Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Targeting racial minorities in urban areas: ‘The Newburgh Sting’

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 10:29 am by

NEWBURGHSTINGposterOn May 20, 2009, four men from the impoverished and largely African-American city of Newburgh, NY, were apprehended for an alleged terror plot. They had no history of violence or terrorist ties, but had been drawn by a Pakistani FBI informant into a carefully orchestrated scheme to bomb Jewish synagogues in a wealthy New York City suburb and fire Stinger missiles at U.S. military supply planes. Their dramatic arrest, complete with armored cars, a SWAT team and FBI aircraft, played out under the gaze of major TV outlets, ultimately resulting in 25-year prison sentences for the “Newburgh Four.”

Amidst the media frenzy surrounding the case, political figures extolled the outcome as a victory in the “war on terror” and a “textbook example of how a major investigation should be conducted,” though others believed the four men were victims of FBI entrapment. The documentary The Newburgh Sting delves deeply into this case–one of many cases across the country where people have been allegedly drawn into a plot with extreme consequences.

This is an impressive film that deals with issues of racial profiling in a unique way. Watching this is a fantastic way to educate yourselves and others on issues regarding governmental overreach as it relates to racial profiling and targeting in this country. The Newburgh Sting is currently available on HBO.

The Final Nail in the Coffin: The Death of Freedom in Our Schools

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 1:28 pm by

This guest post was written by John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute.

“Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves.”―D.H. Lawrence

No matter what your perspective on the showdown between locals and law enforcement in Ferguson, Missouri, there can be no disputing the fact that “local” police should not be looking or acting like branches of the military.

Unfortunately, in the police state that is America today, we’re going to find ourselves revisiting Ferguson over and over again. Every time an unarmed citizen gets shot by a police officer who is armed to the hilt, or inclined to shoot first and ask questions later, or so concerned about their own safety, to the exclusion of all else, that everything becomes a potential threat, we’ll find ourselves back in Ferguson territory again.

police-stateHere’s the thing, though: whether or not it ever gets reported, whether it incites any protests or marches or showdowns of epic proportions, whether it elicits any outrage on the part of the citizenry, Ferguson is already happening over and over again, all around us.

It’s happening in small towns and big cities alike every time a citizen gets stopped and frisked for no better reason than they “look” suspicious. It’s happening on the nation’s highways and byways, where corporate greed disguised as road safety is making a hefty profit off of drivers who have the misfortune of passing a red light camera or a speed camera or a license plate reader. It’s happening in the privately run jails, which are teeming with prisoners doing time for nonviolent crimes that should have landed them with a slap on the wrist and a fine instead of hard time and forced labor.

It’s happening in our airports and train stations and shopping malls, where menacing squads of black-garbed, jack-booted, up-armored soldiers disguised as law enforcement officials are subjecting Americans to roving security checkpoints, allegedly in the pursuit of terrorists. And it’s happening in the schools, where the school-to-prison pipeline is fully operational and busy churning out newly minted citizens of the American police state who have been taught the hard way what it means to comply and march in lockstep with the government’s dictates. (more…)

150 people peacefully gathered to recognize victims of police brutality

Friday, August 22, 2014 at 2:24 pm by

nmos-08Grassroots activists have taken to the streets in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Last Thursday, August 18, interns from North Carolina’s NAACP along with Charlotte Civil Rights coalition members participated in a National Moment of Silence for Michael Brown.

About 150 people peacefully gathered in Marshall Park Thursday evening to recognize a national moment of silence for victims of police brutality. Speakers recollected experiences they’ve had with local police, such as demeaning searches, and attorneys called for reform of the Citizens Review Board, which is tasked with reviewing citizens’ complaints against police.

Reia Chapman, the organizer of the event, was happy with the turnout and said it’s a step towards the right direction. “I understand black anger and enraged communities in terms of these things that are occurring. We’re calling on silence to also pay respect and to acknowledge that a life has gone on, a person is no longer with us,” Chapman said. She plans on putting together other campaigns to promote mutual understanding and social cooperation.

To learn more about putting together campains, contact organizing@bordc.org.

(Photo by Grant Baldwin)

 

Police are trained to shoot to kill

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 5:46 pm by

shoottokillInformation released yesterday indicates that Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Michael Brown, suffered facial fractures as a result of a struggle the two had. But does this struggle–which caused Wilson to suffer an “orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket”–warrant gunshots?

Witnesses have come forward to corroborate Wilson’s version of events. It is difficult to believe that a struggle with police (even one in which a police is punched in the face) warrants gunshots.  Indeed, nearly all police SOPs require that an officer be able to show that the response was “proportionate” to the offense. While these guidelines do not ban the use of tactics that may kill, they at least set the standard for proportionality.  Police officers are trained in how to restrain suspects, even when those suspects are attacking them. So why the gunshots?  Why the killing?

The truth is that police are trained to shoot to kill. This guide states that deadly force is justified “to protect the officer or others from what is reasonably believed to be a threat of death or serious bodily harm; and to prevent the escape of a fleeing violent felon who the officer has probable cause to believe will pose a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”

Regardless of the facts of Michael Brown’s case, it is clear that police training and protocols must be reexamined.  Police officers should not have the power and authority to kill people.  To learn more about how you can help, contact BORDC at info@bordc.org.

 

Yet another black man is killed in Missouri

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 10:44 am by

After 11 days of protests after the police murder of Michael Brown, people are still in the streets.  Now they have another reason: A police officer shot and killed another black man, 25-year-old Kajieme Powell, this time in St. Louis City–fewer than three miles from the unrest in Ferguson. Right after noon yesterday, police say a man with a knife charged officers. Police are still trying to determine what happened and keep the peace.

A crowd former shortly after the 12:20 p, shooting, carrying signs and protesting. “Hands up! Don’t shoot! Hands up! Don’t shoot!” they chanted. According to police, Powell shoplifted energy drinks from a local market.  The second time he did this, police were called to the scene.  When police arrived, they say Powell charged the officers with a knife once.  The second time he charged, they say, they opened fire.

Witnesses on the scene gave reports. One witness said, “The store owner and the alderwoman said the suspect was armed with a knife, acting erratically, pacing back and forth in the street talking to himself.” Another witness reported Powell saying, “Kill me.” (more…)

Activists speak out against police militarization

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 8:00 am by
copmorph
Vernellia Randall is author of Dying While Black, a book about living in our nation’s racist society. In discussing the events in Ferguson, MO regarding the murder-by-police of Mike Brown, Vernellia said:

“This isn’t about one boy being killed or about one town. It’s about the lives of all African Americans. What’s surprising to me is that there isn’t more protest and outrage. Just recently, in the town where I live, a black man, John Crawford, picked up a toy gun in Wal-Mart and he got killed by a policeman–even though this is an open carry state.”

BORDC’s Executive Director agreed, and spoke directly to the militarization of US police departments:

“The only thing more disturbing than the use of military tactics and weapons to suppress dissent in violation of constitutional rights is the use of US taxpayer dollars to pioneer those abuses in foreign countries used as laboratories for policing tactics. From automatic license plate scanners to shot spotter audio listening devices, surveillance drones to tear gas and SWAT teams, local policing has emerged as a part of the military industrial racket. But while the trend remains disturbing nationally, communities across the country have taken action to prevent and roll back the militarization of their police forces.”

Since the protests in Ferguson began, the public is becoming more aware of the programs that exist to give police departments military weaponry.  Once such program, 1033, has been in existence since the 1970s. Michael Shank, associate director for legislative affairs at Friends Committee on National Legislation, just co-wrote The New York Times op-ed Get the Military Off of Main Street. In it, he said:

“Ferguson’s police force got equipped this way thanks to the Pentagon, and it’s happening all over the country. The Department of Defense provides military-grade weapons and equipment to local law enforcement agencies through the 1033 program, enacted by Congress in 1997 to expand the practice of dispensing extra military gear. … To date, the Pentagon has donated military equipment worth more than $4 billion to local law enforcement agencies. And the giving goes on, to police forces in all 50 states in the union.”
For information about what you can do to stop police militarization, contact us. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Turning cops into soldiers in the wake of Mike Brown’s murder

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 8:55 am by

ferguson-policeA week after Mike Brown was shot, people are still taking to the streets.  After a week of protests, the governor of Missouri announced yesterday that an overnight curfew had been helpful to maintain the peace in Ferguson.  Yet police fired smoke grenades and tear gas into crowds despite the fact that Captain Ronald S. Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and commander in charge of overseeing activity and security in Ferguson, that such drastic measures would not be taken to enforce the curfew.

For the past week, residents of Ferguson have come into conflict with very heavily armed police officers.  How well armed is the suburban Ferguson P.D.?   How heavy are their military assault vehicles that  poured gas on a burning protest? And how did this happen?

Since the early 1990s, state and local police departments obtain some of their military-style equipment through a free Defense Department program. While the portion of their gear that comes from the program is relatively small (most of it is paid for by the departments or through federal grants), detailed data from the Pentagon illustrates how ubiquitous such equipment has become.

The militarization of our country’s police forces is not new. The recent events following the murder of Mike Brown has highlighted how important it is that we end this practice and stop making soldiers of our police forces.

Intern opportunities with BORDC

Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 11:51 am by

Are you passionate about civil liberties, the Bill of Rights, and the US Constitution?  Are you a good speaker? Do you love to write?  Would you like to get college credit for working on something you feel strongly about?  Most importantly, do you want to make a difference?

If so, we’d love to hear from you.  BORDC is currently looking of interns for the fall semester of 2014.  Preference will be given to candidates located in or near Northampton, MA; Washington DC; Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco Bay Area, CA; New York, NY; and Raleigh/Durham, NC. We are looking for people who can work between 15 and 20 hours per week.  Though we are not in a position to offer compensation, we are more than happy to work with your college or university to enable you to receive credit for this internship.4.1.1

Qualifications

We are seeking individuals who are interested in our issues and are familiar with current events relating to government secrecy, surveillance detention, and torture.  In order to intern with BORDC, you must be computer literate with good Internet research skills, demonstrate excellent written and verbal communication skills, and be a self-starter able to prioritize and work often without direct supervision. If you have experience working as part of a nonprofit organization, even better!

Responsibilities

Intern responsibilities are based upon the skills and interests of the candidate, as well as what BORDC may need at any given moment.  Responsibilities and activities may include:

  • Research and write blog posts, action alerts, press releases, and newsletter articles on issues including government surveillance, racial and ethnic profiling, and executive accountability for human rights abuses.
  • Engage allied local organizations on behalf of BORDC and present proposed reforms as a vehicle for coalition building.
  • Help facilitate organizing efforts.
  • Organize local student groups and assist with development of campus organizing guide.

Academic Credit

Interns are encouraged to make arrangements to receive academic credit for their internships. BORDC will accommodate the requirements of credit-earning internships as much as possible.

To Apply

Email a cover letter and resume to jobs@bordc.org.  In the subject line, please indicate where you are located.  Applications due by September 12, 2014.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Another black man shot by police

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 9:14 am by

michael-brown-shootingAnother young black man was shot and killed last Saturday.  Michael Brown, 18, was gunned down by a police officer on the afternoon of Saturday, August 9 in a St. Louis suburb. He was shot multiple times and killed by a Ferguson police officeroutside an apartment complex. Police say the shooting occurred after a struggle for the police officer’s gun.   But local residents aren’t so sure.

Having graduated from Normandy High School in St. Louis in the spring of 2014, Brown was scheduled to start classes at Vatterott College, a Missouri trade college, this past Monday, August 11.  On the day of his death, he was visiting his grandmother, who lives in Ferguson, MO, a working-class suburb of St. Louis.

When he was shot, Brown was unarmed.  Indeed,  all shell casings found at the scene were from the police officer’s gun. Furthermore, at least one shot was fired from the police car. Brown was killed while he was standing about 35 feet away from the car.

Shortly after the shooting, a crowd gathered on the scene.  Protests began and continued through Saturday afternoon.  Another protest at the Ferguson Police Department headquarters happened Saturday evening. The number of demonstrators varied—a CNN report says that there were up to a thousand protesters at the peak of the demonstrations, while other reports say there were about two hundred. Adding insult to injury, police shot into the crowd during Saturday afternoon’s protests.

(more…)

The tyranny of the Nanny State, where the government knows what’s best for you

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 10:05 am by

This guest post by John Whitehead was originally published on August 11 by the Rutherford Institute. 

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

—C.S. Lewis

Surveillance cameras, government agents listening in on your phone calls, reading your emails and text messages and monitoring your spending, mandatory health care, sugary soda bans, anti-bullying laws, zero tolerance policies, political correctness: these are all outward signs of a government—i.e., a societal elite—that believes it knows what is best for you and can do a better job of managing your life than you can.

of all tyranniesThis is tyranny disguised as “the better good.” Indeed, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, this is the tyranny of the Nanny State: marketed as benevolence, enforced with armed police, and inflicted on all those who do not belong to the elite ruling class that gets to call the shots. Thus, this explains the recent rash of parents getting charged with negligence and arrested for leaving their kids alone for any amount of time, whether at a park, in a store, in a car, or in their front yard—another sign of what C.S. Lewis referred to as tyranny exercised by “omnipotent moral busybodies.”

For example, working mom Debra Harrell was arrested, spent 17 days in jail, lost custody of her daughter, and if convicted, could spend up to 10 years in jail all because she let her 9-year-old daughter play alone at a nearby park. Single mother Shanesha Taylor, unemployed and essentially homeless, was arrested for leaving her kids in her car during a 40-minute job interview. (more…)