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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

Rasmea Odeh

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 citizen in the US since 1995. But, on October 22, 2013, the Department of Homeland Security suddenly had her arrested.

The federal government accused Odeh of neglecting to disclose on naturalization forms that she had been imprisoned by Israelis in Palestine for decades for terrorism-related offenses. She now faces up to ten years in prison if convicted and immediate deportation after her release.

When Odeh was charged, this website covered how her indictment was possibly a result of an FBI investigation into twenty-six activists, who were subpoenaed by a federal grand jury and targeted by the FBI in 2010. Some of those activists had their homes raided and property seized.

Now, Odeh’s defense attorneys—Michael Deutsch, Jim Fennerty and William Goodman—have made the connection and are arguing Odeh would not have been indicted if the government had not been targeting individuals for their First Amendment-protected activities.

A motion [PDF] filed on August 13 argues the indictment was “intended to suppress the work of the defendant in support of the Arab community of Chicago.” It requests that the indictment be “quashed as politically motivated and based on the selective use of the criminal law to target protected political work.”

The defense asks the judge for “discovery of communication between the US Attorney’s Office in Chicago and Detroit” on the decision to indict Odeh, as well as an evidentiary hearing on claims made in the motion. Attorneys believe the evidence will prove allegations and support a dismissal of the indictment.

In January 2010, the FBI and the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois launched an investigation into AAAN, including Odeh and Hatem Abudayyeh, one of the people who had their homes raided by the FBI in September 2010.

Members of AAAN were allegedly placed under surveillance by the FBI and, the motion adds, “as a result of this investigation the defendant was targeted by the Northern District of Illinois.”

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 [...]

‘We’re Tired of Police Judging Us’—St. Louis Resident Opens Up About Police, Protests & Mike Brown (Video)

By: Monday August 25, 2014 4:54 pm

While on the ground in Ferguson, Missouri, to cover the aftermath of the killing of Mike Brown by police, I had the privilege of being introduced to Kerry, a young black man and resident of the St. Louis area. He agreed to speak to me about his experiences. We recorded the interview on August 21, [...]

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