Defining Black Lives Matter – Part 2

Historical Attitude That Black Lives Are Expendable

“History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 – NIV

Have you ever been in an argument or debate with someone and mention what they did previously and their defense is that you are bringing up the past? When patterns or behaviors are repeated, and even current, the past is brought up to show a demonstrated pattern of conduct.  The criminal justice system does it all the time.

In February 1991, 34 nations led by the United States successfully freed the people of Kuwait from Iraq’s invasion.  American troops represented the spectrum of America, being all colors and genders.   General Colin Powell was the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and he was in interviews along with General Norman Schwarzkopf.  They were perfect examples of the love of freedom for America and other countries.  America’s military and the men who led it exemplified unity and the greatest of this country.

Less than one month after freeing Kuwait, on March 3, 1991, this nation and the world would see another side of America.

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A Sony handheld camcorder captured the beating of Rodney King.  The man who recorded the beating was ignored by the police and subsequently turned his video over to a local television station.

Following four days of grand jury testimony, on March 14, 1991, three Los Angeles police officers, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, and Theodore Briseno, were charged.  A ranking officer at the scene, Sargent Stacey Koon, was charged with “willfully permitting and failing to take action to stop the unlawful assault.”

The jury of 10 Whites, 1 Latino and 1 Asian acquitted Koon, Wind, and Briseno. The same jury was unable to reach a verdict on the charge against Powell.

Then Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley disagreed with the verdict, telling The New York Times that “the system failed us.” The day after the riots began, President George H. Bush asked the Department of Justice to look into charges against the officers for violating Rodney King’s civil rights.

President George H. Bush stated,

“What you saw and what I saw on the TV video was revolting. I felt anger. I felt pain. I thought: How can I explain this to my grandchildren?”

Today, we ask the same question, not about a video from 1991, but videos since then — maybe yesterday— or even today.

Many Black Lives Matter activists were not born until after the beating of Rodney King was recorded and the officers placed on trial and acquitted.  I wonder if former President George H. Bush has any words for their parents and grandparents of how to explain the repeated pattern?

Technology has become more available and many citizens are filming the police, along with dash cams and body cams, but the system has not changed.  Writing for the New York Daily News, Shaun King points out that the improvement of our technology is not the same as improvement in our humanity.

On Aug. 4, 1992, a federal grand jury indicted the four officers, and a new trial began in February 1993. In April 1993, the jury convicted Koon and Powell of violating Rodney King’s civil rights. They were each sentenced to 30 months in prison. Wind and Briseno were found not guilty.

Stacey C. Koon, an LAPD sergeant at the beating scene, was acquitted in state court but was one of two officers convicted of federal civil rights violations. He served 30 months in prison and wrote a book, raising $4 million in legal funds.

Laurence M. Powell, the officer seen delivering the majority of the 56 baton blows during the 81 seconds of videotaped beating, was convicted with Koon in the federal case and was released in 1996 after serving a 30-month sentence.

Timothy E. Wind had been out of the Police Academy for 10 months and was training under Powell the night that Rodney King was beaten. He struck King with his baton and kicked him, but was twice acquitted of any criminal wrongdoing. Wind was unnerved by the two trials and did not testify. The LAPD fired him. He took a part-time job as a community service officer for the Culver City Police Department in 1994, which some residents protested. Wind left that job in 2000 and was admitted into Indiana University’s law school.  He is said to now be living in Kansas.

Theodore J. Briseno acknowledged that he stomped Rodney King in the video, saying he was trying to stop him from moving.  However, Briseno was twice acquitted of criminal charges. He was the only defendant to break ranks and testify against the other three officers, describing them as “out of control.”  Briseno was a 10-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department.  He was fired in 1994 and unsuccessfully fought to keep his job.

rodney-king-beating-CU

Rodney King after being beaten by Los Angles Police Dept. officers.

Defense attorneys argued that King was violent and threatening before the video captured the beating.  The after-the-fact beating was therefore punishment, but the jury evidently believed that Rodney asked for, or deserved such punishment including .   crushing an eye-socket, cracking a cheek bone, breaking a leg, and fracturing ribs.

In the state trial, Rodney King did not testify.  He did in the federal trial. There are some who hold the legal opinion that the two federal convictions were because of King’s testimony.  It’s important that a surviving victim testifies to give their side of the story.

On the 25th anniversary of the recording of the beating of Rodney King, attorney Ira Salzman, (who represented Sargent Koon) suggested to the New York Daily News that today’s cops choose bullets over batons to avoid the avalanche of legal woes brought by videotape.

So now we know why today’s law enforcement is taught to continue shooting until the threat has been neutralized.   It has been conveyed to us that the threat is not the suspect, but the avalanche of legal woes.  For example, Michael Slager shot Walter Scott in the back, killing him, and with his false report, would have gotten away with it and not been charged with murder had it not been for a citizen videotaping with his cell phone.

Latasha Harlins

Latasha Harlins

The acquittal of the officers were not the only thing that caused anger to rise.  Two weeks after Rodney King’s beating, Korean-American grocer Soon Ja Du fatally shot 15-year-old Latasha Harlins after a dispute over a bottle of orange juice. She shot Latasha in the back.  Latasha died with $2 in her hand.

Du was charged and faced a 16 year sentence in state prison.  The judge however, sentenced Du to probation saying she was in fear from earlier robbers.

During the LA riots after the acquittal of the officers who beat Rodney King, you might have heard of the beating of truck driver Reginald Denny whose skull was fractured in 90 places.  Bobby Green, a Black man, saved Denny’s life.

Two weeks after Reginald Denny was beaten, Damian “Football” Williams, the man who smashed Denny’s head with a brick was arrested.  Williams was 19-years old at the time.  He was convicted of felony mayhem and served four years of a 10-year sentence.

In sentencing him, Judge John Ouderkirk of Superior Court said;

“Mr. Williams, it is intolerable in this society to attack and maim people because of their race.”

The same however, did not apply to storeowner DU who killed a Black teen because other Blacks had robbed her store during the riots.  The double-standard is in the justice system was clearly noted.

Eric GarnerOn March 3, 2016, the Los Angeles Times published a piece titled, “25 years after Rodney King, video still isn’t enough to stop police brutality.”   The op-ed piece brings out that 25 years after Rodney King’s beating was caught on camera, the U.S. criminal justice system still maintains a gulf between awareness and substantive change. This is evident in the video showing Eric Garner placed in an illegal choke-hold, and the officer not being indicted.

The situation of 19-year old Darrius Stewart is another example for how the system betrays trust.  Shelby County, Tennessee District Attorney Amy Weirich recommended indicting Memphis police officer Connor Schilling who removed Darrius from a vehicle where he was a passenger, and shot him in the back of a church.   However, the grand jury refused to indict Schilling.   In March of this year, Schilling was approved for “line of duty retirement” by the city of Memphis pension board.

Darius Steward

Darius Steward

The Memphis Police Department planned an administrative hearing where Schilling could have been reprimanded or terminated for violating handcuffing and radio procedures in the Darrius incident.  Now, Schilling’s retirement has stopped that action.

Then there is the incident involving Tamir Rice where Judge Ronald P. Adrine of the Cleveland, Ohio Municipal Court found probable cause that reckless homicide and negligent homicide exists against Officer Timothy Loehmann, and negligent homicide against Frank Garmback.  Judge Adrine found probable cause against both officers for dereliction of duty.

In spite of Judge Adrine’s findings,  prosecutor Tim McGinty failed to get an indictment from the grand jury saying;

“Given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and communications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police.”

 

bs-hs-gray-injuries-20150420

Freddie Gray who died while in police custody from an 80% severed spine.

We have heard from a state prosecutor that human error, mistakes and communications are defenses for not holding people accountable for killing Blacks.  It is a carry-over from the days of legalized slavery when slaves were considered property and if they were killed, the killer was not criminally prosecuted but paid the slave’s owner the value of the slave.  (American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses.)

Most recently, Baltimore, Maryland Circuit Court Judge Circuit Judge Barry Williams conveyed the same when acquitting not one, but three officers for the death of Freddie Gray.  In giving the verdict of not-guilty, Judge Williams stated;

“The failure to seat-belt may have been a mistake or it may have been bad judgment, but without showing more than has been presented to the court concerning the failure to seat-belt and the surrounding circumstances, the state has failed to meet its burden to show that the actions of the defendant rose above mere civil negligence.” (Emphasis added)

To the justice system, having Freddie Gray’s spine severed 80 percent while in police custody is “mere civil negligence — the destruction of property — not the killing of a human being.

Video recordings of contact between citizens and officers have awaken many, but they still do not protect citizens. There must be thousands of police officers who have never drawn their weapon while on duty.  The same number or more have never been dishonest in their reports.  The problem is that the public does not know the honest officers from the dishonest officers.  The public does not know the high-tempered officers from the calm officers.  And, the justice system has a history of construing the lives of Blacks as property, and the taking of those lives as “mere civil negligence. “

 

Posted on 07/29/2016, in Black lives matter, civil rights and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 35 Comments.

  1. I remember well the Rodney King case. Justice was far from perfect, but at least, there was an attempt to try. At the time, President George Bush and other California leaders wanted to send a message that this beating of Mr. King by police was NOT OKAY. This is why the DOJ moved forward to charge and retry the involved officers.

    This is why I have been so disappointed with the DOJ of today. Then the DOJ had no more data then than today. In my mind the judicial system today in response to police shootings and the killing of unarmed, defenseless peoples of color is in a worse state.

    And this is why I am so proud of the BLM movement. They are making a difference for the better..

    Liked by 4 people

    • “What you saw and what I saw on the TV video was revolting. I felt anger. I felt pain. I thought: How can I explain this to my grandchildren?”

      I never knew Bush said this.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Good morning Mindyme!
        Yep. He said it. A project by the UofC has his entire speech. (Thanks for bringing it up. I had not embedded the link. I went back and did so.)

        http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=20910

        Liked by 1 person

        • I didn’t know this either: (from your link) “Within one hour of the verdict, I directed the Justice Department to move into high gear on its own independent criminal investigation into the case. And next, on Thursday, five Federal prosecutors were on their way to Los Angeles. Our Justice Department has consistently demonstrated its ability to investigate fully a matter like this.

          Since 1988, the Justice Department has successfully prosecuted over 100 law enforcement officials for excessive violence. I am confident that in this case, the Department of Justice will act as it should. Federal grand jury action is underway today in Los Angeles. Subpoenas are being issued. Evidence is being reviewed”

          Liked by 3 people

          • Yep, Mindyme. The history is right there. Know what’s funny? (And I suppose this is why I laugh at and leave them to their ignorance.) Racists since the election of Obama take every opportunity to criticize and ridicule him when he addresses a case and asks the DOJ to investigate. But they don’t dare attack President George H. Bush who did the same.

            Liked by 4 people

        • yahtzeebutterfly

          Excerpt from the link you posted of what President George H. Bush stated:

          …the question of justice: Whether Rodney King’s Federal civil rights were violated. What you saw and what I saw on the TV video was revolting. I felt anger. I felt pain. I thought: How can I explain this to my grandchildren?

          Civil rights leaders and just plain citizens fearful of and sometimes victimized by police brutality were deeply hurt. And I know good and decent policemen who were equally appalled.

          I spoke this morning to many leaders of the civil rights community. And they saw the video, as we all did. For 14 months they waited patiently, hopefully. They waited for the system to work. And when the verdict came in, they felt betrayed. Viewed from outside the trial, it was hard to understand how the verdict could possibly square with the video. Those civil rights leaders with whom I met were stunned. And so was I, and so was Barbara, and so were my kids.

          Liked by 4 people

    • Gronda,
      I have an idea as to why the DOJ is not filing charges for violation of civil rights. In general,when the feds hold a federal grand jury, and if the grand jury fails to indict, the DOJ reports that. We’ve had two cases now where the DOJ announces that they are before a grand jury, and then they announce not filing charges and closing the case. What they don’t say is what the grand jury decided.

      I know some lawyers who worked as federal criminal defense attorneys, and they told me years ago that when the feds charge, they have all the evidence to convict. What they do is try to get the defendants to plea bargain, and that is about as much as appointed criminal defense attorneys can do for their clients. Some defendants, especially those who can afford private defense attorneys, stick to their guns and refuse plea agreements. The issue before U.S. Attorneys now is that they have no trust in juries in controversial cases.

      It was much easier for them to prosecute before opinionated, arm-chair sleuths took to social media and tainted the jury pool. It was also less of a headache for the DOJ because back in the 90’s, news sources were not reporting every bit of info about investigations with attorneys coming on their programs with their opinions, BEFORE the case was turned over to the DOJ.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. “Mr. Williams, it is intolerable in this society to attack and maim people because of their race.”

    No he din’t… 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, he did, while the system sentenced a murderer to probation because she was afraid of Black people.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Mindyme,
      To flesh out my other comment…

      What Damian Williams did to Denny was absolutely wrong. But, what Du did to Latasha was also wrong. To see Du who was convicted for killing a teen because of the color of her skin walk free, and Williams try to kill Denny because of the color of his skin be sentenced to prison, is the double-standard of the system.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Excellent post Ms. Xena. Just Excellent. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. yahtzeebutterfly

    Outstanding article!

    Xena, your comment of

    “To the justice system, having Freddie Gray’s spine severed 80 percent while in police custody is ‘mere civil negligence — the destruction of property — not the killing of a human being.”

    to Judge William’s stating that

    the state has failed to meet its burden to show that the actions of the defendant rose above mere civil negligence.” (Emphasis added)

    reminds me of a sign that Erica Totten held when she addressed the September 14, 2015 public meeting of the Fairfax County Ad Hoc Commission to Review Police Practices. The sign referred to this:

    Here is an excerpt of my transcript of Erica Totten’s speech:

    -Erica Totten’s speech at the September 14, 2015 public meeting of the Fairfax County Ad Hoc Commission to Review Police Practices:

    So what I am bringing to you and to the attention of everybody: If you all have not read the Casual Killing Act of 1705 from Virginia, you need to read this because this is what we are experiencing today. And, it’s not just in Virginia, it is everywhere. And it reads:

    “And if any Slave resists, his master or owner or other person by his or her order, correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction, it shall not be to be accounted felony, but the master, owner, and every such other person so giving correction shall be free and acquit of all punishment and accusation for the same as if such incident had never happened.”

    This is what we’re dealing with today. This Casual Killing Act of 1705 from this state is specifically showing up in this case for Natasha McKenna.
    Her death wasn’t ruled a murder. It was ruled an accident as “if it never happen.” That is a problem for me as a Black woman in this country because Natasha McKenna is me. She is all of us. And, to say that her death is an “accident” and is an “Oops” that you just learn from, I have a problem with that.

    And when I have a problem with something, especially when we are talking about systems of oppression, I dismantle that shit. And we all dismantle that.

    So reports and tears are not enough. They have never been enough. Ray Morrough said he teared up when he watch this video, and yet did not file charges. That’s a problem for me. White tears are not enough. They don’t save us. They don’t.

    And, I want to ask everyone on this panel if you could raise you hand if you watched the video, what happened to Natasha McKenna. (majority raise their hands.)

    So this is the thing: If watching that, you have to look at that and know there’s no justice here. What they did to her is torture: They had a bag over her head; they tasered her 4 times. This woman was having a psychotic episode. She didn’t know what was happening to her. She had men in white suits groping at her naked body, and she wanted to leave. And, they kept saying, “We’re your friend.” Look at how sadistic that sounds! That is a problem.

    So when her mother saw her in a hospital bed with her eyes swollen shut and bruises all over her body, a missing finger, IT’s A PROBLEM! You have to be able to see that this is not enough. It’s not enough. It is not enough. So do something.


    Erica Totten at the September 14, 2015 public meeting of the Fairfax County Ad Hoc Commission to Review Police Practices

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yahtzee,
      Thanks so much for sharing that. Laws can be repealed. They can also be determined unconstitutional. Laws can be overturned with constitutional amendments, but the “spirit” of those laws still exist.

      Liked by 1 person

      • yahtzeebutterfly

        but the “spirit” of those laws still exist.

        Yes. That is why we still see signs like:

        http://johnedwinmason.typepad.com/.a/6a0112791cb10528a40133f459f1a4970b-550wi

        today:

        Liked by 1 person

      • yahtzeebutterfly

        Xena, I just have to return and tell you again how well you illustrated in your article your point that

        And, the justice system has a history of construing the lives of Blacks as property, and the taking of those lives as “mere civil negligence.“

        James Baldwin spoke to this very issue:

        “I’m terrified at the moral apathy — the death of the heart which is happening in my country. These people have deluded themselves so long, that they really don’t think I’m human. I base this on their conduct, not on what they say, and this means the they have become, in themselves, moral monsters. It’s a terrible indictment — I mean every word I say.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. “To paraphrase Pastor Eugene Cho, we can’t allow people to be killed, and then assassinate their character to make it okay.”

    From a wonderful blog post at http://johnpavlovitz.com/2016/07/07/white-voices-about-white-racism-matter-to-black-lives/

    Liked by 1 person

    • yahtzeebutterfly

      From the article you link (and which I have printed out) :

      … “And those of us who have every advantage also have a responsibility to speak. We have a responsibility to name bigotry. We have a responsibility to demand justice. We have a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable …”

      “I’m calling racism what it is and not something that is less offensive to those who don’t believe black lives matter enough to say that they matter.”

      “I am not going to let my brothers and sisters of color grieve or fight or live or die alone by staying silent.”

      Liked by 2 people

  6. chuquestaquenumber1

    His son President George W Bush made this statement after the police in NYC weren’t indicted for choking Eric Garner. ” I don’t understand why race continues to be such a divisive issue in our country.”

    Now in my opinion Black Lives Matter has already defined itself. It’s only racists and people that are for injustice that attempt to define(redefine) Black Lives Matter. They claim MLK wouldn’t be involved in Blue Lives Matter. We don’t know that because a racist shot him to death. MLK and the civil rights movement that people speak so fondly of was just as if not more hated than BLM. BLM activists haven’t been killed the way MLK ,Medgar Evers,Henry and Henrietta Moore,Vernon Dahmer and many other civil rights people were. So don’t be fooled by those who speak fondly of civil rights movement.

    Also the pro police people continue to show their duplicity and dishonesty.

    Two cops were shot in San Diego yesterday. One killed. One injured. The shooter is said to be Jesse Michael Gomez a Hispanic man. The people that say Blue Lives Matter are silent. Also the Michigan courthouse shooting was such a big story another dark in law enforcement. The moment the shooter was revealed to be a white man Larry Darnell Gordon,the story dropped. The lives of those LEOs killed and wounded became an non important after thought. This is especially sad when you consider Larry’s 22 yr criminal record. Plus, he was facing life for raping,drugging and kidnapping a minor.

    It’s not Black Lives that needs redefining,it’s pro police groups.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Chuquest,
      (((((APPLAUSE)))))

      Today, instead of assassinating civil rights activists by taking their lives, racists go about to assassinate their character. Since about 2014, they have focused on having civil rights activists arrested for marching, having them fired from their jobs, harassing and threatening members of their families, and harassing those who associate with them. They are still on the “Shaun King is White” scheme not realizing that their behavior helps the Black Lives Matters Movement rather than hurt it. Their real agenda is to try to paint people as being anti-cop in hope that law enforcement will do their dirty work for them. They do not realize that some of those in or in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement are family members of cops, retired cops, or former cops.

      Re:

      “It’s not Black Lives that needs redefining,it’s pro police groups.”

      Indeed. In doing research for this series, I’ve looked for groups on social media who are pro police, and found there is a distinct difference between those who say “Blue Lives Matter” as opposed to other hashtags, such as “Thin Blue Line.” The Blue Lives Matter group does not take time to pay honor to law enforcement killed in the line of duty unless they were killed by someone Black. I think that it will be part 4 of this series when I address and support this observation.

      About Larry Darnell Gordon, the media interviewed his ex-wife who said that people should not jump to conclusions because they don’t know why he was in court. Well, yes we do know why he was in court. He had been charged with crimes. Those who hold to white supremacists ideologies are more concerned about Alton Sterling’s conviction for having carnal knowledge with a minor than they are Larry’s criminal record and facing life for rape and kidnapping a minor. Alton did not kill anyone. Larry did.

      Also, they are only telling part of Alton’s story.

      Re:

      Liked by 1 person

  7. roderick2012

    Town accused of sending police to challenge African-American residents’ right to vote

    When the deputy sheriff’s patrol cruiser pulled up beside him as he walked down Broad Street at sunset last August, Martee Flournoy, a 32-year-old black man, was both confused and rattled. He had reason: In this corner of rural Georgia, African-Americans are arrested at a rate far higher than that of whites.

    But the deputy had not come to arrest Flournoy. Rather, he had come to challenge Flournoy’s right to vote.

    The majority-white Hancock County Board of Elections and Registration was systematically questioning the registrations of more than 180 black Sparta citizens – a fifth of the city’s registered voters – by dispatching deputies with summonses commanding them to appear in person to prove their residence or lose their voting rights. “When I read that letter, I was kind of nervous,” Flournoy said in an interview. “I didn’t know what to do.”

    Gee I can’t quite when the last time the police were utilized to deny black people the right to vote./sarc

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article92954812.html#storylink=cpy

    Like

    • yahtzeebutterfly

      Seems like a form of voter intimidation on the Black community there

      Liked by 1 person

    • Roderick,
      Thanks for the article. So, the citizens had to file a lawsuit because the state found ways to circumvent federal law that upholds constitutional rights. That has been happening since the Civil War. Institutional racism in the powers and authorities rears it ugly head again.

      Like

      • roderick2012

        Xena, it’s good to see you back.

        I hope your time away was restful.

        Like

        • Hey Roderick,
          Restful? I rested 8 years ago. LOL! I was able to get lots of things off my plate and catch-up on other things.

          Like

          • roderick2012

            Ok I understand.

            Like

            • Roderick,
              Then maybe you can explain it to me. LOL! (Teasing of course.)

              There’s too many injustices, and too much happening, for me to sit still. There’s too much hatred for me to stay quiet. There’s too many hurting people for me to be numb. Thanks for your participation. It’s encouraging.

              Like

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