Greensboro Police again face charges of profiling, brutality

One of the Greensboro police officers involved in the Jose Charles case is again at the center of racial profiling and police brutality complaints.

The complaint, filed late last month, is again raising questions about a department that has for years faced charges of profiling and several high-profile brutality cases.

From a story this week in Greensboro’s alternative weekly, Triad City Beat:

Almost from the moment they parked their car in front of Cheesecakes by Alex on South Elm Street, the four young, black men attracted the attention of the Greensboro police downtown bike patrol, Jones said.

“Immediately, we were surrounded by police officers, maybe seven of them,” Jones recalled. “They started asking us what we were doing, where we were going. We asked them why they were asking all these questions. The best answer they could give us is that they were the community resource team, and it was their job to go out in the community and ask questions.”

They would soon encounter the bike patrol again, this time on the 100 block of West McGee Street bustling with raucous late-night revelers in a confusing situation that quickly spun out of control, ending with Jones’ friend, Aaron Garrett, getting Tased and all four arrested and hauled down to the Guilford County Jail. Graham Holt, Jones’ lawyer, contends that the four men became the target of the police’s attention solely because of their race, and that the officers unnecessarily escalated the situation.

One of the officers involved in the incident was Officer Samuel A. Alvarez, who can be seen in an eyewitness video grabbing one of the young men from behind and slamming him into a car before he is tossed to the ground.

Alvarez was also involved in the controversial Jose Charles case:

Jose Charles, a 15-year-old boy who had been attacked by a group of teenagers at the Fun Fourth Festival at Center City Park on July 4, 2016, wound up in a melee with downtown bike patrol officers that resulted in criminal charges against him and a hospital visit. While Charles was using his T-shirt to stanch blood from a cut above his eye, Officer Alvarez approached Charles and asked him what he was doing. Tamara Figueroa, Charles’ mother, alleged in an interview with Triad City Beat earlier this year that Alvarez reacted to her son’s profane response by grabbing him, lifting him “in the air with all the force they could, and slam[ming] him on his head.”

Cpl. Johnson, the supervisor on duty on both July 4 and Sept. 10, acknowledged in the investigative report for the Charles incident that following the encounter with Alvarez, “Charles’ pre-existing lacerations to his right eye began bleeding rapidly.”

The administrative investigation by the department’s professional standards division cleared the officers of wrongdoing in the Charles incident, but the police community review board, a citizen panel, disagreed with the department’s finding. Lindy Perry-Garnette, a member of the board, was forced to resign after she publicly expressed concern about what she saw in police body-camera video of the incident. Frustration about city council’s handling of the matter boiled over with dozens of Charles’ supporters taking over council chambers in May.

The latest incident is under administrative investigation, according to the Greensboro Police Department.


UNC Students threaten federal lawsuit over “Silent Sam”

University of North Carolina students threatened a federal lawsuit Wednesday unless the Chapel Hill campus’ “Silent Sam” statue is taken down.

Hampton Dellinger, a Durham attorney, is representing the Black Law Students Association, a professor and 12 individual students. Dellinger sent a letter Wednesday to UNC President Margarent Spellings, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt, members of the school’s Board of Trustees and the UNC Board of Governors.

From the letter:

“As UNC’s Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office acknowledges, federal laws guarantee a series of rights to members of the UNC campus community. Among the applicable laws are Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which forbid racial discrimination at UNC as an institution of higher learning and a recipient of federal funds. Because Silent Sam violates the rights guaranteed by these and other federal laws, we request that you authorize its immediate removal in order to avoid needless litigation.

Any federally funded institution (such as UNC) that is deliberately indifferent to a racially hostile learning environment runs afoul of federal law. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights defines a hostile environment under Title VI as “harassing conduct (e.g., physical, verbal, graphic, or written) sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent so as to interfere with or limit the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or privileges provided by a recipient.”

In a Wednesday interview with N.C. Policy Watch, Dellinger said he helped organize students in the legal effort because the violation seemed so obvious.

“This violation has been hiding in plain sight,” Dellinger said. “I think the case law is strong. It’s particularly compelling in this instance.”

In many instances where campuses have been sued for creating hostile environments, the violations boil down to students creating the environment and the University tolerating it, Dellinger said.

“But this is university created and university tolerated,” Dellinger said. “It’s not something ephemeral – it’s a permanent structure that represents white supremacy in the center of campus.”

It’s been established a university’s deliberate indifference to racially insensitive public displays can violate Titles IV and VI, Dellinger said.

“I hope that they’ll voluntarily take it down and end the violation,” he said.

The confederate monument controversy will be the subject of a meeting of the N.C. Historical Commission, which must approve any removal of such monuments, on Sept. 22.

Members of that board have recently begun to speak out on the issue, with several supporting the monuments’ removal.

A 2015 law – which even board members regard as vaguely written and confusing – limits the circumstances under which monuments can be removed – and to where they can be moved.


Former UNC chancellor, prominent faculty speak out against “Silent Sam”

Former UNC Chancellor James Moeser is among the voices that spoke out for the removal of the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument on the school’s Chapel Hill campus Monday night.

The statue was the focus of a panel discussion on campus Monday night and has been at the center of a recent firestorm on the UNC Board of Governors.

In a Facebook post last month, Moeser wrote he had once supported keeping the monument but his thinking has shifted.

“I too have changed my mind about Silent Sam,” he wrote. “I was, for a long time, arguing for contextualization and preservation, and I think if UNC had acted on this idea a couple of years ago, we might have been able to hold our course. But now events have passed us by.

“These monuments have been adopted by Nazis and their fellow travelers as icons for white supremacy,” Moeser continued. “Silent Sam needs to come down. Now.”

The confederate monument controversy will be the subject of a meeting of the N.C. Historical Commission, which must approve any removal of such monuments, on Sept. 22.

Members of that board have recently begun to speak out on the issue, with several supporting the monuments’ removal.


Architectural Digest on Confederate monuments, history of toppled statues

Leave it to Architectural Digest to produce a really great piece about the Confederate monuments controversy.

The piece, published this week, looks at when and why we memorialize people and movements with statues — and what happens when the culture rethinks those people or movements and peacefully removes or forcefully topples those monuments.

From the story:

Statues tend to rise and fall in tandem with political sentiment. In the U.S., Confederate statues were erected in far greater numbers during two eras in our history: the Jim Crow era and the Civil Rights era, as the Southern Poverty Law Center points out. The removal of statues, meanwhile, accelerated after the Charlottesville mayhem last month and following Dylann Roof’s massacre of African-American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.

Eli Pousson, director of preservation at the non-profit Baltimore Heritage, says it took Heather Heyer’s tragic death to get monuments taken down in Baltimore. “In 2015, [we] sent a list of recommendations for what to do with the Confederate monuments to the prior mayor and she ignored it,” he says. “The current mayor held a review of the issue in March and April but did not act until after the Charlottesville violence.”

In post-war Germany, statues were taken down quickly, Slate noted, as Germany’s collective tail-between-its-legs attitude was pervasive. A 1946 federal law mandated the destruction of “any monument, memorial, poster, statue, edifice, street or highway name marker, emblem, tablet, or insignia,” that glorified the German military. While a federal law on the matter in the U.S. would eliminate the years of litigation that are sure to follow statue removals here, our states’ rights are far stronger here—and politically unassailable—and such a law could easily violate the first amendment.

“Since the end of the war, Germans have worked hard to reckon with the evils of Nazism and the Holocaust in a way that I don’t think the United States has ever truly done with the horrors of slavery or the systematic persecution of indigenous peoples,” says Sarah Beetham, a professor of Art History at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts who writes about sculpture and the Civil War. “But if we are going to move. . .away from our current polarization, we would do well to follow Germany’s lead and confront our entire past.”


The whole piece is worth your time as we head toward the Sept. 22 meeting of the North Carolina Historical Commission, at which North Carolina’s Confederate monument issue will be discussed.



Governor formally petitions to move Confederate monuments

Late Friday Governor Roy Cooper formally petitioned the North Carolina Historical Commission to remove three Confederate monuments from the capitol grounds in downtown Raleigh.

In a letter to the commission, which must approve any movement of such monuments, Cooper argues for moving the statues to the historic site of the Bentonville Battlefield in Johnston County.

A 2015 law prescribes how and when monuments and other “objects of remembrance” can be moved – and limits what the commission or local governments can do with them. Though the law states monuments may not be moved to places of lesser prominence, the Cooper administration is arguing that the Bentonville Battlefield qualifies as prominent placement and is necessary for their preservation.

The Historical commission meets to take up the issue Sept. 22. Several members of the board have spoken to N.C. Policy Watch over the last two weeks about their views on the monument controversy.

The meeting comes in the wake of deadly violence at a white supremacist rally over the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia and the toppling of a Confederate monument in Durham last month.

There has been a renewed push for removal of the “Silent Sam” statue on the campus of UNC in Chapel Hill as well.

Last month  Gov. Roy Cooper joined a number of Democratic and Republican governors of southern states in calling for Confederate monuments to be removed from state grounds.

Cooper told UNC officials they have the power to remove the ‘Silent Sam’ statue under a provision that allows for its removal if “building inspector[s] or similar officials” determine there are “threats to public safety.”

N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R – Rockingham) strongly disagreed with Cooper in a Facebook post.

UNC officials declined to remove the statue themselves and called on Cooper to convene the Historical Commission to decide the matter.