Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What really happened to Sandra Bland?

By Charles Brooks



We paid attention and took notice of the disturbing trend.  We read the stories and saw the videos of not only blatant police harassment but of vicious police violence visited not on black men – but on Black and Brown women.  All across the country we saw it over and over - Black women pushed, punched, kicked, and at times suffering this violence while being handcuffed by the police. In those cases that did managed to reach national attention, we saw that these Black women were college professors, house wives, bathing suit clad teenagers and yes – even pregnant Black women felt the brunt of this police violence. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Throwaways: who are they?

 
 
Curiously, let’s start with the name of the film – The Throwaways.  What immediately comes to mind when you think of term throwaways - what comes to mind first? Items, things that you no longer want or need. An item that is no longer working or has passed its usefulness to you.  Items or things that do not meet your needs or demands any more. Spoiled food, batteries, shoes, clothes…the list can go on and on for sure. This film, The Throwaways is not about things but about people – people who are routinely dismissed, neglected, and yes – thrown away. Think about that for minute or two - the high school dropout, unemployed, the homeless, the drug addict, and yes, your convicted ex-felon are your typical throwaways.  There’s this notion that they are less than human with little or no value.  Simply put, they’re not look upon in the same way as those whose humanity is recognized. Featured in the film is Michelle Alexander, author of widely acclaimed, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the age of Age of Colorblindness explains it this way in the film:”… That’s ultimately what The Throwaways is all about, right… groups of people who are defined as different enough that you don’t have to care and can be just thrown away…”

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What really happened to Freddy Gray?


An encounter on April 12th – a fatal encounter - between Freddie Gray and Baltimore City Police officers left Gray comatose with devastating spinal injuries.  Initial reports indicate that 80 percent of his spinal cord was severed leaving Gray with essentially a broken spinal vertebrae, and a crushed voice box.  Gray died from those injuries a week later on April 19th.  In the two months since Gray died from horrific spinal injuries occurring while in police custody, questions remain unanswered; what exactly happened to Freddy Gray and how did he die?  

A narrative quickly began to develop that Gray was somehow responsible for his own death. The original reports of Gray's death that determined that Gray died of a head wound from a bolt sticking out within the van. Then there were reports about another prisoner in the police van with Gray who disputed initial reports that he said Gray was “banging against the wall” and “intentionally trying to hurt himself”.  The public were fed a story line that framed Gray’s injuries occurring during what’s called a “nickel ride” – reminiscent of the cheap and rocky rides at the local amusement park. The prisoner is handcuffed but not secured with a seatbelt – so they will bounce around inside the van as the police van drives through traffic, making turns and sudden stops.

There was a “leaked” autopsy report that Gray suffered from what the report described as a “high energy” injury while making a comparison to injuries suffered from shallow-water diving accidents. The report states: The type of fracture/dislocation documented in imaging studies on admission is a high energy injury most often caused by abrupt deceleration of a rotated head on a hyperflexed neck, such as seen in shallow water diving incidents.”  

The autopsy report also revealed toxicology results where cannaboids and opiates were found while pointing out Gray’s apparent aggressive behavior as “yelling, banging and causing the van to rock”.  See this excerpt from the autopsy report: “…After the inner and outer doors were closed, it is reported that Mr. Gray could be heard yelling and banging, causing the van to rock.  No injuries that would suggest the use of a neck hold, Taser deployment or physical restraint, other than wrist and ankle cuffs, were identified…” 

As daily protests began to take hold, Baltimore quickly became the latest flashpoint in the national resistance to police violence as uprisings quickly followed suit across the country.  Protesters were routinely dismissed and characterized as “outside agitators” and a “lynch mob”.  The scent of a police coverup began to carry a heavy stench as community tensions escalate while critical questions were left unanswered. 

The winds of resistance blew stronger and stronger in Baltimore where within hours of laying Gray to rest, a rebellious confrontation with the police emerged. The world witnessed an open rebellion on the streets of America as images splashed across the television screen of Baltimore students hurling rocks, stones and metal pipes at a battalion of Baltimore police officers clad in military and riot gear.  These young people took matters into their own hands apparently disgusted by their own daily experience of police harassment and violence – they decided to fight back the only way they knew how. The images were so foreign to the typical American – they were more reminiscent of the battles in the Middle East of young Palestinians pummeling the Israeli military. While the rebellious actions in Baltimore were immediately and widely condemned as "thugs" by the president and yes, the mayor. 

In the two months since the Baltimore Rebellion in Baltimore, there are reported plans to build a $30 million youth jail, divert nearly $12 million allocated for Baltimore City schools towards pensions, thousands are fighting turnoff notices for delinquent water bills, while FEMA rejected Baltimore’s request for disaster aid to cover the millions lost in property damage.

The pressing question should be where will the next uprising take place and how will the people respond to the next case of police violence.  Over the last year or so, more and more people are realizing this is a real human rights issue that has become a national crisis. You have seen the many nationwide protests and acts of civil disobedience, and fierce uprisings attracting international support over this issue of police violence.  For years now, black and brown communities all across the nation recognized the police as an intruding force who have clearly abused their power thus shattering this notion of public trust.  But the recent rash of escalating police violence not only shows the apparent lack of accountability afforded to police officers but really provides some insight to the extent of the political support police departments across the country have. 



Eric Garner, was he resisting arrest or resisting harassment, Part I

Eric Garner, was he resisting arrest or resisting harassment, Part II

 
 


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pres. Obama's Task Force: The Battle for the Public Trust begins...

By Charles Brooks

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
The interim report recently released by President Obama’s task force on policing will shed some light on their view of the public trust - a view that is not shared by those who seek more than just a laundry list of recommendations to address police violence.  The report was released just days before the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report of their investigation into the Ferguson Police Department – a flashpoint of racial frustrations and deep seated tensions unleashed in the face of aggressive and excessive policing.  A rather scathing report that detailed the apparent racist activities engaged not just by the Ferguson police officers but the Ferguson municipal government. However, the explosiveness of DOJ’s Ferguson report on the Ferguson Police Department should not be allowed to overshadow the president’s task force interim report because as the president himself said: “This time will be different,” President Obama said, regarding the effectiveness of the task force compared to prior ones, “because the President of the United States is deeply vested in making it different.”


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Attorney General Confirmation Hearings: "...I will be Loretta Lynch."

By Charles Brooks


 
Confirmation hearings were recently held for President’s Obama’s nominee for U.S. Attorney General, Ms. Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder, who resigned four months ago.  Ms. Lynch currently serves as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.  If confirmed, Ms. Lynch would be the first African American woman to lead the Department of Justice – certainly a plus for the President’s legacy. Since the start of the Obama administration, both the President and Attorney General – both African Americans – have been the source of some very intense opposition and hostility from Republicans. When Holder announced his resignation, he was immediately described as “the most divisive U.S. Attorney General in modern history” by Republican Congressman Dan Issa, who serves as Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  This is what Mr. Issa had to say: “Eric Holder is the most divisive U.S. Attorney General in modern history and, in a vote supported by 17 Democratic House Members, has the dubious historic distinction of being the first Attorney General held in criminal contempt by the U.S. House of Representatives,” said Chairman Issa. “Time and again, Eric Holder administered justice as the political activist he describes himself as instead of an unbiased law enforcement official.  By needlessly injecting politics into law enforcement, Attorney General Holder’s legacy has eroded more confidence in our legal system than any Attorney General before him. Republicans have attacked Mr. Holder on critical national issues such as voting rights, terrorism, and immigration while pointing to controversial issues such as the Fast and Furious and IRS scandals.