Friday, January 4

The Roundtable with Brother Muhammad presents


(AUDIO REPLAY 1-21-2019) The Roundtable with Brother Muhammad interviews Sis. Keishonda X Williamson, co-owner and director of Kikifer's Entrepreneurial Academy located in Rockford, Illinois. Discussing why parents must take control of their children's education as public schools fail to adequately serve the Black community, Sister Keishonda describes how KEA is one solution to this problem as America undergoes a demographic shift that will have the country's Black and Brown people the majority population by mid-century.

Tuesday, January 21

From The Final Call Newspaper

Targeting Our Children? A dubious gang database and demands for an end to targeting Black, Latino youth

By Richard B. Muhammad and Charlene Muhammad The Final Call Newspaper @TheFinalCall

LOS ANGELES—When a mother got a letter from police saying her son was in a gang and was being included in a gangbanger database, she knew something was wrong.

Her son had no gang affiliation.

Now, after months of investigation, 20 Los Angeles officers are under investigation into wrongly entering youngsters into a major gang database. Field interview cards, which cops use when talking to people, may have been filled out wrong and tagged youth as gangbangers who aren’t.

Probes, promises and police violations?

The investigation and police chief Michel Moore’s promises to deal with any misconduct rekindled anger and suspicion about how officers target Black and Latino youth and dump them into the criminal justice system.

Blacks say such police behavior goes back as far as the 1980s with misuse of so-called gang databases. Entry into the gang database can be done if the youngster hasn’t committed a crime or openly declared a gang connection. Officers may catalogue young people based on clothing, tattoos, geography, acquaintances or other dubious reasons, said activists.

The mother in the San Fernando Valley who challenged how her son was labeled and complained to a supervisor last year opened the door and larger problems loom. In her son’s case, body cam footage didn’t jibe with the field report.

Her son was removed from the database but trouble continues for the Los Angeles Police Department, which has a long history of misconduct, violence and has been trying to rehabilitate its image.

Some aren’t convinced or impressed.

It took two months for Demetra Johnson to get her then-16-year-old son Kevin removed from the California gang database. “We called down and told them that that was impossible,” she said. “They said we had to show written proof. We had to produce school records. We even informed them that at that point, he had graduated from the L.A. Police Academy Cadet Corps.”

The cadet corps is like an official junior police program run by LAPD.

“That wasn’t enough! They sent a response saying that we need to bring him into the station and show that he didn’t have any tattoos,” said Ms. Johnson.

Seeing no tattoos, Kevin was finally removed from the database, she said. But that experience and the death of his brother at the hands of Los Angeles County Sheriffs soured Kevin, who joined the military, she said.

“At the time I feel like I lost both my boys. One left to go to join the service and one was taken from me. I still got a 13-year-old here with me, and he’s like a hybrid of them both. He’s doing well as can be expected,” Ms. Johnson said.

“I think we should really put that in perspective, that we’re talking about the same unit that was proven to be stopping Black people more, proven to be searching Black people more, even though we’re found to have engaged in criminal activity less,” she added.

The gang database trap snared her son Kevin in 2016—again raising fears targeting isn’t new or happenstance.

Chief Moore has promised video from police cams will be regularly reviewed when encounters don’t involve crimes or arrests to detect problems.

In December, LAPD went public about a nine-month-old probe of three officers in the Metropolitan Crime Suppression Van Nuys Division that kicked up the controversy. The LAPD investigation grew to include officers who may have worked with the initial trio.

The number now includes other officers who could have falsely added names to the database, with some 20 officers under scrutiny for inconsistencies in their reports.

Ten have been reassigned, sent home, suspended or relieved of their peace officer powers pending the investigation outcome.

Another 10 were put on desk duty because of suspicions or allegations of wrongdoing to protect the officers and public as investigations take place, said Chief Moore.

That’s not enough, many complain.

“This is tyranny! This is suppression! We have to take some responsibility—Black leadership—and we’ve allowed this enemy to pass policies, ordinances, all kinds of crap that is against our cultural expression,” said Abdul Malik Syeed Muhammad, Nation of Islam Western Region student minister based in Los Angeles. He was formerly known as Tony Muhammad.

“All of these kinds of policies come right up out of the Jim Crow laws. Nothing has changed,” he said.

“We didn’t know this? When Chief Moore reached out for me and explained that he was upset about it and was going to get down the bottom of it, I said to him, ‘Getting down to the bottom of it is eradicating it all together!’ ” said Min. Syeed Muhammad.

“Where is your gang list of Caucasian children? Are White children being placed in that database, or is it just people of color?”

The police chief apologized for any actions undermining public trust, vowed to correct current problems and prevent future problems during an annual year end press conference Jan. 15 at LAPD headquarters.

Later members of the Southern California Cease Fire Committee, a coalition of gang interventionists, mothers of murdered children, and other grassroots activists who promote peace on the streets, questioned Chief Moore on his plans. They expressed concern about the continued criminalization of youth. They also offered solutions.

Community members across the board, from youth to activists to faith-based leaders and legal experts, said the LAPD’s own admissions confirm what they have complained about and fought against for decades: Police have been fabricating information with no factual basis whatsoever, they said.

Davey D, hip hop journalist and activist, took the problem back to “Operation Hammer” during infamous LAPD Chief Daryl Gates’ war on gangs. He waged war through mass arrests, SWAT raids, and mandatory curfews.

His initiative started in April 1987 under C.R.A.S.H. (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums), a specialized unit of Rampart Division officers trained to combat gang-related crime from 1979 to 2000. The C.R.A.S.H. unit was disbanded after the notorious 1990s “Rampart Scandal.” It involved widespread corruption within C.R.A.S.H. Approximately 140 settlements in civil suits cost the city of Los Angeles over $125 million.

“The gang database or the concept behind it has always been used as a weapon by the police against the community, and it was most glaring in the late ’80s under Operation Hammer, when Daryl Gates was around,” said Davey D.

“In this case, in L.A., them doing this first of all, one would have thought that they would have learned the lessons from Rodney King,” said Davey D regarding widespread protests after a predominantly White jury in Simi Valley, then a predominantly White suburb of Los Angeles, acquitted officers who mob-style brutalized the Black motorist during a 1991 traffic stop.

“I think by the time you have the Rodney King uprising, you had damned near half of L.A.’s Black male population under a certain age that were put into the gang database. Now that should have just been alarming unto itself, but here we are 25, 30 years later, and this is still happening, with no consequences,” Davey D told The Final Call.

If cops are being placed on desk duty but not charged with falsifying information, that’s cause for concern, he added.

A faulty system with documented problems

A 2016 California State Audit found the CalGang Criminal Intelligence System’s weak oversight structure does not ensure law enforcement agencies collect and maintain data in a manner that preserves individual privacy rights.

In “Tracked and Trapped—Youth of Color, Gang Databases and Gang Injunctions,” preliminary research found most people were added to the gang database without having been arrested or accused of criminal conduct.

Gang officers in neighborhoods and school districts could question anyone, starting in elementary school, about nicknames, family members, friends and where they hung out or lived, according to the first comprehensive report about how CalGang impacted communities and youth.

People had no way of knowing or opportunity to appeal, the report added.

Advocates, including the Youth Justice Coalition and Black Lives Matter, sent letters of recommendation and demands for reforms and eradication of the gang database to California Attorney General Javier Becerra.

LAPD is working with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office to determine if there was criminal wrongdoing by the first three officers in the initial probe, and similar conversations regarding other officers they worked with have begun, according to Chief Moore.

Chief Moore expects to make a decision in about a month after the investigation is complete.

Cops who made a mistake will be disciplined and retrained, both those who lied stand to face harsher penalties like termination, said police officials.

Gang database never helped increase peace

Ansar Muhammad, co-founder of the gang intervention H.E.L.P.E.R. (Help Establish Learning Peace Economics and Righteousness) Foundation, never found the gang database useful. The falsification of data hurt the work of peacekeepers on the streets, he said.

“There was never any community input. It was always law enforcement-driven, but if community folks were in the conversation, then maybe yeah, it’s okay. But the community was never involved in that decision-making process,” said Ansar Muhammad, who is also a coordinator of the Nation of Islam Study Group in Lancaster, Calif.

Half of Black men were put in the gang database

CalGang began as a way to simplify the process of storing and sharing street gang data.

Each law enforcement agency had its own way of gathering and filing such data, and not all agencies used the system, because it was not mandated.

LAPD started a database too, according to Sean Garcia-Leys, senior staff attorney for the Urban Peace Institute. The District Attorney’s Office assessed the programs, made them combine the systems into one countywide network it could access, he recalled.

“That’s the study that found that 50 percent of all young Black men in Los Angeles had been put on one of those two databases as gang members,” Atty. Garcia-Leys told The Final Call. “It is a shocking number.”

Placement in the database is like having a scarlet letter. It prevents people from getting jobs if cases go to court and the information is made public, activists said. In addition, people in the database can face tougher laws, called gang enhancements, and greater scrutiny from police for minor offenses or when innocent.

But, some activists added, the system is doing what it was created to do.

“They literally see Black people with targets on our backs, and that’s what the data is showing here. There’s a history that we can actually go back, not just to the ’80s and ’90s, but we can go all the way back to the 19th century, 18th century even and look at who they were as slavecatchers,” said Dr. Melina Abdullah, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and professor of Pan African Studies at California State University Los Angeles.

The remedy isn’t a kinder, gentler police, but community responses to police, activists said.

Black Lives Matter and community partners want Chief Moore to disband the Metro Division, release all names of the suspect officers, and then put the cops on a do not call list to prevent city and district attorneys from using corrupt officers as witnesses in cases.

All charges should be dropped against those prosecuted as a result of arrests by the officers accused of corruption; the officers prosecuted; there should be the immediate release of those incarcerated as a result of the officers’ corrupt practices, and their convictions overturned, said activists.

“And then, finally, we want the mayor of Los Angeles, Mayor Garcetti, to establish and fund what we’re calling a Reparations Unit, because what they’ve been doing in South Los Angeles causes harm—not only to those who were arrested, those who were criminalized as a result of these corrupt practices—but to the entire community, so we want remedies for those individuals. But we also want the rest of the community to receive remedies and not thorough the police. We need more resources in South L.A., not more police,” Dr. Abdullah said.

A prophetic voice and warning about the war on Black youth

While activists and advocates have worked on the problem of police misconduct and targeting of the Black community, Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan has provided a prophetic warning about the plans of the U.S. government to go to war against a small Islamic nation, Black people and Black youth in particular.

His warning began following a 1985 vision-like experience in Mexico, involving the “Wheels” prophesized in Ezekiel in the bible and commonly called UFOs by this world with a message from the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad that the president and his Joint Chiefs of Staff had met to plan a war. Initially, he understood the war to be with Libya, which was bombed by the U.S. in 1986. Min. Farrakhan warned Libyan officials of the bombing before it took place. But as the vision unfolded, it was clear the war was a domestic war against the budding Nation of Islam, Black people and an assault on Black youth under the guise of a war on drugs and gangs.

While the California gang database is an important example of this assault on Black youth, the federal government recently announced targeting of several cities, Attorney General William Barr has warned communities who don’t respect police could find themselves without protection and the president has recommended being less gentle during arrests of suspects.

“I have been among you a long time, and I have not failed in warning you of what the government of the United States of America has been planning against Black people generally, but Black youth, in particular, and the Nation of Islam,” said the Minister in a special November, 2017 message directed to President Trump from the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.

“We’re at the end of it now: the plan is genocide and to kill you all. I’m going to drop it in the president’s lap, because he is the last one,” said Min. Farrakhan.

“We went from a small prison population, and the Clinton crime bill was directly against Black people. … Once we are called a ‘felon,’ they knew we couldn’t vote anymore. They were killing us at the voting booth by putting us in prison—and it all was a plot,” he continued.

“Mr. Trump: The consequences of America’s evils over time have fallen in your lap. … And they know they have a genocidal plot against all Black America … . Now, I have delivered a message, and a warning, Mr. Trump; because I don’t have an armada—I come to you, no army, no navy. These brothers that are around me, they don’t carry any weapons. We are forbidden to carry weapons; we are forbidden to store weapons in our home. So if you want to kill us, we are here: I’m not running from you, I’m running to you.”

Tuesday, January 14

From The Final Call Newspaper

U.S.-Iran war on hold amid Trump’s changing stories, murky motives?

By Askia Muhammad and Barrington Salmon The Final Call @TheFinalCall

Hundreds of anti-war with Iran protests have been held across the country, including this demonstration in downtown Chicago. Activists say an apparent step back from the brink by the United States and Iran doesn’t mean everything is alright. Tensions are still high and activists plan more anti-war protests on Jan. 25 to push back against U.S. warmongering and express concern about instability in the Middle East. Photo: Haroon Rajaee U.S.

WASHINGTON—Despite open rejections as false by Republicans as well as Democrats of President Donald Trump’s justification for the killing of Iranian military commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and his impeachment trial looming in the Senate, the president still claimed victory in the showdown with the Islamic Republic, a showdown which barely averted a catastrophic outcome.

Mr. Trump claimed without offering a shred of proof that Gen. Soleimani—a military leader of a country not officially at war with the U.S.—posed an “imminent danger,” who had to be murdered because he planned to strike “four U.S. embassies.”

The confidential information provided to members of Congress a week after the strike was, “probably the worst briefing I’ve seen,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) told reporters Jan. 8 after the session, complaining that the Trump administration wanted to silence all dissent. “It is not acceptable for officials within the executive branch of government” to “tell us that we can’t debate and discuss the appropriateness of military intervention against Iran,” Sen. Lee continued.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper added more confusion. On Face the Nation Jan. 12, Mr. Esper said that while he “believed” that there “probably, could have been attacks” that put Americans in the Middle East in immediate danger as the president claimed, he “didn’t see” specific intelligence indicating an imminent attack on multiple embassies.

Meanwhile, according to a Wall Street Journal report, Mr. Trump told associates that he assassinated Iran’s top military leader in part to appease Republican senators who’ll play a crucial role in his upcoming Senate impeachment trial.

“Trump has reportedly now confessed that he ordered the assassination of General Soleimani in exchange for the votes of war-mongering Senators (Lindsay) Graham and (Tom) Cotton in his impeachment trial,” said prominent British journalist Nicholas Davies. Mr. Trump reportedly entertained Sen. Graham at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, who revealed that the president told him of the raid on the golf course.

But Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the prime minister of Iraq, told a very different story about the ambush. Mr. Abdul-Mahdi told reporters he had planned to meet Gen. Soleimani on the morning the general was killed to discuss a diplomatic overture that his office was brokering between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The prime minister said that Mr. Trump personally thanked him for the efforts, even as the U.S. was planning the assassination–thus creating the impression that the Iranian general was safe to travel to Baghdad.

After more than one million mourners poured into the streets of Iraq and Iran for Gen. Soleimani’s funeral, many observers trembled at the prospects of a military retaliation which might escalate into a full-fledged shooting war between Iran and the U.S. But Iran chose only to launch missiles onto an unoccupied space on a military base where U.S. personnel are housed, after giving the Pentagon a warning that the non-lethal strikes were to be launched. Mr. Trump claimed victory. Iran, he said Jan. 8, “appears to be standing down,” in the wake of its missile strikes on American bases in Iraq that he said resulted in “no casualties.”

“The American people should be extremely grateful and happy,” Mr. Trump said, in an address to the nation from the White House the morning after the attacks. “No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime.”

His administration announced additional new sanctions in the aftermath of the Iranian response. The Islamic Republic has been under crippling sanction already for years. According to AP the new sanctions will target eight senior Iranian officials involved in “destabilizing” activities in the Middle East and the retaliatory missile strike.

It was announced by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that Mr. Trump will issue an executive order imposing sanctions on anyone involved in the Iranian textile, construction, manufacturing or mining sectors. They will also impose separate sanctions against the steel and iron sectors.

“As a result of these actions we will cut off billions of dollars of support to the Iranian regime,” said Mr. Mnuchin. The administration has already reinstated all the U.S. sanctions that were eased under the 2015 nuclear deal, which has caused significant economic hardship in Iran and cut its oil exports to historic lows.

Tensions continue

While Mr. Trump is probably its most flamboyant practitioner in some time, the U.S. has long been guilty of “imperial overreach,” according to Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editorial director and publisher of The Nation.

“Imperial overreach is a major expansion of U.S. foreign policy goals and power, beyond what is good for common sense or for security. I think the overreach goes back decades, let’s be honest, but we’re looking at this decade,” Ms. Vanden Heuvel told this writer in an interview for WPFW-FM.

“The 2010s began during the Obama years,” she continued. “You saw regime change in Libya and Syria, increased containment of Iran, a country very much in the news now, the global war on terror expanded to more countries in the Middle East and Africa. So, this overreach has only accelerated under President Trump.

“Instead, what he’s done is, a sanctions happy expansion; more deployment of troops around the world; direct military strikes against Syria; and we’ve now sent 3,000 troops deployed to the region (near) Iran.

“So, it’s a moment to take stock of how this expansion, this overreach certainly doesn’t bring us more security or economic wellbeing; doesn’t end well as we’ve seen in history. And with this a military offensive against Iran in the last week, it’s important to bring attention to this overreach because the United States is clearly not retreating under Trump. It’s expanding in stupid, militaristic and dangerous ways,” said Ms. Vanden Heuvel.

“Tensions in the Middle East are escalating, and the Iran nuclear issue is facing grave challenges,” Geng Shang, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters in response to the Trump administration’s latest aggression. “The United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), turning a blind eye to international law and international obligations, imposing maximum pressure against Iran and obstructing other parties’ implementation of the JCPOA are the root causes of the Iran nuclear tensions and should be the basic starting point for all parties to deal with the issues in an objective and fair manner.”

The assassination of Gen. Soleimani was condemned for sparking an “unnecessary crisis” according to retired colonel and Vietnam veteran Andrew Bacevich, who’s president and co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

“Well, the assassination was an act of great recklessness,” he told “Democracy Now!” “I mean, in some respects, it was typical of this president’s decision-making. It appears that he acted very much on impulse. There’s no evidence that he had thought through the consequences of assassinating Soleimani. You know, what would be step two, step three?

“And so, this reckless act plunged us into an unnecessary crisis, that, thankfully, both the administration and the government in Tehran found a way to back away from. So, we’ve avoided war, I think. That said, I think it would be a mistake on our part, everybody’s part, to sort of breathe a sigh of relief and say, ‘OK, everything is fine now,’” he said.

Domestic pushback

Steven Warner, Michele Watley and Roxanne Gupta have not been shy about saying how nervous and unsettled they are in the aftermath of the Soleimani killing and subsequent chain of events between the U.S. and Iran.

The trio said there’s little that they’ve seen from the Trump administration that gives them any comfort that retaliation from Iran and American counterstrikes won’t ignite a global conflagration that draws in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain and other countries in the so-called Middle East.

“It’s terrible. They’re killing people. My biggest concern is escalation to World War III,” Ms. Gupta said. “The planet is ripe for this. It’s so stressful. The gap between the government we’re stuck with and the people is getting wider. The rich and powerful have been able to change laws behind people’s backs and now they say what they do is legal, that it’s okay. When did it change? Now, they pursue policy and say its American interests.”

Ms. Gupta, an educator, yoga teacher and peace activist who lives in upstate New York, has been a fierce and vocal critic of the Trump administration and a political system she says is corrupt, unresponsive and sometimes hostile to the people it purports to serve. President Trump, she said, lies with ease and to her dismay, many Americans accept what he says because of his position.

“This is a spoiled country. There’s no more spoiled country on the planet, so the seriousness of what’s going on escapes people who want entertainment and fun,” she said. “In this case, Trump ramped up the anxiety then people went back to sleep. They think nothing will happen to them because they’re American. That psychopath in the White House is giving people a false sense of security although he has created a dangerous global situation.”

Analyst Aaron David Miller, a former State Department adviser and Middle East negotiator, asserted that killing Mr. Soleimani has significantly weakened rather than strengthened the U.S. in the region. Americans are less safe, Iran’s regional influence, especially in Iraq, has been boosted, not weakened; and U.S. influence is at its lowest ebb in a decade and a half. Mr. Warner, a South Florida resident, and radio personality, said it’s fortuitous that this happened 10 months out from the 2020 presidential election and not last year.

“I think based on the time remaining between now and then, we’ve dodged a bullet,” he said. “I don’t think anyone wants to openly declare war. There’s posturing back and forth and talk that will go into the election. Time is on our side.”

That being said, Mr. Warner added, America isn’t out of the woods. “Iran has egg on its face (because it mistakenly shot down a passenger plane) and may chill for a while, but in the next couple of months I think there will be strange alliances and partnerships that will be formed, said Mr. Warner, host of “Wake Up and Live,” a daily syndicated program of music and commentary that is carried on at least 41 online stations around the world and has more than 200,000 listeners.

He was speaking about the eventual acknowledgement by Iran that it shot down a Ukrainian jetliner by accident, killing all 176 people aboard not long after launching its missiles at U.S. targets.

There has been pushback politically as the Democratic-controlled House on Jan. 9 approved a resolution asserting that President Trump must seek approval from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iran. The war powers resolution is not binding on the president and would not require his signature.

Danger, uncertainty still looms

Republicans have accused Democrats of “supporting terrorists” while Democrats accuse Republicans of failing to utilize a system of checks and balances to rein in a president with no clear, cohesive foreign policy strategy for the Middle East.

Ms. Watley spoke of the trepidation and uncertainty she felt when it appeared evident that Iran and the United States would go to war.

“The question is what happens next? Are we going to be in a war? How will it play out?” she said. “It’s scary because we don’t know what’s next. We have a leader who is inconsistent and incapable of handling the job of the presidency. It’s scary because we have this type of leader at the helm.”

What is unfolding is a lot for Americans to grapple with and consume, she explained. Ms. Watley, a Kansas City, Missouri native—and founder and owner of The Griot Group LLC, a strategic communications and political advocacy consulting practice—said she usually gets her news from CNN, MSNBC and Fox News but the polarization and fragmentation of news makes it harder to distinguish fact from opinion.

“Back in the day, like five to 10 years ago, you could watch the news and get the news,” she said. “But the news isn’t what it used to be. You keep hearing the same old stuff, they over-sensationalize things and it’s a 24-hour news cycle with breaking news that’s not breaking news. I’ve not been a Twitter fan but following pundits, influencers and journalists has helped me know what’s going on,” she said. “If you want to be up on news, you have to be on Twitter.”

She said she was heartened by the vigorous pushback from Democrats, especially Bernie Sanders and others running for president.

“This administration does what it wants unchecked. Trump doesn’t care about the consequences,” said Ms. Watley, who served as the director of African-American Outreach for the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016. “But the Democratic candidates have been staunch in their rebuke, strong in their response. They haven’t waffled or wavered.”

Veteran activist and anti-war protestor Medea Benjamin told The Final Call that tensions remain high and the real possibility of war still looms.

“The U.S. is in danger. There’s a rumor that he did this to appease conservative senators,” said Ms. Benjamin, a longtime political organizer and co-founder of Code Pink, a women’s anti-war group founded in response to growing American involvement in the Middle East. “It’s remarkable that he’s been able to get away with killing an Iranian general. He is such an arrogant warmonger and has the world cowed and unwilling to challenge him. It’s really horrendous that there’s one person who’s putting us in danger.”

Ms. Benjamin said anti-war groups such as Indivisible and MoveOn organized 82 rallies around the country on Jan. 4 and since then, they and other organizations have held 300 more rallies.

“There’s a call for rallies and demonstrations on Jan. 25 across the country and globally,” she explained. “Different groups have signed up globally.” She said Trump saber-rattling has re-energized the anti-war movement.

“The anti-war movement fell apart under Obama. No one wanted to oppose the nation’s first Black president,” said Ms. Benjamin. “It was very hard to build in those days and few organizations were involved in the anti-war effort. But there has been a resurgence of the movement at nearly every level, but that needs to be more sustained and widespread. It will be hard though, because the (immediate) threat of war has subsided.”

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)