Archive for category: BLM
Universalizing Blackness as a flat experience allows Amazon to proclaim #BlackLivesMatter, create a Black-owned business page but crush the unions organized by its Black workers. It allows the NBA to paint BLM on its hardwoods, highlight Black business during the NBA finals but pay its predominantly Black and temp workers dirt wages. Universalizing Blackness distorts Blackness itself. It is decorating at its worst. . . .
U.S. police officers have killed at least 1068 people since the killing of African-American George Floyd by physical force by an officer a year ago, a report by a police watchdog group indicates.
May 28, 2021 | Newswire
Viola Fletcher, the oldest living survivor of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, massacre, was seven when a white mob attacked the city’s ‘Black Wall Street in 1921, killing an estimated 300 African Americans.
For decades, the atrocity was actively covered up. On Wednesday, Fletcher appeared before a House of Representatives judiciary subcommittee considering legal remedies. Fletcher, who worked most of her life as a domestic worker, said she was seeking justice and referred to the ‘daily horror’ inflicted on black people in the US
The big Wall Street banks have all talked a good line about supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. But that was never going to be enough for racial justice advocates.
“Stating commitments without accountability and transparency does not dismantle systemic racism,” said Marc Bayard, director of the Black Worker Initiative at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Bayard is part of a coalition pushing Wall Street banks to submit to independent examinations of the impact of their policies and practices on racial inequality.
The financial industry has a long history of racism, and even though protections against redlining and other discriminatory practices have been on the books for decades, the problems persist.
In fact, big Wall Street banks have largely abandoned poor people of color, forcing them to rely on payday lenders and other small predatory financial firms. According to an FDIC survey, 13.8 percent of Black households and 12.2 percent of Latino households did not have bank accounts in 2019, compared to just 2.5 percent of white households.
Another study found that for every $1 loaned out to finance residential properties in white neighborhoods in Chicago from 2012-2018, a mere 12 cents was invested in Black neighborhoods.
This spring, two labor union-related institutional investors gave executives at seven big Wall Street banks a big opportunity to show they’re serious about changing course on racial inequality.
CtW Investment Group, which advises unions affiliated with the Change to Win federation, and the SEIU pension fund filed shareholder proposals asking the banks to engage civil rights organizations, employees, shareholders, and customers in a racial equity audit process. The goal: identifying and remedying the adverse impacts of bank policies and practices on non-white stakeholders and communities of color.
But instead of embracing the audit idea, all but one of the banks urged shareholders to reject the proposals.
How have shareholders responded? Thus far, four of the seven banks (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs) have held their annual meetings. And while none of the audit proposals received majority votes, sizeable minorities backed the idea, putting pressure on management to take notice.
A 38 percent “yes” vote at Citi was particularly encouraging, given the fact that institutional investors typically follow the corporate board’s recommendation. Shareholders at JPMorgan Chase and State Street hold their meetings this week. CtW dropped the Morgan Stanley proposal after the bank agreed to conduct a racial equity audit.
Why did nearly all of the banks urge “no” votes on the audit proposals? In SEC filings, the banks argued that such analysis was unnecessary given the enormous strides they’re already making on racial equity.
“Conducting a racial equity audit at this point in time would not provide us with useful additional information,” states the JPMorgan proxy statement. “We believe our shareholders would be better served by the Firm’s vigilant focus on building on current momentum to maintain a culture of respect and inclusion and advance racial equity.”
That same proxy statement revealed that JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon earned $32 million in compensation last year. Like the chief executives of all seven of the banks in 2020, Dimon is a white man. (Jane Fraser, a white woman, took the helm of Citi in February 2021.)
Across the financial sector, the upper echelons are overwhelmingly white. At the five largest U.S. investment banks, the share of senior executives and top managers who are white ranges from 71 to 83 percent. (JPMorgan Chase: 81%, Goldman Sachs: 77%, Bank of America: 81%, Morgan Stanley: 83%, and Citigroup: 71%)
Nationwide, employees in the lucrative securities industry are 80.5 percent white, 5.8 percent Black, 11.5 percent Asian, and 8.1 percent Latino. Average pay in that industry (including bonus) was nearly $600,000 in 2019. By contrast, whites make up an estimated 55.4 percent of people in jobs that pay less than $15 per hour.
In a letter to JPMorgan CEO Dimon, the groups Transform Finance, Activest, Worth Rises, the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE), the Institute for Policy Studies, and Public Accountability Initiative joined other racial justice organizations in supporting the racial equity audit proposal before JPMorgan, demanding “a commitment to long-term tangible change.”
“Without a comprehensive investigation of how institutionalized racism impacts policies and business practices at these banks,” says Bayard of IPS, “all their public commitments to equity will amount to empty promises.”
The post While Professing BLM Support, Wall Street Banks Reject Racial Equity Audits appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.
Valencia Gunder, national organizing lead for the Red, Black and Green New Deal
Montague Simmons Interviews Valencia Gunder
The Movement for Black Lives is launching its Red, Black and Green New Deal (RBGND) initiative with a virtual National Black Climate Summit Tuesday, May 11. Drawing on a movement legacy that stretches from the civil rights movement through environmental justice organizing and the more recent climate justice work, the RBGND will be a many-sided, Black-centered initiative. It is “designed to educate, catalyze, and empower Black people to take actions that mitigate the impact of the climate crisis on our families and our communities.”
RBGND National Organizing Lead Valencia Gunder spoke with host Montague Simmons on the April 21 episode of Frontline Dispatches. Gunder co-founded the Smile Trust Inc., formerly known as Make the Homeless Smile Miami/Atlanta, and The Black Collective, and has organized mass grassroots disaster relief efforts for Black communities along the Gulf Coast and in the Caribbean. A returning citizen, she also led in the 2018 effort to pass Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to 1.4 million Floridians. This is an excerpt of her comments to Simmons.
I got into disasters through climate work, working here locally. I always quote my grandfather. Many years ago, when I was a child, he used to say, “They’re going to come take Miami. They’re going to take Liberty City, because it doesn’t flood.” And I’m like, “Grandaddy, nobody want Liberty City,” and I left for college and I came back and they wanted it, and they’ve been taking it ever since. And I learned about sea level rise, and elevation, and sunny day flooding. And I understand about how it was affecting our housing market, how it was pushing folks out of communities, how they use “climate gentrification” after storms to do land grabs. We see that in Black communities, under-resourced communities, all the time.
Ever since then I’ve known we need to save the earth, and if we save Black people, we save everybody. We’re going to be in a new climate reality, if we like it or not. And I wanted to learn as much as possible, to share as much as possible, to educate as many people as possible.
And not just educate, but create alternative systems, grassroots disaster relief models for us to be able to help each other, ‘cause that’s what we do anyway. We are our own first responders. If you look at under-resourced communities, that’s what you see every time there’s a disaster. Neighbors helping neighbors. Community helping community. The churches open the doors. That’s the work, that’s the organizing. No big institution can serve your community better than you. We can get it done.
WE ARE THE FACE OF DISASTER – AND OF THE SOLUTION
There’d be no environmental justice movement without the civil rights movement. We want to give a shout out to our ancestors who’ve been doing this hard work for a long time, and our elders who still be holding this work, land sovereignty work, food justice work, fighting big oil companies, fighting against big agriculture. This has been aligned with our Black liberation work since we’ve been doing Black liberation work. It’s always been a part of our framework. … M4BL fights for Black lives. We’re not going to stand back with anything that’s harming Black people. If that’s climate injustice, if that’s environmental injustice, if that’s patriarchy, we’re standing up against it. If your clean energy includes black death, it’s no solution for us.
Climate is a threat multiplier. Communities already have stressors because of capitalism and white supremacy and patriarchy. People don’t have access to a lot of food, to safe housing, educational opportunities, jobs, water, breathable air. Then a shock hits. A shock is a hurricane, a wildfire, an uprising. An uprising is a disaster because of the government responding and creating a disaster. Usually the people who are already oppressed, marginalized, or don’t have what they need struggle even more when a shock hits them…. Yes, we are the face of disaster, but we also are the face of the solution.
A lot of times in climate spaces, in environmental justice spaces, Black folks, under-resourced populations, are left out of the conversations, or they’re tokenized, solutions are not centered, or parts of movement accept false solutions that still lead to Black deaths.
When we say “RBG” we’re talking about Pan Africanism. We want folks to know we’re centering our ancestor Marcus Garvey, uplifting our flag as a people.
NO ‘GREEN’ SOLUTIONS THAT COST BLACK LIVES
The Red, Black and Green New Deal is a national initiative that uses bottom-up organizing, political education, and direct action organizing to advance a radical Black climate agenda….and solutions that center Black people. This is not just for the United States. This is a global vision for our brothers and sisters across the diaspora…
Bottom up organizing looks like all the Black folk across the country who do climate and environmental justice work…. It also looks like working with local organizations and statewide organizations, coming together to build climate solutions locally. … We can’t do nothing without our communities. Without our people who have community gardens, our brothers and sisters in Flint and Detroit fighting to get water, in Cali fighting wildfires, to our folks in the Gulf South, to our folks up in New York. We need everybody. Our folks in the Midwest who deal with the flooding from the Mississippi River. …
When we say we’re not going to deal with false solutions, it’s hey, we’re going to fine this oil company, and they’re going to put money into schools, but they still get to burn all this stuff into our air, and we still have to breathe it in, and we’re going to lose Black lives. We’re not doing that. No matter how many jobs…We can create jobs and solutions that aren’t harmful to our people. Those fines aren’t solutions.
We want to divest from big oil companies, divest from big coal-burning companies, divest from fracking that’s messing up our water system, from pipelines. Also we want to invest that into the health of our communities, to amazing jobs that do not harm our communities and the employees. And we want to re-invest. Our reparations is “give us the space, the resources and the time to build a sustainable Black future.”
To register for the May 11 National Black Climate Summit or get more information on the Red, Black and Green New Deal, click here.
There has been “nothing comparable in American history” to the huge outpouring of protest unleashed by the murder of George Floyd, says world-renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky. Even at the very peak of Martin Luther King Jr.’s popularity, the mass protests that King led and inspired “didn’t come anywhere close” to the massive racial justice protests that have erupted over this past year, Chomsky adds.
As the anniversary of Floyd’s murder approaches, I invited Chomsky — a brilliant thinker who combines deep and unbelievable historical breadth, critical conceptual sharpness, and profound passion in his analysis of political and existential issues — to talk with me about George Floyd’s death and the guilty verdict against Derek Chauvin, as well as anti-Black violence in North America and how the U.S. fomented a “gun culture.”
Chomsky is an intellectual whom I have come to greatly appreciate, to admire and to think of as a friend. Through his example, I have learned how to practice disobedience and dissent in a world that is filled with indoctrination. As a rule of thumb, he has taught me that when everybody agrees on something more complicated than “two plus two equals four,” we should question it.
George Yancy: For some of us, witnessing the killing of George Floyd and hearing him say that he couldn’t breathe brought back memories of 43-year-old Black male Eric Garner’s death back in 2014, though he said, “I can’t breathe” 11 times. When you think about what happened to George Floyd within the larger historical context of white racism within the U.S., how does Floyd’s death speak to you? For me, it was not anomalous, but how did it speak to you?
Noam Chomsky: His death dramatically symbolized 400 years of hideous crimes and atrocities, and evidently it meant that to a large part of the population. It is quite striking what happened after his assassination, as we should call it. There was a huge outpouring, nothing comparable in American history. There were huge demonstrations; there was a sense of dedicated solidarity of Black and white people marching together. They were nonviolent overwhelmingly, though the right wing would like you to believe otherwise. There was also enormous public support, with two-thirds of the population supportive of protest. There is nothing remotely like that in U.S. history.
Protests led by Martin Luther King Jr., at the very peak of his popularity, didn’t come anywhere close to that. That’s the result, I think, of a lot of work that’s been done on the ground by Black Lives Matter and other groups which have raised the level of consciousness and awareness to the point where when this thing happened it just lit a spark, and the kindling was ready to burn. And it’s had a longtime impact. I think it’s changed perception and understanding considerably, and not undermined by the fact that police-perpetrated killings continue almost daily.
As I was watching the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin, I’m sure that Floyd’s family had experienced some sense of relief and perhaps they could breathe again as well. Yet, it also occurred to me that in the case of finding Chauvin guilty on all three charges, there was such a low threshold to demonstrate his guilt. He had knelt on him for nine minutes and 29 seconds. I don’t want to come across as pessimistic or cynical, but what do you see as “triumphant” or “progressive” regarding the guilty verdict?
You know, there had been an atmosphere in the past, as you know, better than I do, in which Black lives just didn’t matter. The sentiment was that if a white person was brought to trial after killing a Black person, the reasoning was that they probably had a “good reason.” So, just free them. Of course, there were even worse cases where whites carried out murders and lynchings and were praised. Well, fortunately, we’re past that.
But not so far in the past, Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, for example, was assassinated in a Gestapo-style murder, set-up by the FBI, who fed to the Chicago police fake stories about guns being stashed in his apartment. The police raided his apartment at about 4 o’clock in the morning and murdered him and his friend, Mark Clark. Just murdered them. The reason for killing Hampton was very simple. He was the most important of the Black Panther organizers. The FBI wanted to go after the successful organizers and Hampton was the peak of them; he had to be killed. In fact, it was the last of a long series of efforts where the FBI tried to instigate a feud between the Black Panthers and the criminal group, Blackstone Rangers, which were in Chicago.
The FBI sent fake letters to the Rangers written in fake Black dialect saying that the Panthers had a contract out on their leaders. But they were closely enough integrated, so they knew what was going on. In the case of Hampton, however, they had an FBI infiltrator, who was his bodyguard. The point is that there was a long FBI plot not just against the Panthers, but against the Black movements altogether. It took years of dedicated work by some great young lawyers, Flint Taylor and Jeffrey Haas, working on the case for years to finally get a kind of civil settlement.
This one case vastly outweighs anything that was charged against Richard Nixon. Was he charged for his use of national political police carrying out murder and assassination campaigns against Black organizers? And regarding your question, that’s a big difference between then and now. Now at least circumstances are such that a jury can convict someone for the perfectly obvious murder of a Black man. But if you turn on Fox News, notice the reaction. Listen to Tucker Carlson, who claims that the trial of Derek Chauvin wasn’t legitimate because the jury was intimidated, they were terrified that Black people were going to come and destroy their houses and kill them all. Alan Dershowitz, the so-called civil libertarian who likes to present himself as that, also claimed that the trial was illegitimate because the jury was intimidated.
We haven’t freed ourselves. There’s a lot of distance to go, but the killing of George Floyd did bring out something very positive in the society, namely the beginnings of understanding that there’s something really hideous at the core of our history. It has come up in other ways, like the 1619 Project published by The New York Times. Some historians are carping about it, “You got this wrong; you’ve got that wrong.” But it’s not even relevant when, finally, we have a recognition in the main media and the country that we’ve had 400 years of hideous atrocities experienced by Black people. So, let’s take a look at it, ask who we are and what we are. This is not something irrelevant to American history. It’s the basis of U.S. economic prosperity; that’s why I’m privileged.
Cotton was the oil of the 19th century. The large part of the wealth of the United States, and also Britain, and to a lesser extent the continent, was based on cheap cotton. How do you get cheap cotton? Well, by the most hideous, atrocious system of slavery that ever existed. A lot of this is just coming to light. Edward E. Baptist’s book, The Half Has Never Been Told, provides an astonishing picture of things that maybe professional historians knew something about, but certainly the general public, even the informed public, wasn’t informed about. I didn’t know a lot of the things he described; they were way beyond the horrors that I knew about. A lot of this is just beginning to come out after hundreds of years. It’s about time.
And we have to look at a lot of other things. For example, why do so few Black people have access to wealth? There are many reasons. One reason is the New Deal measures, which determined that federal housing had to be segregated. And in the 1950s, for the first time, a Black man had a chance to get a decent job in an auto union job at an auto plant, to make some money and perhaps buy a house. But he couldn’t buy a house, because the Federal Housing Projects (Levittown, in Long Island, New York, for example) kept Black people out.
In the U.S., wealth and housing are very closely related. A lot of people’s wealth is in their house. Once Black workers finally got just a little bit of emancipation, a chance to get a job, they were told, “Sorry folks, but you can’t buy a house here because we have racist laws.” This ran into the later 1960s, which was finally overturned by the popular activism in the 1960s. I should say that the liberal Democratic senators who voted for this law were strongly opposed to segregation. They were not racists. They wanted nonsegregated housing, but they couldn’t get anything through the Southern Democrats, who dominated the Senate. This is very similar in our own time when you can’t get anything through unless you somehow get the Republican Party, which is dedicated to wealth and power, to agree. And this is a big problem in this country.
In the past few months, we have heard about shooting after shooting. Could you talk about the escalating danger of gun violence? My sense is that there are profound cultural myths regarding gun ownership. Could you speak to this as well?
Gun violence is increasing not just here, but one of the worst effects of the U.S. gun culture is in Mexico and Latin America. They’re flooded with American guns, which are killing people at a hideous rate. Mexico is a killing field with largely American guns. In Central America, there is the same thing. You flood areas with guns where there are plenty of tensions and crises and you’re going to get killings. Instead of people shouting at each other, they’ll shoot each other. And it’s shocking that somebody like me, for example, who doesn’t know which end of the gun to hold, could go into a store in Arizona, where I live, and pick up a fancy gun and hand it over to somebody from a Mexican cartel. Basically, things like that are a curse for the world. And it just has to be cured.
The history of this is worth remembering. In the 19th century, there was no gun culture. People had guns. After all, it was an agricultural country, so farmers had old muskets to chase coyotes away and so on, but there was no gun culture. What happened apparently — and there is a good study of this by historian Pamela Haag, who has examined this in some detail — is that gun manufacturers were facing an economic crisis.
The American Civil War provided a huge market for fancy modern guns. European states were at war, they were buying up guns. But the Civil War ended, and Europe went into a temporary quiescent state. There were not a lot of wars and fighting and so the market dried up. So, they hit on the idea of trying to create a market through advertising. The first great advertising campaign began with concocting an image of the “Wild West,” the kind of thing that I grew up with. There was Wyatt Earp, a sheriff who was quick on the draw, or there was the Lone Ranger who would ride to the rescue. There was nothing remotely like this in the West, but it was invented and had a big effect. I can remember it from my childhood, and we all believed it.
Of course, the bottom line of all of this was that you better buy your son a fancy rifle, or he won’t be a “real man.” Well, that established the basis for a kind of gun culture, and it was copied by other advertising campaigns. We all remember the Marlboro Man. You know, you want to poison yourself with cigarettes and be like a cowboy who runs to the rescue. And it turned out to be very effective. The tobacco campaign killed — though nobody knows, probably millions of people — and the gun culture is still killing people at a horrific rate, which was all escalated by the Supreme Court in 2008 — the District of Columbia v. Heller — where Justice Antonin Scalia reversed 100 years of precedent and reinterpreted the Second Amendment to grant free access to guns by individuals. Scalia was an originalist, a textualist.
The idea here is that you don’t pay attention to what the people who introduced the legislation meant by it; you’re not allowed to do that. You just have to look at the text, not what it meant to the people who wrote it. That’s illegitimate, not true scholarship.
So, he looked at the text and tried to show that somebody living in the 18th century would have interpreted the Second Amendment to mean disregard for militias. True or false, it’s totally irrelevant. We know exactly why the founders instituted the Second Amendment. One reason was the British Army. They were the main force in the world. The U.S. barely had an army, and the British might come right back. In fact, they did a few years later, and one had to have militias to call up to protect oneself against the British.
The second reason was slavery. In places like South Carolina, enslaved Black people outnumbered white people. And there were slave rebellions going on all over the Caribbean, and they could spread here. In fact, they did. So, white people decided they needed guns for militias. But the main reason was aggression and genocide. One of the main reasons for the American Revolution was that King George III had instituted a royal proclamation which banned the colonists from going to the territory of the Indian Nations. They were not supposed to invade them. Colonists were supposed to stay east of the Appalachians, but they didn’t want that. They wanted to kill and displace the American Indian people. They could then settle out there. Land speculators like George Washington wanted to move out. As soon as the British were gone, well, the white settlers needed militias, they needed guns.
Later on, the army was created, the cavalry took care of it, and through the 19th century, Indigenous nations were destroyed, attacked and expelled. They needed lots of guns for that. You see, that’s why the founders needed guns, but we’re not allowed to talk about that. Instead, we generally say what someone like Scalia thinks someone would’ve understood by the Second Amendment. And now that has become holy writ. Most people in the U.S., if you ask them what’s in the Constitution, the first thing they’ll say is the Second Amendment. It has just become a dominant part of the culture.
On April 27, the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States issued its long-awaited report on the U.S.’s police-perpetrated racist violence. The Commissioners concluded that the systematic police killings of Black people in the U.S. constitutes a prima facie case of crimes against humanity and they asked the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to initiate an investigation of responsible police officials.
These crimes against humanity under the ICC’s Rome Statute include murder, severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, persecution of people of African descent, and inhumane acts causing great suffering or serious injury to body or mental or physical health. All of the crimes occurred in the context of a widespread or systematic attack directed against the civilian population of Black people in the United States, as documented by the findings of fact in the 188-page report.
The Commissioners concluded that the systematic police killings of Black people in the U.S. constitutes a prima facie case of crimes against humanity.
The 12 commissioners are eminent experts and jurists from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and the Caribbean. I am serving as one of four rapporteurs who helped draft the report. After 18 days of hearings and extensive research, the commissioners found that both U.S. law and police practices do not comply with international law.
Testimony of family members, attorneys, activists and experts about police killings of 43 Black people, and the paralyzing of another, was presented to the commissioners. All of the victims were unarmed or were not threatening the officers or others.
Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, testified before the commissioners. At the press conference announcing the release of the report, he said, “I want to thank the commissioners for recognizing my humanity as a good Black man in America, and for recognizing my brother George’s humanity, and the humanity of other families across this nation. And bringing to light and acknowledging the United States government is perpetrating crimes against humanity against Black people in the United States.”
“This finding of crimes against humanity was not given lightly, we included it with a very clear mind,” Commissioner Hina Jilani from Pakistan told the Guardian. “We examined all the facts and concluded that there are situations in the U.S. that beg the urgent scrutiny of the ICC.”
The commissioners made the following findings of fact:
1. Pretextual traffic stops are a common precursor to police killings and uses of excessive force against people of African descent. Tavis Crane was killed by police after his young daughter threw a piece of candy out the window.
2. Race-based street stops, known as “stop-and-frisk,” often trigger the use of deadly force by police. Eric Garner was suspected of selling individual untaxed cigarettes. George Floyd was suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill.
3. Fourth Amendment violations invariably lead to the use of excessive force and police killings of Black people. Breonna Taylor was killed following the execution of a “no-knock” warrant after a judge had replaced it with a knock warrant.
4. Police routinely use excessive and lethal restraints against Black people. They include Tasers, chokeholds, compression asphyxia, “rough rides” and the use of vehicles as deadly weapons. George Floyd died from asphyxia. Freddie Gray was taken on a 45-minute “rough ride” resulting in his death.
5. Lethal police violence against Black people is exacerbated by officers’ failure to provide medical attention. For example, Andrew Kearse was kept in the back of a squad car for 17 minutes as he begged for help, repeating, “I can’t breathe.” He died of a heart attack in the car.
6. Lethal police violence against Black people experiencing a mental health crisis is systematic. After Daniel Prude’s family called police to provide mental health assistance, he was walking naked in the street. The officers put a spit hood over his head after he began spitting. They held him face down on the pavement for two minutes and 15 seconds, and he stopped breathing.
7. Cis- and transgender Black women, girls and femmes are disproportionately killed by police in the U.S. A friend of Kayla Moore, a mentally ill transgender woman, called for mental health assistance for Moore. Officers found a warrant for someone with Moore’s birth name, but 20 years older. They arrested her, threw her face down onto a futon to handcuff her, and she died of asphyxiation. Then they made disparaging comments about the gender identity of the woman they had killed.
8. Systemic racist police violence kills and traumatizes Black children and youth. Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was shot to death by police as he played in a park with a toy gun. The young children of Jacob Blake witnessed their father being shot and paralyzed by police.
9. Racist police violence traumatizes and devastates families and communities. Manuel Elijah Ellis was hit, punched, choked and tasered to death by police. “We’re broken, generations of us are emotionally tired. Our bodies are weathered, and it causes us physical illness. It causes us lifelong ailments and diseases. It causes us generational trauma that we are passing on,” Jamika Scott, a friend of the Ellis family, testified. “We are traumatized. We live in a constant state of PTSD, we are hyper vigilant, we are fearful, we are anxious, we are depressed,” she added. “It tears holes in families and communities. And it’s not just one family, it’s what happens to one family in this community, it happens to all of us. And it happens, it has lasting echoes throughout generations.”
10. Black immigrants are particularly vulnerable to systemic racist police violence and police killings. Botham Jean, born in St. Lucia, was eating ice cream in his apartment when an officer walked in, mistakenly thinking it was hers, and shot him dead. “What was she defending,” Allison Jean, Botham Jean’s mother, asked, “as the only weapon he held was the color of his skin?”
11. Legal actors are complicit in police violence and killings of Black people through qualified immunity and systemic impunity of officers. Police officers in the United States enjoy impunity for their racist violence. They are rarely held accountable for killing black people, and qualified immunity protects them against liability for violation of constitutional rights.
- a) Alarming pattern of destruction and manipulation of evidence, cover-ups and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors have a conflict of interest and medical examiners often do the bidding of police. After Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown as Brown raised his hands and said, “Don’t shoot,” the officer bagged his own gun and washed Brown’s blood off his hands. After police killed Henry Glover, the officers burned the car with his body in it.
- b) Prosecutorial misconduct and grand jury abuse. The offending officers testified at the grand juries in the killings of both Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, and in neither case was the officer cross-examined. There were no indictments of officers in either case.
- c) Systemic impunity and lack of oversight by police. Internal affairs investigations invariably exonerate officers. Police can’t be trusted to police themselves. The “blue wall of silence” keeps officers from reporting misconduct by fellow officers. Police unions facilitate impunity of officers. The police union got the body camera footage a few days after the killing of Daniel Prude but it took the Prude family six months to get it, and only after they filed several lawsuits.
- d) Qualified immunity. A recent U.S. District Court judge wrote, “[J]udges have invented a legal doctrine to protect law enforcement officers from having to face any consequences for wrongdoing. The doctrine is called ‘qualified immunity.’ In real life it operates like absolute immunity.” In case after case heard by the commissioners, victims’ families faced extraordinary obstacles to holding officers accountable for the killing of their family members.
Violations of Human Rights
The commissioners found that systemic racist police violence against people of African descent in the United States has resulted in a pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. These include violations of the right to life; the right to liberty and security; the right to mental health; the right to be free from arbitrary detention; and the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including by the use of tasers, chokeholds and compression asphyxia. The U.S. Torture Statute only punishes torture committed abroad.
The commissioners also found violations of the right to be free from discrimination based on race, gender, disability or status as a child. The “stop and frisk” doctrine is an invitation for racial profiling, and the Supreme Court allows pretextual stops for traffic violations even when the officer is motivated by racism, in violation of international law.
In addition, the commissioners found violations of the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence, which constitute extrajudicial killings, as well as the right to be treated with humanity and respect. The commissioners found violations of the duty to provide medical care to detained persons; to ensure investigations of extrajudicial killings that are independent, competent, thorough and effective; and to prosecute suspects and punish perpetrators to ensure they are held accountable.The Commissioners concluded that the systematic police killings of Black people in the U.S. constitutes a prima facie case of crimes against humanity.
The commissioners found that both U.S. laws and police practices — as documented in the 44 cases heard by the commissioners and national data — do not comply with the international standards on the use of force.
Chauvin Trial: Systemic Racist Police Violence, Not Just “Bad Apples” : Many Minneapolis police officers receive “Killology training” through the police union. @marjoriecohn #georgefloyd #chauvin https://t.co/a9RnEkuVAf pic.twitter.com/HkuLf5vflM
— Dick and Sharon (@DickandSharon) April 5, 2021
According to international standards, law enforcement may only use force when strictly necessary, and it must be proportionate to the seriousness of the harm it is meant to prevent. They may not use firearms except in self-defense or defense of others, and only against imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm. Lethal force cannot be used to protect law and order or to safeguard property, according to international law.
But Supreme Court jurisprudence allows police officers to use deadly force if they have probable cause to believe the suspect committed a past crime. No state laws require that lethal force can only be used as a last resort when necessary to prevent imminent death or serious injury.
Not Just “a Few Bad Apples”
The commissioners found that contrary to the popular notion that unjustified killings of Black people by police are merely the actions of “a few bad apples,” the real problem is structural racism that is embedded in the U.S. legal and policing systems.
Collette Flanagan, founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, whose son Clinton Allen was murdered by police, testified before the commissioners. At the press conference launching the report, Flanagan called out police departments who “are still insisting that policemen when caught on camera using unnecessary deadly force are merely just a few bad apples.” On the contrary, she said, “We are into orchards of bad apples with trees that have diseased roots tainted with racism and white supremacy, and they are bearing rotten fruit.”“We are into orchards of bad apples with trees that have diseased roots tainted with racism and white supremacy, and they are bearing rotten fruit.”
Indeed, from March 29 (the day the trial of Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd began) through April 18, at least 64 people in the United States died at the hands of law enforcement. More than half of the victims were Black or Brown.
The commissioners addressed their recommendations to several entities, including the United Nations Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the executive branch of the U.S. government and the U.S. Congress. The commissioners recommended several reforms, as well as passage of the BREATHE Act, which is aimed at divesting federal resources from policing and investing instead in new approaches to community safety.
The commissioners call on the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC, upon receipt of this report of the Commission of Inquiry, to initiate an investigation into crimes against humanity committed and condoned by officials in the United States. The U.S. has not ratified the Rome Statute for the ICC. The commissioners call on the executive branch of the U.S. to sign and ratify the Rome Statute. In the meantime, the commissioners recommend that the United States submit to the jurisdiction of the ICC for purposes of an investigation into these crimes against humanity against people of African descent in the U.S.
Reposted with the author’s permission from Truthout
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