Tag Archives: Ferguson

This is Baltimore

Today at Penn North is a lot different than Tuesday.

** Since I originally posted this, I was (very briefly) interviewed on CNN to discuss how I feel about the first picture  and I have composed my thoughts in a blog entry— basically, not happy. Obviously I’d love if you read my thoughts, but let me sum up the problem by saying I’m a white girl from DC who is invited to go on national news programs to discuss life in West Balto. **

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Ferguson Police Department: Probably a Bunch of Awesome Guys

If you search “Ferguson” in Google news, you’ll see journalists taking back the negative things they said about the FPD, numerous comparisons of Ferguson to Benghazi, and now an officer who says the stress of Ferguson protests caused him to drive drunk. What you won’t see much of is discussion of the DOJ report on the Ferguson Police Department.  To be fair, I found that the CIA torture report was an easier to get through (though much longer) read. The 105 page PDF took me an unusually long time to get through, but now that I have read it…well, I wish I could say it was shocking. It’s definitely some fucked up shit.

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The FPD created  an environment in which the sole purpose of the police force was to make money for the city. If that sounds reasonable to you, please recall the purpose of the police is to protect and serve the citizens, not to rob your of your rights via your wallet. How does a $571 fine for tall grass or a $302 fine for manner of walking sound? To me, it sounds fucking absurd. To the FPD? Reasonable! Of course, I guess absurd crimes deserve absurd fines — after all, what is manner of walking? Since 95% of the people arrested for it were black, one can assume it’s for being black while walking.

In a city with a per capita income of $21,000, it doesn’t take a Mensa scholar to realize that forcing citizens to pay $571 for having weeds in the yard might be an impossible task. Fortunately, the city found a way to fix that: you can be arrested for not paying your fine in full and on time — many times people are given court dates within a week, so hopefully everyone in Ferguson just stockpiles all their extra pennies in case the police decide to fuck with them. Of course, police often incorrectly write the court dates or times on the citations, so even if you do have the money to pay…you might still get a warrant! Pretty messed up, huh?

But wait! There’s more! Let’s imagine you’ve been given a ridiculously high fine and you want to pay it, but you can’t afford to pay it all at once. So you send the court $20 or $50, with a letter explaining why.  Joke’s on you! Ferguson wants its money, and it wants its money NOW! The court has repeatedly rejected partial payments from citizens, claiming it can’t process them. Nothing says “we care about protecting the people we serve” like locking away old ladies for not mowing their lawns!

Oh, hold on! I’m wrong. I know what makes it clear you care about the citizens you serve: fuckin tasing them for no reason!

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 6.05.44 PMThe report repeatedly drives home the fact that the FPD uses their ECWs (Electronic Control Weapons) as the only option. While other police are trained to diffuse situations, the FPD fires their ECWs first and worries about consequences later — oh, wait. Just kidding. They don’t worry about the consequences, because there is no accountability. Almost no one bothers to fill out the reports when an ECW is used, and if they do it’s so poorly done they might as well not. Keep in mind there’s an easy way to track whether or not you fired your ECW: you have to replace the cartridge.

But it’s okay. I’m sure if the DOJ investigated other police departments, they’d be golden. I’m sure this is a one off situation that isn’t deserving of national attention. Those crazy race and class baiters should be ashamed of themselves!

Ah, yes. Totally reasonable.

Last Words: I Can’t Breathe / Why Did You Shoot Me / It’s Not Real / Mom, I’m Going to College

For as long as I can remember, I’ve campaigned to end the war on drugs. It’s caused increased violence, a loss of rights, and increased addiction. I’ve kept up on the “isolated incidents” resulting in the death of people and/or their pets, of the ruined lives. But yesterday both my heart and my faith in the American justice system shattered. It isn’t often I feel completely helpless. I’m so sorry for the family of Eric Garner; for all the families of those who have been killed by police. It’s obviously sad when anyone has their life come to an end, but to be killed by those we have chosen to protect is a tragic betrayal. If we’re supposed to trust the police to not harm us, why isn’t there the same level of accountability for them as there is for us?

At this point, whether or not Michael Brown’s hands were up has become irrelevant. The death of Brown has sparked a movement that is larger than one single action. So many people who are content with the status quo of militarized police operations are quick to point out that he was a thug, a criminal — and strong armed robbery means you deserve to be killed. If you believe that, nothing I can say or do can change your mind. That is part of who you fundamentally are. What I can teach you is that the issue is much larger than one incident. It is an American problem, and given racial and social prejudices, it is a problem that manifests itself in the black community.

If you’re uncomfortable talking about how this is a race problem, let’s start by talking about how this is a militarized police problem. This is nothing new.  Michelle Alexander wrote in The New Jim Crow:

According to the Cato Institute, in 1997 alone, the Pentagon handed over more than 1.2 million pieces of military equipment to local police departments. Similarly, the National Journal reported that between January 1997 and October 1999, the agency handled 3.4 million orders of Pentagon equipment from over eleven thousand domestic police agencies in all fifty states. Included in the bounty were “253 aircraft (including six- and seven-passenger airplanes, UH-60 Blackhawk and UH-1 Huey helicopters, 7,856 M-16 rifles, 181 grenade launchers, 8,131 bulletproof helmets, and 1,161 pairs of night-vision goggles.” A retired police chief in New Haven, Connecticut, told the New York Times, “I was offered tanks, bazookas, anything I wanted.”

Now let’s pretend for a moment that every non-indicted officer that killed a black civilian actually was within his or her rights. If officers are using their discretion and aiming to injure whites when they are also within their right to shoot to kill, then they are doing something wrong.

On the right is Dan Bilzerian. On the left is NOT Mike Brown. But that picture was used to convince people Brown was a thug. Hmm...

On the left is Dan Bilzerian. On the right is NOT Mike Brown. But that picture was used to convince people Brown was a thug. Hmm…

Michael Brown was not shot over stealing cigarillos,and it’s misrepresentative to say that the robbery led to the shooting (and this includes people on my side, saying life is worth more than cigarillos). Depressingly, I’ve heard many people say that if you don’t engage in strong armed robbery (or whatever crime it is when speaking of other individuals), you won’t have anything to worry about. I’ve read countless tweets, comments, etc from people: “I don’t commit robbery, so I don’t care about this issue.“ These people are most definitely saying that if the people who commit these crimes end up being shot, then whatever. Everyone that posted that stupid picture of Joda Cain holding a glock, with money in his mouth and liquor to his side, saying it was Brown and that he wasn’t really innocent, is guilty of this. People act like prior criminal acts make it a-ok when someone is shot. Hell, I’ve got a nolle prossed assault charge that could easily be found if the cops gunned me down. But one assault charge does not mean I deserve to die. 

I have read every single page of the grand jury documents. I cycled on this: first I was fully on Brown’s side, as evidence came out I was middle of the road, then when the docs were released I thought I might end up on Wilson’s side. Nope. After it was all said and done, thousands of pages later, I have questions. Maybe it was self defense, maybe it wasn’t. We will never know, and that is the problem. Sure, murder is a legal term and cannot be correctly applied without a trial — but in the vernacular, we use the term more loosely than in the court room. And I’m not buying an “accident.” Not for Eric Garner, not for Aiyana Jones, not for Oscar Grant. Careless, reckless endangerment of human life is a better way to say it than accident. You know what is fucking bull shit? Look at Cory Maye, who was home during a no knock raid on the duplex next door to his. Trying to protect his 2 year old daughter, he killed one of the cops that intruded into his home without announcing himself. HE was convicted of murder and sentenced to death row until, years later, the media got ahold of his story and drew attention to it. If the legal standard for murder is shooting an unannounced intruder in your home, then I think we’re safe to apply it pretty liberally when someone is laying face down on the ground without a weapon and gets shot through the lungs (Grant).

Even if it’s just that accidents are happening, it’s important to hold the police to the same letter of the law that we hold civilians. What message does it send to the community when a cop gets 11 months for shooting someone he knows isn’t armed on the BART platform, but a father exercising his 2nd amendment right and protecting his home gets sent to death row? What message is sent when a cop, 6 seconds after announcing his arrival for a raid, fires his gun into the lower level of the duplex he’s supposed to be raiding, and one of his shots lands in a child’s brain — and he’s simply charged with a misdemeanor? When the fucking MAYOR of Berwyn Heights has his dogs shot in front of him during a botched drug raid, and the PG County PD official response is “We’ve apologized for the incident, but we will never apologize for taking drugs off our streets. Quite frankly, we’d do it again. Tonight.” What message does it send when a cop throws a flash grenade into a baby’s playpen and isn’t charged with anything, while the child is forever disfigured?

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Berwyn Heights mayor Cheye Calvo

At the end of the day, human life is precious. There are certainly instances where force is justified, where it’s necessary. But it’s alarming to me that so many people seem to be okay with the notion that fatally shooting a civilian isn’t a last resort. We work to demonize the dead: you are not defined by your rap sheet, or by the ounce of pot found in your house during a drug raid that results in your own death, or by a photo of you holding stacks of hundreds. Even if you were, cops don’t get to play judge, jury, and executioner.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Share your protest stories in the comments. Title inspired by this video. 

Was Kajieme Powell Acting as a Martyr?

I’ve watched the video of Kajieme Powell being shot so many times I’m starting to feel uncomfortable with myself. Can someone please explain to me what was going on? Was he trying to mimic the Brown situation to prove a point by sacrificing himself? The petty theft and display of the meaningless products on the side of the road, across from the store he just stole them from…”I’m on Facebook, Instagram, you know who I am”…the guy filming and the other guy watching…moving to his left so the people watching wouldn’t be in the line of fire. Why am I not seeing anyone else talk about this? Can any of you point me in the direction of a news source saying this or debunking it, because I’m really confused. It looks so orchestrated. And was he even holding a knife? I don’t see one.

I know this isn’t a traditional blog post, but I really need some answers and I get a fair amount of traffic. If that is what his goal was, what he did is both tragic and phenomenal. The absurdity of the untouched energy drinks to the side with his lifeless body in the background should really drive this home for people. This behavior by the police is wrong. If his intention was to help people understand this, I think it would be a disservice to his decision to not bring it up.

The Week in Review – August 15

This was a pretty busy week for the news, but most of it has been depressing.

  • Ferguson, MO went from being treated like a war zone to being under the control of Ron Johnson, who told the Post, “When I see a young lady cry because of fear of this uniform, that’s a problem…We’ve got to solve that.”
  • The police officer who killed Michael Brown has been identified as Darren Wilson.
  • Robin Williams passed away, and people saw that as good reason to send pictures of his body (photoshopped or real) to his daughter on Twitter. Because people can be evil.
  • The most expensive car in the world, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, was just sold for $38 million. That would buy me a lot of Audi R8s, but apparently the sale price was “disappointingly” low. Whatever.
  • Finally, this TSA video made me laugh so you should watch it, too.

 

If You Give a Cop an Assault Rifle, He’s Going to Ask for a Tank

…when you give him the tank, he’ll probably take your city hostage.

(Photo on right: Scott Olson Getty Images)

One of these photos shows a peaceful protest, the other shows a riot worthy of tear gas and rubber bullets. Go figure. (Photo on right: Scott Olson Getty Images)

Last night two reporters were arrested in Ferguson, MO; one from the Huffington Post and one from the Washington Post.  It’s a really, really big deal — not that the blatant crimes against the people of Ferguson aren’t already a big deal.

Journalists aren’t better than other people, but of course journalists being arrested will make headlines. Freedom of the press is pretty valued in the US, and these reporters have resources and a following much greater than the average person. If the police are willing to do this to someone with a well established media platform, it highlights that they don’t care about any sort of checks and balances.

 

About 85% of the world’s population live in countries that don’t protect press freedom. Places like Pakistan and North Korea completely shut out foreign reporters and block websites on a national scale. That’s terrifying.  Can you imagine living that way?

By arresting members of the press who have large scale media platforms backing them, who have more Twitter followers than you or I likely ever will, who have resources and funding behind them — the Ferguson police have showed they give exactly zero fucks about anyone or any potential consequences. How can average Joe expect to be treated? Journalists aren’t better than other people, but traditionally they are protected and they  are better equipped to share their story. Is the PD even thinking at this point, or are they just doing whatever the fuck they want?

So many people say they exercise their right to bear arms as a way to go up against the government if it is ever necessary. These are the people who came out to Bundy’s ranch. Remember him? Groups of people and private militias went to his place to make sure he wouldn’t have to pay taxes to the BLM (which is totally a bullshit govt department, to be sure) for letting his cattle graze on “their” land. Okay, fine. Soooo…where are these private militias now? Oooh, that’s right. Armed white people are a protest. Unarmed black people are a riot.

We’ve let the police become a militia. We’ve let them arrest our children and destroy their lives for things as simple as smoking pot. We’ve sat quietly by as they received military grade weapons in return for these heroic acts. Now is the time to stop supporting this, to understand how the system works and why it’s being done wrong.

Any area that has a population that is primarily black and only has 3 black police officers should be considered suspect from the get go.