Archive for January 2015
Newark to Get Cop Review Board
Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Ras Baraka unveiled a draft plan for the city’s first Citizens Complaint Review Board, last week. The proposed board would have the power to subpoena witnesses and recommend punishment of abusive officers. However, the police director could, under some circumstances, veto the board’s recommendations – a serious point of contention, according to Larry Hamm, chairman of the People’s Organization for Progress. “We’re going to need the most effective review board possible, in order to change p olice behavior,” said Hamm. “They see themselves as special, above the law, and above reproach. They don’t think citizens have the right to judge them.”
Charges Dropped Against Crusading Black Educator
Three years ago, Professor Jahi Issa was arrested while observing a student protest against the rapid “whitening” of Delaware State University, a nominally Black institution. A judge this month overrode prosecution objections and dismissed the misdemeanor resisting arrest charge. “My attorney wrote that the president of Delaware State and his chief of police need to go see Selma, the movie, because they neither understand nor respect history,” said Dr. Issa, who lost his job teaching history and Africana Studies. “If this is the new crop of HBCU leadership, then we are seriously in trouble.”
Mumia on MLK’s Ordeal
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was “hounded and tormented” by the United States government “until his dying day,” said Mumia Abu Jamal, the nation’s best known political prisoner, in a report for Prison Radio. The pressure increased after King’s 1967 Riverside Church speech in which he denounced the Vietnam War “and criticized capitalism.”
U.S. Constitution Legalizes Slavery
Another correspondent for Prison Radio, Kerry Shakaboona Marshall, who has served more than 25 years of a life sentence imposed when he was a juvenile, said the U.S. government has “perpetrated a fraud” on the public for the pat 150 years, with the claim that the 13th Amendment outlawed slavery. “While the 13th Amendment abolished the chattel labor form of slavery, it simultaneously legalized slavery as a punishment for a criminal offense conviction,” said Marshall. The result was “penal slavery, the prison slave labor system.”
Rev. Edward Pinkney Awaits Hearing in Prison
Benton Harbor, Michigan’s imprisoned community leader, Rev. Edward Pinkney, is “doing very well, they have not broken his spirit,” said his wife, Dorothy. Rev. Pinkney was sentenced to 2 ½ to 10 years in prison for an elections petition offense stemming from a campaign to recall the local mayor, an ally of the giant Whirlpool corporation, which dominates the mostly Black town. A hearing is scheduled for February 24 on two defense motions, including that one of the jurors was a close associate of the prosecution. Veteran activist Larry Pinkney – no family relation – is media contact for Rev. Pinkney. “He’s not getting his mail, they’ve moved him way up to Marquette, Michigan,” said Larry Pinkney. “But the brother is a warrior, he’s a fighter, he’s standing tall.”
MLK Would be “Shutting It Down”
If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive, he would have joined in the 96-hour direct action and civil disobedience campaign coordinated by the ONYX Organizing Committee, in Oakland, California, this past weekend, according to activist Cat Brooks. “He’d be shutting it down” at federal buildings and taking over freeways,” said Brooks. “As in the later part of his life, he’d be connecting, loudly, the bloody dots of capitalism and gentrification with the systematic oppression and violence against Black and brown people in the cities.”
Man Who Recorded Eric Garner’s Death Has Court Date
Ramsey Orta, the Staten Island, New York, man who videotaped Eric Garner’s death by chokehold at the hands of a cop, appears in court January 25 on weapons charges. Orta maintains police set him up in retaliation. His lawyer, Alton Maddox, said “It’s time for a reawakening of the people in New York City as to how grand juries should be employed.” As it stands, prosecutors use grand juries as an excuse NOT to indict cops, said Maddox, whose license to practice law was revoked in 1990, in the wake of the Tawana Brawley case.
French Celebrate White Supremacy and Racist Values
“’Je Suis Charlie’ has become an arrogant rallying cry for white supremacy,” wrote Ajamu Baraka, editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report and co-founder of the U.S. Human Rights Network. The French “values” that are supposedly under attack are, in reality, “grounded in a colonial division between people who are recognized as humans, and those who have been consigned to the category of sub-humans and are eligible to be murdered, to have their lands taken, to be enslaved,” said Baraka. “Those are the values that many of those people who embraced ‘Je Suis Charle’ were, in fact, upholding.”
Right On! to Franz Fanon on His 90th Birthday
Dr. Lewis Gordon, professor of philosophy and African American Studies at the University of Connecticut, spoke at the Pan-African Bazara, in Nairobi, Kenya, on the 90th birthday of Franz Fanon, the psychiatrist from Martinique who fought alongside the Algerians against French colonialism and wrote The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Masks. Fanon taught that “every group has to understand that it has the responsibility to set the conditions for its own freedom and emancipation,” said Dr. Gordon. “He argues that it is not enough to fight for material change; you need also to set the conditions for very new concepts” of human existence. Fanon died of leukemia in 1961.
Black Colombian Women Defend Ancestral Land Rights
Illegal gold mining operations are poisoning the environment and infringing on the land rights of African-descended people in Colombia, South America. Charo Mina-Rojas, an organizer of women’s resistance to the incursions, said local authorities are collaborating with the mechanized mining operators. “They are armed, but we have to expose ourselves to make sure that these people understand that these are our territories, we have rights there, and we are ready to protect them by all means necessary,” said Mina-Rojas.
Cop Body Cameras Threaten Civil Liberties
President Obama wants to spend $75 million to equip cops with body cameras. However, Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee warned that “body cameras will ultimately be used to create a mountain of new evidence” against citizens, leading to even higher rates of mass incarceration. “These cameras monitor people without any individualized basis for suspicion” of committing a crime, said Buttar. “The best thing to do is prohibit those police from arresting residents who capture police activities on their phone cameras.”
Mumia Abu Jamal’s Lawyers Challenge Silencing Act
The Pittsburgh-based Abolitionist Law Center and two other legal outfits filed a motion to halt Pennsylvania from enforcing the so-called Silencing Act, designed to muzzle the voice of the nation’s best known political prisoner, Mumia Abu Jamal. The law gives victims of personal injury crimes the right to sue people convicted of such offenses for inflicting “mental anguish” by virtue of their subsequent, undefined “conduct,” including by speech, written word, or other communication or action. Abolitionist Law Center executive director Bret Grote said the law is irredeemably unconstitutional. “The whole purpose of it was to target Mumia Abu Jamal, whose conduct has been recognized by the courts as constitutionally protected.” Thousands of other Pennsylvania prison inmates and convicts that have served their sentences, as well as civilians who do business with such persons, could also be prosecuted under the Silencing Act.
Mumia: Blowback in France
“Wars have a way of returning home in the most unexpected of ways,” said Mumia Abu Jamal, in a report for Prison Radio. The Iraq War still generates new violence, ten years after the invasion. “We’re seeing that now, in France,” said Abu Jamal. “Perhaps we shall see it here, as well.”
Racist Mythology Props Up U.S. Ruling Class
The U.S. social order is largely built on the myth that cops, judges, jailers and prosecutors “are all that stand between us and rampant crime, anarchy and ruin,” said BAR managing editor Bruce Dixon. Rather than provide a decent standard of living for its people, America brands Black and poor folk as unworthy and irredeemable. For that reason, said Dixon, “the burgeoning movement against police immunity and impunity really is a threat to so-called national security, a menace to the privileges of banksters and employers, of privatizers and gentrifiers, and of the prerogatives of the 1%.”
Lynne Stewart: Abolish Grand Juries
In an article published in Socialist Action newspaper, people’s lawyer Lynne Stewart called the grand jury system an “anachronism” that “puts another roadblock in the way of the people. It’s a way in which the prosecution keeps the playing field for itself; it controls all the moves,” said Stewart, who spent five years in prison before she was released a year ago, suffering from Stage Four breast cancer. Only two or three times in her 30 years as an attorney has a grand jury refused to go along with the prosecutions wishes, said Stewart.
Michael Brown’s Killer Indicted by Black People’s Grand Jury
After two days of investigation and deliberations, a Black People’s Grand Jury handed down a first degree murder indictment against former Ferguson, Missouri, policeman Darren Wilson in the death of teenager Michael Brown. Four Black prosecutors presented evidence to the 12 St. Louis County residents, who also drew on the records of the mostly white official grand jury that failed to indict Wilson in November. “Darren Wilson is a killer, but he’s not out there by himself,” said lead people’s prosecutor Omali Yeshitela, chairman of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement. “Somebody made the decision to leave the body there for 4 ½ hours” in the blazing August heat. Darren Wilson “has been rewarded with almost a million dollars by white people. The problem is institutional, and this grand jury is more capable of understanding that” than the one that was seated and manipulated by St. Louis prosecutor Bob McCulloch.
An Awakening People
Dr. Anthony Monteiro, the lifelong activist and former professor of African American Studies at Temple University, said young Black people are “awakening. They’re getting a sense of their power and what they can do without any corporate-designated leaders. And, once they’ve seen that, they’re going to connect the killing of Black people by the police to the economic and social crisis that engulfs the country.” Dr. Monteiro was fired from his post at Temple for his political activism.
Beyond Issues of Brutality: Social Transformation
“What we’re seeing is the radicalization of a new generation,” said Ajamu Baraka, an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report and fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Through struggle, Black youth will learn that “what is absolutely required is a fundamental transformation of social relationships, and of the entire structure of oppression in this country.” Baraka was a co-founder of the U.S. Human Rights Network.
America’s “Unworthy Victims”
Activist scholar Paul Street, author of the recent article, “Worthy and Unworthy Victims: From Vietnam and Iraq to Ferguson and New York,” said the United States lauds its soldiers and cops as saints. The message is: “They’re policing the world and keeping chaos at bay; they’re nobly sacrificing themselves for the common good.” Meanwhile, “the folks on the other end of our guns” die in far greater numbers: millions killed in Vietnam and Iraq and untold numbers murdered under color of law in the “homeland.”