Category Archives: state violence

Roundup: Reactions to Stop and Frisk Ruling

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Yesterday, federal judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled that the stop-and-frisk policies of the New York City Police Department violate the constitutional rights of the city’s residents. (Read the full opinion.) While New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration have cited stop-and-frisk as a key factor in decreasing NYC’s murder and major crime rates, data tells a different story and the tactic has long been criticized for its focus on black and Latino residents. What follows is a roundup of reactions to the ruling. Share more in comments.

The New York Times compiled a video of reactions to the judge’s ruling, featuring residents of Brownsville, Brooklyn. Says one young man, identified as Darnell Rose:

“It’s definitely a good thing. Definitely. Because I don’t have to walk and look over my shoulder and worry about, you know, undercovers running up on me, jacking me up, harassing me…I could be coming from the store, minding my own business or getting off of work and they just look at me and feel like, ‘Yeah, let’s get this guy right here.’ Like, hey buddy, what’s the problem? It’s uncalled for.”

I. Bennett Capers, wrote in a Times editorial:

MY husband and I are about the same age and build, wear the same clothes and share the same gender, but I am far more likely to be stopped by the police. This isn’t because I have a criminal record or engage in furtive movements. Nor is my husband a choirboy. Statistically speaking, it’s because I’m black and he’s white. [...] even if these practices were constitutional, they’re still a bad idea. Of course, one wouldn’t know that listening to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other true believers, who insist that aggressive stop-and-frisks have reduced violent crime. But they’re wrong.

The most obvious reason is the brute numbers. For every 100 individuals stopped and frisked, only about 6 are arrested, often for minor offenses like marijuana possession. The success rate for finding a gun borders on the nonexistent: 1 in every 1,000 stops. In fact, purely random stops have produced better results. [...]

And there is a more important argument that isn’t captured by the numbers. Aggressive stop-and-frisks sow community distrust of the police and actually inhibit crime control, creating a generation of disaffected minority youths who believe that cops are racists. Read more…

In an insightful conversation on Branch, participants debated the merits of the ruling, with Al Jazeera producer Osman Norr offering:

“I think, taken together with Holder’s comments on mandatory minimums, the DoJ is starting to carve out a distinct position.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates recommends readers revisit the This American Life piece, “Is that a Tape Recorder in your Pocket or are you Just Unhappy to See Me,” about Officer Adrian Schoolcraft, who secretly recorded his supervisors telling officers to manipulate crime statistics and make illegal arrests:

 

 

Ira Glass: Adrian Schoolcraft says he isn’t exactly sure when, but at some point he had decided that it was important to document the orders that he was given that he thought were out of line. He recorded roll calls where officers were constantly being told to do more stop-and-frisks, even though it’s illegal to stop a random person on the street and frisk them without reasonable suspicion. In December 2008, a sergeant tells officers to stop-and-frisk quote, “anybody walking around, no matter what the explanation is.” He recorded Stephen Mauriello, the commander the 81st precinct– and the person Adrian Schoolcraft says really brought the hammer down for higher numbers– ordering the officers to arrest everyone they see. This happens in a couple of recordings, like this one from Halloween 2008.

Stephen Mauriello: Any roving bands– you hear me– roving bands more than two or three people–

Ira Glass: He’s saying “any roving bands of more than two or three people”– he’s talking about just people going around on Halloween night–

Stephen Mauriello: I want them stopped–

Ira Glass: I want them stopped–

Stephen Mauriello: –cuffed–

Ira Glass: –cuffed–

Stephen Mauriello: –throw them in here, run some warrants.

Ira Glass: –throw them in here, run some warrants.

Stephen Mauriello: You’re on a foot post? [BLEEP] it. Take the first guy you’ve got and lock them all up. Boom.

Ira Glass: You’re on a foot post? F it. Take the first guy you’ve got, lock them all up. Boom.

Stephen Mauriello: We’re going to go back out and process them later on, I’ve got no problems–

Ira Glass: –go back out and then we’ll come back in and process them later on.”

Adrian Schoolcraft: Yes. Yeah, what he’s saying is, arrest people simply for the purpose of clearing the streets.

 

The blog Civilly Minded wondered whether law enforcement should have their own version of the physicians Hippocratic Oath:

The physician’s oath — ‘First Do No Harm’ — is well known.1 It is also well conceived. A human being is a complex organism.  A physical intervention can have unintended consequences.  In the worst cases, the results of the intervention can be irreparable and even deadly.

The Hippocratic Oath is said to encourage rigor, honesty, and integrity among physicians, and helps ensure the minimization and justification of any adverse effects their work may have on people. Perhaps the police should swear to a Hippocratic Oath of their own. Read more…

 

Image Credit: The Guardian

Does Black Life Matter More When Raised and Nurtured By White Hands?

Man at Amadou Diallo protest. Image courtesy of Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

Man at Amadou Diallo protest. Image courtesy of Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

 

By Guest Contributor Chad Goller-Sojourner

In preparation for my one man show, Riding in Cars with Black People & Other Newly Dangerous Acts: A Memoir in Vanishing Whiteness, I did a significant amount of research, most of it unpleasant — like the weeks I spent combing the Internet for stories about unarmed black men shot down by the police. Talk about depressing. To be young, black and innocent is to live in a world full of folks who will always see you differently than you see yourself ─ a world where folklore, statistics and conjecture deem you dangerous until proven otherwise.

As I combed through story after story, I noted a disturbing trend that, contrary to what you might think, isn’t just happening in big cities, but everywhere–big cities, small cities, north, south, east and west. Wherever there are unarmed black men, there are police (and wannabe police) shooting them. When it comes to unarmed black men, what does it take to be proven innocent–to  have your keys, wallets, cellphones and candy bars  be seen as keys, wallets, cellphones and candy bars, rather than guns?

Twenty-two-year-old Amadou Diallo was shot dead in his Bronx doorway by four plain-clothed police officers who mistook his wallet for a gun and opened fire, unleashing 41 bullets, 19 of which struck his body. He had just returned from a late meal and was resting on his stoop–a rest interrupted by four white men in street clothes, getting out of an unmarked car, bearing guns.  Diallo fled to his apartment, reaching at some point for his wallet, perhaps for a key. We’ll never know, because all those officers saw was a gun [that wasn't there]. It was only later, at a trial in which they were all acquitted, when officers admitted that they had failed to consider the situation from the point of view of an innocent and unarmed black man minding his business on his stoop and suddenly confronted by four white men in street clothes brandishing guns.

Of course, the killers of black men don’t even need to report seeing anything resembling a weapon. They can, for instance, claim to have seen the victim reaching for his waistband.

Portland police were sent to do welfare check on Aaron Campbell, who had been distraught over his brother’s death. Campbell emerged from the Northeast Portland apartments with his back toward officers and his hands behind his head. But the officers wanted more. They wanted his hands in the air. And so they fired six beanbag rounds at him. (Nothing gets your hands in the air quicker than being shot in the back.)

As Campbell ran for the cover of a parked car, he was shot in the back with an AR-15 rifle. Later, officers would claim, they saw him reaching towards his pants for a gun. This despite police brass testimony stating Campbell did not–DID NOT– pose an immediate threat. The officers’ actions were not only inconsistent with their training, but they also failed to consider, that 1) Campbell may have been unarmed and 2) he may have been reaching for a part of the body just struck by beanbag rounds. The Grand Jury returned a finding of no criminal wrongdoing.

One must wonder: When it comes to unarmed black men being shot down by the police, why do so many of them go reaching for non-existent weapons in their waistband? If the number one reason given by the police for shooting unarmed black men is that they are reaching for their waistbands, what black man in his right mind would be reaching anywhere near that area in the presence of law enforcement?

Clearly there is something missing here. How else do you explain a system where, mistaking a Snickers for a gun is par for the course? It occurs to me: Would this reasoning be palatable to the public if the victims’ parents were white? Not if the victims were white–I think we all know that answer–but if the victim’s parents were white. Like mine.

Would an officer, police department, city or even a nation, be okay with telling my parents: “We’re sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Goller, but your son, Chad, was killed by an officer tonight. No ma’am, he wasn’t armed, though it appears the officer saw him reach towards his waistband. Again, we’re so very sorry.”

Would society abide delivering that excuse to white celebrities with black kids? Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw? How about the white gays and lesbians raising black boys?

I suspect not. 

In fact, I suspect in all of these scenarios, nothing would be okay for a really, really long time. This is the ultimate question: Does black life matter more when raised and nurtured by white hands?

Sadly–Yes.

One of the first things I learned about having white parents was that when it came to dealing with people in authority, they got listened to. In sixth grade, after still another racially-charged incident, mom threatened to go to the papers and for the rest of the year things actually got better. In junior high, the Black Parents Association enlisted Mom’s help. Suddenly, it got a whole lot harder for the school administration to write them all off as hysterical, over-reactive black parents.

By high school it was clear that, at least in the eyes of the authorities, having white parents was a powerful thing. With white parents comes white neighbors, friends, classmates, relatives, privileges and experiences.  With white parents comes witnesses– white witnesses [able to use their privilege] to vouch for me, go to bat for me and stand in the gap for me. And should the police have killed me, it would be they who spoke from my grave for me.

Have you any idea what that’s worth?

The above is an excerpt from the author’s Solo Performance, Riding in Cars with Black People & Other Newly Dangerous Acts: A Memoir in Vanishing Whiteness. For info and/or booking inquires please visit www.ridingincarswithblackpeople.com

Connecting The Past And The Present: Harvey Dong’s Insights On The Allegations Against Richard Aoki

By Guest Contributor Tala Khanmalek

L-R: Richard Aoki, Charlie Brown of the Afro American Student Union and Manuel Delgado of the Mexican American Student Confederation, March 1969. Photo: Muhammad Speaks via San Francisco Bayview.

On September 6, 2012 I interviewed Harvey Dong, a veteran of the Third World Liberation Front and Asian American Political Alliance at the University of California-Berkeley, where he is a professor in the school’s Department of Ethnic Studies. As our conversation progressed, I noticed the American and California flags waving through the window, and that’s when the irony of our personal and political complexities hit me.

However, Dong’s timely insights about the allegations against fellow veteran Richard Aoki connected the past and the present to clarify our positions in critical ways that also provide tools for the future of social justice scholarship and activism.

Tala Khanmalek: I was re-reading Richard Aoki’s speech notes from the Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) Founding Rally (July 28, 1968) in “Stand Up: An Archive Collection of the Bay Area Asian American Movement, 1968-1974″ and remembering what I think is one of the most important things about Aoki’s legacy: his comparative analysis of racialization as well as his centralization of interracial solidarity. Is there a relationship between Aoki’s politics and Seth Rosenfeld’s claim that he was an FBI informant?

Harvey Dong: Definitely. His politics is internationalism, and he’s a symbol of Afro-Asian unity. A lot of times when people talk about peoples of color and examples from history, examples from the past, Richard’s name is always mentioned because he was someone that bridged two or three different worlds. There’s a lot of support for Richard’s life and what it represented. So, in a lot of ways I kind of felt it was an attack on his legacy in terms of what he contributed and what he had represented.
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Nicki Minaj’s “Pound The Alarm” Reveals Trinidadian Party Politics

by Guest Contributor Annita Lucchesi, originally published on Tumblr

**Video Slightly NSFW***

Perhaps distracted by the picturesque scenery or the flash and glamor of Carnival, music critics have yet to say anything substantial on Nicki Minaj’s new music video, “Pound the Alarm.” Indeed, the overwhelming response has been to dismiss both the song and video as “virtually indistinguishable” from her previous single, “Starships,” and nearly all reviews have nothing to say other than run-of-the-mill comments on the beauty of the setting and Minaj’s physical attributes (see: MTV, Billboard). Fuse even went so far as to describe Minaj as a “bikini wearer extraordinaire” who “made sure her goods were front and center,” and Perez Hilton’s first comment was to tell Minaj, “pound that alarm with your bombastic bosom!”

While Nicki Minaj is obviously exceptionally beautiful, these reviews are as vapid as they are repetitive. Minaj is routinely overlooked as a ‘conscious artist,’ despite the fact that many of her songs, as well as her carefully curated appearance, are politically charged. The vast majority of the narrative on her fame is centered on her body and relationships with male rappers, as if she isn’t an intelligent artist who is very intentional about her image and her work (much less one who attended performing arts school!). Anyone who has heard her more directly “conscious” tracks like “Autobiography” or her remix of “Sweetest Girl” knows that she can be a passionate performer and talented poet. Despite this, Minaj constantly gets criticized and dismissed as lacking substance, which I believe has more to do with the combined forces of racism and sexism in popular media and consumer consciousness than anything else. No matter how gorgeous you are, it can’t be easy to be a young Black West Indian woman in the US media, much less one who is so confident in her ownership of her body and sexuality as Nicki Minaj.

There is also a not-so-subtle unwillingness on behalf of many of her critics to dialogue with Minaj’s work on her own terms, which the “Pound the Alarm” reviews each fall prey to. Though most of them acknowledge that Minaj was born in Trinidad, the video’s location, none of them attempt to place the video within its context—Trinidadian party culture and national politics.

Trinidad & Tobago was in a state of emergency for a sizeable portion of 2011, and nightlife was forced underground after a curfew was imposed. Continue reading

Hate Crimes Always Have A Logic: On The Oak Creek Gurudwara Shootings

By Guest Contributor Harsha Walia

Candles at the Vigil. Photo: Overpass Light Brigade via DailyKos.

The Oak Creek Gurudwara is my brother’s and frequently my parent’s sangat. Over the years, they have described to me how, with deep love and commitment, the community came together to build the Gurudwara. How every week the Gurudwara provided a refuge, a sanctuary, a sense of home, a sense of belonging from the isolation of being an accented brown-skinned immigrant living in Wisconsin. When I heard about the shooting at Oak Creek Gurudwara, I happened to be facilitating at an immigrant and refugee youth camp. Dozens of young middle-school and high-school aged racialized immigrants and refugees from Latin America, Asia and Africa were describing being taunted and bullied at school, feeling discriminated against by their teachers, the hardships of systemic poverty, daily fears of detention and displacement, and feeling like “unwelcome and unwanted parasites.” As young people in British Columbia, Canada they were articulating an experience of racism similar to that which my family faces living in the Midwest of America.

While these murders were abhorrent, they were not ‘senseless’. The ad nauseaum suggestion that the killings were senseless attempts to construct the shooting as random and without logic, when in fact racist hate crimes operate through the very deliberate and precise logic of white supremacy. Continue reading

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Arundhati Roy

By Andrea Plaid

Arundhati Roy. Photo: Sanjay Kak. Courtesy: pcp.gc.cuny.edu

If Arundhati Roy was a rock star and I was at her concert, I’d be that fool who’d shout, “I LOVE YOOOUUU!” from the cheap seats while she was doing her between-song banter.

Well, Roy is a literary rock star. I fell for her writerly riffs when I caught up with her 1997 semi-autobiographical debut novel, The God Of Small Things, a couple of years ago:

May in Ayemenen is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The rivers shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun.

The nights are clear , but suffused with sloth and sullen expectations.

But by early June the southwest monsoon breaks and there are three months of wind and water with short spells of sharp, glittering sunshine that thrilled children snatch to play with. The countryside turns an immodest green. Boundaries blur as tapioca fences take root and bloom. Brick walls turn mossgreen. Pepper vines snake up electric poles. Wild creepers burst through laterite banks and spill across the flooded roads. Boats ply in the baazars. And small fish appear in the puddles that fill PWD potholes on the highways.

The God Of Small Things brought Roy, who previously worked on screenplays and movie criticism and trained as an architect, incredible acclaim in the US. She also won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997 for the book, though some folks threw serious shade about it. However–perhaps presciently–she had to answer for obscenity charges back in Kerala, where she grew up, for the book’s descriptions of sexuality.

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“Losing the Movement:” Black Women, Violence, And Prison Nation

by Guest Contributor MK, originally published at Prison Culture

Last week, I was privileged to organize an event for a project that I am affiliated with called Girl Talk. As part of the event, my friend, the brilliant Dr. Beth Richie, spoke about her new book Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation. I can’t recommend the book any more highly.

Beth suggested on Thursday that the book is to some extent autobiographical, in part tracing her personal involvement as an activist in the anti-violence against women and girls’ movement. In reading the book, I found my own story also represented in the history that she illuminates through her research.

Today, I want to focus on one key aspect of the thesis that Beth advances in the book. She contends that the “success” of the anti-violence against women and girls’ movement in passing legislation and gaining public legitimacy was in large part due to the increasingly conservative political climate that was emerging in a parallel way. That conservative political climate emphasized a “law -and-order” and “tough-on-crime” approach to addressing social problems.

Beth pointed out in her talk that many activists within the anti-violence movement (particularly women of color and queer people) spoke out about the fact that increasing criminalization would adversely affect certain populations. Their voices, however, did not win the day. Continue reading

Sundance Exclusive: Interview with Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi of 5 Broken Cameras

Co-directed by Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat and Israeli activist Guy Davidi, the images in 5 Broken Cameras are beautiful, haunting, and bring about dozens of other questions about the history of the occupation and the tactics around love and resistance. Thanks to their fabulous publicist Eseel, I got to interview Guy and Emad and ask them about their lives, their work, and what they think the future holds for Israel and Palestine.

What was the experience like, creating this film out of the footage?

Emad: It has been a sometimes good experience, a sometimes bad experience. In 2005, when I started to resist with my village, I decided to film to protect myself and to protect the other protests and to show the footage for other people, and to use the footage sometime to prove what is going on. Over the last seven years, [I documented] how what happened in the village affected me, my family, my children, and my friends, week by week. After many years of documenting, I thought that there was a huge story that I have to tell to other people. We decided to construct a documentary from my personal life and personal story. [5 Broken Cameras] is not a political film or just a film about conflict – it’s a film about life, and how the people can survive and how people live, and how kids grow up. For my kids, everyone loves those boys, and I wanted to make for them a good life, I wanted to take care of them, and protect them. I can’t tie them in the house every day, keep them 24 hours in one room. This is our life, like this. I tried to build for them a good life and a good situation. And I wanted to put my life and my experience in the village in one documentary.

Maybe [other people, in other parts of the world] see footage on the news, but they don’t know the reality and they don’t know the life of these people. I hope that this film does make some change, so we can change the life for everyone – in Palestine and Israel.

Guy, how did you get involved in the film?

Guy: I came to Bil’in in early 2005, one of the first Israeli peace activists that came. I was already interested in what was happening in this movement, I wanted be a part of it. My first main motivation is a bit selfish, it wasn’t just to help the movement – it was also for me. Israel is like a ghetto – it is closed, like a bubble, not sensitive to the others. You’re not allowed to go here, not allowed to go there – so I wanted to break that. I wanted to live in a free way. If we live in a free way, we have to confront the shadows – and what happens in the shadow is in Palestine and the settlements.

So I met Emad. He was a very known character from the start, because he was the only cameraman who was basically staying in the village all the time. He became what we say in the film, “the village’s eye.” So we met many times while filming. We didn’t work together until 2009, when Emad approached me to make the film, so we decided to make it as a personal narrative. When I thought in the beginning to make a film on Bil’in, there were many that were similar. We had to have a new and refreshing take and I was happy to find out in the material that we could tell the story in this very intimate and personal way. You could see in the world both the context of the movement and the occupation, and you can have a really intimate family moments.

One of the moments that is the most striking to me in the film are the images of people moving into the settlements that are causing all this conflict. Why is this still happening?

Guy: First we have to know that there are many kinds of settlements and many kinds of settlers. It is the Israeli machine that is making it move. These are not necessarily ideological settlers going because they want to conquer the land or wipe out Palestinians. They just want to improve their lives. The government is subsidizing the apartments in the West Bank, and using [the people's] financial circumstances to move an agenda forward. Some settlers don’t know what is going on – the way Israel is designed, you can travel through parts and not really know where you are. Some settlers do know what’s going on and don’t care. And then you have a very small minority, a violent minority, the fundamentalist Jews that are creating terror in Palestine. They are small, but noisy and strong. If Israel would like to change its ways, they will have to find a way to root out the fundamentalists, to pull the weeds. Continue reading