Follow the Soapbox
 
Picture
LA Times
by
James Queally
06/13/2015

The white Cleveland policeman who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice told another officer he had “no choice” but to shoot the black boy as he clutched a toy weapon last year, according to details of an investigation made public Saturday.

“He reached for the gun and there was nothing I could do,” the other officer said Timothy Loehmann told him at the scene.

The FBI agent who arrived moments after the Nov. 22 shooting told investigators that Loehmann looked almost shell-shocked, according to the report.


Picture
“The officer seemed pretty concerned,” the unidentified agent said, according to a transcript of an interview with Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department investigators. “Obviously very concerned and uh, I don’t want to use the word, like — almost like shell shock; like they didn’t know what to do.”

The report, released by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, contains hundreds of pages of interview transcripts, police emails, medical examiner’s findings and ballistics reports. It makes no recommendation on whether criminal charges should be filed.

Loehmann shot Tamir after responding to reports of a person waving a gun. A 911 caller told police that the person was probably a child and that the gun was “probably fake,” but that information was not relayed to the rookie officer.

The veteran police dispatcher who took the 911 call has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, but refused to tell sheriff’s investigators why she did not tell the officers about the caller's comments, the report said.

Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, did not cooperate with the Sheriff's Department during its investigation, according to Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Assn. The officers did make statements to Cleveland police internal affairs and homicide investigators on the day of the shooting, Loomis previously told The Times.

Many of the documents in the report were redacted to “exclude personal information, confidential medical records and reports not germane to the events of Nov. 22,” McGinty said.

In this edited version of a video released by the city of Cleveland, the sister of 12-year-old Tamir Rice is pushed to the ground, handcuffed and placed in the backseat of a patrol car after Tamir was fatally shot by an officer. “Transparency (i.e., the actual facts) is essential for an intelligent discussion of the important issues raised by this case,” McGinty said in a statement released with the report. “If we wait years for all litigation to be completed before the citizens are allowed to know what actually happened, we will have squandered our best opportunity to institute needed changes in use-of-force policy, police training and leadership.”

McGinty's office is conducting its own review of the shooting and plans to present the case to a grand jury this year.

The release of the report comes about a month after Tamir's family complained that the investigation of the boy's death had taken far too long. The Sheriff's Department turned its findings over to McGinty's office June 3, more than seven months after Tamir was shot.

Grand jury hearings in two other racially charged deaths at the hands of police — Eric Garner in New York City and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. — were both completed within six months.

The FBI agent and others described a chaotic scene in the park where Tamir was shot, according to the report. Tamir's brother charged toward officers and threatened them, according to the FBI agent. His sister was handcuffed and put in a police car.

Several officials who were at the park told detectives Tamir’s mother was screaming at officers. A Police Department supervisor indicated her actions may have slowed medical personnel in treating her son.

“I’m going to have all your jobs,” Tamir’s mother shouted, according to the report.

Tamir did not receive medical treatment until nearly 4 minutes after he was shot, according to the Sheriff’s Department investigation. Loehmann and Garmback radioed for help and told medical personnel to hurry, the report said.

Cleveland officers are given little medical training, a police supervisor told investigators, and none of the city’s cruisers are outfitted with first-aid kits.

Loehmann and his partner were able to provide the FBI agent with only rubber gloves when he asked for medical supplies, according to the report.

Though the FBI agent was the first to treat Tamir, Garmback helped clear the boy’s airway minutes later, the report said. Tamir died the next day in surgery.

This week, a Cleveland municipal judge found probable cause to charge Loehmann with murder and several other offenses, but the decision is advisory; whether to prosecute is likely to rest with a county grand jury. No charges have yet been filed.

Though the ruling has no legal bearing on the case, experts have said the fact that a sitting judge found probable cause to charge the officers could influence grand jurors, who unlike trial jurors are allowed to review media reports of a pending criminal matter.

Police have said Loehmann warned the boy to drop the weapon, and union leaders said he had no choice but to fire since he believed Tamir had a weapon.

Many of the officers who arrived that night and saw the toy gun on the ground told investigators the weapon looked real. One described it as an “authentic firearm.”

In separate interviews with investigators, the boy who lent Tamir the toy gun said he had disassembled it earlier in the week and was unable to reattach the orange tip to the barrel, which made it more closely resemble a real firearm.

Tamir's death, like those of Garner and Brown last summer, has become a call to action for demonstrators who have staged protests throughout the U.S. in the last year.

Tension among prosecutors, residents and the police union has run high in recent months since another Cleveland police officer was acquitted on manslaughter charges for his role in a 2012 police chase that left two unarmed people dead.

In that case, prosecutors argued that the union was trying to insulate Officer Michael Brelo from criminal liability. Seven officers invoked their 5th Amendment rights at trial, including two who weren’t facing criminal charges.



 
 
Picture
Counter Punch
by DAVID CORREIA
06/09/2015

In April 1974, three white high school students from Farmington, New Mexico murdered three Navajo men, Benjamin Benally, John Harvey, and David Ignacio. The teenagers bludgeoned the faces of the three men, and caved in their chests with basketball-sized rocks. They exploded firecrackers on their bodies and tried to burn off their genitalia. When authorities found the men, they were burned and beaten beyond recognition.

The brutal murders were nothing new in Farmington, where white high school students had been known to sever the fingers of inebriated Navajo men and display them proudly in their lockers at school. Murdering and torturing Navajo men and women in the border towns that surround the reservation even has its own name: Indian Rolling.

Protests erupted in the wake of the murders and lasted for months. One of the protest leaders, John Redhouse, explained Indian Rolling as a kind of blood sport:

“We didn’t see the murders as the act of three crazy kids. We saw it as a part of a whole racist picture. For years it has been almost a sport, a sort of sick, perverted tradition among Anglo youth of Farmington High School, to go into the Indian section of town and physically assault and rob elderly and sometimes intoxicated Navajo men and women of whatever possession they had, for no apparent reason, other than that they were Indians.”

Indian Rolling is another word for lynching, and it’s a part of everyday life in Indian Country. According to a 2004 report by the US. Department of Justice, Native people experience violence at rates twice that of the rest of the population. The vast majority of this violence, more than 70%, is committed by persons of a different race. This is particularly true in New Mexico where, according to a 2003 study by the New Mexico Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Native people experience “acts of ethnic intimidation; threats of physical violence, assaults, and other potential hate crimes” as part of everyday life in border towns like Gallup, Farmington and Albuquerque.

Just this past summer, in the early morning hours of July 19, 2014, three Albuquerque teenagers wandered the back alleys of their neighborhood looking for homeless men to beat up. For months, in gangs of three and sometimes more, they hunted Native homeless men in a blood sport of violent beatings.

On that morning, they found three Navajo men sleeping on mattresses in the weeds of a vacant Westside lot. They gathered up broken cinder blocks and bashed in the heads of two of the men, Allison Gorman and Kee Thompson. A third man escaped. The boys finished Gorman and Thompson with metal poles. The survivor told police the boys had done this before and the boys—the oldest was 18 and the youngest 15-years old—admitted to police that they sought out Native, homeless men to victimize.

The only exceptional thing about these brutal murders is how common they are in New Mexico. In the towns that border New Mexico’s many Indian reservations, Native people are more likely to be poor, more likely to be incarcerated and more likely to experience violence than any other group. Since July of 2013, in Gallup alone, more than 170 Navajo citizens have died of unnatural deaths.

Albuquerque is just as violent for Native people. Of the estimated 25,000 Native people living in Albuquerque, 13 percent are chronically homeless like Gorman and Thompson. And many of them live in a part of town that Albuquerque police call the “War Zone.” According to the homeless Native people who live in that part of town, it’s a war waged by police against Native people.

A few blocks from the Albuquerque Indian Center — a place where homeless Native people can get a free lunch, connect with social services, and even pick up their mail — one man told me he’s constantly harassed and that it often comes at the hands of the police, not teenagers, “You know I’m an alcoholic and I drink on the streets, and [the police] picked me up and they brought me all the way down to the Bio Park and they beat me up, while I was in handcuffs, and then they unhandcuffed me and let me go.”

A few blocks away another man who told me, “I was walking on the street and [a cop] was following me. I’d go down the alley and he’d follow me. ‘Why don’t you go back to the Rez? You’re not welcome here in Albuquerque,’ he told me.”

A Jicarilla Apache man named Natani at a homeless tent camp had the same experience. “This is ours, our land,” he said. “And the cops they’ll say things like ‘Why do you want to bring the reservation our way?’”

When I asked how often harassment turns violent, he gave me an impatient look. “It’s usually,” he said. He showed me his wrists. They were covered in scabbed-over wounds. They were from handcuffs, he said. He pulled off his sunglasses. One eye was red and swollen. “They maced me in this eye. They walked up to me from behind and maced me like this,” he said, as he put his hand inches from my eyes to show me how it was done. “How common is this? Does this happen to everyone?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. “They handcuff you and then they beat you and then they take you to the hospital and say something like ‘We found him this way.’”

Days later near the Indian Center one woman told me a cop recently slammed her head to the pavement. “Then he just got back in his car and drove away.” Her friend described constant harassment. “They pull up and tell us to leave or they’ll arrest us for loitering,” she said. I asked where this happens. “Everywhere,” she said, “even when we’re waiting at the bus stop.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Native Americans make up 0.8 percent of the population, but comprise nearly two percent of the victims of police violence, a rate greater than any other racial group. And while police kill young black men more than any other group, they kill Native Americans at a higher rate.

Much of this violence happens in New Mexico, the state with the highest rate of police killing in the United States in 2014. And among New Mexico’s police departments, the Albuquerque Police Department has the highest rate of fatal police shootings, and one of the highest in the country. More than 20% of homicides in Albuquerque in 2014 were committed by police officers. Since 2010, Albuquerque cops have shot nearly 50 people, killing 28.

Navajo leaders sent the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission to Albuquerque in December to investigate last summer’s double murder. But commissioners were equally as interested in police violence.  They scheduled a public hearing at the Albuquerque Indian Center on the treatment of Navajo citizens by Albuquerque law enforcement. Leonard Gorman, the executive director of the Commission, began the hearing by reminding people of the problem. “The role of the police is supposed to be to protect and serve, but our people tell us that we need to protect ourselves from the police.”

The first person to testify described constant harassment by Albuquerque police, “I was the Indian, so I was the bad guy, I guess. The police aren’t going to help us. They don’t care.”

Another person testified about police harassment of Native homeless people, saying “It happens whether we’re homeless or not. The danger is everywhere. But the homeless are just easier targets. Someone was shot to death on the streets recently and no one even heard about it. It wasn’t reported.”

According to a Department of Justice investigation, the Albuquerque Police Department routinely engages in unconstitutional policing and frequently employs unjustified fatal force. But its scathing report from last April made no mention of violence against Native people. As recently as February of this year, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, who refused to attend the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission hearing, told a local radio station that police violence in Albuquerque has nothing whatsoever to do with race.

Asked what explains the police violence and the indifference to Native suffering in New Mexico’s border towns, Natani had a simple answer. “Prejudice,” he said. “It’s all the same from Farmington to Albuquerque. It goes a long way.”

David Correia is the author of Properties of Violence: Law and Land Grant Struggle in Northern New Mexico and a co-editor of La Jicarita: An Online Magazine of Environmental Politics in New Mexico



 
 
Picture
 May 15
Posted by donaldjeffries

The recent trial of alleged Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was just the latest high-profile example of how corrupt our legal system is. Tsarnaev was accorded the same brand of justice that patsies charged with significant events have received since at least the 1930s, when hapless Bruno Richard Hauptmann was “defended” by a famous lawyer known by the confidence-building name of “Death House” Reilly.

Tsarnaev’s attorney was Judy Clarke, who seems to gravitate to these cases. She built her undeserved reputation by “defending” the likes of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and purported Gabby Giffords’ assailant Jared Lee Loughner. Despite the fact that Tsarnaev had initially pleaded not guilty to all 30 charges against him, and the myriad of easily detected holes in the case against him, Clarke opened her defense by telling the court, “It was him.” There was no attempt to cross-examine the dubious witnesses, or dismantle the easily dismantled arguments of the prosecution. Instead, Clarke blamed Dzhokhar’s deceased older brother, killed under very questionable circumstances by the police, and insinuated that the younger boy was merely a naive dupe.

Clarke’s ridiculous, twenty minute closing statement consisted of attempts to cast her client in the role of misguided, jealous sibling. “He expressed he was jealous of his brother, who achieved martyrdom,” Clarke declared. She did not explain how he was by any definition a martyr, or who would have considered him as such. She bought every bit of the absurd official narrative, including the mind numbingly impossible “confession” Dzhokhar supposedly wrote on the side of the boat where he was captured.

The entire Boston Bombing event has been dissected to pieces on the internet, by real citizen investigators. There are no true investigative spirits left in the mainstream media, of course, so the mainstream media dutifully passed along all the implausible elements of this story, without questioning a single thing. Their “coverage” was perhaps best expressed in a March 30, 2015 Vanity Fair headline, “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, The Boston Bomber, Has the Most Ferocious Lawyer in America Defending Him.” How many inaccuracies can one media organ fit into a single headline? Clarke’s defense of Tsarnaev certainly turned out to be anything but “ferocious,” and the magazine might at least have paid cursory service to the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing, and identified Tsarnaev as the “alleged” Boston Bomber.

But the secrecy surrounding these proceedings even taxed the patience of the compliant establishment press. The Washington Post complained, in a January 29, 2015 story, that they “have never faced the sorts of restrictions imposed by Judge George O’Toole in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev…The bulk of the filings in the case are under seal…and reporters are excluded from seeing or hearing much of the courtroom discussion that would customarily be public.” Judy Clarke called all of four witnesses before resting her case, and never cross- examined any of the victims.

Even leaving aside all the questionable aspects of the event, which were captured on film and subjected to intense scrutiny on the internet, the case against the Tsarnaev brothers was flimsier even than the case against Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City Bombing, and it should have been destroyed by any competent defense attorney. Was older brother Tamerlan an FBI informant?  Their mother insisted that the FBI had been in contact with Tamerlan for up to five years. What about all the footage of individuals wearing the uniform of private security firm Craft International, complete with backpacks, who were in the immediate vicinity of the blast?

The questions are plentiful. Why were runners told that a bomb squad drill was taking place during the Boston Marathon? As participant Alastair Stevenson told a local television station, “They kept making announcements on the loud speaker that it was just a drill and there was nothing to worry about.” Stevenson also described lookouts on the rooftops and “dogs with their handlers sniffing around for explosives..” Clearly, this cried out for investigation, but the mainstream media has become totally toothless and hardly more than a mouthpiece for the state at this point.

Was it really Tamerlan who was killed by the authorities in a shoot out? How and why was he shot, after being apprehended naked (and how strange was that?) His aunt claimed adamantly to alternative reporters that the naked man was not her nephew. And what about the preposterous added detail, not seen in the footage (which also doesn’t show the naked “Tamerlan” being shot or even injured as he is led into a police car) that Dzhokhar backed the car over his brother’s body in an attempt to escape?

A key question is just how Judy Clarke came to be Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorney. Could he not make her aware of the key flaws in the case against him? What about his family- they had been quite vocal early on about his (and Tamerlan’s) innocence, although his mother was pressured to flee America and could only rant about the verdict from abroad. Exactly who decided to “appoint” Clarke to represent Tsarnaev? Surely, with all the conjecture about the case, there must have been a decent lawyer somewhere who was cognizant of the holes in the story, and anxious to bolster their reputation by defending Tsarnaev.

What about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s friend Ibragim Todashev, who was simply murdered by the FBI while in custody? You read that correctly. That’s all the information we have about this incident; that Todashev was killed while being questioned. This is a highly unusual circumstance, to say the least. What innocent explanation would there be for a witness under interrogation to ever be killed by the authorities? Needless to say, there are no Woodward and Bernsteins out there in the heartland to ask the tough questions of those who were responsible for Todashev’s death. But it certainly isn’t a “conspiracy theory” to be flabbergasted and highly suspicious about this.

The “evidence” against the Tsarnaev brothers consisted largely of a video tape that the authorities have yet to produce, and which even his inept defense team declared did not exist, and a mysterious, still unidentified witness known only as “Danny,” a Chinese man who was supposedly carjacked by the Tsarnaevs and heard Tamerlan conveniently confess to the Boston Bombing, as well as to the shooting of a police officer at MIT. Following the death of Tamerlan under still unclear circumstances, a huge manhunt for Dzhokhar ensued, resulting in a virtual lockdown of the city and culminating in the apprehension of the younger brother, amid a fusillade of excess bullets, in a boat in the backyard of a residence.

How did “Danny” escape the clutches of the carjacking fugitives? How did Dzhokhar escape the authorities, in the midst of a huge shootout, during which he was wildly outmatched, and elude them for so long when the entire area was under intense surveillance? Why wasn’t the eerily timed drill investigated? Why didn’t the defense raise any of the multitude of questions that cry out for answers?

In the aftermath of the apprehension of the wounded Dzhokhar, America regressed into its customary Idiocracy-like mindlessness. “Boston Strong” became the rallying cry everywhere, from sporting events to shameless politicians, as everyone praised the city itself for somehow being heroic by virtue of enduring an event that took the lives of three people. They also proudly endured virtual martial law, and Americans were treated to videos of military tanks rolling through tree-lined streets, with sharpshooters pointing their weapons at innocent residents. They ordered citizens out of their homes without any reason or rationale. And after all the terrorizing was over, the citizens who experienced it cheered the militarized police, crediting their heroes for a capture they would never have made without the help of the resident of the home, who contacted the clueless authorities and told them the suspect was outside hiding in his boat.

I refer those interested in the more frightening, esoteric elements of the Boston Bombing story to the work done by Dave McGowan on his web site. He really goes down the rabbit hole at this link: http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/nwsltr114.html  If ever there was a case where a real defense could have embarrassed the authorities by exposing their lies and chicanery, it was this one. A first year law student could have done a better job than Judy Clarke. But I’m sure the mainstream media still thinks she’s “ferocious.”

In the end, Judy Clarke’s curious strategy of fighting only to defeat the death penalty failed, as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death. And so he will presumably join Timothy McVeigh in the pantheon of patsies killed by the state, forever silenced without even testifying in his own defense. Like McVeigh, Dzhokhar sat stoically throughout his farce of a trial, and there is little chance that he will ever be interviewed by any intrepid journalist before his execution.

Dzhokhar’s fate was assured from the moment he was charged. To be accused of a highly publicized violent crime, especially where any political motives can be ascribed, is tantamount to guilt in our culture. Did anyone really imagine that Bruno Richard Hauptmann, James Earl Ray, Sirhan Sirhan, Timothy McVeigh, Jared  Lee Loughner or Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would be found not guilty? Does anyone expect that James Holmes (the alleged Aurora, Colorado “Batman” shooter whose trial is about to begin) will be found not guilty? There is a 100% conviction rate in these kinds of high-profile cases, which makes every one of the trials associated with them nothing more than legal charades.

There is far more to this story than I can write about here. I would urge interested readers to check out all the excellent videos readily available online, that break down all the impossible aspects of the incident, and show beyond any doubt that, whatever happened that day at the Boston Marathon, the Tsarnaev brothers weren’t responsible for it.



 
 
Picture
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby says Freddie Gray received his critical injuries in Baltimore police custody and has charged all six officers involved in his death.

The state medical examiner’s office turned over Gray’s autopsy on Friday morning, a day after the police turned over their investigation into Gray’s death.

WATCH MOSBY’S STATEMENt


“The findings of our comprehensive, thorough, and independent investigation coupled with the ME’s determination that Mr. Gray’s death was a homicide which we received today, has led us to believe that we have probable cause to file criminal charges,” Mosby said.

She charged all six officers in the death of Gray and said his arrest was illegal.

“Following transport from Baker Street, Mr. Gray suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained inside of the BPD wagon,” Mosby said.

“At no point was he secured by a seatbelt while in the wagon contrary to a BPD general order,” she added. “Despite stopping for the purpose of checking on Mr. Gray’s condition, at no point did he seek nor render any medical assistance for Mr. Gray.”

The officers are being charged with a number of counts of manslaughter, assault and misconduct. One officer will even be charged with a count of murder.

  • Officer Caeser B. Goodson, Jr. was charged with second-degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of manslaughter by vehicle and misconduct in office.
  • Officer William G. Porter was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
  • Lt. Brian W. Rice was charged with involuntary manslaughter, two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and false imprisonment.
  • Officer Edward M. Nero charged with two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and false imprisonment.
  • Officer Garret Miller charged with two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and false imprisonment.
  • Sgt. Alicia White involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
Warrants have been issued for the arrest of the officers.

“To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, I heard your call for ‘No Justice, No Peace,’ your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man,” Mosby added.

The Baltimore Police Fraternal Order of Police No. 3 issued a letter to Mosby Friday morning on behalf of the officers involved.

“Each of the officers involved is sincerely saddened by Gray’s passing. They are all committed police officers who have dedicated their careers to the Baltimore City Police Department,” the letter states, “And that has been lost in all the publicity.”

“All death is tragic,” the FOP states. “And death associated with interaction with police is both shocking and frightening to the public.”

READ THE ENTIRE LETTER: Letter to SA Mosby
 
 
Picture
The Nation
Mychal Denzel Smith
April 28, 2015


Whenever there is an uprising in an American city, as we've seen in Baltimore over the past few days in response to the police-involved death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, there always emerges a chorus of elected officials, pundits, and other public figures that forcefully condemn "violent protests." They offer their unconditional support for "legitimate" or "peaceful" protests, but describe those who break windows and set fires as thugs, criminals, or animals. And eventually someone invokes the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, reminding us that non-violence brought down Jim Crow segregation and won voting rights.

There's something that needs to be cleared up: the Civil Rights movement was not successful because the quiet dignity of non-violent protests appealed to the morality of the white public. Non-violent direct action, a staple employed by many organizations during the Civil Rights movement, was and is a much more sophisticated tactic. Organizers found success when non-violent protests were able to provoke white violence, either by ordinary citizens or police, and images of that brutality were transmitted across the country and the rest of the world. The pictures of bloodied bodies standing in non-violent defiance of the law horrified people at home and proved embarrassing for the country in a global context.

So anyone who calls for protestors to remain "peaceful," like the Civil Rights activists of old, must answer this question: what actions should be taken when America refuses to be ashamed? Images of black death are proliferating beyond our capacity to tell each story, yet there remains no tipping point in sight—no moment when white people in America will say, "Enough." And no amount of international outrage diminishes the US's reputation to the point of challenging its status as a hegemonic superpower.

What change will a "peaceful" protest spark if a "peaceful" protest is so easy to ignore?

It's not only ahistorical to suggest that "riots" have never been useful in the quest for social justice, it is impractical to believe that the exact same tactics of movements past can be applied today. The politics of our time are different, so must be our social justice movements.

Does that mean "riots" are the answer? No one knows. If the anger of a people denied humanity and democracy is continually dismissed as lawlessness, perhaps these uprisings will prove only destructive. But if the people with the ability to change the system that produced this anger will only listen to the sound of shattering glass, then maybe this is the solution.

Either way, condemnation without understanding will only feed the current rage. If the elected officials, pundits, and other public figures are actually concerned about torn up buildings and burned out cars, they'd do better to pay less attention to King's tactic of non-violence and more to his message of justice.



 
 
Picture
Baltimore teachers and parents tell a different story from the one you've been reading in the media.
Mother Jones
Sam Brodey and Jenna McLaughlin
April 28, 2015 6:00 PM PDT

Baltimore police and a crowd of teens clashed near the Mondawmin Mall in northwest Baltimore on Monday afternoon, news reports described the violence as a riot triggered by kids who had been itching for a fight all day. But in interviews with Mother Jones and other media outlets, teachers and parents maintain that police actions inflamed a tense-but-stable situation.

The funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody this month, had ended hours earlier at a nearby church. According to the Baltimore Sun, a call to "purge"—a reference to the 2013 dystopian film in which all crime is made legal for one night—circulated on social media among school-aged Baltimoreans that morning. The rumored plan—which was not traced to any specific person or group—was to assemble at the Mondawmin Mall at 3:00 p.m. and proceed down Pennsylvania Avenue toward downtown Baltimore. The Baltimore police department, which was aware of the "purge" call, prepared for the worst. Shortly before noon, the department issued a statement saying it had "received credible information that members of various gangs…have entered into a partnership to 'take-out' law enforcement officers."

When school let out that afternoon, police were in the area equipped with full riot gear. According to eyewitnesses in the Mondawmin neighborhood, the police were stopping busses and forcing riders, including many students who were trying to get home, to disembark. Cops shut down the local subway stop. They also blockaded roads near the Mondawmin Mall and Frederick Douglass High School, which is across the street from the mall, and essentially corralled young people in the area. That is, they did not allow the after-school crowd to disperse.

Meghann Harris, a teacher at a nearby school, described on Facebook what happened:

Police were forcing busses to stop and unload all their passengers. Then, [Frederick Douglass High School] students, in huge herds, were trying to leave on various busses but couldn't catch any because they were all shut down. No kids were yet around except about 20, who looked like they were waiting for police to do something. The cops, on the other hand, were in full riot gear, marching toward any small social clique of students…It looked as if there were hundreds of cops.

The kids were "standing around in groups of 3-4," Harris said in a Facebook message to Mother Jones. "They weren't doing anything. No rock throwing, nothing…The cops started marching toward groups of kids who were just milling about."

A teacher at Douglass High School, who asked not to be identified, tells a similar story: "When school was winding down, many students were leaving early with their parents or of their own accord." Those who didn't depart early, she says, were stranded. Many of the students still at school at that point, she notes, wanted to get out of the area and avoid any Purge-like violence. Some were requesting rides home from teachers. But by now, it was difficult to leave the neighborhood. "I rode with another teacher home," this teacher recalls, "and we had to route our travel around the police in riot gear blocking the road… The majority of my students thought what was going to happen was stupid or were frightened at the idea. Very few seemed to want to participate in 'the purge.'"

A parent who picked up his children from a nearby elementary school, says via Twitter, "The kids stood across from the police and looked like they were asking them 'why can't we get on the buses' but the police were just gazing…Majority of those kids aren't from around that neighborhood. They NEED those buses and trains in order to get home." He continued: "If they would've let them children go home, yesterday wouldn't have even turned out like that."

Meg Gibson, another Baltimore teacher, described a similar scene to Gawker: "The riot police were already at the bus stop on the other side of the mall, turning buses that transport the students away, not allowing students to board. They were waiting for the kids.…Those kids were set up, they were treated like criminals before the first brick was thrown." With police unloading busses, and with the nearby metro station shut down, there were few ways for students to clear out.

Several eyewitnesses in the area that afternoon say that police seemed to arrive at Mondawmin anticipating mobs and violence—prior to any looting. At 3:01 p.m., the Baltimore Police Department posted on its Facebook page: "There is a group of juveniles in the area of Mondawmin Mall. Expect traffic delays in the area." But many of the kids, according to eyewitnesses, were stuck there because of police actions.

The Baltimore Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Around 3:30, the police reported that juveniles had begun to throw bottles and bricks. Fifteen minutes later, the police department noted that one of its officers had been injured. After that the violence escalated, and rioters started looting the Mondawmin Mall, and Baltimore was in for a long night of trouble and violence. But as the event is reviewed and investigated, an important question warrants attention: What might have happened had the police not prevented students from leaving the area? Did the department's own actions increase the chances of conflict?

As Meghann Harris put it, "if I were a Douglas student that just got trapped in the middle of a minefield BY cops without any way to get home and completely in harm's way, I'd be ready to pop off, too."

On social media, eyewitnesses chronicled the dramatic police presence before the rioting began:



On Twitter, Baltimore residents vented their frustration with the situation.
 
 
Picture
WSWS.org
By Jerry White
28 April 2015

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in Baltimore and activated 5,000 National Guard troops Monday evening after popular anger erupted in the city over police violence and poverty. Baltimore, with a population of 620,000, is located only 40 miles from the US capital, Washington, DC.

Hundreds of high school youth walked out of school Monday and joined protests over the police murder of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died April 19 after suffering fatal spine injuries at the hands of the police. The unarmed man was arrested on April 12 for making eye contact with a police officer and allegedly running away. After being tackled by six officers, thrown into a police van and denied medical assistance, Gray fell into a coma and succumbed a week later.

The anger of the youth and others boiled over following Gray’s funeral, which was held earlier on Monday.

In announcing the state of emergency, Governor Hogan, a Republican, said he had spoken with President Obama, who strongly endorsed the deployment of troops and agreed that “we absolutely need to take control of our streets.”

Earlier in the evening, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore’s African-American Democratic Party mayor, denounced protesters as “thugs who only want to incite violence and destroy the city.” She promised that police and media video tapes would be reviewed and those responsible for violence would be “held accountable.”

Rawlings-Blake said she had requested the deployment of National Guard troops and announced a citywide 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, to begin on Tuesday.

City Council president Jack Young added, “These are thugs who are seizing the opportunity to show anger and distrust toward the police.”

The inflammatory language of Rawlings-Blake and Young, echoed by virtually every other local and state official who spoke to the press, exposed the immense gulf that separates the city’s privileged elite, black and white, from the masses of youth and workers. These remarks make clear that the murderous actions of the police reflect the hatred and contempt for the working class felt by the entire political establishment of the city.

The protests began just blocks from the West Baltimore church where Gray’s funeral was held. In scenes reminiscent of last year’s lockdown of Ferguson, Missouri, militarized police with riot shields, backed by tactical armored vehicles and helicopters, fired tear gas and rubber bullets at youth who responded with rocks and sticks.

Phalanxes of riot police blocked streets and occupied intersections in the city’s impoverished working class neighborhoods.

The local and national news media seized on incidences of property damage to brand protesters as “looters” and “violent rioters” and demanded an even more severe crackdown. CNN “legal expert” Jeffrey Toobin denounced the “incompetent” response of the mayor and police chief. “Hour after hour, they allowed looting to continue in an uncontrolled way, with no police presence,” he complained. The lesson of Ferguson was that the National Guard could not stay in the background, but had to take control of the streets, CNN reporter Don Lemon insisted.

News reports invariably described injuries suffered by police officers, but not those inflicted on protesters by police firing pepper balls and tear gas and wielding police batons. As of Monday evening, at least 30 people had been arrested.

The appearance at the funeral of low-level Obama administration officials and discredited figures such as Jesse Jackson, along with promises of yet another Justice Department investigation, could not prevent the explosion of social opposition.

Police brutality was the immediate catalyst, but popular anger was fueled by wider causes, above all, deeply entrenched poverty and social inequality.

After decades of deindustrialization, including the demolition of steel mills and auto plants, conditions for the majority of young people are on par with, or even worse than those in Third World countries. A study of adolescents in low-income neighborhoods conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that youth in Baltimore fare worse, in terms of mental health problems, drug abuse, sexual violence and teen pregnancy, than their counterparts in Nigeria.

While certain parts of Baltimore have been gentrified for the wealthy elite that runs the city, the Democratic Party-controlled administration is carrying out austerity measures against the majority of the city’s inhabitants. Last month, residents protested the decision of the city to begin cutting off water to thousands of households that are behind in their water payments.

Incidents such as the events in Baltimore and Ferguson reveal at once the real state of class relations not just in these cities, but across the United States. If social opposition takes the form of riots, it is because there is no outlet within the political system, dominated by two right-wing, corporate-controlled parties, for it to find expression.



 
 
Picture
The Daily Beast
03.30.2015

Two men reportedly crashed a gate at the spy agency’s headquarters before one was shot dead by law enforcementThe mood at NSA headquarters seemed controlled but tense Monday afternoon following a shooting that left one person dead and a law enforcement officer injured.

Current and former officials who’ve worked on the agency’s campus, located at Ft. Meade, Maryland  told The Daily Beast they’d been making and receiving calls to colleagues since the news of the shooting broke Monday morning. Footage from a local TV news helicopter showed the entrance to Ft. Meade closed and police tape around what appeared to be a damaged civilian vehicle. A white sheet was seen next to the vehicle, but what was underneath couldn’t be determined.

"The driver failed to obey an NSA Police officer's routine instructions for safely exiting the secure campus," NSA spokesman Jonathan Freed said in a statement. "The vehicle failed to stop and barriers were deployed. The vehicle accelerated toward an NSA Police vehicle blocking the road. NSA Police fired at the vehicle when it refused to stop. The unauthorized vehicle crashed into the NSA Police vehicle."

"One of the unauthorized vehicle's occupants died on the scene. The cause of death has not been determined. The other occupant was injured and taken to a local hospital."

According to news reports, the two men have been dressed in women’s clothing and may have been carrying cocaine.


Picture
A spokesperson for the FBI’s Baltimore field office said the event was isolated and not connected to terrorism.

Early reports suggested that the vehicle may have taken a wrong turn and not intended to enter the facility. A former intelligence official told The Daily Beast that the entrance to Ft. Meade is often confused by motorists as a normal highway exit, and that it’s not uncommon for unsuspecting drivers to find themselves stopped by NSA police. He noted that a large number of immigration law violations referred to authorities stemmed from drivers who found themselves at NSA’s gates and were forced to show some a driver’s license of some form of ID to explain why they were there.

This isn’t the first time Ft. Meade and its neighbors have witnessed gun violence. Earlier this month, a suspect was arrested in a string of shootings in Maryland, including at the NSA’s campus. No one was injured in that incident, which damaged a building, and investigators have found no ties to terrorism.

But a strip of bars and restaurants located near Ft. Meade and the NSA, appropriately nicknamed Boomtown, has been the scene of multiple shootings over the years, prompting increased police patrols in the area. From 2006 to 2010, four people were murdered in Boomtown, including a former federal police officer who was shot during a botched robbery behind the bar My Place, which neighbors have unsuccessfully tried to close, the Capital Gazette reported.

Last December, a man was shot in the leg in the bar’s parking lot. And in 2010, another man was shot and injured behind the bar and two bystanders were also hit. At My Place neighbor, Traffic Bar & Lounge, two men were killed and another injured in a 2008 shooting. And in 1996, a liquor store owner in Boomtown was also shot and killed in a robbery that injured his wife and two customers.

— Additional reporting by Brandy Zadrozny.



 
 
Picture
The Independent
Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
03.08.2015


A Muslim Iraqi immigrant was shot and killed by an unknown gunman in Dallas, Texas, as he watched his first snowfall.

Ahmed Al-Jumaili, 36, and his brother are reported to have run outside of their apartment after midnight on Thursday to look at the snow, while his wife Zahraa took pictures. He was then shot in a hail of gunfire that left eight bullets lodged in a parked truck at the scene.

Cotner told CNN Al-Jumaili shouted “I’m hit” before running back to his apartment. He died later at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas.

Officers “haven’t excluded” the possibility that the murder is a hate crime, Cotner told the Dallas Morning News, and police are said to be working “tirelessly” on the case.

But many have condemned the lack of media coverage initially given to the story in the US, expressing their outrage under the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter.



The shooting comes just one month after a family of three young Muslims were shot dead at their home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which was condemned by their surviving family members as a hate crime, though the killer's wife maintains the shooting was over a parking dispute.

When Al-Jumaili and his family went outside to take pictures on Thursday, witnesses reported seeing between two and four men enter their apartment complex on foot, before the shooting happened.


Police are appealing for information in relation to the Dallas murder and have released footage of four men walking in the snow who are believed to be suspects in the hope of moving the investigation forward.

Residents at the apartment complex have already expressed their concerns over safety in the area, and neighbours Asad Obaid and Omar Khattab, who moved to Dallas from Egypt, told the Dallas Morning News they plan on moving out due to the shooting.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim civil liberties organisation, has urged the police to address the concerns over the motive behind the murder.

"Because of recent incidents targeting American Muslim, including the murder of three young Muslims in North Carolina, we urge law enforcement authorities to address community concerns about a motive in this case," said the organisation's executive director, Alia Salem.

Al-Jumaili had arrived in the US just 20 days before the fatal shooting. He and Zahraa had married 16 months ago, and she had travelled to the safety of her family in north Texas from Iraq, while Al-Jumaili stayed to work and save money.

When Al-Jumaili arrived in the country three weeks ago after a year of being away from his wife, she was waiting for him with a large sign reading: “I’ve waited 460 days, 11,040 hours, 662,400 minutes for this moment, welcome home.”


Dallas Police spokesman Maj. Jeff Cotner told the Dallas Morning News that for Al-Jumaili, “just like all of us, a pretty snowfall brings the child out in us”.

“You can just imagine the excitement between his wife and his brother and himself as they were enjoying the snowfall,” he added.

A $5,000 reward is being offered for any detail that could lead to an arrest of the assailants.

A ‘Silence the Violence’ reflective vigil is being held for Al-Jumaili on Sunday night at the apartment complex where he was shot.
 
 
Picture
TPM News
By ERIC TUCKER
March 3, 2015, 2:45 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Justice Department investigation will allege sweeping patterns of discrimination within the Ferguson, Missouri, police department and at the municipal jail and court, a law enforcement official familiar with the report said Tuesday.

The report, which could be released as soon as Wednesday, will charge that police disproportionately use excessive force against blacks and that black drivers are stopped and searched far more often than white motorists, even though they're less likely to be carrying contraband.

The Justice Department also found that blacks were 68 percent less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by a municipal court judge, and that from April to September of last year, 95 percent of people kept at the city jail for more than two days were black, according to the official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak on the record before the report is made public.

The Justice Department began the civil rights investigation following the August shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by a white police officer. That killing set off weeks of protests.

The official says the report will allege direct evidence of racial bias among police officers and court workers and detail a criminal justice system that prioritizes generating revenue over public safety.

Among the findings of the report was a racially tinged 2008 message in a municipal email account stating that President Barack Obama would not be president for very long because "what black man holds a steady job for four years."

The department has conducted roughly 20 broad civil rights investigations of police departments during the tenure of Attorney General Eric Holder, including Cleveland, Newark, New Jersey and Albuquerque. Most of those investigations end with the police department agreeing to changes its practices.