(FinalCall.com) – From California to South Carolina to Pittsburgh, from Missouri to Detroit to New York, Blacks are being assaulted, shot and killed. As anger grows, protests rise, and frustrations build, people are asking, when and how will this end?
Ever since Black people were brought to the shores of America in the bottom of slave ships, misery, suffering and death has been their constant companions.
“What we are going through now, actually, it’s a different level of what we experienced in slavery,” Nancy Lockhart, a social justice advocate, told The Final Call. “I definitely feel that it’s open season on us.”
Ms. Lockhart said there must be laws mandating prison time for police officers who exert brutality and excessive force. Too many minor misdemeanors like traffic stops and jay-walking are ending in outright murder of unarmed people, she said.
Incident after incident of brutality and death
On Oct. 1, a jury convicted Michael Dunn of first degree murder for shooting Jordan Davis over loud music. Earlier this year, a jury also convicted Mr. Dunn of three charges of second-degree murder for firing into the vehicle that carried three others along with teenager Davis. Dunn was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Friday.
“We send our love and support to the family of Jordan Davis. Today is a day to remember Jordan and honor his life, renew our commitment to ending Florida’s deadly ‘Stand Your Ground’ or ‘Shoot First’ law, and grow our movement to end violence perpetrated against Black youth,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director ofColorOfChange.org, an online civil rights organization.
Marlene Pinnock, the 51-year-old Black, then-homeless grandmother captured on video being savagely beaten by California Highway Patrolman Daniel Andrew, settled her lawsuit against the highway patrol for $1.5 million. She announced the agreement with her attorney Caree Harper at a press conference on Sept. 24.
Atty. Harper told The Final Call both sides made concessions but it was crucial for Ms. Pinnock that Mr. Andrew be fired and could never be rehired as a highway patrolman. They allowed CHP to say Mr. Andrew resigned, she explained.
“I feel good about the settlement and this chapter can be closed in my life and I can move on,” Ms. Pinnock stated, as she thanked God, her attorney, and David Diaz, who videotaped her assault. She was glad the cop who beat her lost his job. “I didn’t want him to hurt nobody else like he hurt me, and expose another woman or another child’s grandmother the way I was exposed,” she said.
Their next steps are to testify in the criminal phase of the case, Atty. Harper said. “We have to make sure that he serves actual jail time and receives every inch of punishment he deserves,” she added.
In Tallahassee, Fla., Officer Terry Mahan has been placed on administrative leave after a neighbor’s video revealed he tasered 62-year-old Viola Young in the head on Sept. 30.
According to Officer Mahan’s statement in a police report, he’d arrived on the scene to help two officers with two suspects already on the ground. Reportedly, police were responding to complaints of drug deals in the area.
Officer Mahan stated Ms. Young approached to ask what was going on and when ordered to leave, she refused. He tried to arrest her, and when she walked away, he tasered her in the back of the head. Police Chief Michael DeLeo said there were enough concerns to call for an internal investigation.
In Houma, La., sheriff’s officials called the September fatal shooting of Black teen Cameron Tillman a “freak accident,” saying the deputy, who is also Black, feared for his life because he thought he saw 45-caliber pistol. According to police, deputies received calls that five or six men with guns had entered a vacant house.
The deputy shot the 14-year-old four times. According to police, the child was carrying a BB gun.
Bad cops, bad decisions?
On Sept. 23, federal Judge Percy Anderson sentenced six L.A. County Sheriff deputies to federal prison for obstructing an investigation into corruption and civil rights abuses within county jails. For their roles in conspiring and scheming to hide an inmate informant from the FBI and a federal grand jury in 2011, the five men and one woman will begin serving their prison terms ranging from approximately two to three years on Jan. 2.
In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich announced an investigation by the Department of Justice would be appropriate after a grand jury decided not to charge police who fatally shot a 22-year-old unarmed Black man in Wal-Mart on Aug. 5.
In a call to 911, Ronald Ritche falsely claimed John Crawford, III was brandishing a gun and pointing it at other customers, two children included. Video showed at no time did Mr. Crawford point a toy gun—sold at the store—toward others. Police say he refused commands to drop the gun and they opened fire.
“There has to be a law across the board to stop this,” Ms. Lockhart said.
America’s history of murdering Blacks
The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, patriarch of the Nation of Islam wrote in his vital book “Message to the Blackman in America” that under the U.S. flag “we have received nothing but hell, beatings and killings without due process of the law, day and night, not only in the past but in the present.”
With an increase of police killings of Black and Brown people, some say the climate nationwide is hunter vs. the hunted. There is a renewed national debate about inordinate force on unarmed people, particularly since the killing of Michael “Mike-Mike” Brown, an unarmed, Black 18-year-old shot to death in August by White police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo. For many Blacks the militarized reaction and blatant racism among some officers produced outrage.
Protests in Ferguson are ongoing with major demonstrations held the weekend of Oct. 10.
“Ferguson is “a microcosm of the macrocosm,” said the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in his August address entitled, “The Troubled World: What Should We Be Doing.”
From the Nation of Islam’s flagship Mosque Maryam, Minister Farrakhan issued guidance on the current state of affairs in America and the Mid-East.
Ferguson’s population is 67 percent Black, but out of six councilmen, five are White, he noted. Out of 53 policemen, three are Black, and something’s wrong with that picture, Minister Farrakhan stated. He questioned the voting rights bill’s one man, one vote implementation in Ferguson, and questioned why with 67 percent of the vote, Blacks can’t make the laws to govern their own town?
Minister Farrakhan also discussed the criminalization of Black youth—referencing the media’s reporting on allegations Michael Brown strong-armed a store owner and took cigars. However, Minister Farrakhan said, people in the ’hood don’t control any economics, thus Arab, Korean, Chinese and Indian store owners “don’t give a damn” about them. Instead, they take money out but give nothing back to the community, he said.
“There’s been over, I believe, 300 arrests of Black people in that city, and just fewer than 40 Whites have been arrested. Do you see ‘the picture?’ ” Minister Farrakhan asked. These conditions exist over the country, he said.
“Black men are being shot down, but the courts don’t give us justice. The coroners are the brothers of the killers, so you don’t know what happened to Michael Brown. The shooting of this young man has triggered, now, a response that has been building,” Minister Farrakhan continued.
Black people are victimized by oppressive “institutionalized racism” that’s deep-rooted in the fabric of American life, according to Atty. Jaribu Hill of the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights.
American racism is a system that insulates and protects its killers, she said. “Those who prey on people of color and disproportionately people of African descent; rarely are they punished.”
There is a “concentrated effort” to provoke public fear and criminalize Black people—particularly males whether or not they are negatively profiled in the media—no one is untouchable.
According to a recent report from the Justice Department, on average, a Black male was killed by the police nearly twice a week during a seven-year period ending in 2012.
A special moment in history?
“We are at a pivotal moment,” said activist and former political prisoner Dhoruba Bin-Wahad. “Because this is the first time … the very nature of so-called policing and law enforcement in America is being questioned on a national level based on White supremacy.”
The killing in Ferguson set off an avalanche of anger; protests and social rebellion from a community besieged by the police. Some have called on Congress to pass the decade old “End Racial Profiling Act,” which would prohibit profiling on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion by law enforcement.
“Law Enforcement is about command and control and regulation of people’s behavior and now we know it’s regulation (of) protest, it’s regulation of the right to defend, and they tell you that you have the right to ‘protest peacefully’ in the face of violence,” explained Mr. Bin-Wahad
Critics of police-community relations say Ferguson exposed America as a bastion of human rights abuse through police terror. Mr. Wilson, the White cop who shot Michael Brown Jr. is still free, uncharged and has become a folk hero among some Whites.
In solidarity with Mr. Wilson, sympathetic Whites around the country raised a multi-million dollar legal war chest for the officer. Ferguson officers wore bracelets reading, “I am Darren Wilson.”
It’s indicative of “constant impunity where those who would be and should be punished are not … because the victims are considered expendable,” said Atty. Hill.
In Columbia, S.C., Levar Jones, 35, was shot at multiple times by a White state trooper on Sept. 4. On a video released by the courts that went viral, Highway Patrolman Sean Groubert, 31, was seen releasing a round of bullets at Mr. Jones at a very busy gas station. After he was approached for not wearing a seat belt, the patrol car’s dash cam recorded Mr. Jones complying with the trooper’s commands to produce his driver’s license. He reaches for his license in the vehicle and the bullets fly. Mr. Jones backs away and placing his hands up in the universal sign of surrender before several more bullets were discharged.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division investigated the shooting, Patrolman Groubert was fired, found negligent and arrested on charges of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. He was released on a $75,000 bond. If convicted he faces up to 20-years incarceration. This year there have been 32 police shootings resulting in 14 deaths, according to South Carolina law enforcement. Since 2009, there has been a 56 percent increase in the number of officer-involved shootings; most took place during traffic stops, while serving a warrant or during a domestic incident.
In February, in North Augusta, S.C., a White Public Safety Officer was indicted for shooting Ernest Satterwhite, a Black 68-year-old great-grandfather four times after a slow speed chase ended in Mr. Satterwhite’s driveway. According to AP, a prosecutor sought to charge the officer with voluntary manslaughter—which came with a potential 30- year sentence. A grand jury downgraded the charge to a misdemeanor and “misconduct in office,” usually reserved for sheriffs who make inmates do their personal work, or officers who ask for bribes. Yet, according to experts, charging officers in South Carolina is unprecedented.
Lack of accountability feeds abuses?
As noted in a Final Call editorial, one of the major reasons these killings and abuses continue is the failure of local authorities, review boards, prosecutors and politicians to hold police accountable for their actions. This reluctance to prosecute officers, who are always called singular bad apples, allows for abuses to go virtually unchecked and for officers to operate with no fear of consequences. The result is extreme arrogance and wrong action executed with impunity.
Kim McGill, an organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition/FREE L.A. High School and Chuco’s Justice Center, cited statistics to show law enforcement’s use of force is up in Los Angeles and in many areas of the nation.
Despite dramatic declines in community and domestic violence, law enforcement use of force has increased, she said. Ms. McGill said, across the U.S., violent crime rates are down to the lowest levels since the 1950s, including dropping by as much as 50 percent since 2007.
“So law enforcement use of force is not in response to increased violence or fire power in the community as law enforcement often claims,” the young activist said.
According to Ms. McGill, most departments have seen an increase of women and people of color on their forces. This has seemed to increase some communication between law enforcement and communities of color, but has not decreased use of force or incarceration, she explained.
Bringing in Blacks, Latinos, Asians and women without radical, cultural and policy change within departments will not reduce police killing, searches, arrests and incarceration, Ms. McGill stated.
She attributes many trends seen in thousands of cases to police violence, such as the reliance on broken windows and predictive policing that leads to massive amounts of stop and frisk, racial profiling and increased tension caused by law enforcement’s growing fear and disconnection from community, and the increased militarization of police in terms of command structure, advanced surveillance of communities, intimidating uniforms and tools, and advanced and more lethal weaponry.
Ms. McGill told The Final Call, L.A. has led the nation in the use of military weapons and tactics against civilian populations—(first use army tanks and riot gear to put down civilian uprisings Watts ‘65, first use of helicopters, battering rams, “gang” units, first creation of a SWAT team, first creation of gang databases and gang injunctions (injunctions mirror the use of Marshall law designed for use during war and other levels of extreme threat—not against civilian populations in response to crime).
Protest politics alone won’t bring change, she noted. Communities must build infrastructure that include goals and deal with specific policies, budgets, community mobilization and organizing, advocacy and litigation strategies, she continued.
The youth activist also feels an end will come through the efforts of youth and communities to get smarter about how they respond to police violence. Community uprisings are no longer dependent on mainstream media to tell their stories as people upload videos, blogs, produce online radio shows and TV channels, live stream events and use smart phones to send images that go viral in an instant, Ms. McGill noted.
Things will get worse before better, she said. But the activist added, people everywhere are waking up and rising up.
Special to the NNPA fom the Final Call