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Eric Garner

Photo: www.commondreams.org

The issue of young men of color dying in police custody has been dominating the national news of late and rightfully so. Millions of Americans in many cities — mostly people of color — live in fear and/or distrust of the police in their communities and this is not a recipe for a healthy society. Concerted action — protests, demands, and action by community leaders and elected officials — are all necessary if we are are going to tackle this unacceptable situation.

Dana Millbank of the Washington Post was right recently when he wrote that President Obama would do well to seize the moment surrounding the outrage that’s occurred across the political spectrum in the Eric Garner case out of New York (tragically pictured above) in which a young man was killed by a police choke hold. As Millbank noted, the Garner tragedy offers some glimmers of hope in that the killing is actually drawing harsh assessments from white commentators on the right who rushed to the defense of the police officer in the Ferguson, Missouri case.

What to really DO about the situation, however, is less clear. Millbank says President Obama should  look at creating alternatives the grand juries for investigating police deaths. Others are pushing the idea of police body cameras. Those are both promising ideas as far as they go.

The real solution that no one really seems to want to talk about, however, is this: Read More

Commentary

It seems counter-intuitive to many of us that, when confronted with an angry person breaking rules or engaging in questionable behavior, the best course for a person of authority is to simply walk away. But as countless teachers and mental health professionals have learned down through the years, deescalation is, in fact, regularly the best choice.

A fine editorial in this morning’s Greensboro News & Record makes this point — among several others — in a discussion of the Ferguson, Missouri disaster and its implications for other communities with similar police-community tensions. As the editorial notes:

[Former Ferguson police officer Darren] Wilson frequently invokes his ‘training’ in explaining his encounter with Brown, which involved only 90 tragic seconds. But more police forces are stressing ‘de-escalation’ to avert physical confrontations. ‘We haven’t taught officers to just walk away,’ Cambridge, Mass., police Commissioner Robert Haas told the Associated Press. Some situations demand the use of force. Others don’t. In some cases, the best weapons are patience and reason. And the best fight, the one avoided.”

Here in North Carolina — home of the late, great Andy Griffith who taught weekly TV lessons as “the sheriff without a gun” — such an obvious truth ought to already be embedded in our community DNA. Let’s hope experts of all kinds keep speaking up and reminding us of the logic of such an approach until it become common wisdom once again.

Read the entire N&R editorial by clicking here.

News

North Carolina news media haven’t reported much about an arrest by Charlotte police that took place late yesterday during the Moral Monday/#TalkUnion Labor Day rally that took place in the city’s Marshall Park.

Think Progress, however, has quite a few details plus video in this story: “Police Arrest Young Black Politician for Distributing Voting Rights Leaflets.” According to the story:

The stars of North Carolina’s Moral Mondays movement took the stage on Labor Day at Charlotte’s Marshall Park to condemn the state’s record on voter suppression and racial profiling, and urge the community to organize and turn out at the polls this November. Just a few hundred feet away, police cuffed and arrested local LGBT activist and former State Senate candidate Ty Turner as he was putting voting rights information on parked cars.

“They said they would charge me for distributing literature,” Turner told ThinkProgress when he was released a few hours later. “I asked [the policeman] for the ordinance number [being violated], because they can’t put handcuffs on you if they cannot tell you why they’re detaining you. I said, ‘Show me where it’s illegal to do this.’ But he would not do it. The officer got mad and grabbed me. Then he told me that I was resisting arrest!”

You can watch a video of the affair and read more about the ultimately successful efforts of Rev. William Barber and other NAACP officials to secure Turner’s release by clicking here.

Uncategorized

Another sobering report from the good folks at the ACLU:

ACLU Report on police militarization finds weapons and tactics of war used disproportionately against people of color – Report shows injustice, suffering caused by SWAT teams deployed for low-level police work, not crises; Investigation looked at many N.C. law enforcement agencies

RALEIGH – After obtaining and analyzing thousands of documents from police departments around the country, today the American Civil Liberties Union released the report War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing. The ACLU focused on more than 800 SWAT raids conducted by law enforcement agencies in 20 states, including North Carolina, and on the agencies’ acquisition of military weaponry, vehicles, and equipment.

“We found that police overwhelmingly use SWAT raids not for extreme emergencies like hostage situations but to carry out such basic police work as serving warrants or searching for a small amount of drugs,” said Kara Dansky, Senior Counsel with the ACLU’s Center for Justice. ”Carried out by ten or more officers armed with assault rifles, flashbang grenades, and battering rams, these paramilitary raids disproportionately impacted people of color, sending the clear message that the families being raided are the enemy. This unnecessary violence causes property damage, injury, and death.” Read More

Uncategorized

Community leaders and activists from organizations such as SpiritHouse, the Durham NAACP and the N.C. NAACP will gather 8:30am tomorrow morning at the Durham County Courthouse to bring attention to the case of Stephanie Nickerson, a U.S. Navy veteran and alleged victim of police brutality.

Nickerson, 25, advised her friend against an unwarranted search of a home by police responding to a disturbance call on October 28, 2012.

In an ABC11 interview, she said, “He was like put your arms behind your back, and I jerked my arm away and said no I haven’t done anything wrong. And immediately after I jerked my arm back he threw me on the ground, he held me by my neck, and punched me repeatedly in my face and head.”

Here’s the complete report from ABC11:

Nickerson’s case might not be an isolated incident as a report by the North Carolina Advocates for Justice suggests a disturbing trend over the past decade of racial disparities in police encounters with minorities. Read More