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Podcast: Ferguson, Class Divisions & Why Community May Reject Voting as Key Answer to Injustice

By: Sunday August 31, 2014 10:56 am

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

The stark reality is police in America have gunned down black youth in the streets many, many times prior to Michael Brown’s death. Why did this act of police brutality lead to such a show of incredible rage and protest from a community?

Moreover, as the community fights to win justice, what are the problems the community will face? How might issues of class, in addition to race, factor into the struggle? And why might many residents have a deep sense of cynicism when told voting can or will solve systemic problems they face?

This week’s guest on the “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast is Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. Taylor is an associate professor at Princeton University and works in the Center for African-American Studies. She wrote a piece for Socialist Worker, “What Divides Black America?” on how the “eruption of outrage and protest in Ferguson has shown a spotlight on the out-of-touch attitudes and policies of black political leaders.” She talks to us about issues of class and class position in black communities and how these issues factor into efforts to win justice.

During the discussion portion, the show stays on this topic and highlights an array of examples of police crimes that seem to have occurred or earned attention in the past week. The demands for justice from organizers in Ferguson are highlighted as well.  I also spend a bit of time toward the end of the show talking about what I learned and saw while in Ferguson.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a direct link (and direct download), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast that will automatically start playing.

Also, below is a player for listening to the podcast. You can listen to the podcast this way or you can go to iTunes and find the podcast listed there.

Arrested Legal Observer: Ferguson a ‘Pilot Program’ for When Communities Respond to Police Brutality

By: Saturday August 30, 2014 10:08 am

Evening protest in Ferguson on West Florissant Avenue on August 22

The National Lawyers Guild had legal observers on the ground in Ferguson to monitor protests against the killing of unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, by a Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. They were also present to help with jail support for community residents. But, while working, four of the NLG’s observers fell victim to the police occupation they were trying to help Ferguson fight and were arrested.

As Dennis Black, one of the legal observers arrested, commented, “Ferguson is a pilot program of what’s to come when communities respond to police brutality.” He and others had traveled from Detroit to see a preview of what police might do to squelch uprisings there.

Black and two other volunteers were arrested on August 21 about 10:30 pm. He explained that observers were concerned about police in body armor, who were stationed by a car wash on West Florissant Avenue across from what used to be a QuikTrip. They believed if anything was going to happen involving police it would happen here. They chose to record and document what police were doing.

Neither of the legal observers were permitted to stand in place for too long because of a rule imposed by the police. They kept walking back and forth with their cameras. About the third or fourth time they came back around, a female legal observer Black was with was arrested.

Black was on his walkie talkie informing others with the NLG that she was under arrest when he was ordered to stop and placed under arrest. Anthony, a legal observer, came over to see what was happening. He was arrested too.

Police told the female legal observer that they were not supposed to be engaged in surveillance of police. She also was ridiculed and harassed for being a legal observer. All of them were accused of “failure to disperse.”

Black and the other two legal observers were taken to the command center in the parking lot of the Target, where they had their personal identifying information taken by police. One of the officers also asked if Black had any questions. He asked if he was under arrest. They said, no, he was just in custody. The officer could not provide much more additional information because he was not the arresting officer.

The legal observers were taken to the police station in Clayton, Missouri, where they were released after a few hours when the protest was over.

Lawsuit Against Ferguson, St. Louis County Police Argues Officers Handled Citizens as ‘War Combatants’

By: Friday August 29, 2014 11:48 am

Screen shot of police at Ferguson protests (from “Democracy Now!” clip on police militarization linked to at bottom of post)

A lawsuit filed against Ferguson and St. Louis County police officers seeks millions of dollars in damages for violations of rights and laws, which allegedly occurred while police were in the process of aggressively suppressing protests.

Altogether, seven different individuals allege they were falsely arrested. Multiple individuals also contend officers intentionally inflicted “emotional distress,” committed “assault and battery,” deprived them of their civil rights and police neglected to supervise and discipline the officers engaged in this misconduct.

The complaint, which was filed in the Eastern District of Missouri, states, “A public outcry about the shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. by Officer [Darren] Wilson turned into protests, which subsequently led to civil unrest in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, when defendants took up arms and in militaristic displays of force and weaponry, engaged US citizens as if they were war combatants.”

It only involves alleged instances of “wanton excessive force, under color of law, which deprived plaintiffs of rights,” which occurred from August 11 to August 13.

According to the complaint, on August 11 around 8 pm, Damon Coleman and Theophilus Green were engaged in peaceful protest on West Florissant nearby the QuikTrip convenience store, which had caught fire and burned down. They also recorded St. Louis County police in riot gear, as they pulled up in armored personnel carriers. Other officers put on riot gear and “armed themselves.”

The escalation prompted protesters to turn toward the police and chant, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” with arms raised in the air. More armored vehicles arrived and police took up tactical positions to disperse the protest. They then fired tear gas at the protesters.

Police allegedly spotted Coleman and Green and then began shooting them with tear gas and “what appeared to be stun grenades.” They had their hands up and eventually got down on their knees. Police repeatedly shot them with rubber bullets and then placed them under arrest.

While officers were arresting them, officers “hurled racial epithets at them, while punching and kicking them the entire time.” They were taken to the Clayton police station where they were ridiculed, placed in “small cells,” and held for “more than 12 hours.”

On August 13, a Wednesday night, DeWayne A. Matthews Jr. traveled to his mother’s house in Ferguson. He took public transportation, but the road was blocked off. He got off the bus and proceeded to the corner of West Florissant and Highmont when he was allegedly confronted by eight unidentifiable police officers clad in military-type uniforms “who had their weapons trained upon him.”

Matthews put his hands up in the air immediately but was shot “multiple times with rubber bullets.” He then fell into a “creek or sewer” and was pinned down by an officer, who “slammed his face into the concrete and pushed his head underwater to the point that he felt that he was going to be drowned.”

Defense Argues Palestinian Organizer’s Indictment Was Product of Illegal FBI Investigation

By: Thursday August 28, 2014 11:12 pm

A motion to dismiss an indictment against Palestinian American Rasmea Odeh for allegedly committing immigration fraud argues Odeh’s indictment was the “product of an illegal investigation into the First Amendment activities of the Arab-American Action Network (AAAN),” a community group based in Chicago. Rasmea Odeh is an organizer in Chicago. She has been a naturalized [...]

Judge: Government’s Justification for Keeping Detainee Abuse Photos Secret is ‘Not Sufficient’

By: Wednesday August 27, 2014 9:11 pm

A federal district court judge has ruled that the government’s certification to prevent the disclosure of thousands of photos of detainee abuse and torture in Afghanistan and Iraq—including inhumane treatment at Abu Ghraib prison—is “not sufficient to prevent publication.” The federal judge ordered [PDF] the government to appear in court on September 8 and produce [...]

Mother of Black Teen Shot & Killed by Chicago Police Says Officers Wouldn’t Let Her See His Body

By: Wednesday August 27, 2014 4:33 pm

Chicago police officers shot and killed 19-year-old Roshad McIntosh in the west side neighborhood of North Lawndale on August 24. His mother was at a press conference after a letter was delivered to the United States Justice Department calling on the federal government to come to the city and investigate crimes by police officers, who [...]

Navy Nurse Who Refused Order to Force-Feed Hunger Striking Guantanamo Prisoners May Face Discipline

By: Wednesday August 27, 2014 10:43 am

The first and only officer on the medical staff at Guantanamo Bay to conscientiously object to force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike has reportedly had his assignment ended. He has been sent back to Naval Health Clinic New England, his “parent command,” while an investigation is completed, which may result in discipline or a court-martial. The [...]

Arguments Against Raising Minimum Wage Don’t Hold Up

By: Wednesday August 27, 2014 6:59 am

The arguments against raising the minimum wage don’t hold up to facts. Aren’t most people who work for minimum wage teens? No– 88 percent are adults, with more than a third over age 40. These workers earn half of their families’ incomes. Meanwhile, the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since [...]

Aunt Who Witnessed Fatal Police Shooting in Kansas Recounts What Led to Death of Mentally Ill Teen

By: Tuesday August 26, 2014 4:58 pm

In Kansas, Ottawa police shot and killed Joseph Jennings, an 18-year-old who was mentally ill, on August 23. At least two officers on the scene were well aware that he suffered from seizures and had responded to a call one day ago to take him to the hospital to pump his stomach after he tried [...]

Satire: NSA Quits Spying on Americans Out of Disgust

By: Tuesday August 26, 2014 7:39 am

Citing an endless river of filth, vacuous conversations, idiotic Tweets and endless cat videos, the NSA announced it is “freaking done” with spying on Americans. The NSA decision came only hours after thousands of analysts, following similar threats at CIA, said they planned to quit and apply for jobs as Apple Geniuses and Best Buy [...]

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