Archive for March 2015

Bottom Line: Fire Some Cops

A U.S. Justice Department report shows Philadelphia police are five times as trigger happy as cops in New York City. The report contains 49 findings and 91 recommendations on better training and community relations, but Linn Washington Jr., a professor of journalism at Temple University, isn’t impressed. Over the past 25 years, the city’s police department has been the subject of “two dozen reports, federal consent decrees and executive orders,” said Washington. “The issue is not the ideas, the issue is implementation and enforcement. The bottom line is, you have to make police accountable. The police who engage in misconduct need to be fired.” But, that seldom happens in Philadelphia.

The Limits of Criminal Justice Reform

Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Ras Baraka held a third public hearing on his proposal to create a Civilian Complaint Review Board with subpoena powers. Larry Hamm, chairman of the People’s Organization for Progress, which would be empowered to appoint one member to the board, has no illusions that the board will compel cops to respect Black people’s rights. “We fight for reforms in the hope that these reforms will ameliorate the suffering of the people,” said Hamm. “But, we also fight for reforms because we believe that people have to go through the reform process to deepen their understanding of the need for more fundamental, structural social change.”

Black Martyrs, Old and New

Cinque S. Djahspora, a 20 year-old online MIT student shot in the back by a policeman last November, is among the many victims of racist violence who will be honored on April 4, in Jackson, Tennessee. The town is near the site of Fort Pillow where, on April 12, 1864, hundreds of Black soldiers and civilians were massacred by Confederates under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who went on to become the first Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. “What we want folks to understand is that the killing of one person, based on his membership in a group, is genocide,” said Dr. Randy Short, one of the organizers of Black Martyrs’ Day, in Jackson.

“Black Lives Matter” Resonates in Johannesburg

South African labor and social activists marched on the American embassy in Johannesburg in solidarity with the U.S.-based Black Lives Matter mobilization. United Front organizer John Manana said South African Blacks are all too familiar with police brutality. “Our protesters everywhere in South Africa continue to suffer the same way from the capitalist regime.” Police killed 34 striking miners at Marikana in the summer of 2012, accelerating a split between leftists and the ruling African National Congress regime.

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“Liberal” Israeli Zionists Hoped to Prolong the Farce of Negotiations

Had the “liberal” Zionist Union defeated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in last week’s elections, they hoped to “force the Palestinians back to the table for some more endless negotiations” and thus “reverse the shift in public opinion that has emerged from the last few years of Netanyahu,” said BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka. Netanyahu’s declaration that he will never agree to a Palestinian state lays bare Israel’s colonialist intentions and long history of duplicity.

Hillary’s Missing Emails Hide Her and Bill’s Haiti Corruption

Protesters from the Committee to Mobilize Against Dictatorship in Haiti demonstrated at Clinton family headquarters, in Manhattan, last Thursday. The former Secretary of State kept her emails under a private server – and deleted tens of thousands of them – to hide details of the Clintons’ corrupt financial dealings in Haiti, said organizer Dahoud Andre. “We see that the Obama administration is covering up for Hillary, but the more they try to protect Hillary, the more they get themselves covered in that stuff.” Sec. Clinton’s brother was named a board member of a corporation prospecting for gold in Haiti.

In Johannesburg and Ferguson, Black Lives Matter

The United Front and Democratic Left Front of South Africa and the nation’s largest trade union marched on the U.S. consulate in Johannesburg in solidarity with the Black Lives Movement. “After 50 years of apartheid system racism, we understand fully what it means to be on the receiving end of racist police brutality,” said Trevor Ngwane, national secretary of the Democratic Left Front. Blacks have also suffered brutality under the Black-led African National Congress government, which was complicit in the 2012 massacre of 34 mine workers at Marikana. “The present government is actually dancing to the tune of the big capitalists,” said Ngwane.

Mumia: “Homicides of Black People are Always “Justifiable”

Speaking from Frackville State Prison, in Pennsylvania, political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal recalled the night in 1969 when Chicago police, aided by the FBI, killed 21 year-old Panther leader Fred Hampton in his sleep. A grand jury called it “justifiable homicide” – just as grand juries would rule the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner justifiable, 45 years later.

Prison Radio Targeted

Kerry “Shakaboona” Marshall, serving a life sentence in Pennsylvania’s Rockview State Prison, said prison authorities are disrupting inmate telephone access to Prison Radio, where he – like Mumia – is a correspondent. “What the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is doing is effectively preventing 54,999 prisoners from calling Prison Radio to express their views” – a violation of their freedom of speech.

Tivoli Gardens Victims Demand Reparations

In May of 2010, Jamaican security forces killed at least 73 people in a siege of Tivoli Gardens, and then looted the Kingston apartment complex. Journalist Lloyd Aguilar has directed a video of survivors’ demands for reparations. Two of Nadine Sutherland’s nephews were gunned down after soldiers ordered them to run from her apartment. “I never saw them again until I identified [their bodies] on the computer,” she said.

Daughter of Hit Squad Victim Blames Rwanda’s Paul Kagame

Rwandan exile leader Col. Patrick Karegeya, a former high official in Paul Kagame’s Rwandan military dictatorship, was gunned down on New Years Eve, 2013, in South Africa – one of many dissidents to meet a similar fate. His daughter, Portia Karegeya, told Phil Taylor, of CIUT radio, in Toronto, Canada: “Once he and his colleagues formed a formal opposition party, it was pretty much written in stone that your life is under threat.”

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Rand Paul is Ally in Fight to Repeal Patriot Act

Congress will consider a bill to completely repeal the Patriot Act, which is up for renewal, this spring. President Obama campaigned on a platform to rein in U.S. intelligence agencies, but “will soon leave Washington in even worse shape than he found it” in terms of civil liberties, said Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. Buttar said GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul and elements of the Tea Party are more willing than most Democrats to stand up to the CIA and NSA.

A Multi-Generational Movement

“We need to create an intergenerational dialogue between those who represent the older movement and those who are representing the newer movement,” said Nyle Fort, a young minister from Newark, New Jersey, and contributor to the latest issue of the journal Socialism and Democracy. The journal is sponsor of a public forum on “Mass Incarceration, Police Violence and Political Imprisonment” at the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Center in New York City, March 20.

Mumia: What Was “Unsaid In Selma”

“Selma is a vivid example of an evil that still lives with us: that of police immunity for their violence,” said Mumia Abu Jamal. President Obama’s speech at the 50th anniversary ceremonies in Selma was a “masterwork” of oratory, said the nation’s best known political prisoner. The president “could have addressed police immunity, but that would have shattered his ‘we’re all better’” off than we used to be speech.

A 20-Year Cap on Prison Terms

No one should serve more than 20 years in prison, no matter what the crime, said Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project. About 3,000 people sit on death rows in the U.S., while 160,000 are serving life sentences – comprising one out of every nine inmates, said Mauer. Sentences are a lot shorter in Europe, where “some countries have found life sentences to be unconstitutional, and those that still maintain it generally have only a few dozen people serving those kind of terms,” he said.

Obama goes Reagan on Venezuela

President Obama last week invoked the same language against Venezuela that President Ronald Reagan deployed against Nicaragua, in the Eighties, when the U.S. waged a proxy war against that country. In imposing economic sanctions against seven Venezuelan officials, Obama declared the country an “extraordinary threat” to the national security of the United States. Obama is attempting, like President George Bush, “to inoculate Latin America from the contagion that Venezuela represents in terms of social and political change,” said Miguel Tinker Sala, professor of history and Latin American Studies at Pomona College, in Claremont, California. However, all of Latin America has denounced U.S. sanctions against Venezuela. Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said the U.S. foreign policy establishment doesn’t under “that the hemisphere has changed drastically in the last 15 years, and is truly independent of the United States for the first time in 150 years.”

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Ferguson Activist: Holder Should “Go Quietly Into the Dark”

A U.S. Justice Department report accepts the St. Louis County prosecutor’s conclusion that Michael Brown didn’t put his hands up before officer Darren Wilson put a bullet in Brown’s brain – and, therefore, Wilson cannot be indicted on civil rights charges. Only a “perfect murder” would convince Holder to act, said Taurean Russell, a leader of Hands Up United, in Ferguson, Missouri. “They want a perfect victim. His hands have to be all the way up – a perfect death, a perfect killing, and you’re never gonna get that,” said Russell. What about outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder’s legacy? “He should go quietly off into the dark.”

New Yorkers Need Less Law Enforcement

Bill Bratton, New York City’s police commissioner, wants to hire 1,000 more officers. But there are already too many cops busying themselves arresting Black and brown people for minor offenses, said Josmar Trujillo, of New Yorkers Against Bratton, which favors redirecting resources to improving conditions in poor neighborhoods. Police are “harassing and ticketing us, they’re criminalizing us en masse,” said Trujillo, “We don’t want more copse, we want to move away from law enforcement” under the slogan, “Strong Communities Make Police Obsolete.”

Robert Gangi, of New York’s Police Reform Organizing Project, called Bratton’s “Broken Windows” policing philosophy “a brazenly racist practice.” Individual rogue cops are not the problem, he said: “It’s the system.”

Voices from the Gulag

Lawyers for Mumia Abu Jamal and other Pennsylvania prison inmates won the right to pursue their challenge to the state’s so-called Revictimization Relief Act, which would effectively silence the voices of those who make crime victims feel “mental anguish.” If allowed to prevail, the law could shut down Prison Radio and its roster of inmate correspondents. “We cannot cover the prison story, which is one of the biggest stories in America, without those first-person, on-the-ground voices,” said Prison Radio director Noelle Hanrahan.

Mumia: Americans “Feed on Fear”

Since 9/ll, “a kind of madness erupted in the country,” said political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, in a commentary for Prison Radio. “Newscasts have become fearcasts, as government and media converge to sow dragons’ teeth of fear into the minds of millions. It grows, eating us, as we eat it – and we are still not full.”

Dubois Blacklisted at Temple African American Studies

The model for liberatory Black Studies was created by W.E.B. Dubois at the turn of the 20th century, said Duboisian scholar and activist Dr. Tony Monteiro. However, under chairman Molefi Asante, Temple University’s African American Studies Department no longer teaches Dubois’ works, on the grounds that “he was not Afro-centric, he was a Marxist,” said Monteiro. Asante fired Monteiro last year, and wants to change the program’s name to Department of Africology.

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Triumph for Internet Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission last week ruled that the Internet should be regulated like a public utility, with no fast or slow traffic lanes. “The Verizons and Comcasts of the world wanted to create a class system on the Internet,” said Kevin Zeese, of Popular Resistance. Far from opening the way for a government “takeover” of the Internet, “this is more like the First Amendment for the Internet, where people have freedom of speech and equal access.”

Black Self-Determination Requires Control of Police

The Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations has issued a call for Black community control of police. “We need to have the ability to hire, fire, train, set standards of behavior, fund, defund and establish the role of this force, so that it becomes a part of the fabric of the community, itself,” said chairman Omali Yeshitela. Control of police is a right of self-determination, he said.

Trayvon Martin Case Closed

Three years after George Zimmerman killed Black teenager Trayvon Martin, the U.S. Justice Department has leaked that it will not bring federal charges against the vigilante. “The feds are held out as that dangling thing that will give you justice after you’ve just been punched in the gut by the local cops,” said Carl Dix, of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. “But, Malcolm told us that “the federal foxes cannot be relied on to deal with the injustice that the local wolves are bringing down on you.” The whole system needs to be dismantled.

No Quick Fix in Movement-Building

Kevin Alexander Gray, the Columbia, South Carolina activist and author who edited Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence, cautions that it takes time to build a movement. “The police are about introducing people into the criminal justice system, where they are tracked all their lives,” said Gray. “It’s about making people cower to power.” Building a sustainable movement to ensure that Black lives really matter, is a process. “It’s going to take a little bit longer than just two or three years,” said Gray.

No Justice in Benton Harbor

Rev. Edward Pinkney, the Benton Harbor, Michigan, activist who was sentenced to 2 ½ to 10 years in prison for allegedly tampering with an elections petition, said judges and prosecutors must be made to answer for their crimes against Black people. “In Berrien County, they have one job: to send every single Black person to prison,” said Pinkney, now housed at the state prison in Marquette. “In the Sixties, it was called Negro Removal. In Bosnia, it was called ethnic cleansing.” Pinkney incurred the wrath of police and prosecutors when he resisted the Whirlpool Corporation’s gentrification efforts in mostly Black Benton Harbor.

Denver Cops Kill Transgender Latino Youth

 

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