On The 3-Year Anniversary Of Michael Brown’s Death, How Far Have We Come?

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By Benjamin L. Crump for The Huffington Post – Three years later, on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s inexcusable death at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri, it is challenging to contemplate the United States of 2017. So much has changed since that terrible day, yet so much has remained the same. Michael Brown’s death sparked genuine conversations about race relations throughout the country, yet America still has such a long way to go. Three minutes. One hundred and eighty seconds. That’s how long it took – from the moment Officer Darren Wilson arrived at the scene until the fatal bullet was discharged – for Michael Brown’s life to be taken. In the flash of a gun muzzle, Michael joined the list of too many black men senselessly killed by law enforcement, simply because of the color of their skin. Clearly, the relationship between law enforcement and African-Americans is broken, with the system built to oppress the black citizens of our nation. We have seen time and again that our nation’s fundamental promise has a caveat: liberty and justice for all — as long as you are white. Michael Brown’s death sparked genuine conversations about race, yet America still has such a long way to go. From start to finish, the law enforcement system is predisposed against African-Americans. Blacks are more likely to be stopped, searched and targeted for unprovoked force than their white counterparts.

US Court Of Appeals Throws Out Blackwater Murder Conviction

Seattle police officers wearing riot gear guard a Starbucks coffee shop during May Day demonstrations in Seattle

By Matthew MacEgan for WSWS – On Friday, a US appeals court threw out the first-degree murder conviction of Nicholas A. Slatten, one of the four former Blackwater security guards who massacred 14 unarmed Iraqis in September 2007 while working for the US State Department. Slatten had been sentenced to life in prison in 2015, and the other three former guards each received sentences of 30 years. The court also ruled that the three other men be resentenced. In a statement, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit panel ruled that the trial court which sentenced the four guards “abused its discretion” by not allowing Slatten to be tried separately from his three co-defendants. He was the only one who faced a murder charge since he was found to have fired the first shots as well as shooting dead the driver of a white Kia car that had stopped at a traffic circle. The other three defendants, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard, were found to have violated the constitutional prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment” for their part in the massacre. Thirty-year sentences were issued based on their use of military firearms while committing a felony, a charge that was used for the first time against security contractors who were provided weapons by the US government.

Tennessee Cops Sued For Three Hour Torture Of Suspect

The taser shocks by deputies were recorded by an overhead surveillance video camera and by a camera on the taser itself. (Photo: Surveillance footage photo)

By Amy K Nixon for The Tennessean – Three Cheatham County Sheriff’s deputies have been placed on administrative leave after a Pegram teen filed suit in federal court accusing them of using excessive force while he was being held at Cheatham County Jail. Jordan Elias Norris, 19, has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court accusing the deputies of deprivation of civil rights, citing the use of excessive force and failure to protect after he was repeatedly stunned with Tasers in the jail in November 2016. He suffered more than 40 pairs of Taser burns, many of which are unaccounted for by authorities, the lawsuit states. Norris was arrested Nov. 3, 2016 and charged with felony manufacturing/possession of marijuana for resale, possession of drug paraphernalia, theft under $500 and five counts of possession of a prohibited weapon. He was later charged with felony vandalism of over $1,000 and simple assault Nov. 7 while still incarcerated. Norris was originally suspected of stealing a semi-automatic rifle, and Sheriff’s deputies received information he was going to use the weapon on any law enforcement who tried to arrest him, according to Cheatham County Sheriff Mike Breedlove.

Police Kill Innocent Man While Serving Warrant At Wrong Address

From nationofchange.org

By Andrew Emett for Nation of Change – Despite having the correct address printed on the arrest warrant, Mississippi police officers recently arrived at the wrong house and fatally shot the suspect’s neighbor through his front door. Although officers claim the man had been armed and refused commands to drop the gun, witnesses assert that he was unarmed and had been shot without warning. Shortly before 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, Southaven police arrived at 5878 Surrey Lane to serve an arrest warrant for a domestic abuse suspect named Samuel Pearlman. Earlier in the evening, Pearlman had been accused of choking his girlfriend at a Citgo gas station. Instead of approaching 5878 Surrey Lane, the officers mistakenly went across the street to serve the warrant at the wrong address: 5881 Surrey Lane. According to police reports, Ismael Lopez, 41, prepared to ambush the officers by cracking open his front door while aiming a gun at them. During a press conference on Monday, District Attorney John Champion declared that two officers arrived at the wrong address to serve the arrest warrant when Lopez’s dog, Coco, ran through the open front door in an aggressive manner. Reportedly noticing Lopez standing in the open doorway with a rifle aimed at them, the officers opened fire at his pit bull and immediately ordered Lopez to drop the weapon before they shot him to death.

Mumia Abu-Jamal Speaks About Black Lives Matter And Police Violence

We need a deeper, refined analysis for a clear vision of the inherent repression of Black life, says Mumia Abu-Jamal. (Photo: City Lights Books)

By Tasasha Henderson for Truthout – In his new book Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?, author and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal explores this question over 75 essays, spanning from the late 1990s to 2017. Each essay explores the violence of policing and the criminal legal system, whether from a historical perspective or through the stories of people who have died by the hands of police. In the first essay, “Hate Crimes,” Abu-Jamal questions the legitimacy of the idea of hate crimes, pointing out that police are never charged with a hate crime when they brutalize and kill Black and Brown people. Abu-Jamal’s essays discuss the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, the killing of Tamir Rice by Cleveland, Ohio, police officer Timothy Loehmann, and what the aftermath of these slayings reveals about how the United States views Black people. His conclusion is perfectly summed up in the first two lines of his October 2015 essay titled, “Tamir Rice of Cleveland” — “Question: When is a child not a child? Answer: When it’s a Black child.” Abu-Jamal spoke with Truthout about some of the issues he engages with in Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?, including police violence and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

Deadly Three Minutes: Web Of Police Violence That Killed Charleena Lyles

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By Andrea Ritchie for Rewire – Bias against Black mothers, perceptions of people in mental health crisis, and policing of poverty may have all played a role in the fatal shooting of the 30-year-old pregnant Seattle woman. In the midst of a weekend of nationwide protests demanding accountability for the police shooting of Philando Castile in front of his partner and her child, two Seattle police officers responded Sunday to a call for help from Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old Black mother of four. She was reporting a burglary. What happened next weaves together several strands of a deadly web of police violence against Black women—including police perceptions of Black mothers and Black women in mental health crisis, police responses to domestic violence, and policing of poverty. Once the officers arrived at the apartment complex where she lived, Lyles can be heard on audio recorded by the officers’ dashboard camera. She let the officers into her apartment building and calmly and rationally answered their questions. She said that someone broke into her house while she was at the store, told the officers that she had no idea who it was, and described what was taken. The sounds of children are audible in the background. Suddenly, the officers begin shouting, “Get back! Get back!” One officer calmly suggests using a Taser…

Police Should Answer To The Communities They Serve

After the death of Michael Brown in 2014, and ensuing demonstrations and police response in Ferguson, Missouri, the Obama Administration created the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which issued a report including 150 recommendations for law enforcement agencies in the U.S. Photo by Scott Lum / Flickr.

By Christopher Zumski Finke for Yes! Magazine – Here’s what I learned: In 1829, a member of the British Parliament named Sir Robert Peel wrote nine principles for policing communities. They include, “the police must secure the willing cooperation of the public” and “the police should use only the minimum degree of physical force necessary on any particular occasion.” Every cop in the United States should have learned them. Carter did when he joined the St. Paul Police Department in 1975, after the city was sued for failing to hire Black officers. He served 27 years on the force, first as a patrol officer, then as a detective, then as an Internal Affairs investigator. Carter comes from a celebrated African American family in St. Paul. His father, Melvin Carter Sr., was a jazz musician (who died earlier this month), and his son is running for mayor of St. Paul. Carter created the organization Save Our Sons, a mentorship program for young men of color, and was instrumental in creating the Juvenile Detention Alternative Center. He’s now an elder-figure on matters of race and policing in the Twin Cities. Voices in and around law enforcement seem to agree that Peel’s rules are good ones. Carter wanted me to know them, because he wanted me to understand that Peel’s Principles don’t apply to Black people.

Does Militarization Of Police Lead To More People Killed? Research Says Yes

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By Celisa Calacal for AlterNet – Black Lives Matter activists protesting police violence and the killing of Michael Brown were met with heavily armed officers during the Ferguson protests in 2014. Indigenous people and environmental activists protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline faced a similar scene in 2016 when militarized law enforcement used violent tactics against the peaceful demonstrators. Scenes of heavily armed police forces are becoming more common across the country. New research from the Washington Post finds that this militarization results in more individuals killed each year by law enforcement. The study found that twice as many people are more likely to die in counties that receive an influx in military equipment. Additional research conducted in 2016 also found that police are more likely to be attacked when they are militarized, which raises the question of how beneficial it is to pad police forces with military-grade weaponry. The researchers looked to anthropologist Peter Kraska to define militarization as the “embrace and implementation of an ideology that stresses the use of force as a good way to solve problems.” The definition encompasses four dimensions of militarization: material, cultural, organizational and operational.

3 Chicago Cops Charged With Obstruction For Falsely Justifying Teen’s Death

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By Andrew Emett for Nation of Change – Three Chicago police officers have been indicted on state charges of conspiracy, obstruction, and misconduct for allegedly writing false reports in order to justify the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. A fourth officer was charged with murder in November 2015 after police dash cam footage revealed him shooting the teen 16 times as McDonald appeared to be walking away. Nearly surrounded by officers and suspected of breaking into cars on October 20, 2014, McDonald was attempting to walk away from a group of Chicago cops when Officer Jason Van Dyke exited his patrol car. According to initial reports, McDonald was armed with a knife and lunged at Officer Van Dyke. Fearing for his life and the lives of his fellow officers, Van Dyke shot the teen in the chest out of self-defense. But according to witness statements and police dash cam video, McDonald had been walking away when Van Dyke took a step towards the teen before opening fire. After McDonald collapsed to the ground in a fetal position, Van Dyke continued firing his weapon until emptying his clip. As Van Dyke began reloading his gun, a fellow officer ordered him to cease firing at the dying teen.

Philando Castile’s Family Settles Lawsuit With City For $3 Million

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By John Bacon for USA TODAY – The mother of Philando Castile, a black motorist shot by a Minnesota police officer a year ago, agreed to a $2.995 million settlement with the city of St. Anthony, lawyers announced Monday. Valerie Castile will be paid with insurance funds, and “no taxpayer monies” will be involved, according to a statement issued by the city and the family’s lawyers. Castile, 32, was fatally shot at a traffic stop in July 2016 by officer Jeronimo Yanez. Multiple videos of the shooting and its chaotic aftermath emerged, thrusting the case into the national spotlight. Earlier this month, a jury acquitted Yanez, 29, of manslaughter and other charges in the case, setting off days of protests. “The death of Philando Castile is a tragedy for his family and for our community,” the joint statement says. “The parties moved expeditiously to resolve potential civil claims … in order to allow the process of healing to move forward for the Castile family, for the people of St. Anthony Village, and for all those impacted by the death of Philando Castile throughout the United States.”

The Body Count Rises In The U.S. War Against Black People

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By Ajamu Baraka for Counter Punch – Again, there is anger, confusion and calls for justice from the black community of Seattle, where the latest killing took place. Many might remember that it was in Seattle where two members of the local black community attempted to call out the racist and hypocritical liberal white community during a visit by Bernie Sanders. The black activists were subsequently shouted down by a majority of Bernie’s supporters. One of the issues that the activists wanted to raise was the repressive, heavy-handed tactics of the Seattle Police Department. Some have argued that this rash of killings of black people caught on video or reported by dozens of witnesses is nothing new, that the images of police chocking, shooting and beating poor black and working-class people is now more visible because of technological innovations that make it easier to capture these images. They are partially right. As an internal colony in what some refer to as a prison house of nations that characterizes the U.S. nation state, black communities are separated into enclaves of economic exploitation and social degradation by visible and often invisible social and economic processes.

Philando Castile’s Killer Acquitted Despite Forensics That Contradicted His Case

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By Jeremy Stahl for Slate – Philando Castile’s killer, police officer Jeromino Yanez, was acquitted of manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm on Friday. The case of Castile’s shooting last July in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota had sparked mass protests after his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds posted a dramatic and wrenching video of the shooting’s aftermath. The video, taken with Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter in the car, included footage of Castile lying in a puddle of blood after he was struck five times from seven shots. Castile had informed the officer that he was carrying a firearm, for which he had a permit. Shortly thereafter, Yanez opened fire. In his opening statement, Yanez’s defense attorney claimed that Castile was holding his gun when he was shot. “He has his hand on the gun,” Engh reportedly said during opening arguments. “The next command is, ‘Don’t pull it out.’ … [Yanez] can’t retreat … But for Mr. Castile’s continuous grip on the handgun, we would not be here.” The prosecution argued that the 32-year-old school cafeteria supervisor with no violent criminal record was reaching for his driver’s license—as Yanez had instructed—and not his gun when he was shot.

Lawsuit, Citing ‘Thin Blue Line,’ Seeks Federal Court Oversight Of CPD

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By Jon Seidel, Fran Spielman and Mitch Dudek for Chicago Sun Times – Accusing Mayor Rahm Emanuel of trying to cut a “back-room deal” with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, lawyers for Black Lives Matter Chicago and other community groups filed a class-action lawsuit Wednesday seeking federal oversight of the city’s police department. The 132-page complaint immediately blew up the debate over police reform in Chicago. It may force City Hall to the negotiating table after the mayor tried to abandon the idea of a federal monitor. Or, it may lead to a lengthy court battle. Six individuals and seven community groups are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was brought on behalf of people who “have been, or in the future will be, subjected to use of force by the CPD.” It also targets 15 police officers, as well as the city. “CPD officers abide by an ingrained code of silence and ‘warrior mentality’ wholly disconnected from the policies that exist on the books,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote in the complaint. “The ‘thin blue line’ reigns supreme. The city of Chicago has proven time and time again that it is incapable of ending its own regime of terror, brutality and discriminatory policing.”

Cleveland Fires Officer Who Killed Tamir Rice

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Children protest Tamir Rice’s death in New York City in November 2015. Cleveland announced a $6 million settlement with Tamir’s family on April 25, 2016.

By German Lopez for Vox – On November 22, 2014, Tamir Rice was throwing snowballs and playing with a toy pellet gun in a Cleveland park when a police car rolled into the snowy field. Within two seconds of getting out of his squad car, officer Timothy Loehmann shot and killed the 12-year-old. Two and a half years later, the Cleveland police department fired Loehmann, Mike Hayes reported for BuzzFeed on Tuesday. But the termination is not solely due to the shooting, but rather as a result of Loehmann “providing false information” when he applied to the department several years ago. Loehmann could still appeal the firing through his union. Meanwhile, the officer who drove Loehmann to Rice, Frank Garmback, is suspended for 10 days and will get additional training. Last year, the city of Cleveland announced it would pay the Rice family $6 million in a lawsuit settlement over the shooting. Before that, former Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty announced that there would be no criminal charges filed against the officers involved — arguing that while there was miscommunication between a 911 dispatcher and the officers, there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest that the cops had cleared the very high bar for criminal charges in police shooting cases.

Police Officer Fired After Kicking Handcuffed Man In Face

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By Andrew Emett for Nation of Change – Captured on cellphone video running towards a handcuffed man on the ground and kicking him in the face without provocation, a Georgia police officer was immediately fired on Thursday after his supervisors viewed the footage. According to the arrest report, both officers at the scene failed to include the unnecessary use of force in their version of events. Around 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Gwinnett County Police Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni reportedly noticed a car changing lanes without using a turn signal and missing a license plate. While conducting a routine traffic stop, Sgt. Bongiovanni called for backup after smelling marijuana and recognizing the driver of the vehicle from a previous arrest in August. According to Bongiovanni’s incident report, he ordered Demetrius Hollins out of the car when the suspect became belligerent and attempted to push away from him. Stuck in traffic, a bystander recorded the arrest on his cellphone as Bongiovanni used a Taser to take Hollins to the ground.