Category Archives: Police

‘No Regard for Human Rights’: Sessions Slammed for Order on Police Conduct

by Nadia Prupis

Order is "a clear indication that [Sessions’] Department of Justice is moving toward abandoning its obligations to uphold federal civil rights laws through consent decrees"

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday ordered a sweeping review of police accountability agreements, prompting a wave of criticism from civil and human rights groups.

Sessions' order means that the Department of Justice (DOJ) may stop using consent decrees that aimed to address police brutality and other institutional problems, or refrain from fully implementing the ones that exist. The attorney general previously opposed the agreements, which are considered a legacy of the Obama administration.

The move is "a clear indication that [Sessions’] Department of Justice is moving toward abandoning its obligations to uphold federal civil rights laws through consent decrees," said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

"Consent decrees are a crucial tool in the Justice Department's enforcement of civil rights in a variety of areas, including addressing police misconduct. They are only issued after careful study, review, and approval by a federal judge, often after a determination that law enforcement acted in an unconstitutional manner," Henderson said. "These latest developments are particularly ironic given that in the same memo outlining a review of these vital consent decrees, Attorney General Sessions also noted that 'local law enforcement must protect and respect the civil rights of all members of the public.'"

In a memorandum dated March 31 and made public Monday, Sessions directed his staff to review whether police departments are adhering to principles put forth by the Trump administration, including one that states "the individual misdeeds of bad actors should not impugn" police officers from "keeping American communities safe."

Many saw the order as a signal that the rightwing White House would disregard recent gains in improving relations between law enforcement and communities of color, an issue that gained public traction since the 2014 Ferguson, Missouri protests.

The Obama administration ordered a comprehensive review of numerous police departments throughout the U.S., which uncovered an unsurprising epidemic of institutional racism and police brutality against people of color.

"Yesterday, the Department of Justice proved what we have known all along: Attorney General Jeff Sessions has no regard for civil and human rights," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said Tuesday. "The decision to target police reforms that have been negotiated with police departments with a documented history of civil rights violations is reprehensible. Let me be clear, this review marks the first step in the Trump administration's misguided 'law and order' agenda that will blunt the progress we made on police reform under President [Barack] Obama's leadership."

"We simply cannot afford to turn back the clock on reforms that prevent innocent black women and men from being gunned down in the streets," Lee said. "The time to resist is now. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will fight to block funding for any effort to thwart the urgent need for police reform."

The New York Times reported:

As part of its shift in emphasis, the Justice Department went to court on Monday to seek a 90-day delay in a consent decree to overhaul Baltimore's embattled police department. That request came just days before a hearing, scheduled for Thursday in the United States District Court in Baltimore, to solicit public comment on the agreement, which was reached in principle by the city and the Justice Department in the waning days of the Obama administration.

Ray Kelly, the president of the Baltimore-based No Boundaries Coalition, a citizen advocacy group, told the Times, "This has all been negotiated by the affected parties. Now we have an outside entity telling us what's best for our citizens and our community when he has no experience, no knowledge."

Baltimore was one of several cities, including FergusonCleveland, Ohio; and Seattle, Washington that were part of the Obama administration's efforts to reform relations, after DOJ investigations found systemic issues. The Baltimore consent decree was reached after protests over the police killing of Freddie Gray revealed systemic racial profiling and other discriminatory tactics.

Likewise, David Rocah, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland, said, "Why is everyone in Baltimore ready to move forward with police reform except Donald Trump's Department of Justice? The Trump administration's move to put off a long-planned public hearing, where the court was going to hear directly from Baltimore residents about their views of the Baltimore Police Department, and the necessity of a consent decree as part of the reform process, is a slap in the face to the people of Baltimore."

"And it is a clear sign that the Trump administration is seeking to undo, and walk away from, the consent decree that is a critical part of reforming Baltimore's police department," Rocah said.

Henderson continued, "The underlying issues that consent decrees address have not disappeared. The attorney general would do well to remember that he must serve the public, and continue to use every tool at his disposal to support police practices that preserve life and protect all."

Republished with permission under license from CommonDreams

Black Cop gets 40 Year Sentence in death of White kid

White cops kill a Black kid in a park with a toy gun, no charges. Black cops kill a white kid after a two-mile car chase involving the kid's father; sentenced to 40 years. "Black St. Louis Ex-Cop Tells the Truth About Race and Policing".

Three days after the incident, a grand jury indicted Derrick Stafford, then 32 and Norris Greenhouse Jr., then 23 with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. Both officers are black.

Officers Norris Greenhouse Jr., left, and Derrick Stafford

On November 3, 2015, Christopher Few, a 25-year-old white man, lead police on a 2-mile chase in Marksville, LA after officers attempted to make a traffic stop. At some point during the chase, officers Derrick Stafford and Norris Greenhouse Jr. called for backup, and two other officers responded

Christopher Few

The chase ended when Few hit a dead-end at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Taensas Street. Shots were fired by officers Stafford and Greenhouse who didn't know that Few had his six-year-old son in the vehicle with him. Both Few and his son, Jeremy Mardis, were hit. Mardis died at the scene, Few was hospitalized and has since recovered.

Jeremy Mardis

A jury convicted Derrick Stafford on March 24, 2017, of manslaughter and on March 31, 2017, the judge sentenced Stafford to 40 years. Norris Greenhouse will be tried separately in June.

Stafford and Greenhouse shot a total of 18 bullets into the vehicle and some have mentioned the number of bullets fired demonstrates the cops intended to kill. However, when police officers fired 137 bullets, killing Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, unarmed black men; the judge acquitted Michael Brelo, the cop who jumped on the hood of their car shooting 15 times through the windshield.

Body cam video from Kenneth Purnell, one of the officers who did not fire his gun, captured the moment that shots were fired. Stafford and Greenhouse over reacted and carelessly cause the child's death. There was no effort by the Black community to start GoFundMe campaigns to support these cops. Had this been white cops, a black father, and son, the cops would have been put on paid administrative leave while a lengthy investigation was conducted. Most likely, it would have taken protest to bring charges, and the white officers most likely would be acquitted since the officers "reasonably feared for their lives" under the circumstance.

Local police officials and prosecutors quickly determined and announced that the video made it clear that charges needed to be filed. There was no discussion about what the video doesn't show or what happened immediately before the cops fired. I suspect a very different narrative would have been told it the cops were white and the father and son black. We would have heard how the father should have complied and stopped his vehicle. We would have heard how the father's actions were responsible for his son's death. The father might even have been charged with reckless endangerment of a child. The father would have been vilified and every negative detail about his life broadcast. There would have been vast public support for the cops who place their lives on the line every day and a GoFundMe account would have been setup for their legal fees. 

The white kid's life mattered as it should, but black kid's lives should matter too. How many times have we seen a video of the actual shooting of black men when it was obvious they were not armed. We've even seen a man choked to death on video while complaining "I can't breathe", with no charges against the officers. This is the sort of obvious disparity that created the Black Lives Matter movement and sparked multiple protests around the country when the victim is black. The white community didn't need to protest for action to be taken against the black cops.

Few acknowledged drinking at a bar with his then-girlfriend shortly before the shooting but said he hadn't taken any drugs that day. Few and his fiancee Megan Dixon had an argument at a bar that evening and drove away in separate vehicles. Dixon said she saw Few pass her, followed by a marked police car with two officers. Dixon said that the police pursuit of Few may have been prompted by his running a red light or by the officers seeing an altercation she had with Few at a traffic light when he approached her car and they had words. One police vehicle reportedly received damage caused by Few reversing into it.

Killing of Terence Crutcher

Ironically, over the same weekend that Stafford was convicted of manslaughter, 60 Minutes aired "Shots Fired," about the killing of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man shot and killed while holding his hands up. Betty Shelby, the white female Tulsa police officer that fatally shot Crutcher, was interviewed.

A white male cop was nearby when Crutcher was shot and two additional officers were in a helicopter hoovering above, however, Shelby claimed she feared for her safety when she shot Crutcher. Even the cops in the helicopter seemed surprised Crutcher was shot rather than tased. The video below was taken from the helicopter's camera. 

Shelby was placed on paid administrative leave and charged with manslaughter six days later while the investigation continued. During the 60 Minutes interview, Shelby blamed Crutcher for his own death. She said if he had only complied, he would still be alive. An online fundraiser was held for officer Shelby which included a donation from one of the officers who was named by the state as a witness.

Just as it was obvious that the black officers in Marksville overreacted, it is equally obvious that the white officer in Tulsa overreacted. We don't believe officer Shelby started her day with the intention of killing a black man, but we do believe that the fact that he was black created a bias that made her believe he was more dangerous than was reasonable.

Mr. Crutcher isn't alive to give his side of the story, but we can guess what it might have been. After seeing too many videos of unarmed black men being shot and killed, Crutcher didn't want to be one of them. Therefore, he put his hands up, walked slowly to indicate he was not a threat and put his hands on top of his vehicle, however, Crutcher was shot, just like another unarmed black man laying the ground with his hands up. Even Donald Trump had to admit that Shelby's shooting of Crutcher was not justified after viewing the video. If Shelby gets convicted, you can be certain it wont be anywhere near 40 years.

This double standard can not be allowed to stand. When justice is unbalanced, we need to take action both politically and economically. We need to stop supporting political candidates who do not work on behalf of our best interest and stop spending our money with companies who do not speak out for us.

If you don't demand your rights, don't be surprised when they are denied. If you accept being treated as a second-class citizen, why would anyone even consider upgrading you to first class?

The black community must also stop giving greater importance to the cultures and traditions others. If you didn't celebrate MLK day or Black History month by educating yourself or your children but you wore green on St. Patrick's Day, you're disrespecting yourself and your community. When you acknowledge Cinco de Mayo, but ignore Juneteenth, you dishonor your ancestor's suffering. How many people in the black community even know what Kwanzaa really is?

By all means, wear your kiss me I'm Irish button and drink Mexican beer, but show just as much pride in your own traditions and customs. When you don't respect your own custom and traditions, why should others? When a white life is lost, don't allow yourself to be drawn into the media hype that black lives that were lost were not as important and don't deserve as much attention. 

Were 1200 black soldiers massacred by white soldiers in Mississippi?

Camp Van Dorn was a U.S. Army Post located in Centreville, Mississippi and served as a training camp from 1942-1945. The 364th was an all-Black regiment of soldiers that had been stationed at Camp Van Dorn in Jim Crow-era Mississippi. According to the book, "The Slaughter: An American Atrocity," black soldiers were massacred in fall of 1943.

At that time, the Army had begun intensifying its efforts to recruit Blacks, as evidenced by the WWII propaganda film "The Negro Soldier" created in 1943 by the United States Army and released in 1944, but the Army was still racially segregated.  

The 364th arrived at Camp Van Dorn in two groups on May 26, and May 28, 1943, some of whom had already survived three previous race riots, came to Centreville announcing they were going to "clean up" the base and surrounding towns and challenged Jim Crow laws at every turn. On May 29, 1943, a Black soldier, Pvt. William Walker from the regiment was detained by a white military policeman and questioned, resulting in a fight. The county sheriff arrived, the private was shot and killed by the sheriff.

Shortly after, black soldiers stormed a supply room and took a number of rifles and planned to march on the town. A crowd gathered near the regimental exchange and a riot squad made up of Black military policemen fired into the crowd. Allegedly, only one soldier was wounded by this exchange and the soldiers returned to their barracks.

According to newspaper accounts, Centreville's mayor telegrammed the governor asking that the 364th be related to the North to avoid a serious race riot. Camp Van Dorn Commander R.E. Guthrie assured the local civilians that the disturbances had been controlled by military authorities. Another near-riot broke out in July 1943 at a service club dance on the base and the 99th was called to disperse a crowd of about 2,000. 

The Army high command in Washington, D.C., warned base and regimental commanders that they were to end racial violence or lose their jobs. The 364th's Morning Reports, a kind of company-by-company daily attendance sheet, note dozens of soldiers as AWOL following the Private Walker killing and its aftermath.

Killer's Confession

Carroll Case, a white Mississippi banker, artist, and writer born in 1939, heard "hushed rumors" of a mass killing of black troops during his childhood. In 1985, William Martzell, a maintenance man at the bank where Case was president confessed to Case about his participation in a massacre at Van Dorn. 

Martzell described a night in the fall of 1943 when he and other white troops and military police armed with machine guns surrounded the 364th's barracks. As quoted by Case, Martzell said, "We had the whole area sealed off–it was like shooting fish in a barrel. We opened fire on everything that moved, shot into the barracks, shot them out of trees, where some of them were climbing, trying to hide. . . ." 

Martzell explained the black soldiers were easily killed because the firing pins had been removed from all the black soldier's rifles. In 2001 the History Channel aired a documentary about the massacre titled, "Mystery of the 364th" shown below.

Case alleged the Army planned and executed the massacre of troops from the 364th and covered it up by informing next of kin the soldiers were killed in the line of duty and the bodies were not recoverable.

The book, pressure from a Mississippi congressman, Bennie Thompson, and the NAACP caused the Army to investigate the massacre allegations.

The Army spent more than 16 months trying to disprove allegations that 1,200 black soldiers were massacred during a racial disturbance at an Army camp in Mississippi during World War II. A final report was issued by the Army on Dec. 23, 1999, stating, "There is no documentary evidence whatsoever that any unusual or inexplicable loss of personnel occurred".

The Army based some of the conclusions in its 1999 report on records it kept classified. But the Army's report is riddled with dozens of factual errors, marred by gaps, and suffers from internal contradictions and conflicts with other Army records that diminish its credibility.

Army Clerk Claims of Forged and Changed Records

Malcolm LaPlace, a former 364th soldier, who told the makers of a documentary that his signature was forged on a key document, accused the Army of covering up the deaths of fellow soldiers by listing them as AWOL in regimental journals. LaPlace, who served as the regiment's clerk, said he is the one who made the changes at the request of the regiment commander, Col. John F. Goodman, who has since died.

"I worked with Col. Goodman for day after day, month after month. I sat at a desk right outside his office door," LaPlace stated. " I recall on four different occasions he had me revise journal entries. On one occasion he provided me with information for an entry that read 20 black soldiers had been found murdered. I typed it up and gave it to him. About an hour later he came back to me and he said, 'Sergeant, I have given you the wrong information.' What he gave me now read that 20 black soldiers were AWOL. Now how in hell do you go from murdered to absent without leave? That happened on three other occasions, when it was 10 [black soldiers murdered], and then about three, then one, all the same thing."

However, LaPlace says he never saw or heard about any mass shootings at Camp Van Dorn. 

In December 1943, the remaining men of the 364th were relocated to a camp in the Aleutian Islands, off the coast of Alaska. It was then that their personnel roster began to show signs of loss. Nearly 1,000 enlisted men — a third of the regiment — disappeared from the Aleutians with no explanation. 


Just ten years before the Camp Dorn Massacre, Gen. Smedley Butler called war a racket. U.S. officials would not have wanted anything to hamper support for the war.

More than 60 million people were killed during World War II, including 419,400 U.S. Military deaths. Generals were sending tens of thousands of men to their deaths during single battles. The government certainly would not have jeopardized an entire war effort during WWII, to tell the truth about a massacre of rebellious black soldiers, that some white officials may have considered unpatriotic.

President Nixon's Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger said, “Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.” Kissinger certainly wasn't the first U.S. official to believe that soldiers are pawns. When men at the highest levels of government feel this way, it's easy to understand how racist officers would have felt black soldiers were expendable. 

During World War II, when a family received word that their loved one was killed in the line of duty, missing in action or taken prisoner, they would have taken the information at face value and not questioned the truthfulness.

Unfortunately, the truth may never be known about what actually happened at Camp Dorn, but even rumors are often based on facts. I can't imagine a person near the end of his life lying about participating in a mass murder. What would he have to gain? 

The Army, on the other hand, has its reputation on the line and may be worried about the potential liability to the soldiers' families.

Part of the 2017 Black History Month Series

Orangeburg Massacre of African American College Students by Police

The Orangeburg massacre refers to the shooting and killing of peaceful unarmed black student protesters by white Highway Patrol officers in Orangeburg, SC, on the South Carolina State University campus on the evening of February 8, 1968.

Approximately 200 protesters peacefully demonstrated against racial segregation at a local bowling alley, All Star Bowling lane, without incident on February 6, 1968. The following night many of the students returned to resume the protest but  fifteen of them were arrested.

The third night, February 8th, the students gathered on the South Carolina State University campus instead of at the bowling alley. The students built a bonfire which a law enforcement officer attempted to put out. The officer was injured by a piece of a banister thrown from the crowd. The officers then opened fire into the crowd of students. 

Orangeburg three

Three of those peacefully assembled, Samuel Hammond, Henry Smith, both SC State students and Delano Middleton, a 17-year-old high school student, were killed and twenty-seven other protesters were injured. 

Middleton was not involved in the protests. His mother worked as a maid on campus, and he often stopped there on his way home from basketball practice. In all, he was shot seven times, once in the heart. Henry "Smitty" Smith, an ROTC student and native of Marion, was shot three times, including in his neck. "Sam" or "Sammy" Hammond was a freshman from Barnwell who was studying to be a teacher. He was shot in the back and died on the floor of Orangeburg's segregated hospital. Also killed was the unborn child of Louise Kelly Cawley, age 27, one of the young women beaten during the protest at All Star Bowling. Cawley suffered a miscarriage the following week.

“They committed murder. Murder…that’s a harsh thing to say, but they did it,” …“The police lost their self control. They just started shooting. It was a slaughter. Double ought buckshot is what you use for deer. It’s meant to kill. One guy emptied his service revolver. That takes a lot of shooting. The (students) are running away. Pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow!  My God, there’s a murderous intent there. We are lucky more weren’t killed.” –  Ramsey Clark, U.S. Attorney General in 1968.

This tradedy was the first of its king on any American college campus. The massacre pre-dated the 1970 Kent State shootings and Jackson State killings, in which the National Guard at Kent State, and police and state highway patrol at Jackson State, killed student protesters demonstrating against the United States invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War.


There were several incidents centering on the segregation of the local bowling alley, All Star Bowling Lane, that led up to the Orangeburg Massacre on February 8, 1968. In the fall of 1967, some of the black leaders within the community tried to convince Harry K. Floyd, the owner of the bowling alley, to allow African Americans.

Harry K. Floyd claimed that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not apply to his establishment because it was private. However, because the alley operated a lunch counter, it fell under the jurisdiction of laws regulating interstate commerce and thus federal desegregation. Floyd was unwilling to desegregate; as a result protests began in early February 1968.

On February 5, 1968, a group of around forty students from South Carolina State University entered the bowling alley and left peacefully after they were asked to leave by Floyd. The next night more students led by John Stroman returned and entered the bowling alley. This time there were police waiting for them and several students were arrested, including Stroman. After the arrests, more students began showing up, angry that protesters were being arrested. Next the crowd broke a window of the bowling alley and chaos ensued. Police began beating student protesters (both men and women) with billy clubs. That night, eight students were sent to the hospital. 

Over the next couple of days, the tension in Orangeburg escalated. Student protesters submitted a list of demands that consisted of integration and the elimination of discrimination within the community.

The Governor of South Carolina at the time, Robert E. McNair, responded by calling in the National Guard after commenting that black power advocates were running amok in the community.

Over the next two days, about 200 mostly student protesters gathered on the campus of South Carolina State University, a historically black college in Orangeburg, to demonstrate against the continued segregation at the bowling alley.

SC National Guard Troops arrive in Orangeburg on the night of February 8, 1968

By the late evening of February 8th, army tanks and over 100 heavily armed law enforcement officers had cordoned off the campus; 450 more had been stationed downtown.


On the night of February 8, 1968, students started a bonfire on the front of SC State's campus. As police and firefighters attempted to put out the fire, officer David Shealy was injured by a thrown object. Shortly thereafter (around 10:30 p.m.) South Carolina Highway Patrol Officers began firing into the crowd of around 200 protesters. Eight Patrol Officers fired carbines, shotguns, and revolvers at the protesters, which lasted around 10 to 15 seconds.

Twenty-seven people were injured in the shooting; most of whom were shot in the back as they were running away, and three African American men were killed. The three men killed were Samuel Hammond, Henry Smith (both SCSU students), and Delano Middleton, a student at the local Wilkinson High School. Middleton was shot while simply sitting on the steps of the freshman dormitory awaiting the end of his mother's work shift.

The police later said that they believed they were under attack by small arms fire.

A newspaper reported, "About 200 Negros  gathered and began sniping with what sounded like 'at least one automatic, a shotgun and other small caliber weapons' and throwing bricks and bottles at the patrolmen." Similarly, a North Carolina newspaper reported that week that students threw firebombs at buildings and that the sound of apparent sniper fire was heard.

Protesters insisted that they did not fire at police officers, but threw objects and insulted the men. An AP photographer on the scene, subsequently revealed that he heard no gunfire from the campus.


At a press conference the following day, Governor Robert E. McNair said the event was "…one of the saddest days in the history of South Carolina". McNair blamed the deaths on outside Black Power agitators and said the incident took place off campus, contrary to the evidence.

Demonstrators protest the shootings.

The federal government brought charges against the state patrolmen in the first federal trial of police officers for using excessive force at a campus protest. The state patrol officers' defense was that they felt they were in danger and protesters had shot at the officers first. All nine defendants were acquitted although thirty-six witnesses stated that they did not hear gunfire coming from the protesters on the campus before the shooting and no students were found to be carrying guns.

In a state trial in 1970, the activist Cleveland Sellers, who had been shot during the attack, was convicted of a charge of riot related to the events on February 6 at the bowling alley. He served seven months in state prison, getting time off for good behavior. He was the national program director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1973 he wrote The River of No Return: The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and Death of SNCC.

Sellers earned his master's degree from Harvard and his doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. For eight years, he served as the president of Voorhees College, located in his hometown of Denmark, before stepping down in 2016 due to failing health.

Cleveland Sellers stands beside the historic marker on the S.C. State University campus at the 2000 Orangeburg memorial.

In 1993, twenty-five years after the massacre, Sellers was officially pardoned by the governor of South Carolina after evidence proved he was innocent.

Part of the 2017 Black History Month Series

Was the Real Lone Ranger a Black Man?

He's been called the "real Lone Ranger" by some and an American hero by many, Bass Reeves, the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi. During his long career, he was credited with arresting more than 3,000 felons. He shot and killed fourteen outlaws in self-defense.

Bill O'Reilly while appearing on the Tonight show, tells the story of Bass Reeves. Reeves was an escaped slave who became the first black U.S. Marshal. The white TV character, "The Lone Ranger", portrayed by Clayton Moore was based on Reeves.

Bass Reeves was born into slavery in Crawford County, Arkansas, in 1838. He was named after his grandfather, Basse Washington. Bass Reeves and his family were slaves of Arkansas state legislator William Steele Reeves. When Bass was eight (about 1846), William Reeves moved to Grayson County, Texas, near Sherman in the Peters Colony. Bass Reeves may have served William Steele Reeves' son, Colonel George R. Reeves, who was a sheriff and legislator in Texas. He was a one-time Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives until his death from rabies in 1882.

During the American Civil War, Bass parted company with George Reeves, perhaps "because Bass beat up George after a dispute in a card game." Bass Reeves fled north into the Indian Territory. He lived with the Cherokee, Seminole, and Creek Indians, learning their languages, until he was freed by the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, in 1865.

As a freedman, Reeves moved to Arkansas and farmed near Van Buren. He married Nellie Jennie from Texas, with whom he had eleven children. Reeves and his family farmed until 1875, when Isaac Parker was appointed federal judge for the Indian Territory.

Parker appointed James F. Fagan as U.S. Marshal, directing him to hire 200 deputy U.S. Marshals. Fagan had heard about Reeves, who knew the Indian Territory and could speak several Indian languages. He recruited him as a deputy; Reeves was the first black deputy to serve west of the Mississippi River.

Reeves was initially assigned as a Deputy U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Arkansas, which had responsibility also for the Indian Territory. He served there until 1893. That year he transferred to the Eastern District of Texas in Paris, Texas for a short while. In 1897 he was transferred again, serving at the Muskogee Federal Court in the Indian Territory.

Reeves worked for thirty-two years as a federal peace officer in the Indian Territory, and became one of Judge Parker's most valued deputies. Reeves brought in some of the most dangerous criminals of the time, but was never wounded, despite having his hat and belt shot off on separate occasions. Once he had to arrest his own son for murder.

His son, Bennie Reeves, was charged with the murder of his wife. Deputy Marshal Reeves was disturbed and shaken by the incident but allegedly demanded the responsibility of bringing Bennie to justice. Bennie was eventually tracked and captured, tried, and convicted. He served his time in Fort Leavenworth in Kansas before being released and living the rest of his life as a responsible and model citizen.

Bass Reeves was falsely accused of murdering a posse cook and served two years in jail before being acquitted in a trial before Judge Parker. Reeves was represented by former United States Attorney W.H.H. Clayton, who was a colleague and friend.

In addition to being a marksman with a rifle and pistol, Reeves developed superior detective skills during his long career. When he retired in 1907, Reeves claimed to have arrested over 3,000 felons. He is said to have shot and killed fourteen outlaws to defend his own life.

bass reeves police
Bass Reeves (front row left with cane) as member of Muskogee Police Department

When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, Bass Reeves, then 68, became an officer of the Muskogee, Oklahoma police department He served for two years before he became ill and had to retire. Reeves' health began to fail, and he died of Bright's disease (nephritis) in 1910. He was a great-uncle of Paul L. Brady, who was the first black man appointed as a Federal Administrative Law Judge (in 1972).

Similarities Between the Fictional Lone Ranger and Bass Reeves

  • Reeves rode a white horse throughout almost all of his career, at one point riding a light grey one as well.
  • The Lone Ranger's last name was "Reid" very similar to Reeves.
  • He preferred to bring outlaws in alive to face justice rather than kill them, even though many were wanted dead or alive.
  • Reeves was described as a “master of disguises” and used those disguises to track down wanted criminals
  • Reeves’ companion was a Native American posse man and tracker who he often rode with.
  • Reeves kept and gave out silver coins as a personal trademark of sorts, instead of the Lone Ranger’s silver bullets. Reeves used the coins win over the people wherever he found himself working and collecting bounties. A visit from Bass Reeves meant a dangerous criminal captured and a silver coin if you were lucky.
  • A large number of the criminals Reeves captured were sent to the federal prison in Detroit. The Lone Ranger radio show originated in 1933 on WXYZ in Detroit where the legend of Bass Reeves was famous.

The Bass Reeves Legacy Monument, mounted on its base at Ross Pendergraft Park, Fort Smith, ArkansasThe Bass Reeves Legacy Monument, mounted on its base at Ross Pendergraft Park, Fort Smith, Arkansas

Part of the 2017 Black History Month Series

Police Depicted as Animals in Art

Art does not exist only to entertain, but also to challenge one to think, to provoke, even to disturb, in a constant search for truth. –  Barbara Streisand

David Pulphus, a North St. Louis resident and recent graduate of Cardinal Ritter College Prep, is the 2016 winner of the U.S. Congressional Art Competition from Missouri's 1st Congressional District.

Pulphus' winning painting "Untitled #1" has stirred a national debate about art, censorship, and first amendment rights after police groups urged its removal for depicting cops as pigs.

David Pulphus painting
David Pulphus painting "Untitled #1"

Each year Members of the U.S. House of Representatives select one high school student from their districts as a winner. The artists' pictures usually hang in the halls of Congress for a almost full year – an incredible honor.

However, the Architect of the U.S. Capitol ( announced he plans to remove the painting because he determined its content violated the guidelines of the art competition, even though it had hung on a Capitol wall for six months. See a slideshow of all 2016 Congressional Art winners.

Art is subjective

Just as "one man's junk is another man's treasure" and "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", so is art.

The two officers and the African-American man all appear to have animal-like facial features. The two officers have faces resembling a boar and a horse, the African-American man resembles a wolf or if you stretch your imagination a "black panther". The "wolf-man" depiction could be interpreted negatively as well. Is the predatory wolf attacking the prey who is defending himself? Depends on your point of view, because art is subjective.

An article in the St. Louis American provides the following description, “The painting portrays a colorful landscape of symbolic characters representing social injustice, the tragic events in Ferguson and the lingering elements of inequality in modern American society”. 

When is art offensive?

Walt Disney's Zootopia depicts police officers as animals and even has one depicted as a pig, but I don't recall any public outcry. I'm certain countless number of police officers took their children to see this film without a second thought about Disney's "pig" cop. I guess the difference was this pig wasn't pointing a gun at a black man. Maybe it's not so much about "pigs" as it is about don't show cops behaving badly.

Officer Swinton from Walt Disney's Zootopia

The Zootopia Police Department, or ZPD, in the film is mostly run by heavy-weight mammals, such as buffalos, rhinos, elephants, hippos, and predators such as wolves, cheetahs, tigers, bears and lions, until it changed when Judy Hopps became the first rabbit on the police force. 

Political Correctness

When a powerful group within the majority population complains of negative depictions, the narrative changes. The depictions are labeled insensitive, disrespectful, malicious, anti-American, or unpatriotic, but never politically correct.

Police officers are a part of this country's most powerful institution. Police officers hold more power than any elected official including the president, they have been given the right to kill. Historically, police have policed themselves, so their actions have seldom resulted in the sort of scrutiny or penalties ordinary citizens face. 

When police organizations began propaganda efforts to play victims in response to groups such as Black Lives Matter, it would have been comical if not for the serious damage their propaganda produced. Countless unarmed, innocent Black people, who were truely powerless, have been harrassed, injured and killed by police. Because there was no justice, people spoke out in frustration.

When was the last time you heard about a police officer shot or murder where they didn't find a suspect? The police by contrast almost always get justice when they are wronged.

Instead of facing the reality that far too many unarmed people were being shot dead and mistreated by police, police unions created a false narrative that "Black Lives Matter" somehow meant no other lives mattered.

Black people have been complaining for generations about how we are depicted in art and media including the nightly news. Mascots such as the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, and the Washington Redskins perpetuate negative stereotypes of Native American people and demean their native traditions and rituals.

However, when these slights are pointed out, individuals or groups are called whinners, accused of political correctness or playing the race card.

Many white people including cops act as if racism doesn't exist, but as anti-racism activist, Jane Elliot points out, white people know the truth they just don't want to admit it.

2016 Congressional Art Competition Winners' Slideshow

David Pulphus' painting, "Untitled #1" is shown at 13:53 in the video's timeline.

The Artist as Citizen

FEBRUARY 03, 1995, 1:00am

The following speech, the source of the quote at the top of this page, in support federal support for the arts was given by Barbra Streisand at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts on February 3, 1995:

I’ve stood up and performed in front of thousands of people — but let me tell you, this is much more frightening. Maybe it’s because this is The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and I’m neither a politician nor a professor. I like to think of myself as a perpetual student. Perhaps some of my anxiety has to do with the fact that I’ve been told that a future President of the United States might very well be in this audience. And if that’s true, I’m sure she will be the one to ask me the toughest questions. I’m saying that because I had a wonderful lunch with some of the students yesterday. Their knowledge, their enthusiasm, their optimism was truly inspiring.

I’m very honored to be invited here. This invitation has a special meaning for me because it involves my convictions and not just my career.

The subject of my talk is the artist as citizen. I guess I can call myself an artist, although after thirty years, the word still feels a bit pretentious. But I am, first and foremost, a citizen: a tax-paying, voting, concerned American citizen who happens to have opinions — a lot of them — which seems to bother some people. So I’m going to try to say something about those two roles.

This is an important moment to deal with this subject because so much of what the artist needs to flourish and survive is at risk now.

When I was asked to speak here a year ago, I was much more optimistic. We had seven women in the Senate, bringing the hope of full representation for more than half the population. And, we had a President who judged our ethnic, cultural and artistic diversity as a source of strength rather than weakness.

Then came the election of 1994, and suddenly the progress of the recent past seemed threatened by those who hunger for the “good old days” when women and minorities knew their place. In this resurgent reactionary mood, artists derided as the “cultural elite” are convenient objects of scorn; and those institutions which have given Americans access to artistic works — such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — are in danger of being abolished.

From my point of view, this is part of the profound conflict between those who would widen freedom and those who would narrow it; between those who defend tolerance and those who view it as a threat.

All great civilizations have supported the arts. However, the new Speaker of the House, citing the need to balance the budget, insists that the arts programs should be the first to go. But the government’s contribution to the NEA and PBS is actually quite meager. To put it in perspective, the entire budget of the NEA is equal to one F-22 fighter jet — a plane that some experts say may not even be necessary. And the Pentagon is planning to buy 442 of them. One less plane and we’ve got the whole arts budget. 72 billion dollars for those planes. Now that’s real money. On the other hand, PBS costs each taxpayer less than one dollar a year and National Public Radio costs them 29 cents.

So maybe it’s not about balancing the budget. Maybe it’s about shutting the minds and mouths of artists who might have something thought-provoking to say.

William Bennett, in calling recently for the elimination of the Arts agencies, charged that they were corrupt for supporting artists whose work undermines “mainstream American values.” Well, art does not exist only to entertain — but also to challenge one to think, to provoke, even to disturb, in a constant search for the truth. To deny artists, or any of us, for that matter, free expression and free thought — or worse, to force us to conform to some rigid notion of “mainstream American values” — is to weaken the very foundation of our democracy.

The far right is waging a war for the soul of America by making art a partisan issue. And by trying to cut these arts programs, which bring culture, education and joy into the lives of ordinary Americans, they are hurting the very people they claim to represent. (By the way, I also find it ironic that Newt Gingrich said that “the NEA and PBS are protected by a bunch of rich upper-class people.” Isn’t it a little hypocritical to lobby for tax cuts for these same rich upper class people, but resent them when they try to protect the arts?)

The persistent drumbeat of cynicism on the talk shows and in the new Congress reeks of disrespect for the arts and artists. But what else is new? Even Plato said that artists were nothing but troublemakers and he wanted to ban poets from his perfect Republic. In Victorian times there were signs requiring actors and dogs to eat in the kitchen. As recently as last year, artists who have spoken out politically have been derided as airheads, bubbleheads, and nitwits. And this is not just by someone like Rush Limbaugh, who has called people in my industry the “spaced-out Hollywood left.” This is also the rhetoric of respectable publications.

For example, the editor of The New Republic wrote of actors: “In general, they are an excruciating bunch of egomaniacs. They have little to say for themselves… and their politics are uniformly idiotic.” To me — this is all about jealousy. He specifically singled out Paul Newman, Whoopi Goldberg, and Tom Hanks as subjects for his wrath after last year’s Academy Awards.

What is the sin? Is it caring about your country? Why should the actor give up his role as citizen just because he’s in show business? For his role in the movie “Philadelphia,” Tom Hanks had to learn quite a bit about being a gay man with AIDS. Should he have remained silent on this issue? For 30 years, Paul Newman has been an outspoken defender of civil liberties and a major philanthropist. Would it be better if he just made money and played golf? Should Whoopi Goldberg retreat into her home and not do anything for the homeless? Or, is Robert Redford a bubblehead because he knows more about the environment than most members of Congress?

Imagine talking about the leaders of any other group in our society this way — say, leaders of the steelworkers union, agribusiness, or chief executives of the automobile industry. Imagine having this kind of contempt for an industry that is second only to aerospace in export earnings abroad. According to Business Week, Americans spent 340 billion dollars on entertainment in 1993. Maybe policy makers could learn something from an industry that makes billions while the government owes trillions.

The presumption is that people in my profession are too insulated, too free-thinking, too subversive. One can almost hear the question — are you now or have you ever been a member of the Screen Actors Guild? Never mind that the former president of our guild did become President of the United States. The Hollywood smear only seems to apply to liberals. With no special interest and serving no personal or financial agenda, artists make moral commitments to many issues that plague our society. Indeed, this participation often makes artists vulnerable professionally. They take the risk of offending part of their audience or their government. As the record of the Hollywood blacklist demonstrates, they can even pay the price of serving time in jail. having their works banned, or being prevented from practicing their craft.

Ironically, contempt for the artist as citizen is often expressed by those most eager to exploit the celebrity of the entertainer. Both journalists and politicians feed off the celebrity status of the successful artist. We can attract a crowd and raise astounding amounts of money for the politicians — and make good copy for the journalists. Which is precisely why we are courted — and resented — by both. I recall various leading newspapers and magazines trying to entice Hollywood celebrities to join their tables at the White House Correspondents dinner, only to trash them afterwards. You can just hear them thinking — you make money, you’re famous — you have to have political opinions too?

But we, as people, are more than what we do — as performers, professors or plumbers — we also are, we also should be — participants in the larger life of society.

In the old days of the dominant movie studios, an artist wasn’t allowed to express political opinions. But with the breakup of the studio system, creative people gained independence. And with the rise of the women’s, environmental and gay rights movements, there has been an increase in artists who support liberal causes. Why is that?

Well, most artists turn up on the humanist, compassionate side of public debate, because this is consistent with the work we do. The basic task of the artist is to explore the human condition. In order to do what we do well, the writer, the director, the actor has to inhabit other people’s psyches, understand other people’s problems. We have to walk in other people’s shoes and live in other people’s skins. This does tend to make us more sympathetic to politics that are more tolerant. In our work, in our preparation, and in our research, we are continuously trying to educate ourselves. And with learning comes compassion. Education is the enemy of bigotry and hate. It’s hard to hate someone you truly understand.

Our participation in politics is a natural outgrowth of what we do, and it can and should be a responsible use of celebrity. Since we do have the ability to raise issues, reach people, and influence opinion, as with Charlton Heston lobbying against gun control and, thank God, for the NEA, we do have a greater responsibility to be informed.

I’m not here to defend everything that comes out of the entertainment industry. A lot of junk is produced; gratuitously violent, sexist, exploitative and debasing of the human spirit. I don’t like it and I won’t defend it. This is a profit-driven industry that produces the best and the worst in its attempt to find a market. If you notice the far right rarely attacks the violent movies — in fact, their candidates campaign alongside some of the major practitioners of this so-called art form.

What disturbs them is often the best work of the mass media. They have attacked programming, beginning with “All in the Family,” because it dealt with the controversial issues of racism and sexism. They attacked “Murphy Brown,” which represents a thoughtful attempt to deal with the reality that Americans now lead lives which, for better or for worse, are very different than the lives of Ozzie and Harriet.

Art is the signature of a generation; artists have a way of defining the times. Marion Anderson, singing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial because, as a black woman, she was forbidden to sing at Constitution Hall, forced Americans to confront the outrageousness of segregation. Art can illuminate, enlighten, inspire. Art finds a way to be constructive. It becomes heat in cold places; it becomes light in dark places.

When there was chaos in the Sixties, Bob Dylan said it was like “Blowin’ in the Wind.” During the riots of the Sixties, when people tried to explain the inexplicable, Aretha Franklin sang, simply what was being asked for, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

Then there are the movies that spoke for their times. The movie version of John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” brought the sad reality of the Depression home to those who wanted to ignore it. In the 1940s, a movie called “Gentleman’s Agreement” raised the issue of anti-semitism in America. “In the Heat of the Night” was named Best Picture of 1967, and is remembered for its unsparing look at the issue of race. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” focused on buying votes and favors — a problem we still haven’t solved. A generation ago, “Inherit the Wind” took on the Scopes trial and the subordination of science to one narrow religious view — and the movie is powerfully relevant today in light of the Christian Coalition’s efforts to reintroduce creationism into the public school curriculum.

Just last year, we saw a motion picture called “Schindler’s List” bring the subject of the Holocaust to millions of people around the world. Steven Spielberg rescued it from fading newsreels and recast it in black and white film, which makes it vivid and real — and yes, undeniable.

Moviemakers can be late to a subject, or afraid, but often they are brave and ahead of their time. Artists were criticized for their involvement in the civil rights struggle and their early opposition to the Vietnam War. In those cases at least, I would suggest that the painters and performers were wiser than most pundits and politicians.

I’m not suggesting that actors run the country; we’ve already tried that. But I am suggesting, for example, that on the issue of AIDS, I would rather have America listen to Elizabeth Taylor, who had the courage to sponsor the first major fund-raiser against this dreaded disease, than to Jesse Helms, who has consistently fought legislation that would fund AIDS research.

Our role as artist is more controversial now because there are those, claiming the absolute authority of religion, who detest much of our work as much as they detest most of our politics. Instead of rationally debating subjects like abortion or gay rights, they condemn as immoral those who favor choice and tolerance. They disown their own dark side and magnify everyone else’s until, at the extreme, doctors are murdered in the name of protecting life. I wonder, who is this God they invoke, who is so petty and mean? Is God really against gun control and food stamps for poor children?

All people need spiritual values in their lives. But we can’t reduce the quest for eternal meaning to a right wing political agenda. What is dangerous about the far right is not that it takes religion seriously — most of us do — but rather that it condemns all other spiritual choices — the Buddhist, the Jew, the Muslim, and many others who consider themselves to be good Christians. The wall of separation between church and state is needed precisely because religion, like art, is too important a part of the human experience to be choked by the hands of censors.

Artists have long felt the stranglehold of censorship by officially established religions. A sixteenth century Pope ordered loincloths painted on the figures in Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment”; nineteenth century clerics damned Walt Whitman. Tolstoy was viewed as a heretic; and today, Islamic extremists, sanctioned by governments, are still hunting down Salman Rushdie.

It’s interesting that Americans applaud artists in other parts of the world for speaking out, in China for example. It’s very often the artist who gives a voice to the voiceless by speaking up when no one else will. The playwright Vaclev Havel went to jail because of that. Now he’s the president of his country.

I know that I can speak more eloquently through my work than through any speech I might give. So, as an artist, I’ve chosen to make films about subjects and social issues I care about, whether it’s dealing with the inequality of women in “Yentl,” or producing a film about Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer, who was discharged from the army for telling the truth about her sexuality. Her story reminded me of a line from George Bernard Shaw’s “St. Joan” that said “He who tells too much truth shall surely be hanged.” Hopefully we won’t be hanged for trying to dispel some of the myths about gays and lesbians when the film airs next week on network TV.

I promised myself I wouldn’t get too partisan here. Some of my best customers are Republicans. When I sang in Washington DC, I asked the audience for a show of party allegiance, and a majority turned out to be Republican. I should have known; who else could afford those ticket prices?

Fortunately, there are reasonable Republicans. But I am worried about the direction in which the new Congress now seeks to take the country. I’m worried about the name calling, the stereotypical labeling. I want to believe that these people have good intentions, but I think it was dangerous when Newt Gingrich developed a strategy in the last campaign of pitting President Clinton against so-called “normal Americans.” Just last week, the Speaker attacked again when he said, and I quote: “I fully expect Hollywood to have almost no concept of either normal American behavior, in terms of healthy families, healthy structures, religious institutions, conservative politics, the free enterprise system.”

This from a politician who holds up a Hollywood movie, “Boy’s Town,” as his answer to welfare reform? And how can he say that Hollywood doesn’t know anything about free enterprise? And why just this past Wednesday — was he trying to round up Hollywood celebrities to promote his agenda? But most of all, I deeply resent the notion that one politician or political party owns the franchise on family values, personal responsibility, traditional values and religion.

We are all normal Americans, even with our problems and complexities, including people in my community. We were not born in movie studios. We come from every part of this country and most of us are self-made. We’ve worked hard to get where we are and we don’t forget where we came from, whether it’s Iowa, Cincinnati or Brooklyn.

This notion of “normal Americans” has a horrible historical echo. It presupposes that there are “abnormal” Americans who are responsible for all that is wrong. The new scapegoats are members of what Gingrich calls the “Counterculture McGoverniks.”

I did a concert for George McGovern in 1972, and I still think that he would have made a better President than Richard Nixon. I’m disappointed that I’ve read so little in defense of McGovern. Was McGovern countercultural? This son of a Republican Methodist minister has been married to the same woman for 51 years and flew 35 combat missions in World War II. Isn’t it odd that his patriotism be disputed by a person who never served in the military and whose own family history can hardly be called exemplary. But then again — no one should have to conform to some mythical concept of the ideal family — not even Mr. Gingrich.

I must admit that I’m confused by this man’s thinking. He proposes taking children away from poor mothers and placing them in orphanages. If that’s an example of mainstream culture, let me say I’m happy to be a member of the counterculture.

I’m also very proud to be a liberal. Why is that so terrible these days? The liberals were liberators — they fought slavery, fought for women to have the right to vote, fought against Hitler, Stalin, fought to end segregation, fought to end apartheid. Thanks to liberals we have Social Security, public education, consumer and environmental protection, Medicare and Medicaid, the minimum wage law, unemployment compensation. Liberals put an end to child labor and they even gave us the 5 day work week! What’s to be ashamed of? Such a record should be worn as a badge of honor!

Liberals have also always believed in public support for the arts. At the height of the Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration, which helped struggling artists. Willem deKooning, Jackson Pollack, and John Cage were among those who benefited from the support of the WPA.

Art was a way out for me. I represent a generation of kids who happened to benefit from government support of the arts in public schools. I was a member of the choral club at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn. Sadly, this current generation of young people does not have the same opportunities.

How can we accept a situation in which there are no longer orchestras, choruses, libraries or art classes to nourish our children? We need more support for the arts, not less — particularly to make this rich world available to young people whose vision is choked by a stark reality. How many children, who have no other outlet in their lives for their grief, have found solace in an instrument to play or a canvas to paint on? When you take into consideration the development of the human heart, soul and imagination, don’t the arts take on just as much importance as math or science?

What can I say: I have opinions. No one has to agree. I just like being involved. After many years of self-scrutiny, I’ve realized that the most satisfying feelings come from things outside myself. And I believe that people from any walk of life, when they stand up for their convictions, can do almost anything — stop wars, end injustices, and even defeat entrenched powers.

As the difference between the elections of 1992 and 1994 shows, the outcome is not pre-ordained; progress, whatever your definition of it, is not inevitable. I thought this current administration was doing a helluva good job: reducing the deficit by 700 billion dollars, creating 6 million jobs, downsizing government and passing a significant amount of important legislation. I’m not a policy wonk, but that’s the way I see it.

Most artists are not experts, but all of us are something more. As President Carter said in 1980, “In a few days, I will lay down my official responsibilities in this office, to take up once more the only title in our democracy superior to that of President, the title of citizen.”

We also need to keep in mind some words spoken by the man for whom this school of government is named. President Kennedy said he valued so much what artists could give because they “knew the midnight as well as the high noon [and] understood the ordeal as well as the triumph of the human spirit.” He also said, “In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation.”

By the way, President Kennedy was the first to suggest the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Well aware that art can be controversial, he concluded, “[the artist] must often sail against the currents of his time. This is not a popular role.”

But in 1995, I continue to believe it is an indispensable one — that artists, especially those who have had success, and have won popularity in their work, not only have the right, but the responsibility, to risk the unpopularity of being committed and active.

We receive so much from our country; we can and should give something back.

So, until women are treated equally with men, until gays and minorities are not discriminated against and until children have their full rights, artists must continue to speak out. I will be one of them. Sorry, Rush, Newt and Jesse, but the artist as citizen is here to stay.

Barbra Streisand's speech republished under fair use exemption for educational purposes. 

Protesters, Police Clash After Fatal Police Shooting in Charlotte, NC

Demonstrations erupted after a black man was shot and killed by police on Tuesday

Protesters clashed with police after the fatal police shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Reuters)

Protests erupted late Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina after police officer fatally shot a black man while attempting to serve a warrant on a separate individual. The demonstrators clashed with police in riot gear, several people were injured, and five protesters were ultimately arrested, the New York Times reports.

The Los Angeles Times writes that tear gas was used by police, about a dozen police officers were hurt, and a highway was eventually shut down as the demonstrations continued into early Wednesday.

Police, according to reports, say that 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott was armed and "posed an imminent deadly threat" before he was fatally shot Tuesday afternoon by Charlotte-Mecklenburg officer Brentley Vinson, who is also black. Scott's family disputes the police account, saying that he was disabled, unarmed, and reading a book in his car when he was shot.

The Guardian described the contradictory accounts surrounding Scott's death:

Police said officers went to a Charlotte apartment complex around 4pm looking for a suspect with an outstanding warrant when they encountered Scott, who was not the suspect they were looking for, inside a car.

According to department spokesman Keith Trietley, officers saw the man get out the car with a gun and then get back in. When officers approached the car, the man got out of the car with the gun again. At that point, officers deemed the man a threat and at least one fired a weapon, he said. A weapon was recovered by detectives at the scene.

According to police, officers immediately began rendering aid after the shots were fired. Scott, a father of seven, was pronounced dead at Carolinas Medical Center.

The police version is at odds with that of Scott's family who have insisted that he was disabled, sitting in his car reading a book, and had no gun. "He sits in the shade, reads his book and waits on his kid to get off the bus," Scott's sister told reporters. "He didn't have no gun, he wasn't messing with nobody."

"As protests swelled on Tuesday night, police used tear gas in an attempt to disperse crowds heard yelling 'Black lives matter,' and 'Hands up, don't shoot!' One person held up a sign saying 'Stop killing us'; another sign said: 'It was a book,'" the Guardian adds.

"In statements the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department distinguished between 'agitators' and 'demonstrators,' blaming the former for damaging police vehicles and causing injuries to at least a dozen officers. One officer was reportedly struck in the face with a rocks," notes the Guardian.

The Los Angeles Times reports that "Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts appealed for calm and tweeted that 'the community deserves answers.'"

The fatal police shooting in Charlotte came only a few days after police in Tulsa, Oklahoma shot and killed an unarmed black man, at a moment when the Movement for Black Lives has created a national debate on police brutality that activists say disproportionately targets black communities.

Republished with permission under license from CommonDreams.

Rights Groups Demand Justice for Unarmed Black Man Shot and Killed by Tulsa Police

"Today, four children are without a father, a mother without a son, a sister without a brother, and a community wondering how many more black lives will be destroyed before America stands up and says 'never again.'"

Tiffany Crutcher reacts to her twin brother's death in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo: Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)

Civil rights groups and family members of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Friday, are demanding justice for the slain father of four.

Dashboard and helicopter footage released late Monday shows Crutcher with his hands in the air as four white police officers approach him, guns drawn and pointed at him, in the moments before he was shot. Video footage of the shooting can be viewed below. (Warning: footage is graphic and may be disturbing.)

Crutcher's death is the latest fatal shooting of an African-American person by police at a moment when the Movement for Black Lives has created a national debate on police brutality that activists say disproportionately targets black communities.

"The murder of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, by a Tulsa police officer is yet another reminder that our nation's law enforcement departments need radical change,"said Lecia Brooks, outreach director at the Southern Poverty Law Center. "Today, four children are without a father, a mother without a son, a sister without a brother, and a community wondering how many more black lives will be destroyed before America stands up and says 'never again.'"

"It's time for everybody to demand that this stops and that justice is served," said Crutcher's twin sister, who appeared devastated during a press conference on Tuesday:

Crutcher's family says his car had broken down in the middle of the road, and that Crutcher had just left the vehicle to seek help when police arrived.

"They treated him like a criminal," added one of the family's lawyers, Benjamin Crump. "They treated him like a suspect. They did not treat him like somebody in distress who needed help. Instead of giving him a hand, they gave him bullets."

The 40-year-old husband and father had no criminal record. The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it is investigating the shooting.

"[The Tulsa police officers’] actions were immoral, reprehensible, and outright criminal." —Brady Henderson, ACLU of Oklahoma

"As the Department of Justice investigates this case, we must confront the racism embedded so deeply in police practices and demand change now," Brooks said.

"As Terence's family and community plead for peaceful protests and level heads, today's promise of an independent federal investigation perhaps will bring some hope for peaceful resolution to a community that has been brutally betrayed by the people sworn to protect it," said legal director of the ACLU of Oklahoma Brady Henderson.

"If this killing is investigated competently and fairly, I believe we will see murder or manslaughter charges against the shooter, and hopefully accessory charges against the officers who treated Terence Crutcher like a piece of meat rather than a human being. Their actions were immoral, reprehensible, and outright criminal," Henderson continued. "Putting Terence's killer and her companions behind bars won't bring Terrence back, but it is a necessary part of repairing the broken bond between police and communities of color, a rift that continues to claim lives."

The officer who shot Crutcher, Betsy Shelby, is white. She said she thought Crutcher was behaving as though he was on PCP, and that Crutcher was not cooperating before she fatally shot him. Shelby has been placed on paid administrative leave.

The police officers did not offer first aid to Crutcher for over two minutes after he was shot. In the video footage, he is shown lying prone on the street while blood pools around him.

The fatal shooting occurred only three days before the suspect in the New York and New Jersey bomb incidents, Ahmad Khan Rahami, was arrested alive despite engaging in a gun battle with police officers. The contrast between Rahami's arrest and Crutcher's treatment was one that several observers pointed out in the wake of Crutcher's death.

"Can African-Americans all over the country get a little of that Ahmad Khan Rahami treatment?" asked Black Lives Matter activist and journalist Shaun King. "The family of Terence Crutcher could've really used some of that Ahmad Khan Rahami police work."

Republished with permission under license from CommonDreams.

SPLC Statement on the Death of Terence Crutcher

Yesterday, authorities in Tulsa, Oklahoma, released dashboard and aerial video capturing the killing by police of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man. 

Lecia Brooks, Outreach Director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, released the following statement in response to the event: 

"The murder of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, by a Tulsa police officer is yet another reminder that our nation’s law enforcement departments need radical change. Today, four children are without a father, a mother without a son, a sister without a brother, and a community wondering how many more black lives will be destroyed before America stands up and says 'never again.' As the Department of Justice investigates this case, we must confront the racism embedded so deeply in police practices and demand change now."

The Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.


Colin Kaepernick Is Not Alone Anymore – Fellow Athletes Join His Protest

Colin Kaepernick is the latest athlete following the example of Muhammad Ali and others using their celebrity status to bring attention to injustice and oppression to bring about change. Many Black people had become so accustomed or comfortable with the status quo, that many of us were not speaking out when we should. Others have remained silent because of fear of lossing their job or being criticized. However, there comes a point at which a person must ask themself, how much disrespect, humiliation, injustice and oppression are they willing to accept and ignore. 

Unfortunately, at least one black high profile former 49ers great, Jerry Rice, has been critical when he said, 'All Lives Matter,' Kaepernick should 'respect the flag'. During last year's debate about the Confederate Battle Flag, we pointed out similarities between the history of oppression and injustice that occurred under the U.S. Flag. 

Victims of their own ignorance

Jerry Rice and others are victims of their own ignorance. Rice obviously doesn't know the racist history behind the "National Anthem". “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was written by Francis Scott Key, a slave owner, about the Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812. One of the key British tactics during the war was active recruitment of American slaves. 

The "Star-Spangled Banner" as originally written contained four verses, however, only the first verse is associated with our National Anthem. The third verse, celebrating the death of slaves who’d freed themselves, contains:  "No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave". 

Francis Scott Key was Washington D.C.'s District Attorney from 1833-1840 and he used his office and its influence to vehemently defend slavery. Key prosecuted a doctor who lived in Georgetown for possessing abolitionist pamphlets. In the case of U.S. v. Reuben Crandall, Key sought to have the defendant hanged, asserting the property rights of slave owners carried more weight than the free speech rights of those arguing to abolish slavery. Key conspired with pro-slavery Congressmen to pass a series of "gag rules"  in 1836 to quash all anti-slavery petitions and prevent them from being read or discussed.

Meritorious manumission was the legal act of freeing a slave because of some distinguished service to his white master, including snitching on or some other betrayal of fellow slaves. A legacy of meritorious manumission is the "House Negro" where some in the Black community are still willing to sell out others within the community in order to increase their own level of comfort or wealth at the expense of others. Some are so brainwashed by a lifetime of propaganda that they don't even realize that they are participants in a racialized process.

Colin Kaepernick has been taking a whole lot of heat since he made the decision to sit during the national anthem in protest of the way people of color are treated in the United States. On Thursday night, Kaepernick once again refused to stand while the Star Spangled Banner was sung, but this time, he wasn’t the only one.

Kaepernick was joined in his protest Thursday night by fellow 49er Eric Reid, a safety, who knelt beside the quarterback as the national anthem rang out through the stadium before they played the San Diego Chargers. Reid also serves as the representative for the player’s union and has been supportive of Kaepernick all week, despite the uproar over his protest.

"I believe in what [Kaepernick] is doing," Reid told ESPN. "I believe that there are issues in this country—many issues, too many to name. It's not one particular issue. But there are people out there that feel there are injustices being made and happening in our country on a daily basis. I just wanted to show him I support him. I know there are other people in this country that feel the same way."

When the song ended, the two players stood and embraced. "It was amazing," Kaepernick told ESPN. "Me and Eric had many conversations and he approached me and said 'I support what you're doing, I support what your message is, let's think about how we can do this together.' We talked about it at length and we wanted to make sure the message that we're trying to send isn't lost with the actions that come along with it."

Those actions have now expanded, as Kaepernick on Thursday pledged to donate $1 million of his salary to community organizations focused on social justice causes.

"I've been very blessed to be in this position and make the kind of money I do, and I have to help these people. I have to help these communities," he said. "It's not right that they're not put in the position to succeed, or given the opportunities to succeed."

"The message is that we have a lot of issues in this country that we have to deal with. We have a lot of people that are oppressed, we have a lot of people that aren't treated equally, aren't given equal opportunities. Police brutality is a huge thing that needs to be addressed," he added.

However, it is not only his teammates who are joining Kaepernick’s protest. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane also sat while the national anthem was sung on Thursday night before the start of their game against the Oakland Raiders. In Oakland, Lane was the only member of either team to sit down during the anthem. He said he didn't know Kaepernick personally, but was "standing behind" him. After the game, he said, "It's something I plan to keep doing until I feel like justice is being served."

As of Saturday afternoon, Kaepernick's has become the top-selling jersey overall in the team shop, ahead of Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, NaVorro Bowman, and the customizable jerseys. We're excited to see the support people are demonstrating. When entertainers and athletes speak up for us, we must stand with them.

The 49ers have played four exhibition games this year and Kaepernick has not stood for the national anthem at any of these games. Nobody seemed to notice until  his first game in uniform, which was last Friday. Kaepernick explained that he wasn’t standing as a protest of the way the lives of minorities are continually snuffed out by those who are sworn to serve and protect them. He noted that the only consequence for these “murders” is a paid vacation.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

It is good to see other teammates and professional football players standing beside Kaepernick and standing up for all African American lives in America. Hopefully, their numbers will grow and they will continue to use the national platform at their disposal to help bring awareness to the systemic racism plaguing not only the country in general but the criminal justice system in particular. 

Active Duty Military Members and Veterans Stand in Support of Kaepernick

U.S. military veterans are speaking out in support of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose protest against the national anthem prompted a wave of criticism claiming he had disrespected veterans by not paying tribute to the American flag.

The hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick took off on Twitter this week in response to the right-wing outrage, and as Kaepernick himself clarified that his sit-down protest was only meant to critique state violence and oppression against people of color.

"I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country," he said Sunday. "I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. [But] people are dying in vain because this country isn't holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody."

The hashtag began trending Tuesday night as veterans posted photos of themselves in their military gear and noted the hypocrisy of the backlash against Kaepernick.

"I'd never try to shame someone with 'patriotism' in order to silence their 1st amend Right,"one wrote.

"Don't use my service—or that of any veteran—to justify the silencing of black Americans. Not on my watch," said another.

Meanwhile, others pointed out that even the national anthem itself has a racist undertone, with one verse ending in a celebration of slavery. And as Oakland, California-based writer Elizabeth Ann Thompson wrote for The Progressive on Tuesday, "instead of being offended and reacting to Kap's protest, we should emulate his teammates in trying to understand where he is coming from. He is giving voice to the voiceless. He is speaking for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and the countless other black and brown folks who are killed by the police every year."

Kudos to you Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid and Jeremy Lane, and Kudos to all the others speaking out in support.

Complete version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" showing spelling and punctuation from Francis Scott Key's manuscript in the Maryland Historical Society collection

O say can you see, by the dawn's early light, What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming, Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight O'er the ramparts we watch'd were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket's red glare, the bomb bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there, O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes, What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep, As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam, In full glory reflected now shines in the stream, 'Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore, That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion A home and a Country should leave us no more? Their blood has wash'd out their foul footstep's pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave, And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation! Blest with vict'ry and peace may the heav'n rescued land Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto – "In God is our trust," And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Some of the material in this post was republished with permission under license from Addicting Info and Common Dreams

DOJ report on Baltimore echoes centuries-old limits on African-American freedom in the Charm City

Police armored cars drive down a Baltimore street following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Jessica Millward

African-American rights in Baltimore have always been in jeopardy. The recently released report from the Department of Justice on the Baltimore Police Department is sobering, but not surprising.

As a scholar of early African-American history in Maryland, I see similarities between laws regarding enslaved and free blacks living in Baltimore prior to the Civil War, and the overpolicing of African-Americans today. African-Americans in antebellum and contemporary Baltimore share the same problem: limits on black freedom.

Antebellum foundations for unequal treatment

On the eve of the American Revolution, Maryland was second only to Virginia in the number of people it held in bondage. By the beginning of the 19th century, the number of free blacks began to rise. Baltimore had a significant free black population well before the 14th Amendment made blacks citizens. According to the 1790 U.S. census, 927 free blacks resided in the county that included Baltimore city. By 1830, Baltimore city and the surrounding county was home to some 17,888 free African-Americans.

Historian Barbara Field notes that the increase of free blacks in Maryland was a direct result of replacing tobacco harvesting, which required a full-time labor source, to wheat. Harvesting wheat did not require a year-round labor supply. Between the change in labor demands and African-Americans protesting their condition, the free black community in Virginia and Maryland grew.

Arrival of freedmen and their families at Baltimore, Maryland
Arrival of freedmen and their families at Baltimore, Maryland – an everyday scene. Library of Congress/Frank Leslie

This was a concern for lawmakers. Laws such as the 1790 Act Related to Freeing Slaves by Will or Testament were designed to extract the maximum amount of labor from the enslaved before they were awarded freedom, or their free black relatives could purchase it for them. This meant enslaved men were freed only when they ceased to be in peak physical condition, and enslaved women were freed after their childbearing years.

Once freed, African-Americans had to show “proof of a sufficient livelihood,” affirming their ability to care for themselves, or otherwise end up in the city jail or re-enslaved. The irony of this proclamation was that once freed, African-Americans found ways to stave off poverty by working in trades similar to the jobs they had while enslaved. If they avoided the county jail, free blacks were subject to curfews and sanctions against traveling. Many counties in Maryland passed laws requiring free blacks to move out of the state for fear they would incite the local enslaved population to rebel.

Perhaps the most alarming attempt to address the problem of black freedom was the development of the American Colonization Society (ACS) and its chapters in antebellum cities such as Baltimore. Under the guise of Christianity and missionary work, the ACS promised enslaved African-Americans all the rights and privileges of freedom, so long as they relocated to Liberia. Organized by white slaveholders, politicians and religious organizations, the ACS offered a solution to both slavery and the rise in free blacks in the United States – resettle blacks outside the country.

Black intellectuals of the time were divided over resettlement campaigns. Abolitionist newspapers published countless articles protesting the efforts of the colonization society. Historian Robert Brugger notes that a group of free blacks surrounded the gangplanks in the Baltimore harbor in an attempt to stop the forced removal of their friends and family to Liberia.

As these 19th-century examples demonstrate, policing African-American freedom has a long history in Baltimore. African-Americans could escape slavery, but they were not truly free. New laws were continually passed to limit, if not completely dismantle, the very few rights they possessed.

Baltimore today: DOJ report documents violations of civil rights

The findings in the DOJ report echo the restrictions on lives of antebellum free blacks in key ways. African-Americans were arrested in greater proportion than their nonblack peers. According to the report:

BPD made roughly 44 percent of its stops in two small, predominantly African-American districts that contain only 11 percent of the City’s population. Consequently, hundreds of individuals — nearly all of them African American – were stopped on at least 10 separate occasions from 2010–2015. Indeed, seven African-American men were stopped more than 30 times during this period.

African-Americans were frequently arrested for loitering. If their presence became a problem, whether real or perceived, Baltimore police exercised a zero-tolerance policy when it came to African-Americans resulting in unlawful searches, seizures and arrests. As in the 19th century, the mere presence of African-Americans provided grounds for arrest.

People gather to remember Freddie Gray and all victims of police violence during a rally outside city hall in Baltimore, Maryland.
People gather to remember Freddie Gray and all victims of police violence during a rally outside city hall in Baltimore, Maryland. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

In the 19th century, attempts were made to remove blacks from society by, among other means, sending them to Liberia or forcing them to move away. Today, arresting and detaining African-Americans quarantines them from the rest of society. If the arrest sticks and the individual is prosecuted and found guilty, he is incarcerated. If convicted of a felony, he is not allowed to vote.

African-Americans make up 44 percent of the Baltimore police force and 63 percent of the population of Baltimore city. As the New York Times points out, “Baltimore’s police department has a lower percentage of blacks than the population it serves. But in contrast to other cities that have been wracked by tension and protests over police confrontations with black men, the city’s mayor, its police commissioner, the state’s attorney are all black, giving a somewhat different tenor to clashes between the power structure and its critics.” Indeed, arguments about policing that exclusively point to racism or bias among officers as the root of the problem don’t hold for cities like Baltimore. I believe the problem is also tied to anti-black aspects of the laws they are tasked with enforcing.

The DOJ report provides a critical opportunity to assess and reform disparities in the legal system, especially as we continually bear witness to the almost daily death dance between African-Americans and the police. It makes clear that African-American rights are in jeopardy. The key difference between African-Amerians in Baltimore then and now is that blacks are now citizens. They are entitled to, among other things, the right to due process under the law.

However, the DOJ findings make clear that African-Americans in Baltimore are disproportionately harassed, searched, detained and, in the case of Freddie Gray, murdered. The fear is not that the DOJ report has unmasked truths that we prefer to deny. The fear is that there will be a failure to reform the system in light of these findings. Greater than the fear is the reality that policing black citizens will continue to include practices that are eerily reminiscent of the past.

Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.

Jessica Millward is an Associate Professor of History, University of California, Irvine

Dr. Millward's first book, Finding Charity’s Folk: Enslaved and Free Black women in Maryland was published in Fall 2015 as part of the Race in the Atlantic World series, Athens: University of Georgia Press. She is also working on two additional projects. The first is centered on migration and citizenship in the Black Atlantic, 1770-1860. The other focuses on African American women's experiences with sexual assault and intimate partner violence through the end of the 19th century.

Millward writes commentary on topics related to slavery, African American women and US History.