By Doug Porter
Six Baltimore police officers now face charges following a medical examiner’s ruling calling 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s death on April 12th a homicide.
States Attorney Marilyn Mosby told the press Gray died of a severe and critical neck injury suffered while handcuffed, shackled by his feet and left unsecured inside a police van as it took 38 minutes to deliver him to a police station just two minutes away.
Mosby went on to say Gray was “illegally arrested,” that police failed to establish probable cause for his arrest, and the knife he had when arrested was legal and was not a switchblade.
Several media accounts today delve into what now seems to have been a “rough ride” leading up to Gray’s death.
The Baltimore Sun story covered past incidents where the city had settled lawsuits arising from such behavior.
…Gray is not the first person to come out of a Baltimore police wagon with serious injuries.
Relatives of Dondi Johnson Sr., who was left a paraplegic after a 2005 police van ride, won a $7.4 million verdict against police officers. A year earlier, Jeffrey Alston was awarded $39 million by a jury after he became paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a van ride. Others have also received payouts after filing lawsuits.
For some, such injuries have been inflicted by what is known as a “rough ride” — an “unsanctioned technique” in which police vans are driven to cause “injury or pain” to unbuckled, handcuffed detainees, former city police officer Charles J. Key testified as an expert five years ago in a lawsuit over Johnson’s subsequent death.
A story in the New York Times described similar incidents in other cities, including Philadelphia, Chicago and Aurora, Illinois.
Charges aren’t the same as convictions, so the question of whether these prosecutorial actions amount to justice will play out in courts for years to come. The police union in Baltimore is now calling for an independent prosecutor.
— Alan Blinder (@alanblinder) May 1, 2015
MayDay Brings Labor Unrest
May 1st is, after all, celebrated as International Workers Day throughout most of the world.
In the Bay Area, they’re shutting down the ports.
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
The San Francisco longshore union, ILWU Local 10, announced that its members will stop work in Bay Area ports on May 1, International Workers Day, to protest police killings. It also has called for a march Friday from the Port of Oakland to Oakland City Hall to protest “the recent escalation in police brutality throughout the U.S. that has resulted in the needless killing of innocent and unarmed minorities.”
In Southern California, truck drivers are picketing at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, along with actions in Otay Mesa. They’re protesting wage theft at four trucking companies, saying they’re improperly being classified as independent contractors.
In 2014 In These Times reported on findings holding that port trucking companies in California are liable for between $787 and $998 million in wage and hour violations annually, with 16,400 out of 25,000 truckers in the state being misclassified.
From In These Times:
Amador Rojas, an independent contractor trucker striking at Pacific 9 Transportation, says,“We are going to continue to fight so that the company ends these unjust practices. We are also calling out the authorities that permit these types of injustices.”
“We are not willing to continue their game that prolongs this truly difficult situation for all of us,” he continues, speaking in Spanish.
The company is currently set for an NLRB hearing in mid-May after the company ignored a March 2014 labor board ruling that deemed Pac 9 truckers to be direct employees rather than independent contractors. The union estimates that Pac 9 is potentially liable for at least $12 million in wage theft violations to its approximately 140 drivers.
The Poor Are Getting Poorer…
…Except in San Francisco, where the minimum wage is ascending to $12.25 today.
The National Review story on how a comic book store is fearful of the SF increases was reposted on Facebook by San Diego’s so-called Small Business Coalition (a group funded by big business lobbyists). There was no mention of how increasing the minimum wage nationally to this level would save taxpayers over $5 billion annually in food stamp supplements alone.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported on new research from UC Berkeley pointing out that even though California’s low wage workers are older and more educated than they were three decades ago, they earn less.
The study, released Thursday, documented the extensive growth of income inequality in California since the late 1970s. The researchers’ data showed that California workers at the lowest end of the pay scale have seen significant declines in their earnings over the last three decades, after adjusting for inflation. Workers in the highest income brackets, meanwhile, have seen enormous gains.
For example, the bottom 20% of workers have seen inflation-adjusted wages decline 12% since 1979, while the top 10% of California workers have seen wages grow 35%.
“We are seeing the hollowing out of middle-wage jobs over time,” said Annette Bernhardt, a visiting researcher at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, who worked on the report.
The trend is happening even as low-wage workers as a whole are becoming more educated and have more work experience.
SDPD: Ooops, We Forgot (To Turn on the BodyCam)
UT-San Diego reports that a 42-year-old man was fatally wounded by a San Diego Police officer near an adult bookstore on Thursday.
Police homicide Capt. David Nisleit told reporters that an officer got to the store in two minutes. A man behind the bookstore matched the description of the armed man, police said.
The officer “found the suspect just outside the store. Gave the suspect some verbal commands. The suspect didn’t comply with those commands” and was shot, Nisleit said.
The man had advanced toward the officer, police Lt. Mike Hastings said. He did not say if the man still held a knife or made any threatening movements…
…The officer, whose name was not released, is a 27-year department veteran. He was wearing a body-worn video camera but it was not operating at the time of the shooting, Hastings said. The manager of the bookstore said the clerk had gone outside to smoke a cigarette when he saw the man in the alley holding a knife.
It’s Your Money! A Teach-In on San Diego’s Budget
The Community Budget Alliance is sponsoring an event on Saturday for people interested in learning about and advocating involvement in the processes deciding just how it is our San Diego tax dollars get spent.
If you’re interested in learning how to speak effectively about the need for good city services and improvements in your neighborhood this is a great opportunity.
Saturday, May 2nd
City Heights Library (Upstairs room)
3795 Fairmount Ave.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CommunityBudgetAlliance
Here’s the schedule for City Hall budget hearings this week:
On This Day: 1886 – Eight-hour day demonstration in Chicago and other cities begins tradition of May Day as international labor holiday. 2003 – President George W. Bush ludicrously declared “mission accomplished!” standing in a flight suit on a aircraft carrier 2006 – Rallies in cities across the U.S. for what organizers called “A Day Without Immigrants.” An estimated 100,000 immigrants and sympathizers gathered in San Jose, Calif., 200,000 in New York, 400,000 each in Chicago and Los Angeles. In all, there were demonstrations in at least 50 cities.
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