On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, it seems appropriate to write about gun violence and the haters who enable it. Three local events relate to this topic, and there is some news of national interest I’ll add along the way:
- Two bills introduced in the State Legislature, aim to bring California’s police use-of-force law into the 21st century and open a gap in the Blue Wall of silence surrounding investigations into police misconduct.
- High school students from Carlsbad and San Clemente joined the weekly protests outside Congressman Darrell Issa’s Vista office to present a petition asking him to hold a town hall to address gun violence and school shootings.
- San Diego resident Nasim Aghdam was named as the shooter following an afternoon of terror at YouTube’s San Bruno headquarters. Three people suffered gunshot wounds and police found Aghdam dead of apparently self-inflicted wounds.
In Nashville and other cities around the country, people gathered today to commemorate the life and death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Church bells nationwide will ring 39 times, one for each year of Dr. King’s life at 6:01pm CST (4:01pm in California) in response to a request from the National Civil Rights Museum.
A refresher on what happened on April 4, 1968, from the Los Angeles Times:
More than 1,300 Memphis sanitation workers went on strike in February 1968 after two garbage collectors, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed to death by a truck’s malfunctioning compactor. Frustrated by years of shoddy treatment, black workers demanded better pay and benefits and safer working conditions.
King, who had just launched the Poor People’s Campaign, tried to lead a peaceful march in Memphis on March 28, but it turned violent as a small group of protesters broke windows. In response, police wielded mace and tear gas.
When King returned for another march in support of the sanitation workers, he was struck by a single bullet as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. The bullet, fired by segregationist James Earl Ray, hit him in his lower right jaw, re-entered his neck and fractured his spine. Less than an hour later he was pronounced dead.
Despite all the portrayals of Dr. King as a beloved figure, it’s important to recognize that he was widely despised–with a lower approval rating than Trump– in the United States at the time. The economic justice he sought with the Poor People’s Campaign remains more elusive than ever. And racially based hatred has seen a revival with the rise to power of the coalition of market supremacists and social evangelicals in the United States.
The Sacramento shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed, 22-year-old black man who was killed in his grandmother’s backyard last month by police has galvanized racial justice advocates nationwide.
San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s Police Accountability and Community Protection Act (AB 931) was introduced at a press conference on Tuesday, along with Berkeley Senator Nancy Skinner’s SB 1421, concerning the release of records of police conduct investigations.
From the Los Angeles Times:
Weber and other legislators supporting the bill[AB 931] described the measure as the most far-reaching in the country to allow for the prosecution of officers who kill civilians. Under current law, police use of deadly force must be “objectively reasonable.”
Weber’s bill would make two key changes. It says officers could use deadly force only if it’s necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death, encouraging prosecutors to consider whether officers could have deescalated the situation with verbal warnings or used nonlethal force beforehand. It also would allow prosecutors to take into account an officer’s actions prior to a killing that could have negligently placed the officer in harm’s way.
Here’s the lowdown on the second piece of legislation, via East County Today:
“Building trust between police and communities has to start with transparency,” said Skinner. “SB 1421 ensures that when officers use serious or deadly force, engage in sexual assault or are dishonest in carrying out their duties, the public is informed.”
California’s existing confidentiality rules about police conduct, which SB 1421 would modify, are among the most secretive in the country. Under existing law, the public and hiring agencies do not have access to substantiated reports of officer misconduct. These restrictions erode public trust, and can allow officers with repeated incidents of serious misconduct to bounce from agency-to-agency, undetected.
SB 1421 allows, with limited exceptions, for release of records related to specified incidents involving law enforcement use of force, as well as records related to investigations that result in sustained findings of on-the-job sexual assault or intentional job-related dishonesty.
You can expect law n’ order types to go nuts on these bills, and the fact that the conversation is even happening.
Perhaps we’re talking about this because, in San Diego, the DA pressed charges in zero of 155 officer-involved shootings between 2005-2015.
Or maybe it’s stuff like this:
After the Sacramento police murdered #StephonClark on March 18, the Republican DA Anne Marie Schubert received $13,000 from local law enforcement PACs. Maybe that explains her silence.
— Becky Bond (@bbond) March 31, 2018
Gun violence has been a topic of concern for those attending the weekly protests in Vista outside of Congressman Darrell Issa’s office.
Last week, they migrated to the sidewalks outside Assemblymember Rocky Chavez’s Oceanside office to make their disapproval of his 93% NRA approval rating known. Chavez is considered the leading GOP candidate running to replace Issa in the upcoming June Primary.
This week, high school students presented a petition calling on Rep. Issa to hold a town hall on gun violence and school shootings. the Union-Tribune says Issa declined the request, saying he has previous engagements.
From Union-Tribune’s coverage:
Aside from turning in the letter, the nine or so high school students on spring break from schools in Carlsbad and San Clemente joined the roughly 80 or so adult protesters — many of them regulars — for the sidewalk rally.
A handful of the teens took the microphone, including Sage Creek High School student Chloe Easterbrook, who became overcome with emotion as she spoke.
“I want my family safe, my friends safe,” she started. Her voice quivered, then she paused to collect herself as she spoke to the crowd. Easterbrook said events like a classroom walkout at schools across the nation are “crucial in winning this battle.”
This seems like a good place to take note of the reactionary pushback against students protesting gun violence.
Having lost the moral arguments and getting their butts kicked in social media by high school students, right-wingers are now trying to leverage the incident in support of their Destroy Public Education crusade.
From Boing Boing:
While people around the world were inspired by the resilience, fearlessness and savvy of the students who created a national gun-control movement in the wake of the Parkland shooting, American right-wing leaders looked at these kids and saw evidence of the urgency to destroy public education and replace it with religious private schools and charter schools.
Right wing shock jocks like Mark Levin said the Parkland student uprising proved that schools were “propaganda mills” that were down on “genitalia assignment, bathrooms, and gyms; whether it’s the school lunch program that’s even politicized … radical environmentalism is advanced, capitalism is trashed…”
…Public education has become a flashpoint for resisting authoritarianism and oligarchic rule. At the same time, support for charter schools — always a stalking horse for mixing church and state, reinstituting segegration, and lining the pockets of fly-by-night education profiteers — has plummeted among Democrats, as progressives have abandoned their unquestioning support for charters and demanding high-quality public schools.
Finally, the story of a (reportedly) angry woman named Nasim Aghdam who drove more than 500 miles from San Diego to San Bruno and shot up the YouTube headquarters, has numerous threads to follow.
As I’m writing this, the speculation around a motive centers on the video giant’s recent moves to demonetize non-mainstream videos, which had reportedly cost Aghdam advertising dollars.
From the New York Daily News:
After Aghdam’s identity surfaced in news reports Tuesday night, her father said he knew she had been troubled by YouTube’s decision to demonetize her videos.
He said the site “stopped everything,” preventing Aghdam from making money off dozens of videos about vegan cooking tips, animal rights activism and music videos in foreign languages.
“She was always complaining that YouTube ruined her life,” Aghdam’s brother, Shahran Aghdam told reporters at the family’s Riverside County home.
What we do know is that the family reported her missing. Police in nearby Mountain View had contact with her seeing the woman sleeping in a parked vehicle. Police say she legally obtained at 9mm handgun used in the shooting.
I doubt there’s a connection, but would be remiss if I didn’t note that the biggest squak about Youtube polices has come from the National Rifle Association, which recently broadcast a commentary calling on its members to “rise up” against the video company after it banned content related to the sale or assembly of firearms or firearms accessories.
It should surprise nobody that the unhinged inhabitants of the internet went wild as news of the incident at YouTube dribbled out.
The most predictable ones included claims the shooter was a Muslim. Others postulated the suspect was wearing a hijab and bore a resemblance to leading Women’s March co-chair Linda Sarsour.
And so forth.
The 39-year-old-woman was born in Iran and legally immigrated to the United States decades ago. She was a from a family practicing the Baha’i faith, which is in no way related to Islam.
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