Put the police on trial, not the corpses of their victims

http://blogs.detroitnews.com/politics/2014/08/20/shame-placing-corpses-trial-greater-need-police-accountability/

AUG 20, 2014, 11:50 AM
Put the police on trial, not the corpses of their victims
BY DAWUD WALID

The ongoing events in Ferguson, Missouri in response to the homicide of Michael Brown by a police officer are a national shame, getting attention on the world stage. Peaceful protesters have had their 1st Amendment rights trampled in a heavy-handed manner in the name of “keeping the peace.”

Anarchists who live in other states have converged on the area to incite plundering of small neighborhood businesses. Journalists have had tear gas shot directly at them and even had firearms brandished by law enforcement. Now, the National Guard has been deployed into the neighborhood, invoking imagery of government crackdowns in places like Egypt.

As the Brown family and religious leaders continue to call for peaceful protests, and the vast majority of Ferguson residents have been peaceful, the scenes of clashes between the police and protesters are sideshow discussions.

The main issue at hand is whether Officer Darren Wilson, who shot the unarmed Brown multiple times, is going to be charged with a criminal offense and what immediate steps are going to be taken by the federal government to hold police officers more accountable for their behavior?

There’s a terrible habit among police departments and media of putting black corpses on trial before charging their killers who are police officers, security guards and George Zimmerman wannabe-vigilante types. In the case of Brown, the police made public a video purporting to show Brown stealing some cheap cigars prior to his homicide. This video was followed by an admission that Officer Wilson had no knowledge of the alleged theft when he stopped Brown. The conversation then shifted to whether or not Brown had a criminal record, which he did not, and other inconsequential matters, such as the presence of marijuana in Brown’s body. The real issue became derailed, which is that eye witnesses saw Officer Wilson unloading bullets into an unarmed teenager, and an autopsy report which showed that Brown was shot in the top of his skull, reflecting that his head was lowered when he was fatally shot.

Placing Brown on trial in the court of public opinion while Officer Wilson sits home is exactly what happened with the killings of other unarmed young black people such as Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride and Mackenzie Cochran, who was killed by a security guard in Northland Mall in Southfield in late January. The Oakland County Prosecutor, by the way, has not issued any charges against the security guard that killed Cochran.

There should be federal legislation mandating that all law enforcement officers not only have dashcams on their vehicles but also have body cameras and microphones on their persons. As armed officers of the law are paid by tax dollars, they have a greater obligation to be transparent about their conduct. Body cameras could also serve the dual purpose of exonerating officers from false claims and shedding more light on controversial shooting incidents.

In the interim, we will continue to watch the disturbing events in Ferguson and follow the postings of citizen journalists through smartphone video. One thing is for sure: business as usual cannot continue regarding how law enforcement and prosecutor offices operate, especially in urban areas.

Unrest in Ferguson is about more than one police killing

 

 

blogs.detroitnews.com/politics/2014/08/13/unrest-ferguson-much-one-police-killing/

AUG 13, 2014, 2:00 PM

Unrest in Ferguson is about more than one police killing

The unrest in Ferguson, Missouri relating to the fatal shooting by police of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, is about much more than just the homicide of one person.

Last Saturday, an unnamed white officer fatally shot Brown, a college bound teen. Eyewitness accounts state that Brown’s hands were up in the air when he was filled with police bullets. As Brown’s body lied in the middle of the street, uncovered, for four hours in the hot sun, neighbors looked on in shock which then turned to community outrage. Initial protests of the homicide of Brown were peaceful, then some persons took to rummaging businesses owned by people who do not reside in the neighborhood, causing significant property damage to those establishments.

Like Brown’s parents and the NAACP, I echo the point that destruction of personal property in response to the police shooting is absolutely wrong and that any form of vigilantism in regards to this situation is unacceptable. I do, however, know very well what motivates the angry and what has triggered some to lash out.

The death of Brown is seen by many Black Americans within the scope of structural oppression in which state violence against unarmed black men is the historical norm. In 2012, 313 unarmed black males were killed by law enforcement officers, security guards and self-appointed George Zimmerman-type vigilantes. That comes out to an extrajudicial killing of a black male in America every 28 hours.

When a group of people are faced with such violence from government entities — not including the police brutality that is non-lethal — it’s only natural that some people are going to react with rage in response to the violence of police officers who are in fact human rights’ violators.

Violence perpetrated by entities with power is very different from private citizens perpetrating violence on each other. Bringing up the issue of “black on black crime” would be a derailment of the issue at hand. Intraracial murder of private citizens is the norm for all groups; black people are far from unique in terms of primarily killing their own. “Black on black” crime operates the way “crime” operates in general, as as the primary murderers of whites in America are fellow whites. The real discussion at hand should be on how we can curtail the historical deployment of extrajudicial killings of black and brown men in America, not shifting the conversation to how black people kill other blacks too or how we should stop looters.

The public needs to also hold the Department of Justice (DOJ) accountable in this particular matter and others in general to ensure that these cases are correctly prosecuted on the federal level. The FBI has stated that they are investigating Brown’s homicide. I’m not holding my breath, however. Last year, the DOJ stated that it was going to investigate whether Zimmerman violated the civil rights of Trayvon Martin. After the media hoopla and community activists stop applying pressure, we haven’t heard a peep from the DOJ since regarding Zimmerman.

As I always say, no set of laws or policies can ever legislate away bias, prejudice or hate. Black men, since the days of slavery through Reconstruction to Jim Crow and today, have always been seen by those who enforce the law as intrinsically dangerous. At the end of the day, incidents such as Brown’s homicide are part of a larger narrative that we have yet to deal with. It’s a shameful legacy that dates back to the very founding of this republic.

Dearborn Heights City Clerk Facing Allegations of Misconduct Toward Arab American Voters Backpeddles Resignation

 

August 2, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Advocacy groups to monitor polls in Dearborn Heights

Dearborn Heights— Advocacy groups said Saturday they would provide poll monitors and a hotline to report complications during the primary election after allegations of voter suppression in Dearborn Heights.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and other coalition groups have set up a hotline, (866) OUR-VOTE, voters can call if there are any problems on Election Day on Tuesday. The move comes after advocates say they have lost faith in the state government to handle the claims of voter suppression.

“Sadly, and what seems to be the case today, the number one response historically to valid claims of voter suppression is the all-too-common story of voter fraud,” ADC Michigan director Fatina Abdrabboh said at a press conference outside the Dearborn Heights city hall. “The claims of voter fraud were levied just yesterday, and weeks after the claims were brought to the ADC office.”

City Clerk Walter Prusiewicz issued a statement Saturday in response to the allegations against him.

“I will not comment further on any of these attacks that have been made against me except to say that I have done nothing wrong and I welcome any oversight by the state of my actions and the upcoming election and any investigation into my conduct at city clerk,” his statement said. “I have nothing to hide and I firmly believe that any investigation will conclude that I did nothing more than properly discharge my duties as the Dearborn Heights city clerk.”

A letter from Sally Williams, director of the Election Liaison Division at the Michigan Bureau of Elections, addressing the concerns of the ADC and other groups was issued Friday. In the letter, Williams says it is “not possible for us to confirm whether violations have occurred.”

“While the clerk indicates that there have been delays in processing due to the large numbers of applications that have been delivered in multiple batches, he contends that ballots for all eligible voters who requested (absentee voter) ballots have been distributed,” the letter says.

Last week, the ADC’s Michigan office said Arab-American voters were prevented from obtaining absentee ballots. The claims sparked outrage from the community and calls to remove Prusiewicz. ADC Michigan also is seeking an investigation.

This week, Prusiewicz reported to the state attorney general, Michigan Bureau of Elections and the Wayne County prosecutor what he described as potential voter fraud and campaign irregularities involving about 250 absentee ballot applications dropped off at his office. In the letter, he said both batches were from men who appeared associated with the campaign of state Rep. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, who is running for the 5th Senate District seat in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Prusiewicz also acknowledged that the applicants “appear to be of Arab American descent.”

It is illegal to solicit voters to fill out absentee ballot applications in the same manner voter registration drives are conducted, state officials said.

Based on the information presented by ADC Michigan and Prusiewicz, “it appears clear that hundreds of (absentee voter) ballot requests have been illegally handled, solicited from voters, and submitted to the clerk’s office by a small number of individuals,” Williams wrote in her letter Friday. “The investigation of these issues is ongoing and may result in criminal charges against those involved.”

Williams also said the bureau would have staff monitor part of the election in the city on Tuesday and takes any allegations of wrongdoing “very seriously.” Clear violations would be referred to the attorney general or other appropriate authorities, she wrote.

Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, has said state officials were reviewing Prusiewicz’s complaint.

Knezek issued a statement denying his campaign’s involvement and said the clerk’s allegations were “an attempt to damage my credibility on the eve of a major election.” He added Friday that he welcomes an investigation and “I look forward to cooperating every step of the way.”

Meanwhile, civil rights and advocacy groups remain wary of alleged discrimination and are asking federal authorities to take action.

On Saturday, Abdrabboh was joined by Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nabih Ayad, chair of the Arab-American Civil Rights League, Bishop Walter Starghill, from the Western Wayne branch of the NAACP, and community members who say they have been denied the opportunity to vote.

“My husband and I submitted for our absentee ballots two weeks ago,” said Lola Elzein, “I got mine in two days — note my name is Lola — while my husband Wissam hasn’t still hasn’t received his.”

The two are going out of town tomorrow, which means her husband will not have an opportunity to vote in the election, she said.

Angela Moughni, a 13-year resident of Dearborn Heights, voted absentee five minutes before the press conference began Saturday. Prior to that, she had received a letter saying her signature on her petition for an absentee voter ballot did not match city records, so she was denied. Her mother, who also tried to get an absentee ballot, received a similar letter, except that hers said her address did not match the one the city has on file. The family has not moved from their house and her mother has voted in plenty of other elections in the past with the same address, said Moughani.

“You just start to have doubts about what is going on, said Moughni. “You just don’t expect this to happen today. It’s 2014, you’d think we be beyond this.”