By Doug Porter
Protests triggered by videos of fatal encounters of young Black men with police continued across the nation through the weekend. Memorials for the Dallas Police officers slain while protecting marchers were also scheduled nationwide.
The more grown up among us acknowledge that it was possible to reject violence against people for the color of their skin and the color of their uniforms. At the same time, it remains more important than ever to exercise first amendment rights in furtherance of ending the brutality of America’s legacy of racism.
Street demonstrations protesting police violence were held in New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Memphis, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Mineapolis, Salt Lake City, Denver, Phoenix, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and, yes, San Diego. In fact, you can search Google News for just about any large city with “BLM [city name] protest” and chances are you’ll find a story.
At the request of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and former President George W. Bush will participate in an interfaith memorial service on Tuesday. Flags are being flown at half-mast nationwide.
Baton Rouge Escalates, DeRay Arrested
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where the current wave of unrest began following the death of Alton Sterling at the hands of local police, demonstrations escalated in fervor throughout the weekend. Dramatic photographs and videos provided real-time evidence of chaos triggered by a complete (and some would say deliberate) breakdown in communications.
From the San Diego (!) Union-Tribune:
Young people sat on cars with music streaming out open windows, waved some placards and generally commiserated, while sipping beer. The police were nowhere in sight. They seemed to be maintaining a respectful distance.
Then came the idea to take the protest to police headquarters Friday evening, where temporary steel barricades had been erected to wall off the building, even before a Dallas gunman struck down 12 police officers, killing five, during the end of a peaceful march through that city.
Riot police appeared, their faces covered with plastic masks. Protesters couldn’t understand a word of what they were supposed to do, or where police wanted them to go, they said interviews. Soon, more than 30 had been arrested, and by Saturday night, they arrested some 102 more, most for the charge of obstructing public property.
— Ben Finn (@BeeZedEff) July 11, 2016
(Jonathan Bachman, a New Orleans-based photographer, took the oft-tweeted photograph above for the Reuters news agency.)
Among those arrested was high profile activist DeRay Mckesson, arrested for the crime of wearing loud (red) shoes as best as I can tell. His arrest, caught live as he streamed the protest, caused a nationwide reaction on social media.
Following his release from jail on Sunday, Mckesson told reporters he believes his arrest was unlawful, and that his actions were in line with his mission, personally and professionally, to “make sure that we all live in the best world possible.”
He told CNN:
“The rhetoric of the protest in no way matches the violence that police have been inflicting on people”
DeRay Mckesson is slated to speak locally on September 24 at Voice of San Diego’s Politifest event at San Diego State University.
Arresting the Messenger
The police did manage to find and punish the guy responsible for making the Baton Rouge video famous.
A day after Chris LeDay helped the first video of police officers shooting Alton Sterling to death in Baton Rouge, La. go viral, he was arrested himself in what he believes was retaliation by police officers.
LeDay, who lives in Atlanta, didn’t film the shooting himself, but was the first person online to help it spread to a wider audience when he posted it to his Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts that all have large followings. His post was then shared widely by media outlets and the New York Daily News’s Shaun King.
According to LeDay’s own account of the arrest on Facebook, he was going to his job as a technician at Dobbins Air Reserve Base when he was suddenly detained by both military and civilian police officers.
LeDay later told the blog Photography Is Not a Crime that the officers had reason to believe he fit the description of someone wanted for battery. He was reportedly cuffed and shackled, but at the police station he was informed that he’d been arrested due to unpaid traffic tickets. He spent the night in jail and was released after paying $1,231 in fines. LeDay admitted to not paying the tickets because he couldn’t afford them. His license was suspended, but, he told the blog, he uses Uber to get to work
Meanwhile in Minnesota…
Protests in Minnesota, which saw its own death of a black man by a jittery policeman last week, turned into confrontations following hundreds of protesters shutting down I-94, a major thoroughfare linking the Twin Cities.
Protesters, told to disperse, threw rocks, bottles and construction rebar at officers, injuring at least three, St. Paul police said. Police made arrests and used smoke bombs and marking rounds to disperse the crowd.
Protesters at the scene said police fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Police said early on Sunday they had begun clearing the highway of debris in preparation for re-opening it.
Got me. pic.twitter.com/TuByscxs6y
— Kim Bellware (@bellwak) July 10, 2016
The Pioneer Press reported that the interstate was closed from 8pm to 1:15am. Twenty-one officers reported injuries to themselves and 102 protesters were arrested.
Black Lives Matter in San Diego, Too
The tone was much different as supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement marched through San Diego’s East Village yesterday, amid the festivities surrounding Major League Baseball’s All Star week.
CBS 8 interviewed organizer Nate Howard:
Howard said he could not be silent after watching what the deadly police shootings out Louisiana then Minnesota and later Dallas.
“We’re not saying that all other lives don’t matter, what people don’t realize that there are so many unarmed black individuals who die at the hands of police,” continued Howard.
With posters held high and a group of all ages marching side-by-side, hope was on the horizon. Condemning the Dallas attacks on police officers, organizers said they were grateful for the San Diego Police Department’s involvement.
“When we reached out to the police, they were nothing but supportive. The Chief of Police showed up herself this morning, everybody was very respectful, and it’s been made very clear that this is a peaceful movement for change,” said Cassie Perando, a Black Lives Matter supporter.
Getting to the Root Causes
I’d like to share a snip of a comment by Michelle Alexander, the highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer and author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” posted on Facebook in response to Daniel Denvir’s article “Criminalizing the hustle: Policing poor people’s survival strategies from Eric Garner to Alton Sterling,”
I know many people believe that our criminal justice system can be “fixed” by smart people and smart policies. President Obama seems to think this way. He suggested yesterday that police-community relations can be improved meaningfully by a task force he created last year. Yes, a task force. I used to think like that. I don’t anymore. I no longer believe that we can “fix” the police, as though the police are anything other than a mirror reflecting back to us the true nature of our democracy. We cannot “fix” the police without a revolution of values and radical change to the basic structure of our society. Of course important policy changes can and should be made to improve police practices. But if we’re serious about having peace officers — rather than a domestic military at war with its own people— we’re going to have to get honest with ourselves about who our democracy actually serves and protects.
Consider this: Philando Castile had been stopped 31 times and charged with more than 60 minor violations – resulting in thousands of dollars in fines – before his last, fatal encounter with the police.
Alton Sterling was arrested because he was hustling, selling CDs to get by. He was unable to work in the legal economy due to his felony record. His act of survival was treated by the police as a major crime, apparently punishable by death.
How many people on Wall Street have been arrested for their crimes large and small — crimes of greed and fraud that nearly bankrupted the global economy and destroyed the futures of millions of families? How many politicians have been prosecuted for taking millions of dollars from private prisons, prison guard unions, pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, tobacco companies, the NRA and Wall Street banks and doing their bidding for them — killing us softly? Oh, that’s right, taking millions from those folks isn’t even a crime. Democrats and Republicans do it every day. Our entire political system is financed by wealthy private interests buying politicians and making sure the rules are written in their favor. But selling CDs or loose cigarettes? In America, that’s treated as a serious crime, especially if you’re black. For that act of survival, you can be wrestled to the ground and choked to death or shot at point blank range. Our entire system of government is designed to protect and serve the interests of the most powerful, while punishing, controlling and exploiting the least advantaged.
What is to Be Done?
Besides protesting in the streets, there are steps people concerned about racism and police brutality can take.
My friend Aaryn Belfer fowarded me an email yesterday from PACT, An Adoption Alliance chock full of suggestions for action.
- Sign the petition demanding accountability for Philando Castile and Alton Sterling’s murders.The Color of Change–an excellent organization that specialized in net-roots activism that elevates the voices of Black people and their allies–has initiated a petition demanding accountability for Philando Castile and Alton Sterling’s murders. Background information and how to sign and share the petition is at: http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/justice-alton-and-philando/?t=2&akid=5955.1641751.0Bz6WY
- Sign the MoveOn.org petition calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to track, document and publish data on police killings nationally: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/the-us-need-to-track
- Write to your local police department and ask them to mandate anti-bias training with all of their personnel. A sample from this week’s MinnPost is linked below: https://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2016/07/wake-philando-castiles-death-minnesotans-must-address-implicit-racism-now-n
- Support the Black Youth Project’s Agenda to Build Black Futures-a set of economic goals and structural changes, and a call to action, to improve the lives of Black people. You can help publicize this agenda developed by young Black people and donate to support their work. http://agendatobuildblackfutures.org/
- Connect to racial justice organizing by white people. Join Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and connect to a local SURJ affiliate in your area to learn about ways you can be an ally and activist for racial justice. http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/about
- Keep talking with your children about race issues and racial justice. Some resources are Embrace Race: Raising Kids in a World Where Race Matters athttp://www.embracerace.org/ and Raising Race Conscious Children: Resources for Talking about Race at http://www.raceconscious.org/
Finally, if reforming the police could be part of your agenda, consider joining up with Campaign Zero, started by some of the original Black Lives Matter folks as a way to create policy changes to end police violence.
From their website:
Campaign ZERO was developed with contributions from activists, protesters and researchers across the nation. This data-informed platform presents comprehensive solutions to end police violence in America. It integrates community demands and policy recommendations from research organizations and the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
Tomorrow: It’s a big day for Presidential campaigns… Bernie and Hillary make nice, and Trump should have announced his number 2.
On This Day: 1804 – The United States’ first secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, was killed by Vice President Aaron Burr in a duel. 1962 – The first transatlantic TV transmission was sent through the Telstar I satellite. 1983 – A nine-year strike began at the Ohio Crankshaft Division of Park-Ohio Industries in Cleveland. Overcoming scabs, arrests, and firings, UAW Local 91 members hung on and approved a contract in 1992 with the company—now under new management—that included company-funded health and retirement benefits, as well as pay increases.
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