The Just Cause of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”

Mr. Capehart says, Put your hands down, kids.

 

I respect columnist Jonathan Capehart and more often than not agree with his opinion, but his opinion “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot Was Built On A Lie” is wrong-headed and reflects a sort of timid liberal buyer’s remorse in highly charged matters of race when backed into a corner.  Capehart’s crawfishing was swiftly seized upon by conservative websites Hot Air, The Blaze and other right-wingers to discredit the legitimacy of the entire “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” protests.

Capehart’s gift to those who never have believed Black Lives Matter is wrapped in one graph:

The unarmed 18-year-old also became a potent symbol of the lack of trust between African Americans and law enforcement. Not just in Ferguson, but in the rest of the country. Lord knows there have been plenty of recent examples. And the militarized response to protesters by local police put an exclamation point on demonstrators’ concerns. But the other DOJ report, the one on the actual shooting of Michael Brown, shows him to be an inappropriate symbol.


Capehart is correct to get a fuller picture of what happened in Ferguson requires reading both Justice Department reports. Capehart is wrong that the legitimacy of the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” phrase is dependent on whether Brown ever said it.

What does it matter if Michael Brown wasn’t a perfect victim?  Does that mean Darren Wilson is blameless for his death? For Capehart, the Justice Department report on the shooting is enough for him to declare Brown to be in fact the oversized thug Wilson’s defenders described him as.

Whether or not Brown or John Crawford or Akai Gurley or Eric Garner or Oscar Grant or Amadou Diallo or Sean Bell or Tamir Rice or Tony Robinson were as pure as the driven snow is besides the point. That they were all unarmed Black men killed by the police is the point and neither the report nor Capehart’s change of heart changes that.

Wilson never went on trial for the killing of Brown and the Justice Department report does not place Michael Brown on trial nor does it convict him. Capehart’s hand-wringing does not exculpate Wilson from the eight bullets he put in Brown or that the notoriously racist Ferguson Police left his corpse lying uncovered in the street for four hours cooking in the summer heat, in full view for all to see.

The New Republic is skeptical of how the Justice Department’s report has been used as a de facto exoneration of Wilson and a conviction of Brown.

These conclusions carry no force of law. The separate report on the abuses by the Ferguson Police Department does—that one can lead to meaningful enforcement in federal court. But the decision not to prosecute Wilson, in technical terms, amounts to no more than an internal memorandum from junior prosecutors to Attorney General Eric Holder on whether charges were advisable. The end result was entirely discretionary.

But the report does not equal justice. It is largely advisory. It can’t be challenged anywhere. And it ultimately proves nothing about the Ferguson case or its larger meaning in an ongoing national movement. The Supreme Court or a trial court may never get to address Ferguson, but everything about it will continue to be, to borrow Justice Douglas’ words, “a shocking and revolting episode in law enforcement.” Because Ferguson stands for that and so much more, protesters have every right to keep on marching, with their hands up, for as long as there’s neither justice nor peace.

What happened to Mike Brown could have happened to any Black person at anytime and it doesn’t matter if your name is Ben Carson or Barack Obama and yes, you too Jonathan Capehart. Your degrees, your gig at the Washington Post, Your Pulitzer Prize, your fat bank account, your nice house, your gold AmEx, your Lexus, NONE of that shit trumps your Black skin.  Capehart was once all in on the protests.  What caused the reversal?  Capehart was looking for justice when he should have kept the faith.

Hands Up, Don’t Shoot is bigger than any one victim and Brown was a victim.  Movements are built upon martyrs, not saints. Hands Up, Don’t Shoot is not Mike Brown. Brown was a catalyst for a just cause.  Just cause Capehart doesn’t get it is not a reason to put our hands down and let them shoot.

MLK gets it even if Capehart doesn’t.

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The Gangster Squad

Which one of these cops is the good cop?

I know most people aren’t interested in reading U.S. Justice Department reports, but this one was a damning indictment of the Ferguson Police Department and how cop shops like them wage war against the Black citizens they are supposed to protect.

Particularly, in their attempts at what passes as “humor” by the cops.

We have discovered evidence of racial bias in emails sent by Ferguson officials, all of whom are current employees, almost without exception through their official City of Ferguson email accounts, and apparently sent during work hours. These email exchanges involved several police and court supervisors, including FPD supervisors and commanders. The following emails are illustrative:

  • A November 2008 email stated that President Barack Obama would not be President for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”
  • A March 2010 email mocked African Americans through speech and familial stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read: “I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!”
    An April 2011 email depicted President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee.
  • A May 2011 email stated: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from.The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’”
  • A June 2011 email described a man seeking to obtain “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”
  • An October 2011 email included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.”
  • A December 2011 email included jokes that are based on offensive stereotypes about Muslims.

Attorney General Holder is ready to slap down the Ferguson police department.

Our review of documents revealed many additional email communications that exhibited racial or ethnic bias, as well as other forms of bias. Our investigation has not revealed any indication that any officer or court clerk engaged in these communications was ever disciplined. Nor did we see a single instance in which a police or court recipient of such an email asked that the sender refrain from sending such emails, or any indication that these emails were reported as inappropriate. Instead, the emails were usually forwarded along to others.

We did find one instance in 2012 in which the City Manager forwarded an email that played upon stereotypes of Latinos, but within minutes of sending it, sent another email to the recipient in which he stated he had not seen the offensive part of the email and apologized for the “inappropriate and offensive” message. Police and court staff took no such corrective action, and indeed in many instances expressed amusement at the offensive correspondence.

Critically, each of these email exchanges involved supervisors of FPD’s patrol and court operations. 5 FPD patrol supervisors are responsible for holding officers accountable to governing laws, including the Constitution, and helping to ensure that officers treat all people equally under the law, regardless of race or any other protected characteristic. The racial animus and stereotypes expressed by these supervisors suggest that they are unlikely to hold an officer accountable for discriminatory conduct or to take any steps to discourage the development or perpetuation of racial stereotypes among officers.  (emphasis added)
This isn’t a matter of “a few bad cops.” These were supervisors and in positions of authority. It speaks volumes on why in Ferguson the police are seen not as protectors, but overseers.

The mayor hasn’t resigned, the police chief hasn’t been fired and the City Council hasn’t quit en masse.  The whole corrupt, dirty, rotten racist status quo remains firmly in place and the whole damn system is guilty.
Not only did police stop blacks at a rate greater than their share of the population—from 2012 to 2014, blacks were 67 percent of Ferguson residents but 85 percent of traffic stops—but they were twice as likely to search blacks than they were whites, who were 26 percent more likely to have actual contraband.

You see the same dynamic with small, discretionary infractions. Ninety-five percent of tickets for jaywalking were against black residents, as were 94 percent of all “failure to comply” charges. Either black people were the only Ferguson citizens to jaywalk, or the department was targeting blacks for enforcement. On the rare occasion when police charged whites with these minor offenses, they were 68 percent more likely to have their cases dismissed. And because supervisors awarded promotions on the basis of officer “productivity,” there was little incentive to stop any of this behavior.

The most disturbing statistics are with regard to arrest, incarceration, and police force. Ninety-three percent of all arrests in Ferguson were of black Americans, and 88 percent of use-of-force incidents were against them. In cases where police had warrants, 92 percent were for blacks. Of those arrested for outstanding warrants, 96 percent were black, and among people jailed for more than two days, 95 percent were black. And in a terrible callback to Jim Crow, police used canines exclusively against black residents, including a 14-year-old boy who suffered puncture wounds in his arms, hands, and legs.
Who let the dogs out?  Fifty years have passed since the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the only thing that has changed are the names and details. Good-bye, Selma, Hello, Ferguson.  The entrenched institutional racism of the police hasn’t taken a backward step.

It’s time we stopped asking, “Why do good cops stand up for bad cops?”  The answer is irrelevant.  Cops cover for cops.  Darren Wilson wasn’t the lone good cop in a bad police department.  He merely happened to be the one who killed Mike Brown.   If you work in an evil place and you remain silent and passive about evil, you can’t claim to be good.   If the culture of policing encourages passivity and conformity among its members and enforces a code of compliance and silence as it closes ranks among its worst members, that is a culture ripe to be changed.

Good cop?  Bad cop?  Doesn’t matter. If the good cop won’t stand up against the bad cop they’re the same cop.

Illustration by Andy Marlette/News Journal

The System Didn’t Fail. It Was Supposed to Work This Way.

Great White Hunter.

“The American Negro has the great advantage of having never believed the collection of myths to which white Americans cling: that their ancestors were all freedom-loving heroes, that they were born in the greatest country the world has ever seen, or that Americans are invincible in battle and wise in peace, that Americans have always dealt honorably with Mexicans and Indians and all other neighbors or inferiors, that American men are the world’s most direct and virile, that American women are pure. Negroes know far more about white Americans than that; it can almost be said, in fact, that they know about white Americans what parents—or, anyway, mothers—know about their children, and that they very often regard white Americans that way. And perhaps this attitude, held in spite of what they know and have endured, helps to explain why Negroes, on the whole, and until lately, have allowed themselves to feel so little hatred. The tendency has really been, insofar as this was possible, to dismiss white people as the slightly mad victims of their own brainwashing.”
James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

In the wake of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson and the return of violent unrest in Ferguson, I’ve read and heard a lot about how Blacks and Whites need to stay calm and have a rational discussion.

Okay. Let’s calmly talk rationally about the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by a Cleveland police officer last Friday, why don’t we?

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A Cleveland police officer fatally shot Tamir Rice immediately after leaving his moving patrol car while his partner stayed at the wheel, surveillance video shows.

The video showed Wednesday by police captures the Saturday afternoon shooting at a West Side recreation center in which 12-year-old Rice was shot.

The video contains no audio.

A rookie officer pulled the trigger, said Jeffrey Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association.

Police were sent to the Cudell Recreation Center at Detroit Avenue and West Boulevard about 3:30 p.m. when someone called 9-1-1 to report a “guy with a gun pointing it at people.”

The caller told dispatchers twice that the gun was “probably fake,” but that detail was not relayed to the responding officers, Follmer said.

Over the past few days I’ve read so much amateur analysis, part-time forensic experts and ex-cop war stories and “woulda/shoulda/coulda” scenarios made up of skewing some facts and misinterpreting and excluding others of what happened and all the while with fawning deference for Support Your Local Police Officer no matter what because gee they do a tough damn job and they are they only thing that stands between the nice people and the jungle predators.

Frankly, it makes me want to vomit.

I see no point in holding a rational discussion with anyone who can rationalize the actions of a murderer. A rational discussion serves no purpose when the intent to shame and embarrass one member of a racial minority into apologizing for the actions of a few while assuaging the fears of the majority that “we’re all not like that.”

I have no interest in having a rational discussion with anyone more upset by broken windows and the looting of cheap stores and shoddy merchandise and are untroubled by a young man losing first his life and then his humanity.  They shrug it off with a blase “Well, I wasn’t there but he must have done something to deserve it.”

Something like boosting some smokes, jaywalking and maybe smarting off to a cop? Yeah, that’s some serious flaunting of the law there. Better pump 12 in him since he’s such a big target.

a System cannot fail

“A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect.”W.E.B. Du Bois

A rational discussion is a pointless waste of time when the same “rational discussions” have followed after the cops killed Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, Patrick Dorismond, Darrien Hunt, Joseph Ferrell,

Now add Tamir Rice to the roll call of the dead. What happened to him wasn’t a shooting. It was an execution. The trail of Michael Brown’s blood has flowed all the way from Ferguson, Missouri to Cleveland Ohio.

Some say the problem is the BB gun Rice was carrying looked too realistic.   Okay,  I see how that come lead to complications but how about training rookie cops better so they don’t zoom up to a 12-year-old suspect and fucking immediately blow him out of his shoes? Would that work?  Shoot first, shoot last and keep shooting and asking no questions later is a prime example of piss-poor policing. You could paint the toy guns in all the colors of the rainbow and it still wouldn’t stop some of these trigger-happy cretins.

This is a problem situation which has to be resolved by addressing the issue of the realism of the toy and the overkill response of the cops. You have to start demilitarizing the warrior cop mindset when they zip around in their cars, never know anything about the people in the neighborhoods they patrol and start trying to change the adversarial relationship between cops and communities of color. Until both sides meet each other halfway nothing will ever change.

Changing the “I am a hammer and everything is a nail” philosophy of the warrior cop would help.  Community policing isn’t a new idea and has had both its unqualified successes and dismal failures, but an adversarial relationship between cops and the communities they patrol is poisonous. Nothing positive can come from cops calling civilians as “fucking animals” while the civvies serenade the cops with a chorus of “Fuck the Police.”

The cops have the bullets and the weaponry to fight the community, but the community has bullets and weaponry too. Neither side can win so where does that get us to but M.A.D. (mutually assured destruction)?

 

ferguson

White critics think violence and destruction are indefensible. They need to ask what brings people to react this way. Tweet by Steve Chapman

Darren Wilson resigned from the Ferguson police department and possibly with a million dollars raised from supporters for a trial he was never going to face.  Like George Zimmerman before him, Wilson has become the recipient of  charity from supporters who hate the idea just because you shoot and kill and unarmed teenager that’s no reason you should be punished for it.

A million dollars. Imagine that. Who would have thought one dead Black kid was worth that kind of money?  For Darren and George, despite being the ones with the guns its okay to take Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin’s lives a long as they claim were frightened for theirs.  Not only will you go free, you’ll get paid too!

Get rich or kill trying.

While rioting is terrible a riot is not the most terrible thing.   People never really understand something until it happens to them and sometimes not even then.

Peace will never be present where justice is absent.

It's settled down for the moment, but at any moment Ferguson could go up in flames again.

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

One Scared White “Hero” Equals One Dead Black Monster

There is only one killer and one victim in this picture. Don’t get them confused.

In the case of the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson,  we have heard numerous current and former peace officers weigh in with both their anecdotal war stories and their “I wasn’t there, but it probably went down like this” analysis.   There are times when the opinions of those engaged in a select profession can prove to be illuminating and informative to those not familiar with the practices, procedures, rules, and how the job works.   Unfortunately, many of these cops have been all about making excuses, rationalizations and justifications of Darren Wilson and profiling, criminalizing, and convicting Mike Brown, all without a trial.

The other night I came across one such ex-cop and this is what followed.  The names have been omitted to protect the not at all innocent.

Bottom line…Michael Brown was a violent punk. In 30 years of law enforcement, ran into a lot of Michael Browns…white, black, hispanic.

When my partner and I worked the streets, and drove into a questionable situation, we would) routinely have our weapons drawn and in our lap, especially when someone was approaching our unit. The only “procedural” error I fault Officer Wilson for, is not being prepared when Brown came at him in his patrol unit.

I’m amazed at the meme coming out of Ferguson…”18 year old teenager (6’3″, 290 lbs, just committed a strong arm robbery, and then, instead of maybe being a little circumspect, walks down the middle of the street daring someone to challenge him), when Wilson arrives on scene, this asshole assaults him in his patrol unit, and gets shot.

Would really be honestly interested in knowing why the black community holds individuals like Brown in high regard as some kind of saint when black role models abound.

I do appreciate you opening up your racial stereotyping with gratuitous throwaway lines about “ran into a lot of Michael Browns…White, Black Hispanic.” How many of those other Michael Browns did you shoot when their hands were raised?

Murder By Cop

Also, where is Brown’s criminal record proving he was “a violent punk?”   Was he carrying a gun?  Had he been convicted of any robberies, rapes, or murders?   Was he inked from the top of his head to the tips of his toenails in prison tattoos from years in prison?   With all the other leaks flooding out of the Ferguson P.D. and the supposedly “secret” hearings by the  grand jury you’d think Brown’s criminal background would have come out for Fox News to breathlessly broadcast.

Since when did a big, tall unarmed teenager become as lethal as a police officer armed with a loaded gun? How far will Wilson’s defenders go to make him the innocent victim and Brown the dangerous thug who had to be taken out?

Blow away the smoke and cut through the crap and what is really being said is obvious: Mike Brown: Big Scary Black Kid. If he hadn’t done something yet sooner of later he would have. Why wait to put him down later when you have a chance to put him down now?

Michael Brown was not a “thug.” No more than Trayvon Martin was a “thug.”

Brown was not a candidate for sainthood, but neither was he the Scary Negro Frankenstein his detractors have transformed him into. If orange is the new black then thug is the new “nigger.” “Thug”has become the vogue head fake when it’s time to call out young Blacks behaving badly  as “niggers” without actually saying it.

Jaywalking. Impeding traffic. Being bad-asses. Big Black kid. Capital offense. I Am the Law and the Sentence Is Death.

This member of the Black community doesn’t hold Michael Brown in high regard.  I didn’t know him.  I hold Michael Brown up as a young man who was deprived of his rights and his life taken by a cop who probably had no damn business carrying a gun and a badge.

This member of the Black community believes Black lives matter and those lives include “assholes” like Brown who joins a long list of Black lives taken by White cops.

This member of the Black community doesn’t need any suggestions from the White cop community whom his “Black role models” should be.

I could try to explain, but it’s a Black thing. You wouldn’t understand and I don’t care enough to try.

It's settled down for the moment, but at any moment Ferguson could go up in flames again.

It’s settled down for the moment, but at any moment Ferguson could go up in flames again.