HHF Opinion: Manslaughter; We have a charge, will there be a conviction? 

Written by: Warnell Jones

Call me crazy, but I think I just witnessed America showing some form of guilt and remorse. I may be losing it, but did the mighty US of A take action against a white police officer for the unjust murder of a black man?

 

Perhaps good old America is coming to its senses, realizing that it’s not (never, ever was) acceptable for police officers to use deadly force against situations that don’t call for such. We hope that someone in our judicial system came to see this (and every instance like it) for what it is – a crime.

 

Allow me to catch you up on current events.

 

Terance Crutcher

On September 16, 2016, in Tulsa, OK, Officer Betty Shelby killed Terence Crutcher – an unarmed; or otherwise innocent, black man – after shortly being tazed by her fellow officer during a traffic incident. She later gave the press the excuse of Crutcher not following orders and possibly reaching through a closed window for a weapon (that was never in the vehicle). Now generally, these claims are coerced and allowed as fact in these cases. However, multiple videos of the incident have made this case different.

 

Betty Shelby

On September 22, 2016, Officer Shelby was charged with Felony 1st Degree Manslaughter – punishable up to life in prison.

 

This is an anomaly in modern-day American society – history tells us that no matter the offense, the powers-that-be (the judges, in this case) choose the side of the lawman against the side of the victims. So often, the officers that commit these crimes are sent on paid leave, while the system “investigates”, only to determine that the officers in question will not have charges brought against them.

 

In 2014, 100 unarmed black men & women were killed by police, notably including young Tamir Rice & Michael Brown. No convictions of murder or manslaughter for any officers.

 

In 2015, 102 unarmed black men & women were slain by police, notably Sandra Bland while in police custody. Of those cases, 2 convictions of manslaughter were found.

 

This year, the names range from Alton Sterling to Philando Castile, from Korryn Gaines to Keith Lamont Scott. Now Terence Crutcher. This is the 1st charge for manslaughter this year. That staggering statistic means that if the police have a similar number of unarmed killings this year, and Officer Shelby is the only officer convicted this year, the rate would be 1%. Over 3 years, 300 unarmed people killed by police, 3 convictions.  3 / 300 = 1%.

 

Certainly, in an America where “all men are created equal”, that idea doesn’t fare well for anyone in possession of melanin-heavy skin.

 

Perhaps I am somewhat elated to see that black people of America are getting a chance of an apology, of recognition, of acceptance.

 

But then again, history shows me different. That 1% number only happens if a conviction is handed to Officer Shelby. Right now, she’s only been charged……

 

…….and we know a charge and a conviction are two different things.


Source of statistics: http://www.mappingpoliceviolence.org. 


HHF Opinion: The police shooting of Korryn Gaines and the Sovereign Citizen movement

Written by Big Momma ‘Miz’
On August 1st, 23 year-old Korryn Gaines was fatally shot by police during a stand-off (when holding her son who was also injured). Unlike other recent police shootings of Black Americans, the community reaction was muted: there were no street marches, no vigils, no riots and protests. Some claimed that this lack of public outrage reflected broader sexism in the US and a lack of interest in recognizing Black American women shot by police – symbolized by the #SayHerName movement that followed the death of Sandra Bland in Texas. 
But as Big Momma ‘Miz’ writes here Gaines is a ‘controversial’ figure, not only because of her behavior with the police but also for status as a Sovereign Citizen, a group previously associated with white supremacist movements.

 

Have you ever heard of or met a Sovereign Individual/Citizen?

In a nutshell, these people have a strong belief in their obligation to individual rights; a disbelief of political equality; a belief in the right to financial and personal privacy. Meaning, sovereign citizens are anti-government extremists who believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or “sovereign” from the United States. As a result, they believe they don’t have to answer to any government authority, including courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, or law enforcement.

Police say a Baltimore County officer stopped Korryn Gaines’ car in March because it displayed cardboard signs in place of a license plates, which stated, “Any Government official who compromises this pursuit to happiness and right to travel will be held criminally responsible and fined, as this is a natural right or freedom.” The officer wrote several tickets; as expected, and asked her to get out the car because it will be towed; as expected.

Now let’s be real, If you’re riding around with a piece cardboard instead of state issued plates, there is a possibility you may encounter some police interaction. And when we are faced with it, is it wise as a ‘black person’ to add more fuel to the fire? According to police, Gaines became belligerent and had to be forced from the car because she refused, it was said that she told an officer they would have to murder her to get her out of the vehicle.  Gaines recorded the stop, on the video she allegedly told her son; “Don’t be afraid, you see what they do to us, right? You fight them. They are not for us. They want to kill us, and you never, ever back down from them.”

Ryan Gaines, her 26-year-old brother, described his sister as a determined woman who would fight battles even when it was clear she couldn’t win.  “She’s very opinionated; she stood her ground,” he said. “That’s the thing about Korryn, right or wrong, she stood her ground.”  Gaines said he and his sister shared unpopular political beliefs.  Whenever they witnessed injustice, he said, they felt compelled to object.  

OK, I understand the mindset of having love for yourself and your people and wanting to see better treatment in certain circumstances, but where her antics justifiable? Some family members believed Gaines acquired militant beliefs. Her mother said she did not agree with all of Gaines’ beliefs but knew her daughter was passionate.  

Media reports, dependent on police accounts, say the police used extreme patience before firing first – and yet, although Baltimore County Police had recently implemented a body camera program, none of the officers on the scene of the Gaines’ shooting were equipped with body cameras, nor did they send for any.

On August 1st police went to Gaines’ apartment in Randallstown, Maryland to serve her with an arrest warrant for failing to appear in court, five months after the traffic incident. Police say that Gaines barricaded herself with a shotgun at the apartment. For hours, police said they tried to talk her down. At one point, they obtained another warrant charging Gaines with first- and second-degree assault, obstructing and hindering, and resisting or interfering with arrest, according to court records reported by the Baltimore Sun.

Police state that Gaines repeatedly threatened them and aimed her gun at them. At around 3 pm, she allegedly said, “If you don’t leave, I’m going to kill you.” An officer fired his weapon once, according to police. Gaines returned fire. Police then opened fire. By the time it was over, Gaines was dead and her 5-year-old son, Kodi, was injured.

It appears that Gaines’ actions were in alignment with the anti-government sovereign citizen movement. I’m not sure if she was a participant in the parties that held illegal courts that issued warrants for judges and police officers “making a citizen’s arrest”.  Their weapon of choice is paperwork, they jam the court system with frivolous lawsuits and liens against public officials to harass them. And they use fake money orders, personal checks, at some government agencies, banks, and businesses.  Sovereign citizen’s cast-off courts, laws and law enforcement as illegitimate.

Interestingly, considering Gaines’ African-American background, most early sovereigns, and some of those who are still on the scene, believed that being “white” was a prerequisite to becoming a sovereign citizen. The movement is rooted in racism and anti-Semitism, though most sovereigns, many of whom are African American, seem to be unaware of their beliefs’ origins. In my opinion, that has to be the highest level of ignorance next to being a Christian. 

In the early 1980s, the sovereign citizen’s movement mostly attracted white supremacists and anti-Semites, because sovereign theories originated in groups that saw Jews as working behind the scenes to manipulate financial institutions and control the government.

Was Korryn Gaines’s death a result of being “down for the cause” if so, please tell me what exactly is the cause? Here is a movement that originates among white supremacists, but many supporters now are African-American….WTF?

I cram to understand our people’s mentality thinking we can align ourselves with any type of movement that isn’t designed for us, or displaying actions that bear absolutely no results, like marching and protesting! Some believe Korryn’s erratic behavior to the lead poison she reportedly suffered from.

While all of this may be true, it’s useful to remember another case – that is similar to the one leading to the death of Korryn Gaines in August – involving Baltimore County police from 2000 that lasted for days, not hours.

After Joseph Palczynski went off in a murderous shooting spree in the Baltimore suburbs, which left four people dead (including a pregnant mother of a two-year old boy) he took the family of his ex-girlfriend hostage in their Dundalk home. After a 97-hour standoff with Baltimore County police (Palczynski actually shot at police on several occasions during the siege), two of the three hostages escaped after drugging the gunman and that’s when law enforcement finally entered the home while Palczynski slept and killed him.

Joseph Palczynski killed four people in a span of about 48 hours, held a family hostage while he shot at police, and law enforcement waited almost 100 hours before they finally entered the home where he was holed up as he slept and killed him. Yet, Korryn Gaines died in less than six hours after police attempted to serve her a warrant for a traffic violation, while using “extreme patience”.

080616-national-korryn-gaines-instagram

 

Sources:

Baltimore Sun; Anderson J. & Amarachi Mbakwe 2016 Aug 5

newPittsburghCourierOnline.com Yoes, S. “Was There a Rush to Kill Korryn Gaines” 2016 Aug 11

www.splcenter.org Fighting Hate/ Extremist Files Turner, Timothy J.

www.vox.com Baltimore County shot Korryn Gains – and her 5 year old was caught in the crossfire Lopez, G. 2016 Aug 4

 

HHF Opinion: Police shooting of Philando Castile

Written by Warnell Jones

What happened? What did Philando Castile do wrong? Is there a police protocol in Minnesota that deems an officer just when he does more than just issue a ticket for faulty equipment? Was Philando Castile in gross negligence of the law by legally owning a firearm? Is it acceptable for an officer of the law to feel threatened by a man reaching for his wallet or ID, after telling said officer he would do so?

Certainly the wrongful death of Philando Castile last week at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota has raised many questions and comments about the state of police responsibility, protocol, and racism in America.

Many have the thought and idea that this officer (we’ll call him Officer Jackass) is incapable of being an effective police officer, because this is a terribly sad example of law enforcement. This does not fit the mantra of ‘protect and serve’.

If Officer Jackass was scared because Castile had a legally owned firearm in his possession, he should’ve taken appropriate measures to seize the weapon. An ideal situation sees Officer Jackass asking Mr. Castile to keep his hands raised while the weapon was taken from him, instead of firing on him with his family in the car. In addition, Officer Jackass could have very well used non-lethal measures to subdue Mr. Castile if a threat was posed (of which there was none). This is terrible law enforcement, where a fearful officer that doesn’t know how to manage situations makes a terrible assumption that leads to murder.

If this was an isolated incident, the previous paragraph would serve as just judgment. Sadly however, history shows us many more situations like this in the revered “home of the brave”. Before this ‘smartphone era’ we didn’t have any documentation to substantiate the idea that police officers were purposely killing black people. To our dismay, the judicial system seems to be in on the plot.

It appears that ‘home’ for black people is a country where the officers of the law are allowed – often without punishment – to kill black citizens. Sure, it seems like a stretch, but in a land where “all men are created equal”, the murder of a citizen is a just cause for “due process”, right? You know, where a court examines the situation and places a fault, judgement, and punishment on one of the involved parties? All too often, the judicial system exempts these officers from this process. Yeah, the officers that wrongly take the lives of citizens. When these acts continue without judgement, are we supposed to conclude that law enforcement employees have a ‘free pass’ to kill black people? Does this ideology negate the ‘scared cop’ theory?

Either way, these facts and occurrences have drawn strong disdain from the oppressed in this situation. In a society where the privileged onlookers of these tragedies have the caveat of dismissing surveillance footage as lore without fact, the black conclusion is, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. Some even feel a similar rage to their ancestors during the Civil Rights Movement. Some privileged person would pose the question, “Why?” Because 2016 & 1966 have a similar ring. Because this is an issue of civil rights. Living without wrongful persecution from the police is a civil right. We shouldn’t feel the need to protect ourselves from our ‘protectors’.

We shouldn’t feel like the police in America are looking for a reason to kill us – but I’ll be honest – I don’t have much credible information to support that claim.

How do we turn these thoughts and feelings around? What measures need to be taken to prevent these heinous acts in the future?

Warnell

Detroit-based Warnell Jones has always loved writing: having kept journals, notes and lists of his thoughts for years. (Some long gone now), he loves seeing his mindstate in retrospect as he goes back and reads his past thoughts. His passions and what he hopes to write about: hip-hop (all four elements) R&B, race relations, social change, education, food, fitness and love.  

Warnell is part of the New Black Writers Program, managed by Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine, to support, nurture and develop the talents of Black American journalists of the future.

Personal Response: Officer Nero judgement, Freddie Gray trial By Omi Muhammad

Personal response Article about the Officer Nero judgement, the officer involved in the Freddie Gray trial.

Written by: Omi Muhammad

 

May 23, 2016 11:13 AM

CBS Alert reads “Baltimore Officer Acquitted in Freddie Gray Case”.

My phone screen goes from red to blue and back to red again. I knew that it was due to a glitch in my filter app but all I saw was the symbolism. I stared at the screen, numb, not shocked just numb; I realized that in the back of my mind I expected this. I absent-mindedly logged onto Facebook where I saw all sorts of different reactions to the verdict. People were outraged and calling for blood. Parents were pleading for possible rioters to be mindful of their children’s safety. Some people agreed with the verdict. I know how I wanted to feel but in all honesty, the pain was too much for me to allow myself to feel at all.

Freddie Gray was another life lost at the hands of justice; and yet, no justice.

Over the years, countless minorities have been abused and even killed by police hands; and yet so few are mentioned. The numbers dwindle even further when asked about justice. The problem isn’t just police brutality or that this one officer was acquitted; the problem is the system that allows it. The system that enacted and later amended the Three Fifths Compromise. Over 150 years later, why are we still fighting to be considered human?

Minorities are taught as children how to survive before we even begin to learn how to live. Imagine being told that you and anyone who looks like you is a target, for anything from a mean look to death. Imagine being told to talk, dress and behave a certain way just so that you don’t arouse any more unwarranted suspicion. Think of the worried glances at the clock when you are late coming home. Tears dripping onto clasped hands as someone prays fervently that you’re one of the ones who makes it. We need a paradigm shift in this country; one that doesn’t create an ideology of selective humanity.

We need to reclaim our humanity. As a human being, I have choice words for the officers and the judge; but that doesn’t bring anyone back or prevent these situations from occurring. It doesn’t help us cope or build for the future. This is why I’m especially proud of the Baltimore youth. They have yet to lose their ability to feel, that was made evident by the explosion of art following the riots. From murals to national slam poems, our youth have been re-establishing their power. To Freddie Gray and all other lives lost, we honor you and will continue to reclaim our humanity.

West Baltimore native Omi Muhammad is an artist and writer, now based in Philadelphia. To read her work, please go to http://www.urban-gypsy.net/index.html

 

Omi Muhammad
Omi is part of the New Black Writers Program, managed by Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine, to support, nurture and develop the talents of Black American journalists of the future.

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