Showing posts with label Sam Levin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sam Levin. Show all posts

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Keeping An Eye On The Police Shooting & Killing Of Rayshard Brooks Last Night In Atlanta Georgia

Right this second, Mike has the TV on watching the events in Atlanta Georgia where last night a black man, Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by Atlanta Police and I'm scooting around down here trying to find out exactly what happened. At 6:57 pm Mike says that it appears the demonstration is escalating, the reports coming in from CNN have stated that protesters have shut down an interstate, fires have been set  and it is being reported that looting has started. I do not see any reference to looting in the area on the internet and the one fire at Wendy's has been reported...unsure of other "fires".

Wendy's Burning

Here on the updates:

 ~ From CNN: (scroll down the link to see videos of this situation as it happened)

Black Lives Matter Protests Across the US and World 

Does not look good.


 ~ From  a couple of days back:

"I covered the Rodney King and Freddie Gray riots. This moment feels different. That's why I'm afraid"

Updated 2:51 PM ET, Fri June 12, 2020

"(CNN)The activist with the salt and pepper goatee who stood before me couldn't contain his euphoria.

He had watched a video of four police officers brutalizing a black man pinned to the ground. The video had grabbed headlines and sparked widespread protests. Police departments vowed reform. Sure, these types of protests had happened before, he said, but this one felt different.
"The balance of the power has shifted from the police to the populace," Donald Bakeer told me. "This is an exciting time. America is going to change."

Bakeer said this 28 years ago. I was standing amid the smoldering ashes of Los Angeles' South Central neighborhood in 1992, when I was a rookie newspaper reporter assigned to cover the Rodney King riots.

But the news cycle moved on, and the accounts and videos of black men brutalized by police kept coming. After all the deaths and the protests -- in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 and in Baltimore in 2015, to name a few -- came the same calls for change and the same rhetoric: This time will be different.

I've seen how this movie ends. I also covered the Freddie Gray riots, which erupted in the same West Baltimore neighborhood where I grew up. I've seen the same pattern: Exuberant protesters, vows for police reform, and then ... nothing.

But after the George Floyd demonstrations I find myself filled with a guarded optimism, even as I wrestle with the fear that nothing will stop these ghoulish videos. 
I see three big reasons why things really do feel different this time.

White people get it now


My optimism starts with a painful memory. It was the most heartbreaking confession I've ever heard from a young black man.

I was interviewing a black family in a gang-dominated neighborhood in Los Angeles not long before the King riots. They lived like moles. Everything in their house -- their furniture, their mattresses -- was as close to the floor as possible. A rival gang had shot into the house so much that they low-walked through the rooms. Bullet holes dotted the walls.

A member of the family, 17 at the time, said many of his friends had already been killed. He couldn't envision reaching middle age.

"All I know is I want to make a baby before I die," he told me.

Before Black Lives Matter was a hashtag, it was a question mark. I met so many black and brown people in South Central who wondered if white people cared about how much they suffered. They lived in a perpetual crossfire -- terrified of gangs and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Covering gangs like the Crips and the Bloods was my first journalism job out of college. It may sound exciting, but I was miserable, and sometimes terrified. What I remember most was the isolation of those communities.

People felt like they were marooned in impoverished, dangerous neighborhoods by whites who couldn't give a damn about how many of them were murdered.

But the Floyd protests have introduced a plot twist that I didn't see coming.

I've never had so many black friends and relatives call me, all saying the same thing: Did you see all of them white people out there?

Those who focus on the surprising number of white people at these protests, though, miss an important point: It's not just the number of white people who are putting their bodies on the line, it's the type of white people who are showing solidarity.

We're not just seeing Berkeley radicals at these rallies. Protests have spread to small, predominately white towns -- even places like Vidor, Texas, a former Ku Klux Klan stronghold that Texas Monthly once called the "most hate-filled town" in the state. More than 70% of Americans see Floyd's death as part of a larger racial problem, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll.

I've never seen so many white people as angry about racism as its victims.

This was unthinkable during the King riots.

Many of the people I talked to in South Central perceived that much of white America saw them as animals. They thought whites were titillated by tales of gang violence and tough LAPD cops. One of my friends called it "gangster chic." But most whites didn't seem interested in learning about the type of racism that made some black people's lives so miserable.

They are now. When President George W. Bush releases a statement asking, "How do we end systemic racism in our society?" something has changed.

More white people are saying what Andy Stanley, a prominent white evangelical pastor, said during a recent sermon on the Floyd protests: It's no longer enough to be a non-racist; one must be an anti-racist.

The Floyd video was an Emmett Till moment for white America, one professor told me.

"Perhaps the tipping point of violence against black citizens has finally broken though the apathy of the dominant majority, such as Emmett Till's open casket and the images of his brutalized face (that) finally snapped many Americans out of a delusional belief that America was great for all," says Susan Peppers-Bates, a philosophy professor and director of the Africana Studies minor at Stetson University in Florida.

One of my friends put it best when he called me one recent night after watching white demonstrators square off against police in riot gear. He declared:

"White people get it now."

The Floyd protesters have the perfect villain


My optimism is also based on another encounter with a young black man. This one took place five years ago in Baltimore.

The experience literally hit home for me.

I'd been sent to the city to cover the unrest over Gray, a black man who died while in police custody. The epicenter of the riots was in the same neighborhood where I grew up. National Guardsmen with assault rifles patrolled outside the house where I played with friends.

I spotted a teenager in braids leaning against a sign at a nearby bus stop. He scowled as I approached. Everyone seemed angry that day.

His name was Malik, and he told me he was angry at Baltimore's mayor for calling young protesters "thugs." He didn't think any of the city's political or law enforcement leaders cared about young black men like himself.

"They talk about 'We the future,' but they killing us," Malik, then 15, told me.

This wasn't a South Central rerun. Malik was angry at black people, not white people. The city leaders he castigated were all black.

Every protest movement needs a focal point for its wrath. The civil rights movement had a racist antagonist, Alabama lawman "Bull" Connor. The #MeToo movement has movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. But the Freddie Gray protests didn't really have that, and I think it hurt them.

I detected a palpable letdown in my old Baltimore neighborhood when people finally saw the pictures of the six police officers arrested in connection with Gray's death. Half of them were black. The city's police chief and mayor were black. How could protesters claim that Gray was a victim of racist cops and politicians when Baltimore was controlled by black leaders?

Police officers from previous protests faded from public view like phantoms. Many have forgotten their names.

The Floyd protesters, though, may have the perfect villain in President Trump.

Intentionally or not, he has mobilized protesters.

Many were outraged by his tweet saying, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." The use of smoke canisters and pepper balls to remove protesters so Trump could hold up a Bible in front of a church backfired by turning out more protesters, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

"You have a leader who is thoroughly incompetent and inept in this moment," Bryan Adamson, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, told me. "He has managed to fan the flames of racism."

Police culture won't be the same


Another memory from 1992 Los Angeles suggests to me that this time may be different.

It's when I met one of the most notorious police chiefs in America. His name was Daryl Gates, and he was chief of the Los Angeles Police Department during the Rodney King riots. A veteran of the US Navy, Gates helped spread the militarization of police departments around the nation.

Gates once told a US Senate committee that casual drug users "ought to be taken out and shot." He said that more blacks died from police chokeholds because their arteries were not the same as "normal people," a remark for which he later apologized. Under Gates' command, the LAPD used an armored personnel carrier to bash in suspected drug houses.

Gates was forced to resign from the LAPD in 1992. But until now I have never seen so many police officers break publicly with the military culture that's embedded in so many departments.

Police officers have knelt with and marched with protesters. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo asked his department to provide escort services for Floyd's body upon his return to the city for his burial.
The days of big-city police chiefs acting like Gen. George Patton may be over. The potential legal and political costs are too high.

Besides, there's something about the Floyd video that hits at law enforcement in a way that other videos didn't, says Adamson, the Case Western professor.

"I think many officers, especially black and brown, had to be wrecked by what they saw," Adamson says.

The Floyd video could lead to concrete changes in police culture. Already, all four Minneapolis officers who were filmed arresting Floyd have been arrested and charged in his death. Other police departments have also taken swift recent action against officers accused of misconduct.

Politicians are getting involved. The Minneapolis City Council has pledged to defund and dismantle the city's police department in the wake of Floyd's death. Such steps could include everything from dismantling the structure of the city's police force to dramatically reducing its budget.

Congressional Democrats released a package of proposed police reforms, and some local governments are banning chokeholds. Republicans, and the White House, are discussing reforms as well.

Similar reforms have been tried before, including after the Rodney King, Ferguson and Freddie Gray protests. But the movement has more momentum now.

And what if it's still not enough?


If protesters ultimately help make policy, and not just noise, my optimism may be validated.
The US Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis recently said something that's crucial: "The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society."

A Trump victory in November, though, could derail any momentum generated by the protests, says Christopher Huff, a history professor at Beacon College in Florida who studies protest movements.
"It would be devastating," Huff says. "If what's happening now translates into an electoral defeat in November, that would be an indicator that what's been going on may have lacked a grounding to effect long-term change."

I'm familiar with this kind of disappointment. I've seen the hope for police reform rise and fall. I try not to return to the level of pessimism that I once felt while listening to the young man who only wanted to make a baby before he was murdered.

But now I have a new fear. What if this time really is different, but that's still not enough to affect meaningful change?

What if I keep seeing a succession of unarmed black and brown people struck down on videos? What if one day it's someone I know -- or me?

And yet in other moments, I also believe that true change is possible. The price of police brutality is becoming too high to pay. There is a new generation of black, brown and white anti-racists who will change America.

In truth, I bounce between hope and skepticism: This time won't be different. This time will be different.

It may not make sense to believe both. But it's better than what I once felt: no hope at all."


 ~  From The Guardian this morning- more reports on their sidebar:

"19 dead in a decade: the small American city where violent police thrive "

by, Sam Levin

"Police killed Sean Monterrosa amid protests against brutality. His death is part of a fatal pattern in Vallejo, California

At 12.30am on 2 June, as protests for George Floyd raged across California, a Vallejo policeman fired five shots through the windshield of his unmarked car, fatally striking an unarmed young man kneeling in a parking lot.

The death of Sean Monterrosa sparked national outrage at a time when a growing number of Americans are focused on police brutality. But in Vallejo, the killing felt painfully familiar and served as a harsh reminder that the city’s police department remains one of the country’s most violent and brutal small-city forces.

The Vallejo police chief said officers on Monday night responded to calls for “potential looters” at a Walgreens. Monterrosa was kneeling with his hands raised when he was shot, the chief said, and was not observed looting. Monterrosa had a hammer in his pocket, not a gun.

Vallejo police officers have killed 19 people since 2010, one of the highest rates in the state. The officer who shot Monterrosa, Detective Jarrett Tonn, has been involved in four shootings in five years. He’s one of 14 Vallejo policemen whom residents and activists call the “Fatal 14” – officers who have repeatedly shot and killed citizens and never faced consequences.

The crisis in Vallejo, activists and families of victims say, represents what happens when a US police department allows repeat offenders to act with impunity, where out-of-control officers keep their jobs or get promoted even after video of their abuse is exposed.

“These officers feel they can do whatever they want,” Michelle Monterrosa, Sean’s 24-year-old sister, told the Guardian. “Sean knew the system was made to oppress people of color. It hurt him to see … Sean was angry, he would say: ‘Why are they still killing us this way?’”

In a bankrupt city, police abuse is routine

A city of 121,000, Vallejo is among the most diverse zip codes in the country, with a roughly even split of black, Latino, Asian and white residents. It’s the birthplace of acclaimed California rappers and musicians like E-40 and HER, and was home to the first naval shipyard on the Pacific ocean.

The base brought good jobs and diversity, but inequality and segregation have long been part of the city’s fabric, said John Burris, a Bay Area civil rights attorney who grew up in Vallejo and graduated high school there in 1963. “The white neighborhoods were to the left and to the right, but we didn’t walk down those streets,” he recalled.

Police harassment, too, was part of growing up in Vallejo. David Hudson, 41, said officers stopped him on the way to the store and made him sit on the curb. One time, while he was driving his high school sweetheart and her 10-year-old cousin to the movies, an officer pulled them over, made them exit the vehicle and forced the child to empty out his pockets, he recalled. Another time, police busted into a party to execute a search warrant, guns pointing at his face.

Vallejo’s shipyard closed in 1996, and the area struggled in the following years. In 2008, amid the national foreclosure crisis, the city declared bankruptcy, forcing the police department to reduce its force from 126 officers to 77.

Since then, police killings have risen significantly, although there was no major surge in crime. In addition to the high rate of killings, at least six officers have fired at people three or more times since 2010, according to Open Vallejo, a public interest news site. In 2012, officers killed six people in a single year, accounting for 30% of all Vallejo homicides that year.

High-profile killings and little-reported deaths

Some of the killings were caught on camera and made national headlines after disturbing footage emerged. In one of the most high-profile cases last year, Willie McCoy, a 20-year-old rapper, had been sleeping in his car at a Taco Bell when six officers surrounded the vehicle and fired 55 shots into his vehicle into the car in just 3.5 seconds.

Other shootings barely made the news. Ronell Foster, a 33-year-old father, was shot in 2008 by one of the policemen who would later shoot McCoy. Foster was pulled over by officer Ryan McMahon for “riding a bicycle at night with no headlamp”. Body-camera footage released more than a year after the killing showed that Foster, who was unarmed, tried to flee and the policeman chased him and shot him in the back.

Guy Jarreau Jr, a 34-year-old community activist and youth mentor, was shot and killed in 2010. According to the family’s lawsuit, Jarreau was directing a small group of friends in a music video with an anti-violence message when police ordered them to disperse. Jarreau tried to follow the orders and ended up in an alley, where undercover officer Kent Tribble, shot him without warning while his hands were in the air, the civil complaint said. Police later alleged Jarreau was armed, but witnesses said they saw him holding a cup in his hand.

In a small city like Vallejo, numerous cases of brutality are connected. A few months after Willie McCoy’s killing, his 20-year-old niece, Deyana Jenkins, was pulled over, tased and arrested after not having an ID on her.

Adrian Burrell, a 30-year-old former marine and film-maker, who shares a relative with the McCoy family, was threatened and assaulted by a policeman while filming the officer detaining his cousin last year, according to a complaint. After footage of the incident went viral, new video emerged of that same officer, David McLaughlin, holding a man at gunpoint while off duty in a parking lot, and eventually punching him.

After officers kill, ‘they sweep it under the rug’

Vallejo officials have argued that they are understaffed and that budget woes have forced the city to hire inexperienced people who work in dangerous situations.

Burris, however, said part of the problem was that Vallejo does not shun officers who left previous jobs in larger cities after facing misconduct complaints.

No Vallejo officer has been charged for an on-duty shooting, though taxpayers have footed the bill for more than $7m in payouts from civil lawsuits in recent years. Officers are put on administrative leave after killings, but generally go back to work while incidents are being investigated. Inquiries into police killings often drag on for years. Some officers have killed again before prosecutors have made a decision about charges in the previous shooting. The investigation into the death of Willie McCoy continues, 480 days after the shooting.

One Vallejo officer killed three people within 21 weeks in 2012 and was promoted to detective. An officer with three shootings was recently promoted to lieutenant.

The officer who killed Ronell Foster and shot Willie McCoy is currently on paid administrative leave. The policeman who shot Guy Jarreau became a spokesman in the department.

No one cares about the victims of police killings in a city like Vallejo, said Andrea Jarreau-Griffin, Guy’s mother: “If you’re not in these big cities, they try to sweep it under the rug.” It’s been 10 years but she continues to hold out hope for charges: “I’m still trying to get his case heard.”

David McLaughlin, the officer who threatened Adrian Burrell, returned to duty after leave. The officer, who had fatally shot someone in 2017, was also recently accused of harassing and threatening Melissa Nold, the civil rights lawyer representing multiple families, records show. He tried to shake her hand and questioned her when she politely declined, then subsequently told her he knows she lives in Vallejo, she wrote in a complaint letter.

Nold said families of some of the victims, too, had complained of harassment and intimidation. She herself also has a pending internal affairs complaint against the police union president, Lt Michael Nichelini, who she says has filmed her while she’s sitting at public meetings. A Times Herald records request uncovered 15 minutes of Nichelini’s cellphone footage trained on her along with photos he took.

“If you’re going to openly attack a civil rights lawyer, what do you think they are doing to black people in dark alleys?” Nold said.

“There is no accountability within our system,” said Kori McCoy, Deyana’s father and Willie’s brother. “We know this is bad policing. They are killing people who are not in the act of committing any crime, people with their hands up.

“Just treat us as equals, that’s all we want, just stop the killings,” said Paula McGowan, Foster’s mother. “Don’t give them a slap on the wrist and let them take a couple days off of paid administrative leave.”

Adrian Burrell has moved out of Vallejo and rarely returns, even though his family is still there. “Officer McLaughlin still patrols my neighborhood. I can’t go to that place without thinking, is this the day he’s going to pull me over? Or is a buddy of his going to recognize me? This is a person who violated my rights, who the city decided deserved to go back on the police force.”

Burrell cried on the phone while discussing his fears of police, and the choices he would have to make when confronted by law enforcement: “Do I stand up for myself and potentially lose my life or do I lose my dignity and humanity and survive? It’s a horrible decision.”

What comes next: ‘Enough is enough’

Following Sean Monterrosa’s killing, California’s justice department announced it would investigate Vallejo police, a move activists have long requested.

Some had hoped 2020 might be different for Vallejo. The city’s new police chief, Shawny Williams, is the first black officer to run the department. And up until this month, the city had gone more than a year without a killing.

Monterrosa’s death has sparked outrage in Vallejo and San Francisco, his hometown. The 22-year-old, well-known in the Bernal Heights neighborhood, was an avid skateboarder and artist who loved reading Malcolm X and literature about the border and criminal justice, his two sisters said. Their parents are Argentinian immigrants, and Sean, who had worked as a tutor and youth mentor, dreamed of buying and remodeling a rundown house for his mother.

He was about to start a new carpentry job when he was killed.

The basic circumstances of the killing, and Williams’ handling of the aftermath, have enraged activists. It took him more than a day to confirm a fatal shooting had occurred, and when he did, he defended the officer, pointing at the hammer in Monterrosa’s pocket and arguing that shooting through a windshield was allowed under policy. He also focused on the looting that night in Vallejo, even though Monterrosa had not broken into the store. He discussed Monterrosa’s past charges, although the 22-year-old had not been convicted in those cases and the officer knew nothing of his record or identity when he killed him.

The police union has offered a conflicting account and said Monterrosa did not make movements consistent with surrendering.

Williams has not released body-camera footage or confirmed the officer’s name, which only became public when Open Vallejo and the Bay Area News Group reported it.

None of the officers responded to requests for comment and the police department and union did not answer inquiries for this story.

Monterrosa’s sisters said they want justice for their brother, but they would also like to see major changes to how public safety works in this country.

“We need to go to school and educate ourselves and get into office and dismantle the police,” said Michelle, his sister. “It’s not just about Sean. It’s about everyone else. We know if Sean was still here, he would want the same. Because enough is enough. How many more lives are going to be taken by police?”


We'll see how the Brooks case goes, stay safe everyone.