Archive | April 2015

Police Violence in America: What Is To Be Done Now?

  

All you need to look at to see how corrupt the Baltimore police are – as is every police department in the could try – is their own statements since Freddie Gray was violently arrested, handcuffed, put in police van without any reason or cause for suspicion and murdered. As soon as the video of the arrest emerged and people questioned why he was arrested, they said because “he made eye contact with the officers and ran”. When asked what was the probable cause for his arrest, they replied they “don’t need a probable cause”. When it was revealed that he suffered severe injuries, including a severed spine and crushed voice box and died a few days later, they implied it was all because he wasn’t buckled in when placed in police van, opening the way for them to argue that his death was simply due to oversight and involved no malice. They also said that they would “investigate” what happened to him and report their findings by this Friday, three weeks after the incident. Then, yesterday morning, they said they won’t be reporting anything on Friday. Then, in the afternoon, they leaked to Washington Post that according to another suspect, who was in the van at the time, Gray was banging himself around, even though that suspect did not see and could not have seen Freddie Gray and could only hear him. 

Baltimore Sun reported on September 28, 2014: “Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant whose only crime was that she witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson”. Continues the report: “Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones — jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles — head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests”. “And in almost every case”, says the report, the charges against the victims were dropped or dismissed, which means they were arrested and brutalized for no reason.

Jerriel Lyles, to cite just one example, had bought some food at P&J Carry Out and was about to leave the restaurant when several Baltimore policeman blocked his way and prevented him from leaving. They frisked him without any reason and told him to sit on the greasy floor. When he objected, Detective David Greene hit him in the face with his radio so hard that his “eyes swelled up”, he said and “blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye.” No reason was ever given for his arrest.

While after three weeks, they still can’t tell us how Freddie Gray was injured so badly that he died in their custody and can’t charge anyone for his murder, they could identify and arrest, without delay, those who damaged property or threw rocks at the police in Baltimore – 235 of them just on Monday.

Now that people have had enough and are revolting, all we hear from those same authorities who unleash the state terror and violence on people of color and the poor, is cries of nonviolence, that violence is not the answer. you see, violence is only reserved for them. But, people were marching peacefully in New York yesterday, when an officer was filmed punching demonstrators for no reason and dozens got arrested and taken to jail. 

As I watch the police angrily hit and punch protesters, I’m  reminded of the violent henchmen of Mafia bosses, who were more anxious and eager to beat and kill their bosses’ foes than the bosses themselves. It’s the same mindset and psychology. It’s also the mindset of an occupying army. You can’t reason with them, you can’t plead with them and you can’t expect any feeling of sympathy from them. They only understand and respond to violence. What we all need to understand is that violence is not something we choose; it’s what is imposed on us. In a society where police violence is the norm, resistance is the answer.

Advertisements

Police Brutality: An Issue of Human and Civil Rights

  

Baltimore police are apparently trying to prepare people that almost 3 weeks after the murder of Freddie Gary, they won’t be able to explain on Friday how he was severely injured resulting in his death, who did that to him and why he was arrested in the first place. Their spokesman hinted yesterday that they’re not able to conduct their investigation due to people throwing rocks at them! Since the start of the protests, all they have said is that he made an eye contact with officers and ran and to make it look like his murder was unintentional and due to simple oversight, they have implied that his death happened because he wasn’t buckled in when put in police van. But, people of Baltimore know better. Baltimore Sun reported on September 28, 2014: “The city has paid about $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits claiming that police officers brazenly beat up alleged suspects”. This trend could not have continued as it did without impunity and lack of accountability. Nor is this limited to Baltimore or Ferguson or New York. This is systemic and nationwide. While the authorities keep complaining of outsiders coming to Baltimore to join the protests, they bring in the National Guard, police from other cities and states and even troops in full military gear and armed with automatic machine guns. There was a scene where a young man stepped in front of a military tank to stop its movement, similar to a similar incident in Tienemen Square in China in 1989, and several soldiers got out with their weapons drawn and pointing at the young man.

So, will the Baltimore police file charges against any officer in relation to the killing? I for one am not holding my breath. It begs the question though: how come they can identify and arrest, without delay, those who damaged property or threw rocks at the police – 235 people just on Monday – but can’t identify and arrest their own for murder? The key phrase is “their own”. And they have the audacity to criticize other countries, like Russia, China, Iran and Cuba for human rights violations. Even the United Nations that’s loath to criticize the veto power holding empire has repeatedly raised concern over human rights violations by US police departments in inner cities. 

What’s also troubling is that the awareness of and indignation over police brutality, which mostly is directed against African Americans, Hispanics and the homeless, is glaringly along racial lines! Just as was the case before the Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s, once again, whites are asking: “what police brutality?” Former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani even suggested recently that the Ferguson officer who killed Michael Brown should be commended for what he did! The hosts of the “Morning Joe” show on MSNBC, which should be called “the White Show”, were most concerned about the fact that the baseball game was moved and “Baltimore is now a city without a baseball game”! God Forbid if the city also loses some of its golf courses! 

Police brutality is an issue of human and civil rights. What’s needed is a protracted and nationwide campaign of nonstop and militant protests, including acts of civil disobedience and resisting police, similar to the Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s. The movement must also address the fundamental issues of unemployment, poverty and mass incarceration and unite the white poor with the disenfranchised minorities and face the real enemy which is the corporate elite – the shareholders and CEO’s – behind the military industrial complex that are committing crimes against humanity overseas and human rights violations in cities throughout the U.S.

Obama Condemns Baltimore Rioters

 

 President Obama, as expected, appeared on TV and stressed the criminality of rioting. As expected, just as certainly as it was expected of the sun to rise in the East today, what he emphasized in his remarks about the events in Baltimore was the looting and setting fire on buildings and vandalizing cars, not the fact that every single day in this country someone gets beaten, injured or killed in the hands of a militarized police that views the population as “the enemy” and acts like an occupation army. 

My point from mentioning this is that he, just like the Mayor and Police Commissioner and other government officials who condemned the rioters do so because they know they have to, as part of their job that was given them by the corrupt and racist to the core US military industrial complex that’s owned and controlled by the class of billionaires, who ultimately hire these officials to serve them and the system that makes them rich. This doesn’t mean that Obama or the Mayor or other top officials who give the ruling 1% the appearance of diversity don’t feel the way they speak out in public. They may or may not. But, their personal views are irrelevant, just as the personal and private views of a company manager who fires people on behalf of the shareholders are irrelevant. What matters is what they were hired to do and what the job requires of them. That may not necessarily be in their written job requirements, but it’s implied and understood.

Likewise, when the government goes to clergy and asks them to help calm people’s anger and to tell them to go home, that’s also their function. If government authorities ask for calm because their job requires of them to do, the clergy do it because their philosophy, if we can call it that, their worldview and their interests prompts them to. And ruling classes realized that a long time ago and always went to them and asked them to play that role for them, and with some rare exceptions, such as some Catholic priests and nuns in Central and South America in the 1980’s when the ruling oligarchy was massacring peasants in the thousands with the help of the CIA, they almost always complied.

What’s happening in Baltimore is the continuation of what happened in Ferguson and following that in New York: oppressed people of color are revolting. This doesn’t mean it’s a revolution, or the start of a revolution, but it is a people’s revolt. While the ruling class justifies the killing of hundreds of thousands of people overseas to accomplish a regime change to extend the hegemony of their empire, they call all those sacrificed lives “collateral damage”, which means secondary and necessary in order to achieve their main goal, but when people revolt and riot, the property damage becomes the main focus. Here, too, all those shot and killed or paralyzed or choked to death are “collateral damage”, as far as the ruling class is concerned.

Baltimore Burning!

 

The police and their cheerleaders in corporate media keep complaining about “outsiders” coming to Baltimore and joining the protests. Yet, they bring in cops from other cities and states and even troops. The mayor has requested 5000 troops and cops from other states. 100 soldiers are already there.

They call rioting “criminal”. To them killing innocent young men isn’t criminal, rioting is. Destruction of private property, breaking windows, looting and setting fire on cars and buildings may be a crime, but not as big a crime as murdering innocent people with impunity, every day. You can say it’s wrong to damage property and loot and you would be right, but whatever you call it, it’s part and parcel and an expression of people’s justified fury. Let’s not forget that in every police killing, until and unless there is a people’s reaction through street protests, no officer gets charged and no one resigns. It took persistent protests for weeks in Ferguson before city officials resigned. Rioting happens in just about every movement of an enraged people. Martin Luther King called rioting “the voice of the voiceless”.

Is such rioting counterproductive? Does it have a negative effect on the cause of stopping police brutality? Maybe. And of course, it’s what the corporate media will naturally and understandably put all its focus on, but we have to keep the focus on what gave rise to people’s rage: nonstop police brutality and murders with impunity. What we’re witnessing is people saying “Enough!” 

ENOUGH!

 

After unfounded and illegal arrest of Freddie Gray and causing his death while in their custody, Baltimore police are now trying to make it look like his death was due to a simple oversight and mistake in order to pave the way for their claim that there was no intentional brutality or malice. They issued a statement the other day saying that they failed to fasten his seat belt and that’s why his spine was severed leading to his death. But, as a former police officer admitted on CNN the other day, it’s common for police officers to put handcuffed “suspects” in police van unbuckled and “bang them around to intimidate them and let them know who’s the boss”. The practice is known as “rough ride”. They have also admitted that they failed to call for medical attention for Mr. Gray. The cellphone clip clearly shows he was injured and was screaming of pain even before he was placed in the van.

When asked why he was arrested in the first place, they said because “he made an eye contact with an officer and ran”. As for probable cause for arrest, they said they “don’t need a probable cause”. These statements tell much more than the carefully prepared statements expressing sympathy for the murdered young man. The fact is the police in the US thinks of and treats the population as “the enemy” and feels no sympathy for them. Six officers have been suspended WITH PAY, while a fake “investigation” is supposedly in process.

Two years after a lawsuit was filed against Palm Beach police Department, a police dash cam video was finally obtained by WPTV and The Palm Beach Post the other day that shows an incident on September 13, 2013, in which a Palm Beach Sheriff’s Deputy, Adam Lin, drove his cruiser on the lawn of several homes, pulled behind 20 year old Dontrell Stephens, who was riding his bicycle in a South Florida neighborhood, and ordered him to stop, without any reason that has ever been given either at the time or since. When Dontrell put his bicycle down and turned and faced the officer, as anyone would to see why he stopped him, the officer opened fire and shot him multiple times paralyzing him from waist down. In his report, the officer said that he saw him pull something out of his waist which looked like a weapon. The video however shows clearly that he never reached for his waist and all he had in his hand was his cell phone the entire time. And get this: they don’t know yet if they will open an investigation about the case when clearly the officer should be charged with a first degree attempted murder, aggravated assault and filing false report. “Internal affairs” completely ignored the discrepancy between the officer’s report and the video. Lin returned to work four days after the shooting and the state attorney’s office called the shooting “justified”. The only reason the video came out was because a lawsuit was filed. How many young men have been beaten, severely injured and killed with the officer being exonerated by an “internal investigation” and going back to “work” the next day? 

The only time the police investigate unjustified police misconduct or shooting is when there is a video of it and they only charge the officer with any crime is when there is a persistent and large protest. But, that’s usually the furthest it ever goes. In vast majority of these cases, the officer is either not charged or if charged he’s acquitted, especially by white juries. And, if there is a civil lawsuit that ends in the victim’s advantage, it doesn’t affect the officer. The monetary damages come out of the city’s budget, which taxpayers pay for. 

What’s also noteworthy is that many of the arrests that end up in the beating or killing of the “suspect” turn out to be completely baseless and unjustified, as illustrated by the two cases cited above. In other cases, the arrest is for very minor violations such as in Eric Garner’s case who was choked to death for selling cigarettes without a business license. 

At least two video clips surfaced recently show police officers nonchalantly dropping incriminating “evidence” on their victims, one of them in the presence of his colleague, which clearly shows a common pattern, rather than a rarity. In many cases, all it takes for the police to shoot and kill is someone running from them or not complying with their commands fast enough, which may be due to not understanding the command. The 12 year old Ohio boy Tamir Rice, who was playing with a toy gun, was shot and killed within a second after the patrol car pulled up to him, despite the fact that they had been told by the dispatcher that what he had in his hand might be a toy gun. They shot him as soon as – within a single second – they arrived on the scene. 

Police brutality isn’t limited to the time of arrest or transport to prison. Newly released surveillance footage from Rikers Island, New York shows prison guards beating and abusing a teenaged inmate. The footage, obtained by The New Yorker, shows 16 year old Kalief Browder being slammed to the ground and beaten by a Rikers Island guard in one incident and then being beaten by other inmates in another. Browder, who is now 21, spent three years at Rikers Island, two of them in solitary confinement while waiting for a trial over stealing a backpack in May 2010, a charge that was dismissed in June 2013. His family didn’t have $3,500 to post bail.

There are a few facts that stare us in the face about all these police Attacks on and abuses of innocent people:

1. Without the existence of video taken by people, police officers who commit brutality and murder don’t get investigated seriously and aren’t charged for their crimes.

2. Placing dash cam on patrol cars or on the officers is not the same as the existence of privately filmed video since the former leaves the possession of such incriminating evidence in the hands of the police, which they can choose to keep to themselves as the case of Mr. Stephens shows.

3. Trusting the police to investigate themselves makes as much sense as asking violent street gangs to investigate themselves. Cases of police brutality and murder cannot be left to the police to “investigate”. This also applies to FBI, which investigates its own murders and every time finds itself innocent! As reported by New York Tines: “from 1993 to early 2011, F.B.I. agents fatally shot about 70 ‘subjects’ and wounded about 80 others — and every one of those episodes was deemed justified, according to interviews and internal F.B.I. records obtained by The New York Times through Freedom of Information Act”.

4. Despite incidences where the police also attack and kill innocent white people, there is a clear bias in police brutality and shootings against minorities, especially blacks and Hispanics despite the hiring of black officials.

5. Although much of police brutality can be attributed to their lust for power, sense of entitlement and the desire to play God, as Mark Furmann, one of the officers involved in beating Rodney King boasted, and despite the fact that “not all officers are the same”, the problem of police brutality in the US is institutional, systemic and nationwide, rather than limited to certain individual officers or precincts or due to insufficient training.

6. A simple retraining of the officers or making them wear body cams will do nothing to change the situation. Many already have dash cams and some even the body cam and still continue their violence. As for retraining, it will neither change the warrior and racist mentality of US police who are trained to view the population as “the enemy”, just as they do in battle fronts overseas, nor would it reverse decades of militarization of the force in tactics, methods and in use of weaponry. Using the pretext of “war on terror”, the militarization has accelerated in recent years and has created an opportunity for soldiers who commit war crimes overseas against defenseless people to bring their violence and psychopathic tendencies to the home front against “domestic enemies”. An email correspondence by Ferguson police in fact referred to the protesters as “the enemy”. But, their actions speak louder than even those words.

7. Lastly, the needed reform and change will never come from the top, no matter how many more innocent men are shot and killed or injured. And it matters not if the mayor or police chief or police commissioner is black. They are hired into a corrupt, unjust and racist system and must do and say what’s expected of them by the military industrial complex that’s serving the billionaire class of the 1%. It’s no coincidence that the likes of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X remain on the streets and those like Obama end up in high office. The only thing that can have any effect and cause any change is a campaign of nonstop street protests that shut the cities down throughout the nation. What forced the resignations in Ferguson, Missouri, including of the police chief, after the murder of Michael Brown, was the consistent and endless protests. The authorities know and are afraid of this. That’s why they keep warning of “outsiders” who might travel to join protests. While they use the National Guard, the FBI, the NSA and the CIA and even the military, they want protests to remain local to prevent a nationwide movement which is the only hope for fundamental change. The Civil Rights movement of 1950’s and 60’s didn’t win victories by pleading to authorities for change. They won them through a persistent campaign of protests that resulted in a nationwide movement by brave men and women who stood up and said “ENOUGH”! 

Police Militarization in the US

  

The police in the US are trained to view citizens that they’re tasked to control and subdue as “the enemy” as an article printed yesterday in The Guardian reveals. With widening gap between the rich and the poor and the widespread poverty and unemployment, the ruling class of billionaires has been trying to stay ahead of the curve and has been preparing for possible uprisings and revolts. They took lessons from the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and decided not to let a movement get to a point where they would have to arrange and facilitate the assassination of its leaders, although that still remains as their last resort. As soon as protests that might have the potential to force concessions from the ruling oligarchy and impose some badly needed changes begin to show signs of strength and endurance, such as the Occupy Wall Street movement against Wall Street banks or the protests in Ferguson, Missouri against police brutality and killings, the police is ready to engage the protesters as “the enemy” and they do just that. 


Within the last several decades, the distinction between the military, which is tasked with waging wars with enemy governments, and the police, which is normally tasked with keeping the order and enforce the laws within the country, has faded and disappeared. This muddling up of the two which has been deliberate and methodical has led to the total militarization of the urban police, to the point where they’re now indistinguishable from each other, in training, in approach, in combat and warrior mentality and in methods, if not in the choice of weapons they use. Even that last distinction is disappearing as the police departments throughout the nation are receiving weapons and equipment from the military meant for foreign combat, including tanks, attack helicopters, heavy machine guns, drones and night vision goggles. 


The reason for such militarization is the same as in any other country where the military is routinely used to crack down on civil unrests, which is the hallmark of a society lacking any semblance of democracy and rule of law: to make sure the government remains firmly in the hands of the wealthy ruling class, whether it’s a handful of powerful families or an oligarchy of giant banks and other corporations. This is not some Marxist teaching or conspiracy theory. These are facts that are in the open and can be googled. 


It’s impossible to have half a million militarized police with impunity and a National Security Agency that spies on the citizens without a cause or warrant on the one hand and democracy on the other at the same time and I’m not even talking about fake elections financed by big corporate money. And what is clear is that lack of democracy has its consequences: increasing poverty, widening gap between rich and poor, unrepresentative politicians who are bought and sold by powerful corporations and endless and devastating wars.

Police Brutality And The Issue of Race

 

CNN displayed this statistics and a friend shared it on Facebook to show that the police in US don’t discriminate against African Americans when it comes to shooting people to death. It was further commented that race and hence distinguishing the victims of police brutality along racial lines divides people and therefore is not a good idea. But as reassuring as it is to know that the police are “equal opportunity” murderers, I beg to differ. First of all, who exactly are those 311 who constitute the “unreported race” group? But, even if we disregard those, while the whites’ population is over 5 times that of blacks (63% vs. 12.3%), their fatalities in the hands of the police is less than twice (1.8 times) that of African Americans, which means that blacks are 3.5 times more likely than whites to get killed by police. So, clearly, there is a bias and disproportionality as to whom the police are more likely to murder. But, even that doesn’t tell the whole story because not all killings are the same. The police are indeed likely to shoot and kill a white man who shoots at them or at others, as they are blacks, but their bar for killing blacks is much lower. They’re much more likely to shoot a black man fleeing the police or refusing to obey their commands, for example, than a white man in similar situations. They’re also more likely to plant evidence on their black victims compared to whites. 

While obviously race is used to divide people and scapegoat minorities, denying how racism actually affects and victimizes minorities and how it translates into more widespread police brutality against the victims of racism is tantamount to denying the existence of racism. Despite possibly good intentions expressed by stating that race or focus on race divides people and therefor we should not distinguish the treatment of the minorities from that of the majority, people cannot and will not be united unless the existence of racism and its effects on its victims is acknowledged, understood and dealt with. What divides people is racism, not its acknowledgement or emphasis. People don’t get united against oppressors by simply saying we’re all the same because minorities know we’re not and therefore such a comment comes through as insensitive and disingenuous and isn’t helpful. Unity can only come by acknowledging how we are all treated differently and by uniting to raise the issue of discrimination together, not by denying or defocusing it. Unity must be around the lot of the lowest common denominator and the most oppressed. That doesn’t mean we should not focus on the brutality against the majority, but we should also focus on the fact of the discrimination and acknowledge it as part of and prerequisite of unity.