Tag Archive: police brutality

Put Down Your Phone And Save My Black Life

Paul Lachine illustration

From Hartford Courant / By Frank Harris III

I was thinking about Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Eric Garner and other blacks across the country killed by police. I was thinking about their images posted on YouTube for the world to see. I was thinking about how I don’t want to be like them.

See, I survived police interactions that could have gone bad at ages 13, 16, 18, 19 and 57.

I am now 58 and despite my advancing maturity, I have long understood there is no age-related statute of limitations on being a black male in America. I have also come to understand that many in this country believe that whipping out their smartphone to record these “incidents” is the ultimate fulfillment of their civic, if not humane, duty. (more…)

A Statement from a Comrade and Baltimore Native About the Uprising There

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From SIC

Im heading home in two days.

There is something very important happening not only in Baltimore, but across black America. As of now there have been no reported deaths at the hands of protesters in a city where 250 people are killed a year, nearly all of those homicide victims being black. In spite of the fires and the looting, the young people of Baltimore are still showing a greater restraint in their conflicts with police and store-owners than they have shown in their conflicts amongst each other. I say this because for years it has been my family too that has done some of the killing and much of the dying.

Why is it that the current uprising has, in spite of its violence, not tilted toward a shooting war between whites and blacks, cops and kids, landlords and tenants, bosses and workers, given the fact that the shooting war between young black men across the region is invariant? Because young black people still value the lives of their structural enemies more than they value their own. The engineering of what is possibly the most efficient self-cannibalizing social organism in history – the nightly shootouts, the stabbings, the overdoses – is a project that has been centuries in the making.

The black youth of Baltimore have been conditioned to view themselves as the problem. Every socio-economic issue that arises is somehow the result of their behavior. They hear this not only from the white cops, the filipina teachers, the korean liquor store owners, but also from too many of the blacks who attended Coppin or Morgan and secured decent jobs and decided that the reason the police still profile them, or their home values dont rise, or they didnt get that pay raise, is because “the niggas” moved out the county, or they are still robbing each other, or they make “the rest of us” look bad. (more…)

Nonviolence as Compliance

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Officials calling for calm can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death, and so they appeal for order.

From The Atlantic/ By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city’s publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city’s police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview.

The citizens who live in West Baltimore, where the rioting began, intuitively understand this. I grew up across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where today’s riots began. My mother was raised in the same housing project, Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray was killed. Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution. People write these feelings off as wholly irrational at their own peril, or their own leisure. The case against the Baltimore police, and the society that superintends them, is easily made:

Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson ….

And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims—if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him—a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”

(more…)

Obama’s Police Reforms Ignore the Most Important Cause of Police Misconduct

police_scary_ap_imgThese well-meaning changes will simply reproduce racial inequality.

From The Nation/ By Alex S. Vitale

President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing has released a long list of reforms to American policing, some of which, including independent police prosecutions and dramatically scaling back the role of police in schools, are true advancements. However, there are also major pitfalls in the report’s reliance on procedural rather than substantive justice.

Liberal police reforms of the 1960s, including the Katzenback Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice and Johnson’s Safe Streets Act, were intended to achieve similar ends of improving police community relations and reducing police brutality through police professionalization and a host of procedural reforms. The result of this process, however, was the massive expansion of policing in the form of SWAT teams, the War on Drugs and, ultimately, mass incarceration.

Princeton political scientist Naomi Murakawa, in her book The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America, details how the liberal assessment of the problems of race failed to take seriously the role of racial domination in the structuring of the criminal-justice system. Instead, they focused on the need to create a criminal-justice system that was more professional and less arbitrary in its meting out of punishment against people of color. Embedded in this approach was the misconception that the negative attitudes of blacks about the police were based on a combination of poorly trained and biased officers on the one hand and exaggerated feelings of mistrust by African-Americans, derived from their social and political isolation, on the other. (more…)

Taser International and Cops Profiting from Police Brutality

antipoliceFrom AlterNet/By Michael Arria

Taser International, one of the nation’s largest suppliers of body cameras, has direct connections to some police chiefs who have been advocating on its behalf.

According to an AP report, the company is covering travel costs for cops that praise their products at international conferences. It’s also hiring retired chiefs as consultants, after their cities sign contracts with Taser. After the police chief in Fort Worth, Texas obtained a contract with the company, he wrote one of their representatives an email, insisting that he deserved a raise. In Salt Lake City, the police department bypassed City Council approval to secure a contract with Taser and, in Albuquerque, Taser’s connection to the police chief sparked an investigation by the city’s inspector general.

After the death of Michael Brown, body cameras became a staple of calls for police reform. President Obama proposed a $75 million effort to equip departments with the cameras, in an attempt to quell distrust of police. The move was supported by a number of liberals, but it was also adamantly supported by Taser International. According to aNation story by Raven Rakia, Taser has seen its stock price double since Michael Brown was killed. The company viewed Brown’s murder as, ” massive awareness campaign’ for police body cameras.” (more…)

Durham: Two days of protest are marked by arrests, prayers

pigscumFrom News and Observer

— On a day when members of African-American churches across the country wore black to protest fatal police shootings of unarmed black men, they were joined by members of four Triangle congregations who gathered in one of East Durham’s most troubled neighborhoods.

The group of about 75 people prayed, marched and blocked two intersections Sunday afternoon in a renewal of public protests against the killings. The event came less than a day after police arrested 11 people during a protest-related attempt to block the Durham Freeway in which police in riot gear confronted marchers. (more…)

Police “Reforms” You Should Always Oppose…

1-caution-police-stateFrom US Prison Culture

I read today that President Obama has offered some measures for ‘reforming’ the police.

Here is a simple guide for evaluating any suggested ‘reforms’ of U.S. policing in this historical moment.

1. Are the proposed reforms allocating more money to the police? If yes, then you should oppose them.
2. Are the proposed reforms advocating for MORE police and policing (under euphemistic terms like community policing run out of regular police districts)? If yes, then you should oppose them.
3. Are the proposed reforms primarily technology-focused? If yes, then you should oppose them because:
a. It means more money to the police.
b. Said technology is more likely to be turned against the public than it is to be used against cops.
c. Police violence won’t end through technological advances (no matter what someone is selling you).
4. Are the proposed ‘reforms’ focused on individual dialogues with individual cops? And will these ‘dialogues’ be funded with tax dollars? I am never against dialogue. It’s good to talk with people. These conversations, however, should not be funded by tax payer money. That money is better spent elsewhere. Additionally, violence is endemic to U.S. policing itself. There are some nice individual people who work in police departments. I’ve met some of them. But individual dialogue projects reinforce the “bad apples” theory of oppressive policing. This is not a problem of individually terrible officers rather it is a problem of a corrupt and oppressive policing system built on controlling & managing the marginalized while protecting property.

What ‘reforms’ should you support (in the interim) then? (more…)

Police Violence Is Not A Problem Because Of Its Invisibility

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Officers wearing riot gear walk through a park in downtown St. Louis on Sunday.

From Ben Brucato

For months, in response to the killing of Michael Brown, Ferguson and Saint Louis have been sites of ongoing rebellion, with frequent actions of solidarity throughout the United States. Last week, after a grand jury declined to indict Michael Brown’s murderer, Officer Darren Wilson, protests erupted across the country.

In response, today US President Obama proposed a national program to outfit 50,000 police officers with body-worn cameras. Many, including Michael Brown’s family, advocate in favor of wearable cameras for police. Rashad Robinson of ColorOfChange.org wrote today that, “If what happened between Mike Brown and Darren Wilson had been captured on video, we would not be here today—and Michael Brown might be alive.” This advocacy is predicated on the idea that police violence is a problem because it remains hidden.

For most of a century, police studies have operated under the idea that policing’s most crucial function—the use of force in the production of social order—is something that occurs outside of the public view. In their influential book, Above The Law, Jerome Skolnick and James Fyfe explained this hidden quality of policing has historically been a defining one, but that it was changed with the video recorded beating of Rodney King by LAPD officers.

Policing’s new visibility, as John B. Thompson calls it, is a consequence of surveillance that is rapidly approaching ubiquity. An institution once defined by operating outside of public view is now on exhibition as a result of cameras. Not only are private and government security cameras capturing many spaces—public and private alike—on video, but dash-mounted cameras in police cruisers and weapon-mounted cameras have produced a kind of self-surveillance (in addition to their primary intended functions of gathering evidence to criminally implicate civilians). On-officer wearable cameras, first developed by Taser, were developed from earlier stun-gun cameras (which, captured the moments before Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. was shot and killed by police in White Plains, NY).

If we believe police violence is a problem as a result of it being hidden from public view, we should expect to see a crisis in the police institution over the past two decades since the beating of Rodney King. As Skolnick and Fyfe wrote, “in the absence of videotapes or other objective recording of gratuitous violence, brutality rarely causes public controversy and is extremely difficult to prove.” But as I wrote last week, police violence appears to be on the rise in the presence of this new visibility. As much as we might hope for a simple, technological fix to the problem of police violence, more cameras are not the answer. (more…)

Help Andy Raise Legal Funds!

andyFrom You Caring

Andy is a queer-identified 20 year old West Philly resident, environmental activist, and volunteer at LAVA community center.

On August 23rd Andy was arrested while attending a demonstration in solidarity with those protesting in Ferguson, MO following the murder of Michael Brown. While walking on the sidewalk during the protest, he was tackled to the ground and kicked by multiple officers, arrested, and non-consensually brought to the hospital for injuries that the police had inflicted. Because the police took away the bandages he had been given in the ER, he had to take care of his injuries on his own, while in jail. He has since been slapped with a large emergency room bill. He was held for around 28 hours with little food or water, and was subject to intimidation and threats of multiple felony charges and federal involvement. Instances like this are not unusual.  In fact, these circumstances – violent arrests, legal threats, withholding medical treatment and intimidation – are common in suppression of dissent against police brutality.

Andy now faces six misdemeanor charges, for which the DA’s office has already demanded at least $1,500 in damage.

In addition, the publication of Andy’s legal name and residence by local media outed him as transgender to the community, violating his privacy and potentially putting his safety at risk.

We have been making every effort to fundraise for Andy and have already raised some money.  However, we still have a large amount left to raise.  Please help us out to whatever extent you are able!  If you would prefer to mail a check, please contact us for a mailing address.  Thank you!

– See more at: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-andy-raise-legal-funds-/253232#sthash.3TNYiNeA.dpuf