Dispatches from Post-Racial America

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I’m interrupting your regularly scheduled corporate propaganda to bring some disturbing news from the West Coast.  Apparently, the post-racial America that signaled Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States is a fraud.

 

Shalca, a blogger on MyDD posted the following video, which graphically shatters the myth of a post-racial America.

 

The two-minute video shows how quickly an unarmed black man can die while in the custody of unprofessional toy cops like those that police the Bay Area Rapid Transit System.  

 

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Oscar Grant, a 22-year old unarmed black man, was executed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer on New Year’s Day.

 

 

Amnesty International’s Dalia Hashad, released the following statement:

 

When an unarmed man is shot in the back after police put him face down on the ground, it is the time for authorities to demand action, not patience. Days after the incident, the officer still has not been interviewed. The delay in this critical part of the investigation hints at the callousness to the worth of human life to a public that is all too familiar with racial profiling, police brutality and cover-ups. Whatever the final investigation reveals, the bottom line is that there is never justification to shoot an unarmed person, especially one who is restrained. It is an obvious violation of the most basic human rights standards, and a clear cut abuse of power.

 

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The corporate media have taken to making excuses for the police by peddling the canard that the cop mistakenly went for his Glock instead of his Taser.  

 

Junya, writing for the Black San Francisco Bay View, blows this pernicious lie to smithereens:

 

 

1. The manual states that the Taser X26 weighs 7 ounces. Depending on model and bullets loaded, a Glock pistol can weigh from 25-38 ounces. You don’t have to be a weapons expert to feel the difference between holding about two pounds and holding less than half a pound – try it.

2. Police pistols are all black, sometimes with a very dark brown grip. The X26 has bright yellow markings on it. It also has a 2-digit LED display.

3. The X26 has a safety on the grip that must be released. The Glock safety is on the trigger.

So let’s review the minimum steps of a Taser deployment:

1. You pull out the lightweight, brightly colored weapon. You load the cartridge onto the tip of the barrel. The cartridge is fat and rectangular, looking nothing like a pistol barrel.

2. You reach on the grip and flip the safety up. The LED display lights up like half of your digital alarm clock, then shows the percentage charge.

3. Police are taught NEVER to use Tasers in life-threatening situations (ensuring that the “Tasers save lives” mantra remains a fairy tale). So, since that eliminates the “split-second judgment” defense, every Taser policy I’ve seen requires a warning before firing, to give the victim the opportunity to comply. Police like to report that merely pointing the Taser and issuing the warning is often sufficient.

Most likely, this cockamamie rumor is spread by the police in order to buy time. It’s damage control, to pacify an angry public until they can come up with some way to blame the victim.

A small scale riot the other day confirmed that the lies, excuses, and spin hadn’t been effective in disguising an execution as a “mistake.”  In a “post-racial” America, it would be nice if the deliberate, pre-meditated effort to cover-up an execution got an automatic federal investigation, followed up by prosecution.

Sadly, this has happened twice before and no prosecutions for murder or manslaughter were ever brought against the BART cops in those cases.  They’ve murdered a naked, mentally ill man, and a 19 year-old boy erroneously suspected of armed robbery.  The boy was shot in the back of the head. Both were black. 

In the reality based community I live in, these incidents, taken as a whole, constitute a pattern or practice of misconduct that is actionable under federal law.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice:

…it unlawful for State or local law enforcement officers to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. (42 U.S.C. § 14141). The types of conduct covered by this law can include, among other things, excessive force, discriminatory harassment, false arrests, coercive sexual conduct, and unlawful stops, searches or arrests. In order to be covered by this law, the misconduct must constitute a “pattern or practice” — it may not simply be an isolated incident. The DOJ must be able to show in court that the agency has an unlawful policy or that the incidents constituted a pattern of unlawful conduct.

BART cops have no civilian review board and are virtually unaccountable for their crimes.  Based on the small amount of research I’ve found (here and here), it seems that they are following the same racist playbook that allowed them to justify questionable uses of deadly force and are simply hoping that the third time is a charm.

 

The Obama Justice Department, at the very least, should be monitoring this case to see what the local prosecutor does. If he does nothing, they should move swiftly on Civil Rights prosecutions against Johannes Mehserle and the rest of the officers in these old cases and use it’s power to force reforms in this rogue agency.  “Change We Can Believe In” is either a slogan or a mantra with teeth—I’d like to see which it is.

Officers in Sean Bell case acquitted

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Hat Tip: By Michael Wilson, NY Times

Three detectives were found not guilty Friday on all charges in the shooting death of Sean Bell, who died in a hail of 50 police bullets outside a club in Jamaica, Queens, in November 2006. The verdict prompted calls for calm from the mayor, angry promises of protests by those speaking for the Bell family and expressions of relief by the detectives.

Detective Michael Oliver, who fired 31 bullets the night of the shooting and faced manslaughter charges, said Justice Arthur J. Cooperman had made a “fair and just decision.”

Justice Cooperman delivered the verdict in State Supreme Court at 9 a.m. Giving his reasoning, he said many of the prosecution’s witnesses, including Mr. Bell’s friends and the two wounded victims, were simply not believable. “At times, the testimony of those witnesses just didn’t make sense,” the judge said.

Several supporters of Mr. Bell stormed out of the courtroom, and a few small scuffles followed outside the courthouse. By midafternoon, there were no suggestions of any broader unrest around the city. Mr. Bell’s family and fiancée left without making any comments and drove to visit his grave at the Nassau Knolls Cemetery and Memorial Park in Port Washington.

The verdict comes 17 months to the day since the Nov. 25, 2006, shooting of Mr. Bell, 23, and his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, outside the Club Kalua in Jamaica, Queens, hours before Mr. Bell was to be married.

It was delivered in a packed courtroom. Mr. Bell’s family sat silently as Justice Cooperman spoke from the bench. Behind them, a woman was heard to ask, “Did he just say, ‘Not guilty?’ ” Detective Oliver and the two other defendants, Detectives Gescard F. Isnora and Marc Cooper, were escorted out a side doorway as court adjourned.

The acquittals do not necessarily mean the officers’ legal battles are over. Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said the three men could still face disciplinary action from the Police Department, but that he had been asked to wait on any internal measures until the United States attorney’s office determines whether or not it would pursue federal charges against them.

The seven-week trial, which ended on April 14, was heard by Justice Cooperman after the defendants waived their right to a jury, a strategy some lawyers called risky at the time. But it clearly paid off.

Before rendering his verdict, Justice Cooperman ran through a narrative of the chilly November evening when Mr. Bell died, and concluded “the police response with respect to each defendant was not found to be criminal.”

“The people have not proved beyond a reasonable doubt” that each defendant was not justified in shooting, the judge said, quickly adding that the men were not guilty of all of the eight counts, five felonies and three misdemeanors against them.

Roughly 30 court officers stood by, around the courtroom and in the aisles. At one point as he read, Justice Cooperman paused to insist that a crying baby be taken from the courtroom. Immediately a young woman who appeared to be among the Bell contingent got up and left with a baby.

The Rev. Al Sharpton accompanied Bell family members to the cemetery, and said later that they will join him on Saturday at a rally protesting the verdict. He said he had spoken to the governor and the mayor, and that he believed a federal civil rights prosecution of the officers would be appropriate.

“This verdict is one round down, but the fight is far from over,” Mr. Sharpton said.

He promised protests “to demonstrate to the federal government that New Yorkers will not take this abortion of justice lying down.” He even raised the possibility of taking protests directly to Justice Cooperman’s home.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called for calm. “There are no winners in a trial like this,” he said. “An innocent man lost his life, a bride lost her groom, two daughters lost their father and a mother and a father lost their son.”

The mayor continued: “Judge Cooperman’s responsibility, however, was to decide the case based on the evidence presented in the courtroom. America is a nation of laws, and though not everyone will agree with the verdicts and opinions issued by the courts, we accept their authority.”

He added: “There will be opportunities for peaceful dissent and potentially for further legal recourse — those are the rights we enjoy in a democratic nation. We don’t expect violence or law-breaking, nor is there any place for it.”

A subdued Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, whose office prosecuted the case, said at a news conference: “Judge Cooperman discharged his responsibilities fairly and consciously under the law. I accept his verdict, and I urge all fair-minded individuals in this city to do the same.”

Commissioner Kelly, speaking in Brooklyn, would not comment on the verdict itself. But he did say that while there were no reports of unrest in response to the acquittals, the Police Department was ready should it occur.

“We have prepared, we have done some drills and some practice with appropriate units and personnel if there is any violence, but again, we don’t anticipate violence,” Mr. Kelly said. “There have been no problems. Obviously there will be some people who are disappointed with the verdict. We understand that.”

Detectives Isnora and Oliver had faced the most charges: first- and second-degree manslaughter, with a possible sentence of 25 years in prison; felony assault, first and second degree; and a misdemeanor, reckless endangerment, with a possible one-year sentence. Detective Oliver also faced a second count of first-degree assault. Detective Cooper was charged only with two counts of reckless endangerment.

All three of the detectives, none of whom took the stand during the trial, spoke at the offices of their union on Friday afternoon. “I’ve just started my life back,” Detective Cooper said.

During the 26 days of testimony, the prosecution sought to show, with an array of 50 witnesses, that the shooting was the act of a frightened group of disorganized police officers who began their shift that night hoping to arrest a prostitute or two and, in suspecting Mr. Bell and his friends of possessing a gun, quickly got in over their heads.

“We ask police to risk their lives to protect ours,” said an assistant district attorney, Charles A. Testagrossa, in his closing arguments. “Not to risk our lives to protect their own.”

The defense, through weeks of often heated cross-examinations, their own witnesses and the words of the detectives themselves, portrayed the shooting as the tragic end to a nonetheless justified confrontation, with Detective Isnora having what it called solid reasons to believe he was the only thing standing between Mr. Bell’s car and a drive-by shooting around the corner.

Several witnesses testified that they heard talk of guns in an argument between Mr. Bell and a stranger, Fabio Coicou, outside Kalua, an argument, the defense claimed, that was fueled by bravado and Mr. Bell’s intoxicated state. Defense lawyers pointed their fingers at Mr. Guzman, who, they said, in shouting for Mr. Bell to drive away when Detective Isnora approached, may have instigated his death.

Introducing Markel Hutchins

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Listening to Rev. Markel Hutchins preach is like listening to Martin Luther King, Jr for the first time-it gives you chills. The thirty year-old preacher has an extensive record of activism and community organizing on behalf of the voiceless and powerless.

Working with the progressive labor movement against Wal-Mart and for health care and living wages, Hutchins cuts a charismatic figure fighting for people in stark contrast to Congressman John Lewis who seems to have lost his nerve.

Lewis, a distinguished warrior during the civil rights movement, was beaten countless times by the racist stormtroopers of the confederacy. He faced down dogs and hoses only to punk out as a member of congress and to remain silent in the face of Bill Clinton’s unconscionable attempts to racially polarize the electorate for the benefit of his wife.

Only after Hutchins announcement of his candidacy did John Lewis find a pair and leave Hillary’s plantation.

What impresses the most is the level of his game, he brings it with a freshness and a skill that belies his age. His principled advocacy on behalf of the family of Kathryn Johnston, 92, who was shot to death by Atlanta Police in a botched drug raid proves to me that he is ready to lead because he is already doing it.

The Congressional Black Caucus has failed on so many levels that I cannot bear to go into an explanation. I am enthusiastic and wholeheartedly in favor of a challenge to the ossified and complacent membership of the Congressional Black Caucus. In my humble opinion, Lewis is toast. Don’t believe me, see for yourself.

As soon as I am able, I am going to send this cat a contribution. He inspires and provides the right dose of substance and charisma. While Lewis is a down the line progressive, his light does not shine brightly enough to shame his CBC colleagues into following his example or be replaced, I have every confidence that this brotha can provide the right example.

Giuliani’s Christmas Ad (Revised)

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Copying front runner Mike Huckabee and sinking in national polls like a stone, a desperate Rudy Giuliani came out with his own holiday ad to deceive and reassure gullible Republicans.   

Rudy: There a many things I wish for this Holiday Season.  I wish for peace with strength, secure borders, a government that spends less than it takes in, lower taxes for our business and families, and I really hope that all the presidential candidates can just get along.  

Santa:  Ho, Ho, Ho, I was with ya right up until that last one. 

Rudy:   Can’t have everything. I’m Rudy Giuliani and I approved this message. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.   

This is the parody ad I would have him release.  

Rudy:  There are many things I wish for this Holiday Season.  I wish for another 9/11 to scare the American people into voting for me, a government that spies on its own people, huge tax loopholes for the rich, and I really hope that before Bernie Kerik goes to jail, his mob friends will help me rub out the smug prick with perfect hair, Mitt Romney. 

Judi, the social climbing homewrecker: I wanna be First Lady and America’s Queen. 

Black Santa:  Ho, I was with ya right up until that last one.  

Rudy:  You black bastard, I’ll teach you to never say everything that pops into your head to a white woman.

Rudy’s security team shoots Santa in the back 41 times and calls it justifiable homicide because Black Santa “fit the description.” 

Rudy:  I’m Rudy Giuliani and I enthusiastically approved this gross display of racist police state fascism.  Merry Christmas. Seig Heil.

Kill a dog, go to jail, kill a black boy and nothing happens

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Hat Tip: Court TV 

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (Court TV) — A Florida jury found eight former boot camp employees not guilty of causing the death of a juvenile offender in their care.

The panel of four women and two men deliberated just 90 minutes before reaching their verdict in the trial of seven drill instructors and a nurse accused in the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson.

Former drill instructors Henry Dickens, Patrick Garrett, Raymond Hauck, Charles Helms Jr., Henry McFadden Jr., Charles Enfinger, Joseph Walsh and nurse Kristin Schmidt could have faced up to 30 years in prison if they had been convicted of aggravated manslaughter.

The jury was also given the option of considering lesser charges of manslaughter, child neglect and misdemeanor culpable negligence — convictions that would have carried lighter sentences.

“We were innocent all along,” McFadden said. “We knew this truth would come out. As Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet read the verdicts for each of the defendants, sobs from defendants’ families grew louder.

On the other side of the courtroom, Anderson’s mother, Gina Jones, shook her head, and his father, Robert Anderson, covered his face in his hands.

The case has polarized Panama City, and throughout the week-long trial demonstrators gathered outside the courthouse, chanting and carrying signs. After the verdict was read Friday, as the defendants and their lawywers spoke with the media, people drove by shouting “Murderers,” and “They know they’re guilty.”

The Anderson family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, implied that race was the deciding issue in the case, in which a black teenager died after being manhandled by a group of guards that included whites, blacks and one Asian American.

“You kill a dog, you go to jail. You kill a little black boy and nothing happens,” Crump said.

In their testimony, all eight of the defendants said they were shocked and saddened by Anderson’s death. Dickens, one of the two black drill instructors involved in the incident, said he was hurt by the insults that have been leveled at him.

“They’ve been calling me an Uncle Tom, but this was never about race,” he said. “We cared about this kid. The kids are our future. I’m not going to be around for ever. We really cared about that kid.”

Defense attorneys bristled at idea that the verdict from the jury of six whites should be written off to racism.

“Two of the defendants were African-American,” said Robert Sombathy, the attorney for Garrett. “I don’t hear the NAACP trying to make an issue out of them. Race is not an issue in this case.”

Anderson, a ninth-grader who was sent to the Bay County Sheriff’s Department Juvenile Boot Camp for stealing his grandmother’s car, was only a few hours into his stay when he allegedly participated in a mandatory run for 10 minutes, then stopped and refused to continue.

During the 30-minute altercation that ensued — captured on surveillance video that attorneys for both sides repeatedly dissected during the trial — seven guards took turns restraining Anderson against a pole, pinning him to the ground and occasionally kneeing and hitting him to gain compliance.

In the melee, Schmidt stood outside the group as guards wrestled Anderson to the ground and then attempted to rouse him by waving ammonia caps under his nose.

The camp was closed a few months after the teen’s death.

I’m still pickin pieces of my brain outta the carpet because my head exploded when I read this.

We don’t live in a Democracy….

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We live in a racist police state.   Case in point, the fake furor over the tasered student at a John Kerry speech at the University of Florida. 

While I won’t defend the obnoxious conduct of this kid that provoked a physical confrontation, it didn’t ever merit him being tasered while Senator Kerry told them to leave him be.  Acting like they didn’t know how to put the boy out the room without looking like a trailer park trained gestapo, doesn’t wash with me.

Last week, a minister, the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, was attacked on Capitol Hill by the notoriously racist Capitol Hill Police force before the General Petraus hearings.  Not a peep was heard even though the widely read Firedoglake blog posted the video.   

They tore ligaments in the man’s damn leg.  While waiting in a public line all morning to get into the hearing, he was barred at the door because of a lapel pin that read, “I love the people of Iraq.” 

The racist myopia that infects the corporate mass media in this country is not remedied by the increasingly critical coverage of the Jena 6 case, or the white glove treatment they give to Barack Obama.  It can only be remedied by telling the truth about the shameless greed, militarism and racism that infects everything we touch at home and abroad.

To that end, I propose that we amend the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem, to say “

“O say, can you see, by the cluster bomb’s frightful light,
What so proudly we hailed at ground zero’s last gleaming,
Whose brainwashed children and bright stars, went through the perilous fight,
O’er the TV we watched, as civilian casualties were so gallantly screaming, And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting and killing women and children on live air, Gave proof through the night that our hypocrisy was still there.
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free market, and the home of the wage slave?”

New Orleans Cop acquitted of police brutality in beating of black senior citizen

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Hat Tip: Associated Press, NPR’s News andViews blog. 

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) – A former police officer accused in the videotaped beating of a man in the French Quarter after Hurricane Katrina was acquitted Tuesday by a judge who heard the case without a jury.

“I didn’t even find this a close call,” said District Judge Frank Marullo.

Robert Evangelist, 37, had been charged with beating Robert Davis, 66, during an arrest videotaped by an Associated Press Television News crew the night of October 8, 2005, about six weeks after Katrina.

Evangelist, who elected to have his case heard by Marullo without a jury, pleaded not guilty to second-degree battery and false imprisonment. Marullo acquitted him of both counts.

Marullo watched videotapes of the beating and its aftermath and he noted that Davis could be seen struggling on the tape for several minutes.

“This event could have ended at any time if the man had put his hands behind his back,” the judge said.

Evangelist and Lance Schilling were fired after being accused of the beating. Schilling killed himself June 10.

A third officer, Stuart Smith, was accused of a misdemeanor charge of simple battery against Associated Press producer Richard Matthews. Marullo threw out that charge because prosecutors improperly used a statement he made to police, said Smith’s attorney, Eric Hessler.

Smith served a 120-day suspension and remains on the force.

The officers said Davis, who had returned to New Orleans to check his property, started a confrontation after they stopped him on suspicion of being drunk. Davis, who was booked with public intoxication but never charged, said he hadn’t been drinking.

Davis testified Tuesday that he was headed to buy cigarettes in the French Quarter when he asked a police officer what time a curfew took effect that night. Before the officer could answer, a different officer cut him off, Davis said.

“Those were ignorant, unprofessional and rude officers,” Davis recalled saying as he walked away from the policemen.

Moments later, an officer grabbed him from behind, threw him against a wall and punched his face, Davis testified. His assailant uttered a racial epithet during the attack, he said.

“I don’t remember very much after that point,” Davis said.

Franz Zibilich, one of Evangelist’s attorneys, said his client “acted appropriately and well within police standards.”

Dr. Frances Smith, who treated Davis at an emergency room, testified that he suffered facial fractures. Davis said he still feels lingering physical effects from the attack.

I suppose Lance Shilling killed himself because he knew that some Klansman on the bench would acquit him.