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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tishai Schwartz, New Republic: On Wednesday, amid continued protests demanding "Justice for Michael Brown" prosecutors will bring evidence before a grand jury as they determine whether to indict Brown's killer, Officer Darren Wilson. In this case, a combination of entrenched racial and occupational biases, and most importantly the oddities of Missouri law, all but ensures that a conviction is off the table. Under Missouri law, all a citizen claiming self-defense or a police officer claiming to have fired while pursuing a dangerous criminal need do is "inject the issue of justification." In other words, he only needs to produce some evidence (his own testimony counts) supporting the claim. Once he does so, "any reasonable doubt on the issue requires a finding for the defendant." read more


Lanre Akinsiku, Gawker: To be black and interact with the police is a scary thing. The fear doesn't have to come from any kind of historical antagonism, which, trust me, would be enough; it can also come from many data points of personal experience, collected over time. Almost all black men have these close-call-style stories, and we collect and mostly keep them to ourselves until one of us is killed. You know how the stories go: I was pulled over one day and the cop drew his gun as he approached my window; I was stopped on the street, handcuffed and made to sit on the sidewalk because the cop said I looked like a suspect; I had four squad cars pull up on me for jaywalking. We trade them like currency. And it almost goes without saying that these stops are de facto violent, because even when the officer doesn't physically harm you, you can feel that you've been robbed of something. read more


Monday, August 18, 2014

TPM: The city of Ferguson has retained the public relations firm Common Ground Public Relations to help its communications department in light of the ongoing turmoil in the St. Louis, Mo., suburb and the firm appears to be staffed entirely by white people, according to the photographs of staff members on its website. Common Ground is "assisting the city of Ferguson's media relations department with the large volume of media queries," Common Ground's Nina Kult told TPM. "We're just assisting in handling the large volume of queries." The "Meet The Team" page on Common Ground's website seemed to only display Caucasian employees. When asked how the apparent lack of diversity on their team might factor into Common Ground's work for Ferguson, given the heightened racial tensions there over the death of 18-year old Michael Brown, Kult declined to comment directly on that aspect of their work. read more


New video released Monday reportedly showing the immediate aftermath of the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson. CNN aired the footage Monday during an interview with eyewitness Piaget Crenshaw, who said she recorded it following the Aug. 9 shooting. According to Crenshaw, the footage shows Michael Brown's body laying in the middle of the street as Wilson stood over him speaking to another officer. Crenshaw, one of the first eyewitnesses to come forward in the wake of the shooting, said that her attorney initially advised her to hold back the video for "her own personal safety," and also because Wilson's identity was not revealed until Friday. read more


Friday, August 15, 2014

In the days since the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, there has been some good reporting on the ground in Ferguson, Missouri -- and a heavy dose of unsubstantiated allegations against the unarmed teenager. Friday, police finally released the name of the officer who shot Brown, Darren Wilson, along with a report indicating that Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were suspects in a convenience-store robbery shortly before the shooting. But long before the robbery allegations, online outlets were attempting to paint Brown as a common thug. Matt Drudge's eponymous "Report" led with this photo of Brown on Thursday. read more


Comments

Among the many relevant facts for any African-American negotiating their relationship with the police the following stands out: The police departments of America are endowed by the state with dominion over your body. This summer in Ferguson and Staten Island we have seen that dominion employed to the maximum ends -- destruction of the body. This is neither new nor extraordinary. It does not matter if the destruction of your body was an overreaction. It does not matter if the destruction of your body resulted from a misunderstanding. It does not matter if the destruction of your body springs from foolish policy. Sell cigarettes without proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be be destroyed. Protect the home of your mother and your body can be destroyed. Visit the home of your young daughter and your body will be destroyed. The destroyers of your body will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions. http:// dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/ 08/21/living-in-fear-of-the- police/

Often I'd see a squad car following me and just pull to the curb to get it over with. An officer would walk up to the car, one hand on that little button that secures the strap over his gun. He'd ask for my license and registration. Some inner voice would remind me that this was the time to point out I'd done nothing wrong; I'd ask for a badge number, I'd take a stand. But black boys are supposed to know better.

So what I would do was: I would slip my college ID over my driver's license. The officer's eyes would light up. Not your college ID, he would say, amused. Then he would go back to his car and dally a little, pretending to check on things, before handing my license back with some mock-heroic advice about staying out of trouble. The story ends right there. I remember feeling vague anger afterwards, although I was probably feeling something a lot closer to despair.

Every time I used the college ID trick, it bred in me a kind of survivor's guilt, a guilt about a life that feels as if it's being protected weakly, through cowardice. Because what I was really doing was saying, Yes, some of us deserve to be shot in the street, but this ID proves that I'm not one of them. I used the little plastic card to secure my status as One Of The Good Ones[1], and I always drove away ashamed, always. At best, I was reducing my humanity -- my right to not get shot by a police officer -- to a giveaway received during freshman orientation. At worst, I was just delaying what is now starting to feel inevitable.

What I've seen of the Ferguson Police Department and their tanks, AR15's, flash-bang grenades, tear gas, laser sights, helicopters, and military-style detachment makes me believe Michael Brown was tired. Maybe he'd been harassed by a police officer before, maybe he was tired of being tired. So when Darren Wilson tried to bully him, Michael Brown said no. And maybe it was the "no" of someone who's been pushed around, which is a more beautiful "no," since it is so clear and absolute. That a police officer then shot him dead and left his body in the street is, historically, the kind of thing police officers do when black men stand up for themselves.

And so for the last week I've been feeling that helpless feeling. All that's left after helplessness is fatigue, right? Aren't we all tired yet? We know that what happened to Michael Brown was not a unique incident but part of a larger phenomenon -- and that it will happen again, soon. Which means we know an even deeper truth: that to be black in this country means constantly paying a tax on your life. Some of us pay in dignity, some of us pay in blood. What I'm trying to say is this: Never again will I pay with my dignity.


This isn't a long article, but it chronicles things that most every black man in America could recite without much prompting. The innocent pay for the guilty every single day in millions of ways that go largely unnoticed and unremarked upon. Attorney General Holder has been subjected to profiling in his younger days as I'm sure President Obama has as well. It just doesn't matter when you're a black male in America. The only saving grace can be the people surrounding you when encounters happen (ie. with above reproach white people) or are avoided (because of those people), and that cannot be controlled 24/7/365.

Dix,

Right now on tv I'm watching Johnson's attorney give the same recounting of his account that has never changed. It isn't the one you claimed he made after recanting. The FBI interviewed Johnson for 4 hours. I'm sure they've asked every conceivable question in every conceivable way that questions can be asked and suspects can be tripped up over their stories. According to these sources, the only disputing account on record is the hearsay of the woman's call into the radio show. I repeat: The only one currently on record.

You have been here for days making up narratives that fit what you believe happened. Johnson's version is fairly convincing in its detail. His attorney spoke of his viewpoint, and he was BEHIND both Brown and Wilson during the shooting if I understood correctly. He saw and heard Wilson shoot and he recounted what he alleges Wilson said. There is no room for any subjectivity if his accounting is proven true by the ballistics and the forensic evidence. But even saying all of that, none of us will know until we know.

It's truly sad that so many people have felt the need to try and convict Mike Brown after his death without any verified facts on the table. Officer Wilson can and will be vigorously defended if and when he is charged with a crime. While I may call his actions what my eyes and mind tells me they are, it doesn't mean that exculpatory evidence won't change my mind. Many people have already convicted Brown in the court of public opinion and deemed his death sentence worthy for his criminal behavior. The only problem is that Brown hasn't and won't be charged for any crime beside what might have happened when Wilson reportedly grabbed Brown's head and shirt to detain him.

If big-government is so critical to our society, be honest about its costs and tax accordingly. If the taxpayers push back then let the chips fall where they may.

The biggest lie ever is the one where per capita the benefits of government go overwhelmingly to the poorer citizens and thus maintaining our former safety net levels is deleterious to our economic health. The tax burden has been shifted for decades from business and wealthier citizens toward the middle and lower classes. We already know where the last three decades of economic gains have gone, so there really is little mystery why our current needs go unmet.

The working classes have been paying their freight while the investor class has largely skated free as they continue to utilize the tremendously expensive legal and regulatory systems that enable them to function and profit. Not to mention that our overseas use of our military insures that commerce and contracts are fulfilled. It isn't always about protecting our freedoms as it is about protecting the corporation's markets and profits.

In my opinion, why should the taxpayers continue to fund governmental entities that only exist to serve and regulate business and finance? Why shouldn't there be a transaction tax on every financial move? Why should investors and speculators be subsidized when the average citizen will never use the bureaucracy built to sustain their businesses? I get it that some serve a useful purpose, but why should all the machinations of this wealth creation -- currently going to individuals and corporations who have no interest in forwarding what's best for the nation as a whole and it's people -- not be charged back to these same people as a cost of utilization? We shutter public services every single day, but I've yet to see the financial sector to have their concerns ignored especially when they threaten to nuke the economy.

There are many more ways we can tax those who need the greatest protections and utilize far more government than they currently pay for. Even if the costs are shifted towards goods and services, at least we can show progress on paper and in the lives of the hundreds of millions not currently in the upper percentiles.

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