‘If you want peace, work for justice.’ Pope Paul VIJuly 7, 2016
President Barak Obama reportedly shared today, in the aftermath of police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, he is ‘deeply disturbed.’ Yes, we are all deeply disturbed. What now? What?
‘Campaigners say Alton Sterling and Philando Castile shootings follow line of cases in which black Americans are treated unfairly when armed – even in states where laws permit the concealed carrying of handguns.’
“No matter how well you follow the rules, you can still be dead because you’re black,” said Brittany Packnett, an activist and former member of Barack Obama’s White House policing taskforce. “Compliance has never guaranteed our safety.”
Jack Miller, a press aide to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in New Jersey, said “second amendment purists” ought to speak out in support of African American gun owners. “A white man with a gun is ‘exercising his rights’, yet a black man just suspected of having a gun is a deadly threat,” said Miller.
‘In the aftermath of back-to-back police shootings that have left two black men dead in less than 48 hours, CNN’s New Day devoted a significant amount of its July 7 show to pointing out the “bizarre disconnect” of Congress focus on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails rather than on fatal police shootings.’
On July 5, police fatally shot Alton Sterling, a black man, in Baton Rouge, LA, during an incident that was “partially captured on video.” The following day in Falcon Heights, MN, a police officer “opened fire” on Philando Castile, also a black man, during a routine traffic stop that “turned deadly.” Also on July 6, The New York Times reported on Congress’ decision to summon FBI Director James Comey to explain why he recommended “no criminal charges against Hillary Clinton” after a year-long investigation into her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
During the July 7 edition of their morning show New Day, CNN hosts Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota repeatedly underscored the apparent “disconnect” between Congress’ decision to continue pursuing an investigation of Clinton’s emails by interviewing FBI Director James Comey in a hearing while not focusing on the back-to-back police shootings. During the first hour, CNN legal analyst Laura Coates slammed Congress for a “tone-deafness” in prioritizing its inquiry into Clinton’s emails even after the shootings, adding “it shows an absolute insensitivity.”
The hosts also challenged members of Congress who made appearances on the show.
Cuomo asked Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) whether addressing the shootings would be “a better discussion to be having” than focusing on “the politics of email.” Camerota pressed Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) on the shootings, asking, “What can Congress do about this feeling in the black community?”
Cuomo later doubled down by asking Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) whether the shootings gave him “pause for concern regarding” Congress’ chosen focus:
The show’s decision to focus on the police shootings while challenging Congress for prioritizing a matter someconsider to be “totally overblown” is refreshing in an environment where media often portray victims of color as deserving of brutal treatment and some networks like Fox News practically ignore such tragedies by devoting scant coverage to them.
‘Should you find yourself in the position to be a citizen journalist, heed these tips from Bock and the ACLU’s Stanley:
Maintain your right to record. Police do not have the right to take your phone if you’re not committing a crime, and they need a warrant to search it. In Sharp v. Baltimore City Police Department, the court ruled that the public has the right to videotape or photograph public police activity in public places.
Capture as much information as you can. The video out of North Charleston was powerful because it was a wide shot, said Bock. “The person who was taping that was far enough away to not get involved, but close enough to see what happened.” Moreover, the video was released as one continuous shot, which makes the timing look more faithful. Context is critical to capturing as full a story as possible.
Be respectful. You legally may not interfere with police procedure, and you should not be argumentative or aggressive, said Bock. Instead, she recommends, a civilian monitor should maintain a distance and remind the officer of their rights: “I’m a member of the public, I’m in a public space, you’re doing public work, and I’m just documenting what’s going on.”
Be mindful of other laws. Just because you have the right to record doesn’t mean you have the right to trespass or damage property in the process.
If you are stopped, ask to leave. You cannot be detained without reasonable suspicion that you have committed, or are about to commit, a crime. If you ask to leave and are denied, this constitutes unlawful detention.
Remember that a video is not the be-all-end-all. Both Bandele and Stanley point to the story of Eric Garner, whose choking death while in police custody was recorded and viewed widely, as evidence that a video may be just one part of an overall justice process. In Garner’s case, the officer’s use of force was deemed justified, and he was not indicted. Video technology “is neither a silver bullet nor useless,” said Stanley. “Cameras aren’t going to solve every problem in our criminal justice system, but sometimes they can reveal those problems.”
‘No one can breathe in this atmosphere.’
Back in June, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote at length, and in the starkest and most personal terms, about what it means to be policed in America when you are “black or brown.” In the final section of her dissent in Utah v. Strieff—a Fourth Amendment case that probed whether the existence of an outstanding arrest warrant could serve as retroactive justification for an otherwise illegal police stop—Sotomayor described how it feels to be stopped, searched, and frightened if you are not white. “For generations, black and brown parents have given their children ‘the talk,’ ” she wrote, “instructing them to never run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger—all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react.”
With citations from W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, Sotomayor warned her colleagues that seemingly trivial police encounters may prove to be life-and-death experiences for people of color and argued that the courts cannot continue to pretend every brush with a cop is benign. Her conclusion, a reminder to her colleagues of the risks of being stopped when black, seems even more apt today:
We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.
“Victims of police shootings have no authorities to call, no higher-ups to summon.”
‘There is no evidence that the officers involved in the St. Paul and Baton Rogue shootings have any ties to white supremacist groups or hold racist views. Official investigations will determine whether the shootings were justified or not. The frequency of such incidents, however, suggests at the least that commonplace cultural attitudes about class and race make police stops very dangerous for young black men. And the 2006 FBI report argues that sometimes there are even worse motives at play.
“Several key events preceded the report,” Jones wrote. “A federal court found that members of a Los Angeles sheriff’s department formed a neo-Nazi gang and habitually terrorized the black community. Later, the Chicago police department fired Jon Burge, a detective with reputed ties to the Ku Klux Klan, after discovering he tortured over 100 black male suspects. Thereafter, the mayor of Cleveland discovered that many of the city police locker rooms were infested with ‘White Power’ graffiti. Years later, a Texas sheriff department discovered that two of its deputies were recruited for the Klan.”‘
‘…for black Americans, as expertly showcased in the recent ESPN documentary about the OJ Simpson murder case, the reality of policing in the U.S. is very different. Last year, another African-American comedian, Chris Rock, posted to social media several photos of him being stopped by police. In one post, he wrote: “Stopped by the cops again — wish me luck.”
‘Something is horribly wrong.’
‘This is an epidemic.’
‘The dam is gonna break.’
‘The salvation of man is through love and in love.’