Category: policing/justice

June 18, 2010 / / policing/justice

by Latoya Peterson


Watch CBS News Videos Online

Two days ago in Seattle, a police officer trying to arrest a woman for jay walking found himself in a sticky situation:

Seattle police say the punch came after the young woman became verbally and physically abusive after a jaywalking stop. Seattle police say it all started after an officer observed four women jaywalking across Martin Luther King Junior Way South. When the officer attempted to stop them, voices and tensions escalated. The officer was attempting to handcuff a 19-year-old woman when her 17-year-old friend tried to intervene.

In the video, you can see the 17-year-old push the officer. That’s when the officer pulls back his arm and punches the teenager in the face.

Seattle police say the officer believed the girl “was attempting to physically affect the first girl’s escape” and when she came at the officer, he “punched her.” As a crowd of people gathered around the officer and suspects, one of the witnesses videotaped the incident.

Eventually the officer managed to handcuff the first suspect as well as the girl he punched. The 19-year-old woman was booked into King County Jail for obstructing an officer. The 17-year-old girl, who was punched, was taken to the Youth Service Center for investigation of assault on an officer. Both females were cited for jaywalking.

The video has touched off a firestorm of controversy surrounding the officer’s conduct and if the officer was justified. Monica Potts, over at Tapped, argues yes. But I’m not convinced. Read the Post Punching People and the Perils of Increased Police Presence [Updated]

June 7, 2010 / / activism

by Guest Contributor Crystal Hayes, originally published at Race-Talk

Robert Seth Hayes I was three years old when I watched my father, mother, and three-week-old baby brother nearly murdered in a hail of bullets during a police raid on our home in September 1973.

My father, Robert Seth Hayes, was a member of the Black Panther Party (BPP), and ever since that day some 37 years ago, he has been a political prisoner in the state of New York. So when I read Cord Jefferson‘s article, “Is the Tea Party the New Black Panther Party?” on The Root.com, I could not help but remember, and relive, the pain and trauma of that day. I also became frustrated and angry because Jefferson’s article is ahistorical and continues the tradition of attacking the Party and misrepresenting its history and legacy. What’s more, it does so in a forum that prides itself on getting African American history correct.

Jefferson begins his piece predictably, by drawing on caricatures of the Party – images of armed, angry, Black men going to war against the US government. But the images that are used aren’t even of Panther members. His opening lines are accompanied by a photo of Malik Zulu Shabazz, a member of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP), an unaffiliated group founded in 1989 that has no connection to the BPP other than the name that it appropriated.

In fact, original BPP members openly reject the NBPP because its ideology promotes violence, separatism, and nationalism, values my father and other BPP members have long abandoned as part of an effective political ideology and strategy. In fact, the NBPP was successfully sued by Huey P. Newton’s foundation in an effort to keep them from calling themselves the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, the BPP’s original name. Read the Post What really separates the Tea Party from the Black Panther Party

May 27, 2010 / / class

by Latoya Peterson

Earlier this month, I was mulling over a piece in The Atlantic about the decline of the news, and Google’s attempts to assist the ailing industry. I found this tidbit fascinating:

“If you were starting from scratch, you could never possibly justify this business model,” Hal Varian [Google’s chief economist ] said, in a variation on a familiar tech-world riff about the print-journalism business. “Grow trees—then grind them up, and truck big rolls of paper down from Canada? Then run them through enormously expensive machinery, hand-deliver them overnight to thousands of doorsteps, and leave more on newsstands, where the surplus is out of date immediately and must be thrown away? Who would say that made sense?” The old-tech wastefulness of the process is obvious, but Varian added a less familiar point. Burdened as they are with these “legacy” print costs, newspapers typically spend about 15 percent of their revenue on what, to the Internet world, are their only valuable assets: the people who report, analyze, and edit the news. Varian cited a study by the industry analyst Harold Vogel showing that the figure might reach 35 percent if you included all administrative, promotional, and other “brand”-related expenses. But most of the money a typical newspaper spends is for the old-tech physical work of hauling paper around. Buying raw newsprint and using it costs more than the typical newspaper’s entire editorial staff. (The pattern is different at the two elite national papers, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. They each spend more on edit staff than on newsprint, which is part of the reason their brands are among the most likely to survive the current hard times.)

Krishna Bharat (Distinguished Researcher at Google) puts an even finer point on the problems with the existing news model. Bharat runs Google News, the aggregator that sifts through “25,000 sources in some 25 languages” daily. And considering he has watched the type of news trends that receive coverage, his next comments are old news to many of us dissatisfied with how our communities are portrayed in the mainstream media, but hopefully illuminating to those in the industry:

In this role, he sees more of the world’s news coverage daily than practically anyone else on Earth. I asked him what he had learned about the news business.

He hesitated for a minute, as if wanting to be very careful about making a potentially offensive point. Then he said that what astonished him was the predictable and pack-like response of most of the world’s news outlets to most stories. Or, more positively, how much opportunity he saw for anyone who was willing to try a different approach.

The Google News front page is a kind of air-traffic-control center for the movement of stories across the world’s media, in real time. “Usually, you see essentially the same approach taken by a thousand publications at the same time,” he told me. “Once something has been observed, nearly everyone says approximately the same thing.” He didn’t mean that the publications were linking to one another or syndicating their stories. Rather, their conventions and instincts made them all emphasize the same things. This could be reassuring, in indicating some consensus on what the “important” stories were. But Bharat said it also indicated a faddishness of coverage—when Michael Jackson dies, other things cease to matter—and a redundancy that journalism could no longer afford. “It makes you wonder, is there a better way?” he asked. “Why is it that a thousand people come up with approximately the same reading of matters? Why couldn’t there be five readings? And meanwhile use that energy to observe something else, equally important, that is currently being neglected.” He said this was not a purely theoretical question. “I believe the news industry is finding that it will not be able to sustain producing highly similar articles.”

I’ve been thinking about this in light of the Stanley-Jones tragedy, and in light of South Philadelphia High School. Read the Post Aiyana Stanley-Jones, South Philadelphia High, and Solving the News Problem

April 7, 2010 / / WTF?

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

Last week Jean Charest, premier of the province of Quebec in Canada, proposed legislation that would ban Muslim women from wearing the niqab/face-veil.

How does Quebec intend to ban the niqab? By refusing essential services to women wearing one. From the Toronto Star:

[Bill 94] effectively bars Muslim women from receiving or delivering public services while wearing a niqab.  According to the draft law, they would not be able to consult a doctor in a hospital, for example, or even attend classes in a university.  Two words: Uncovered face,” Charest told reporters during a press conference in Quebec City. “The principle is clear.” However, Charest reaffirmed the right to wear other religious symbols, such as crosses, skullcaps or headscarves, which was met by some as evidence of hypocrisy and discrimination…

Charest explained that the legislation, Bill 94, demands a face in plain view, for reasons of identification, security and communication. He further clarified that even public-service employees who do not interact with the public – the majority of the provincial bureaucracy – would also not be permitted to wear the niqab…

The legislation doesn’t stop at driver’s licence or health card offices. It encompasses nearly every public and para-public institution as well, including universities, school boards, hospitals, community health and daycare centres.

There are many things about this bill that are horrendous.  For example, that whole universal healthcare thing – of which many Canadians are so proud – will become pretty UNuniversal; since if you’re wearing a niqab you can’t see a doctor.  Bill 94 returns us to suffragette era politics, where some women (i.e. white ones) got the vote while others didn’t; since if you’re wearing a niqab you can’t vote.

To me one of the most appalling things about Bill 94 is that it is actually being sold as a gender equity thing. More from the Star:

Critics of the niqab say they subjugate women and their right to equality. After a woman was removed this month from a French-language class for refusing to remove her niqab, Christine St-Pierre, Quebec’s minister responsible for the status of women, called niqabs “ambulatory prisons.” On Wednesday, St-Pierre said Quebec was a “world leader” when it comes to gender equality, and with Bill 94, “we prove it once again.”

How many times does it have to be said that gender equity is about giving women the right to make their own choices?  If a woman’s choice is to wear a niqab, BARRING her from wearing one by removing access to work, childcare, healthcare and education is the absolute opposite of gender equality.

I cannot say enough how disgusting and dishonest this is.  If this bill was motivated by a real concern for women made to wear the niqab against their will, wouldn’t it make more sense to partner with organisations for Muslim women and/or organisations for women fleeing abuse and violence?

Instead, this legislation is being championed primarily by white men and women who are not Muslim.

Since I am getting too apoplectic to be articulate, let’s see what other people are saying about Bill 94.

The Non/No to Bill 94 Coalition writes in their statement:

Bill 94, if approved, will perpetuate gender inequality by legislating control over women’s bodies and sanctioning discrimination against Muslim women who wear the niqab. Instead of singling out a minuscule percentage of the population, government resources would be better spent implementing poverty reduction and education programs to address real gender inequality in meaningful ways. Barring any woman from social services, employment, health, and education, as well as creating a climate of shame and fear around her is not an effective means to her empowerment….“Rescuing” women is paternalistic and insulting. Further marginalizing Muslim women who wear niqab and denying them access to social services, economic opportunities and civic participation is unacceptable.

Forcing a woman to reveal part of her body is no different from forcing her to be covered. Read the Post Quebec Niqab Ban: No/Non to Bill 94!

March 16, 2010 / / action alert
March 8, 2010 / / crime

By Guest Contributor ishita, originally published at Restore Fairness

This post elaborates on the excerpt we ran last week about David Dow.

It is no secret that our country’s criminal justice system has consistently proven to be biased against minority communities of color. Statistics published by the NAACP show that even amongst those found guilty of crimes, African-Americans continue to be disproportionately sentenced to life in prison, face higher drug sentences, and are executed at higher rates when compared to people of other races. Michelle Alexander speaks of a “color-coded caste system” in The New Jim Crow that marginalized communities who encounter the criminal justice system.

Seasoned Texas attorney David R. Dow’s new book The Autobiography of an Execution provides an exploration of the death penalty, written through the eyes of a man who has spent 20 years defending over a hundred death-row inmates, most of whom died, and most of whom were guilty. As the head litigator for the Texas Defender Service, a non profit legal aid organization in the state that boasts the highest number of executions since 1976, Dow presents a powerful argument against the death penalty system. Candidly exploring how he balances such a trying job with being a good father and husband, Dow’s extremely personal book only works to strengthen the argument that the broken criminal justice system operates on a vicious cycle based on racial and economic disparity.

In his book, Dow opposes the unequal basis on which some criminals are sentenced to be executed while others aren’t, and deems the criminal justice system “racist, classist (and) unprincipled.” He opposes the death penalty as a flawed and unjust facet of the criminal justice system. Based on his experience, he notes that while he believes that a majority of the clients he represented were, in fact, guilty, there was very little separating those criminals from others who were guilty of the same crime, other than “the operation of what I consider to be insidious types of prejudice.” Most unsettling is his severe mistrust of members of the justice system – police officers, prosecutors and judges – whom he believes would “violate their oaths of office” and put men and women on death row who they think “deserve to be there”.

Read the Post Does your race and income matter if you face the death penalty?

March 2, 2010 / / class