The Nationwide Aftermath of the Michael Brown Shooting

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U.S. President Barack Obama has orders the examination of federal programs and funding allowing state and local enforcement to purchase military hardware out of concern at how much equipment was used during the racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, according to a senior Obama administration official on Saturday, Steve Holland and Andrea Shalal report, Obama orders review of U.S. police use of military hardware. The review will be led by White House staff including the Domestic Policy Council, the National Security Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and relevant U.S. agencies including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury, and conducted in coordination with Congress. At the White House news conference Monday, Obama said he wanted to make sure police purchase equipment needed because there is “a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred.” A growing number of lawmakers have voiced concerned over the militarization of U.S. police forces through programs facilitated by the Pentagon, Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security. House of Representative lawmakers defeated a bill to halt the 1033 program, which allows the purchase of this equipment, 355-62 vote in June, however concerns about the handling of the crisis in Ferguson have revived the reform effort. The article reports: “The Pentagon has transferred more than $4 billion of equipment including armored vehicles, tents, rifles and night-vision goggles to local and state agencies since 2006, of which about 36 percent involved new equipment. Over the past year alone, the Pentagon said, it has transferred some 600 armored military trucks known as MRAPS that were built for the war in Iraq. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security has awarded more than $35 billion in grants over the past decade.” U.S. weapons makers have been eying other markets for years to drum up business for their products developed for the military to offset declines in U.S. and European military spending.

Back in Ferguson, Michael Brown Sr., the fathers of the unarmed black teenager shot to death by a police officer, asked Sunday for protests to pause on the day of his son’s funeral, Mollie Reilly reports, Michael Brown’s Father Asks For Pause In Protests On Day Of Son’s Funeral. He told BuzzFeed, “I would like for no protesting going on. We just want a moment of silence that whole day. Just out of respect for our son.” Saturday marked the two week anniversary of the shooting with Brown’s father telling KSHB regarding officer Darren Wilson, the man who shot Michael Brown: “We’re hurt. There’s no telling what he’s doing. He has his life, but our son is gone.” Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree told NBC, “I think the first thing that needs to happen, you need to arrest Officer Wilson. He shot and killed a man, shot him multiple times. No one knows anything about him, no one knows why he did it.” The Christian Science Monitor points out not all agree that Wilson should be taken into custody as one law professor at Harvard was quoted as saying, “We should not arrest [Officer Darren Wilson] until there’s a substantial level of proof of criminality, even if it appeared that the police acted improperly.” Unfortunately, Missouri’s Defense of Jurisdiction statute fives police officers broad authority to use deadly force in cases when, “He or she reasonably believes that such deadly force is necessary to protect himself, when he reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest” and when the subject “May otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.” The Business Insider points out that if Wilson is charged for Brown’s death, his attorney can invoke the law by arguing that he believed Brown posed a serious threat to his life. Wilson’s supporters have started fundraising campaigns for the officer including a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $230,000 and two Facebook pages in support of Wilson have almost 100,000 likes. CNN reports, “It may be until mid-October before the panel gets through all of the evidence. That’s so important to see as much evidence as they can. So if this officer … is charged, it may not happen until then.” Until then, Salon notes that the prosecution has two choices: first, “immediately press charges, issue a warrant for the officer’s arrest and arrest Officer Wilson.” Or it could hold back, then “present the case to a grand jury and see if the grand jury will find probable cause to indict the officer.” Regardless of whether Wilson is soon arrested, the grand jury would still have to find probable cause before he would be indicted. Michael Brown’s funeral is scheduled for Monday.

As for the man of the hour, Darren Wilson remains a bit of mystery yet many have rallied around the somewhat disgraced officer thanks to the less than fair media coverage of the officer. Wilson supporters agree the media is a perpetrator believing he has been misrepresented and maligned since the shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, according to Matt Sledge, Darren Wilson Supporters Rally To Bash Media, Ferguson Protesters. Sharon, one of many people who only offered a first name or no name at all said, “It takes two sides to every story, and I think he has gotten such a bad rap.” A 12 person grand jury began considering whether to indict Wilson for his role in Brown’s death on Wednesday with some supporters expressing sympathy for Brown’s family, while few others, seemed to think the 18 year old should be spared the rush to judgement that Officer Wilson received. There has been three nights of peace in Ferguson following days of violent clashes with police and protestors directly following the shooting. While both black and white protestors have come out every night in Ferguson, no African Americans appeared to attend the pro-Wilson gathering. The Washington Post reported Wilson worked previously at a department that was disbanded by authorities over racial tension in Jennings, Missouri, three years ago when Wilson was a rookie cop. The newspaper described the department as “a mainly white department mired in controversy and notorious for its fraught relationship with residents, especially the African American majority… not an ideal place to learn how to police.” The city council decided that tensions between officers and black residents were so bad that everyone had to be fired to build a new, more credible department. Just days after Brown was killed, Kajieme Powell, another black man was fatally shot by police after allegedly stealing energy drinks and donuts from a convenience store. St. Louis Police said the man was armed with a knife, but raw video of the incident appears contradictory. Later last week, Lieutenant Ray Albers of the St. Ann Police was suspended after being filmed pointing a semi-automatic rifle at a protestor and threatening to kill him. On Aug. 22, St. Louis County officer Dan Page was removed from duty after a video of him making bigoted comments was released.

As Natasha Bach points out, Police Violence Has Been Going On Forever. No Wonder People Are Fed Up With It, the fact remains that the number of people killed by police annually is unknown, but we do know that five unarmed black men have been killed by police in the last month alone. Besides protestors protesting the Aug. 9 shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, they are voicing their anger at an old police problem namely the violence directed at black and brown people. Besides the Michael Brown and Kajieme Powell shooting, here are a few other instances of excessive force used by police nationwide from Bach’s report:

“The horrific beating of Rodney King by five police officers in Los Angeles in 1991 — and the subsequent acquittal of his assailants — sparked the L.A. riots of 1992, leading to 53 deaths, some at the hands of police. It was also a video introduction to police brutality for those in America who may have doubted its severity.

Twenty years later, a police beating or shooting has a decent chance of getting caught on camera — either the one on the phone in everybody’s hand or the surveillance camera pointing down at the street. The latter captured Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic homeless man, being beaten to death by authorities in Fullerton, California, after being mistaken for a suspect in a series of car break-ins in the area. They, too, were acquitted.

Footage shows Oscar Grant being restrained by BART transit officers on the train platform in Oakland, California, following an altercation. Unarmed and lying on the platform, Grant was shot to death by James Mehserle, who claimed to have mistaken his gun for his taser. The alleged accidental death of Grant at the Fruitvale BART station was memorialized in last year’s film Fruitvale Station.

In June, Edgar Vargas Arzate was running from police in Santa Ana, California, near where Thomas was beaten, before surrendering in the front yard of a neighbor’s home. He was lying unarmed and face-down in the grass, but officers still savagely beat Arzate. When he was taken into custody, he was charged with assaulting an officer.

In July, Staten Island resident Eric Garner was suspected by the NYPD of selling untaxed cigarettes. When he refused arrest, an officer put the asthmatic man in a chokehold. Garner repeatedly screamed ‘I can’t breathe!’ and died soon after.”

What happened to America?!

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Courtesy of Jack Cluth on the blog, What Would Jack Do?

On Thursday, federal authorities filed an indictment in federal court in San Francisco charging FedEx with assisting two related online pharmacies by knowingly delivering painkillers and dangerous drugs to customers without prescriptions for ten years ending in 2010. Paul Elias reports, FedEx Charged With Knowingly Delivering Dangerous Drugs To Customers Without Prescriptions, that the Department of Justice announced the charges in Washington, D.C. demanding FedEx forfeit $820 million earned by assisting the illicit pharmacies. The Memphis, Tennessee based delivery company stands accused of shipping Ambien- a powerful sleep aid,  anti-anxiety medications Valium and Xanax and other drugs to customers without legitimate medical need and a lack of valid prescription. In a written statement, company spokesman Patrick Fitzgerald said, “We will plead not guilty. We will defend against this attack on the integrity and good name of FedEx and its employees.” In addition, Fitzgerald said the DEA refused their request for a list of online pharmacies under investigation making it impossible for the company to know which companies are operating illegally. However, the Justice Department claims that federal officials told FedEx since 2004 that it was shipping dangerous drugs without prescriptions alleging that couriers in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia warned executives about suspicious drug deliveries. Last year, rival company UPS paid $40 million to resolve similar allegations and took steps to block illicit online drug dealers from using their service. Both companies said in regulatory filings that they had been served with grand jury subpoenas between 2007 and 2009, Elias reports. The investigation came in response to the increase in online pharmacies launched in 2005 in San Francisco leading to  dozens of arrests, thousands of websites shuttered and tens of millions of dollars and pills seized worldwide. The executive director of Express Association of America, a trade group created by FedEx, UPS and three other service said there is no industry wide effort to address the policing of prescription drug deliveries. A federal jury in 2012 convicted three men of operating illegal pharmacies using FedEx and UPS to deliver drugs without prescriptions and seven others were convicted in San Francisco previously.

In Los Angeles, the Associate Press article, Lawsuit filed in LA woman’s pummeling by patrolman, a woman pummeled by a California Highway Patrol officer caught on video filed a civil rights lawsuit on Thursday. A lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of Marlene Pinnock names the commissioner of the CHP, the unidentified officer in the July 1 video and other officers as defendants. The video recorded by a passing driver shows Pinnock being repeatedly punched while being straddled by the officer. The lawsuit claims excessive force, assault, battery and a violation of Pinnock’s due process rights. In addition, Pinnock “suffered great mental and physical pain, suffering, anguish, fright, nervousness, anxiety, grief shock, humiliation, indignity, and embarrassment” and seeks monetary damages. CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow told the Associated Press: “We do have a good history at taking a look at our processes, procedures and conduct of our employees,” Farrow said. “That’s never been questioned until today.” He has met with community and civil rights leaders in Los Angeles multiple times since the incident and pledge that an internal investigation will conclude in weeks rather than months. The CHP said Pinnock was walking on Interstate 10 west of downtown L.A. endangering herself and people in traffic and the officer was trying to restrain her. Pinnock had begun to walking off the freeway but returned when the confrontation happened. The officer involved has been on the job one and half years and will be on desk duty until completion of the internal investigation, meanwhile, Pinnock remains hospitalized with head injuries. Nine drivers called 911 to report the beating, according to recordings the CHP released Thursday in response to public records request by the Associated Press. One caller said she appeared loaded, while another said she looked high or drunk. Pinnock claims in her suit that the CHP’s actions were an effort to shift blame by “misusing the criminal justice system to obtain privileged and private information to discredit (Pinnock) … or circumvent the discovery rules in civil rights violation matters.” The incident has drawn outrage from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters calling it police brutality and demanded the officer be fired.

While outrage and public distrust of the police in Los Angeles rages on, the justice system in Detroit leaves many shocked by the comments of one judge. According to Ed White, Judge tells young Detroit man he need a beating, a young man who participated in a mob attack on a Detroit motorist needed a father to beat the hell out of him as a kid to discourage him from committing a crime, a judge said Thursday. The shocking comment by Wayne County Judge James Callahan came as he sentenced Latrez Cummings to six months in jail. White reports that Callahan said Cummings needed a dad, “someone to discipline you. Someone to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake, as opposed to allowing you or encouraging you to do it to somebody else.” Cummings and four others pleaded guilty to the assault on Steve Utash who was in a coma for days after the attack. Apparently, after the judge’s remark, the assistant prosecutor Lisa Lindsay argued with the judge that the six month sentence was too light and many young black men without fathers don’t commit crimes. Callahan replied, a white judge himself: “Did I ever use the term ‘black’? It doesn’t matter if a person is black, white, yellow or red.” Despite the harsh tone, the judge said Cummings’ age and childhood were considered in the light sentence. As Callahan put it:”We’ve all been 19 years of age.”

While Cummings got off a little easier because of age for a vicious crime, a group of suburban white teens in Mississippi didn’t fair so well. A three year investigation into attacks on blacks in Mississippi’s capital of Jackson has grown to 10 indictments and six convictions, according to Jack Elliot, Hate crime investigation grows in Mississippi. The most recent indictments were made public Wednesday including two men and two women. The June 2011 death of James Craig Anderson, who was ran over by a pick up truck outside a Jackson hotel, started a broader investigation into reports claiming groups of young white men and women drive from the mostly white Rankin Country into majority black Jackson to assault blacks. Prosecutors said the suspect using target the homeless or people under the influence of alcohol. John Louis Blalack, 20, of Brandon; Sarah Adelia Graves, 21, of Crystal Springs; Robert Henry Rice, 23, of Brandon; and Shelbie Brooke Richards, 20, of Pearl, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges including conspiracy and committing a hate crime with each being released on a $100,000 bail. A tentative trial date is set for Sept. 15. Prosecutors said the assailants used their fists, beer bottles, sling shots and vehicles to attack. The assault on Anderson was caught by a hotel surveillance camera and received widespread attention after the video was obtained by news organization including the Associate Press. Four men pleaded guilty in the Anderson case and other offenses, while two other men pleaded guilty in other attacks.

While the justice system struggle to deal with the increase it seems in violent crimes and police department struggle to deal with the influx of criminals and public scrutiny, an old but constantly recycled issue has come up again with increasingly unjust consequences for some. What happened to the inscription on the Statue of Liberty? If you can’t remember or don’t know, here’s a refresher:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Author: Emma Lazarus

Well sadly, since the Great Recession, many U.S. cities are trying to eradicate homelessness not in a humanitarian way but by making it illegal to be homeless according to Arthur Delaney, More Cities Are Basically Making It Illegal To Be Homeless. Citywide bans on things homeless people need to survive have increased according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Delaney reports, key finding from the survey of 187 American cities show that since 2011:

Citywide bans on camping in public have increased by 60 percent.

Citywide bans on begging have increased by 25 percent.

Citywide bans on loitering, loafing, and vagrancy have increased by 35 percent.

Citywide bans on sitting or lying down in particular public places have increased by 43 percent.

Bans on sleeping in vehicles have increased by 119 percent.

The law center director Maria Foscarinis in a press release stated: “There is a severe shortage of affordable housing and a lack of emergency shelter options in our communities, leaving homeless people with no choice but to perform basic acts of survival in public spaces. Despite a lack of any available alternatives, more cities are choosing to turn the necessary conduct of homeless people into criminal activity. Such laws threaten the human and constitutional rights of homeless people, impose unnecessary costs on cities, and do nothing to solve the problems they purport to address.” According to government data, homelessness has declined 9 percent from January 2007 through January 2013 with 65 percent of the nation’s 610,042 homeless people staying in shelters any given night that month. Over those years, unsheltered homeless dropped by 23 percent. The law center report differs from government data noting it fails to account for several factors including jailed homeless people and other data suggest worsening homelessness such as a U.S. Conference of Mayors report that found a 4 percent increase in family homelessness from 2012 t0 2013.