Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Gray Lady Bangs the Drum on Institutional Racism/Police Accountability

On the one hand, we have The New York Times daily laying the foundation of the New Cold War; while on the other, the "newspaper of record" nearly as often shines a light on institutional racism, the criminal justice system and the lack of police accountability. It is a strange age we live in. A Cold War is being resuscitated sans the specter of international communism at the the same time one of the main tenets of the 1960s New Left -- black liberation -- is making a comeback.

Make no mistake, the Gray Lady is advocating for black justice. She didn't need to run a story (Carol Cole-Frowe and Richard Fausset, "Jarring Image of Police’s Use of Force at Texas Pool Party") about the police storming a pool party in a Dallas suburb, but she did. And it is decent story to boot, drawing attention to the racial divide in the city where the incident took place:
McKinney, with around 150,000 people, is a fast-growing, mostly middle-class suburb with deep racial and economic divisions. In 2009, according to an article in The Atlantic, the city settled a lawsuit in which it was accused of hindering the construction of affordable housing in the western part of the city, which is more white and more affluent.
The pool party took place on the west side, in a neighborhood that residents said is usually marked by friendly relations among black, white, Hispanic and Asian residents.
Of course the video speaks for itself. You would be hard pressed to find a better depiction of domination: an armed cracker in a dark uniform manhandling a black girl in a colorful bathing suit. It as if white fascistic America's pornographic daydream was caught on a cell-phone camera.

And the McKinney pool party story is not even the best black justice report featured in today's paper. Michael Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo have an excellent piece, "Cleveland Leaders Bypass Prosecutors to Seek Charge in Tamir Rice Case," on how an obscure Ohio law is being used to attempt a bypass of the grand-jury system so that the murder of Tamir Rice might receive a public trial:
Ohio is one of a handful of states that allow residents to request an arrest without approval from the police or prosecutors. It is difficult to know how the case will play out because there is little precedent for a citizen to request an arrest in such a contentious, high-profile case. 
Mr. Madison [lawyer for the Tamir Rice family] said that he knew of no instance in which an Ohio judge had ordered the arrest of a police officer based on a citizen complaint, but that most previous complaints had been frivolous. 
Shooting deaths by officers over the past year have prompted the most significant national discussion on policing since the 1991 beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. The debate has highlighted, among other things, the differences in how prosecutors handle cases involving investigations of police officers. 
In a typical murder case, prosecutors often present only their best evidence to a grand jury in order to get an indictment. Arguments that a shooting was justified are typically not made until much later, at trial. 
In cases involving police officers, prosecutors are more likely to let grand jurors hear conflicting testimony or see evidence favorable to the officer. Critics say that has established two standards for bringing charges: a high one for police officers, and a much lower one for everyone else. 
A task force appointed by President Obama recommended in March that all cases involving the use of force by police officers be handled by independent prosecutors to “demonstrate the transparency to the public that can lead to mutual trust between community and law enforcement.” In the Cleveland case, however, Cuyahoga County prosecutors will decide whether to bring charges. Those prosecutors work regularly with Cleveland police officers, a closeness that activists have said is a conflict of interest.

By going directly to a judge, community leaders are trying to circumvent that process. Ohio law allows anyone with “knowledge of the facts” to file a court affidavit and ask a judge to issue an arrest warrant. If approved, the arrest would be followed by a public hearing, and community members said that was preferable to allowing prosecutors to make the decision in secret.

“Here we are taking some control of the process as citizens,” Mr. Madison said. “We are going to participate without even changing the law.”
Tamir was fatally shot in November while he played in a park. A 911 caller had reported that the boy was waving a gun that was “probably fake.” When officers arrived, they pulled their car into the park, next to the boy. Within two seconds, an officer, Timothy Loehmann, shot Tamir in the abdomen. The boy’s gun, it turned out, was a toy replica of a Colt pistol and fired plastic pellets.
The shooting raised questions about whether the officers followed procedures and whether they had time to warn Tamir three times to put down the gun, as they said they had done. Lawyers for the city have defended the shooting, saying the officers mistook the toy for a real gun. 
The Rev. Jawanza K. Colvin, who signed affidavits seeking charges of murder and manslaughter, said: “We have the video, and having witnessed it, you can see that it took two seconds for the officers to shoot a 12-year-old boy who showed no malicious intent or aggressive behavior. There is certainly reasonable suspicion that a crime was committed.” 
The planned filing comes as Cleveland tries to move past what the Justice Department recently said was a pattern of police abuse and unconstitutional behavior. The city agreed to put in place new training and civilian oversight to head off a civil rights lawsuit.
It is hard for me to imagine a Cleveland judge issuing an arrest warrant for Timothy Loehmann. The judicial system exists to protect the status quo, and the status quo allows law enforcement to operate with impunity. This impunity embraces the regular murder of black people.

For some reason, the NYT has taken up the cause of the #Black Lives Matter movement, an amazingly progressive thing to do and something that doesn't square with the paper's crude, backward parroting of USG propaganda when it comes to foreign affairs. But why?

Are the editors privy to some secret government study that foretells of a crackdown by the police state and they're, in the finest tradition of public service, trying to get out front and build a movement of civic resistance? Doubtful to impossible. Something is happening here, some form of mass awakening that is broader and simultaneously more cynical than what happened in the 1960s/early 1970s and the Gray Lady is just trying to keep up.

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