Anger boiled over in Baltimore as the funeral of Freddie Gray seems to have put the city over the breaking point, as we reported on Saturday the violence and property damage began at the end of Sunday’s protests at Camden Yards where protesters had conflicts with baseball fans who had been drinking. At the request of Gray’s family, things calmed down after that, but after the funeral, many lost control. These riots were not planned by protest leaders but seem to have happened spontaneously. The reality is this has been building from generations of gross neglect in very poor communities. Fifty years ago Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that a “riot is the voice of the unheard.” These riots have been building from the era of Dr. King. David Simon, the writer of the HBO series The Wire, got it right when he wrote on his blog: Yes, there is a lot to be argued, debated, addressed. And this moment, as inevitable as it has sometimes seemed, can still, in the end, prove transformational, if not redemptive for our city. Changes are necessary and voices need to be heard. All of that is true and all of that is still possible, despite what is now loose in the streets.
On May 9th Black mothers from across the United States will converge on Washington, DC to demand an end to the murder of unarmed husbands, sons and more frequently their daughters by police terror and white vigilantes. Frederick Douglas once said: “I prayed for twenty years (during captivity) but received no answer until I prayed with my leg.” Hundreds of mothers are coming to Washington, DC to pray with their feet and demand an end to the killings of their children. Maria Hamilton, founder of Mothers for Justice United will lead the Million Moms March for Justice. Hamilton’s son, Dontre (31) was killed by Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney on April 30, 2014.
Harry Belafonte will join the Justice League NYC for its “March 2 Justice” event later this month. On April 13, members and supporters of the organization will engage in a 250-mile walk to deliver the Justice Package to Congress. The Justice Package is calling for three new pieces of federal legislation: Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), the End Racial Profiling Act and the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act. Marchers will journey through five states until they reach their final stop in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, April 21. Organizers are planning to gather in Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia; Lincoln University in Pennsylvania; and Baltimore as part of the March2Justice. Their messages states, “We march for all the lives lost to police violence, we march to end racial profiling, to demilitarize our police forces, and to demand meaningful investment in our youth and communities.”
One of New York City’s most active anti-police brutality groups now uses stand-up comedy as well as direct action to raise consciousness. On April 11, the group “NYC Shut It Down” held an event in Brooklyn called “Stand Up, Don’t Shoot” featuring spoken word poetry and comedy from the activists themselves. The group, also called the “Grand Central Crew,” is known for their weekly protests at Grand Central Terminal, occupying big retail stores, and recently confronting City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and asking her to defend her calls for more cops. “We’re here to bring some light and levity to our dark and tragic times right now using art and comedy to affect social change,” Elsa Waithe, stand-up comedian and member of NYC Shut It Down, said. “Sometimes you can supercede someone’s defenses with laughter.”
A national day of protest labeled #A14 sparked by a call to action by Dr. Cornel West resulted in protests throughout the nation. West urged people to participate in a national movement to put a stop to the killing of black and Latino people. Notable protests were held in various parts of New York City, Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Cleveland, Atlanta, North Carolina, Stockton and other locations. In some cities roads were blocked, traffic was stopped and business as usual was unable to occur. #A14 is an outgrowth of the #Black Lives Matter movement that has raised the consciousness of Americans about police violence across the nation. The movement built after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson and has re-sparked with recent killings of African Americans in various parts of the country.
Michael Thomas Slager did everything by the book. The South Carolina police officer’s only mistake was being filmed. But his approach in killing Walter Scott, seeming to plant evidence, and initiating a cover-up was a classic scenario of how cops get away with murder. Given what we know about police shootings, it wouldn’t surprise me if Slager was coached after he shot and killed Walter Scott. But judging by his dispatch call following the shooting, he was already pretty skilled at using the system to his advantage. Perhaps things will be different this time. Slager was charged with the murder of Walter Scott, which is incredibly rare in America. (Cops are rarely indicted for these incidents, and even fewer are convicted, regardless of videotapes and evidence.) A crowdsourcing campaign for Michael Slager has already been rejected by GoFundMe. But it’s not over yet. Judging by history, there is a good chance that Slager ends up free. And another campaign on IndieGoGo is going strong. These are the rewards of playing things by the book.
South Carolina police officer Michael Thomas Slager was charged with first-degree murder for the shooting death of Walter Scott. Charges against South Carolina police officers for shooting someone are extremely rare. But what was particularly remarkable in this case was, for at least two days, Slager was apparently unaware that video of the entire incident existed. This provides a unique opportunity to observe how one police officer sought to avoid accountability for his actions. Between the time when he shot and killed Scott early Saturday morning and when charges were filed, Slager — using the both the police department and his attorney — was able to provide his “version” of the events. He appeared well on his way to avoiding charges and pinning the blame on Scott. Then a video, shot by an anonymous bystander, revealed exactly what happened.
On May 9th, 2015, Mother’s Day Weekend, The Mothers for Justice United will march on the US Department of Justice in our nation’s capitol, Washington DC. Will you stand with us? Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton. Dontre was a 31-year-old, unarmed black male, shot fourteen times for sleeping in a public park by Milwaukee Police Officer, Christopher Manney, on April 30th, 2014. This is her story… [see video]. Mothers voices is elevating and amplifying the matriarchs of the movement by exposing their truth after losing a child to the hands of another. These strong women are sharing their stories and the pain that is often covered by the spectacle of the headlines. These mothers have mourned but choose to share, hurt but choose to heal, have lost but choose to fight.
Philadelphia, PA – A one-time doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania who studied and made a short film about Occupy Philly was awarded $80,000 in damages Thursday by a federal jury for his arrest during a protest. Gregory Harris was watching police evict Occupy Philly activists from their encampment at City Hall when he was arrested on November 30, 2011, according to his lawsuit filed against the city. Harris was accused of striking Officer Joseph Sisca in the face with his forearm. He was charged with aggravated assault and several other counts. In December of 2011, the charges against Harris of aggravated assault, riot, recklessly endangering another person and resisting arrest were all dismissed. In 2012, he was acquitted of the lone remaining charge — simple assault.
For the first time, a New York judge gave judicial notice to the realities of climate change as he exonerated ten protesters on freedom of speech grounds. Judge Robert Mandelbaum found the Flood Wall Street Ten not guilty, commending the climate activists’ protest as “honorable.” This landmark decision could not only have resounding implications for the growing environmental justice movement — it could also potentially thaw the iron-fisted policing that has come to be routine in the United States, especially in New York. “The importance of judicial notice is that the judge accepted climate change and the need to do something about it as a fact without the necessity of any evidentiary support or proof at trial,” Martin Stolar, an attorney for the defense, told MintPress News. “To the best of my knowledge, this is unprecedented and has significance for future litigation involving climate change.” The legal recognition of man-made climate change as an indisputable fact sent shockwaves through the environmentalist movement both on the streets and in the courts, allowing the Flood Wall Street case to be cited by protesters, academics and lawyers alike.
Sacramento, CA – State and local officials will try to remove the term “lynching” from California law after the statute, originally created to protect black detainees from angry white mobs, has been used to prosecute a woman of color in what her lawyer calls an “incredibly ironic” turn of events. Maile Hampton, 20, will stand before a judge on April 9 and answer to a felony charge of lynching. Hampton, of Sacramento, appeared Monday in Sacramento Superior Court surrounded by more than 30 supporters. “It’s ironic that this code section was designed and passed to protect, primarily, African Americans from vigilante justice,” said Linda Parisi, Hampton’s attorney. “But that’s not how it’s being used.”
The judge who allegedly turned Ferguson’s municipal court into a city cash cow resigned Monday, and the Missouri Supreme Court ordered a new jurist to take over the city caseload. The Supreme Court of Missouri said in a statement that it was assigning Judge Roy L. Richter to take over Ferguson Municipal Judge Ronald Brockmeyer’s court “to help restore public trust and confidence.” Reform advocates who said Ferguson is one of many small municipalities in St. Louis County that routinely violate the rights of residents said the judicial moves are a good start. “I hope that it marks the beginning of a long process,” said Brendan Roediger, a civil rights lawyer and St. Louis University Law Scool professor who is involved in a lawsuit against Ferguson and a neighboring municipality. Roediger said Brockmeyer “was never the worst municipal court judge” in the St. Louis region, where similar conflicts exist in many courtrooms. A group of residents waiting outside a closed meeting of the Ferguson City Council on Monday night cheered the news. “That’s big,” said Melissa Sanders, 32, of Ferguson. “I’m elated — for now.” Sanders, of the activist group Lost Voices, said she was concerned that “they may be just pacifying us.”
In August 2010, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit distributed an intelligence bulletin to all field offices warning that environmental extremism would likely become an increasing threat to the energy industry. The eight-page document argued that, even though the industry had encountered only low-level vandalism and trespassing, recent “criminal incidents” suggested that environmental extremism was on the rise. The FBI concluded: “Environmental extremism will become a greater threat to the energy industry owing to our historical understanding that some environmental extremists have progressed from committing low-level crimes against targets to more significant crimes over time in an effort to further the environmental extremism cause.” Since the 2010 FBI assessment was written, the specter of environmental extremism has been trotted out by both law enforcement and energy-industry security teams to describe a wide variety of grassroots groups opposed to the continued extraction of fossil fuels. Yet even as the resistance to “extreme energy projects” has grown in size and scope, there is little evidence to support the breathless warnings about “eco-terrorism.” Nevertheless, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and many state law enforcement agencies continue to promote the idea that environmental extremism is on the rise. At the same time, numerous intelligence-sharing networks between the private sector and law enforcement have been established at every level of government, giving rise to an unprecedented energy-intelligence complex.
“We understand now that we have mass power,” said Jordan, who pointed to the indictment Tuesday of Officer Peter Liang for the November shooting death of Akui Gurley in a Brooklyn housing development as an example of what Black Lives Matter has been able to accomplish since its inception. Even the NYPD’s recent promotional efforts for the film “Selma” are a testament to the power of the movement, she said. “They have to show they are not the bad guys, because they pretty much look like the bad guys.” Still, going forward, Jordan and others are proceeding with caution. “It is really important that we understand our strength is in numbers, that our narrative and our actions are very clear so that we cannot be misconstrued,” said Jordan. “We’re training people really heavily in militant nonviolent action and de-escalation. They are waiting for any opportunity to vilify us. But you can expect to see a stronger, more coordinated movement going forward. It’s about maximizing and taking control of the energy we have shown in the streets.”