In Ferguson, DOJ Probe Only Confirms What Community Has Long Known

‘What the DOJ has memorialized on paper, we will memorialize in action.’
—Tory Russell, Hands Up United

"Hands up!" sign displayed at a Ferguson protest. (Photo:  Jamelle Bouie/flickr/cc)
“Hands up!” sign displayed at a Ferguson protest. (Photo:  Jamelle Bouie/flickr/cc)

 

— by Sarah Lazare, staff writer

A Department of Justice probe into the now-notorious Ferguson Police Department confirmed Wednesday what residents of this majority-black city in Missouri have long charged: racism is endemic throughout the local “justice” system—manifesting in everything from traffic stops to predatory court fines to physical attacks.

Now, the activists whose sustained protests put Ferguson in the global spotlight are responding to the revelations with observations of their own. They say the abuses documented in the DOJ’s 102-page review are not new information to municipal residents; they are not unique to Ferguson; and, ultimately, they constitute a call-to-action.

“What the DOJ has memorialized on paper, we will memorialize in action,” said Tory Russell, cofounder of Hands Up United, which was formed shortly after the August fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

Russell continued in a public statement:

Ferguson is just a symptom of an international problem, one that is fueled by social, economic, and racial inequality, by a lack of access to education, resources, employment, and one that wont go away until we take an introspective look at ourselves as a nation and as a global community facing daily flashpoints between the privileged and the repressed.

“Ferguson is a microcosm of how marginalized communities interact with the state, but also a spark that inevitably stokes that flames of justice in the hearts and minds of people of all creeds peppered throughout this country.” —Tory Russell, Hands Up United

The DOJ, is an organ in these systems of inequality.  The same CS gas that police used to disperse our assemblies in Ferguson, is the same CS gas, manufactured here in the US with support from US taxpayers, that is used to disperse assemblies in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  For those of us on the receiving end of this gas our struggles are intertwined.

Moreover, our socio-economic systems appear to thrive in (or at the very least, understand) the chaos of flashpoints between the haves and have-nots.  What is harder, for everyone to understand to and address, is how to challenge the predicate series of systemic injustices that fuel and fertilize these flashpoints.

Ferguson is a microcosm of how marginalized communities interact with the state, but also a spark that inevitably stokes that flames of justice in the hearts and minds of people of all creeds peppered throughout this country.

Additionally included in the press statement were remarks by Tef Poe, also a cofounder of Hands Up United, who said:

While we should not diminish the significance of the DOJ’s findings, and the prospect of subsequent attempts to reform policing in Ferguson and St. Louis, we also need to remain cognizant to the fact that Ferguson is but a microcosm of repressive and violent community-police interactions nation-wide.

Today the DOJ’s report has validated that traffic stops in Ferguson disproportionately target people of color and Ferguson courts have become sources of revenue – straying away from their purpose of protecting our communities. We who live this, every day, having been slapped with exhaustive series of tickets, or bench warrants, for our minor infractions, or due to simple mistakes, already knew this.

“This is not news for those of us who have felt a baton in our back or a boot on our neck— moreover, the incidents Ferguson Police choose not to document are perhaps the most frightening and hardest for us to forget.” —Tef Poe, Hands Up United

In incident reports filed by Ferguson Police, detailed in the DOJ report, nearly all of the situations wherein police used force were against people of color. This is not news for those of us who have felt a baton in our back or a boot on our neck— moreover, the incidents Ferguson Police choose not to document are perhaps the most frightening and hardest for us to forget.

To see what we have been saying and living for decades validated by the Department of Justice is not insignificant, but these problems are like a cancer—whether the symptoms spread through a body or a whole community, they cannot be addressed piecemeal. To isolate and exemplify Ferguson, is to infatuate over the finger while the organs of our State and the soul of our Country continue to metastasize.

To begin to address this cancer we must first begin by viewing it as such.  This cancer is one that saturates everything—like smoke lingering on your clothes after a night out—and it is not reserved for a specific demographic.  This smoke lingers on our clothes inasmuch as it lingers on Darren Wilson’s blood stained uniform —the only difference is that we’re ready to change that. ”

Organizers with Millennial Activists United, a youth-led, grassroots coalition in the St. Louis area, put it succinctly:

The DOJ’s release of the report, which coincided with its announcement that it will not prosecute Wilson for shooting Brown, prompted protests on Wednesday against racial disparities. Numerous eye witnesses say that police arrested those who gathered to demonstrate, sparking renewed outrage among local organizers, including the network Ferguson Action:

Raven Rakia pointed out in The Nation on Thursday that police practices in Ferguson, and local resistance, have nation-wide implications.

“The flames of Ferguson following Michael Brown’s death captured the country’s attention, and brought the Justice Department to town,” wrote Rakia. “But what of all the other small and big cities across the United States engaging in the same practices? If we are to look towards Ferguson as a lesson, changes may come only following a sustained grassroots movement from those directly affected.”


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Our Star-Spangled Banner Waves for All of Us

The racist attacks on a young Mexican-American prodigy who sang the National Anthem didn’t occur in a vacuum.
By 

Raul A. ReyesBefore game three of the recent NBA Finals in San Antonio, Sebastien de la Cruz stepped up to the microphone and belted out the National Anthem. Decked out in his mariachi suit, the 11-year-old “America’s Got Talent” alum wowed the crowd with his singing.

On social media, racism reared its head. “This lil Mexican snuck into the country like 4 hours ago now he is singing the anthem,” read a tweet that formed part of an online river of hate. “This kid is Mexican why is he singing the national anthem,” tweeted another commenter, adding the hashtag #gohome.

sebastien-delacruz-reyesIt’s sad that a child should become the target of such ugly, anti-immigrant sentiment. However, these views didn’t arise in a vacuum. The fact is that Republican lawmakers have become accustomed to demonizing immigrants, to the detriment of our civil discourse and to their own party. Meanwhile, our nation continues to grow more diverse, putting the GOP out of step with a changing America.

After the 2012 presidential election, in which Latino voters overwhelmingly backed Barack Obama, the smart approach for the GOP would have been to adopt a more inclusive tone towards Latinos in particular and immigrants in general. That’s not what happened.

In May, Representative Don Young (R-AK) used the term “wetbacks” in a radio interview. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) routinely refers to undocumented people by the pejorative term “illegals.” Recently, Representative Steve King (R-IA) complained about the “illegal aliens” who “invaded” his office, in reference to the young, undocumented immigrants who organized a protest there.

The young people were protesting in King’s office because he sponsored a bill to defund the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to adjust their status. King and his Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives passed the anti-DACA measure knowing full well it has zero chance of becoming law.

Why? Because they have no qualms about being seen as openly hostile to immigrants.  Moreover, House Republicans remain opposed to comprehensive immigration reform.

These narrow views put them outside of the political mainstream. A recent New York Times poll found that 83 percent of Americans support comprehensive reform, including a path to citizenship for the undocumented. The anti-immigrant crowd is also bringing down their party. The research firm Latino Decisions has found that when Republican politicians speak negatively about immigrants, it doesn’t only reflect poorly on them, it gives Hispanic voters a negative view of the Republican Party as well.

As Republican lawmakers continue with this rhetoric, our country is undergoing a demographic shift. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that for the first time, the number of racial and ethnic minority babies being born has passed that of white babies. The District of Columbia, Hawaii, California, New Mexico, and Texas are already “minority-majority” states, and eight other states will join this list by 2020.

If the GOP does not soon adopt a “big tent” approach, it risks marginalizing itself as a national party.

Yes, the changing face of the U.S. may seem frightening to some people. But the GOP shouldn’t play upon these fears — it should help dispel them. Consider that the Pew Hispanic Center has found that Latino immigrants assimilate and learn English just like every other group before them. Or even that the pint-sized mariachi crooner de la Cruz was born in Texas — the son of a U.S. Navy veteran.

This story has a happy ending. The San Antonio Spurs invited de la Cruz back a second time, to sing the National Anthem at game four of the NBA Finals. Everyone from President Barack Obama to “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria wished him well, and he nailed his encore performance.

With determination and confidence, young Sebastien triumphed over bigotry. What could be more American than that?

You can watch Sebastien de la Cruz singing the national anthem on YouTube.


Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City.
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

Finally Confirmed: GOP ‘IS’ Out of Touch

GOP Report Shows Party is Out of Touch With Americans on Threats to Democracy: Money in Politics and Voter Suppression

The Republican National Committee released a report today reviewing its losses in the 2012 election cycle and laying out a roadmap for the future of the party.  People For the American Way Vice President Marge Baker released the following statement:

“This report highlights what we already knew: that the Republican party is out of touch with America. Instead of addressing the party’s anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-worker policies that voters resoundingly rejected in 2012, today’s report calls for a complete gutting of campaign finance reform – in essence calling for even more big money to be poured into our elections.  If the Republican party were listening to Americans, they would know that the country supports finding systemic solutions to the problem of unregulated money in our political system.  The answer is certainly not to gut the regulations we already have in place.  Instead, we need to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC and related cases so that we can create more effective regulations to get big money out of our democracy.

“The GOP report’s recommendations on voting rights also underscore a continuing focus on keeping certain voters from the polls.  After an election cycle overflowing with examples of discriminatory voter suppression efforts aimed at historically disenfranchised communities, the report recommends an ongoing focus on so-called  ‘ballot security training initiatives.’  This is simply another phrase for the same voter intimidation tactics used in the name of preventing supposed ‘voter fraud.’  It’s baffling that the GOP thinks it can improve its image with people of color while still working to block their access to the ballot box.

“This report is yet another example that the GOP’s ‘soul-searching’ hasn’t gotten them very far.  It’s time to refocus our efforts on getting the big money out of elections and the voters into the voting booth.”

Ready to go?

Just exactly how much lipstick have they purchased?  Maybeline and Revlon combined couldn’t make enough lipstick to take care of that pachyderm.

Yesterday— the Republican National Committee released its wide-ranging “autopsy” report called the “Growth And Opportunity Project Report.” In it, the party admits to several shortcomings that contributed to the party’s wide losses in the 2012 election. A portion of the report includes market research from voter focus groups around the country. Not surprisingly, when asked to describe Republicans, respondents said that the party was “scary,” “narrow-minded,” “out of touch,” and full of “stuffy old men.”  What’s most interesting is that the report failed to quantify just how out of touch their party has become on a number of issues, from climate change, to marriage equality, to universal background checks, to women’s rights, to the minimum wage, and more.

The GOP thinks they merely have a messaging problem … and just need to change a few words they used to talk about things.  HAH! Now that’s a joke and a half.  Maybe they should look at their 2012 Platform. Better yet, maybe they should look at what is happening in State Legislatures and what members of their party have introduced in the Congress:

  • Restricting access to or insurance reimbursement of costs associated with an abortion;
  • Restricting time frames in which a woman could seek an abortion to 12-weeks and in on case, to 6-weeks from conception;
  • Mandating the use of transvaginal ultrasounds and other medically unnecessary procedures as a means to shame women;
  • Gleefully and gloatingly defunding Planned Parenthood;
  • Attempting to elevate “religious” rights above all others to allow zealots to assert their religious rights to deny all types of service and/or medications should it offend “their” personal religious beliefs, making their beliefs superior to yours;
  • Continually attempting to repeal Obamacare and providing NO replacement;
  • Promoting continued systemic discrimination against the LGBT community, as a whole, via marriage inequality espoused throughout our Nation’s income tax and estate tax structures;
  • Attempting to enact one voter suppression tactic after another to disenfranchise voters as well as restricting early voting opportunities;
  • Continually filibustering one bill after another, even those introduced by Republicans;
  • Blocking Consumer Financial Protection and making multiple attempts to repeal Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform;
  • Promoting racial profiling as a means of harassment to convince Hispanics to “self-deport’ ;
  • Promoting Personhood for embryos and essentially demoting women’s status to nothing more than an incubator;
  • Replacing Democracy with Dictatorships (Overseers);
  • Promoting fatherhood visitation rights for rapists.

I’m sure I’ve missed of few other big issues we’ve had to overcome … but need I go on?  There’s a politically incorrect term we frequently used when I was in the Navy to define that kind of behavior.  The term stars with “cluster.”  The GOPs (Grouchy Old Patriarchs) problem is much more than a “messaging” problem.  It’s a policy problem and we should cheer them on  in pursuit of their messaging delusion.  It will most certainly shorten their path to minor party status.  We may have a few challenges to overcome in the short run, but we’ll all be much better off in the long run.

Don’t believe me?  See for yourself,  take your pick, click a pic or two.  Read/compare a few — then compare the numbers.

2012-GOP-Platform GOP Growth Opportunity Rpt 2009-GOP-Road-to-Recovery 2010-GOP-Better-Solutions
GOP 2012 Platform GOP Growth Opportunites 2009 Path to Recovery 2010-Better Solutions
2010-Pledge-to-America Path to Poverty v1.0 Path to Poverty v2.0 Path to Poverty v3.0
2010-Pledge to America P2P v1.0 P2P v2.0 P2P v3.0

What Post-Racial America?

It will take more than President Barack Obama’s tenure to vanquish American prejudice and racial injustice.

— by Emily Schwartz Greco and William A. Collins

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Having an African-American president is convenient. It boosts U.S. credibility in the Global South and makes us look like we’re making progress toward wiping out racism when we’re not.

But it will take more than President Barack Obama’s tenure to vanquish American prejudice and racial injustice. Four years after he took office, it remains perilous to be black or brown. Racial profiling remains rampant. Schools are, if anything, becoming even more segregated. The Voting Rights Act, under attack at the Supreme Court, is as necessary as ever.

And our growing poverty falls most heavily, as usual, on people of color.

Obama didn’t personally cause this decline. He surely craves its reversal as much as the rest of us. But how much political capital can a black president afford to spend on trying to turn around social prejudices in an all-too-racist society? Not much, it seems.

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New York and Chicago police officers and Southern sheriffs may dominate as iconic perpetrators of stop-and-frisk and racial profiling, but for law enforcers everywhere, this tactic remains a national pastime. Since black and Latino drivers are pulled over out of proportion to their numbers, they face much more frequent arrest, even in San Francisco and other liberal bastions.

A recent ruling by a federal judge may, however, put a stop to New York City’s overzealous stop-and-frisk practices, which can have the same impact on pedestrians of color.

The once-dominant white majority now comprises just over half the nation’s public school students, yet school segregation remains entrenched. Consider what the Civil Rights Project, a research group based at the University of California, terms “intense segregation.” It’s becoming the norm at our public schools. Today, more than one-third of Latino and African-American students attend schools where whites comprise less than 10 percent of their classmates.

This kind of extreme segregation is far more common today for Latino children than it was in 1968. And more than one in seven African-American and Latino kids attend what the Civil Rights Project calls “apartheid” schools, where fewer than 1 percent of their classmates are white.

Unfortunately, traditional integration techniques won’t fix this entrenched problem.Boston’s public school system, for example, retains only 13 percent white students. How do you integrate that?

Meanwhile, the Boston-based group United for a Fair Economy reports that the nationwide incarceration rate is six times higher for blacks than whites, that blacks and Latinos endure a median family income only 57 percent as high as whites, and that African-American unemployment is roughly double the Caucasian rate.

You can’t run a successful society with such stark inequality.


Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. OtherWords.org

What Does “Conservative Judicial Activism” Look Like

— by Erin Neff, Executive Director, ProgressNow Nevada

The majority on the U.S. Supreme Court continues to stridently put politics above justice as it finishes its radical term this week.

Today the court upheld the most controversial aspect of Arizona’s immigration law — the portion that all but sanctions racial profiling. While the court did strike down the majority of the law as unconstitutional, some of the conservative justices wanted to uphold the entire thing.

And Justice Antonin Scalia, a Reagan appointee, used the bench to speak out about President Obama’s recent executive order giving “dreamers” (those who would qualify under the DREAM Act) a path to citizenship.

How is that blind justice?

This is the most radical court in history. The majority — Reagan and Bush appointees — issue opinions that break court rules and shatter common sense.

How else can you explain corporations are people?

Today the court upheld its horrific Citizens United opinion by overturning an attempt by Montana to try to regulate the unfettered corporate money in its political system.

This radical Roberts Court is the precise reason Sheldon Adelson can spend tens of millions of dollars to try to impact the presidential election. It’s the reason the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove and their affiliated “non-profits” have spent multiple millions on ads calling for the repeal of health care reform.

In Nevada, these groups have spent $4.4 million on TV ads calling for the repeal of Obamacare. They’ve outspent supporters of health insurance 4-to-1. Citizen’s United will never create an even system because it allows those with the money to speak the loudest.

On Thursday, the court is expected to announce its decision on the Affordable Care Act as corporations and their puppet on the presidential trail scream for repeal.

We know there’s power in people. And we’re thankful Obamacare has insured 22,000 young adults and 750 people with pre-existing conditions right here in Nevada.

Check out this video thanking Obamacare for providing access to health coverage for millions of Americans.  Watch it and share it. Together we can stand up to the corporate money. Together we can stand against a radical court. And together we can say Thanks Obamacare.