Members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), University of Oklahoma chapter, dressed in formal wear while on a bus, were caught on video singing a racist chant. SAE is the first national fraternity to be established in the deep south, it was founded at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, on 9 March 1856 and is one of America’s largest college fraternities. The group reportedly was on their way to a day party to celebrate the fraternity's founder's day.
How many of the members shown in the video or others with similiar views will be future public defenders, prosecutors, judges, government administrators, political office holders or even police officers?
This is why developing information about our legal and justice system is crucial, especially for those that are the targets of this type of behavior. The video below does not bleep out any word and is offensive, also the text of the chant is shown below the video.
Text of chant: "There will never be a nigger at SAE, there will never be a nigger at SAE, you can hang him from a tree, but they'll never sign with me, there will never be a nigger at SAE!"
SAE national headquarters has closed its Oklahoma Kappa chapter and the university president said the university's affiliation with the fraternity is permanently done as a campus group and called for the expulsion of fraternity members. This is the type of swift decisive action that was called for in Ferguson and is to be expected in situations such as this.
Racism and bigotry will remain in our country for a very long time, but when there are no consequences for participating in this type of dispicable behavior, future instances of the same behavior is encouraged and validated.
In contrast, Ferguson, MO in their effort to protect the questionable actions of a single police officer, resulted in million of dollars of property damage, a Justice Department investigation, the firing of several city employees, the loss of their municipal court system and staining their city's reputation to the point where they are now the new face and ground zero for a resurgent national civil rights movement. Even President Obama invoked Ferguson during his speech about the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, Al.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – To help restore public trust and confidence in the Ferguson municipal court division, the Supreme Court of Missouri today transferred Judge Roy L Richter of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, to the St. Louis County circuit court, where he will be assigned to hear all of Ferguson’s pending and future municipal division cases. This assignment, made pursuant to the Court’s authority under article V of the Missouri Constitution, will take effect Monday, March 16, 2015, and will continue until further order of the Court.
The Court’s order also authorizes Richter to implement needed reforms to court policies and procedures in Ferguson to ensure that the rights of defendants are respected and to help restore the integrity of the system.
“Judge Richter will bring a fresh, disinterested perspective to this court’s practices and he is able and willing to implement needed reforms,” Chief Justice Mary R. Russell said. She noted that the Court also is assigning staff from its state courts administrator’s office to review Ferguson municipal court practices and to assist Richter in making necessary changes.
“Extraordinary action is warranted in Ferguson, but the Court also is examining reforms that are needed on a statewide basis,” Russell said. The Court continues to review specific recommendations for further changes to Rule 37, which governs the procedure of cases in all municipal court divisions. Among the changes the Court made in December 2014 to Rule 37 was a modification making clear that if a person demonstrates an inability to pay a fine, the municipal judge will be required to give the person more time to pay. The Court also will be developing “best practices” for those issues that are not well-suited to the one-size-fits-all approach of rulemaking and regulation. This process is informed by input from those practitioners, judges and outside advocates who are most familiar with the wide variety of Missouri’s municipal court divisions. Specific recommendations from these stakeholders have been, and will continue to be, studied and adopted when appropriate.
“More than two-thirds of all Missouri court cases are filed in the municipal divisions,” Russell said. “Though these are not courts of record, they are the first – and sometimes the only – impression Missourians have of their court system. Although we recognize the local control our statutes give these uniquely local entities, we must not sacrifice individual rights and society’s collective commitment to justice.”
President Obama delivered a magnificent speech at the 50th aniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Selma, Alabama at the Edmond Pettus Bridge. The President mentioned the Ferguson Protest in the same spirit as Selma and discussed the DOJ Ferguson Investigation report.
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., John Lewis returned to Selma to speaks at the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”. 50 years after John Lewis was beaten, he introduced President Obama on the very bridge where he was beaten.
The History of “Bloody Sunday”
The three Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 were part of the Selma Voting Rights Movement and led to the passage that year of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal achievement of the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. Activists publicized the three protest marches to walk the 54-mile highway from Selma to the Alabama state capital of Montgomery as showing the desire of black American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of segregationist repression.
A series of discriminatory requirements and practices disenfranchised most of the millions of African Americans across the South since the turn of the century. The African American group known as The Dallas County Voters League (DCVL) launched a voters registration campaign in Selma in 1963. Joined by organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), they began working that year in a renewed effort to register black voters. Finding resistance by white officials to be intractable, even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation, the DCVL invited Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the activists of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to join them. SCLC brought many prominent civil rights and civic leaders to Selma in January 1965. Local and regional protests began, with 3,000 people arrested by the end of February.
On February 26, 1965, activist and deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson died after being mortally shot several days earlier by a state trooper during a peaceful march in Marion, Alabama. To defuse and refocus the community’s outrage, SCLC Director of Direct Action James Bevel, who was directing SCLC’s Selma Voting Rights Movement, called for a march of dramatic length, from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. Bevel had been working on his Alabama Project for voting rights since late 1963.
The first march took place on March 7, 1965. Bevel, Amelia Boynton, and others helped organize it. The march recently gained the nickname “Bloody Sunday” (a term more commonly applied to an analagous incident in Northern Ireland dating from 1972) after its 600 marchers were attacked at the Edmund Pettus Bridge after leaving Selma; state troopers and county posse attacked the unarmed marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. Law enforcement beat Boynton unconscious; media publicized a picture of her lying wounded on the bridge worldwide.
The second march took place March 9. Troopers, police, and marchers confronted each other, but when the troopers stepped aside to let them pass, King led the marchers back to the church. He was seeking protection by a federal court for the march. That night, a white group beat and murdered civil rights activist James Reeb, a Unitarian Universalis minister from Boston, who had come to Selma to march in the second march. Many other clergy and sympathizers from across the country also attended the second march.
The violence of “Bloody Sunday” and of Reeb’s death led to a national outcry and some acts of civil disobedience, targeting both the Alabama state and federal governments. The protesters demanded protection for the Selma marchers and a new federal voting rights law to enable African Americans to register and vote without harassment. President Lyndon Johnson, whose administration had been working on a voting rights law, held a televised joint session of Congress on March 15 to ask for the bill’s introduction and passage.
With Governor Wallace refusing to protect the marchers, President Johnson committed to do so. The third march started March 21. Protected by 2,000 soldiers of the U.S. Army, 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard under Federal command, and many FBI agents and Federal Marshals, the marchers averaged 10 miles (16 km) a day along U.S. Route 80, known in Alabama as the “Jefferson Davis Highway”. The marchers arrived in Montgomery on March 24 and at the Alabama State Capitol on March 25. With thousands having joined the campaign, 25,000 people entered the capital city that day in support of voting rights.
The route is memorialized as the Selma To Montgomery Voting Rights Trail, and is a U.S. National Historic Trail.
For those that think it’s too much trouble to protect and preserve your rights in court, consider how much trouble those that came before us went through that fought and died so that you could have privileges that you now take for granted.
Eight days after “Bloody Sunday”, President Lyndon Johnson addressed Congress and the American People and delivered his Voting Rights Speech.
Justice Department Finds a Pattern of Civil Rights Violations by the Ferguson Police Department
The Justice Department announced the findings of its two civil rights investigations related to Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday March 4, 2015. The Justice Department found that the Ferguson Police Department (FPD) engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the First, Fourth, and 14th Amendments of the Constitution. The Justice Department also announced that the evidence examined in its independent, federal investigation into the fatal shooting of Michael Brown does not support federal civil rights charges against Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.
“As detailed in our report, this investigation found a community that was deeply polarized, and where deep distrust and hostility often characterized interactions between police and area residents,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Our investigation showed that Ferguson police officers routinely violate the Fourth Amendment in stopping people without reasonable suspicion, arresting them without probable cause, and using unreasonable force against them. Now that our investigation has reached its conclusion, it is time for Ferguson’s leaders to take immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action. The report we have issued and the steps we have taken are only the beginning of a necessarily resource-intensive and inclusive process to promote reconciliation, to reduce and eliminate bias, and to bridge gaps and build understanding.”
“While the findings in Ferguson are very serious and the list of needed changes is long, the record of the Civil Rights Division’s work with police departments across the country shows that if the Ferguson Police Department truly commits to community policing, it can restore the trust it has lost,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “We look forward to working with City Officials and the many communities that make up Ferguson to develop and institute reforms that will focus the Ferguson Police Department on public safety and constitutional policing instead of revenue. Real community policing is possible and ensures that all people are equal before the law, and that law enforcement is seen as a part of, rather than distant from, the communities they serve.”
Attorney General Holder first announced the comprehensive pattern or practice investigation into the Ferguson Police Department after visiting that community in August 2014, and hearing directly from residents about police practices and the lack of trust between FPD and those they are sworn to protect. The investigation focused on the FPD’s use of force, including deadly force; stops, searches and arrests; discriminatory policing; and treatment of detainees inside Ferguson’s city jail by Ferguson police officers.
In the course of its pattern or practice investigation, the Civil Rights Division reviewed more than 35,000 pages of police records; interviewed and met with city, police and court officials, including the FPD’s chief and numerous other officers; conducted hundreds of in-person and telephone interviews, as well as participated in meetings with community members and groups; observed Ferguson Municipal Court sessions, and; analyzed FPD’s data on stops, searches and arrests. It found that the combination of Ferguson’s focus on generating revenue over public safety, along with racial bias, has a profound effect on the FPD’s police and court practices, resulting in conduct that routinely violates the Constitution and federal law. The department also found that these patterns created a lack of trust between the FPD and significant portions of Ferguson’s residents, especially African Americans.
The department found that the FPD has a pattern or practice of:
Conducting stops without reasonable suspicion and arrests without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
Interfering with the right to free expression in violation of the First Amendment; and
Using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The department found that Ferguson Municipal Court has a pattern or practice of:
Focusing on revenue over public safety, leading to court practices that violate the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection requirements.
Court practices exacerbating the harm of Ferguson’s unconstitutional police practices and imposing particular hardship upon Ferguson’s most vulnerable residents, especially upon those living in or near poverty.Minor offenses can generate crippling debts, result in jail time because of an inability to pay and result in the loss of a driver’s license, employment, or housing.
The department found a pattern or practice of racial bias in both the FPD and municipal court:
The harms of Ferguson’s police and court practices are borne disproportionately by African Americans and that this disproportionate impact is avoidable.
Ferguson’s harmful court and police practices are due, at least in part, to intentional discrimination, as demonstrated by direct evidence of racial bias and stereotyping about African Americans by certain Ferguson police and municipal court officials.
The findings are laid out in a 100-page report that discusses the evidence and what remedies should be implemented to end the pattern or practice. The findings include two sets of recommendations, 26 in total, that the Justice Department believes are necessary to correct the unconstitutional FPD and Ferguson Municipal Court practices. The recommendations include: changing policing and court practices so that they are based on public safety instead of revenue; improving training and oversight; changing practices to reduce bias, and; ending an overreliance on arrest warrants as a means of collecting fines.
The Justice Department will require that the recommendations and other measures be part of a court-enforceable remedial process that includes involvement from community stakeholders as well as independent oversight. The Justice Department has provided its investigative report to the FPD and in the coming weeks, the Civil Rights Division will seek to work with the City of Ferguson and the Ferguson community to develop and reach an agreement for reform, using the recommendations in the report as the starting point.
The federal criminal investigation into the fatal shooting of Michael Brown sought to determine whether the evidence from the events that led to Brown’s death was sufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Wilson’s actions violated federal civil rights laws that make it a federal crime for someone acting with law enforcement authority to willfully violate a person’s civil rights. As part of the investigation, federal authorities reviewed physical, ballistic, forensic, and crime scene evidence; medical reports and autopsy reports, including an independent autopsy performed by the U.S. Department of Defense Armed Forces Medical Examiner Service; Wilson’s personnel records; audio and video recordings; internet postings, and; the transcripts from the proceedings before the St. Louis County grand jury. Federal investigators interviewed purported eyewitnesses and other individuals claiming to have relevant information. Federal prosecutors and agents re-interviewed dozens of witnesses to evaluate their accounts and obtain more detailed information. FBI agents independently canvassed more than 300 residences to locate and interview additional witnesses.
The standard of proof is the same for all criminal cases: that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. However, unlike state laws, federal criminal civil rights statutes do not have the equivalent of manslaughter or a statute that makes negligence a crime. Federal statutes require the government to prove that Officer Wilson used unreasonable force when he shot Michael Brown and that he did so willfully, that is, he shot Brown knowing it was wrong and against the law to do so. After a careful and deliberative review of all of the evidence, the department has determined that the evidence does not establish that Darren Wilson violated the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute. The family of Michael Brown was notified earlier today of the department’s findings.
Due to the high interest in this case, the department took the rare step of publicly releasing the closing memo in the case. The report details, in over 80 pages, the evidence, including evidence from witnesses, the autopsies and physical evidence from the analysis of the DNA, blood, shooting scene and ballistics. The report also explains the law as developed by the federal courts and applies that law to the evidence.