Posts Tagged ‘racial profiling’

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…)

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.

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2 Chicago men arrested for participating in activism

Monday, August 11, 2014 at 9:55 am by

Stop_and_FriskKevin Tapia and Felipe Hernandez—young Latino men from Chicago’s southwest side—spent the weeks leading up to the Affordable Care Act’s enactment going door-to-door on behalf of their community, informing residents of the imminent changes laid out in the new law. They found jobs with Grassroots Collaborative and worked to make sure that the citizens of their local neighborhoods would be covered in time for the March 31 deadline.

With the law’s rollout less than a week away, Tapia and Hernandez’s efforts had brought them to Garfield Ridge—a predominately white neighborhood. There they were greeted by four police officers who stopped them, frisked them and charged them with unlawfully soliciting business. Though the Chicago Sun-Times initially reported that the police were responding to a local 911 call presuming Tapia and Hernandez’s work to be little more than an attempt to scam the elderly, Grassroots Collaborative have highlighted the incident as an obvious example of racial profiling.

The precedent for a legal framework regarding stop and frisks was established in 1968 via the United States Supreme Court’s seminal ruling in Terry v. Ohio. The Court’s decision indicated that—in the absence of probable cause for an arrest—the Fourth Amendment to the United State’ Constitution protects citizens from police interrogation and frisks unless the officer can outline a “reasonable articulable suspicion” for a stop and frisk.

Probable cause is often subjective but even the most seasoned prosecutor would be grasping at straws in arguing that these officers acted within their purview when they stopped, frisked and arrested Tapia and Hernandez. The officers were responding to a deeply speculative neighborhood call two young men were engaging in entirely nonviolent behavior. What basis they had for fearing Tapia and Hernandez were armed and dangerous wasn’t clear at the time and hasn’t become any clearer since. (more…)

BORDC joins ACLU brief challenging NYPD spying

Monday, July 14, 2014 at 12:57 pm by

Last Thursday, BORDC signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief submitted by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey in the case of Hassan, et al., v. City of New York, which challenges the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) surveillance of Muslims, mosques, and Muslim-owned businesses in New Jersey. The brief, which was submitted to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, explained that the lower court erred when it issued a decision in February dismissing the plaintiffs’ claims.

hassan

Other organizations on the brief included Latino Justice PRLDEF, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Garden State Bar Association, the Hispanic Bar Association, and the Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey.

“When a person presents evidence that a government agency has singled them out for harsher treatment because of their race, ethnicity or religion, the government bears a heavy burden of justifying its actions,” stated Rutgers Law School-Newark’s Acting Dean Ronald Chen, who is serving as the ACLU-NJ’s cooperating counsel in the case. “The plaintiffs deserve to have their day in court to challenge being profiled by the NYPD.” (more…)

The Court finally shows up for work (Part II)

Monday, June 30, 2014 at 8:12 am by

Part I of this series explained the Supreme Court’s decision in Riley v. California, and why it represents so dramatic an evolution from prior cases where the Court failed to grasp the implications of digital technology for the privacy values pervading the Bill of Rights. This follow-up post explains the social forces animating the decision, with crucial implications for any number of social issues going forward.

Where it came from: is the Court “in front,” or behind?

It remains important to recognize how a broader social debate made possible last week’s decision in Riley v. California. Only in examining the influence of mass debate on elite legal discourse can we understand how digital privacy — or other contested rights — will evolve in the future.

A long-running debate among legal theorists questions whether, and how, courts are influenced by broader public debates beyond the courtroom. On the one hand, courts are inherently reactive institutions.

On the other hand, courts have occasionally advanced justice while the political branches remain mired in majoritarian prejudice: in Brown vs Board, the Court — not Congress — forced desegregation on the South, just as Goodridge v. Dep’t of Public Health placed a Massachusetts court near the front of the marriage equality movement (disclosure: I was part of the legal team representing the mayor of new Paltz, NY in a 2004 marriage equality case).

Brown vs. Board is relevant not only in demonstrating an example of the Court’s occasional proactivity, but also in rejecting “separate but equal” systems for people of different races. Lost in most commentary about the Riley decision has been an awareness of its serious implications for race, which in turn help reveal whether Riley reflects a Court “out in front,” or instead, one lagging behind American society.

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Court forces disclosure of police camera footage in Seattle

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 10:17 am by

On June 12, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled against the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and in favor of public access to dashboard cameras installed in Seattle police officer’s squad cars. The ruling represents a significant victory for transparency and the police accountability movement.

A local news syndicate, KOMO, had requested access to the footage from police dashcams, but they were continually denied even though the Public Records Act (PRA) mandated that, if requested, the police would release the footage recorded. SPD maintained their stance of not releasing video until three years after the recording, and also failed to mention that video older than three years old was deleted. According to Dominic Holden, writing in the Stranger:

KOMO sought the records as part of a series about SPD using excessive force and biased policing, which were the subject of a federal investigation and subsequent settlement to reform the police department. SPD refused to cough them up, making a series of bizarre, implausible claims about being unable to locate the records and having “no documents.” The SPD eventually claimed they had a three-year window in which to withhold the video footage (but then, the SPD automatically erased dash-cam footage after three years). In the meantime, the SPD released the videos to a citizen, belying claims the records were nonexistent or impossible to find.

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New study confirms: domestic terror prosecutions contrived

Monday, June 9, 2014 at 11:08 am by

Last week, the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF) and Project SALAM (Support And Legal Advocacy for Muslims) released a 175-page study of the government’s prosecution strategy in domestic terrorism cases. The study, Inventing Terrorists: The Lawfare of Preemptive Prosecution, reveals that the era of J. Edgar Hoover may be less far removed from the Bureau’s operations than most observers realize. The introduction explains that:

[T]he war on terror has been largely a charade designed to make the American public believe that a terrorist army is loose in the U.S., when the truth is that most of the people convicted of terrorism-related crimes posed no danger to the U.S. and were entrapped by a preventive strategy known as preemptive prosecution.

This week, they will host a press conference to discuss their discoveries on on Thursday, June 12 at 11 a.m. in New York City at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Anyone interested is invited to attend.

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Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Have the Police Become a Law Unto Themselves?

Friday, May 23, 2014 at 9:41 am by

This guest post by John Whitehead was originally published on May 19 by the Rutherford Institute. 

“Police are specialists in violence. They are armed, trained, and authorized to use force. With varying degrees of subtlety, this colors their every action. Like the possibility of arrest, the threat of violence is implicit in every police encounter. Violence, as well as the law, is what they represent.”

— Kristian Williams, activist and author

Living in a free society means not having to look over your shoulder to see whether the government is watching or fearing that a government agent might perpetuate violence upon you.

Unfortunately, as I detail in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, subjected as we are to government surveillance, body scanners, militarized police, roadside strip searches, SWAT team raids, drones, and other trappings of a police state, “we the people” do not live in a free society any longer.

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Racial profiling, Muslim surveillance, and the NYPD

Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 10:28 am by

NYPDOn Tuesday, April 15 the New York City Police Department (NYPD) announced it was disbanding a controversial unit that had been spying on Muslims since its inception in 2003. The NYPD’s “Demographics Unit” specifically gathered intelligence on Muslims living in New York City, New Jersey, and even as far away as Philadelphia. It sent plain clothed detectives to cafes, restaurants, and other community centers frequented by Muslims with the stated purpose of identifying potential centers of terrorist activity. Detectives were told to speak with the employees at such establishments about political issues in attempt to identify anti American sentiment. The NYPD also sent informants to Muslim student groups on various college campuses. Despite the wide breadth of surveillance, even the NYPD acknowledged that the program has failed to create a single lead.
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Fusion centers perpetuate racial profiling

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 8:50 am by

racialprofilingApril 10 saw protests, teach-ins and light brigade actions across the country as part of the national day of action against fusion centers. The Day of Action sparked an internet dialogue about fusion centers that shone much needed light on the centers which can often slip under the radar of the communities they operate in.

Like most threats to civil liberties, fusion centers endanger the constitutional rights guaranteed to all people, however their effect is most pronounced in politically vulnerable communities. These are most often communities of color, those with political beliefs outside the mainstream, or both.

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