of South Georgia,” said Atty. Benjamin Crump who is representing Marcus Arbery in this case.

“But the bigger question is what is there to consider? You have a video—you have ocular proof—of people hunting a young man while he’s jogging; while he’s exercising. They have a shotgun, and they have a .357 Magnum. What else is there to consider?” Mr. Crump went on to say.

“Stevie Wonder can see that this is not something that should be acceptable in our society; where people can profile individuals based on the color of their skin, and act on that prejudiced thought to say we’re going to be the police … White people cannot take matters into their own hands when they see people of color living, breathing, walking, jogging, or driving.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation made the arrests one day after starting their own investigation at the request of Tom Durden, the third District Attorney to be assigned this case after the first two recused themselves citing a conflict of interest. Since the release of the video and the momentum behind this case has grown, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Ahmaud Arbery was “lynched before our very eyes.”

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said the video of the shooting was, “Absolutely horrific, and Georgians deserve answers.”

Outrage over Ahmaud’s killing

Ahmaud Arbery

Reactions from across the country poured in particularly since the video of Ahmaud’s killing was released. Prominent figures and diverse public figures commented on the shooting.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James posted a picture of Ahmaud on his Twitter account— saying, “We’re literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step foot outside the comfort of our homes!” He sent prayers and blessings to the Arbery family, with the hashtag “Profiled Cause We Are Simply Black.”

Coco Gauff, a 16-year-old professional tennis player, posted a picture of Ahmaud on Twitter, saying, “The violence needs to stop. The profiling and racial injustice needs to stop.”

Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also weighed in, posting this to Twitter: “The men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery must be held accountable and there must be justice for Ahmaud’s family. There is no doubt in my mind that Ahmaud would be alive today if he were white.”

Ciara, Common, Jermaine Dupri, Big Boi and Justin Timberlake were among other celebrities that posted about the case on social media.

Rapper T.I. posted an image to Twitter, with the Liberty County District Attorney’s Office contact information, so more people could call and demand the McMichaels’ be charged.

He captioned it, “IT WONT STOP UNTIL WE STOP IT‼️#USorELSE #JusticeForAhmaud.”

LL Cool J posted the same image, hashtagging it #IrunwithMaud #NotForgotten.

And while the McMichaels are currently in police custody, the call for justice on the ground in Georgia and nationally has grown increasingly louder in the face of not only systemic racism, but the Blue Wall of Silence and the inherent racism of the Deep South.

“That’s the ‘Good ‘Ole Boy Network’ working down there. And the pressure that’s being put on them now is the only reason you’re starting to see them act,” Abdul Sharrieff Muhammad, the Nation of Islam’s Southern Region Representative and minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 15 in Atlanta, told The Final Call. Mr. Muhammad’s grandson lives in the Brunswick area and was friends with Ahmaud.

Gregory McMichael, 64, (left) and Travis McMichael, 34 (right); father and son arrested in connection to the death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed while jogging on a residential street in south Georgia. Photos: MGN Online

“It’s corrupt from the root down there. That’s why they felt they could do that and get away with it,” Min. Sharrieff Muhammad added.

The young, Black members of the Brunswick community, by some accounts, were on the verge of an uprising. They mobilized and began protests that ultimately remained peaceful, but the anger and frustration was palpable.

“Once the video was released, we went from anger, to hurt, to sad, to livid,” Odis Muhammad, who leads a Nation of Islam Study Group in the Brunswick area, told The Final Call. “I had so many of my friends tell me they were afraid because they have 18- and 20-year-old sons, and they didn’t even want to send them to the store anymore out of fear that something like this could happen. This has been a terrorizing experience for Black people in Brunswick. We’re used to hearing about it in Atlanta, or Washington, D.C., or New York. But right here in Brunswick, Ga.? Nobody escapes. This has been a very painful and sad experience.”

A mother mourns her son

Ahmaud Arbery was the youngest of three children born to Wander Cooper. Since her son’s death, she has made the decision to leave the Brunswick area and return to her hometown of Augusta which is three hours to the north. Ms. Cooper says she has not seen the video of her son’s murder and has no plans to ever view it.

“I had Ahmaud on Mother’s Day, 1994. He was the baby of the family, but Ahmaud was his older sister and brother’s keeper. He had such loyalty. His spirit was good. He was the most humble young man you could ever meet. He was very mannerable because that’s the way I raised him. Ahmaud didn’t deserve to go out the way he went out. He did not deserve that at all,” Ms. Cooper said, before adding, “I haven’t seen the video at all. I don’t think I’ll ever reach the mental capacity to ever watch the video. I saw my son come into the world. And seeing him leave the world is not something that I want to see, ever.”

Racial tensions between Black and White in the deep South is interwoven into the fabric of people’s very existence. And in the wake of Ahmaud’s death, those feelings of tension and animosity were brought back in the crudest of ways. It’s worth noting that Gregory McMichael, a former area police officer, was the investigator in 2013 when Ahmaud Arbery was charged with bringing a gun to a high school basketball game that he was later given probation for.

In his letter of recusal to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, George Barnhill, the original prosecutor on this case, wrote, “This family are not strangers to the local criminal justice system. From best we can tell, Ahmaud’s older brother has gone to prison in the past and is currently in the Glynn jail, without bond, awaiting new felony prosecution. It also appears a cousin has been prosecuted by DA [Katherine] Johnson’s office.”

Ahmaud Arbery with his mother, Wanda Cooper.

Mr. Barnhill seemed to justify the actions of Gregory and Travis McMichael based solely on Ahmaud’s minor criminal infractions that were only revealed publicly after his death, and incidents that occurred with members of his family.

These days, racist Whites in the South no longer hide behind hoods and sheets, said some Blacks. Instead, Whites use the power of the pen, and the cover of the Internet to spew their vitriol, they said. Both happened in this case, they added.

“We found some troubling things online. Like Gregory McMichael bragging that his son was the shooter,” said Atty. Lee Merritt who is representing Ms. Cooper.

“We’re seeing White people posting on Facebook saying that they agree with what the McMichaels did because Ahmaud probably was a thug and a criminal,” added Odis Muhammad.

“It’s shocking that law enforcement would try to indict and criminalize everybody except the killers,” Atty. Crump said.

However, Odis Muhammad also said there are some Whites in the community who feel this incident has created a sense of shame. Brunswick had a reputation for moving more easily into integration with Blacks in South than in other parts of Georgia and other states.

“I feel like the White community is embarrassed because this is such a heinous crime committed by one of theirs; somebody from their community,” Odis Muhammad explained. “In the rallies I’ve attended, there are White people there and I feel they sympathize with this situation. It’s such an embarrassment for their community, to have somebody do something so ridiculous, and a life is lost. So, we’re seeing some support from some White people in Brunswick.”

On the other hand, fundraisers have been setup to raise money for the McMichaels, saying they were defending themselves.

Thea Brooks, Ahmaud’s aunt, said she wants the McMichaels held until grand juries reconvene. She organized a protest the day the video of Ahmaud’s killing came out. She said when she first saw the video, it was very heartbreaking.

“I wanted to do an organized protest and a rally with leaders and people to speak, because the day when the video dropped, that kind of was based off emotion,” she said. “Everybody was mad, they was upset.” Even after news of the arrest was made public, demonstrations continued in Brunswick on May 8.

The killing of Ahmaud Arbery has largely stoked a sense of outrage in Black people, not just in Georgia, but across the country. Not only is there mental and emotional fatigue of seeing another young Black man killed apparently doing nothing wrong, breaking no laws and committing no crimes, there’s also a lack of faith in the justice system to give these men the same punishment that would’ve been assessed had a Black man taken the life of a White person.

“We know that the coronavirus has presented some challenges, but now they say we have to wait until June 12 before a grand jury is empaneled. Well, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘Justice delayed is justice denied,’” said Atty. Crump. Atty. Merritt explained that the Georgia Supreme Court has temporarily suspended any grand jury from being convened due to the coronavirus.

However, both attorneys said it has been upsetting to see how this case has been handled from the very beginning.

“These men were not performing any police function, or any duty as a citizen of the state of Georgia. These men were vigilantes, they formed a posse, and performed a lynching in the middle of the street,” said Atty. Merritt, who added, “This story continues to change over time. We know what was conveyed to the family was that Ahmaud was in the process of a burglary when he was killed … Our investigators have found other eye and ear witnesses who saw what happened and the story that they tell is starkly different than the one told by the McMichaels.”

Atty. Merritt also noted inconsistencies in the police report, which said Ahmaud was shot twice. But in the video, three shots are clearly heard. According to Min. Sharrieff Muhammad, Wanda Cooper didn’t find out about the third shot until she handed her son’s body over to a funeral director.

“I sent my grandson to the family house to find out what took place after I heard about it because he was best friends with Ahmaud. He told me that Ahmaud’s mother took his body back to Augusta because that’s her home. And in talking to the funeral director she said she felt like there was something he wasn’t telling her. The funeral director said to her that even though they were saying her son got shot twice, he had really gotten shot three times. But the funeral director said he didn’t say anything at first because he didn’t want to get involved,” Min. Sharrieff Muhammad explained.

Added Atty. Merritt, “There is no place on earth for what happened to Ahmaud to not be criminal. But apparently in Brunswick, Ga., if you’re White, you can get away with something like this for months at a time, and continue to enjoy your family, your homes, and your freedom. That’s offensive. It’s deeply painful for this family; for this mother, this father, his siblings, for the athletes, the coaches, the community, that knew and loved Ahmaud. And for complete strangers who have never met him, but had their own sense of sanctity and safety violated by the failure of the state agents in this case to prosecute, and treat these men like the criminals they are. We don’t have to continue to live in fear, if the people we have are empowered to take action, stand up and do the right thing.”

At press time, the office of Thomas Durden had not responded to The Final Call for a statement on this case.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is conducting a probe of the shooting, said their agents would follow wherever the case takes them. Atty. Crump told the media the GBI probe should toss out any investigation by local officials as tainted.

(J.S. Adams contributed to this report.)

From The Final Call Newspaper

Cuba’s doctors can help U.S. fight pandemic and save lives

By Brian E. Muhammad -Staff Writer

Several of the Cuban doctors and medical professionals that will depart for Italy to assist with the pandemic in the country pose for the media with a photo of Fidel Castro and flags of Italy and Cuba, in Havana, Cuba, March 21. Photo: AP Photo/Ismael Francisco

For nearly six decades the Republic of Cuba has been training and sending health care professionals around the globe. Cuba has sent upwards of 400,000 health care professionals to 164 countries since that time. The small island nation’s “medical internationalism” and soft power way has been a source of solidarity for other nations. Officially called “Collaboration Missions” the first medical brigade aided Algeria in 1963 during its independence war with France. The missions are part of Cuba’s longstanding policy of supporting anti-colonial struggles and nations in distress.

With the Covid-19 pandemic engulfing the world many are recognizing the Cuba health care model and its success despite decades of a crippling economic embargo by the United States.

The country of 11.5 million people is oriented toward health promotion and disease prevention, Dr. Jewel Crawford, assistant professor at Morehouse College Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine told The Final Call.

“They have a sound gold standard health infrastructure in place, so whatever comes along, they’re prepared to deal with,” said Dr. Crawford.

Cuba has an efficient house to house and community to community system of being aware of the welfare of the Cuban people. It doesn’t take long to mobilize in emergencies, pandemics and disasters.

Dr. Crawford is impressed that the Cuban system doesn’t require a big budget.

“Just organizing a system of care… neighbors checking on neighbors—things that Black people used to do,” she said. It’s a practice Black people must return to, especially now with the need for contact tracing of Covid-19 infected people, said Dr. Crawford, an advocate for engaging the Cuban people. “So, we have to get to some of what they’re doing.”

In Cuba, there are 1,537 infected people, 54 deaths and 714 recoveries from Covid-19.

Only 90 miles north Covid-19 has forever altered life as it was known in the United States—the world’s largest economy and superpower. While nations were besieged by the “invisible enemy” some countries have managed the crisis better than others. Since the pandemic started Cuba has been lauded for its effectiveness, response and assistance to other nations, including major powers struggling to fight the Covid-19 pestilence ravaging their people and economies.

Some see the contrasting approaches to health care as a major indicator of outcomes in a pandemic. The Cuban model is structured on universal health care compared to the capitalist and cost driven system of health in the United States.

“I believe that is an aspect of why Cuba has been successful in curbing their numbers with this pandemic and successful treatment,” said Dr. Desta Valdez Muhammad, a Central Valley California-based physician trained in the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba.

“In Cuba it’s the access to health care. Everyone has access, which here in the United States not everyone—especially the poorer... inner city... rural communities may not have access to care, ” she said,

Dr. Muhammad told The Final Call in the U.S. system, the cost compounds how people are handled, particularly in the pandemic and attention has to be directed to the more vulnerable population. “Unfortunately, Black and Brown people; we make up the most vulnerable population,” she said. “And a lot of the times we are forgotten.”

Dr. Muhammad further explained, one reason the numbers for Covid-19 is disproportionate for Black and Brown people in the U.S. is not having access to care. Before Covid-19 access was a major concern where over 70 million people in the U.S. has inadequate or no health coverage at all.

The coronavirus is a new virus, that the world has not seen before and one the medical community is learning more about. As far as treatments, right now everything is experimental, she added.

Another dynamic Dr. Muhammad points out is the fact that Cuba is considered an underdeveloped third world country, yet the people do not die from third world diseases. She directly credits the Cuban Healthcare system for that.

There have been favorable reports about Interferon Alfa 2-B medication used in China and elsewhere to treat Covid-19. Although Interferon Alpha-2B Recombinant has not been approved to treat Covid-19, by the World Health Organization, individual countries have been requesting the drug from Cuba according to reports.

“The world has an opportunity to understand that health is not a commercial asset, but a basic right,” said Cuban doctor Luis Herrera, creator of the Interferon Alfa 2-B medication, in a mid-March interview with TeleSUR.

“We cloned different genes of Interferon from local sites, and we started to produce Interferon in 1981 and 1982, which we used in the outbreak of dengue fever, and we presented the results in the United States in California.”

The antiviral drug is one of several being used by the Chinese to fight the new coronavirus and has reportedly proven effective for viruses with characteristics similar to those of Covid-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has an approval process for drugs that can be used as treatment options in the U.S.

But critics argue that even if all standards are met, any positives from Cuba gets entangled in the geo-political fray of the United States.

Public polls, observers and experts alike agree the U.S. government has mismanaged the Covid-19 crisis and is part of a global problem between the major powers taking on the coronavirus. In a May 1 press briefing, the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres lamented world leaders have fallen woefully short because of division, bickering and blame-shifting.

“It is obvious there is a lack of leadership,” said Mr. Guterres answering a question on whether global leadership has been adequate in handling Covid-19.

A brigade of health professionals, who volunteered to travel to South Africa to assist local authorities with an upsurge of coronavirus cases, attend the farewell ceremony in Havana, Cuba, April 25. Photo: AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

“It is obvious the international community is divided in a moment where it would be more important than ever to be united,” he said.

The secretary general pointed out however, that there is leadership in battling the pandemic, but it is disconnected from power.

“We see remarkable examples of leadership, but they are not usually associated with power,” said Mr. Guterres, adding, “where we see power, we do not see the necessary leadership.”

This is the state of the global arena says experts, in the face of the pandemic that has at Final Call press time infected 3.5 million people and claimed over 250,000 lives worldwide.

Despite the divide between world powers Cuba has risen to the occasion say advocates who support allowing Cuban medical professionals to work unhindered.

“I think this time it’s more important that people … experts from different nations work together in cooperation because we face a common danger,” said Arthur Heitzer, chair of The National Lawyers Guild—Cuba Subcommittee.

The guild supports the call of many organizations for cooperation between the U.S. medical authorities and the Cuban medical personnel. “Many of them (the Cubans) have experience in dealing with epidemics and disaster situations,” said Mr. Heitzer.

Through its Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade (HRIMB), Cuba has sent doctors to more than 20 countries during the Covid-19 pandemic including hard-hit Italy and France—which also authorized Cuban teams to assist in its overseas territories.

South Africa announced 217 Cuban doctors arrived in the country, which has the highest number of coronavirus infections in Africa. The HRIMB was established in 2005 by the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The brigade specializes in rapid medical response to natural disasters and outbreaks.

Over the years the brigade has won prestigious medical accolades and awards. The medical team has been nominated for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts with Covid-19.

However, the U.S. has maintained an adversarial relationship against Cuba since the 1959 Cuban Revolution. In April 29 remarks Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State chided countries for receiving Cuban assistance with the Covid-19 crisis.

“We’ve noticed how the regime in Havana has taken advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to continue its exploitation of Cuban medical workers,” said Mr. Pompeo.

He criticized South Africa and Qatar for accepting Cuban help and called on other nations to reject Cuba’s overtures to help.

“Governments accepting Cuban doctors must pay them directly. Otherwise, when they pay the regime, they are helping the Cuban government turn a profit on human trafficking,” he said.

Critics say Mr. Pompeo’s characterizations of the Cuban medical system as exploitative is outrageous and his remarks cripple responsible international cooperation and solidarity needed to lessen Covid-19 and save lives.

“What right does #US Sec. of State have to put pressures on sovereign governments to deprive their nationals from health assistance?” questioned Bruno Rodriguez, the Cuban Foreign Minister in an April 29 tweet.

“Despite efforts to discredit it, our doctors work is highly demanded and recognized in the world,” Mr. Rodriguez wrote, saying further these are “times of solidarity, not meanness.”

Over the last year the Trump administration has reinstituted a pressure campaign axed by former U.S. President. Barack Obama targeting Cuba’s foreign health missions for eradication.

Cuban officials said this new attack aims to hide the failure of the pressure campaign against Cuba’s health missions. The campaign included efforts to debunk the program and lure Cuban health professionals away from Cuba promising greener financial pastures in the U.S. health care system.

Between 2006 and 2016 according to reports, only 7,000 doctors defected to the U.S. out of the tens of thousands of doctors produced by the country.

An AFP report said Cuba earned $6.3 billion from its medical dispatches in 2018 and used the proceeds to finance its own universal health care coverage.

Cuba since the days of Fidel Castro has been training and providing medical doctors to countries throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America and the continent of Africa. Although a small nation, it has been big as a first responder on major disasters and humanitarian crises. The Pan American Health Organization said between 2005 and 2017, the brigade helped 3.5 million people in 21 countries affected by floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and epidemics, including the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

During the tragic Hurricane Katrina that hit the U.S. Gulf Coast and killed 1,833 mostly poor and disenfranchised Black people, Fidel Castro offered to send 1,500 doctors to the U.S. to help with the relief effort. Then President George W. Bush rejected the offer. Four years earlier the U.S. rejected another Cuban government offer to send medical personnel to New York City immediately after the 9/11 attacks that killed 3,000 people in 2001.

In a release called “Get out Cuba’s Way” a diverse group of organizations and individuals are calling on the U.S. government to not repeat history and allow the Cuban medical personnel on U.S. soil to help mitigate Covid-19.

“An aggressive blend of history, morality and integrity” is pushing the group to act, the letter said in part.

They are urging the White House, U.S. Congress and Senate to grant permission for the brigade to immediately come and provide hands on medical assistance in hospitals, clinics and other emergency installations. The letter signed by professional medical associations, activists and peace advocates is also requesting permission for the American Medical Association, National Medical Association and Black Nurses Association to work in conjunction and harmony with the Cuban medical team, once they arrive on U.S. soil.

The document also included a request that U.S. victims of COVID-19/SARS/COV-2 be given access to Interferon Alpha 2B, which was developed by Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

“This measure would be a step in concert with the other 45 Nations worldwide who have made a formal request for Interferon Alpha 2B,” the release said.

Could Washington afford to be so honorary about accepting help from Cuba or anyone else during a pandemic that had its first known U.S. case in January, and by May over one million people infected and over 69,000 perished surpassing the 58,000 American soldiers killed fighting for almost a decade in Vietnam?

Many attribute the high Covid-19 figures to early dismissiveness of the Trump administration about the virus coupled with the politics of blame between Washington, Beijing and the World Health Organization.

“Politically the powers that be in the U.S. do not want to admit anything good about Cuba,” said Mr. Heitzer.

He pointed out how mainstream media have been very quiet about Cuban contribution through its medical brigade. The Trump administration’s focus has been to impose the U.S. 60-year official policy “‘to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government,’ in Cuba,” added Mr. Heitzer.

When Washington rebuffed Cuba’s help with Hurricane Katrina, Fidel Castro in relevant and prophetic words said this is not a war between human beings but for the life of human beings, against disease and calamities.

“One of the first things this world should learn especially now, with the changes that are taking place and the phenomena of this type, is to cooperate,” said Mr. Castro.