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No Grand Jury #Justice4JamarGrand juries consistently fail to deliver justice in cases of fatal police shootings. In grand juries, prosecutors often rely on evidence gained solely from police. Moreover, the process is extremely secretive: the prosecutor and the grand jury members may not reveal what occurred in the grand jury room to the public, including any evidence or videos presented. Since 2000, 142 Minnesotans have been killed by police. Grand juries have returned indictments in zero of these cases. In fact, no police officer in Minnesota has EVER been indicted for a fatal shooting. While Mike Freeman insists grand juries have been a part of Minnesota’s justice system for 35 years, this is exactly the reason to eliminate their use in cases of fatal police encounters. The criminal justice system has been purposefully failing people of color for centuries. It is time to change our approach. Grand juries are neither effective nor required by law. California recently became the first state to ban grand juries in cases of deadly force by police. The governor of New York has appointed a special prosecutor for these cases. Recently, the city of Baltimore directly indicted police officers in the death of Freddie Gray without resorting to a grand jury process. A special prosecutor can and should decide whether to pursue charges directly, without obstructing justice via a grand jury.
Gov. Christie: Condemn Hate & Renounce Trump, or Resign!In a desperate final bid for relevance on the national stage, New Jersey Governor Christie is traveling the country in support of Donald Trump's racist and hateful presidential campaign. The Trump rallies Chris Christie now headlines have become beacons for hate groups and hate speech. By standing with them, Christie is turning his back on the millions of constituents who reject the racism and misogyny that Trump's campaign now embodies. Christie's actions sully what is left of his reputation and our state's as a whole. Enough is enough. We deserve a Governor who treats us with dignity and respect, not one who aligns himself with bigotry and violent racism. Governor Christie: renounce Donald Trump or resign!
Stand with Ravi Perry and Luke Harris Against Racial Censorship in Henrico CountyDid you know that school boards across the country have already banned some of the only books cataloguing the experiences of people of color? And it's not just literature that's being suppressed and erased; the African American Policy Forum's “Unequal Opportunity Race” video is the latest educational media suppressed by conservative school boards. As part of Black History Month, the Unequal Opportunity Race, a short animated video produced by AAPF, was shown to students at Glen Allen High School in Henrico County, Virginia. The clip was included as part of a program to facilitate a conversation on structural racism. Despite accurately illustrating historical events and contemporary racial inequities, conservative activists and right-wing outlets, like Fox News, labeled the educational tool as a "white guilt video.” The Board of Education fueled the conservative outrage when it called the video “racially divisive.” Micky Ogburn, the School Board’s Chair, went as far as to apologize to parents and community members who believed the video was "reverse racism.” Let us be clear: labelling multiracial visions of American society as “divisive” is nothing new. The Civil Rights Movement was called divisive. Martin Luther King, Jr. was called divisive. Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court’s landmark school desegregation case, was labelled as divisive. What is truly divisive is a ban that discourages conversations around structural racism, furthering the dangerous myth that Black people’s suffering can be blamed on individual or cultural shortcoming rather than systemic flaws! What is truly divisive is the miseducation of millions of children, leaving them ill-equipped to understand the complexity of race and racism. Join us supporting parents, students and community leaders in urging the Henrico County School Board to lift the ban on the Unequal Opportunity Race! We further call for transparency from the School Board on their decision-making process used to ban the video, and unbiased coverage from the local press on the ongoing dispute. Learning about the systemic roots of modern-day racial inequality is critical for not only Black students, but for everyone. Censorship of this material in response to conservative agitation is a direct expression of racial repression being translated into official policy. We cannot stand by as our stories are labeled as irrelevant to our country’s social reality, while anything that lifts up the struggles of people of color are deemed racist!
Life Saving Treatment Now for Mumia Abu-JamalMy name is Keith Cook, and I am Mumia Abu-Jamal’s brother. My loss, and my pain, have been constant for three decades since my brother has been in prison. He needs to come home, like so many of the men from our community. Mumia is very ill. I was in the waiting room of the Intensive Care Unit, just feet from where he lay nearly dying, for 28 long hours in Pottsville, PA before the guards would let me see him. He was chained: his right arm and left leg shacked to the hospital bed. Did you know that there is absolutely no reason for him to suffer? There is a cure for Hepatitis C — just one pill a day. I see my brother. But the Department of Corrections and the courts see “a prisoner”. Wasn’t Jesus a prisoner? Wasn’t Nelson Mandela a prisoner? Dr. Paul Noel, Director of Health Care for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and Dr. Carl J. Keldie Chief Clinical Officer of Correct Care Solutions would let incarcerated people die from this disease. Yes, Mumia is supported by Amnesty International and Desmond Tutu, among many others. But he is also just like any other Black man in prison. Together we must stop this shameful practice of denying lifesaving health care to Mumia Abu-Jamal and all prisoners. And we must expose the public health imperative of treating Hepatitis C inside and outside of prisons. As the drug’s inventor Michael Sofia notes, “How can you deny people access to a cure?”. Right now, my brother is in the infirmary at SCI Mahanoy, and he is receiving absolutely no treatment. We are in court, right now with a petition. You can make sure that the U.S. District Court Judge Mariani, and Magistrate Mehalchick see and hear more than the word “prisoner”. We know these folks are our mothers, fathers, and brothers. We know they deserve to be treated with dignity and with respect. We need your voice to be heard. Tell them you know that intentional medical neglect is a violation of the 8th Amendment and their Hippocratic Oath. Medical apartheid must stop. Please join me. - Keith Cook, Retired Command Sergeant; Major, US Army; Former Chairman Orange, County School Board; Past President, North Carolina Caucus of Black School Board; District Director, NC NAACP Conference of Branches
Taking Food out of people’s mouths does not create jobs, it leaves entire communities hungry!Under the 1996 welfare law, able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) are limited to three months of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly food stamps) in a three-year period unless they are working 20 hours a week or enrolled in a job training program for 20 hours a week. But the same law that created the time limit allows states to request a waiver for areas with high unemployment where jobs are scarce. Louisiana is eligible for a statewide waiver in 2016 given our high unemployment rate. Louisiana has added 51,000 jobs since January 2013, but at the same time the labor force grew by 102,000 job seekers. Louisiana now has a higher unemployment rate than the nation. Unfortunately, Governor Jindal has chosen not to apply for a statewide waiver. Their position is that a wavier conflicts with a policy of promoting "self-sufficiency." Of course, we all agree that a job paying a living wage is preferable to public assistance. But we also are aware of the reality that jobs--much less good-paying jobs--are scarce in our state. Rates of food insecurity in Louisiana remain high. Surveys averaged over three years show 17.6 percent of Louisianans lacked food security over the 2012-2014 period, a huge increase from the 11.8 percent who were food insecure a decade ago and higher than the 14.1 percent in 2009-2011. Nationally, the rate is 14.3 percent. Denying SNAP to the unemployed will do nothing to increase the rate of job creation, but will increase food hardship and the burden on local food banks already struggling to serve the hungry. People who will be cut off from food assistance because of this harsh rule are some of the poorest people in the state who are generally not eligible for any other type of assistance. Now, it will be harder for them to eat. Taking SNAP benefits away from unemployed workers will also create desperate situations that can increase the crime rate in the state of Louisiana. If DCFS refuses to apply for a waiver targeting high-need areas, the state should at least commit itself to providing a job training spot to every single person who wants one so that they can keep their SNAP benefits while building their skills. Unfortunately, given budget constraints, that isn’t likely to happen. With a lack of jobs, no training opportunities, and limited places to perform community service, thousands will be punitively cut off from basic food assistance. Please sign on to tell Jindal that you will not stand by as he makes people starve.
Democracy Requires Real (and more) Debate: Demand a #BlackLivesMatter Presidential DebateUPDATE 10/22/15 regarding DNC response to our campaign (Full Statement Linked Below): It is a given that our network, in collaboration with our allies and supporters, will conduct issue forums and town hall meetings at the local, regional and national levels to help our communities make informed choices in 2016 that help advance our collective interests. We want a debate supported by the DNC that will speak directly and proactively to the issues impacting black people in this country. Debates that are shaped by the corporate media will never adequately address the issues we care about. We urge the DNC to work with movements and core constituency groups that can help generate substantive conversation beyond the talking points that you can easily find on the websites of candidates. The DNC must commit to not punish candidates that choose to participate in other debates beyond those sanctioned by the DNC. The issues we care about include but are not limited to: over policing and blue on black violence; violence and economic disenfranchisement of transgender people; patterns of incarceration leading to the world's most bloated prison industry; systemic and historic forms of economic policies that level black communities; attacks on organized labor and the dismantling of the safety net, the criminalization of immigrants, and more. ***** It is not enough to poll the Presidential candidates on whether or not they think "Black Lives Matter" or "All Lives Matter" -- we deserve substantive responses and policy recommendations. We deserve substance and not rhetoric. In fact, we demand it. Limiting the number of debates unfairly privileges some candidates over others, and cheats voters out of the opportunity to fully engage candidates on issues we care about. Black voters, in particular, constitute a significant proportion of the potential voting bloc. Those of us who (reluctantly) give our votes to the Democratic Party deserve more robust forums on issues of particular concern to our communities, at home and abroad. According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), in 2012, Black women voted at a higher rate than any other group, across ethnicity, gender and race. In fact, more than 70% of registered Black women voted in the 2012 Presidential election, and overwhelmingly voted Democrat. More than 61% of registered Black men voted in the 2012 Presidential election--less than 1% shy of voting turnout for white men. This last year alone has demonstrated clearly that Black lives are under attack--from police violence to the murders of black trans women to economic disenfranchisement and neoliberal polices. It's time to extend the public conversation beyond the status quo. We want to hear candidates debate and offer tangible solutions to the myriad issues impacting Black people. Lifting the unfair restriction on the number of debates and supporting a Black Lives Matter Presidential debate is a step in the right direction. -Elle Hearns, Robbie Clark, Anita Moore and the rest of the BLM team Full statement link: https://www.facebook.com/BlackLivesMatter/posts/504518409719409
Protect DC's Black Communities from Police Violence: Say NO to Mayor Bowser's Crime BillBill 21-0357 will effectively criminalize entire Black neighborhoods in the District. It seeks to flood communities with police endowed with the power to conduct illegal aggressive and dangerous searches and seizures, and to incarcerate people almost at will for minor and non-violent offenses. Without the support of any data, the Mayor places the blame on returning citizens for the District’s recent spike in crime and seeks to target people on parole probation or supervised release for surveillance and broken windows policing. The Mayor does not understand the issues that affect the District’s most underserved areas. Instead of responding with knee-jerk proposals that will only increase the rates of arrests and incarceration without reducing crime, the Mayor and the DC Council should invest resources in creating jobs with living wages, support “ban the box” measures to help eliminate obstacles to employment and housing for Returning Citizens, create and protect truly affordable housing, prohibit displacement, significantly improve access to healthy and affordable food and other services that make our community safer. In Solidarity, Black Lives Matter DMV and Stop Police Terror Project #TakeBackOurStreetsDC
SUPPORT BLACK YOUTH: LOCKED OUT OF KATRINA RECOVERY/PUSHED OUT OF SCHOOL!Why is this important? If we believe children are our future, ALL children, then it is our duty to ensure that each and every one, even those with challenging behaviors are given every opportunity to grow and thrive. In the predominately black, still storm ravaged Eastern New Orleans, Collegiate Academies operates 3 schools. Each school has chosen to suspend children at rates over 40, 50 and 60% or more each year, when other alternatives are available. Children can’t learn if they are not in school. Schools do a great job of having zero tolerance and accountability for our children and we want more accountability from our schools. High suspension rates do not reflect the use of positive reinforcement methods, rather oppressive discipline. Collegiate Academies does a great job at showcasing its successes in annual reports, however, there is no mention of suspension rates, infractions youth are suspended for, the number of teachers who receive professional development training for restorative practices, conflict resolution or positive behavior supports as per ACT 136 of 2010 or your attrition rates. Recognizing that African-American students in Louisiana public schools are suspended and expelled at disproportionately high rates, according to a report from the Education Department, families want to be assured that Collegiate Academies is following best practice in order to educate our children and not pushing out children who need the most support. If the Louisiana Department of Education’s goal is to provide learning environments and experiences, at all stages of human development, that are humane, just, and designed to promote excellence in order that every individual may be afforded an equal opportunity to develop to his full potential as per our Preamble, Article 8, Louisiana State Constitution, in New Orleans we are failing our children. For the 2013 school year, 46,625 out-of-school suspensions were doled out, which was more than the total number of children enrolled in New Orleans public schools that year. Recovery from harsh discipline polices for some children and families leaves them feeling as though they are still in the midst of a storm. Collegiate Academies promotes itself as a national model stating – “we seek perfection in everything we do”. Children are not perfect and neither is a model that suspends, at times, more than half of their students. The same year Collegiate Academies was suspending more than ½ of their school population; Pope Francis knelt before 12 children and washed their feet, choosing to perform the Holy Thursday ritual at a juvenile detention facility in Rome. One of the most important men in the world showed his willingness to serve troubled children, to exhibit the values of compassion and forgiveness that we hold dear in our society. He didn’t just preach to the children and give them guidance about how they can live better lives. He didn’t suspend them or push them away; he knelt down and washed their feet. He cared and took action. Please join with FFLIC today in taking action for ALL children, sign this petition and demand that Collegiate Academies cease suspending children and ensure teachers are properly trained.
Make #BlackWorkersMatter: End the Exclusion of Black Workers from New Orleans Reconstruction"I can count on one hand the number of Black workers that work with me on Woodward construction sites" -Woodward employee Woodward Design+Build who has been in New Orleans since the 1920's did not think you could employ 40% local workers in the 313 Carondelet Project while the Lemoine Company who has been locally based in New Orleans since 2011 reportedly employed 80% local workers on the construction of the New Orleans East Hospital. Since Katrina New Orleans has been one of the largest construction sites in the country, meanwhile the exclusion of Black workers from the reconstruction has led to a massive Black jobs crisis- 52% of Black men are out of work, New Orleans has the second highest rate of income inequality in the country, 50.5% of Black children live in poverty and Black families make less than half the income of white families (Black families yearly median income in New Orleans is only $27,812) Woodward Design+Build has built countless projects in Post Katrina New Orleans and is going to be breaking ground this year and next on several more their continued exclusion of Black workers from their construction sites will further exacerbate the Black jobs crisis in New Orleans and we must act now to hold them and other major contractors accountable to make #BlackWorkersMatter in New Orleans. Local Black workers who are members of Stand with Dignity and our allies have been fighting to make #BlackWorkersMatter in New Orleans and we are winning- the City just passed a living wage ordinance for $10.55 per hour, and the Council will be considering a local hire ordinance on October 1st. These actions by our city government will go a long way but we have to hold accountable the companies who have gotten us to this point in the first place. Sign on Now to hold contractors accountable to make #BlackWorkersMatter in New Orleans- starting with Woodward Design+Build
Take Down ALL Symbols of White Supremacy in New OrleansSince 2015, we've organized to have four statues removed in New Orleans. And in May of this year, Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered a powerful speech that supported the notion that there space for reverence of the Confederacy in New Orleans. We must continue organizing until all property dedicated to people who fought to keep slavery is renamed and repurposed. Two weeks ago, white supremacists swarmed the streets in Charlottesville armed with lit torches and blunt objects to terrorize Black people. This modern-day lynching mob crowded around a Confederate statue, and in honor of the false idol, killed a peaceful protester and critically wounded dozens more. There is no doubt that white supremacists use these statues to validate their racism and violence. Now more than ever, we have to remove all Confederate symbols and emblems to white supremacy. Our local government has a responsibility to protect its Black communities from the kind of terrorism and bloodshed that rocked Charlottesville. The New Orleans family is defined by the diverse, inclusive nature of its culture in spaces both public and private. Public spaces are for everyone and should not be used to promote the abhorrent views of the white ruling class to uphold symbols of Black oppression. Not only that but our tax dollars should no longer be used to maintain these structures. We walk to the river, to work, to school, to visit a friend, and look up into the faces of men who traded human beings as property and fought to protect the ability to do so. There is no basis to support the continued littering of our public squares and buildings with monuments, street names and public schools named after white supremacists. These memorials only serve as constant reminders of the past and present domination of black people by the rich white ruling class. They are insulting to anyone with a sense of history and who supports progress and democracy. These symbols also represent present day reality where most decisions and government policy are determined by those who accept white supremacist notions that Black people and all non-white people are less and deserve less than white people. Some people believe that the struggle to remove white supremacist symbols is a deflection from the more meaningful struggle to end present day discrimination. They couldn’t be further from the truth. These monuments and signs are so much more than symbols of bygone days. They are active parts of an abusive system in which intentionally unequal distribution of power and resources goes unchecked. The white supremacist ideas represented by these symbols permeate USA society and result in actual discrimination and murder. That is why policemen with white supremacist conceptions of young Black people can murder them so easily. This is why the so-called criminal justice system can practice mass incarceration of Black people with the approval of most white people. This is why we have over 50% unemployment for Black men in New Orleans and there is no editorial outcry by the white ruling class press. If our New Orleans family is to have a chance at real racial reconciliation, we must remove all obvious symbols of white supremacy to show our collective will to address entrenched systemic oppression, which is wreaking havoc in the minds, homes, and neighborhoods of our families citywide. Now is our opportunity to be proactive. All over the USA, especially in the South, progressive Black people and their allies are leading struggles to rid the South of the symbols of treason, domestic terrorism and racist oppression. State governments in South Carolina and Alabama have removed the Rebel Flag. The Memphis city council has voted to remove the statue and the body of confederate General and founder of the KKK, Nathan Bedford Forrest. The Georgia NAACP has called for the removal of the Stone Mountain memorial to the confederacy.
Fire Officer Frascatore -- history of excessive force, then attacks tennis star James BlakeFormer tennis star James Blake was tackled and violently slammed to the ground by Officer Frascatore of the New York City Police Department. Not only was he innocent, the crime the Officer thought he was responsible for — identity theft — in no way required violent policing. It’s a question that has to be asked: would the officer have tackled and slammed James Blake on the ground if he was a white Wall Street banker accused of a financial crime? But it turns out that this isn’t the first time that Officer Frascatore has done something like this. According to an investigation by WNYC, over a seven-month period of 2013, Officer Frascatore was the subject of five civilian complaints. He has also been named in two federal lawsuits — including for falsely arresting, beating, and pepper spraying a Queens man. He even once yanked open a car door during a traffic stop, punched the driver in the mouth, and then sued the driver for biting his fist! NYPD Commissioner William Bratton needs to fire Officer Frascatore immediately. James Blake hit the nail on the head when he said: “I don't think this person should ever have a badge or a gun again.” When officers like Frascatore are allowed to continue in their jobs despite a history of excessive force, it is sadly often just a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt or killed. What if James Blake had attempted to fight back against what he could easily have seen as an unprovoked attack, from a plainclothes officer with no visible badge or gun? James Blake was lucky -- after 15 minutes, he was released from handcuffs with cuts and bruises. And as a high-profile sports figure, he can tell his story to the world. But If this can happen to James Blake, what is happening every day to Black and brown New Yorkers who aren't as famous, and who end up injured, in jail, or even dead as a result of overpolicing? This has to stop -- Commissioner William Bratton needs to step it up and do whatever it takes to fix this over-policing epidemic. Demand that he take action, starting with firing Officer Frascatore and then conducting a review of all other officers with a documented history of excessive force.
Demilitarize Emeryville Police!The lives of Black women are consistently devalued, criminalized, and abused by police in the United States. In the case of Yuvette Henderson, this abuse extended to murder. She is not alone; Tarika Wilson, Yvette Smith, Rekia Boyd, Aiyana Stanley-Jones—just to name a few—have all been killed by police. In the early afternoon of Tuesday, February 3, 2015, Yuvette Henderson, a 38-year-old mother of four children and one grandchild, was shot and killed by the Emeryville Police Department on the Oakland-Emeryville border of California. Officers shot Yuvette Henderson after responding to a report from Home Depot regarding an alleged theft where the suspect appeared to be armed and had suffered a head injury, requesting an ambulance.(1) Eyewitness accounts of the shooting contradict the statements released by Emeryville police. Witnesses say they saw Yuvette with both hands in the air, waving down a bus when she was shot and did not report seeing her with a gun. Police state that they asked Yuvette Henderson to drop her weapon and, when she refused, shot and killed her. Police have never stated that Yuvette Henderson pointed a gun at them. Yuvette Henderson fired no shots.(2) Michelle Shepherd and Warren Williams shot Yuvette with three weapons, including an AR-15 rifle—a military-grade weapon.(3) As the human rights violations in Ferguson exposed to the country last summer, police departments across the nation are abusing their access to military equipment and targeting communities of color. This misuse of power is as present here in the S.F. Bay Area as it is elsewhere, made painfully clear with the killing of Yuvette. Repeated abuse of state power and increased state terror pose a serious threat to the human and civil rights of all people, including the residents of Emeryville and its surrounding area. The city of Emeryville spans a mere two-square miles and has a population of 10,000 inhabitants. The presence of military weapons in a city this small only serves to deepen the divide between surrounding communities and law enforcement. Why does a police department require the use of military assault weapons when serving its community? We believe that the police should not be at war with the people they are meant to protect. Enough is enough! State terrorism must end. Emeryville Mayor Ruth Atkin and the city council must ban the use of all military-grade assault weapons from the Emeryville PD and ensure that all such weapons removed from the Emeryville PD. 1. "Black Lives Matter activists shut down Emeryville Home Depot for 5 hours, demand answers in police murder of Yuvette Henderson," San Francisco Bay View 2-23-2015 http://sfbayview.com/2015/02/black-lives-matter-activists-shut-down-emeryville-home-depot-for-5-hours-demand-answers-in-police-murder-of-yuvette-henderson/ 2. "Anti Police-Terror Project Holds Rally and Vigil for Yuvette Henderson," Anti-Police Terror Project 2-20-2015 https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/02/20/18768819.php 3. "#BlackLivesMatter Activists Shut Down Emeryville Home Depot; Demand Surveillance Tapes Of Fatal Police Shooting," CBS 02-21-2015 http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2015/02/21/blacklivesmatter-activists-shut-down-emeryville-home-depot-demand-surveillance-tap