Porsche Bennett speaking truth to power in Kenosha 9/3/2020

Porsche Bennet spoke to Joe Biden on Thursday 9/3/2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. She is a member of Black Lives Activists Kenosha.

Andrés Guardado, 18

Shot and killed on June 18, 2020 in Gardena, California.

Andrés Guardado, a Salvadoran American, age 18, was shot and killed by two White police officers in an alley in Gardena, California on June 18, 2020. Guardado was shot in the back either five, six, or seven times, according to differing reports. No video of events seems to be available.

Guardado was working as an unlicensed security guard, not wearing a uniform, and possessing a .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol that was unlicensed. At 18, he was too young to be eligible for a security guard license or to legally own a handgun.

According to his family, Guardado was working two jobs and attending LA Trade-Technical College. He’d just bought a new car. He was standing in front of Street Dynamic Autobody where he worked security, talking to someone in a car, when deputy sheriffs Miguel Vega and Chris Hernandez stopped and got out of their car, with their guns raised. Guardado ran and the deputies chased him into an alley. Witnesses reported hearing multiple shots, and one witness said Guardado had surrendered, kneeling with his hands behind his head, when deputy sheriff Vega shot him in the back, and kept shooting after he fell face-down on the ground. The coroner’s report seems to confirm that account, based on the angle of bullets. Deputy Hernandez did not fire his gun, and Guardado’s gun had not been fired.

There has been no public explanation of the purpose of the deputy sheriffs’ pursuit of Guardado. Deputy Sheriff Vega has a history of various allegations of misconduct. Guardado had no criminal record.

A man from a nearby body shop told KCAL-TV, “We had security out front because we had certain issues with people tagging and stuff like that, and then the police come up and they pull their guns on him, and he ran because he was scared and they shot and killed him.”

Dijon Kizzee, 29

Shot on Aug. 31, 2020 in South Los Angeles, California

Dijon Kizzee, a Black man, was stopped by LA County sheriff’s deputies on Aug. 31, 2020 for “vehicle code violations” while he was riding his bicycle. Kizzee dropped his bicycle and ran from the police, carrying some clothing. They lost sight of him. One report said he tried to get a friend to drive him away from the area. When the police caught up to him, the police said he punched one of them, and some clothing fell out of his hands to the ground, revealing a semi-automatic pistol. The police said Kizzee “made a motion” as if to pick it up, so the two deputies shot him 15 to 20 times, continuing to shoot after he was on the ground. A witness who watched the events from across the street said, “I watched him go from living to dying to dead.” LA County deputies do not wear body cams.

Kizzee’s aunt asked an LA Times reporter, “How do you get a violation on a bicycle?” The county sheriff’s office later explained that bicycles have to follow the same laws as cars. Attorney Carl Douglas, who grew up in the neighborhood, told CNN, “You never see anybody in Beverly Hills or Santa Monica stopped for a code violation while riding a bike.”

Dijon Kizzee had cared for his mother until her death in 2011, and since then helped care for a younger nephew. Kizzee’s aunt stayed by his body for the hours he lay on the ground until the arrival of the coroner’s van.

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, funds were approved for the first time for the LA County Sheriff’s Department to buy body cams for its 5,200 officers on patrol, which will start next month.

Steven Taylor, 33

Shot on April 18, 2020 in San Leandro, California

On 9/2/2020, White police officer Jason Fletcher was arrested for voluntary manslaughter for shooting and killing Steven Taylor, a Black man, on 4/18/2020 in San Leandro, California.

On April 18, a Walmart security guard called the police when Taylor was trying to leave the store without paying for a tent and an aluminum baseball bat. Officer Fletcher arrived alone, and ordered Taylor to drop the bat, then used a stun gun that staggered Taylor. The bat was still in Taylor’s hand, pointing toward the floor, and he was 17 feet away when the officer shot Taylor once in the chest. The shooting was recorded on body cam and cell phone video from multiple angles.

The policeman fired and killed Taylor just 40 seconds after arriving at the Walmart, and before a backup officer arrived. Taylor was pronounced dead on the scene. His later police report of the incident included the observation that Taylor seemed to be having a mental episode, and was not in touch with reality. The officer had been on administrative leave since the shooting.

A new 2020 law in California permits police to use deadly force only when necessary to defend human life. The county district attorney concluded that this was not the case when Officer Fletcher shot Taylor, and was the reason for filing felony charges against the 20-year veteran policeman.

Daniel Prude, 41

Died of suffocation March 30, 2020 in Rochester, NY

Daniel Prude lived in Chicago, and was visiting his brother in Rochester, New York in March 2020. On March 22, he had been hospitalized briefly with mental issues. The next day, March 23, his brother called 911 because Daniel was in an erratic state and ran out of the house. Police found him running down the street, naked. They put his wrists in handcuffs behind his back, then put a spit hood over his head because he was trying to spit on them. One policeman held Daniel’s head down on the pavement, another kept a knee on his back. After 2 minutes, the police noticed that he wasn’t moving anymore. They attempted CPR before the ambulance arrived.

Seven days later, on March 30, Daniel died in the hospital. The medical examiner ruled his death due to the complications of asphyxia with physical restraints. Manner of death: Homicide.

Nobody heard about Daniel Prude’s death, two months before George Floyd was killed by police. It took until Aug. 20, 2020 for the family to obtain police body cam footage of Prude’s death, after filing an open records request. On Sept. 2 the family held a news conference to make the excruciating footage available and demand justice. An investigation is now underway by the New York Attorney General. The officers involved are still on duty.

Update 9/3/2020: The 7 officers involved in Daniel Prude’s death have been suspended from the Rochester Police Department — with pay — while investigation ramps up due to the publicity caused by this week’s release of body cam footage not made available before.

Laws protect Kenosha police, not Jacob Blake.

In Minneapolis after George Floyd’s murder by police, I saw Lt. Bob Kroll on TV, red-faced and yelling at the cameras. He was identified on screen as the head of the city’s police union, with 800 members, and he announced that his union would fight to get the four accused police officers’ jobs back (before they had all been indicted).

“Bellicose” was a word describing him in the next day’s news report I read. Bellicose means to demonstrate aggression and a willingness to fight. I didn’t think that was the most appropriate attitude for a profession that says its most important job is “to protect and serve” the public. For me, his red-faced anger is a potent image of systemic racism.

Under Wisconsin law, the Kenosha police seem to have more legal protections to avoid penalties for their misconduct than a Black citizen like Jacob Blake has to avoid harm by police use of excessive force. This disparity in legal protections is another demonstration of systemic racism.

What Wisconsin laws protect the police from the consequences of misconduct?

  • Chapter 164: Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights
  • Police Union contracts with municipalities.
  • Act 10.
  • Local Police & Fire Commissions.
  • Suspension with pay.
  • Record of an officer’s past misconduct often hidden.

Chapter 164: Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights

In 1979, Wisconsin was one of 16 states adopting this “bill or rights” to state statutes, after it was first adopted in Maryland in 1974. Eleven other states are considering adopting it, and other states have written its provisions into contracts with police unions.

What does the Officers’ Bill of Rights do?

Expands the due process protections available to police officers (and fire department employees) in any city, village, town, or county. A police officer accused of misconduct:

  • Must be told the nature of an investigation before any interrogation;
  • May have legal representative at all times;
  • Only evidence obtained in interrogation may be used in disciplinary proceedings;
  • No collective bargaining agreement can abridge these rights.

Wisconsin’s law omits some of the more restrictive provisions other states have adopted, like permitting a week or more delay between an incident and an officer’s interrogation.

What is the result of these protections?

They can delay, diminish, or end investigations and/or prosecutions for any officer’s misconduct while on duty. These levels of due process protections are not available to regular and unarmed Black citizens when they encounter armed police over minor or imagined crimes.

Police unions negotiate contracts with municipalities,

These negotiated contracts often have terms that specifically protect union police officers from discipline for misconduct, an important benefit to members in addition to pay and health benefits.

What impact can police unions have on investigations of a police officer’s misconduct?

Before the Kenosha Police Department have issued any detailed or coherent information about Jacob Blake’s shooting, the Kenosha Professional Police Union gave to the press its own statement of the events of the crime, seemingly exonerating the officers involved.

Act 10

After a partisan fight to repair a $3.6 billion state budget deficit, Act 10 became law, limiting collective bargaining rights for many public employees for anything but wages, and restricts most unions from collecting dues.

How does Act 10 impact police unions?

Firefighters and police are exempt from these limitations, which preserves the right of police unions to the leverage of collective bargaining, securing contracts that can shield their members from misconduct charges or penalties.

Local Police & Fire Commissions

Every city, town, village and county in Wisconsin has a Police & Fire Commission, appointed by the mayor or top elected official. These Commissions have final authority on all matters of hiring, firing, and disciplinary action for a police department.

What impact do these Commissions have on police discipline?

Police and Fire Commissions have the final say on all disciplinary actions for misconduct, as well as hiring/firing personnel. They are not elected, and do not have to answer to public input or appeals. They generally do not rule against police officers accused of excessive force or other misconduct.

Suspension with pay.

During an investigation, police accused of misconduct are most often suspended or given administrative duty with pay, until the often lengthy investigation process is completed.

What is the impact of administrative duty with pay?

All other police officers witness a lengthy discipline process without immediate professional or financial penalties for misconduct.

Record of an officer’s past misconduct often concealed.

Many union contracts restrict public access to an officer’s misconduct or record of community complaints or disciplinary actions. Police departments may not verify an applicant’s disciplinary history before hiring.

What is the impact of concealing past misconduct?

More misconduct. In 2014 White police officer Timothy Loehmann shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice for brandishing a toy gun. The Cleveland police department did not release surveillance video until 4 days after the shooting, and took 7 months to complete its investigation. Several months later a grand jury found that Loehmann had acted appropriately. In 2017, Loehmann was fired, not for the killing but for omitting from his original job application that he had been previously fired from another police department in a Cleveland suburb for being emotionally unstable and unfit for duty. No one at the Cleveland department had verified his past experience before he was hired.

To be continued….

What police reforms would actually work to improve police accountability, lessen use of excessive force, and build a positive involvement with communities?

Black Suffragists & the 19th Amendment

The 50-year history of the women’s suffrage movement, leading to passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote in 1920, was written by the white women who led the effort. Marginalized by segregation, Black women suffragists created their own, parallel efforts to gain the vote for Black as well as White women. The women’s clubs and organizations they formed, often affiliated with churches, gave many Black women the leadership experience unavailable to them in any other context. On the 100th anniversary of ratification of the 19th Amendment, we can honor the Black women suffragists whose names and work we are learning more about.

Maria W. Stewart

MARIA W. STEWART was free-born in Connecticut. She was a journalist who contributed to the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator. In the 1830’s, she was the first Black woman to make a public lecture to a mixed-race audience on the subject of women’s rights, demanding equal rights for Black women. Four of her public speeches have been preserved. She died 40 years before the 19th Amendment became law.

“Ain’t I a woman?” – Sojourner Truth

SOJOURNER TRUTH is the name Isabella Baumfree gave herself because she felt called to preach the truth, about abolition and women’s rights. She was born a slave in New York, escaping with her daughter and later recovering her son. In 1851 she gave a memorable extemporaneous speech on women’s right to the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. In 1872, she tried to vote for Ulysses S. Grant for President, but was turned away. The 19th Amendment became law 37 years after her passing.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

FRANCES ELLEN WATKINS HARPER was a free-born Black woman in Baltimore. As a young woman, she became active in the Unitarian church. At age 20, she was one of the first Black women poets published in the US. Her work was published in anti-slavery journals, and she toured as lecturer on women’s suffrage and equal rights for Blacks. In 1858, she refused to give up her seat in a segregated trolley car in Philadelphia. In 1866, she gave a speech at the National Woman Rights Convention to support equal rights for all, including Black women. In 1894, with Mary Church Terrell, she helped found the National Association of Colored Women. She died 9 years before passage of the 19th Amendment.

IDA B. WELLS-BARNETT was born into slavery in Mississippi in 1862. Emancipated after the Civil War, she worked as a teacher to support her family, then turned to investigative journalism. When she wrote about lynching in Tennessee, her press was burned and she moved to Chicago. An activist for women’s suffrage, she confronted white women in the suffrage movement for ignoring lynching. During her life she was one of the best known Black women in America. She lived to see passage of the 19th Amendment, and to vote. In 2020 she received a Pulitzer Prize special citation for her investigative reporting.

Fannie Barrier Williams

FANNIE BARRIER WILLIAMS, a Black woman raised in New York, became a life-long activist after moving to Missouri to teach in a Black school and experiencing the cruelties of racism for the first time. When she married in Chicago, she and her husband joined the Unitarian Church. As a member of the Illinois Women’s Alliance, she lectured on the need for women, especially Black women, to have the vote. She was the only Black American invited to eulogize Susan B. Anthony, and was one of the founders of the NAACP in 1909. She lived to see the approval of the 19th Amendment, and vote for the next 24 years.

Mary Church Terrell

MARY CHURCH TERRELL was the daughter of former slaves, who graduated from Oberlin College. In 1896 she founded the National Association of Colored Women and was its president for 5 years. She believed that suffrage was essential to elevate the status of Black women. A founder of the NAACP, she lived to see passage of the 19th Amendment, and the victory of Brown v. Board of Education.

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin

JOSEPHINE ST. PIERRE RUFFIN was a suffragist and civil rights leader, who published “Woman’s Era,” the first national newspaper published by and for Black women, calling on them to demand increased rights for their race. In 1869, she helped form the American Woman Suffrage Association, and later was a charter member of the NAACP. She lived to see passage of the 19th Amendment.

Mary B. Talbert

MARY B. TALBERT was the only Black woman in her graduating class at Oberlin College in 1866, and become one of the most prominent Black women of her time. She was an orator and reformer, anti-lynching, anti-racism, and supporting women’s suffrage. She reminded White feminists of their obligations to less privileged women of color. Through her leadership, she helped develop Back female organizations of clubs that empowered Black women leaders. She lived to see the 19th Amendment become law.

Nannie Helen Burroughs

NANNIE HELEN BURROUGHS was a Black educator and orator, who called for Black women and White women to work together for the right to vote. When she was turned down for a public teaching job in Washington, D.C. because of her dark skin, she opened her own trade school for Black women. Her Trades Hall is now a National Historical Landmark. When asked “What can a Black woman do with the vote?” Burroughs answered, “What can she do without it?” Burroughs lived to see the 19th Amendment become law, and hopefully was able to vote in Washington, D.C. for the next 41 years.

Vaccine for Racism: Compassion

Sen. Kamala Harris, accepting the Democratic VP nomination on Aug. 19, 2020

During her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, Kamala Harris made the memorable statement that, “There’s no vaccine for racism.”

She’s right, of course, there is no single or simple way to end irrational racial hatred.

BUT a newborn doesn’t start life hating anyone, and in fact thrives with love and attention. In order to feel hate, we have to learn it. We have to be taught, either directly or by observation of how others behave, that racial enmity and prejudice are “normal.”

BUT we all have the capacity to unlearn old messages, and re-learn better ones. Every strategy for learning more tolerant ways to see the world — every antidote to hatred — is grounded in compassion, when we realize that another is hurt or harmed, and we take action to help lessen their hurt or suffering.

We are more likely to turn to our own compassionate natures if we:

  • understand that the trouble that invokes compassion is serious;
  • realize that a sufferer’s troubles are not self-inflicted;
  • and when we can picture themselves with the same problems.

These are the conditions and insights that help turn another person from a target of hate to a human being deserving of our compassion.

Healing with compassion. The organization Life After Hate was founded by Christian Picciolini, who broke away from the white supremacy movement and now works to help others do the same. “Empathy and compassion are the only things I’ve ever seen truly break the cycle of hate. It’s also what saved my life.” Picciolini’s 2018 3-part series BREAKING HATE is on YouTube.

We have other necessary ingredients to create racism vaccine built on compassion:

Protest that’s peaceful. A large majority of the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality have been peaceful–until the police responded with violence. In at least two places, police officers have been arrested for using excessive violence against protesters who remained peaceful. We have the models of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Lewis to guide us to make peaceful good trouble.

Making community bigger. I’ve appreciated opportunities to meet more people of different skin colors and lived experiences through organizations that are purposefully fighting racism and offering education and conversation. One is Bridge the Divide, another is the YWCA Milwaukee Conversations on Racism series. There are lots of opportunities, podcasts, gatherings with masks/distancing too. Sometimes I’ve been uncomfortable (“Am I saying the right thing the right way?”) but I’ve always been welcomed to conversations. I don’t have to befriend every Black person in Milwaukee (!) to be working toward racial justice — I just do my best to listen and appreciate the folks I do have the chance to meet.

Schools at all levels are a focus for how to teach accurate history of BIPOC in America, history that’s missing in textbooks written by white historians, about the doings of white people. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) is one of the sponsors of The 1619 Act to fund and expand access to extensive resources about African-American history. The push to improve curriculum is coming from parents and students too, speaking truth to educators and school boards.

Every religious faith puts compassion at the heart and core of its values and teachings. Compassion is the foundation of morality in every society. Reaching people through their religious beliefs is one way to start conversations about working for racial justice as a moral act. Why aren’t more religious communities at the forefront in the fight for racial justice?

“Live in peace with everyone.” Hebrews 12:14. “Cultivate kindness.” Proverbs 3:3. “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than this.” Bible, Mark 12:31.

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah. The rest is the explanation; go and learn.” Rabbi Hillel the Elder

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

We feel better when we act compassionately. Neurobiology is proving it. In a variety of studies, including using MRI’s to track brain activity, scientists find that doing something helpful for other people activates the same areas of the brain responsible for our making social attachments and bonding with other people. Our brains are hard-wired to find pleasure in making social bonds and connections with other people.

We must also pass laws that make illegal any action based on hate and racial bias. Since some people may never be swayed to a compassionate view of people different from themselves, we must codify compassion into the laws of the land, for the sake of the dignity and respect for all.