Monday Reads: Black Lives Matter News and NonBlack AlliesPosted: August 10, 2015
It’s Monday! The heat wave continues! We’ve also had another police involved shooting during peaceful protests at Ferguson. There is additional news on the Black Lives Matter (#BLM) protesters that have staged events at Bernie Saunders rallies. I’m going to focus today on the movement and its actions to bring further attention and action to the criminal justice system’s unequal treatment of Black Americans.
Both BB and I have felt highly compelled to write about the incredible challenges black communities face with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. We’ve both lived in communities with noticeable systemic racial injustice. The militarization of the police along with “broken windows” policing has taken a toll on police-community relations. Additionally, the FBI has warned that white supremacists and radical right influences have infiltrated police departments across the country which has likely had an impact on many of these killings and brutal behaviors.
Because of intensifying civil strife over the recent killings of unarmed black men and boys, many Americans are wondering, “What’s wrong with our police?” Remarkably, one of the most compelling but unexplored explanations may rest with a FBI warning of October 2006, which reported that “White supremacist infiltration of law enforcement” represented a significant national threat.
Several key events preceded the report. A federal court found that members of a Los Angeles sheriffs department formed a Neo Nazi gang and habitually terrorized the black community. Later, the Chicago police department fired Jon Burge, a detective with reputed ties to the Ku Klux Klan, after discovering he tortured over 100 black male suspects. Thereafter, the Mayor of Cleveland discovered that many of the city police locker rooms were infested with “White Power” graffiti. Years later, a Texas sheriff department discovered that two of its deputies were recruiters for the Klan.
In near prophetic fashion, after the FBI’s warning, white supremacy extremism in the U.S. increased, exponentially. From 2008 to 2014, the number of white supremacist groups, reportedly, grew from 149 to nearly a thousand, with no apparent abatement in their infiltration of law enforcement.
This year, alone, at least seven San Francisco law enforcement officers were suspended after an investigation revealed they exchanged numerous “White Power” communications laden with remarks about “lynching African-Americans and burning crosses.” Three reputed Klan members that served as correction officers were arrested for conspiring to murder a black inmate. At least four Fort Lauderdale police officers were fired after an investigation found that the officers fantasized about killing black suspects.
The United States doesn’t publicly track white supremacists, so the full range of their objectives remains murky. Although black and Jewish-Americans are believed to be the foremost targets of white supremacists, recent attacks in Nevada, Wisconsin, Arizona, Kansas and North Carolina, demonstrate that other non-whites, and religious and social minorities, are also vulnerable. Perhaps more alarmingly, in the last several years alone, white supremacists have reportedly murdered law enforcement officers in Arkansas, Nevada and Wisconsin.
As I mentioned, there was a police involved shooting last night after a day of peaceful protests and remembrances of the one year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. Brown’s death was the start of the Black Lives Matter Campaign.
A peaceful day of protest and remembrance dissolved into chaos late Sunday when a man fired multiple shots at four St. Louis County plainclothes detectives in an SUV. The detectives fired back and the shooter was struck, said county Police Chief Jon Belmar. He was in critical condition.
Tyrone Harris identified the victim as his son, Tyrone Harris Jr., 18, of St. Louis. Harris said shortly after 3 a.m. that his son had just gotten out of surgery.
He said his son graduated from Normandy High School and that he and Michael Brown Jr. “were real close.”
“We think there’s a lot more to this than what’s being said,” Harris Sr. said.
In a 2:30 a.m. press conference, Belmar said there is a “small group of people out there that are intent on making sure we don’t have peace that prevails.
“We can’t sustain this as a community,” he said.
Belmar said two groups of people exchanged gunfire on the west side of West Florissant Avenue at the same time the shooting took place, shortly after 11 p.m. Shots were heard for 40-50 seconds, Belmar said. “It was a remarkable amount of gunfire,” he said.
The people doing the shooting “were criminals,” Belmar said. “They were not protesters.”
Investigators recovered a 9 mm Sig Sauer that had been stolen in Cape Girardeau, Belmar said.
Protesters had blocked West Florissant Avenue north of Ferguson Avenue, and the detectives were tracking a man they believed was armed, along with several of his acquaintances, whom they also thought were armed.
In a chaotic scene, police officers, reporters and protesters ran for cover. People sprinted across the street and dived behind parked cars.
Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders continues to experience #BLM protests–most recently 2 days ago in Seattle–at rallies and campaign events. Sanders held a campaign event in LA today. Clinton continues to have overwhelming support in black and Hispanic communities as Sanders struggles to communicate his civil rights messages and agendas. Clinton discussed college affordability in New Hampshire today. Sanders LA event included black community leaders who specifically addressed #BLM concerns. This is a first for Sanders whose events tend to focus on middle class populist economic issues.
Sanders and the lawmakers who introduced him mentioned racial inequalities throughout the event, a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement and the Vermont senator’s earlier speech in Seattle that was shut down by protesters.
“Brothers and sisters, what a turnout,” Sanders said at the start of his speech. “It doesn’t seem true but we began this campaign about three and a half months ago, and the momentum has been unbelievable.”
The latest turnout, which was verified by arena staff, supersedes the more than 11,000 people who attended a Sanders rally in Phoenix in July. Doors were closed at the venue, according to arena staff, before the rally started. Sanders’ campaign said the candidate also spoke to around 3,000 people outside the venue who were not able to get inside.
The energized audience, many of whom lined up hours before the event, cheered at nearly everything he said. Sanders, his shirt soaked with sweat, said the turnout proved that “people are tired of establishment politics, establishment economics and they want real change.”
The atmosphere was markedly different than Sanders’ first event of the day, where Black Lives Matter protesters confronted the senator and shut down his event.
Though he did not directly address the earlier disturbance, Sanders cast himself as a lifelong fighter for civil rights.
“No President,” he said, “will fight harder to end the stain of racism in this country and reform our criminal justice system. Period.”
Later in the speech, Sanders touched on an issue Black Lives Matter protesters want to hear more on.
“It makes more sense to me to be investing in jobs and education for our kids than in jails and incarceration,” he said.
Sanders was introduced by a series of speakers, nearly all of whom mentioned Black Lives Matters.
“Sen. Sanders knows, as do I, that Black Lives Matter,” state Rep. Luis Moscoso said. “Racial inequality is as serious as economic inequality. No one should be dehumanized by their race.”
State Sen. Pramila Jayapal said Sanders knows “it is not enough just to say we care, it is not enough. What we have to do is call out personal, individual and institutionalized racism at every opportunity.”
Sanders’ campaign also announced Saturday that Symone D. Sanders, an African-American woman, has been hired as its national press secretary.
Jayapal wrote this Guest Editorial over the weekend.
1) This is one small result of centuries of racism. As a country, we still have not recognized or acknowledged what we have wrought and continue to inflict on black people. The bigger results are how black kids as young as two are being disciplined differently in their daycares and pre-k classes. That black people are routinely denied jobs that white people get with the same set of experiences and skills. That black people—women and men—continue to die at the hands of police, in domestic violence, on the streets. That black mothers must tell their children as young as seven or eight that they have to be careful about what pants or hoodies they wear or to not assert their rights if stopped. That this country supports an institutionalized form of racism called the criminal justice system that makes profit—hard, cold cash—on jailing black and brown people. I could go on and on. But the continued lack of calling out that indelible stain of racism everywhere we go, of refusing to see that racism exists and implicit bias exists in all of us, of refusing to give reparations for slavery, of refusing to have our version of a truth and reconciliation process—that is what pushes everything underneath and makes it seem like the fault is of black people not of the country, institutions, and people that wrought the violence. That is the anger and rage that we saw erupt yesterday on stage. But it’s not the problem, it’s a symptom of the disease of unacknowledged and un-acted upon racism.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve found some Sanders supporters to adopt over the top misogynistic and racist tones that are unbecoming and unrelated to the candidate himself. I certainly hope that we can continue to see a Democratic Presidential Campaign season that shows the benefit of focusing on issues and not personalities. I have no idea why some supporters for some candidates feel the need to bully voices raising issues and narratives. This isn’t some Aldous Huxley reality where we all mouth phrases to ensure our choices comply with some internal need for ego stroking.
Sunday’s Washington Post featured a compelling narrative of “Black and Unarmed” and how simple policing activities have lead to the deaths of many unarmed black people around the country.
So far this year, 24 unarmed black men have been shot and killed by police – one every nine days, according to a Washington Post database of fatal police shootings. During a single two-week period in April, three unarmed black men were shot and killed. All three shootings were either captured on video or, in one case, broadcast live on local TV.
Those 24 cases constitute a surprisingly small fraction of the 585 people shot and killed by police through Friday evening, according to The Post database. Most of those killed were white or Hispanic, and the vast majority of victims of all races were armed.
However, black men accounted for 40 percent of the 60 unarmed deaths, even though they make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population. The Post’s analysis shows that black men were seven times more likely than white men to die by police gunfire while unarmed.
The latest such shooting occurred Friday, claiming Christian Taylor, 19, a promising defensive back on the Angelo State University football team. Police said Taylor crashed an SUV through the front window of a car dealership in Arlington, Tex., and was shot in an altercation with responding officers. The case is under investigation.
The disproportionate number of unarmed black men in the body count helps explain why outrage continues to simmer a year after Ferguson — and why shootings that might have been ignored in the past are now coming under fresh public and legal scrutiny.
“Ferguson was a watershed moment in policing. Police understand they are now under the microscope,” said Mark Lomax, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, which represents police rank-and-file.
Video shot by bystanders or captured on police camera, meanwhile, has served in some cases to undermine trust in police. So far this year, three officers have been charged with crimes after fatally shooting unarmed black men. All three were caught on video. One — the April shooting of Eric Harris in Tulsa — appears to have been an accident. But in the other two, the footage contradicted the officer’s initial account of what happened.
“Prior to Ferguson, police were politically untouchable. Ferguson changed that calculus,” said Georgetown University professor Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor whose book, “The Chokehold: Policing Black Men,” is scheduled to be published next year.
Notably, Black Lives Matter activists haven’t been successful (though I am sure not for lack of trying) in interrupting Hillary Clinton in the same way (that secret service protection and massive campaign budget for private security sure is handy), but even she has had little choice but to pay attention to Black Lives Matter as a movement.
And there is a great deal of disagreement within Black communities (we as White folks would do well to remember that people and Black organizations aren’t monoliths) about whether the action was strategic and whether targeting Bernie was the right move. And that dialogue should continue to take place within Black liberation spaces, but White folks – that’s not our business.
Because here’s the thing – what’s powerful about these interruptions from Black women is less how it has changed the tone of the Democratic campaigns and more about what they have exposed in the White left.
I see these protests as less about the individual candidates themselves and more about how their White base refuses to center Black lives and Black issues. It’s notable that White Bernie supporters, who consider themselves the most progressive of us all, shouted down and booed Black women who dared to force Blackness into the center of White space.
Because let’s be honest, every Bernie rally is White space.
In watching the over-the-top angry response from White liberals about Bernie being interrupted in Seattle, I can’t help but think of the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on White moderates:
The MLK quote is shown on the image reproduced here. I hope as the Democratic primaries continue we can focus on the issues that involve our many communities. I also hope that the we can get whatever group of people who feel the need to censor other people’s concerns because they feel the need to be right about everything.
What’s on your reading and blogging list?