Category Archives: policing/justice


Straight Outta Compton, Black Women, and Black Lives Matter

By Guest Contributor Marquis Bey

A friend of mine asked, two days before the theatre premier of Straight Outta Compton, what impact I thought the N.W.A. biopic would have on the Black Lives Matter movement. My answer, since I had not seen or read much about the film, was insufficient and characterized by stock hip-hop feminist answers: white viewers and critics of the Movement may very well use the film to say, “See! They’re advocating violence, glorifying it even!”; hopefully it’ll give historically contextual backing to the legacy of violence visited upon Black bodies to which Black Lives Matter is speaking directly; and, of course, as with all things venerating hip-hop, I worry about the gendered violence and erasure of (Black) women.

This last point — the violence and erasure of Black women in particular — is what the conversation in the car ride with a few other Ph.D. students at my graduate school revolved around. And rightly so.

If we are to allow the film to speak to the plight of Black bodies in contemporary America and use it to do the work of Black liberation, then we must honor the aims of the Black Lives Matter Movement—and the three queer Black women who founded the movement—by critiquing the normalization of violence against Black women.
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The Netroots Nation Files: An Interview With Jose Antonio Vargas

By Arturo R. García

Not long after the #BlackLivesMatter protest during Saturday’s town hall event at the Netroots Nation conference, I interviewed journalist and immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas, who moderated the event, and talked about his experience being — literally — in the middle of the demonstration, as well as his views on how both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley handled their responses.

Were you prepared for [the protest]?
JAV: I was up all night trying to figure out a great mix of questions. For Senator Sanders, it was about immigration, because many people feel that’s something that he hasn’t talked about specifically. Gun control was a big one. Senator Sanders had talked about marching for civil rights in the March on Washington. That’s why I asked that question of, “Is there a specific bill you can point to” that had benefited the African-American community. So I’m just frustrated and disappointed that we weren’t able to ask this variety of questions.

But, having said that, the urgency that people of color — that Black people, that brown people in this country — feel about not only race but immigration, about policies that criminalize and dehumanize people in this country. It’s an emergency, somebody said, and it is. That’s what we saw. And I wasn’t about to stop that. As a person of color, as a gay man, as an undocumented person, I wasn’t about to stop that. You can’t silence people who have been silenced for far too long. I was just trying to figure out how I could keep the conversation going. I kept thinking to myself, “Man, handle this with as much grace as you can.”

I cannot overstate the importance of #BlackLivesMatter and the intersection of these issues. Remember, when [Phoenix activist Tia Oso] got up there, she talked about immigration, she talked about LGBT rights, she talked about civil rights. That’s the kind of conversation that we’re not seeing nationally. And that’s why it’s imperative that they get to hold that state. I just wish we could have known about it ahead of time, because I could have maybe found a better way to facilitate it, just so we could have had more questions and not just platitudes. So I was disappointed in myself for that.
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The Netroots Nation Files: #BlackLivesMatter Makes Its Presence Felt

By Arturo R. García

The Netroots Nation progressive conference in Phoenix was marked this past Saturday by a powerful show of solidarity from #BlackLivesMatter activists, who effectively forced both the attendees and Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and ex-Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley to talk about police violence against communities of color.

I’ve included a Storify under the cut with notes and images from the demonstration, as well as a follow-up discussion hosted by This Week in Blackness featuring, among others, the movement’s co-founder Patrisse Cullors. You can also read a synopsis of some of the day’s events from me at The Raw Story.

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Black Lives Matter Minneapolis activist: Authorities ‘sent cops to our houses’

By Guest Contributor Karĩ Mugo

Civil disobedience is what America is created on. It’s the foundation of our country so the fact that someone is trying to persecute us for performing civil disobedience just shows that they don’t know their own history and they don’t know how history is going to remember them in the future.
— Mica Grimm

When I first saw Mica Grimm, she was an unrepentant head of curly hair with a bull ringed nose and an alluring husky voice that forced you to lean in. Her slight slouch lead you to believe that she was both at ease and staggered by the agenda before her, as she and the other Black Lives Matter (BLM) Minneapolis organizers took to the floor. Over 100 people were gathered on a dusty floor in South Minneapolis to prep for an anti-police brutality demonstration by the group at the Mall of America (MOA). Weeks after the 1,500+ strong protest, I sat down for an interview with Mica. By then, her and 10 other members of Black Lives Matter were facing criminal charges for their role in organizing the protest.

The protest, but more so the law enforcement response to it, resulted in a partial shutdown of the largest North American mall on one of the busiest shopping days; the Saturday before Christmas. Though largely peaceful and carried out in the public eye, the criminal case brought against the organizers revealed an uncomfortable degree of collaboration between the Mall’s corporate owners, the Bloomington City Attorney (where the mall is located), and law enforcement in the lead up to the protest and after.
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The Grammys Have An Awkward Brush With Social Justice

By Arturo R. García

In the midst of a show that was downright turgid at times, there were glimpses of social relevance during Sunday night’s Grammys. You had Sam Smith openly thank an old boyfriend on national television while celebrating winning four awards. And the award’s outright hypocrisy in honoring abusive cis-males was only exposed further with remarks on domestic violence from President Barack Obama and activist Brooke Axtell:

After a year of passionate romance with a handsome, charismatic man, I was stunned when he began to abuse me. I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain, and needed help. I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship. My empathy was used against me. I was terrified of him and ashamed I was in this position. What bound me to him was my desire to heal him. My compassion was incomplete because it did not include me. When he threatened to kill me, I knew I had to escape. I revealed the truth to my mom and she encouraged me to seek help at a local domestic violence shelter. This conversation saved my life.

And then, of course, you had Prince. With one simple remark — “like books and Black lives, albums still matter” — His Purpleness made explicit a message that Beyoncé and Pharrell attempted to express visually. But while seeing Hands Up Don’t Shoot on the Grammy stage was worth noting, those two moments weren’t without their own problematic undertones.

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Video: Jay Smooth On The Importance Of Protesting Against Police Violence

The holiday season began on a distressing note late Tuesday night, when a police officer in Berkeley, Missouri — two miles from Ferguson — shot and killed 18-year-old Antonio Martin at a local gas station.

Authorities have released security camera footage they say justifies the shooting. They say the footage shows Martin pointing a gun at the officer. But the footage is grainy and only barely shows Martin, and was immediately questioned by residents and critics. Not only was there a demonstration within hours of Martin’s death, but protesters took to the city’s streets and a nearby interstate the following evening.

Martin’s death came not long after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged demonstrators in his city to postpone further actions in the wake of the fatal shootings of two NYPD officers, Wenjian Liu, Rafael Ramos. Their attacker, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, ambushed the two officers in their patrol car after coming to the city from Baltimore, where he shot his ex-girlfriend, Shaneka Thompson.

As Jay Smooth explains in this episode of The Illipsis for Fusion, while there are police doing good work in their communities, the choice by people representing them to adopt “wartime” rhetoric has only exacerbated tensions between them and the people they are supposed to protect and serve.

“People are not angry at police because of these protests,” he says. “People have been angry at the police for decades because the system is broken, and these protests represent people trying, once and for all, to change that system so they don’t have to be so angry all the time.”


Watch: Race + Police Discussion Featuring Eric Garner’s children, Latoya Peterson, and Franchesca Ramsey

By Arturo R. García

Racialicious owner Latoya Peterson took part in a panel discussion moderated by Yahoo News host Katie Couric on Thursday regarding not only the death of Eric Garner, but the distrust characterizing the relationship between the New York Police Department and residents.

The discussion began with Couric interviewing Erica Garner and Eric Garner Jr., Garner’s children.

“Why didn’t the EMS help him if their job is to help people?” Erica Garner asked at one point. “I feel they treated him like an animal.”

Peterson and blogger Franchesca Ramsey then joined Couric to discuss how the case has stimulated conversation online.

“It’s just raw emotion, what’s happening,” Peterson said. “It’s not just unfortunately Eric Garner’s situation. It’s also in the aggregate, looking at everything that’s happened, with the summer, every 28 hours and all these campaigns, it’s really leading people to organize on social media and to be able to rise up and say, ‘We do not want to accept this any longer. This isn’t gonna be our world, and it shouldn’t be our world.'”

The discussion continued with a panel featuring comedian W. Kamau Bell, former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and journalist Dion Rabouin, a talk that featured several clashes between Kelly and Bell, who admitted he did not feel safe with Kelly in the room.

“I’ve been taught to treat cops like pitbulls,” Bell says at one point.

“Who taught you that?” Kelly responds.

“The Black community,” Bell shoots back. “Would you like their names and numbers?”

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#ThisStopsToday: Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision Adds More Fuel To Protests Nationwide

A day after a grand jury decided not to indict a New York City police officer in connection with the death of Eric Garner, protests calling for justice in his name — alongside that of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Tanisha Anderson and others — have been scheduled in cities around this country beginning on Thursday.

We’ve listed some of them below, per information from the Ferguson National Response Network. While the #ICantBreathe tag was used extensively for Wednesday night’s protests in New York City, organizers are using the tags #ThisStopsToday and #JusticeForEricGarner for this weekend’s actions. If you know of any in your area, you are encouraged to list it in the comments.

All Times Local

  • Detroit: Campus Maritius Park, 800 Woodward Ave., 12:03 p.m.
  • Durham: Duke University Chapel Lawn, 401 Chapel Dr., 1:45 p.m.
  • Washington, D.C.: Justice Department building, 950 Pennsylvania, Ave. NW, 4 p.m.
  • Houston: Houston Police Department, 1200 Travis St., 4:30 p.m.
  • Note: A separate action in Houston is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Sarah D. Roosevelt Park, on Houston between Forsyth and Christie.
  • Baltimore: McKeldin Square, intersection of Light St. and Pratt, 5 p.m.
  • Atlanta: Downtown Underground, 50 Upper Alabama St., 5:30 p.m.
  • Indianapolis: 1 Monument Circle, 5:30 p.m.
  • New York City: Foley Square, 111 Worth St., 5:30 p.m.
  • Boston: Boston Common, Park St. entrance, across from the Lowes movie theatre, 7 p.m.
  • Dallas: Dallas Police Department, 1400 S. Lamar St., 7:30 p.m.

The full listing can be found at the Ferguson National Response Network website.