Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. -First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." -Oath of office of the President of the United States... Please note the phrase "So help me God," was not included by the founders, nor is it mandatory
“We must base our laws on faith, not reason." -Mark Rushdoony
There was a cop leaving when I came in.
How do you know he was a cop?
Bad haircut, no dress sense and a
slight air of scumbag entitlement.
You see cops?
From “The Departed”
"We Own The Night"
1. The Constitution of the United States
2. Rights Contained in the First Amendment
4. Map of Internment Camps
5. Internment Camp
6. Abe Lincoln
7. Copperheads Making Fun of Abe
9. Sitting Bull
12. John Crawford III
13. Amadou Diallo
14. Eric Garner
15. Ezell Ford
16. Omar Abrego
17. Rodney King
18. Victor White III
19. Michael Brown
21. Incident Report
22. Police React to Demonstrations.
23. Ferguson, Missouri, not Iraq
It’s just an old piece of... jeez, thinned out animal skin... right (how do you like that PETA?!)? Who cares?
Well it’s not the physicality of the document that matters, it’s the ideas that it supposedly represents... the ideas that make this country truly exceptional, if it is exceptional, and a role model, to be loved, admired, or hated, throughout the entire world.
Yet it seems certain individuals and entities ignore it when it’s convenient to do so, and apparently, in most modern instances, at little or no peril to themselves.
Instead of the Constitution representing the supreme law of the United States of America, to these people and entities, it is something to be circumvented, or interpreted into something it never was.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese preceeding the United States entry into World War II, the President of the United States, one Franklin D. Roosevelt, authorized Executive Order 9066, issued February 19th, 1942, which effectively declared that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire West Coast of the country, including all of California, much of Oregon, Washington, and Arizona, except for those interned in special government camps which the order authorized. Between 110,000 and 120,000 people were affected (excluded were those needed for labor, such as in Hawaii, the site of the Japanese attack, where only 1,200 to 1,800, out of 150,000 Japanese Americans were interned. This was due to pressure applied by local businessmen and farmers, who then, as now, hold undue influence over the federal government). Sixty-two percent of those interned were American citizens... American citizens supposedly afforded protections guaranteed to them, and us, by the Constitution of the United States.
This Executive Order was no doubt brought about by the hysteria within the country which ensued after being attacked in such a destructive a brutal fashion, and certain actions of American citizens of Japanese heritage after the attack (primarily the Niihau Incident). Yet the number of Constitutional violations the order brought about was ubiquitous, not the least of them being denied the right of habeas corpus... the right as detainees to be brought before a court at a stated time and place to challenge the legality of their imprisonment. Not only was the right violated, but the government attempted to suspend habeas corpus for the interned altogether through legislation. The Supreme Court however ruled that was unconstitutional (Ex parte Mitsuye Endo, 323 U.S. 283 (1944)) the same day that they ruled in a 6-3 decision, that the exclusion order itself was constitutional (Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944).
Fred Korematsu’s conviction for knowingly violating Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34 of the U.S. Army (refusing internment), was vacated in a series of coram nobis (a legal writ issued by a court to correct a previous error "of the most fundamental character" to "achieve justice" where "no other remedy" is available) cases in the early 1980s. In these cases, federal district and appellate courts ruled that newly uncovered evidence revealed a basic unfairness which, had it been known to the Supreme Court justices at the time, would likely have changed their decision.
The rulings of the Supreme Court in the Korematsu and other cases related to the mass internment, specifically the government’s predilection to expand it’s own powers during wartime, have not been overturned. They are still the law of the land because a lower court cannot overturn a ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States.
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act, which among other things, apologized for the internment of Japanese American citizens on behalf of the United States government, and authorized a payment of $20,000 to each survivor of the camps. This legislation admitted that government actions were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership." The U.S. eventually paid more than $1.6 billion in reparations to 82,219 Japanese Americans who had been interned, and their heirs.
In this instance the party responsible for this egregious violation of constitutional rights, despite the Supreme Court’s 1944 ruling, died at 3:35PM, March 29, 1945.
Speaking of doing away with the writ of habeas corpus, Franklin Roosevelt wasn’t the first to suspend it when it was deemed inconvenient or necessary in a time of national emergency.
Article Two of the Constitution established the executive branch, which consists of the President, the Vice President, and other executive officers and staffers appointed by the President, including his Cabinet. The First Clause of Section II states: The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, believed that because of the clause he had the right to use any means necessary to defeat the enemy, in his case the enemy being the southern states that had succeeded from the Union, and who had initiated hostilities at Fort Sumter. On April 27th, 1861, Lincoln used this “authority” to suspend habeas corpus in Maryland, which had remained loyal to the Union. He had received word that mobs intended to sabotage the railroad tracks between Annapolis and Philadelphia, a vital supply line for the North. His order applied only to this narrow area and route.
Lincoln also chose to suspend the writ over a proposal to bomb Baltimore, and was also motivated by requests of his generals to set up military courts to rein in "Copperheads," (the Copperheads nominally were in favor of the Union, but strongly opposed the war, for which they blamed abolitionists (abolitionism is a movement to end slavery, and exists to this day. I myself am an abolitionist). They also demanded immediate peace and resisted the draft laws that Lincoln had also initiated outside of a President’s normal authority. They wanted Lincoln and the Republicans (President Lincoln of course, was a Republican at a time when Republicans were the good guys, not at all like now, where ”Republican” is synonymous with ”Evil Archetypical Representative of Lucifer, or EARL) ousted from power, seeing the president as a tyrant destroying American values with despotic and arbitrary actions (does this sound vaguely familiar to anyone? It sounds a little Tea Partyish to me), or Peace Democrats, and others within the Union who supported the Confederate cause. He did all of this without the knowledge or support of Congress which was not in session at the time (apparently they were on vacation... like they are right now). Thousands of people (physicians, lawyers, journalists, soldiers, farmers, haberdashers, socialites, draft resisters, and others) who were vocal in their opposition to the war against the South were imprisoned without redress.
Lincoln himself made no sustained effort to suppress political opposition. He left that up to his civil and military authorities.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Roger B. Taney, ordered Lincoln to grant a writ of habeas corpus to a Southern agitator who had been arbitrarily jailed by military authorities in Maryland. Lincoln told the Chief Justice to go eff himself (his Attorney General Edward Bates ignored Taney's order, and upheld the suspension).
On February 14th, 1862, Lincoln ordered most prisoners released, putting an end to court challenges for the time being. He again suspended habeas corpus on his own authority in September of that year in response to resistance to his calling up of the militia (more draft dodgers).
When Congress came back from vacation in December of 1862, the House of Representatives passed a bill indemnifying (secured Lincoln against all legal responsibility for his actions) the president for his suspension of habeas corpus. The Senate amended the bill, removing the indemnity, and to suspend habeas corpus only under the authority of Congress. That bill, the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act, was signed into law March 3rd, in 1863 by the President. In September Lincoln again suspended habeas corpus throughout the Union in any cases involving prisoners of war, spies, traitors, haberdashers, or military personnel, under his new authority granted to him by Congress. The suspension remained in effect until the next President, Andrew Johnson, revoked it on December 1st, 1865, thus the Act escaped judicial review by the Supreme Court, which may or may not have ruled it unconstitutional.
The Emancipation Proclamation itself originated as Lincoln's only executive order. On April 16th, 1862, he signed a bill that abolished slavery in the Capital, with compensation to the slaveholders and voluntary colonization for the slaves in Tahiti.
Lincoln did not have the power to free the slaves except as a necessity of the war. The proclamation was actually a military decree, directed only at those states at war with the Union, and issued only for military advantage, not for the lofty goal of ending slavery for ending slavery’s sake.
To insure the legality of emancipation, Lincoln advocated for the passage of a constitutional amendment that would bar slavery from the United States forever. That Amendment would be the 13th to the Constitution, and ratification thereof became a condition wherein the Southern states were allowed re-admittance to the Union.
For his troubles Abraham Lincoln was assassinationed on April 14th, 1865.
Was slavery itself constitutional?
Considering the preamble to the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” and “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” from The Declaration of Independence, one would think the framers would both, know how to spell the word “defense” (they used the British spelling), and that the spirit of their law would exclude the subjugation of human beings as a form agricultural and household unpaid labor technology. But one would be wrong (the use of “Indentured Servants,” was also much utilized. Indentured servants and other workers were basically slaves who were bound legally to their benefactors for years, and in many ways, those in power, such as land owners, and farmers, thought indentured servants to be of less worth than actual slaves, because they were contractually bound to these owners and farmers, and could not be sold or traded to another owner, and at some point their servitude would come to an end).
Before the Constitution was drafted slavery was legal and practiced in each of the Thirteen Colonies (those being Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations). Most, if not all of the founding fathers were slave owners. Thomas Jefferson, the author of The Declaration of Independence, owned plantations totaling thousands of acres and owned hundreds of slaves during his lifetime (and years after his wife’s death, fathered at least six children with Sally Hemings, a slave who was of three-quarters European ancestry). George Washington became a slave owner at the age of eleven when his father passed away and willed him 10 slaves. At the time of his death he personally owned 153 slaves (he did leave instructions in his will for his slaves to be freed after the death of his wife, Martha). Even Benjamin Franklin owned two slaves, George and King, who worked as personal servants, and his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, commonly ran notices involving the sale or purchase of slaves and contracts for indentured laborers. Franklin later became an abolitionist.
John Adams, the country’s second President, did not own slaves.
“My opinion against it has always been known,” noting that he has “always employed freemen both as Domisticks and Labourers, and never in my Life did I own a Slave.”
Despite being opposed to slavery, Adams did not support abolitionism except if it was done in a “gradual” way with “much caution and Circumspection.”
And there was a reason for that. The southern colonies needed slavery to maintain it’s economic base, for example the export-oriented tobacco plantations of Virginia and Maryland, and the rice and indigo plantations of South Carolina.
One could make a very valid argument that the United States of America was founded on slavery. Approximately 287,000 slaves were imported into the 13 Colonies, or two percent of the twelve million slaves brought across from Africa (the great majority of slaves went to sugar colonies in the Caribbean and to Brazil, where the work and living conditions were extremely harsh, and the life expectancy short, necessitating the numbers of slaves needed to be continually replenished).
The framers of the Constitution were, among other things, political realists. They knew, by their own decree, that their Constitution would not become adopted in each of the colonies if slavery was not protected to some degree, even if the practice itself was becoming more repugnant to many of them, especially to those from the North.
Accordingly, the Constitution that the framers proposed included three provisions that explicity recognized and protected slavery, and they did this without explicitly mentioning the word.
Article I, Section II. Clause 3: Apportionment of Representatives and taxes:
“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”
This allowed southern states to count slaves as three fifths of a person for purposes of apportionment in Congress. Even though slaves had no voting rights, they were counted as members of the population by each colony in order to granted a higher number of representatives in Congress. One slave equaled three fifths of a free person, even an indentured servant (the Southern states actually wanted to count slaves as full persons, which would have given them more representatives in the House or Representatives. More representatives would have given them more political power).
Article I, Section IX, Limits on Congress:
“The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.”
This denied Congress the power to prohibit importation of new slaves until the year 1808.
And Article IV, Section II, Clause 3: Fugitive Slave Clause:
“No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.”
This prevented future slave free states from enacting laws protecting fugitive slaves.
Without these provisions, the southern delegates would not have supported the new Constitution, and without the southern states on board, the Constitution had no chance of being ratified.
So, to answer your question dear readers, was slavery constitutional? Yes it was. It was legal until December 18th, 1865, when Secretary of State William H. Seward proclaimed the adoption of the 13th Amendment, which was supposed to put an end to the practice.
WHEREAS on December 16, 1950, I proclaimed the existence of a national emergency which requires that the military, naval, air, and civilian defenses of this country be strengthened as speedily as possible to the end that we may be able to repel any and all threats against our national security and to fulfill our responsibilities in the efforts being made throughout the United Nations and otherwise to bring about a lasting peace and...
...WHEREAS a controversy has arisen between certain companies in the United States producing and fabricating steel and the elements thereof and certain of their workers represented by the United Steel Workers of America, CIO, regarding terms and conditions of employment; and
WHEREAS the controversy has not been settled through the processes of collective bargaining or through the efforts of the Government, including those of the Wage Stabilization Board, to which the controversy was referred on December 22, 1951, pursuant to Executive Order No. 10233, and a strike has been called for 12:01 A.M., April 9, 1952; and
WHEREAS a work stoppage would immediately jeopardize and imperil our national defense and the defense of those joined with us in resisting aggression, and would add to the continuing danger of our soldiers, sailors, and airmen engaged in combat in the field; and
WHEREAS in order to assure the continued availability of steel and steel products during the existing emergency, it is necessary that the United States take possession of and operate the plants, facilities, and other property of the said companies as hereinafter provided:
NOW, THEREFORE, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and as President of the United States and Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the United States, it is hereby ordered as follows:
1. The Secretary of Commerce is hereby authorized and directed to take possession of all or such of the plants, facilities, and other property of the companies named in the list attached hereto, or any part thereof, as he may deem necessary in the interests of national defense; and to operate or to arrange for the operation thereof and to do all things necessary for, or incidental to, such operation.
Executive Order 10340, issued by President Harry S. Truman, April 8th, 1952
The steel companies Truman was talking about sought an injunction against the government to prevent their seizure, and the U.S. Supreme Court took up the question. The Court struck down the Executive Order, finding that the president was making law, which was a power designated to Congress under Article I of the Constitution. The Court rejected Truman’s national security justification, finding that domestic production of equipment and supplies for war was not close enough to the actual conflict in Korea. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, worried that his majority opinion had offended the President (Truman wasn’t offended, but rather a tad nettled), invited Harry over for dinner. Truman, impressed with the Justice's hospitality, remarked, "Hugo, I don't much care for your law, but, by golly, this bourbon is good."
In 1851, Congress passed the Indian Appropriations Act, which supposedly empowered the United States government to remove, by force if necessary, Native Americans from their ancestral homelands to desirable resort locations further west than they already were. According to the federal government at that time, these resorts, later called reservations, were to be created in order to protect the Native Americans from the growing encroachment of whites moving westward, in other words the government’s own citizens. Some of the Native American tribes wanted to go to the resorts and went peacefully. Others, like the Sioux, Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho were rather upset about this, and complained bitterly.
Eventually, over 300 reservations were created, most in areas where white people didn’t want to go anyway, which didn’t stop said white people from complaining that the reservations where too large, taking available land away from them. Accordingly, the size of some of these reservations were whittled down.
The Indian Appropriations Act of 1851, and other similar Acts which soon followed, were in actuality acts of undeclared war on a foreign, embedded population. Congress never declared war on Native Americans, making the Appropriations Acts unconstitutional.
They were illegal as well. In these cases the United States government took by force what it could not get by any other means.
The Constitution of the United States is not only vulnerable to misinterpretation and exploitation by our elected officials, but by certain factions of the populace as well. A prominent example of a percentage, or even a majority, of citizens attempting to interpret the U.S. Constitution to conform to their internal, personal beliefs, or to suit their agenda, is the false assertion that the country was, and is, based on Christian principles, elevating a 2,000 year old document fraught with historical inaccuracies and contradictions, the Bible, above that of the Constitution itself, despite clear evidence to the contrary in the form of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...”
Religious Right activists and right-wing television evangelists often claim that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. Conservative politicians often agree, especially during elections.
These groups will not be assuaged until the country is officially recognized as a Christian nation, as Iran is deemed an Islamic Republic, the official religion being Shia Islam, headed by a “Supreme Leader,” the highest ranking political and religious authority in the country (it is paradoxical, and not a little bit ironic that many right-wing, ultra conservative politicians, express a desire to imitate a political theocracy like Iran’s, while at the same time criticizing it’s political theocratic form of government, advocating the United States go to war, or attack Iran to disassemble it’s non-existent nuclear weapons program).
The American colonies were ruled by a Puritan theocracy completely intolerant of religious and political dissention (a strong example being the Puritans, or Calvanists, hanging Quakers for their religious beliefs (the Boston martyrs), and the execution of people, mostly women, for being witches). The American Revolution, to a large degree, was not only a rebellion against British oppression, but also a direct rejection of Puritan tyranny and theocratic rule. The idea of the separation of church and state, expressed in the Establishment and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, was not put forth, as the saying goes, to protect religion from the tyranny of government, but to protect the government from the tyranny of religion, or for that matter, the tyranny of the majority.
The U.S. Constitution is a wholly secular document. It contains no mention of Christianity or Jesus Christ. It expressly forbids the establishment of a state religion, or prohibiting the free exercise of any religious ideal, or lack thereof. The "Religion Clauses" of the First Amendment is clear, unambiguous evidence that the country was not founded as a Christian nation. Like creationism, a clearly religious doctrine, being taught in science classes, and the existence of human caused climate change, the founders intent in separating church and state is not a matter of opinion to be debated. It is clear and settled rule of constitutional law.
Still right-wing, conservative, religious fanatics who would push their beliefs on the rest of the nation (like the Puritans did with the Quakers), live in their own bubble of unreality, and will more than likely never admit the simple fact that they may be incorrect in their convictions, simply because they are their convictions and dearly held.
It’s difficult to admit the possibility that one is wrong, especially when your viewpoint, or world view is bolstered by your own family, friends, and associates, a large percentage of the general population, and a particular branch of the media that may share, manipulate, and influence your own opinions.
Yet a majority percentage of the population at one time believed the Earth was flat and at the center of the universe.
On March 8th, 1995, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12954 prohibiting federal contractors from permanently replacing lawfully striking workers. The Secretary of Labor, our good friend Robert Reich, was ordered to set specific regulations so that replacement workers would not execute government contracts, resulting in higher costs of goods or services. Several companies and organizations affected by the order sued for injunctive relief (a court-ordered act or prohibition against an act or condition which has been requested, and sometimes granted, in a petition to the court for an injunction) arguing that the order violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that the Clinton Executive Order was regulatory by its very nature, and that the NLRA, a legislative act of Congress, preempted the order. Clinton backed down and did not seek clarification of the Appeals Court decision by the Supreme Court.
Ten years later, the Supreme Court struck down an executive order from President George W Bush that ordered the Secretary of Defense to convene military commissions to try foreign enemy combatants detained at Guantanamo Bay. This case was different from the prior Executive Order cases we’ve looked at because Congress had indirectly supported the order. Congress had passed the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, with the intention of preventing the Supreme Court from hearing any cases brought by Guantanamo detainees. The Supreme Court took exception to Congress’s actions and found that the procedures of the order violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. Despite the actions of Congress, the Court found a basis for jurisdiction to hear the case and struck it down.
Currently House Republicans are going through the steps of suing President Obama for his use of executive orders, the very administrative procedure that the Presidents above used to push through actions that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise due to unprecedented Republican obstructionism. Republicans revealed a few days ago that they have retained the law firm Baker & Hostetler LLP to make the legal case that the President had overstepped his constitutional authority in implementing the Affordable Care Act. This lawsuit, which was authorized by Republicans in the House in July, focuses on the White House’s decision last year to give employers a one-year reprieve from a requirement they offer health coverage or pay a penalty. In response, President Obama announced the issuance of 19 new executive actions to serve the military, especially veteran concerns, and is working to forge an international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their fossil fuel emissions without ratification from Congress.
It is said the law firm charges approximately $500 and hour for their services. House Republicans will not be paying this themselves, oh no. It is not coming out of their own pockets. No, the so-called party of “Fiscal responsibility” (that plain out wasted 26 billion dollars on a government shutdown last October, and is potential Presidential candidate, Senator Ted Cruz’s only claim to fame. If all it takes to become the President is waste badly needed money, blame everybody else for your mistakes, have a loud mouth, channel Joseph McCarthy, and be certifiably wacky, then I think I’ll run), will give the bill to the American taxpayers instead.
To date Barack Obama has issued 183 executive orders. Where was the republican outrage when George W Bush issued 193 of them, or Ronald Reagan 381, or Richard Nixon 346? You’re absolutely right, dear readers, there was none.
Considering the deadlock in Washington we are currently experiencing, and the republican commitment to not allow the President to pass any legislation that might advance the interests of the nation because it might make his administration look good in front of the upcoming mid-term and general elections, a strategy that in my opinion boarders on being traitorous, placing party above country, I think the President is quite right in his assertion that he is simply being sued for “doing his job.” Republicans don’t seem to be able to do theirs, so he is doing his.
As far as this law suit goes, I believe it to be a political stunt devised by the Republicans to assuage their Tea Party base, and an expensive stunt for the American taxpayer, which has no merit, but that’s up to the courts to decide.
We shall see.
As you can plainly tell from the above examples, those Presidents that knowingly overrode or disavowed the spirit of the United States Constitution wound up dead. Franklin D Roosevelt. Abraham Lincoln. Millard Fillmore was President when the The Indian Appropriations Act of 1851 was passed. Ulysses S. Grant when The Indian Appropriations Act of 1871 was passed, and Grover Cleveland was President when both The Indian Appropriations Act of 1885 and 1889 were passed, and all three are now dead. Truman, Clinton, and Bush (Obama’s use of executive action has yet to be determined by the courts) attempted to interpret the Constitution to their advantage, or to further their policies, but were rebuked in the courts. Religious revisionists have not yet rewritten, or amended the Constitution to represent their ideals. Of the Presidents only Truman succumbed to the curse that protects the Constitutional from usurpers, and that was only because he he had the poor judgment to contract pneumonia at the age of 88.
Upon examination, George W Bush should be dead due to the clear illegality and unconstitutionality of the use of torture (rationalized by the 8/1/02 Interrogation Opinion of Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the United States, John Yoo, and signed by Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, opinions which upon cursory examination legitimized the administrations illegal and unconstitutional actions), utilizing mental, physical torment, and coercion, such as prolonged sleep deprivation, binding in stress positions, and water boarding, a technique the United States prosecuted and executed at least one Japanese military member for after World War II. Why he is not dead is unclear. George W Bush, and certain senior members of his administration should have at least been put to trial for war crimes (often admitted to), in this country by the Obama Administration, and in other countries. The reason why this was never attempted is also unclear.
Except that despite common wisdom, and the assurances of President Obama himself, it would appear that there is more than one law of the land. How many different sets of laws, and who they may be applied to is a matter up for debate, however there seem to be at least four. One set of laws that you and I are subject to, dear readers. Another for the rich and politically powerful, such as past presidents. Another for huge multi-billion dollar, a multi-national conglomerates and corporations which control, or at least have undue influence in certain sections of the federal government, namely Congress, the Executive Branch, and to a degree the judiciary (indeed, it is the Judicial Branch, namely the Supreme Court, that is permitting corporations to enjoy the same rights and privileges that human citizens do, without having to make the same or comparative sacrifices that citizens have in the past, i.e., serving in the military (one could posit that corporations help fight wars or conflicts by suppling the military, but that is hardly the same as facing the very real possibility of losing one’s life or limb) and paying taxes).
And another set, as recent events in Ferguson, Missouri demonstrate, for the police.
One definition of a police force is that of a constituted body of persons empowered by the state to enforce the law (“law" has no universally accepted definition, yet generally is accepted as a system of rules which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior), protect property, and limit civil disorder. Police are authorized to use force, sometimes deadly force (especially in the United States), to carry out their duties. Police are usually associated with the enforcement policies of a state, or authorized sovereign entity, within a defined jurisdiction. Police are distinguished as being separate from military or militia involved in the defense of the state, or country, against foreign aggressors. Some argue that policing is predominantly concerned with the preservation of order within the state, or jurisdiction. In the past police forces have been used to maintain the status quo, or the protection of an established class system and the protection of their members and property, although the police is a public service, paid through tax payer funds.
Some parts of the world may suffer from police corruption.
Sometimes they lie.
“He said he was at the video games playing videos, and he went over there by the toy section where the toy guns were,” said LeeCee Johnson, the mother of John Crawford’s two children.
“The next thing I know, he said, ‘It’s not real,’ and the police start shooting, and they said ‘Get on the ground,’ but he was already on the ground because they had shot him.”
John Crawford III died August 5th, after police were called to a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, 9 miles southeast of Dayton, by a former Marine who reported a man carrying what appeared to be an AR-15 rifle. Crawford “looked like he was going to go violently,” he said.
Crawford, 22 years old, was instead carrying an unpackaged MK-177 (.177 caliber) BB/pellet rifle he picked up in the store’s toy department.
“John was doing nothing wrong in Walmart, nothing more, nothing less than shopping,” Attorney for Crawford’s family, Michael Wright said after reviewing a security video from the incident. He said the video showed Crawford facing away from advancing officers, talking on a cell phone, and leaning on the pellet gun like a cane when he was “shot on sight” in a “militaristic” response by police. He said the video suggests Crawford probably did not see or hear officers as they arrived.
Wright said the family objected to the selected release of evidence to the public which tends to be biased in the favor of the police, such as dispatch audio and video on the day of the shooting.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that the case would be handed over to a special prosecutor to present to a grand jury September 22nd.
Attorney Wright said: "We need Mike DeWine to refer this case to the Department of Justice. Not to a special prosecutor."
Police claim Crawford ignored their commands to drop the weapon, and although the alleged weapon was not pointed at them or anyone else, they thought it necessary to shoot him, which resulted in Crawford’s death.
“I could hear him just crying and screaming,” Johnson said. “I feel like they shot him down like he was not even human.”
Soon after midnight on February 4th, 1999, Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old immigrant from Guinea, was standing near the building where he lived in New York City after returning from a meal. At about 12:40AM, police officers Edward McMellon, Sean Carroll, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy, members of a special plain clothes Street Crime Unit, whose motto was "We Own The Night," passed by in a Ford Taurus. Diallo apparently matched the description of a suspected “well armed" serial rapist they had been searching for, so they approached him.
The officers claimed they identified themselves as police officers and that Diallo ran up the outside steps toward his apartment house doorway at their approach, ignoring their orders to stop and "show his hands."
The lights on Diallo’s porch were partially out, and all the officers could see were his silhouette when Diallo reached inside his coat pocket to retrieve his wallet. After seeing Diallo holding a small square object, one of the officers yelled out “Gun!” and all four of the police opened fire for a total of 41 shots, 19 of which found their mark. Diallo succumbed to his wounds and died.
An investigation after the shooting found no weapons on Diallo's body. The internal NYPD investigation found that the officers acted within policy, based on what a reasonable police officer would have done in the same circumstances with the information they had. On March 25th, a grand jury in the Bronx indicted the four officers on charges of second-degree murder and reckless endangerment. The venue was changed to Albany, New York, to help to insure a fairer trial. After two days of deliberation, a mixed-race jury acquitted the officers of all charges on February 25th, of 2000.
On April 18th, 2000, Diallo's mother and stepfather, filed a $61,000,000 ($20 million, plus $1 million for each of the 41 shots fired) civil lawsuit against the City of New York and the officers, charging gross negligence, wrongful death, racial profiling, and other violations of Diallo's civil rights. In March of 2004, they accepted a $3,000,000 out of court settlement, still one of the largest in the city’s history for a single man with no dependents.
Due to the killing of Diallo and other controversies, the Street Crime Unit was disbanded.
As of 2012, Kenneth Boss is the only remaining officer of the four involved in the shooting working for the NYPD, performing such duties as making repairs at Floyd Bennett Field (a park dedicated to the celebration of aviation history, sports, and the great outdoors), and participating in police drills and other exercises. In October 2012, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly restored Boss' ability to carry a firearm which the Diallo's family objected to strenuously.
Amadou Diallo is buried in the village of Hollande Bourou in the Fouta Djallon region of Guinea, West Africa.
On July 17th, of this year, in Staten Island, New York, police attempted to arrest Eric Garner for selling cigarettes on the black market, which of course is illegal, because anything sold on the black market, whether the item in question is legal or not, is untaxed. Garner, a 43 year old African-American, former horticulturist, and a father of six, had been previously arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes, driving without a license, marijuana possession and false personation, not exactly crimes of the century.
Selling untaxed cigarettes is not an uncommon practice, especially in low income areas where inhabitants find it difficult to afford the high price of commercial cigarettes and other tobacco products precisely because, in my opinion, they are over taxed. Cigarettes are a favorite commodity for revenue hungry politicians to target for increased taxation. They are harmful to our health, and smoking them is probably one of the most addictive habits that exists, similar to alcohol (and cocaine, and heroin, and prescription drugs), which doesn’t seem to suffer the same political scrutiny. The Internet tells me the average price for a pack of Marlboro cigarettes is $6.00 in L.A. I can walk a few blocks west from where I live and buy single cigarettes for 25 cents a piece. At certain times of the day I can buy packs of 20 cigarettes each for $3.00 (the quality of these cigarettes is uncertain, but they all contain nicotine, which is the chemical compound which is both addictive, and satisfies the addiction). I know of no where else in Los Angeles other than the downtown area where I live, that these purchases can be made.
Fortunately for me I no longer smoke.
And I don’t live in New York.
Cigarettes in New York City are $12 to $14 a pack due to a combination of federal, state and local taxes which have driven up the average price. Accordingly, the black market in New York for cigarettes is huge, and I suspect the number of people engaged in it are more than quite a few, and law enforcement to deal with this problem is appropriately utilized.
However, there’s a big difference between the offense of selling untaxed cigarettes on the streets, and untaxed crack cocaine, crystal meth, and heroin. The degree of said offense is much lower.
Yet returning Police Commissioner, Bill Bratton (returning from Los Angeles) has enacted his “Broken Windows” theory of policing (a theory introduced in a 1982 article by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, arguing the approach maintains order and can lead to the capture of career criminals, and a reduction in major crime, of which it’s efficacy is hotly debated), focusing on minor violations, particularly targeting peddlers and panhandlers on the streets and subways, which tends to focus on people of low income, a tactic he employed here in Los Angeles, for which he was heavily criticized.
After a number of officers arrived at the scene they placed him in an illegal chokehold (New York Police rules forbid the use of a chokehold, defined as including “any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air,” and has been prohibited since 1993) and then pinned him to the ground. Here’s the video.
Mr. Garner was an asthmatic, and cried out “I can’t breath,” eleven times before dying some minutes later.
Especially disturbing, at least to me, was that police waited seven minutes before giving Garner cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and that when emergency medical personal arrived on the scene they applied no resuscitative efforts whatsoever, checking for a pulse and nothing else.
I have personal experience in this type of situation and know that resuscitation techniques should be applied by medical emergency technicians until they report to a physician that their efforts have shown no results, and the doctor pronounces the subject as having died (and this can be done remotely over a phone). Only a doctor can make that determination, not an EMT.
Despite the video evidence, the NYPD Union leader Patrick Lynch challenged the chokehold claim.
On August 1st, medical examiners concluded that chokehold and chest compression (being pinned down) as the primary causes of Mr. Garner's death, along with heart problems, obesity (he weighed over 350 pounds) and his asthma as additional factors. He did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system, and had no head trauma.
The officer who applied the chokehold, Daniel Pantaleo, was put on desk duty and stripped of his service handgun and badge on July 20th.
Four of the EMTs and paramedics who responded to the Garner scene were suspended without pay on July 21st.
Three weeks after recording the arrest and death of Mr. Garner on his cell phone, Ramsey Orta, a friend of Mr. Garner’s, was arrested on weapons charges. One week later, Orta's wife was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor assault.
As a result of Mr. Garner's death, Police Commissioner William Bratton ordered an extensive review of the department’s training procedures, specifically on the appropriate amount of force that can be used while detaining a suspect.
New York mayor Bill de Blasio, convened a meeting with police officers and activists, calling for mutual respect and understanding. The next day in a statement, he called for all parties involved to create a dialogue, and find a path "to heal the wounds from decades of mistrust and create a culture where the police department and the communities they protect respect each other."
A funeral was held for Garner on July 23rd, at the Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn. The former Presidential candidate, fatty, and current MSNBC host, the Reverend Al Sharpton, gave a speech calling for harsher punitive measures to be taken against the officers responsible for putting Garner in the chokehold.
As of August 1st, the Richmond County District Attorney, Daniel M. Donovan, Jr., was in the process of deciding whether to empanel a grand jury and charge the officers involved in Garner’s death.
One has to believe that civil charges against the NYPD and the officers involved will be forthcoming.
Last Saturday, thousands marched in Staten Island, New York, to protest the death of Eric Garner.
Wednesday the union Sergeants Benevolent Association of New York City police sergeants, warned the Democratic National Committee against holding its 2016 convention in Brooklyn, the president, Edward D. Mullins, said the city was going “backward to the bad old days of high crime, danger-infested public spaces and families that walk our streets worried for their safety.”
Mr Mullins was effectively championing the Broken Windows policies, stating “aggressive panhandlers and con men are populating the subways and Times Square,” and seemingly mourns for the days of unrestricted “Stop and Frisk,” a part of the Broken Windows program now under judicial review, and accused of unfairly targeting African Americans citizens.
Approximately 56 blocks to the southwest of where I’m typing this in downtown Los Angeles, on August 11th, Ezell Ford, a 25 year old black man with known mental health issues, was walking down a street in Florence, unincorporated community in South Los Angeles, which is said to have one of the highest rates of violence in Los Angeles County.
According to a LAPD news release, two veteran gang unit officers saw Mr. Ford walking on a sidewalk and stopped their patrol car and attempted to speak to him. This is hardly unusual in Los Angeles. I see this occur quite often in the downtown area. Indeed, I was once stopped near Broadway and 5th Street by a police officer for no other reason than the officer thought he had seen me before, presumably while in the midst of some nefarious act. He asked for my identification, checked it through his office via radio, and let me continue on my way when no nefariousness was detected.
However according to the police, Mr. Ford “continued walking and made suspicious movements, including attempting to conceal his hands.”
“When the officers got closer and attempted to stop the individual, the individual turned, grabbed one of the officers, and a struggle ensued. During the struggle, they fell to the ground and the individual attempted to remove the officer’s handgun from its holster.” The other officer, police said, “fired his handgun and the officer on the ground fired his backup weapon at the individual.”
Mr. Ford was taken into custody, then transported to a hospital where he later died.
Of course the story does not end there. Dorene Henderson, a family friend of the Ford family, witnessed part of the incident and “saw no struggle between the officers and Ford.” She said that neighbors began yelling at the officers: “He’s got mental problems.”
Ford’s parents said Ezell had been diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, and a bipolar disorder. Those particular diagnosis would have made Mr. Ford a very sick man indeed.
Local television station, KTLA, reported that Tritobia Ford, Ezell’s mother, said her son “was lying on the ground and complying with the officers’ commands when he was shot three times.”
A man claiming to be Mr. Ford’s cousin told the station, “They laid him out and for whatever reason, they shot him in the back, knowing mentally, he has complications. Every officer in this area, from the Newton Division, knows that — that this child has mental problems... The excessive force … there was no purpose for it. The multiple shootings in the back while he’s laying down? No. Then when the mom comes, they don’t try to console her … they pull the billy clubs out.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that Ford had prior convictions for marijuana possession and illegal possession of a loaded firearm.
The LAPD said it is still investigating the shooting “in coordination with investigators from the Office of the Inspector General and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.”
According to the Times, the Ford family has retained Milton C. Grimes, the attorney who represented Rodney King, who LAPD officers were accused of beating in 1991.
Nine days before Ford’s death, the same police department, the Newton Division, was involved in the beating death of Omar Abrego, a 37-year-old father of three.
Peaceful demonstrations focusing on the deaths of the two men ensued.
In Louisiana on the night of Sunday March 2nd, Victor White III, 22, was apprehended by police in Iberia Parish, about 133 miles west of New Orleans, because of their suspicion that he was involved in a fight.
Police deputies searched White and claimed to find illegal drugs on his person, at which point they arrested, and handcuffed him behind his back, and transported to the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office for processing.
After arriving at the sheriff's office, Mr. White became uncooperative and refused to exit the patrol vehicle, at which point he committed suicide by materializing a gun out of nowhere (because the police did not find a gun after searching him), and fired a round into his own back while handcuffed.
After Mr. White shot himself he was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“We’re investigating how he got the gun,” Trooper Stephen Harmons said earlier last March. “It’s too early in our investigation to comment further.”
Of course the whole matter should have ended right then and there... except...
The family, and others, had some questions.
"It's unbelievable that they are saying he took his life," Victor White Sr. told the HuffPost. "My son did not take his life. He had so much going for him. He was working hard, he had just got done working a double when they arrested him, and had plans and goals set that were beginning to materialize."
"It just doesn't make any sense," he added.
"He didn't kill himself," Louisiana attorney Carol Powell Lexing hired by the White family told The Huffington Post. "They killed him and they have been covering it up instead of dealing with the rogue cop within their department. The bigger question is why did they kill this boy?"
"From the beginning, nothing matched up," Lexing continued. "Police said they searched this young man before they took him into custody. A gun is a hard object, surely they would have felt that. That is standard protocol for them to check for a weapon."
If this case wasn’t straight forward enough, the Iberia Parish Coroner's Office released a copy of White's autopsy August 14th, which contradicts the state police's March 3 press release and states White shot himself with his materialized gun in the chest while his hands were cuffed behind him, and not in the back, specifically in the area of his right nipple. The bullet exited out his left side, according to the report.
The coroner, Carl M. Ditch, still called White’s death a suicide.
White Sr. took issue with the report, which took authorities five months to release.
"He couldn't shoot himself in the right part of his chest with his hands behind his back," he said. "He is left-handed, and they are saying he did this and shot himself on the right side."
"It is a very difficult shot, he had to be pretty contorted, but anatomically, physically, it is possible," Dr. Maranda Kles, assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said.
It is unknown if Victor White III was a devotee of Harry Houdini.
"State police was not involved in the incident at all," State Police Captain Doug Cain said. "We were brought in at the request of the sheriff to do an independent investigation. Our goal is to gather facts. That's the only thing we deal with, and we're getting close to the end of the investigation."
Oddly enough, despite the Captain’s assurances, attorney Lexing said she has "no confidence" in the investigation or the autopsy conducted by the Iberia Parish Coroner's Office, and because of that, she retained the services of Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist known for his investigations of the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
"I am going to review the file to see if a second autopsy will give more information," said Baden.
"He was very vibrant, energetic and humorous and hard-working," said White Sr. "Him not being around is the hardest part. I can't sleep, and I just come home from work and sit there. He used to text me and my wife every night, and every night we still find ourselves looking for his text messages."
"We just want answers. We want to know what happened to our son."
On and on...
During the last ten years the average number of police officer job related deaths is 165.
I’m not particularly into police bashing. They have a tough job, yet are usually well compensated for their work. Most police officers are fair, intelligent, hard working individuals. I’ve met some on occasion and have found that to be the case (of course I’m an Irish white guy). Still they are human, and suffer from the same inadequacies that all other humans suffer.
The cases sited above offer a glimpse perhaps into some police officer’s psyche, that some officers may feel they are somewhat special, “entitled,” if you will, and in certain instances above the law, or immune to it’s consequences. Their attitude when an officer is killed in the line of duty demonstrates this attitude, that somehow a policeman’s life is worth more than one of a non-police person, or ordinary citizen. The energy and determination applied to finding the killer of a police officer is not commensurate with that of the average citizen, which although understandable on an emotional basis, is odd professionally.
And police have certainly abused their powers in the past, as they do today in some instances. I remember chapters out of Steinbeck’s classic, “The Grapes of Wrath,” which depicts local police, especially in California during The Depression, as mere instruments of the business and political establishment to which, more than likely they answered to, in repressing the rights of American citizens who had migrated to the state during the tough economic times of that era. Last night I watched the fine film, “Cesar Chavez,” starring the lovely and talented America Ferrera and Rosario Dawson, which depicted police harassment of the struggling United Farm Workers movement, sometimes with the use of deadly force, in other words murder.
Ferguson, Missouri, about 12.5 miles northwest of St. Louis proper, is the home if the Emerson Electric Company (NYSE: EMR), an multinational corporation which employs 132,472 employees worldwide, in 150 countries and 230 manufacturing locations worldwide. Founded by Keith Noel Emerson in 1890, to manufacture electric motors, it was the first company to sell electric fans in the United States, two of which are running in my room right now.
Emerson Electric is now one of the largest power equipment manufacturers in the country, manufacturing products and providing engineering services for a wide range of industrial, commercial, and consumer markets.
There were 22,406 people, 8,612 households, and 5,838 families residing in the city in 2000, according to the U.s. Census. The racial makeup of Ferguson then was 44.8% White, 52.4% African American, 0.1% Native American, 0.7% Asian, < 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.4% from other races, and 1.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.0% of the total population.
As of 2010 there were 21,203 people (a decline during the ten years of 420), 8,192 households, and 5,500 families residing in the city. The racial makeup had changed significantly, to 29.3% White, 67.4% African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 0.4% from other races, and 2.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.2% of the population.
The Police Department in Ferguson is involved with the following public programs: Business Watch, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), D.A.R.E. Program, Neighborhood Watch, School Resource Officers, Riot Patrol, and Militarization. The racial make up of the Ferguson Police Department is 94% white, with 3 officers of color.
The Ferguson Fire Department has two fire stations that are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in case of fire. One station has a pumper truck and a rescue truck, while the other one has a pump and ladder vehicle and a reserve pumper truck. Racial statistics for the Furguson Fire Department are unknown.
Ferguson’s elected officials, like the police department, are mostly white.
Voter turnout in the most recent mayoral election was about 12%.
Efforts have been made recently to increase voter turnout.
Matt Wills, the Executive Director of the Missouri Republicans, doesn’t like it.
“I think it’s not only disgusting but completely inappropriate.”
Republican’s never seem to like it when black people exercise their constitutional rights and try to vote. I don’t know why.
On August 9th, 18 year old, 6'4" tall, 292 pound Michael Brown, who had graduated from high school 8 days before, and had plans to attend Vatterott College to become a heating and cooling engineer, was walking in the 2900 block of Canfield Drive with his friend, Dorian Johnson, just after noon. 28 year old Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, drove up to the two and directed them to get off the street and on to the sidewalk. An altercation took place between Brown and Wilson. According to some accounts a shot was fired from within the police car, and Brown and Johnson fled. Officer Wilson left his car in pursuit. At least 6 shots were subsequently fired at Brown, fatally wounding him. He died approximately 35 feet from the police car.
At 12:04, a second officer arrived on the scene followed by a supervisor a minute later. A Ferguson resident, a nurse, offered to provide medical assistance, but the police refused. Then an ambulance responding to an earlier call drove by and assessed Mr. Brown, who of course was still dead.
Michael’s body was left outside, in the street, for 4.5 hours.
Witness Piaget Crenshaw stated from her vantage point it looked like Wilson and Brown were arm wrestling before the former shot Brown from inside his vehicle. Wilson then chased Brown before shooting him again. "I saw the police chase him... down the street and shoot him down." She added that when Brown then raised his arms, the officer shot him two more times, killing him.
A 32-year-old man who lives near the scene of the shooting, said that he was looking out of his window and saw the incident at the police car. "It was something strange. Something was not right. It was some kind of altercation. I can't say whether he was punching the officer or whatever. But something was going on in that window, and it didn't look right." He said he could see Brown and Johnson run from the car, but did not hear any gun shots. He also saw Wilson leave the car and "start walking briskly while firing on Brown as he fled." Brady then ran outside to record the altercation on his cell phone. When he got outside he saw that Brown had turned around and was facing Wilson having been shot. Brown was half way to the ground and holding his injuries with his arms. Brady said as Brown was falling he took one or two steps toward Wilson as he was supposedly hit and was stumbling forward. Officer Wilson then shot him three or four more times.
Dorian Johnson, the friend of Brown’s who was walking with him stated that Wilson pulled up next to them, and instructed them to get off the street. "Get the fuck on the sidewalk," is the way I think he put it. They replied that they were almost to their destination and would soon be out of the street. According to Johnson, Wilson drove forward, and then backed up in an abrupt manner, placing his car directly in their path, so close to the two men that he almost hit them. Wilson tried to open the driver’s side door hitting the two men before closing back in on Wilson, who then grabbed Brown around the neck (I see no way to visualize this other than Brown bending down towards the window and Wilson) through the open window. Brown struggled to get away. Johnson said that Brown "did not reach for the officer's weapon at all", insisting that Brown was trying to get away from Wilson. Johnson said Wilson drew his weapon, and "he said, 'I'll shoot you' or 'I'm going to shoot,'" and almost instantaneously fired his weapon, hitting Mr. Brown. Then Brown was able to free himself, at which point the two men started running. Officer Wilson exited his vehicle, after which he fired a second shot, striking Brown in the back. Brown turned around with his hands in the air and said, "I don't have a gun. Stop shooting!" Wilson then shot Brown several more times, killing him.
Johnson's attorney, Freeman Bosley Jr, stated that Wilson did not attempt to resuscitate Mr. Brown, did not call for medical help, and "he didn't call it in that someone had been shot." Which quite frankly seems odd in that a second officer and an ambulance arrived within minutes.
Still, medical assistance was refused by the police, and the body lay in the street, in open sight, for an inordinate amount of time.
Tiffany Mitchell arrived in the area to pick up witness Piaget Crenshaw, her coworker. "As I pull onto the side, the kid, he finally gets away, he starts running. As he runs the police get out of his vehicle and he follows behind him, shooting. And the kid's body jerked as if he was hit from behind, and he turns around and puts his hands up like this, and the cop continued to fire until he just dropped down to the ground and his face just smacks the concrete."
Officer Wilson’s side of the story has not been released by the police. His identity wasn’t even released until August 15th, six days after the shooting. The incident report the police are required to generate is almost completely blank. When asked about the sparsity of detail, the local police said the matter was no longer in their hands, and the County Police were now in charge. When asked for an incident report from the county police, one was provided that was just as sparse, the county stating that it’s evidence will be submitted to a grand jury, which happened on August 20th. The grand jury is not expected to render any decision, or release details of the shooting until mid-October.
The death and the circumstances of the shooting soon spread throughout the city. Citizens were suitably outraged at the death of this unarmed teenager at the hands of the police.
That night on Canfield Drive, a small memorial honoring Michael sprang up in the middle of the street. Missouri state Rep. Sharon Pace purchased some tea lights for the family, and around 7 PM she joined Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, and others as they placed the candles and sprinkled flowers on the ground where Brown had died. "They spelled out his initials with rose petals over the bloodstains," Pace recalled.
Later police vehicles reappeared, including from the St. Louis County Police Department, which had taken control of the investigation. Some officers patrolled the area with their K9 units, and according to several sources one of the officers let his dog urinate on the memorial site.
Police then prohibited all vehicles from entering Canfield Drive except for theirs. Soon the candles and flowers had been smashed, after police drove over them.
These incidents inflamed the already fragile tensions in the community, according Pace, who said "That made people in the crowd mad and it made me mad."
The community acted in what most would say was an appropriate manner, with demonstrations and protests that law enforcement reacted to. Things got out of hand at times. Citizens were already pissed off at the police and local judiciary for victimizing them. Ferguson derived 25% of it’s income in tickets to locals. Ferguson, like most of the rest of the county is economically depressed due to income inequality, greed of the rich and powerful, and the Republican Great Repression. Those who couldn’t afford to pay their tickets were issued arrest warrants, 33,000 in one year alone, more than the total population of the city. Court fines and fees were the second largest source of revenue for the city, which was actually feeding off of it’s low income citizens.
Here’s a comment I found regarding this issue from a Missouri person:
Mannie Metcalfe: “I live about ten minutes from Ferguson in St.Louis city. The sad truth is the type of police tactics used in the initial event are common in the county. There are countless small municipalities that survive off of the financial rewards of harassing their citizens. As a law abiding 42 year old black man, I don't even go into the county after dark unless necessary. Who needs the hassle? It is common to be pulled over for no reason. If you make eye contact with them late night when the streets are empty, you may as well pull over and roll down the window. Brilliant article. I appreciate your dedication to giving a voice to the voiceless on this and other.”
The media arrived. Al Sharpton arrived. The police brought out riot gear designed for military use in Afghanistan and Iraq. The democratic governor, Jay Nixon, who had hoped to become Vice President in 2016 before all this happened, was criticized first for his late response to the situation, then issued a midnight cerfew that didn’t work out as well as he had planned and which he rescinded within two days, and then called in the state militia to keep order. Things didn’t begin to calm down until around August 21st, when the militia was called back. President Obama made a big speech about the unrest in Ferguson, and sent the Attorney General, Eric Holder down there to straighten things out.
You may have heard of all this, dear readers. It was in the news quite a bit for the last several weeks.
To say that the local police officials mishandled this situation is somewhat of an understatement. ExpatGirl submitted this list of ill considered actions taken by the St. Louis County and Ferguson police departments to the Daily Kos on August 16th:
1. Officer kills an unarmed black teen in the street.
2. Officer who kills the teenager requests assistance but does not inform his commanders of what happened. Instead, they learn it on the news like everyone else.
3. The scene is left in the hands of the officer’s own colleagues who allow the officer to leave the scene of the crime. His vehicle is also allowed to leave the scene – presumably breaking the integrity of the chain of evidence.
4. Victim is left lying in the road for four hours – inflaming the community and presumably destroying evidence.
5. Witnesses say that the killing officer never bothered to check for a pulse once his victim went down. None of the other officers arriving on the scene checked for a pulse. Bystanders in the medical field were not allowed to attempt CPR.
6. Rumor has it that the cellphones of possible witnesses were confiscated.
7. Police launch campaign to protect the officer at all costs - including the destruction of the community of Ferguson.
8. Police launch a full military invasion of the traumatized town of Ferguson.
9. Police caught on international TV screaming “Bring it! Bring it you fucking animals!”.
10. The response to a community protesting police brutality is the imposition of ‘martial law’ complete with authoritarianism, tear gas, rubber bullets, flash grenades and sound grenades.
11. Police throw the Constitution out the window and arrest, assault and teargas journalists.
12. Police arrest a well-known public figure for the "crime" of "failing to listen".
13. Chief of Police praises his officers for showing incredible restraint.
14. After days of shocking behavior that caught the attention of the world, police finally release Killer Cop's name - while concurrently launching a smear campaign against his victim. This decision to reignite the fuse of the powder keg is not run up the chain of command - despite pledges from the Governor that there is a new Sheriff in town.
15. Chief of Police specifically says that he is not interested in talking to the community he has been victimizing.
16. Chief of Police holds multiple press conferences in which he contradicts himself repeatedly.
17. Chief of Police makes a statement PRAISING the Killer Cop while concurrently smearing the dead teenaged victim at the center of the nation’s outrage.
Frankly, this piece was rather difficult to get through due to the massive amount of information that continuously streams into my possession regarding police misconduct and corollary issues (and I won’t even mention the preponderance of police shooting dogs, that seems to be a trend in the country recently).
In contrast, last year British police officers fired their weapons three times. That’s not in one city, or region (equivalent to a state in the U.S.), that’s the entire county.
No one died. According to The Economist, "British citizens are around 100 times less likely to be shot by a police officer than Americans. Between 2010 and 2014, the police force of one small American city — Albuquerque in New Mexico — shot and killed 23 civilians; seven times more than the number of Brits killed by all of England and Wales’s 43 forces during the same period.”
The Economist argues that the reason for this disparity is actually quite simple: English men are secure in the dimensionality of the sexual organs (and they aren’t talking about various phenomena that arise when analyzing and organizing data in high-dimensional spaces, oh no), much more so than Americans, and so guns are comparatively rare in the United Kingdom. Most police don't carry guns and criminals rarely have access to them. In contrast again, America is the number one arms exporter in the world (the UK is 7th), which places President Obama in the unique position of decrying violent attacks with guns, like at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, while supplying the world with arms (the terrorist organization ISIL, that we are currently attacking in Iraq are armed with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of American military equipment. We’re not selling it to them, thank God, although I wouldn’t put it past some American companies. They stole this from Iraqi forces that we armed. Oh yes, we’re also giving away military equipment to local police agencies just for the pure sweet hell of it, instead of selling it for scrap, or providing it to community army surplus stores where it belongs. Congress is just now thinking about reversing this policy, but like everything else happening in Congress these days, it won’t get done). The last time a British officer was killed by a gun was in 2012.
Iceland is another example.
"The nation was in shock. This does not happen in our country," said Thora Arnorsdottir, news editor at RUV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.
Ms. Amorsdottir was referring to the shooting death of a 59 year old man with a history of mental illness by police a week ago Monday. Apparently the man started shooting at police when they entered his building.
It's the first time someone has been killed by armed police in Iceland since it became an independent republic in 1944. Police usually don’t even carry guns. Violent crime in the country is almost non-existent (there is an up tick in domestic disturbances coinciding with WWE SmackDown Night).
"The nation does not want its police force to carry weapons because it's dangerous, it's threatening," Arnorsdottir says. "It's a part of the culture. Guns are used to go hunting as a sport, but you never see a gun."
And a lot of people own guns in Iceland (Iceland ranks 15th in the world in terms of per-capita gun ownership). They just don’t go insane over them.
And when I googled “NRA in Iceland,” I got this: “Did you mean: zara in Iceland.” Search Results: “Consumer & NRA Cuba US Air Route via Iceland.”
So apparently an organization devoted to promoting gun rights and sales for gun manufacturers, and a culture of gun sociopathy is unique to the United States.
As a matter of fact this shooting incident was so rare that neighbors of the man who was shot were comparing the shooting to a scene from an American film.
I’m so proud.
Lately it seems the use of deadly force in the United States is the only option police have when dealing with suspects who may or may not be aggressive, who may or may not be armed, who may or may not have mental illness issues. In several of the instances recounted above the use of a taser would have rendered the suspect helpless and ready for arrest (despite St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson’s assertion (in the matter of the shooting death of 25 year old African American, Kajieme Powell, by two white police officers after Powell, who seems to have had mental health problems, asking the police to shoot him when confronted, after allegedly shoplifting from a local convenience store. The shooting occurred 23seconds after the arrival of the officers, with video evidence that tends to contradict their claim that their lives were threatened. Some hail this incident as an example of the proper way of handling incidents of this nature due to police officials seemingly transparent dealing with it, releasing an incident report within hours of the shooting, which some claim defused the public’s sense of outrage, which avoided the uproar that occurred in Ferguson) that a taser “is not one hundred percent,” which at first glance makes no sense whatsoever. But lets give Chief Dotson the benefit of the doubt... it still doesn’t make any sense. What does he mean by “one hundred percent?” Why does it need to be “one hundred percent” to make an arrest? And so forth). Or if a police officer just has to shoot someone, why not aim for a leg rather than a chest or face. That would sufficiently debilitate a suspect who could then be taken into custody.
Often police claim they were in fear of their lives when applying deadly force to suspects carrying a knife, or a pen, or anything, and may or may not be approaching them. I suggest that if these officer’s are so fearful of being hurt or killed, they should find other work, maybe in a library or haberdashery (although these professions face their own hazards).
Some say the use of body cameras, and other surveillance devices applied to police might help to lessen what seems to be a problem of arbitrary use of force in this county. Denver is considering the idea after reviewing a study performed in Rialto, California, (distribution center for Staples Inc., Toys "R" Us, Under Armour sport clothes, Target, and Pyro Spectaculars, one of the nation’s largest fireworks companies) 54 miles east of Los Angeles, in which wearing cameras was associated with dramatic reductions in use-of-force and complaints against officers.
The authors concluded “The findings suggest more than a 50% reduction in the total number of incidents of use-of-force compared to control-conditions, and nearly ten times more citizens’ complaints in the 12-months prior to the experiment.”
Indeed, how could television shows like “World’s Wildest Police Videos,” on TruTV exist if it were not for police dash cams.
And yet we have this:
"An internal audit conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in March revealed that 'dozens of the [voice] transmitters worn by officers in Southeast Division were missing or damaged.' In the summer of 2013, this same division was found to have mysteriously lost 45% of the antennae placed on their cars to pick up the signals sent by their voice transmitters. The Southeast Division of the LAPD covers an area that has 'historically been marred by mistrust and claims of officer abuse.' For decades, the LAPD had been closely monitored by the U.S. Department of Justice, but a federal judge in 2013 decided to end that practice after being assured by the LAPD and city officials that the LAPD sufficiently monitors itself via dash-cams and voice transmitters. A formal investigation is currently being conducted to determine whether or not police officers intentionally subverted mandatory efforts to monitor and record their patrols." -Anonymous
Is Anonymous right and the information he/she/it provides valid? Every indication leans toward yes, and it being true. Police routinely object to being videotaped while in the performance of their duties, oftentimes leading to the videotapers harassment and arrest, leading to further litigation. Sometimes those dash cams don’t work, and cameras in jails fail for no apparent reason.
The watchers, don’t like being watched.
For example, I monitor the activities of the National Security Agency on a daily basis (if you only knew what Admiral Michael S. Rogers is up to... oh boy!). They don’t care for that at all! As a matter of fact they can get down hopping mad.
Which leads us, of course, back to the Constitution and how it has been ignored at the convenience of those in authority in Ferguson.
Whatever happens at the discretion of the grand jury regarding Officer Wilson, it is clear that rights given to us in the Constitution were trampled by various police agencies in the wake of Michael Brown’s death, as pointed out in Alex Kane’s riveting August 22nd article for AlterNet, “When Did it Become the Norm for Police to Crush Americans' Rights?”
The Constitution clearly states “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” It does not say “the right of the people peacefully to assemble whenever the state says it’s okay.”
When demonstrations did break out over Mr. Brown’s death, police reacted by firing tear gas, rubber bullets, and directional sound generators to disperse the crowds, tactics normally reserved for use in riot situations, which these were not. Some individuals of bad character reacted in a hostile fashion to the police, and some engaged in looting, alleged crimes which need to be dealt with in a case by case basis, and not towards the demonstrations as a whole.
“Ferguson police are compounding problems with threats and the use of unnecessary force against people peacefully protesting the police killing of Michael Brown,” Human Rights Watch’s Alba Morales said in a statement. “They should be upholding basic rights to peaceful assembly and free speech, not undermining them.”
Dahlia Lithwick of Slate Magazine, and Daria Roithmayr, a law professor, argue that excessive tear gas and rubber bullets also violate the constitutional right to due process (located within the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. “[N]or shall any person . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..., and [N]or shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . .” respectively. “The due process clause bans the police from using excessive force even when they are within their rights to control a crowd or arrest a suspect.”
These constitutional violations were pointed out to the authorities in Ferguson, at which point they continued to violate them.
Remember that First Amendment thing. Within it’s confines is the statement “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.
The Free Press Clause protects the right of individuals and the media to express themselves through publication and dissemination of information, ideas and opinions without interference, constraint or prosecution by the government... all governments in the country, not just the federal.
In order to disseminate information individuals or the media need to gather it.
When people with camera phones and journalists tried to record the police, some officers tried to prevent them from doing so.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of a journalist who was told by police to stop recording with his camera. The police and the ACLU eventually reached an agreement allowing the videotaping of the police, if the videotaping did not interfere with the work of the police, and the officers were still able to violate the civil rights of others, uh, I mean to do their jobs.
After Governor Nixon imposed a midnight curfew, the ACLU, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, in a joint statement called the curfew unconstitutional. The order they said “suspends the constitutional right to assemble by punishing the misdeeds of the few through the theft of constitutionally protected rights of the many,” as I so deftly pointed out above. They continued, “The suspension of constitutional rights in Ferguson does much more than suppress speech. It subjects an entire community to imprisonment in their homes—a lockdown on the residents of Ferguson who have done no wrong and seek nothing more than justice.”
The curfew was soon lifted.
On August 13th, when police in riot gear went into a McDonald’s and arrested two journalists: Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly and the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery, President Obama condemned the violations of freedom of the press in Ferguson the next day.
There’s “no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights,” he said. But the police kept on doing it. They bullied journalists, they threatened them, tear-gassed them, shot them with rubber bullets and arrested them. 17 journalists were arrested while on the job in Ferguson (none from Fox so-called News it seems).
Kane points out:
“The trashing of core civil liberties has become a frequent occurrence at major protests. In 2004, the New York Police Department arrested 1,800 protesters, passersby and journalists during demonstrations centered around the Republican National Convention. The city eventually agreed to pay $18 million to settle the lawsuits stemming from the mass arrests. The New York police also cracked down on protests and the press when Occupy Wall Street started in 2011.
Ferguson is no anomaly. There will be plenty of lawsuits filed against the police for violating constitutional rights. But the trampling of civil liberties points to a systemic problem that individual court orders and settlements won’t fix. The police in America have decided that when it suits them, the Constitution doesn’t matter one bit. The residents of Ferguson likely knew this before the killing of Michael Brown led to mass protests. But for many Americans captivated by the scenes in Missouri, it’s a new reality.”
On Aug 20th, the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, visited Ferguson Missouri.
Mr. Holder and top Justice Department officials were weighing whether to open a broader civil rights investigation to look at Ferguson’s police practices at large, according to law enforcement officials. The issue came up after news reports revealed a 2009 case in which a 52 year old welder named Henry Davis claimed that four police officers beat him (after being arrested for an outstanding warrant that proved to be for another man of the same name, but with a different middle name and Social Security number), then charged him with destruction of property by getting his blood on their uniforms. Police officers involved denied the prisoners allegation, and then when confronted with a civil lawsuit, denied the charge itself in a magnificent and practical example of nonsensicality.
Under Mr. Holder, the Justice Department has opened nearly two dozen such investigations into police departments nationwide, more than twice as many as were opened in the previous five years, according to department data.
Hopefully these investigations have been more constructive than investigations into the wrong doing and intentional breaking of federal law for those responsible on Wall Street for the 2007/2008 financial crisis, the effects of which we are still experiencing today due to Republican obstructionism in Congress.
If our Constitution is to really mean anything, and is just not a piece of parchment, then those who willfully break it’s intentions, and disallow it’s inherent protections, whether they be Presidents or a local cop you see everyday, must be held accountable, before, during, or after the fact. For the injustices committed in Ferguson, the police themselves, the city, county, and ultimately the Governor of Missouri need to pay a price, and a steep one, for violating the promises put forth in our most sacred document.
Unless this is done these transgressions will surely happen again and again.
As always, I need to thank the Internet for source material.
Addendum: 8-31-14: Police Action.
Addendum: 9-1-14: Ferguson Police Now Wearing Cameras as Protests Continue.
Addebdum: 9-25-14: DOJ Investigates.
Addendum: 8-31-14: Police Action.
Addendum: 9-1-14: Ferguson Police Now Wearing Cameras as Protests Continue.
Addebdum: 9-25-14: DOJ Investigates.