Dangerous to be black in America!

Ensuring Socio-economic Justice

Khadijah Ali

Shawwal 27, 1437 2016-08-01

News & Analysis

by Khadijah Ali (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 6, Shawwal, 1437)

Police in America have declared war on the black population. They are shot and killed even if they are unarmed and have surrendered to the police. Even the courts are backing the killers in uniform.

It is open season on blacks in America. Amid rising anger in the African American community over the indiscriminate police shootings of blacks, an episode on July 18 in North Miami, Florida merely reinforced this grim reality. Charles Kinsey, a African American behavioral therapist, who works with people with disabilities, rushed to help a patient—an autistic man—who had wandered off the facility and was sitting in the middle of the road.

Kinsey tried to persuade his patient to return to the facility while someone called the police telling them a man was ‘threatening to shoot himself’, or so the North Miami Assistant Police Chief Neal Cuevas claimed, according to the Miami Herald newspaper. The police arrived on the scene and ordered Kinsey and the patient to lie on the ground. Kinsey complied putting his hands in the air and told the police he was unarmed. He also told them that his patient was autistic and had a toy truck in his hand. Mobile phone video confirms what Kinsey told the police. While trying to persuade the autistic man also to comply with orders, the police shot Kinsey three times in the leg.
Assistant Police chief Cuevas confirmed no weapon was found on Kinsey or the autistic man.

The offending police officer has been put on ‘administrative leave’ pending the Florida Department of Law Enforcement “investigation of the incident”. Why are the police so trigger-happy when it comes to African Americans? Would they have shot Kinsey if he were white? Absolutely not, as was evident from another episode when about one hundred militiamen in Oregon brandished heavy weapons and threatened to shoot the police if they tried to intervene. Ammon Bundy, son of a notorious criminal Cliven Bundy, led the July 4-5 incident in Burns, Oregon. The heavily armed militiamen marched into a federal building and occupied Malheur Wildlife Refuge Headquarters in Burns protesting against the prosecution of two local ranchers. Did the police intervene or threaten to shoot unless the mob complied; did they use tear gas or pepper spray to disperse the mob? Perish the thought. Instead, the police extended full protection to the heavily armed militiamen even as they threatened to attack them if they intervened. The police warned people to stay away from the building as they try to bring a peaceful end to the standoff.

While the heavily armed white militiamen were occupying a federal building and threatening to attack the police in Oregon, in other parts of the country the police were busy killing blacks. On July 5, two white officers in Baton Rouge killed a 37-year-old black man, Alton Sterling. That shooting, captured on mobile phone video, provoked widespread protests about police treatment of the black community. The following day (July 6), another black man, 32-year-old Philando Castile, was killed in Minnesota when a police officer pulled him over.

Sterling and Castile became number 558 and 559 victims respectively of police killings in 2016. In the same period last year, 465 blacks were killed while the figure for the year 2015 was 1,150. This year is turning out to be more deadly.

What were Sterling and Castile’s crimes, if any? Two Baton Rouge policemen confronted Sterling outside the Triple S Mart for selling C’s to the convenience store. After arresting him, they pinned Sterling to the ground and then one of them shot and killed him. Ordinarily, selling C’s would not even result in arrest much less a shooting death, unless of course the person happens to be black.

Castile was pulled over for allegedly having a broken taillight on his car. His fiancee and four-year-old daughter were in the back seat of the car. The policeman asked him for identification and as Castile tried to reach for it, he was shot four times in the stomach. His fiancée, Diamond Reynolds videotaped the execution. Shortly thereafter, it was on the Internet and resulted in widespread protests across the country.

It was at one such protest the following day in Dallas that a sniper shot and killed five Dallas police officers. The sniper was 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson, a military veteran who had served in Afghanistan. A police search of his home found notes in which he had scribbled how to ‘shoot and move’. During the Dallas shooting, it is reported that the police were in negotiations with him and Johnson expressed anger at the police shooting of blacks. The police sent a robot bomb into the building to kill Johnson, unlike the white militia occupying a federal building in Oregon!

It is clear that being black in America is now a crime and is dangerous to their very survival. Black anger is neither irrational nor instantaneous; it has been building up over a long list of police shootings of unarmed blacks.
Teenager Michael Brown was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014. Not surprisingly, these led to demonstrations across the US. At protests in the following weeks and months, thousands marched for justice, not just for Michael Brown, but for 12-year-old Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Laquan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray and countless others whose names and the circumstances of their shootings never made the headlines.

Tamir Rice was on a swing playing with a toy gun in a park on November 22, 2014 when someone called the Cleveland police claiming a person was “pointing a gun at people”. Two police officers arrived on the scene and within a minute, they shot the 12-year-old boy. While an investigation of the shooting was carried out, a grand jury refused to charge the offending officer.

Walter Scott was shot and killed in North Charleston on April 5, 2015 by patrolman Michael Slager even as Scott was running away from him thus posing no risk to anyone. Slager said he “felt a rush of adrenaline” before he shot the victim. Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke pumped 16 bullets in 13 seconds into Laquan McDonald on October 20, 2014. The victim was barely 10 feet from the officer who claimed the police had received reports of a person “carrying a knife”. Only after repeated calls by independent investigators for the police to release video footage of the shooting captured on one police cruiser’s dashboard camera, was it released to the public on November 24, 2015—over 13 months after the shooting. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder after the video’s release but was granted bail on November 30.

Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman was pulled over for a minor traffic violation on July 10, 2015. State trooper Brian Encinia arrested her alleging she had assaulted him and threw her in a jail cell in Waller County, Texas where she was found “hanged” three days later. Her death was classified as “suicide”. A bystander’s cell phone video of the incident led to Encinia being placed on administrative leave for failing to follow proper traffic stop procedures. Several police “investigations” found no wrongdoing by Encinia but in January 2016, a grand jury indicted him for perjury. It was only then that the Texas Department of Public Safety dismissed him.

The case of Freddie Gray and Eric Garner are even more shocking. Gray was arrested in Baltimore and thrown into a police cruiser on April 12, 2015. His neck was broken but no attention was paid to him. He died in the cruiser. So far three officers have had all charges dropped, a fourth has had a mistrial and the fifth’s trial in ongoing.
Eric Garner was arrested in Staten Island, New York on July 17, 2014 accused of selling “loosies” (selling single cigarettes from a pack, and thus not paying tax!). He denied the charge but officer Daniel Pantaleo put a chokehold on him and pushed him to the ground. After releasing the chokehold, Pantaleo pushed Garner’s face into the ground while four other officers pounced on him. Despite repeatedly screaming: “I can’t breathe”, they did not let go.

When Garner lost consciousness, officers turned him onto his side. Garner remained lying on the sidewalk for seven minutes while the officers waited for an ambulance to arrive. Even when the ambulance arrived, no CPR was administered either by the emergency medical team or the police. Garner was pronounced dead at the hospital about an hour later.

The medical examiner concluded that Garner was killed by “compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.” He ruled Garner’s death a homicide, meaning death caused by the intentional actions of another person or persons but is not necessarily an intentional death or a criminal death.
On December 3, 2014, the Richmond County grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo.

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