Racial Homicides

Verdict in on Philando Castile Killing

Remember this? I wrote about it last year.

A Minnesota jury has reached a verdict in the manslaughter trial of Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop last year.  Yanez is on trial for one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety because Castile’s girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter were also in the car.

Announcement soon.

UPDATE: NOT GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS

Of course.

Walter Scott Follow-Up

It has been a year and a half since Walter Scott’s death.  I wrote about it here… but basically, he was running from a cop and was shot IN THE BACK As HE WAS RUNNING AWAY.  The video makes this crystal clear:

There’s even indication that the cop planted evidence on/near the body.  Yes,. look at the video.

So what happened at trial?

But despite an unarmed victim, forensics proving he was shot multiple times in the back, a police officer who made a false report, and clear video showing the entire debacle, Slager was not convicted of murder or manslaughter in his trial this week. A lone juror spared him that fate with a refusal to convict. That triggered a mistrial.

Something is horribly wrong with the system.

Fortunately, the prosecutor will retry the case.  Again.  For the THIRD time.

Even operating under a standard in which police officers get the benefit of every reasonable doubt, it seems hard to understand why the cops involved wouldn’t have been convicted of manslaughter. The fact that neither was convicted is the latest evidence that the system as it now exists does not reliably punish cops for even egregious killings.

The policy debate around policing has lately focused on the tactics and rhetoric of Black Lives Matter (while mostly ignoring its excellent Campaign Zero roadmap for policy reform). Whatever conservatives think of Black Lives Matter, it is long past time that more of them join with libertarians and liberals in an effort to address this problem: Armed agents of the state are killing American citizens at rates far higher than other developed countries, and even when videos show them killing unarmed individuals, some are somehow getting away with it.

What Happened In Charlotte Last Night

The Guardian’s Ijeoma Oluo wrote about the events of the night (you need to click through to see the photo described below):

A line of police officers stand in the dark on a Charlotte, North Carolina, highway. They look like an occupying force with their helmets and face shields and various weaponry strapped all over their armored clothing. A large bus illuminates them with its headlights. The front of the bus declares in bright lights: “NOT IN SERVICE”.

It’s as if these police responding to protests of Tuesday’s shooting death of Keith Scott are carrying with them a lighted banner that declares what black Americans already know: they are not in service. Not for us.

It’s the message that police have always been sending black Americans. Blacks make up about 13% of the US population, and yet accounted for 27% of the approximately 1,146 people killed by police in 2015. “Not in service” is the message we got when Tamir Rice was killed, when Freddie Gray was killed, when Eric Garner was killed. This was the message we got when Terence Crutcher was killed this week while asking for service. We understand that if our police force really does exist to protect and serve, it does not exist to protect and serve us.

From what I saw (on national TV) last night, and from reports of friends who were there, the Charlotte police got rambo’ed up too quickly last evening, getting in riot gear long before there were signs of violence and destruction.  While this had the effect of dispersing the more gentle elements of the remaining protesters, it predictably agitated others, turning them into… well… agitators.

I don’t condone or excuse those who destroyed property or threw tear gas back at police.  I am also sympathetic to those police injured last night.  But the key word in the previous paragraph is “predictably”.  The police knew, or should have known, that their show of force and resoluteness would bring about what eventually happened.

The job of police, both as an individual and as a force, is to DE-escalate dangerous or potentially dangerous situations.  Something about their training (at least for some of them) has failed to stress that, and instead, it is about escalation.  With predictable results.

I think they are continuing this mistake with the curfew and declaration of a state emergency (bringing in the National Guard).  A return to normalcy is what is needed.  The mayor and the police are not signaling a return to normalcy with these actions.  I don’t know what will happen tonight, but I don’t expect it to have calmed down in the face of this overdone “response”.

He Did Everything Right But Got Shot Anyway

Charles Kinsey, a behavioral therapist who was trying to help an autistic patient who had wandered away from a group home, did everything right when confronted by cops with guns drawn.

Frankly, I say he should have known better than to be a behavioral therapist trying to help an autistic patient in the middle of the day like that.

He Who Lives By The Sword?

You don’t want to slander the dead, but if this is true, then I suppose it wouldn’t be a slander.

What am I talking about?  An awkward but somewhat convincing article that Lorne Ahrens, one of the five Dallas cops killed last week by Micah Xavier Johnson, was a white supremacist.

Let’s be clear.  Murder is murder.  Even if Ahrens was a white supremacist, he died at the hands of a murderer.  Period.

But if true, does it not add to the dialogue about a racism problem in our police force?  Was this man a hero?  You read the article and decide for yourself.

More and More, It Looks Like The Dallas Cop Killer Was A Nut

Dallas police now believe that Micah Johnson, who shot and killed 5 Dallas police following a Black Lives Matter march, was actually planning some sort of mass attack, but advanced his plans to take advantage of the BLM march. His house was full of bomb making equipment, far too much to have put together in recent days.  He had received “defensive” combat training in Dallas two years earlier.

And most troubling, writing on his wall in blood.

This man was a time bomb. It’s almost like he didn’t need a reason to go off.

Two Deadly Police Shootings In Two Days

Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was standing in the parking lot selling CDs as he had for years when two white cops arrived on Tuesday night. By Wednesday morning he was dead and protesters were in the city’s streets. Calls erupted from Congress and the NAACP for an independent investigation into the shooting, which the Justice Department announced within hours.

Abdullah Muflahi owned the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge where all this happened.  He was a friend of Sterling and allowed him to sell CDs in front of the story.  Muflahi walked out the front door when he saw the officers talking to Sterling and said there was no “altercation,” as police claimed, until the cops tasered and tackled Sterling. That’s when Muflahi took out his phone and started recording. (Warning: Graphic video)

I was on Twitter last night reading about this, and the protests, when something came across the transom.

Another shooting of a black man by cops.  A traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, near Minneapolis.  The victim’s name is Philando Castile.

The video begins after the shooting occurred and shows the man, slumped and bloodied, against the woman who was recording. Her young daughter sat in the back seat.  The video streamed live on a private Facebook account belonging to Lavish Reynolds, and the clip was passed rapidly among Twitter, Facebook and YouTube users, becoming significant news online before traditional outlets — even those in the Minneapolis area — caught up.

The woman, presumably Lavisjh Reynolds, began by calmly narrating what was happening as she trained the camera on Mr. Castile, whom she described as her boyfriend, and on at least one officer who was pointing a gun through the driver’s side window.

“Please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him,” she said. “You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”

Reynold’s daughter, who was in the back seat, appears several times in the video. Near the end of the 10-minute clip, as the two are sitting in the back of a police car, she comforts her mother, saying, “It’s O.K., Mommy. It’s O.K. I’m right here with you.”

The terror in the voice of the cop is palpable, while Lavish Reynolds (at least in the beginning) is calm and reasoned.  Castile dies in the video.

Reynolds can be heard throughout the video repeating that they were stopped for a broken tail light, that the officer requested Castile’s driver license, and that Castile was shot when he went to retrieve his license for the officer. She also states on the video that he worked for St. Paul public schools and did not have a criminal record. According to Castile’s mother, he was the cafeteria supervisor at a St. Paul Montessori school.

The Minnesota governor has asked for a federal investigation into the fatal shooting of Castile.

The Washington Post is tracking the number of people killed by police in the America. There were 990 in 2015. There were 506 showing for 2016 now.  There is something terribly wrong.

And because it is a presidential campaign year, expect this: Hillary will talk about it, and Trump will use it as an excuse to pat policemen on the back.

But I suspect nothing much will happen.

What The Tamir Rice Incident Reveals About Open Carry Gun Laws

So much yes from Charles Pierce in Esquire:

There certainly is no point in emphasizing the damn irony that Ohio is an “open carry” state so, even if the cops assumed Rice was 18, and they also assumed his gun was real, they had no cause even to stop him, let alone open fire. Listen to the spiel that Wayne LaPierre unspools every time he’s in a room with more than four people listening: arm yourselves, because the world is a hellscape of violent Others who are coming for you and your children. At its heart, open carry is about open season on the people who scare you. It’s certainly not about an absolute Second Amendment right that applies to black people as well as white. Open carry is about You and the Others, and so is the training of our modern, militarized police forces. If only Tamir Rice had not been born with that congenital ability to become huge and threatening the way he did in the mind of Timothy Loehmann. If only…

The prosecutor — who (half-heartedly, I’m sure) presented the case to the Grand Jury (which failed to hand down any indictments) — said that the officers followed policy.

What scares me is that might just be true.

In which case, we need to change the policy.

Police-Related Racial Homicide in Winston-Salem?

On December 9th, Winston-Salem resident Travis Page died after being handcuffed by four Winston-Salem police officers.  After being handcuffed.

It’s a story all too familiar — a young black man dies — not in a shootout with police — but while under police custody.

It is irrelevant what Travis Page did or was accused of doing.  Unless he was attacking police with violent force, he shouldn’t have died.  Unless…

Unless it was… suicide?  An accident?  So the burning question becomes… what happened?

Fortunately, three of the four officers had body cams (the fourth was a trainee and was not required to have a body cam).  What will those cameras show?  We won’t know, at least not for a while.  District Attorney Jim O’Neill will not be releasing the videos since they are evidence in the police investigation.

Mayor Joines and the Winston-Salem Journal are among the many who are calling for the video release.

Chad Nance over at Camel City Dispatch has been doing the yeoman’s work on this, and has a nice breakdown of what is known from the public record:

  • At approximately 7:28pm on December 9th the WSPD received a 911 call reporting shots fired at the Family Dollar location on Rural Hall Rd.
  • The person who called in the complaint described a suspect fitting Travis Page’s description.
  • The suspect was described as being six-feet, four-inches tall, heavy set, and wearing a blue shirt and dark shorts.
  • Responding officers were 20 year veteran, Corporal Robert Fenimore, 22 year veteran Officer Christopher Doub, 3 year veteran Officer Austin Conrad and trainee Officer Jacob Tuttle.
  • Officers found Page a short distance from the Family Dollar. According to the WSPD he ran when police approached.
  • According to an officer on the scene recorded in a citizen video (Taken sometime after the confrontation and the arrival of Forsyth County EMS, but before Page had been taken to the hospital) Page was running away from police when he fell.
  • According to police, Page ingested a controlled substance at this time. The particular substance that he allegedly ingested has not been identified at this time.
  • The WSPD’s report indicates that Page resisted arrest and the officers had to use pepper spray on him. The officer who administered they spray has not been identified.
  • Officers have indicated that once Page was handcuffed he became “Unresponsive”.
  • According to the police report, the responding officers and Forsyth County EMS attempted to use life-saving measures to revive Page. They have not been specific about what these measures entailed.
  • Officers claim that they found a gun and controlled substances on Page before he was taken to the hospital.
  • Travis Page was pronounced dead at the hospital.
  • According to public records Travis Page did have a criminal history that included assault on a police officer and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon while on probation.
  • Page’s mother told local media that her son had a variety of medical conditions including bronchitis and gout. Travis Page’s medical records are protected by HIPPA laws and that information must be considered anecdotal at this time.
  • The SBI is now handling the investigation into the death of Travis Page and the officers have been placed on administrative duty as is common procedure in these kinds of cases.
  • WSPD’s Lt. Catrina Thompson has stated publicly that the body cam footage will not “Embarrass Winston-Salem.”

(Read the story — Mr. Nance clearly knows more than he is willing to write about)

It would be inappropriate to pass judgement on the officers at this point.  But this incident is on a lot of peoples’ radar.

The Murder Of Laquan McDonald

It was murder.  Plain and simple.

But let’s start with the account from the police union, as described to the Chicago Tribune in October 2014:

“He’s got a 100-yard stare. He’s staring blankly,” [Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat] Camden said of the teen. “[He] walked up to a car and stabbed the tire of the car and kept walking.”

Officers remained in their car and followed McDonald as he walked south on Pulaski Road. More officers arrived and police tried to box the teen in with two squad cars, Camden said. McDonald punctured one of the squad car’s front passenger-side tires and damaged the front windshield, police and Camden said.

Officers got out of their car and began approaching McDonald, again telling him to drop the knife, Camden said. The boy allegedly lunged at police, and one of the officers opened fire.

McDonald was shot in the chest and taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:42 p.m.

Emphasis mine.

Let’s see what actually happened:

Not quite the same.  And NBC News in Chicago reports that after the shooting police arrived at a nearby Burger King to review surveillance footage from the restaurant:

After the shooting, according to Jay Darshane, the District Manager for Burger King, four to five police officers wearing blue and white shirts entered the restaurant and asked to view the video and were given the password to the equipment. Three hours later they left, he said.

The next day, when an investigator from the Independent Police Review Authority asked to view the security footage, it was discovered that 86 minutes of the video were missing.

In a statement, a spokesman for the IPRA said: “We have no credible evidence at this time that would cause us to believe CPD purged or erased any surveillance video.”

But according to Darshane, both the cameras and video recorder were all on and working properly the night of the shooting.

“We had no idea they were going to sit there and delete files,” Darshane said. “I mean we were just trying to help the police officers.”

Rrrrright.

The levels of repulsiveness in this incident are alarming.  Not only the shooting, but the cover-up, and the fact that it never would have come to light but for legal persistence and FOIA requests.  One can imagine how often the police were able to get away with these things before video cameras.

Protests are most peaceful, but continue:

After a night of loud, angry protests but few arrests, police and elected officials are bracing Wednesday for more possible backlash over the release of a dramatic video showing a white Chicago police officer shooting at a black teenager as he lay on the street.

Organizers from Stop Mass Incarceration Network Chicago have called for new protests Wednesday in Chicago’s Loop and in the busy retail strip along north Michigan Avenue on Friday.

On Tuesday night, crowds of well over 200 people marched through downtown streets chanting “16 shots,” a reference to the number of times that, prosecutors say, Officer Jason Van Dyke fired at 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who died later of gunshot wounds.

Scores of protesters clashed mildly with police late into the evening, occasionally pushing and shoving with officers in heated confrontations.

Even right wing reaction is muted.  Sean Hannity had to admit this was murder (but then he shifted focus to “what about all the police who have been killed”).

For The Black Lives Matter Files

I suspect stories like this fly under the radar an awful lot, and nobody even knows about it:

A young black man arrested by police in Portsmouth, Virginia, on the same day that one of the city’s officers fatally shot an unarmed black 18-year-old, has been found dead in jail after spending almost four months behind bars without bail for stealing groceries worth $5.

Jamycheal Mitchell, who had mental health problems, was discovered lying on the floor of his cell by guards early last Wednesday, according to authorities. While his body is still awaiting an autopsy, senior prison officials said his death was not being treated as suspicious.

“As of right now it is deemed ‘natural causes’,” Natasha Perry, the master jail officer at the Hampton Roads regional jail in Portsmouth, said of his death in an interview. Perry said there were no obvious outward signs of injury to the 24-year-old’s body.

Mitchell’s family said they believed he starved to death after refusing meals and medication at the jail, where he was being held on misdemeanour charges of petty larceny and trespassing. A clerk at Portsmouth district court said Mitchell was accused of stealing a bottle of Mountain Dew, a Snickers bar and a Zebra Cake worth a total of $5 from a 7-Eleven.

Mitchell was a chain-smoker, had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.  None of those things, however, should have caused his death of “natural causes” at the age of 24.

Setting aside, if possible, his death (which, I am sorry, IS suspicious) why the hell is a black man in jail, without bail, for four months, for stealing $5 worth of groceries?

Terrible Live Shooting On TV This Morning

Troubling video (not bloody, but shocking)

Both the reporter and the cameraman are dead.

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During an interview on CNN, General Manager Jeffrey Marks confirmed that today was Parker’s last day with the station. Marks also said that Ward’s fiancee Melissa Ott was in the control room during the broadcast, and saw the shooting happen live. From the video shot by the cameraman (as he died), a frame may have caught the shooter. 11935115_10156061166125093_4992410002731105501_n 

This all happened at 7:45 a.m. today during a live interview in the town of Moneta, Virginia. A manhunt for the shooter is on. Let me state the obvious before everyone else does:

(1)  Yes, the only reason this is “news” is because it happened on TV.  But double murders happen all the time.
(2)  Yes, the victims are white, although honestly, when black people are shot and it is recorded, we pay attention then as well.
(3)  This would be a good time for the candidates to speak up about gun control.  Watch the GOP candidates say instead that this is a time for “prayers” so that they never have to address gun control.

UPDATE 10:25 a.m. — Shooter is apparently a disgruntled employee of the TV station.

UPDATE 10:40 a.m. — Suspect identified as Vester Lee Flanigan (or Lester Lee Flanigan?), a light-skinned black man, who is about 6’3″, 250lbs and driving a gray 2009 Ford Mustang with Virginia license plates WZE-8846.  Police are in pursuit on Interstate 81 In a related story, of local interest, the second guy in the local (Rockingham County NC) manhunt was caught last night.  So that happened.

UPDATE 11:25 a.m.  Ugh. This story gets worse and worse. The shooter (Flanigan) goes by the name of Bryce Williams. He was a reporter at the station. And he started sharing video of the shooting (from his vantage point) on his Twitter account (which has been shut down) and Facebook page (also shut down). The video is very graphic and people are very good about not posting (or viewing it).  I’ve seen it, but I won’t post or link to it.  You can see him walk up to her and draw his gun and aim it at her (image below).  Nobody notices.  He puts the gun down and steps back a step or two.  Another 3 or 4 seconds pass.  Suddenly he lifts the gun and fires.  Alison Parker is seen running off.  The screen goes black and you hear more shots.   You don’t actually see anyone get hit, but it is startling.

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And more about the shooter now….  

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UPDATE 11:55 a.m. – Not dead, but in critical condition.

UPDATE 2:00 p.m. – Okay.  Now confirmed dead.

And now a motive — or rather several of them — emerge:

In the 23-page document faxed to ABC News, the writer says “MY NAME IS BRYCE WILLIAMS” and his legal name is Vester Lee Flanagan II.” He writes what triggered today’s carnage was his reaction to the racism of the Charleston church shooting:

“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15…”

“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”

It is unclear whose initials he is referring to. He continues, “As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!” He said Jehovah spoke to him, telling him to act.

Later in the manifesto, the writer quotes the Virginia Tech mass killer, Seung Hui Cho, calls him “his boy,” and expresses admiration for the Columbine High School killers. “Also, I was influenced by Seung–Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harrisand Dylann Klebold got…just sayin.'”

In an often rambling letter to the authorities, and family and friends, he writes of a long list of grievances. In one part of the document, Williams calls it a “Suicide Note for Friends and Family.”

–He says has suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work

–He says he has been attacked by black men and white females

–He talks about how he was attacked for being a gay, black man

“Yes, it will sound like I am angry…I am. And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace….”

“The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily…I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”

Does BLM Want To Change Minds Or Change The Law?

Last week I gave a full-throated defense of myself and others who had taken issue with the tactics of Black Lives Matter.  This came in the wake of a Seattle political event involving Bernie Sanders, where two BLM activists took the stage as Sanders started speaking, and effectively hijacked the agenda (as well as hijacking Sanders).  Sander never got to speak.  In my previous post, I said it was not a good idea to attack people who are normally allied with your position, as you need to engage in coalition-building in order to effect meaningful change.

I attributed it to a generation gap within the civil rights movement.  The New York Times thinks so too.

Now BLM protesters, true to their word, are going after other candidates as well.  They attempted to do the same thing at a Hillary Clinton event, but were blocked by the Secret Service.  To her credit, Clinton met privately with the BLM protesters.  BLM made a video of the meeting and released it yesterday.

The disconnect was obvious, as CNN explains (emphases mine):

The activists filmed the encounter and released the video in twoparts on Monday night. The Clinton campaign also provided CNN with a transcript of the exchange.

The activists, led by Daunasia Yancey, founder of Black Lives Matter in Boston, pressed Clinton on her family’s role in promoting “white supremacist violence against communities of color.”

Clinton acknowledged during the conversation that laws put into place by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, did not work out as planned.

“I do think that there was a different set of concerns back in the ’80s and the early ’90s. And now I believe that we have to look at the world as it is today and try and figure out what will work now,” she said. “And that’s what I’m trying to figure out and that’s what I intend to do as president.”

But Clinton also told the protesters that she was “not sure” she agreed with the activists that her husband’s policies were racist.

“I do think that a lot of what was tried and how it was implemented has not produced the kinds of outcomes that any of us would want,” she said. “But I also believe that there are systemic issues of race and justice that go deeper than any particular law.”

The activists did not appear to be won over by their conversation with Clinton.

Yancey told reporters earlier this month that she never heard “a reflection on (Clinton’s) part in perpetuating white supremacist violence” and that Clinton “gave the answer she wanted to give.”

Two of the activists shared their disappointment with Clinton’s response on CNN on Tuesday.

“Her policy response — if it’s not addressing the anti-blackness inherent in some of the previous polices, we’re just going to see that thread continue,” Yancey said. “And that’s what we’re looking to hear. What’s shifted? What’s changed for Hillary Clinton that’s going to make us believe that she’s going to take this country in a different direction in terms of race?”

Specifically, what Clinton didn’t seem to appreciate the insinuation. “Respectfully, if that is your position, then I will talk only to white people about how we are going to deal with the very real problems,”

I don’t understand this need of BLM to get people like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to admit things they shouldn’t admit to.  Neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton were promoting white supremacist violence.  Period.  They just weren’t.  You can make the argument that was an unintended consequence of flawed policies, but to say that the Clintons were promoting white supremacy?  Simply crazy.  And good for Hillary (and Bernie) for standing their ground on that.

Over at Balloon Juice, Betty Cracker gets annoyed:

It seemed to me that the BLM Boston reps who met with Hillary were more interested in getting her to own up to her role in advocating for Bill Clinton’s anti-crime policies than discussing policymaking going forward. One of the activists, Daunasia Yancy, expressed disappointment that she didn’t hear “a reflection on (Clinton’s) part in perpetuating white supremacist violence.”

While I admire Yancy’s commitment, the mom in me found it impossible to resist the urge to face-palm when I read that comment. Clinton is a candidate for president, and you expect her to reflect on her personal role in “perpetuating white supremacist violence”? Lots of luck with that. Here is Clinton’s response to BLM’s opening salvo about systemic racism:

“Your analysis is totally fair. It’s historically fair. It’s psychologically fair. It’s economically fair. But you’re going to have to come together as a movement and say, ‘Here’s what we want done about it.’”

That didn’t sit well with one of the activists, Julius Jones, who basically accused Clinton of whitesplaining (not in so many words, but that was the gist) at the beginning of the second video, which can be seen here. And Clinton got a tad snippy in return.

Here’s a rough, edited-for-length transcript of the exchange referred to above:

JONES: “If you don’t tell black people what we need to do, then we won’t tell you all what you need to do.”

CLINTON: “I’m not telling you, I’m just telling you to tell me.”

JONES: “This is and has always been a white problem of violence. There’s not much that we can do to stop the violence against us.”

CLINTON: “If that is your position, then I will talk with only to white people about how we are going to deal with very real problems.”

JONES: “What you just said was a form of victim-blaming. You were saying what the Black Lives Matter movement needs to do to is change white hearts is to…”

CLINTON: “I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate…you’re not going to change every heart. You’re not…you may change some hearts, but if that’s all that happens, we’ll be back here in 10 years having the same conversation.”

It’s worth watching both videos, which unfold not unlike some of the discussions seen here and elsewhere.

But BLM Boston has been slamming HRC on Twitter ever since the videos were released last night.

***

BLM Boston has its agenda — they are idealists. Hillary Clinton has hers — she is a pragmatist. What did you think?

Spot on.  I think that is part of the disconnect.  Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are politicians.  They FIX things.  You certainly understand (and I think Clinton and Sanders understand) the anxiety and desperation of the BLM protesters they encounter.  But that just can’t be all there is to the movement, can it?  Like me, John Cole hopes not, but he doesn’t know what else to do:

[I]t’s not difficult to fear the same thing happening to BLM that happened to OWS [Occupy Wall Street]. Granted, the movements are not the same. Economic inequality lacks the urgent life or death reality that face the black community, as their lives really are at risk for just doing what white people like me do every day and don’t think twice about it. Things like driving to the grocery store, or walking down the street, or going to the pool, or, well, basically anything seems to be excuse enough to shoot a black person these days. So there is an urgency that separates the two movements.

There are also similarities- mostly structural, in that a decentralized organic movement like this has all kinds of different actors with different ideals and different attitudes towards what is productive and what is not. There is no rigid leadership structure, and were there one, it would probably kill the movement anyway. People who follow protest movements are in a much better position to discuss this than I am, so I will just stop there.

But one key similarity that OWS and BLM have in common that continues to lead to these uncomfortable Jerry Maguire/Rod Tidwell “Help me help you” moments such as the most recent video….  Economic inequality and racial inequality are such large foundations of what this country is and what we are made of that no one really knows where to start in a way that will succeed. It’s just that entrenched in our society, and the issues of racial and economic inequality are concomitantly inexorably intertwined yet disparate issues. This is, after all, a nation that was literally built on the backs of slaves, yet race is not the key reason that so much economic inequality exists.

***

So while we may have reached a tipping point with the populace screaming for change, the deck is so stacked against us in favor of those already with institutional and economic power that really, it’s difficult to figure out where to go and what to do, and screaming for change becomes just screaming. This is not a bug, this is by design.

***

So we’re back at the beginning. How do you harness the energy of movements like BLM and make actual, tangible, immediate things happen? And how do you stop people from yelling at each other when they are basically on the same side to focus the rage where it belongs- into real plans of action? If you know, you’re smarter than me. And, apparently, the Clinton, Sanders, and O’Malley campaigns.

When you read of the account in Vanity Fair, you can see this is a contest of idealism versus pragmatism, with Clinton pushing the latter:

In a move that recalled some of the criticism of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Clinton pressed the activists to come up with specific demands. She pointed to the civil-rights movement, the gay-rights movement, and the women’s-rights movements as examples of progress achieved through a detailed road map of lawsuits and actions. “You can get lip service from as many white people you can pack into Yankee Stadium and a million more like it who are going to say, ‘We get it, we get it. We are going to be nicer,’” she said. “That’s not enough, at least in my book.”

The BLM protester seems to get that.

In a second video, Jones appears to respond to Clinton’s answer by taking issue with the recommendation, arguing that the issues the Black Lives Matter movement is working on—incarceration, police use of force, systemic inequalities in the justice system—are not ones that can be fixed by actions on the part of black people. “I say this as respectfully as I can: if you don’t tell black people what we need to do, then we won’t tell you all what you need to do,” Jones said. “This is and has always been a white problem of violence.”

I genuinely don’t think Clinton was telling Yancey, Jones, and the other activists that they need to come up with policy to rescue themselves from white supremacy (although I understand why Jones interpreted it that way, and I almost certainly would have done the same in the moment); I think she was saying, “Design the policy you want to see, because my role is a policymaker.”

This is the schism that I have noticed.

I can certainly understand Clinton’s response:

Clinton didn’t seem to appreciate the insinuation. “Respectfully, if that is your position, then I will talk only to white people about how we are going to deal with the very real problems,” she said. “Look, I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not.”

“But at the end of the day, we can do a whole lot to change some hearts and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them to live up to their own God-given potential,” Clinton continued. “You can keep the movement going, which you have started, and through it you may actually change some hearts. But if that’s all that happens, we’ll be back here in 10 years having the same conversation.”

It seems to me — and of course, I’m a white man and haven’t lived with this problem every day — that BLM isn’t set on what it wants, other than to identify the problem and make sure everyone knows what the problem is.  But some of us (me, the Clintons, Sanders) are already there, and have already been there for…. decades.  We want to SOLVE it, and I’m not sure BLM knows or cares or, most likely, believes that (perhaps they are too pessimistic to think that a solution is real or that the sincerity is real).  So then what is the next step for pragmatists?

Changes, turn and face the strain.

UPDATE:  More voices to add to the mix.  The subject is Bill Clinton’s 1994 “Tough On Crime” bill.  David Lind at Vox:

But when one activist associates the bill with a project of “white supremacist violence,” Clinton buckles. She takes it as a statement about intent: that laws like the 1994 crime bill were deliberately passed out of malice toward black communities. And so she counters that she and her husband were deeply concerned about black victims of crime, and were simply acting out of a desire to protect them…

The problem is that the conversation isn’t clear whether “extension of white supremacist violence” is about the intent of these policies or their consequences. This is a common problem with discussion of racism: Structural racism isn’t about feelings in individuals’ hearts, it’s about systems and outcomes. But it’s easy to slip from talking about systems to talking about people, and that’s what happened here.

Personally, I think the intent simply doesn’t matter. Clinton herself said, “You don’t change hearts. You change laws.” What matters is the external reality, not the feelings of the people who create it; caring about people will not save you from making policy choices that will hurt them.

In other words, iintent doesn’t matter — if law has a bad effect to black people, it is racist even if the intentions are good.

At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum has the response:

Lind suggests that intent doesn’t matter. Something is racist if it has racist consequences. But I think you have to be pretty careful about that. Lind is right that, whether racially inspired or not, it’s important to face structural racism clearly and work relentlessly to overcome it. Nonetheless, intent does matter. Calling someone racist does nothing except make matters worse unless they really do have racist intent.

My point exactly.

So was the 1994 crime bill racist in intent? No. Lots of black leaders, including black mayors who faced rising crime rates daily, supported it. Violent crime really was a huge problem—and it really was especially severe in black communities. Nobody at the time knew that lead might be the culprit for this, so they simply had to address it as best they could given what they believed. So they did. The 1994 crime bill was not a white supremacist project. It was a crime bill.

At the end of her piece, Lind argues that Hillary Clinton “doesn’t need to show she’s changed her heart. But she does need to show that she has learned, and changed her mind.” This puzzles me. Hillary has defended her support of the 1994 crime bill given what she knew at the time, but she has also proposed criminal justice reforms that make it clear she has learned and has changed her mind. If those reforms are insufficient, fine. Fight for more. But both Clintons have made it clear that their views on crime have changed. There’s simply no excuse for pretending that either one of them was involved in a conspiracy of “white supremacist violence” against black communities.

I am not sure why it is so important for BLM to have politicians label themselves as racist.  It escapes me because doing so will not save one black live.

 

Even The Gun Nuts Don’t Want A Piece Of This

A few days ago, I mentioned the presence of armed white people — the Oath Keepers — present on the streets of Ferguson during the racial tensions.  They were there, they said, the protect a reporter from the ultra-right wing website, InfoWars.

Except now we learn that Infowars denies knowing these guys or what they’re doing.

Maybe that’s true, maybe not.  But many gun nuts are thinking this is a bad idea.  A typical example… from the blog “BEARING ARMS, Guns & Patriots Saving Liberty and Lives“:

It seems quite clear that the four white Oath Keepers self-deployed to a black neighborhood in which there is considerable racial tension, in what many regard as nothing more or less than a show of force. They interjected themselves into a community where they were neither wanted nor requested, and raised tensions instead of assuaging them as the prior group of Oath Keepers did in December of 2014.

Our continuing fight to not only retain but reassert our Second Amendment rights after years of abuse at the hands of an increasingly statist government is one that requires a deft touch, and I’m proud to say that the vast majority of gun owners clearly understand this. As a result, we’re attracting more shooters, across wider cultural lines.

***

And we’ll continue to create a more inclusive “gun culture 2.0″ as long as we act intelligently.

I don’t know anything about the individual Oath Keepers involved in this most recent appearance of the Oath Keepers in Ferguson, but then again, their intentions and pedigrees are all but irrelevant. The public perception of what they were doing, and why they were there, is what matters.

They did us no favors.

Of course, that blogger (if you read further) is only concerned about the reputation of the pro-gun crowd and not the fact that people might get, you know, killed.

But…. it’s progress.  Right?

Pissing On Your Best Friend

Earlier this week, I got in — not one but two — debates with good progressive friends about the wisdom of the BLM movement shutting down Bernie Sanders speaking at a Social Security and Medicaid event last Saturday in Seattle.  It’s a lot of ground to cover, but I read something by Hamilton Nolan (whoever he is) at Gawker that gets me 66% of the way there.  So I am going to piggyback on his essay to explain my take:

On Saturday, Bernie Sanders was scheduled to speak to a crowd of thousands of supporters in a Seattle park. He never did; the event was shut down after a handful of protesters disrupted it in the name of “Black Lives Matter.” This was remarkably dumb.

Some caveats up front: 1) “Black Lives Matter,” like “Occupy,” is not a formal group with strict membership requirements. It is a banner, an overarching cause, a general proclamation of a set of political beliefs that can be picked up by anyone who cares to invoke its name. The actions of a few people should not, therefore, be used to try to tarnish that entire cause.

Yup.  And part of the problem in the debates about “what BLM did” is that there is no centralized BLM leadership.  When you think “BLM”, think “Tea Party”, but with a different set of goals.  When I use “BLM” in this post, I am referring to those who say and believe that what happened in Seattle speaks for all BLM movement supporters, even though I do not concede that to be true.  *I* am a BLM movement supporter, one of many who disagree with the tactics in Seatlle.

2) There are already plenty of conspiracy theories circulating in lefty circles about the group of protesters who disrupted the event, and their true motivations, and what they hoped to accomplish. I do not want to dive into a sea of unprovable suppositions, or overgeneralize about a broad cause. There have already been many tortured op-eds by progressives trying to painstakingly reconcile what happened. The fact is that this is not the first time that Bernie Sanders has been driven from the stage by Black Lives Matter protesters.

Agreed.  The background of the protesters at the event is interesting.  One of them was definitely once a Sarah Palin supporter, but what that means NOW, if anything, can only be guessed at.  For the purposes of what I am saying, I will consider the background of the protesters to be irrelevant.

I simply want to talk about the wisdom of doing this.

It is stupid, don’t do it.

Is “Black Lives Matter,” drawing attention as it does to institutional racism, racist police practices, and other pervasive instances of racism in American society, a legitimate cause? Of course it is. It is perfectly appropriate for BLM to wave its banner in rallies, in protest marches, and in city halls. It is appropriate to wave its banner in neighborhoods, in meeting halls, in the media, and in the streets. It is even, I would argue, appropriate for protesters to stand up and raise their voices and be disruptive at campaign rallies for political candidates who are acting to reinforce and support the sort of racism that they are campaigning against.

One of the criticisms that gets pushed against people like me who were critical of BLM is that we’re trying to get black protesters to “be nice” and “not make waves” and not “shake up the status quo”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Direct action is not only a valid tactic, but in many instances, a necessary tactic.  My gripe is not against direct action — it is against misdirected action

Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, who spits venom about “illegals” pouring into America to rape innocent women, could use a good Black Lives Matter protest. Almost every Republican presidential candidate, in fact—who stumble over themselves competing to build a bigger wall on the border and who unerringly back the police state in word and deed—could use a good Black Lives matter protest. As could most Republican senators, and state governors, and a host of mayors and city council members and sheriffs.

But Bernie Sanders?

Let me stop again here and blunt what some might be thinking.  I am not a Bernie Sanders supporter.  I like much if not most of what he says.  But I don’t think an 80 year old socialist can be an effective leader in this ultra-divided political climate.  He would be a great king, but this is a democracy where compromise is actually necessary.  I also doubt his bona fides on foreign policy.  And a number of other reasons.  So don’t tag me with “You’re in Bernie’s camp” assumption.  You would be wrong.

Nor do I think Sander’s campaign is above reproach.  He has many critics on the left for a number of reasons.  The unbelievably awesome Larry Lessig, for example, is critical of Sanders, saying that Sanders has not put campaign finance reform at the top of his agenda.  Like Lessig,  I believe that you can’t solve the major problems of this country (including racial problems) without changing the way we elect people.  And I’m excited about a possible Lessig campaign.  But you don’t see Lessig, or other Sanders critics, storming the stage and shouting at Sanders like it is a Jerry Springer show.

Bernie Sanders? Bernie Sanders, of all presidential candidates, is the one that you choose to target on the issue of America’s structural racism? Bernie Sanders is the most progressive serious presidential candidate, and the most liberal, and the most vocal and wise on the issue of America’s entrenched and widening economic inequality. And should the Black Lives Matter movement care about economic inequality? Of course. The average white household in America has 16 times the wealth of the average black household. No group in America suffers from our nation’s economic inequality more than black people. Further, closing the racial wealth gap is probably the single most effective thing that any politician could do to help advance the cause of ending structural racism in America. This is because promoting progressive economic policies that work against the extreme concentration of wealth in small groups of people is something that politicians can actually do that has actual real world effects on racial inequality. “Giving nice speeches” is an example of a thing that politicians can do that tends to have little if any real world effect on racial inequality. I guarantee you that there are Democratic (and even some Republican) presidential candidates who are far more polished and smooth politicians than Bernie Sanders who are capable of giving speeches on race in America that sound far more pleasing and life-affirming to listen to than anything that Bernie Sanders says in his own plainspoken growl. And those candidates, who are heavily influenced by Wall Street donors, will go on to do very little to close the racial wealth gap in America, unlike Bernie Sanders.

So the question is: do you want someone who will do the things that will actually address the issues you care about? Or do you want to be pandered to better?

Many on the left find it hard to come out and say “this was stupid,” because they support both Bernie Sanders and the Black Lives Matter movement. That is a misperception of the political landscape. Believing that a small group of angry young protesters did something that was not well thought out need not make you feel guilty or racist; rash and counterproductive things are what young people do. Screaming Bernie Sanders offstage is dumb because you support Black Lives Matter. For those perceptive enough to separate pretty slogans from actual policy prescriptions, it is clear that Bernie Sanders is the candidate most aligned with the group’s values. Stifling his voice only helps his opponents.

Go shout at someone who deserves it.

Here’s where I have a little pushback of my own for the Gawker opinion piece.  While it is true that Sanders is, of all the candidate, the one most likely to be the best friend of the BLM movement, it is clear that the BLM movement doesn’t see it that way.  The Gawker pieces doesn’t seem to understand this point.  So I’ll address it.

The Seattle protesters (and perhaps the ones at Netroots) claim not to be interested in partisan politics.  In fact, the Seattle protesters claim that that “white supremacist liberals” are actually the cause of the problem.

If that is indeed the position of ALL of BLM (and again, it isn’t, because BLM is just an umbrella name to describe a movement, rather than an actual organization), then BLM is in serious trouble.  It is not liberals who can be blamed for the black people dying at the hands of law enforcement.  Progressive policies are not the root cause of this (and tellingly, no BLMed can point to one), nor are progressives guilty by reason of complacency.

Especially and including Sanders.  Sanders had incorporated a searing critique of entrenched racism into his regular stump speech.  He addressed the SCLC (MLK’s organization) talking about Sandra Bland and the need for officers to wear police cameras.  When he addressed the national conference of the Urban League on August 7, Sanders rattled off the names of Brand, Brown, Boyd, Garner, Scott, Gray and Rice and presented his own standards. “Violence and brutality of any kind, particularly at the hands of law enforcement sworn to protect and serve their communities, is unacceptable and must not be tolerated, he said. “We must reform our criminal justice system. Black lives do matter, and we must value black lives.”

All this was BEFORE last weekend.  His reward was a public scolding by Seattle activists who prevented him from speaking at a Social Security rally, one of whom demanded the crowd “join us now in holding Bernie Sanders accountable for his actions.”  What would those actions be?  It wasn’t explained then or since.  Maybe that’s because the people who supported the Seattle protests were too busy congratulating themselves and taking victory laps, while the rest of us shook our heads in embarrassment and disbelief.

It’s possible that the Seattle protesters didn’t know about Sanders’ statements over the past few weeks, but if so, then the organization that prides itself on using the new social media of the Internet to “spread the word” and organize encountered a massive fail.

Even if they had known, my understanding is that the Seattle protesters didn’t care about Sanders’ civil rights past (going back 50 years) or his recent statements about black lives.  The BLM, I’m told, doesn’t care about partisan politics.

Which is all well and good, but then its focus on candidates of the 2016 election seems counterproductive to even its OWN mission.  In any event, I don’t think they should care about partisan politics either.  If a Republican candidate had the same background and positions as Sanders, he/she should be welcomed into the BLM fold as well.  Being am equal-opportunity troll still means you are a troll (See Trump, Donald)  (UPDATE:  Speaking of Trump, he just held a short press conference. He said Bernie Sanders was “weak” when he allowed #BlackLivesMatter protesters to take the microphone at his rally… and actually threatened to physically fight them if they tried to do the same thing to him.  Attention BLMers: you want to impress me?  Don’t take your fight to Sanders who offers the path of least resistance because he’s on your side.  Take it to Trump)

As an aside, yet ANOTHER defense offered by those who support the Seattle protests — and it is a common theme running through the larger debate — is that “white people” shouldn’t be telling “black people” how to run “their” movement.

This is absurd for a number of reasons.  The first is, many people don’t see it as a movement refined to people of color.  As Kennedy once said:

“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”

It’s not “my” movement?  Bullshit.  Besides, if the people doing the killing are white, and I am white, and what they do reflects upon me (and apparently it does), then I’m not going to remain silent when I see a movement destined to fail.

Furthermore, I’m not criticizing the movement “as a white man”.  The criticisms I have a color-neutral, and one way you know that is because my exact same criticism of BLM has been said by Oprah Winfrey and Al Sharpton, who became, as a result, pariahs within the BLM movement (more on that in a moment).

To suggest that my criticisms come because of my whiteness denies a central tenant of a belief that BLMers themselves hold — that I am a beneficiary of white privilege (I acknowledge that I am a beneficiary of a racist system, but that does not mean I cause or support it).  I don’t check my color, and I am not conscious of it when I open my mouth to opine.  However, it is helpful to the BLM movement that I am portrayed that way, and they will take advantage of liberal white guilt to advance that theory that all whites are racist.  But it simply isn’t true.  I know when I am being condescending on a racial basis — that it “feels” that way to a black person doesn’t make it so.

So returning the the point, who then can the finger be pointed when it comes to racial injustice?  Go to the conservative blogs whenever a unarmed black person gets shot by white policemen.  If they are talking about it at all, it is in defense of the police.  The opposite is true of the progressive blogs.  Compare the new media versions of the right and the left on the subject of racial homicides.  Hell, compare the old media.

BLM supporters are quick to point out that racism is different now.  It isn’t hoods and Civil War flags.  No it isn’t.  That’s too obvious.  But that doesn’t mean it is mainstream progressive thought either. LISTEN to what is said on the very very white Fox News.  None of them have hoods either.

Can progressives be taken to task for failing to fix the problem?  Sure.  For example, Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative (or rather, the expansion of his My Brother’s Keeper Initiative) seems like weak tea to many, and I tend to agree.  But failure to fix the problem is not the same as being at the root cause of the problem.  BLMers seem to not know the difference.

So what is BLM’s problem with me and Oprah and Sharpton?  Not hard to answer.  We’re the older generation.  And THAT, I insist, is really what this schism is about.  Not progressive left against BLM, but rather, old (experienced) activists and younger ones.  If I sound condescending in my criticisms to a young black BLM activist, my condescension is rooted in my experience, not my skin color.

One defender of BLM said that he had been involved in social activism for 7 years, so he’s not a neophyte.  Seven years is good, but it’s not 37.  And as other BLM activists have blatantly admitted, proudly, they don’t care about the past.  MLK was then, this is now.

Each generation needs to find its own voice, so you certainly can understand where BLM comes from.  If I grew up with black parents who were (probably) liberal and followers of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, and I came of age in world where young black people got shot and nobody seemed to care, I too might reject the world and politics of my parents (not just leftie politics, but the racist political system altogether) and start from scratch.  So I get that.

But black lives matter.  They matter more than white peoples’ feelings (as we often hear), but guess what?  They matter more than black peoples’ feelings, too.  I don’t care that “this ain’t your daddy’s revolution” as many BLM signs and websites like to say.  Fidelity to being “now” — and using social media, and being leaderless, and being angry, and upturning the apple cart, and yada yada yada — that don’t mean shit if doesn’t yield change.

And the problem with BLM is that they waste time reinventing the wheel –thinking that their “new” brand of movement will get things done.  In the meantime, black lives are at stake.  But for some reason, it is more important to close their ears to (or even piss on) natural allies than to be pragmatic about ACTUAL change.

Not that the BLM cares about history, but the phenomenon of self-marginalization isn’t new.  In the 1960s, you had a split between the militant Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.  Both engaged in direct action, so that factor is a wash.  But who was the white power structure more afraid of — (a) Malcolm X and his threat to take democracy into black hands “by any means necessary”, or (b) Martin Luther King with his progressive coalition taking direct action (coupled with his ability to work within the system he was engaging)?

Martin Luther King was the threat.

Why?  Because for all his talk and perceived militancy, Malcolm X had no method, no program, no “means” that would actually bring about long-lasting change.  King, on the other hand, had shown he could move mountains.  And when he crossed Pettus bridge on his way to Selma, it wasn’t just King and the SCLC; it was preachers and volunteers of every religion and race.  (The only person to die in the march to Selma was a white woman).

But BLM doesn’t seem to care about that.  “Coalition politics is sooooo 60 years ago, and we’ve got hashtags now!”  So old farts like Oprah and me, we can sit on the side.  That’s seriously what is going on today.

It’s too bad.  Because social media is great for getting people to look at stuff.  A black girl in Houston gets kneed in the back by a white cop at a pool party in Houston.  Some guy with a cellphone records it.  Bam!!  People all over the world know about it before the day is over.  That’s powerful and an incredible tool to harness.

But one need only look to the Occupy movement to see the shortcomings of relying just on that.  At the end of the day, almost no financial reform came when Occupy took the tents down.  Only one very low level guy has been prosecuted for the intentional financial crimes that resulted in a catastrophic worldwide depression that saw the USA alone lose trillions in net worth, and saw hundreds of thousands of Americans lose their hopes for retirement, or a house, etc.  The best tthat can be said of the Occupy movement is that “income inequality” is a phrase people know, and it is sorta kinda a campaign issue in 2016.

Perhaps that was all the Occupy intended to do, so I won’t say it is a “failure”.  But one thing is certain — by design or by accident, Occupy had no Act Two.

BLM is going the way of Occupy in that they think that simply exposing the problem is the same as fixing it.  Unfortunately, people are aware of the race problem already.  The mainstream media didn’t cover financial shenanigans because it wasn’t sexy and it was hard to understand, but they DO cover race wars.  So the American public is aware of the problem (even conservatives who deny it is a problem are aware of the issue).  At best, you’re either preaching to choir, or just annoying people who will resist you.  At worst, you are annoying your allies.

So BLM needs an Act Two and a way to bring about change.  But they are stuck in Malcolm X mode, engaging in divisive politics that marginalizes themselves, and specifically rejecting coalition movements   That’s unfortunate.

I could probably write another post on what BLM should be doing, but that would take too long.  The thumbnail version is this: act more locally.  Police units operate and the city, county and municipal level.  That’s where the rubber needs to meet the road.  National politics and politicians can only do so much.

So demand “audits” or “report cards” from every police department.  Have specific benchmarks that every law enforcement entity needs to meet.  Some criteria might relate to hiring practices (i.e., does the racial make-up of the police officers reflect that of the population they serve), police distribution (i.e., do minority policemen police minority neighborhoods), data collection (i.e., is information gathered relating to the race of people stopped, frisked, detained, as well as the race of the cop), police training (i.e., prevailing model that is taught — self-protection model vs “protect and serve the public” model), police continuing education, views on use of cameras (not only by police but the public recording the police) and so on.  Require local police departments to issue annual reports on these and other factors.  Form joint legislative-citizen committees to address shortcomings that surface from these reports.  Write and pass local legislation to correct flaws in the system (I, for one, think that government should not be permitted to negotiate with police unions on any issue mentioned above).  And so on.

And if direct action is needed, BLM needs to take direct action at the local level against whatever entity is obstructing it.  But don’t marginalize.  BLM needs to understand, for example, how other groups — say, groups concerned about gun control, or groups concerned about income inequality — have issues that bear directly on the issues that concern BLM.  And bring them in.  Don’t piss them off and shut them out.

That’s what BLM needs to do, at a minimum.

That is, if it cares about black lives.

“Keep your eyes on the prize.”

– Folk song from 1950s and 1960s civil rights movement

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LOOSE THREADS AND AFTERTHOUGHTS:  I thought I would update this post to address a few items I didn’t touch.  Some of them, I think, are obvious, but I seem to keep reading the same thing so….

(1)  “The Seattle protest exposed the white supremacist liberalism that exists.”  Nope.  It really didn’t.  Apparently, some people think that if you boo a rude black person who is stealing the mic, you are booing because the person is black.  Which of course isn’t true.  They were booing because it was rude.  Flashback:

[Kanye] West had said that he was “rude” for interrupting her acceptance speech for Best Female Video. “It was just very rude, period,” West said to Leno. “I’d like to apologize to her in person.”

The people who criticized Kanye weren’t being racist, were they?

Furthermore, go back to the video.  When the protesters call for 4½ minutes of silence for Michael Brown (to symbolize the 4½ hours his body lay on a Ferguson street), the rally organizers raised their hands in support, as did many in the audience.  Yes, there were catcalls and even some slurs (there are always are a few in every crowd).  But to say that it exposed liberal racism?  Based on what?

This isn’t to say that there isn’t white progressive racism.  There is.  Some of it is blatant but exists in small pockets (Yes, certain counties in West Virginia, I am looking at you).  Some of it comes in more subtle forms, like those who insist that they are “colorblind:” and “don’t see race”. That, of course, is its own kind of racism.   Of course, those people exist within all political camps (personally, I have seen more people on the right espouse themselves as “colorblind” than those on the left, but that might just be my experience).  But as I state in the main body of my essay, the forces opposed to what BLM seeks to do are on the right.  And if they visit rallies of THOSE candidates, they will see the racism.  Sanders was an easy target because he was close to the protesters philosophically.  Getting him to condemn racism in BLM language wasn’t like leading a horse to water and forcing him to drink — it was like approaching a horse already drinking from the water.

(2)  “Who cares what the Seattle protesters did?  They were successful, weren’t they?”  Nope.  I’ve already discussed how Sanders had already spoken about the black lives matter before the Seattle protest.  But more than that, some people claim that by focusing on economic injustice, Sanders was avoiding the issue of racial injustice.  That’s simply not true.  Sanders understands, as apparently many BLM supporters do not, that you cannot achieve sweeping revolutionary racial changes unless you address economic injustice.  Race and class are inextricably tied together.

Take two real world examples:  A rich and famous former athlete kills two people in Brentwood, California.  He gets due process of a trial (several trials actually), and retains the best lawyers.  He’s found not guilty.  Compare that to a a guy in Staten Island, New York, who allegedly tried to sell a cigarette on a sidewalk.  He was summarily executed by police who compress his neck and chest until he could no longer breathe.  No trial, no lawyers, no due process guaranteed by the Constitution.  Since both guys were black, you can’t point your fingers at racism.  It has to do with class.

Now, I certainly understand why protesters in the BLM movement would not like it if a presidential candidate (or someone like me) brings up the topic of economic injustice within a dialogue about racial injustice.  It certainly appears like an attempt to skirt the race issue (or even sweep it under the table).  Perhaps that might be considered a “gaffe” by failing to talk about race, instead of economy, to people upset exclusively about race (and who don’t see the economic connection).  But I maintain… unless you are looking for bandaid approaches rather than long term permanent solutions, you need to understand how class and economics play a part in racial injustice.  There are many good books on this issue.

(3)  Black people don’t know what all white people think.  Does this even need to be said?  Any sentence that begins with “White people think that….” is just as prejudiced as a sentence that begins with “Black people think that….”.  I know what a broad brush is, and it is a broad brush no matter who wields it.  It doesn’t help a race movement to make broad-brush statements about someone else’s race.

This is entirely different from pointing out a structure or a political system which benefits one race over another.  That is true and supportable.

So one can say that white people benefit from the current legal and political systems to the detriment of people of color.  But don’t say that all white people want to preserve a system which endows them with white privilege.  That’s simply untrue, and people of color don’t get to ascribe my motives any more than I can accurately ascribe theirs.

In a related vein, don’t claim that the white people at the Sanders event were “inconvenienced”.  That’s spin. Some of them waited a long time to see/hear Sanders.  Some of them wanted to know what he would say.  But in the long run, who cares?  Or “hurt feelings”.  Again, that’s probably not true.  But who cares?  The criticisms against BLM are because BLM is shooting itself in the foot.

(4)  Stop with the ridiculous false comparisons.  Yes, being shot by police is worse than interrupting a political event.  So is dying from breast cancer.  Should the Koman people interrupt a BLM event because dying from breast cancer is worse than a rally?

(5)  What to do, what to do.  Hopefully, the Sanders incident was just a setback for BLM.  Hopefully, they will rethink their broader strategy.  But one should not disparage their efforts completely.  Direct action against those who deny there is a problem (or who take the position that people of color are the problem) will always help.  I don’t mean to turn anyone off to BLM.  They should be a part of YOUR coalition,even if they reject coalition politics.  In that vein, let me point to other organizations worthy of your time and consideration.  Some have been around for a long time.  For example, the Stolen Lives Project and the October 22 Coalition (to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation).

The latter has many local chapters (here’s the one for Greensboro NC) and his calling for a National Day of Protest on October 24.  The event has a wide range of endorsers — from Eve Ensler to Cindy Sheehan (I mention them, because they are white), from the mother of Tamir Rice to the Cornel West.  A coalition.

 

Has Ferguson Gotten Better?

One year after the arrest and killing of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man, Ferguson seems to be in deeper trouble than ever.  Several investigations, including one by the DOJ, found that the police officer did not act improperly in the shooting of Michael Brown.  BUT the DOJ found that the police department was ethically un-diverse (compared to the general population) and was systematically targeting the minority community for everything from major offenses to traffic violations.  One year on, political leaders have changed or been replaced, but

A year after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown sparked a firestorm in Ferguson, the city is still pumping out thousands of new arrest warrants and jailing people over minor offenses, according to an exclusive CNNMoney analysis.

This practice continues despite a scathing report from the Department of Justice in March that found that Ferguson’s police department and municipal court were unconstitutionally targeting low-income and minority residents with tickets and fines for minor offenses — often in pursuit of revenue. The report noted that there were more than 16,000 people (residents and non-residents alike) with outstanding arrest warrants as of the end of last year, equivalent to around 75% of the town’s population.

While the police were the ones giving out the tickets, the DOJ slammed the city’s court for using arrest warrants to squeeze money out of the people least able to afford the fines. Even though there need to be repercussions for people who break the law and ignore their tickets, the DOJ says jail time is far too harsh a punishment for infractions that rarely pose a major threat to public safety.

But in the wake of the DOJ report, CNNMoney found that Ferguson is still at it. The city has issued more than 2,300 new arrest warrants so far this year and thousands of older warrants continue to haunt people — even as neighboring municipalities are wiping out old tickets or warrants entirely.

The court clerk fired over racist emails that surfaced during the DOJ investigation has a new job with another Missouri court… six miles away from Ferguson.  That’s not progress either.

And this weekend saw violence as well as a shooting.  However, reports suggest that a black man was shooting directly at police cars, and police shot back and seriously wounded him.  If those are the actual facts, I don’t think that can be pinned on police.  People like that…. #nothelping.

But according to news reports, little has changed within the police department.  And it doesn’t look like their tactics have changed much.  On the radio, I heard someone describe the protests this week compared to those from one year ago.  He said, “One year ago it was like 1955; this weekend it was like 1965”.  Meaning… much more chaos.

And speaking of #nothelping, this happened….

As St. Louis County Police stage mass arrests of black protesters for suspicion of possessing weapons, tonight in Ferguson, Missouri, the extreme right wing militia Oath Keepers are stalking the streets openly carrying assault rifles.

oathferg

Why were they there?  They were sent by conspiracy lunatic Alex Jones to protect his “reporters.”  To get a sense of what these guys are about… see the guy in the picture above?  Watch him in the video below:

The race problem meets the rightwing extremism problem.  This has disaster written all over it.

UPDATE:  I read over at Mother Jones this:

During the same time last year, Oath Keeper members took it upon themselves to guard the city’s rooftops with assault rifles. Police officials eventually ordered the group to leave, saying their presence was inciting fear and suspicion in an already tense situation. However, no members were arrested.

I did not know they were there last year as well.  However, I wonder what the police would have done last year (or this year) if it was an armed black militant group on the streets for the same reason.  Would the police simply have “ordered” them to leave…. with no arrests?

Bernie Sanders, #BlackLivesMatter, and The Difference Between Activism and Flaming

A Tough Weekend For Black Lives Matter, says the headline of an article in today’s Atlantic.  And why?  Two things: (1) an officer-involved shooting of a black youth by cops in Ferguson, Missouri at the end of a day of otherwise peaceful protests, and (2) a demonstration at a Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle on Saturday.

The first one was a setback because the youth was reportedly shooting at police cars.  I have little to say about this because it happened late last night, and I’m sure we don’t know all of the facts (also, the first facts that come out of these things are often wrong).  However, if it is true that some black kid was shooting at police cars and they had legal justification to shoot back — yeah, that’s a setback form BLM.  Not, of course, because they condoned or incited the shooting, but it mars the day and the movement as a whole, and gives credence to the BLM haters who say (often in racist tones) that the blacks are at fault and there is no racism problem with law enforcement in that town.  (The DOJ believes differently, but never mind that, right?)

The second matter is, to me, actually troubling.  I’ll let CNN report what happened:

Seconds after Sanders took the stage, a dozen protesters from the city’s Black Lives Matter chapter jumped barricades around the stage and grabbed the microphone from the senator. Holding a banner that said “Smash Racism,” two of the protesters—Marissa Janae Johnson and Mara Jacqeline Willaford, the co-founders of the chapter—began to address the crowd.

“My name is Marissa Janae Johnson, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Seattle,” she said to sustained boos from an audience that had waited an hour and a half to hear Sanders. “I was going to tell Bernie how racist this city is, filled with its progressives, but you already did it for me, thank you.

“You are never going to hear Bernie speak if I don’t hear silence now,” said Johnson, adding later, “Now that you’ve covered yourself in your white supremacist liberalism, I will formally welcome Bernie Sanders to Seattle.”

To sustained boos from the audience that assembled to see Sanders, Johnson demanded that the senator take action on saving black lives and called on him to release his plans to reform policing. “Bernie Sanders, would you please come over here,” she said. Johnson and Willaford demanded—and eventually won—a four-and-a-half-minute-long moment of silence in honor of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was killed by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, a year ago on Sunday. Sanders stood just feet away off stage, chatting with his wife, Jane, and the three aides that came to Seattle with him. Sanders’ aides said the senator had no plans of leaving during the protests, but once Johnson did not appear willing to give up the mic after the moment of silence, organizers effectively shut down the event.

Sanders released a statement in response to the interruption by Johnson and Willaford. “I am disappointed that two people disrupted a rally attended by thousands at which I was invited to speak about fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare,” it read. “I was especially disappointed because on criminal justice reform and the need to fight racism there is no other candidate for president who will fight harder than me.” (The emphasis is mine).

The Atlantic article goes on to opine, “this sort of activism strikes me as a self-inflicted blow to Black Lives Matter.”  Me too.  They did it in part by painting all of Bernie’s audience as “covering themselves in white supremacist liberalism.”

Adventures In Police Framing

Then:

A police officer in Alabama proposed murdering a black resident and creating bogus evidence to suggest the killing was in self-defence, the Guardian has learned.

Officer Troy Middlebrooks kept his job and continues to patrol Alexander City after authorities there paid the man $35,000 to avoid being publicly sued over the incident. Middlebrooks, a veteran of the US marines, said the man “needs a god damn bullet” and allegedly referred to him as “that nigger”, after becoming frustrated that the man was not punished more harshly over a prior run-in.

***

Middlebrooks allegedly said “the police were going to pull [Bias] aside on a routine traffic stop and [Bias] would get killed”. According to the lawsuit, which has since been filed to court in a separate ongoing case against the city, this prompted the brother-in-law to retrieve a voice recorder that Bias had been carrying around with him in an attempt to monitor alleged harassment by police, and then return to the conversation with the officer.

On the recording, Middlebrooks is heard suggesting Bias had been behaving threateningly towards his relatives. The officer said if he were in the same position, he would “fucking kill that motherfucker with whatever I had in that fucking house”.

Now:

Some of the contents of Sam DuBose’s car at the time of his death have been identified.

WLWT has confirmed through CPD’s search warrant inventory document that four bags and a jar of marijuana were in Dubose’s car at the time of the July 19 traffic stop that ended in former UC Officer Ray Tensing fatally shooting DuBose.

However, multiple sources have told WLWT officers found a little less than 2 pounds of marijuana.

No officials were immediately able to confirm the amount of marijuana found.

According to reports, the marijuana was found in the car’s center console, under the front passenger seat and on the floor behind the driver’s seat.

Police sources said the street value for the amount of marijuana found in DuBose’s car is  anywhere between $2,000 and $5,000 depending on the quality and the demand.

Police said any marijuana weighing more than two pounds is considered a felony.

Officers said the search warrant was obtained two days after the deadly shooting.

U.C. Officer shoots and kills Sam DuBose

Ray Tensing is the first officer in Cincinnati to face murder charges for killing someone in the line of duty.

The video proved to be crucial evidence to the grand jurors who indicted Tensing, and it stunned city officials, prosecutors and the relatives of shooting victim Samuel DuBose.

It also was a reminder that video, whether captured by witnesses on smart phones or by police officers themselves, is transforming the way fatal encounters involving police are investigated and perceived around the nation.

“It’s an absolute tragedy that anyone would behave in this manner,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said after publicly releasing the video. “It was senseless. It’s just horrible.

“He purposefully killed him.”

The video shows that Tensing, who stopped DuBose in Mount Auburn on July 19 for driving without a front license plate, speaks to him for a little less than two minutes before the fatal shot is fired.

When Tensing asks DuBose to take off his seat belt, DuBose says “I didn’t even do nothing” and turns his ignition key, starting the car. Tensing then reaches into the car with one hand and, with the other, fires a single shot into DuBose’s head.

DuBose did not appear to be belligerent or aggressive toward the officer before the shot was fired, though his lawyer, Stew Mathews, said Tensing feared he would be run over.

Mathews said charging his client with murder was “absolutely unwarranted.” He said he expected an indictment, but on lesser charges. “Murder is the purposeful killing of another,” Mathews said. “There wasn’t any purpose to kill this fella.”

Tensing, 25, faces 15 years to life in prison if he’s convicted.

Tensing claimed he was “dragged” by DuBose’s vehicle following an altercation during a routine traffic stop, and was therefore forced to open fire, shooting DuBose once in the head.

The conservatives at Legal Insurrection have tried to somehow come to Tensing’s defense with a breakdown of the video.  Certainly, their argument is likely to parallel that of Tensing’s attorneys at trial, i.e., Tensing had a reasonable fear that he would be dragged and since that fear was reasonable, he had a right to shoot in self-defense.  I don’t think that’s what the video reveals, and even the Legal Insurrection folks can’t make that claim stick

What’s worse for Tensing is what happens in the aftermath of the shooting, but still caught on the full video (not in the particular video above).  As The Guardian pointed out, you could see Tensing’s co-officers start to justify the shooting with amounts to be an obvious lie:

A Guardian analysis of the nearly 28 minutes’ worth of Tensing’s body-camera footage released by the prosecutor’s office also shows the aftermath of the shooting and reveals that on three occasions, two other police officers repeat Tensing’s account that he was dragged by DuBose, and one of these officers claims to have witnessed it occurring.

Tensing repeats, multiple times throughout the footage, the claim that he was dragged by DuBose’s vehicle. But at five minutes and 44 seconds into the video, he states: “I think I’m OK. He was just dragging me.”

To which a second officer, who stands out of the frame, replies: “Yeah, I saw that.”

Tensing continues: “I thought I was going to get run over. I was trying to stop him.”

Then, at six minutes and 54 seconds into the footage, while Tensing is seemingly conversing with the same officer, he states: “He was dragging me, man.”

The officer replies, “Yeah.” To which Tensing continues: “I got my hand and my arm caught inside.” The officer then replies, “Yeah, I saw that.”

The identity of this officer is not immediately clear. A copy of the University of Cincinnati police division’s information report on the shooting names university police officer Phillip Kidd as a witness to the entire event.

The information report, written by UC police officer Eric Weibel, states: “Officer Kidd told me that he witnessed the Honda Accord [DuBose’s vehicle] drag Officer Tensing, and that he witnessed Officer Tensing fire a single shot.”

Weibel’s report continues: “Looking at Officer Tensing’s uniform, I could see that the back of his pants and shirt looked as if it had been dragged over a rough surface.”

About 14 minutes into the video, while Tensing is still at the site of the shooting, but has now moved further away from DuBose’s crashed car, he is instructed by a third officer to indicate where the altercation had started.

This officer appears to be a member of the Cincinnati police department and wears a sergeant’s lapel on his arm. He states: “You can talk about anything you want except for what happened [sic]. The only thing that I ask of you is where did it start?”

Tensing replies: “I initiated the traffic stop at Vine and Thill.”

The two officers then clarify the direction Tensing was driving. The sergeant then states: “And, it looks like you got dragged if I’m understanding, looking …”

To which Tensing replies: “Yes.”

Tensing has pled not guilty.  It’s not clear whether the other officers are being investigated for complicity or conspiracy after the fact.  But they should be.

New Sandra Bland Revelations

This just came out:

Sandra Bland, the black woman found hanging dead in a Texas jail days after a traffic stop, smoked or possibly swallowed a large amount of marijuana while in custody, her family’s attorney reported the district attorney as saying.

Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis made the disclosure in a text message to attorney Cannon Lambert, who has called the state’s autopsy on the Chicago-area woman defective, Lambert said.

“Looking at the autopsy results and toxicology, it appears she swallowed a large quantity of marijuana or smoked it in the jail,” Mathis said in a text message to Lambert that the attorney provided to Reuters.

Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the text. Repeated calls to Mathis’ office were not returned.

“This will of course be very relevant in any future criminal or civil litigation,” the message from Mathis to Lambert said.

This doesn’t look good for the police of Waller county.  Even if actual murder is a leap, we KNOW this:

(1)  The dashcam, nor the eyewitness video, supports the officer’s account of what happened.  We don’t see her assaulting the officer.

(2)  The arrest was unwarranted.  Bland was under no legal obligation to extinguish the cigarette in her own car, even with a traffic stop.

(3)  If, as the Waller county police assert, Sandra Bland had attempted suicide in the past (she told them in her admittance paperwork), they should have put her on a suicide watch.  They did not do this.

(4)  If the toxicology of the autopsy is correct, how did marijuana get in her cell?

UPDATE – several hours later:

Medical examiners ruled the death of Sandra Bland a suicide by hanging, and the autopsy uncovered no evidence of a violent struggle,according to the Texas prosecutor Warren Diepraam, the first assistant district attorney of Waller County:

Diepraam said there were no defensive injuries on Bland’s hands. He said there were about 30 cuts on her wrists, and that the scarring suggests they were made two to four weeks ago, well before her arrest.

Diepraam said that toxicology tests found marijuana in Bland’s system, but he said further tests would be necessary to determine when she ingested it.

Jail intake forms filled out for Bland appear to show that she told jailers she tried to commit suicide last year, and that she had been “very depressed” in the past. But the answers on the forms are inconsistent.

Apparently, reporters were walked through graphic photos.  There is a concurrent investigation going on as to what happened at the roadside.

 

Updates To Sandra Bland Death Including Possible Dash Cam Edits

Background is here — Unfortunately, not a new story.  Black person gets pulled over in a southern town and dies in police custody.  The person was Sandra Bland, a vibrant educated 28 year old woman from outside Chicago, who as down in Houston for a job interview, which she got.  After a verbal exchange with police following a traffic stop for failing to change lanes on July 10, she was arrested.  She was dead 3 days later.  Police say she hanged herself with a plastic bag inside the Waller County Jail.

There was video of the arrest from a passerby.  We now have the police dashcam video.  Here it is in full:

Yeah, I know it’s 52 minutes.  So I understand if you don’t want to watch.

But there is something funky about the video…. in two places.

At one point, a tow truck driver exits his vehicle and walks around State Trooper Brian Encinia’s car. Within seconds, the truck driver is seen making the same exit and walk, but Encinia, who can be heard recalling the traffic stop encounter in detail, is uninterrupted.

Minutes later, a white car appears on the screen and disappears two times, before reemerging and making a left turn.

In both cases, audio of Encinia’s voice continues without interruption. Watch the two clips:

One explanation could be that the equipment was faulty, but authorities have agreed to investigate whether or not officers tampered with the evidence.

My sense it is not edited, if only because it so obvious and bad.  But we’ll find out.

Of greater concern, is what wasn’t edited out of the video.  What you have his this officer following and following Bland, as if looking for a pretext to pull her over.  Driving while black, anyone?  And then she fails to make a signal while changing lanes.  And he pounces.  Bam!

And then, contrary to arresting officer’s affidavit that Bland “was swinging her elbows at me and then kicked my right leg in the shin,” causing “pain in my right leg and small cuts on my right hand,” the video clearly shows Brian Encinia being unnecessarily hostile to Bland — who is, by her own admission, annoyed that he had tailed her until he could manufacture a reason for pulling her over.

Encinia aggressively enters her vehicle, telling her that he will “yank you out of her” if she doesn’t comply with his directive “to step out of the car.”

“Step out or I will remove you,” he said.

“I’m getting removed for a failure to signal?” she asked.

“Get out of the car or I will remove you,” he replied.

“I’m calling my lawyer,” she said.

“I’m going to yank you out of here,” Encinia replied, and proceeded to do exactly that, at which point the situation quickly escalated.

A FURTHER THOUGHT:  Over at FDL, a blogger makes a reasonable argument why police may be culpable, even if the death was a suicide.

Another Jailed Black Person “Hangs Herself”

Are you buying this?

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According to authorities, an 18-year-old girl hanged her self in an Alabama jail. The inmate has been identified as Kindra Darnell Chapman by the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office.

Chapman was arrested on a first-degree-robbery charge for allegedly taking a cellphone and booked at Homewood City Jail Tuesday around 6:22 p.m., AL.com reports. She was last seen alive at 6:30 p.m by jailers and found unresponsive at 7:50 p.m. Officials report that Chapman used a bed sheet to hang herself.

Chapman was pronounced dead at Brookwood Medical Center. Homewood police are currently investigating this death.

This was Tuesday, the same day the story broke about Sandra Bland.

Now, we know very little about the facts.  But check it out.  Assuming the allegations are true, she hung herself because of a cellphone.  And while you are mulling the probability of that, consider that she was only in the 80 minutes between when she was last seen and when she was found dead, this girl had figured out and executed her own suicide with resources in the cell.

Is it all possible?  Sure.  But this is Alabama.

UPDATE:  I found this picture of her… a fuller one of the picture above.

11665436_1605262543084328_7958366986817489714_n

Apparently, Kindra was pretty bad-ass.  (I found other pictures of her making the same gesture).

And a picture of her apparently with a gun.

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Although, these pictures make it LESS likely that this girl would kill herself.  Obviously, she wasn’t weak.  I’ll bet she gave some sass.

The Suspicious Death Of Sandy Bland

28-year-old Sandra Bland (also called Sandy).  She was visiting Texas from Naperville, Illinois (a Chicago suburb) to interview for a college job at her alma mater of Prairie View A&M.  She got the job.

On July 10, she tweeted this:

A view hours later, she was pulled over for a routine traffic violation (failure to use her turn signal).  Stories vary, but the police claim she was combative. The story ends this way: Sandy Bland died in a Texas holding cell on or around July 13, 2015:

Sandra Bland was found dead in a Waller County, Texas, jail cell on Monday at 9 a.m. after being arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer during a routine traffic stop, the I-Team has learned. Authorities say her death appears to be suicide. In numerous emails and phone calls to the ABC7 I-Team, her friends and relatives say they do not believe the official version of what happened and say this is a case of foul play in a county with a history racial intolerance.

Here’s a video that surfaced, purportedly depicting Bland’s July 10 arrest:

The full uncut video is here.

Quotes taken from the footage suggested that Bland objected to rough handling by the officer or officers who arrested her, and she’s quoted as saying:

You just slammed my head into the ground. Do you not even care about that? I can’t even hear! … You slammed me into the ground and everything.

statement two days ago about Bland’s July 13 death in custody was published by the Waller County Sheriff’s Office to their Facebook page. The statement confirmed that Bland was arrested on July 10 (purportedly for failing to signal a lane change):

On Monday, July 13th, at approximately 09:00 am, a female inmate was found in her cell not breathing from what appears to be self-inflicted asphyxiation. CPR was immediately started and Waller County EMS notified. She was pronounced deceased a short time later. In order to maintain the integrity of the investigation, the Texas Rangers were immediately notified to conduct the death investigation. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards, Texas Attorney General and Waller County District Attorney’s Offices were notified. The name of the female is being withheld at this time while investigators speak with family members from another state. She was arrested on Friday, July 10th, for Assault on a Public Servant by a DPS Trooper and booked into the Waller County Jail. Sheriff R Glenn Smith states that any loss of life is a tragic incident and while the investigation is being conducted by outside agencies, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office will continue to observe the daily operations of the jail to always look for improvements and/or preventions of these incidents.

Oh.  Sheriff Glenn Smith thinks it is a “tragic incident”, does he?  Well, Sheriff Glenn Smith was fired from his job as police chief in Hempstead, Texas, after racism allegations were made against him and four of his officers, the Houston Chronicle reported.

He was fired in 2008 and elected shortly after by Waller County to be its sheriff.

Daily Kos columnist Shaun King has also reported that there have been other suicides recently at the county jail.

If that’s true, that doesn’t bode well.

LaNitra Dean, a friend of Bland’s, was one of many who told the ABC affiliate in Chicago they were skeptical of the circumstances under which Bland died:

The Waller County Jail is trying to rule her death a suicide and Sandy would not have taken her own life. Sandy was strong. Strong mentally and spiritually.

Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis told the outlet that he didn’t “have any information that would make [him] think [Bland’s death] was anything other than just a suicide.” Thousands of social media users signed a Change.org petition calling for the Department of Justice to do an autopsy on Sandra Bland.

A little more on Sandra Bland:

sandrabland1

She had degrees. She belonged to a Black Greek Organization. She was employed. And she was about to start a new job.  Does this strike you as someone who would hang themselves in a cell?

Bland’s Facebook page shows that she was active in the Black Lives Matter movement and often posted about police brutality and racial injustice, including in videos she called “Sandy Speaks,” where she opined on race issues.

And about an hour ago:

Chicago media says:

FBI officials tell the ABC7 I-Team that agents are aware of the case and coordinating with local authorities. The Texas Rangers are currently investigating.

“They are monitoring the local investigation until it’s complete,” an FBI official said. That is the standard procedure, she said

The REAL Guilty Party Is Located In Charleston Church Massacre

Charles Cotton is a member of the NRA’s board, and he knows who killed those people. No, not Dylann Storm Roof, the alleged gunman who has since confessed, silly!  It was Rev. Clementa Pinckney, state senator and pastor at Emanuel AME Church, according to Cotton. How did Pinckney manage that? By voting against a bill that would have allowed people to carry concealed guns in church, of course!

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UPDATE:  Also blameworthy?  Caitlyn Jenner.  Here’s rightwing Erick “Eric” Erickson:

Everyone and everything gets blamed while ignoring the actual person who killed.

I realize now why that is. I realize why we will never have the conversation we should have.

A society that looks at a 65 year old male Olympian and, with a straight face, declares him a her and “a new normal” cannot have a conversation about mental health or evilbecause that society no longer distinguishes normal from crazy and evil from good. Our American society has a mental illness — overwhelming narcissism and delusion — and so cannot recognize what crazy or evil looks like.

 

Don’t Call ‘Em Crazy

I really have a problem with the second-day opinion that the Charleston shooter was “mentally ill” or “disturbed”. 99% of the time, the person offering that assessment isn’t at all a qualified doctor, and 100% of the time, he hasn’t examined the shooter. There’s a ridiculous circular logic that the shooter’s actions explain his mental state, and his mental state explains the shooting. “Of course he is mentally ill; he killed those people”, you hear. Oddly, however, that psychiatric diagnosis is rarely applied to, say, the 9/11 hijackers or WWII Nazis or the Boston Marathon bombers or Muslim suicide bombers. Only white people with guns.

There are a couple of problems with calling the shooter “mentally ill” (aside from the fact that it is pure conjecture). One problem is, by calling him crazy, people (politicians and pundits, etc.) can then dismiss the larger, more relevant discussion, whether it be gun laws or racism or whatever. I hear it all the time in every gun control debate — “Well, the (Aurora/Sandy Hook/Charleston) shooter was crazy, and you can’t legislate against crazy.” Can we open ourselves up to the possibility that some people are simply, you know, evil? Again, we seem to have no problem when it comes to Muslim shooters or bombers. We don’t crawl into their head and give them a psychiatric evaluation.

Secondly, I bet there is not a person reading this who has not experienced mental illness. Technically, even temporary depression or anxiety are forms of mental illness. When you hear the phrase “mentally ill” (or any synonym), think “physically ill”. Everybody gets physically ill at some point (often many times) in their lives. And some people have (or develop) chronic physical illnesses. It’s just the same with mental illness. Therefore, having a mental illness, whether chronic or temporary, doesn’t make you Charles Manson or a horrible killer. It doesn’t necessarily foreclose the possibility that you might (also) simply be a horrible person or (I hasten  to add) a wonderful person.  It’s just something you have.

So let’s show some respect for the concept of “mental illness” and not use that as a label to avoid the harder conversations of racism and gun control. It is disrespectful to those who suffer from mental illness, as well as those who suffer from racism or the effects of a gun-crazy society.

The worst culprits of this sin lie on the right side of the political spectrum.  If they are not dismissing the Charleston shooter as “disturbed”, then they are “baffled” by why he might do this.

Again, the right wing just doesn’t want to acknowledge a race problem. So they’ll wear blinders so they can avoid the news reports about what the shooter said:

And just this morning:

(CNN) Dylann Roof admits he did it, two law enforcement officials said — shooting and killing nine people he’d sat with for Bible study at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

But why? To start a race war, Roof told investigators, according to one of the officials.

Aside from calling the shooter “mentally ill”, they have a couple other tactics to avoid discussing the race or gun issue.  Tell me if you’ve heard any of these lately:

(1)  Now is not the time….. we should think of the victims and pray.  (And then move on)

(2)  We should not politicize this horrible event.  Out of respect for the victims, we should think of them (and then move on).  Any attempt to change laws, or prevent this from happening again, will divide the nation and create more trouble like what happened.

(3)  It’s about religious freedom.


But returning to mental health, why the “crazy” argument?  Well, it’s a way to dismiss the issue.  To give yourself authority that you know (or can’t know, because it is baffling) the true root cause of something.  Don’t listen to the Charleston shooter, the right wing says.  He’s nuts!!!

But we should listen to Dylann Roof.  He’s telling us why he did it.

UPDATE – Salon says the same thing as me…. and adds:

We’ve successfully created a world so topsy-turvy that seeking medical help for depression or anxiety is apparently stronger evidence of violent tendencies than going out and purchasing a weapon whose only purpose is committing acts of violence. We’ve got a narrative going where doing the former is something we’re OK with stigmatizing but not the latter. God bless America.

Yup.

RELATED:  Jon Stewart not being funny is amazing:

“What blows my mind is the disparity of response between when we think people that are foreign are going to kill us and us killing ourselves.”

The Conservative Denial That This Is About Race Is Getting Bizarre

This conservative columnist for the Miami Herald (and Fox News contributor) may be the most desperate person on the internets:

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UPDATE:  Still in denial, she later tweeted, “None of this story adds up. Even if a ‘white supremacist,’ their targets/hatred isn’t usually church-going African-Americansty”

Huh?!?

She got a lot of blowback and has sense set her Twitter account to private.

Mass Murder Hate Crime Leaves 9 Dead In Charleston Church

I may have been one of the first 1000 people to know what happened in Charleston last night.  I was at rehearsal for a play I am in (barely), and backstage, I checked my phone.  Nothing on the Breaking News app, nothing big on Twitter.  I opened Periscope, and there was a guy working in some Charlotte newsroom who was periscoping (sorry, but that’s the verb) about a shooting and killing of 8 people in Charleston, SC.  I tuned in — there were already about 200 watchers.  He was getting reports off of a Charleston police/fire scanner.  The watchers were typing in that there was nothing on MSNBC, CNN or FOX.  Even the local Charleston TV channel had nothing.  That was around 10:15.

I had to pay attention to rehearsal, so I wasn’t able to periscope for very long, but by the time rehearsal was over (at 11:30 — ugh!) and I was in my car, with MSNBC, CNN, and FOX all on my Sirius radio, I thought I would find out more.  By that time, they had reported the story, but had returned to regular earlier-recorded programming (Chris Hayes on MSNBC, O’Reilly on FOX, etc.).  I was stunned.  When the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, that was the only story.

To be fair, there wasn’t a lot to report.  There had been no official statement, no confirmation of anything.  The only “official” thing was the Twitter feed of the Charleston PD, which mentioned the shooting and the fact that the shooter was on the loose.  But it did not say anything about fatalities or injuries.

Even when I woke up today, the Charleston news was the “top story”, but the big three cable network news were focusing on other things.  I suspect there will be some third-day stories about the lack of media interest.  Maybe.

Anyway, here’s the skinny:

The shooting took place last night at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston during a bible study group.  The killer attended the group and was with them for an hour.  The EAM Episcopal Church is an historic church:

  • The church sits in an area of Charleston densely packed with houses of worship and well-preserved old buildings
  • Congregation was established in 1816
  • African-American members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church formed their own congregation after a dispute over a burial ground
  • Also known as “Mother Emanuel”
  • It’s the oldest AME church in the South
  • It’s also one of the oldest African-American churches in the United States
  • It was involved in the Underground Railroad, according to The Washington Post, which calls it a “symbol of black freedom” (http://wapo.st/1J5Pj7G)
  • The newspaper also reports that the church’s prominent speakers include Booker T. Washington (1909), the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1962) and Coretta Scott King (1969)
  • It has the most seats of any African-American church in Charleston
  • It was burned to the ground at one point, but rebuilt; it was also destroyed by an earthquake
  • The church hosts a Bible study in its basement every Wednesday evening

Three males and six females were killed at the church, Charleston police Chief Greg Mullen said this morning. Eight died at the scene, the ninth died at a hospital.  Among those killed is the church’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator.

There were a total of 13 people inside the church at the time of the shooting: the shooter, nine victims that were killed, and three survivors. Of the three survivors, two were unharmed.

The gunman was there for about an hour attending the meeting with the eventual victims, before he began shooting, the police chief said.

A woman who survived the shooting says the gunman told her he was letting her live so that she could tell people what happened, according to Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott. Scott said she heard this from the victims’ family members, and stressed she did not speak to the survivor directly.

There are also reports that a little girl also survived by “playing dead”

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina are opening a hate crime investigation into the Charleston shooting. The investigation is parallel to the state’s investigation, although it should be noted that South Carolina is one of only five states that does not have a hate crimes law.

According to a relative of a survivor, church members tried talking to gunman. The gunman said “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

Surveillance photos from the church:

droof

Charleston, we should remember, is that place of the Walter Scott shooting.back in April.

10:30am EST:  The shooter has been identified as Dylann Storm Roof (a memorable name), age 21.  I found his Facebook page.  Not much there.  He’s just Dylann Roof (did he give himself “Storm”?)  This picture and 89 friends (some black).  No likes or posts or anything.  He’s from Columbia, SC.  Police say he may be driving a black Hyundai with the license plate LGF330, police say. If you know him or have information about him, call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

dylan roof

One of those patches is a a Rhodesian flag patch when it was white-ruled (Rhodesia is now Zimbabwe).  The other is an apartheid-era South African flag.  This is no casual racist, this one. Wearing those flag patches is the stuff of hardcore, Stormfront-reading white nationalists.

Here’s a concept: in a state that still flies the Confederacy’s battle flag over public buildings, pointing out that there was an organized effort to teach a young white kid about those two lovely countries when he’s the prime suspect in the murder of nine would kind of be a tacit admission that we still have a gigantic problem with race and racism in America.

10:50am EST: The Daily Mail is reporting:

Roof’s uncle told Reuters that his nephew had received a .45 caliber pistol as a birthday present in April. He called the 21-year-old ‘quiet, soft spoken’ and said he recognized him in the photo released by police.

Also….

While other flags are at half mast, the confederate flag is still at full mast at the South Carolina capital.

11:15am EST:  On Fox, a pro-gun pastor thinks that the “hate crime” designation means it was a “hate crime” against religion not black people.  This despite the report that the shooter said “”You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”  He was referring to Christians?  I don’t think so.  (More at Raw Story)

11:20am EST:

11:55am EST:

Christian conservative radio host Bryan Fischer, a former director of issues analysis for the right-wing American Family Association, knows what the real problem is: a lack of guns in churches.

1:00pm EST:  I didn’t think he would, but he did.  Obama spoke out against easy access to guns.  I don’t expect any legislation to come of this (if Newtown couldn’t stop the gun lobby, then this won’t), but it was good of Obama to keep promoting gun control.

3:00pm EST:  Ugh. This…

Some Good News In The Tamir Race Murder

A judge in Cleveland has ruled that there’s probable cause to charge two officers involved in the November 2014 shooting death of Tamir Rice.

In response to a petition from citizens, under an obscure and little-used provision of Ohio law, Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine agreed that Officer Timothy Loehmann should be charged with several crimes, the most serious of them being murder but also includinginvoluntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. Adrine also found probable cause to charge another officer, Frank Garmback, with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. He rejected aggravated murder charges against both officers. (The Guardian has the full order here.) Referring to the “notorious” video of Rice’s death, the judge wrote, “This court is still thunderstruck at how quickly this event turned deadly.”

But Adrine did not order the two men to be arrested. He stated that because the law under which the affidavits were filed had been amended in 2006, judges no longer have the authority to issue warrants themselves in such cases.

Instead, Adrine forwarded his opinion to city prosecutors and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, who says he is currently investigating the case. And he took pains to note that prosecutors are required to apply a different standard before filing charges, determining that it is more probable than not that a reasonable “trier of fact” would hold the officers accountable for any alleged crimes.

The GJ Charges Against The Baltimore 6

A Baltimore grand jury has charged all six police officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray.  State Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced the revised charges yesterday, but the most serious charges – including second-degree murder – remained.

In case you forgot already, Gray suffered a severe spinal cord injury in police custody in April and died a week later.  His death sparked weeks of protests and later riots and looting in Baltimore.

There was a lot of criticism of Mosby when she brought her initial charges a few weeks ago — even calls for an independent prosecutor.  But now that the grand jury has returned an indictment which is pretty close to what she called for, the criticism will probably go away.

What is gone from the previous charges are the charges of false imprisonment.  And now we have a string of “reckless endangerment” charges.  All in all, these are probably better charges.  The breakdown:

  • Officer Caesar Goodson: 2nd-degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, 2nd degree negligent assault, manslaughter by vehicle by means of gross negligence, manslaughter by vehicle by means of criminal negligence, misconduct in office for failure to secure prisoner and failure to render aid, reckless endangerment
  • Officer William Porter: Involuntary manslaughter, assault in the 2nd degree, misconduct in office, reckless endangerment
  • Lieutenant Brian Rice: Involuntary manslaughter, assault in the 2nd degree, assault in the 2nd degree [second of two similar charges], misconduct in office, reckless endangerment
  • Officer Edward Nero: Assault in the 2nd degree (intentional), assault in the 2nd degree (negligent), misconduct in office, reckless endangerment
  • Sergeant Alicia White: Involuntary manslaughter, 2nd degree assault, misconduct in office, reckless endangerment
  • Officer Garrett Miller: Intentional Assault in the 2nd degree, assault in the 2nd degree, negligent misconduct in office, reckless endangerment

Lead Paint And Inner City Violence

I’m just going to point to this comprehensive and insightful Washington Post article which talks about Freddie Gray (whose death while in Baltimore police hands sparked the recent riots there) and lead paint.  Like many inner city kids, Gray lived in sub-standard housing with peeling lead paint, and in his case, it specifically was blamed for ADHD and other problems.

It wasn’t long after that he was given the first of many blood tests, court records show. The test came in May of 1990, when the family was living in a home on Fulton Avenue in West Baltimore. Even at such a young age, his blood contained more than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood — double the level at which the Center for Disease Control urges additional testing. Three months later, his blood had nearly 30 micrograms. In June 1991, when Gray was 22 months old, his blood carried 37 micrograms.

“Jesus,” Dan Levy, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University who has studied the effects of lead poisoning on youths, gasped when told of Gray’s levels. “The fact that Mr. Gray had these high levels of lead in all likelihood affected his ability to think and to self-regulate and profoundly affected his cognitive ability to process information.”

Levy added, “And the real tragedy of lead is that the damage it does is irreparable.”

This isn’t unusual, and any discussion of violence in the inner cities needs to consider this as a factor.

Guy Who Filmed Cops When They Arrested Gray Is Detained By Police For No Reason It Seems

The pushback is starting:

Kevin Moore, the man who filmed police arresting Freddie Gray and dragging him on the ground was arrested on Thursday night, along with two other cop watchers from Ferguson.

“The man who recorded one of two videos showing Baltimore cops dragging a screaming Freddie Gray into the back of a police van was arrested Thursday night, two days after voicing concerns that police were trying to intimidate him by plastering his photo all over the news, saying they wanted to interview him,” reads a We CopWatch Facebook post. After the incident occurred, We CopWatch tweeted that a gun was pointed at Moore.

Shortly after his release, Moore detailed the events leading up to his arrest, in a webcast discussion with Photography Is Not a Crime’s Carlos Miller. Moore says he was protesting with Ferguson cop watchers on North Avenue, shouting obscenities and wearing an Anonymous mask. Once the group left, officers arrested them without issuing a citation or explaining what the charges were. He was released later that night.

During the webcast, Moore also said that he’s faced police intimidation since filming Gray’s arrest. Although the cop watcher handed over the video footage to the Police Department’s Office of Internal Oversight, officers allegedly told the public that he was wanted for questioning. Moore told the Baltimore Sun that officers were trying to intimidate him by circulating his photo and asking people who he was. “For the police to post that picture and say you don’t know who I am, that’s B.S. You know who I am,” he said.

Charges Brought Against Baltimore Police Officers In Death Of Freddie Gray

Breaking now:

The death of Freddie Gray was a homicide, and there is “probable cause” for criminal charges, State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby says, citing her office’s “thorough and independent” investigation and the medical examiner’s report on Gray’s death.

Mosby announced a range of charges against several Baltimore police officers, ranging from second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter to assault and misconduct in office. A warrant has been issued for their arrest, she said.

After announcing those charges, Mosby noted her own ties to the police community — including her mother and father. She thanked officers who are committed to serving the community.

She also said there was no probable cause for the police to have arrested Gray in the first place.

This is, of course, welcome news, especially after several days of rumors from the Baltimore police investigation which muddied the issue of how Gray died:

Gray098Gray died on April 19, one week after being taken into custody. Police have said that during his transport, Gray wasn’t buckled in properly and did not receive timely medical care. Six police officers remain suspended over the case.

As the Two-Way has reported, when police turned over the documents to State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in Baltimore, they announced that “the van transporting Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who suffered a serious spine injury while in police custody and later died, made one more stop than previously thought.”

The roughly 40 minutes that Gray spent in the van have emerged as the focal point in the inquiry over how he sustained the injury.

That extra stop was discovered through a review of recordings made by security and private cameras, Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said. He added that another detainee who was riding in the van told police that Gray was “still moving around … kicking and making noises” until the van reached the police station.

That second detainee rode in the police van on the other side of a metal partition that divides its cargo space. When he was picked up, Gray was already in the van.

Local news WJZ-TV reports that Donta Allen, 22, was that second man — and that he came forward Thursday out of concern over how his comments were being portrayed by both the police and the media.

“When I was in the back of that van it did not stop or nothing. All it did was go straight to the station, but I heard a little banging, like he was banging his head,” Allen said. ” I didn’t even know he was in the van until we got to the station.”

Saying his words have been distorted by recent reports and that he doesn’t think Gray hurt himself intentionally, Allen also told a WJZ reporter, “The only reason I’m doing this is because they put my name in a bad state.”

Allen, who was reportedly taken into custody for a minor offense and was not charged with a crime, also spoke to WBAL TV. He told the station that when he got into the van, he didn’t know Gray was already there. He said he heard “a little banging for like four seconds.”

WBAL aired surveillance camera footage that shows officers looking into Gray’s side of the van during the stop that also picked up Allen.

When the van arrived at the police station, Allen said he heard the officers say that Gray didn’t have a pulse and was unresponsive — and that another officer later said, “He’s got vitals now, he must’ve come back.”

The sequence of events has led to wide-ranging questions over what happened: Was the van driven in a way that caused Gray’s injury? When did Gray become unresponsive? Were the sounds Allen heard caused by a seizure experienced by a gravely wounded man?

The Baltimore Sun reports: “Maryland’s chief medical examiner, Dr. David R. Fowler, said his office has not completed an autopsy or turned any documents over to police or prosecutors. He said homicide detectives had observed the examination, a routine practice.”

When it’s complete, Fowler’s report will go straight to the state’s attorney’s office, the newspaper says.

NPR and other news organizations have asked Baltimore’s police department to release its report on the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, as well as for related documents and materials such as tapes of 9-1-1 calls made when Gray was taken into custody.

Protesters have been calling on police to reveal more information about the case.

Other news reports said that the police investigation had determined that a wound in Gray’s head matched up with a bolt on the inside of the van, which, when coupled with the statements of the other person in the van, suggested (to some) that Gray intentionally tried to injure himself.

But then the other person in the can denied telling police anything.

And then there is the problem of the injury itself.  The trauma was so severe, say doctors, that it could not be self-inflicted:

“Freddie Gray didn’t stand up in the back of that van and twist his back,” [internal medicine professional] Belk said. “What it would take to break a person’s spine is heavy trauma. The spine is so guarded, so an injury like his would take a lot of force like jumping from a second floor building or getting hit by a motor vehicle. It doesn’t just happen out of nowhere.”

Other medical professionals agree. Dr. David Samadi, an expert in robotic prostrate surgery and a medical correspondent for several news outlets, wrote an op-ed for the New York Daily News that also challenged the Baltimore Police Department’s version of events, saying that even if Freddie Gray tried to injure himself in the police van, he couldn’t have done so in a way that would cause serious spinal cord injuries.

“There must be a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes or compresses one or more of the vertebrae, or when a gun shot or knife penetrates the spinal cord,” Samadi wrote.

“You have to apply a significant amount of force in order to break somebody’s neck,” Dr. Ali Bydon, an associate professor of neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, agreed in an interview with the Baltimore Sun.

And then there’s the issue of Gray’s crushed trachea.  How does that happen?

One can try to be optimistic that these cops will be convicted for even obvious illegal wrongdoing, but you never know (See, Rodney King).  On the other hand, at least there will be prosecutions.

UPDATE:  The specifics

Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., 45, who was the driver of a police van that carried Gray through the streets of Baltimore, was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter, second-degree assault, two vehicular manslaughter charges and misconduct in office.

Officer William Porter, 25, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

Lt. Brian Rice, 41, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

Sgt. Alicia White, 30, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

Officer Edward Nero, 29, was charged with second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

Officer Garrett Miller, 26, was charged with second-degree assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.

It looks like the theory of the case is going to be that the officers did no intentionally murder Freddie Gray, but they negligently failed to secure him in the van.  He was handcuffed and chained, but there was no seat belt.  In fact, he was placed in the van stomach down (on purpose?), which caused him to bounce around.  And that was must have severed his spine.

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The second-degree murder charge of Officer Goodson is known as “depraved heart” murder.  Depraved Heart murder is an legal term for action that shows “callous disregard for human life” and results in death.

Much To The Disappointment Of The Media, Not Much Happened In Baltimore Last Night

You could almost hear the desperation in Wolf Blitzer’s voice.  They really wanted something to break out.  There was a single incident where someone threw a bottle of water at a line of policeman, and the guy was quickly subdued and pepper spray was dispersed.  CNN ran that 30 second clip over and over again for hours while nothing else happened.

Well, this happened….

That was pretty interesting.

And I give props to this woman:

After admitting that looting and rioting were not the best ways to represent the community and to seek answers, the protester, who identified herself only as Danielle, asked [MSNBC reporter Thomas] Roberts a question of her own.

“My question to you is, when we were out here protesting all last week for six days straight peacefully, there were no news cameras, there were no helicopters, there was no riot gear, and nobody heard us,” she said. “So now that we’ve burned down buildings and set businesses on fire and looted buildings, now all of the sudden everybody wants to hear us.”

And this is interesting, sad, and odd:

When the Baltimore Orioles host the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards on Wednesday, it won’t really feel like a baseball game. There will be no cheering, and no booing. Nor will there be heckling, hot dogs, or beer. There will be no fans in the stadium at all, in fact. After riots in the city forced the postponement of games for two straight days, Major League Baseball announced that the Orioles will play on Wednesday, but the game will be closed to the public.

For a sport that takes significant pride in its history, this may be a particularly sad first: An MLB official told me that after conferring with a historian and several longtime veterans of the game, the league was unaware of any prior examples in which fans have been deliberately barred from attending a game.

Interestingly, they are going to do the whole, uh, nine yards.  The National Anthem, the 7th inning stretch, everything.

I’ll update this post with a picture when the game begins.

Bullet Points On The Baltimore Riots

The catalyst, ostensibly, was the death of Freddie Gray — who died of a spinal cord injury sustained while in police custody.  His funeral service was yesterday morning.  There were peaceful protests throughout the day, but as high school kids left school, the protests became violent.  15 officers were injured — six seriously — from thrown bottles, rocks and bricks, as well as dozens of businesses, homes and cars damaged or destroyed by looting or arson. It is not known how many protesters were injured.  The police also reported that two people had been shot, each in the leg, in separate incidents overnight. One victim, a woman, was shot on Fulton Avenue near where some of the worst rioting and looting had occurred hours earlier. The other victim, a man, was shot about two miles west of the Mondawmin Mall.  144 vehicles were set on fire; 15 buildings were set on fire; almost 200 people arrested.

The National Guard was called up began to deploy in the city just after daybreak today.

Anyway. some thoughts:

* The media coverage was horrible and remains so this morning.  Breathless and sensationalist words like “violence erupts” and a “city in chaos“.  Parts of the city — in fact, well over 95% of it, were just fine.  But you put the camera on the worst part and use incendiary language like that, and of course it seems bigger.  I’m not sure the media hype actually helped the situation

* Clean up today:
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* The media also struggled as to what to call the “rioters”.  Clearly, they weren’t protesters.  I think one of the most telling pieces of information came when a reporter asked a looter why he was doing what he was doing.  “Because nobody was stopping us” was the answer.  I really don’t think what happened in Baltimore had much to do with Freddie Gray, but rather, pent up anger at the general treatment of that area — not only by police but society in general.

*Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake: “I understand anger, but what we’re seeing isn’t anger. It’s disruption of a community. The same community they say they care about, they’re destroying. You can’t have it both ways.”  I like the mayor, but no, I don’t think she understands anger.  Anger isn’t rational and doesn’t always manifest itself in constructive ways.  Usually, it manifests itself in counterproductive ways.  Not to excuse the rioting, but to explain the anger underlying it, I turn to the COO of the Baltimore Orioles, John Angelos:

Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importance of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

* Many times last night, I heard the news say that the riots were the worst in Baltimore since 1968 and in fact, “many areas burnt down in 1968 were in this very neighborhood and have yet to be rebuilt”.  I think that also explains a lot of the anger.

* Black officers make up 54% of the Baltimore police dept. This has not noticeably changed police behavior. Diversity is not enough.  Actually, I think the crux of this problem isn’t race, but class.  See, e.g., income inequality.

* If you’re a gangbanging rioter, it has to be embarrassing for your mom to scold you on national television:

* There is already criticism directed at Baltimore’s mayor for not having police (and even National Guard) there yesterday in the areas were looting occurred and fires were set.  Yes, it was disturbing to see a line of policemen in riot gear standing in a line one block away from a street where a CVS was being looted, and not moving there for nearly two hours and only when the CVS was on fire.  But I don’t fault the mayor on this.  For one thing, the police were outnumbered.  They also might have incited even more violence. You hate to say it, but sometimes you just have to let the looting play out.  Also, we know this morning that the high school kids who planned this yesterday through social media encouraged rioters to spread out all over the city, thus weakening the number of police who could be present at any single place or neighborhood.  My Baltimore correspondent writes:

Baltimore is approximately 80 square miles; that’s a lot of turf for law enforcement to cover.   TV coverage may have given the appearance of chaos but more accurately, what you saw was fluid law enforcement on the move to the areas where damage was occurring.

True dat.  These are all tough considerations when you are mayor and I don’t fault her or the police chief for making the choices they did.  Hindsight, by the way, is 20/20.

* In fact, many Baltimore police officers deserve to be lauded for the courage they showed yesterday: They met hostile crowds and I think they stopped them from destroying more businesses, burning more churches, and harming more people.

* Kudos to the clergy, particularly the Nation of Islam:

* Other groups keeping the peace: the Crips, the Bloods.  Thumbs down to CNN for reporting all afternoon that the Crips and the Bloods had formed a pact to create trouble.  In fact, the pact was to keep the peace.

Yet Another Black Man Killed By Overzealous Cops

The name this time around is Freddie Gray, the city this time is Baltimore, and the death this time was from complications of a massive spinal injury suffered while in police custody.

Relatives, activists and even Baltimore city officials have more questions than answers about what happened to Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died one week after he was rushed to the hospital with spinal injuries following an encounter with four Baltimore police officers.

Gray, who died Sunday morning at a University of Maryland trauma center, was stopped by Baltimore police officers on bike patrol April 12. Police have said Gray was running away from the officers when he was arrested and placed in a transport van. About 30 minutes later, Gray was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, according to police.

Billy Murphy, an attorney for Gray’s family, said Sunday that 80 percent of the man’s spinal cord had been severed near his neck.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and top police officials promised accountability and transparency Sunday at a news conference at City Hall.

Sure, that’ll happen.  Six police officers have now been suspended (with pay, of course) pending an investigation.  But I’m sure they’ll say they “feared for their life” and well, Freddie Gray had a switchblade strapped to his leg, so of course they had to break his goddamn spine.  Or maybe he slipped on a banana peel.  Hell, we may never know, right?

Bad Interview

Here’s a tip from one lawyer to all other lawyers out there: Don’t let your accused client go on television unless you (and your client) really know what you are doing.

And that sounds vague to you, then you don’t know what you are doing.

Look, 95 times out of 100, you are not going to turn public sentiment in your favor after giving a television interview, unless you give a mea culpa.  “I did it, I am guilty, I’m sorry”.  Anything other than that — a defense, self-pity, etc. — it will backfire.

I write this because Robert Bates, the 73 year old white reserve sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed an unarmed black man earlier this month, went on the Today show this morning and gave a rambling interview which did not help him at all.

He disputed a local newspaper report that alleged his bosses had falsified his training records.  The Tulsa World reported Thursday that supervisors in the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office were ordered to sign off on field training and firearms certifications that Robert Bates did not complete, citing multiple anonymous sources.  “That is not correct,” Bates said, adding that he has proof of his training “in writing.”

Today’s Matt Lauer also asked Bates, a wealthy 73-year-old insurance executive who is close to the sheriff, to respond to the characterization that he paid to play a cop.  “That is unbelievably unfair,” Bates responded. “I have donated equipment as I saw fit when the need happened to arise to allow the task force and other areas of the sheriff’s office to better do their jobs on the streets of Tulsa.”

Which didn’t answer the question.

And finally, Bates said he accidentally shot Harris because he mistook his handgun for a taser while trying to help subdue Harris. At one point in the interview, Lauer asked Bates to stand up and show where he keeps his taser in relation to his handgun when he’s on duty. Bates demonstrated that he keeps his taser inside his protective vest on his chest, while he keeps his handgun on his side near his hip.

I believe Bates when he says he didn’t do it on purpose.  However, nobody is accusing him of doing it intentionally.  He is charged with reckless manslaughter.  That’s what they charge drunk drivers who kill someone (they don’t intentionally kill either).

I have no sympathy for Bates, but I think the real story lies with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and the reason why this old guy, well past the age of retirement, was on the force in the first place, and whether or not he had been properly trained.

Black-Person-Death-By-Cop Quote Of The Day

“Oh, I shot him. I’m sorry.”

Robert Bates, a 73-year-old reserve deputy sheriff in Tulsa County, Okla., after he mistook his gun for his taser and fatally shot a suspect during an undercover operation.

Not for nothing, but the 73 year old(!) volunteer policeman was only an actual cop for one year….. fifty years ago.

Maybe having geriatric non-cops with lethal weapons is a bad idea.

BONUS QUOTE:

The same incident.  The man, Eric Harris, falls to his knees after being (ooops!) shot.  “Oh my God, I’m losing my breath” he says.  Then the deputy’s knee pins his head to the asphalt.  And we hear an officer say:

“Fuck your breath”

Watch the video.

John Cole is right:

Why in the hell is a 73 year old man who isn’t even a real cop on the Violent Crimes Task Force, you might ask?

Money. Because part of our glibertarian conservative paradise is not wanting to raise taxes, ever, for anything, so municipalities are strapped for cash because no politician has the nerve to ever raise taxes for anything. Even vital functions, or things that you would think would be vital, like the FUCKING VIOLENT CRIMES TASK FORCE.

So instead of raising taxes, the institute programs and policies to soak the poor and those who can’t fight back (like Ferguson), rely on civil forfeiture (like everywhere), and take donations from wealthy clowns so they can go play Dirty Harry. And, if they’re lucky, get to live out their biggest fantasies.

Oh, and there is no mandatory retirement age for the Utah Highway Patrol- I called and asked. Yet another reason we can’t find good jobs for younger people, the fact that people are living longer and not quitting their jobs. But this makes no damned sense whatsoever for police, especially in the fucking VIOLENT CRIMES TASK FORCE.

UPDATE: 4:00 pm (EST) — Robert Bates, the 73 year old volunteer deputy, has been charged with second degree manslaughter.  Good.  And the Harris family should sue his ass as well.

Video Shows Cop Murdering Black Man

On Saturday, Water Scott, 50, was shot and killed by Officer Michael T. Slager of the North Charleston, South Carolina, police department, after a traffic stop.

According to Slager’s initial report, Scott tried to take his Taser, and in the struggle, Slager had to fire in self-defense.

Yesterday, a video surfaced from an anonymous witness.  In contradiction of Slager’s account, Scott is seen turning to run away; Slager then appears to fire eight shots, and Scott falls to the ground.  Most importantly, it appears that Slager retrieves his Taser from the ground about twenty feet from Scott, and he places it next to Scott’s body.

See for yourself (WARNING: it’s graphic)

Without the video, Scott’s death never would have been questioned, and certainly we would have been in a familiar position of “not enough evidence to warrant a trial”.  The story would have been that Officer Slager A) used his Taser first and somehow missed, or wasn’t able to put Scott down,  B) was then attacked by Walter Scott, who “struggled with him over control of the Taser”, and C) was then forced to shoot Scott multiple times during the struggle.

Slager has been charged with murder, which is kind of rare.  (Of the 21 publicized cases from 1994 through 2009 in which a police officer killed an unarmed black person, only seven cases resulted in an indictment—for criminally negligent homicide, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, or violation of civil rights—and only three officers were found guilty.)

If nothing else, this video is Exhibit A why we need to repeal laws in various states that have criminalized videotaping police. I believe Maryland and Illinois are two of those states. Apparently, South Carolina where this shooting took place does not have such a law.

UPDATE:  Some right wing sites are desperately trying to make this look like it might be justifiable with the old “we don’t know the facts yet” and “don’t believe what you’re eyes can plainly see” and “here are some irrelevant facts that have no bearing on whether this was justifiable or not” dance.

Cowboy Copz

I maintain that, under the legal system and the legal standards, the Ferguson grand jury did not have probable cause to indict Officer Darren Wilson.  That should prompt a discussion as to whether the legal system is sufficient to take care of what is clearly a national problem — the prevalence of cop-on-black violence.

But that discussion is for another day  I write here to point out one aspect of Officer Darren Wilson’s actions in his confrontation with Michael Brown that hasn’t received much attention.

By his own admission, Wilson got out of his car and chased Brown, who he knew was unarmed. Wilson said that he fired several shots when Brown supposedly turned and charged him. By his own admission, Wilson missed Brown with some of the shots. Then he fired again, another series of shots, some of which missed and some of which hit Brown, killing him. “I don’t know how many I shot,” Wilson told the grand jury, “I just know I shot it.” We can hope that “it” means the gun and not Brown.

This all took place in the middle of the day at the Canfield Green Apartments, a public housing project in Ferguson that has far, far more than its fair share of crime and poverty. Wilson killed Brown on August 9, a little after noon. It was a summer day; school didn’t start until August 25. So in the middle of a housing project, with apartments and people all around, Officer Darren Wilson made the tactical decision to fire wildly at an unarmed man who was posing no threat to anyone except him.

As many have said, Wilson could have gotten back in his SUV and awaited backup. But, no matter what you think happened, we know that Wilson decided the best course of action was to fire ten bullets, no matter who might get hurt. We also know that some of those shots hit the apartment buildings around Wilson and Brown. And we know that Wilson is pretty damn lucky he didn’t hurt or kill anyone else while he was firing his gun over and over.

We need more black police and better police training.  Not only on issues of race, but issues relating to the use of deadly force.

Exhibit A is Darren Wilson.  Exhibit B is this:

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A Cleveland police officer fatally shot Tamir Rice immediately after leaving his moving patrol car while his partner stayed at the wheel, surveillance video shows.

The video showed Wednesday by police captures the Saturday afternoon shooting at a West Side recreation center in which 12-year-old Rice was shot.

The video contains no audio.

A rookie officer pulled the trigger, said Jeffrey Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association.

Police were sent to the Cudell Recreation Center at Detroit Avenue and West Boulevard about 3:30 p.m. when someone called 9-1-1 to report a “guy with a gun pointing it at people.”

The caller told dispatchers twice that the gun was “probably fake,” but that detail was not relayed to the responding officers, Follmer said.

Grand Jury Announcement Today In Michael Brown Shooting

A decision has been reached by the grand jury deliberating whether to bring charges against Darren Wilson, the officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.

I fully expect that no charges will be brought, and all hell will break loose.  Pretty predictable actually.  Laws give the police wide latitude in using deadly force.  Maybe those laws shouldn’t give wide latitude, but that’s a separate discussion from whether or not Darren Wilson broke the law.

And obviously it is time for heavily armed law enforcement to stop assuming that unarmed black people are a danger to them.  Unfortunately, I don’t think what happens next in Ferguson — the riots, etc. — is going to move that ball forward.

UPDATE:  5 pm CT (6 Eastern) announcement

UPDATE (the following day):  Yyyyyyup.

APTOPIX Ferguson

Video Immediately After Michael Brown Shooting Supports Story That Brown Had Arms Up When Killed

Two contractors have come forward saying that they witnessed the Michael Brown shooting, and that Michael Brown had his hands up in the air, thus not posing a threat, when he was shot.

Normally, you could discount this eyewitness testimony, coming more than one month after the shooting.

Except that they are saying it…. on video… just after the shooting occurred.  In other words, they hadn't had time to listen to other accounts of the shooting.

Christian Science Monitor:

In that light, the new video is “good evidence,” according to CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, because it shows an immediate reaction to what happened. The account given to CNN and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by the two contractors is also significant, legal analysts say, because neither man has any ties to the community where Brown lived (Note from KA: some news reports suggest the two contrators were white).  Many other witnesses knew Brown personally and either lived in the area or were visiting family.

On the other hand, the video is hardly conclusive. The two men told CNN they heard an initial shot but did not see how the confrontation started. (Police say Brown struck the officer in the face inside his patrol car, then reached for the officer’s gun.) About 30 seconds later, they said, they saw a staggering Brown turn around, put his arms up and cry, “OK, OK, OK.” The officer, they said, fired again anyway.

Anyway, here's the video:

 

Officer Go-Fuck-Yourself

I swear.  These must be the dumbest cops alive.  I mean, don't they realize the complaint against them is that they are too quick on the draw?  That they are failures as cops by drawing high-powered guns on unarmed civilians?

Yet, this cop goes right ahead and does it.  In front of cameras.  And then he points his gun at the cameramen!  

 

Fortunately he was suspended for this:

A suburban St. Louis police officer who threatened to kill media members as he pointed his high-powered rifle at a group of people filming Tuesday night’s protests in Ferguson, Mo., has been suspended after video of the incident went viral Wednesday.

The unidentified St. Ann, Mo. police officer, who told one man his name was “go f— yourself,” has been “relieved of duty and suspended indefinitely” for his “inappropriate” actions, the St. Louis County Police Department said in a statement to Mashable.

In the minute-long video clip, the portly, bald police officer is seen pointing his semi-automatic assault rifle at crowds of people walking along a Ferguson street just before midnight Tuesday.

Brown Shot Six Times

… and it looks like the fatal shots were the last two, which hit him on the top of the head.  Apparently, while falling forward.  NOT at close range.

The New York Times has the details.

Meanwhile last night… another night of clashes.  Although law enforcement is better (the Missouri State Police are not provoking lawlessness like the St. Louis County Police), we still see the remnants of the earlier bad law enforcement.  The people don't feel like the police are there to protect and serve them.

Live-tweeting Michael Brown’s Killing

Kid was watching and tweeting….

Let it load… start at bottom

 

Michael Brown Implicated In Cigar Robbery

This morning, police identified Darren Wilson as the cop who fatally shot Michael Brown.

They also released surveillance photos showing Michael Brown shoplifting some cigars and man-handling the store owner.  This all took place hours before the shooting.

BvFpYC_IIAENs6Z

I'm not sure this changes the issue (although I know for many bigots, this is all they need).

Brown was an unarmed black man who shoplifted.  If the eyewitness accounts are true, he was shot while disengaged from a police officer, with his hands up.

UPDATE:  Aaaand we learn that police officer, Darren Wilson, wasn't even aware of the robbery when he confronted and killed Brown.

No Question. The Ferguson Police Are Thugs

I've withheld writing about the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.  For those distracted by other news stories, Michael Brown was to start college this week. Instead, his parents are planning his funeral. On August 9th, Mr Brown was shot several times and killed by a policeman in Ferguson, a suburb near St Louis, Missouri. The police say the black 18-year-old attacked the officer and tried to grab his gun. A friend who was with Mr Brown says that on the contrary, he was unarmed and had his hands up in the air.

I've withheld writing about it because for the same reason I withheld writing (for a while) about Treyvon Martin: we just don't know enough facts.  Right now, we still don't know much.  The FBI is investigating the Ferguson shooting, and the Justice Department is looking into the possibility that Mr Brown’s civil rights were violated.  Those are good things.

Another eyewitness stepped forward yesterday — Tiffany Mitchell (age 27) — and I found her retelling of the account to be credible and consistent.

 

According to her, Brown was shot in cold blood, while his hands were raised.

Still, we can't be sure.

But the eyewitness accounts aren't the only thing we can look at.  We can get a sense of the truth by looking at the context.  And if the past few days are any indication, it seems that the Ferguson MO police department has a tendency to Rambo up unnecessarily.  This picture fromj the Times tells it all:

STLOUIS-ss-slide-M1BQ-superJumbo

Yesterday, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery was reportedly arrested along with Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post for failing to exit a McDonalds. According to Lowery's Twitter account, the two were "assaulted and arrested" because "officers decided we weren't leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn't have been taping them." No charges were filed.

There are also accounts and video of the Ferguson police dispensing tear gas and shooting rubber bullets at a peaceful (albeit angry) protest.  Pointing high-power military rifles at peaceful protesters.  Deliberate targeting of journalists with tear gas.

 

What's going on?

Well, part of the problem is bad training.  This is a small town police department, not skilled in dealing with situations like this.  

Secondly, the police department has toys, and they are itching to use them.  Since 1996, "the Department of Defense has transferred $4.3 billion in military equipment to local and state police through the 1033 program." Then the equipment was intended to help fight the war on drugs. With that much firepower in the hands of local police, it was only a matter of time before they began to be used in such obscene excess against Americans.

Ex police chief Joseph McNamara addressed this dynamic in this op-ed:

Simply put, the police culture in our country has changed. An emphasis on "officer safety" and paramilitary training pervades today's policing, in contrast to the older culture, which held that cops didn't shoot until they were about to be shot or stabbed. Police in large cities formerly carried revolvers holding six .38-caliber rounds. Nowadays, police carry semi-automatic pistols with 16 high-caliber rounds, shotguns and military assault rifles, weapons once relegated to SWAT teams facing extraordinary circumstances. Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that the police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed.

Yes, police work is dangerous, and the police see a lot of violence. On the other hand, 51 officers were slain in the line of duty last year, out of some 700,000 to 800,000 American cops. That is far fewer than the police fatalities occurring when I patrolled New York's highest crime precincts, when the total number of cops in the country was half that of today. Each of these police deaths and numerous other police injuries is a tragedy and we owe support to those who protect us. On the other hand, this isn't Iraq. The need to give our officers what they require to protect themselves and us has to be balanced against the fact that the fundamental duty of the police is to protect human life and that law officers are only justified in taking a life as a last resort.

"If you build it, they will use it".

If the Ferguson Police department's defense is that its officers showed restraint where Michael Brown is concerned, they have just blown that argument to bits.  These guys have no restraint in them, as last night showed.  

As the New Yorker correspondent wrote this morning:

What transpired in the streets appeared to be a kind of municipal version of shock and awe; the first wave of flash grenades and tear gas had played as a prelude to the appearance of an unusually large armored vehicle, carrying a military-style rifle mounted on a tripod. The message of all of this was something beyond the mere maintenance of law and order: it’s difficult to imagine how armored officers with what looked like a mobile military sniper’s nest could quell the anxieties of a community outraged by allegations regarding the excessive use of force. It revealed itself as a raw matter of public intimidation.

Zimmerman Found Innocent

I don't have much to say about this, although I find abhorrent the dancing on Trayvon Martin's grave that the rightwing blogosphere is engaging in.

I thought Zimmerman would be found innocent — not because of any nefarious reasons (like a racist jury or anything like that), but simply because the burden of proof is so high and there were so many unknowable key variables.

To me, the Zimmerman case was less about race, and more about guns and gun culture, and how the law imposes LESS responsibility on gun owners when it should be MORE.  At TAP, Scott Lemieux nails it:

Carrying a deadly weapon in public should carry unique responsibilities. In most cases someone with a gun should not be able to escape culpability if he initiates a conflict with someone unarmed and the other party ends up getting shot and killed. Under the current law in many states, people threatened by armed people have few good options, because fighting back might create a license to kill. As the New Yorker's Amy Davidson puts it, "I still don't understand what Trayvon was supposed to do." Unless the law is changed to deal with the large number of people carrying concealed guns, there will be more tragic and unnecessary deaths of innocent people like Trayvon Martin for which nobody is legally culpable. And to make claims of self-defense easier to bring, as Florida and more than 20 other states have done, is moving in precisely the wrong direction. And, even more importantly, no matter how self-defense laws are structured the extremely unusual American practice of allowing large number of citizens to carry concealed weapons leads to many unecessary deaths. (All 50 states, it's worth noting, permit concealed carry.)

Yup.

Common Sense

Can't argue with this thoughtful editorial

I am saddened to say that if the teen had been white I doubt anyone would seriously consider that a man carrying a loaded handgun could be innocent of killing with that gun a white teen armed only with Skittles candy. But, because the teenage boy was black, the defense has sought to create a plausible scenario of self-defense sufficient to argue reasonable doubt, without mentioning anyone’s race. In other words, the self-defense defense might work because the teen was black.

Let’s examine the undisputed evidence:

1. The man thought the teen looked suspicious.

2. The man called the police to report his suspicions about the teen.

3. The man was told by the police not to chase and pursue the teen.

4. The man decided to chase and pursue the teen anyway.

5 . The man was carrying a loaded gun.

6. The teen was not carrying a gun.

7. The teen was not carrying any weapon.

8. The teen was carrying candy.

9. The teen was not committing any crime.

10. The teen was not trespassing, as he was walking toward his father’s condo.

11. The man and the teen met in a physical confrontation.

12. The man and the teen fought, wrestled to the ground, and punches were exchanged.

13. The man shot the teen with his gun.

14. The man shot the teen while both were on the ground.

15. The shot from the man’s gun killed the teen.

16. There is no evidence that the teen was committing a crime or about to commit any crime.

17. But for the man chasing and pursuing the teen, there would have been no physical confrontation.

18. But for the physical confrontation, there would have been no fight.

19. But for the fight, the man would not have shot the teen.

20. But for the shot, the teen would be alive.

The man’s actions created a course of conduct that led to a dangerous situation: the physical confrontation and the fight. The dangerous situation subjected the man and the teen to the risk of death or injury, as the man was carrying a loaded gun.

Manslaughter is defined as: “The killing of a human being by the . . . culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification . . . ”

Does the evidence support a finding of guilty of manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt?

I believe it does.

Before The Verdict

I haven't been following the Zimmerman trial closely in part because I have a job, and in part because I believe the controversy surrounding Trayvon Martin's death has been resolved.  By that I mean, that there was a moment in time where it looked like Zimmerman wasn't going to stand trial at all, and that had me concerned.  Now, of course, Zimmerman has stood trial, and that, as far as I was concerned, thwarted an injustice.

As for Zimmerman's ultimate guilt or innocence, I am largely unmoved either way.  I seriously doubt the six-women jury will find that he had the necessary mens rea to have committed second degree murder.  Manslaughter is a more likely outcome, but if I had to bet, it would be a full-out acquittal.

Why?

For the simple reason that there were only two eyewitnesses to the full encounter: Martin, who is dead, and Zimmerman, who is the defendant.

An acquittal will mean that the criminal system worked, but I think that cannot be the end of the story.  Below the fold is a rarely-seen picture of Trayvon Martin, lying dead.  Click through at your own risk.

Zimmerman Judge Re-Sets Bail At $1,000,000

In the eyes of a Florida judge, George Zimmerman is a liar and manipulator who was likely planning to flee from prosecution earlier this year.

Zimmerman's previous bond was revoked last month after prosecutors alleged that he and his wife conspired to hide a huge amount of money from authorities and the judge. Prosecutors ended up charging the wife, Shellie Zimmerman, with perjury after she testified during a previous hearing that she had no knowledge of how much money was available.

In his order, Lester noted that Zimmerman's attorneys tried to portray their client at a hearing last week as a scared young man who made a simple mistake by not telling authorities or his own attorneys that he had managed to raise more than $200,000 online for his defense.

But the judge said Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman who had law enforcement training before the killing, had a "very sophisticated knowledge of the criminal justice system" and knew exactly what he was doing.

 

George Zimmerman Bond Order

Bad Boy.

Zimmerman Still Not Wearing The White Hat

Bad George:

A Florida judge on Friday ordered George Zimmerman, the man charged in the killing unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, to return to jail within 48 hours, saying he deceived the court earlier this year about the true state of his finances.

Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. gave the order after prosecutors provided evidence showing Zimmerman and his wife had essentially hidden about $135,000 from the court during his bond hearing in April. At the time, Zimmerman's family claimed they had little money to pay a bond so the judge granted one that was much lower than what prosecutors asked for.

***

On Friday, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda said Zimmerman and his wife had talked about the money in jailhouse phone calls in the days before the bond hearing. He said the couple used code words to try to hide the money from authorities investigating the case.

“We have the jail calls that the defendant made to his wife and to other people…in which he repeatedly tells her about the money, about moving the money and transferring it from one position to another,” de la Rionda said. “They were even using codes…thinking that the police are going to be really stupid when listening to these calls and wouldn’t know what was going on.”

An auspicious beginning to his legal defense — lying to the court.

Joe Zimmerman’s MySpace Page

See the whole thing here.  Here's his profile (with my emphasis):

About me:

Moved out of Manassas VA (d.c. suburb) about 4 years ago, alot of people say they hate it but i cant ever say i hate home. Miss my boys from back home, no one is gonna have your back like your boys who grew up with you and are as scared of your momma as you are! You know who you are, the same ones that would come ova and have my pops tie your tie before every school dance and interview. I know alot of yall hatin cause im out and aint ever goin back, i used to look at people like me the same way. Can you really hate on someone for improving thier life? I love the fact that I can still go back home and crash on my boys couch as if i had never left, I can hit my boy up to handle a lil somethin with my sister and he's at my house with his boys on bikes before i hang up with her! They do a year and dont ever open thier mouth to get my ass pinched. My cousins the cruzado's damn i love yall, shirley and frank DONT PLAY! I gotta be honest I miss that. I dont miss driving around scared to hit mexicans walkin on the side of the street, soft ass wanna be thugs messin with peoples cars when they aint around (what are you provin, that you can dent a car when no ones watchin) dont make you a man in my book. Workin 96 hours to get a decent pay check, gettin knifes pulled on you by every mexican you run into! Im down here now opened my own insurance agency, small but its mine. I put my grandma's name on it so that she could see its hers too, who knows here i would be with out her. MY VA SHOUTOUTS!!!!! Of course my two brothers Mauricio (in japan w/ marines and Barret (if i cant see you, you cant see me!), jade(thank god donovan takes after you), ashley (keep that bot inline), anthony(love you nephew), luis (thought you would be more chill after the marines), krista (you know your wrong for not commin to see me yet!), nikky( so damn sexy!), tony(this kid is a p.i.m.p), nick(phatest rides for sure), walter (we need to go fisin again),shirley("im wrkin y did you call and wake me up"), frank the tank (thanks aint enough cuz), karen (I miss ya),kristy(i really miss you!),Lauren (i can never pay you back for being such a good freind to my family),lisa(damn i hate growin up, but at least we did it together), michelle( you know i still love ya), sharon(Too much fun in jax), MY FL SHOUTOUTS Mike who(my brother from another mother), Lauren(ms. L Boogey), christine(miss ya lil sis), Wesley(y ya have to go and do that!!!), cortez(i dont want you in my house anymore), L-wood(Dont get married again lil bro),T( jamacian beef patty have two ingredients, beef and patty!!), Al(I got your chris farley), jhonny(dont break my knee caps), ricky(only comes ova to use hair gel), HAHAHAHA!!!!!!!! Bet ya thought i forgot about you….. Just savin the best for last, I love you Gracie, but you already knew that, I know you gave up alot to be near me, but you gotta admit you gained alot too, Only person thats always, ALWAYS been there for me, I love ya, oh yea, my lil sista hits like a grown MOTHER FUCKIN MAN!!!!

Who I'd like to meet:

Friends, let me be specific…. Tru friends

Also this "blog" entry dated Aug 20, 2005:

Good news???? Bout Damn time!!!!!!!

2 felonies dropped to 1 misdemeanor!!!!!!!!!!! The man knows he was wrong but still got this hump, Thanks to everyone friends and fam, G baby you know your my rock!

 

Zimmerman To Be Charged

CNN is reporting that the special prosecutor in Florida will announce that criminal charges will be brought against Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin shooting.  Not really a surprise given the attention the shooting has brought.  The prosecutor's announcement will come at 6 pm this evening.

It is not known what the charge will be.

It's also not known where Zimmerman is.

The controversy now moves into a new phase.  It will start with conservatives whining about how liberals got the scalp they were looking for.  Of course, we're not.  All we wanted was some sense of justice.  Bringing NO charges against Zimmerman would have been unjust.  Now, Zimmerman gets his day in court — something Treyvon didn't even get.