Tag Archive: police

Eric Garner no-indictment decision draws massive protests all over U.S. and actions in New Jersey

Tonight, in New York City, Dallas, Baltimore, Washington DC., Boston, Minneapolis, Denver, Chicago, San Francisco,  Oakland there were massive protests, and streets and bridges shut down in protest of the grand jury decisions not to indict police officers involved in the deaths of #EricGarner in Staten Island and #MikeBrown in Ferguson.

You can debate the tactic, whether street action is the most effective agent of change. I would argue that when you see tens of thousands of people have seen something so awful happen that the must step out on the streets and raise their voices, something is going on, and they are demanding attention be paid. There are a lot of young people helping to drive this, and Twitter is among the ways word is spreading. Today, in recognition of Twitter’s role, this was painted onto a wall at Twitter HQ. @CoryBooker also used Twitter to call for federal investigation into Garner’s death.

Here is some of what happened in New Jersey today in response to the Mike Brown and Eric Garner no-indictment decisions:

Ferguson – The Psychology of Riots and Poverty

The rare non-NJ-specific post. Because most of us were watching last night, and some of us may be attending gatherings today in Montclair, Cherry Hill, Newark, Princeton or elsewhere. Promoted by Rosi. 

I'm not going to sit here and Monday morning quarterback the jury's decision. I don't have all the evidence, you don't have all the evidence the grand jury saw. We just…don't…know. But I wanted to address something else.

I've seen a lot of people decrying the rioting and looting behavior. While I agree – it's reprehensible, I also like to come at this from a psychological perspective. Some people – usually conservatives come at this with an eye towards compassion for the people whose property is being damaged and the horrible behavior of the rioters. Others come at this with an additional compassion for the rioters themselves. Conservatives are far more likely though to be “for” the police and good people who are being damaged. Why? 

Trenton mural of Ferguson’s Michael Brown painted over at police request

Trenton mural- Mike Brown of Ferguson Mo.
This mural of Ferguson’s Mike Brown, was painted over at police request.


A mural of Michael Brown, who was shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson Missouri, has been painted over in Trenton at the request of local police. Artists from the Sage Coalition painted it two weeks ago. Artist Will “Kasso” Condry said he wanted the mural to start a conversation about racial profiling. I guess it did that, given that it didn’t last a month without Trenton police convincing the Trenton Downtown Association that it sent a negative message, and should come down.

The Sage Coalition is a known quantity in Trenton, and though I’m not a city resident, and might be missing something here, I find it hard to understand why the powers that be there didn’t trust their judgement. The mural was painted on a metal gate to a vacant store; covering up an illegal liquor store ad with art that people were talking about, that meant something to people. The Sage Coalition has a history in Trenton. Block parties during which they help people make and install art over the windows of vacant buildings, creative workshops conducted by local people for local people, gallery shows, live music, even turning vacant lots into community gardens, teaching people how to grow food and “bringing Trenton’s soil back to life.”

The Coalition is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and one of its projects is a gallery owned by the Trenton Downtown Association – which made the ultimate decision to paint over the mural – but run by SAGE. So, I hope that this decision doesn’t damage that relationship.

A video of the mural being painted over like graffiti is below the fold. It was posted by artist Byron Marshall, who goes by Black Collar Biz. He told Trenton Times reporter Jenna Pizzi that the mural wasn’t about “us against you.” In the video, you can hear a man telling the graffiti blaster team he knows they’re just doing their job for their pay, but [the mural] aint causing any trouble. “Mike Brown. You can’t talk about that in Trenton.”

Keith Eric Benson: Pride in Being a Skeptic

What you’ll read below was originally a comment by Keith Eric Benson at Steve Danley’s Local Knowledge Blog, replying to a comment he found odious in a Courier Post editorial. Hat tip to Steve for throwing light on Keith’s words, and to Camden NAACP, which sent the link to their list. Keith is a Camden resident, teacher at Camden High, frequent contributor to Steve’s blog, and a doctoral candidate in the Education, Culture and Society program at Rutgers Graduate School of Education. He is also an activist on behalf of his students. Promoted by Rosi.

The last comment [in this Courier Post editorial -ed] directed at “skeptics” to “shut up and get out of the way”, in my eyes, was so out of line. I think the labeling of people who have legitimate concerns and issues with this contemporary neoliberal directed Camden, and where its headed, as “skeptics” is demeaning and dismissive.

After all, people who being referred to as “skeptics” are the people who live here, and fundamentally are simply asking for the same civic rights and democratic respect that are afforded those in neighboring municipalities.

As a “skeptic” myself, I have a problem when the beneficiaries of good public and private jobs within this 8 square mile city of 97% percent minorities don’t remotely look like the people who reside here. Am skeptical for pointing that out? Am I skeptical when I point out that I can go WEEKS without seeing a black police officer on this newly created County Police Department? Or that I don’t recognize anyone of them as current Camden residents? Am I a “skeptic” when I point out research shows charters schools largely do NO better than traditional public schools? Am I skeptical that every time Gov. Christie comes here to say how much he cares about Camden he has a perimeter set up so that NO resident who is NOT connected to the Norcross machine goes anywhere near him to voice out concerns? Am I skeptic when I get upset that our local reporters ask NO follow-up questions and are not themselves the skeptical gatekeepers of public knowledge they are supposed to be but instead prefer to be the echo chamber for those with power?

For Sen. Shirley Turner to consider: ACLU guidelines for effective use of police body cameras

In the post-Ferguson world, legislatures are looking at ways to increase public trust in the police, increase the transparency and accountability of police conduct, and more accurately document police-public encounters, protecting the public against police misconduct, and helping protect police against false accusations of abuse.

And, to be frank, to clearly record and hopefully prevent  incidents like the one in Ferguson, Missouri where an unarmed teenager is shot and killed by police and differing accounts emerge. The thinking, by advocates, and by the makers of cameras already installed on many police dashboards across the country, is to get the story straight.

Senator Shirley Turner plas to propose legislation requiring police officers statewide to be equipped with body cameras. I think that’s an idea worth considering and I hope to see support from both Democrats and Republicans for this good government idea.

That said, I want to call to Sen. Turner’s attention, if she’s not already aware, that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has worked up some guidelines for how that should be done that I think are worth her considering. And that is particularly because they come from ACLU, which has a history of opposing undue government surveillance. That as a baseline, their support of police body-cams, make their policy suggestions valuable. These include guidelines for protecting the pubic against unreasonable invasion of privacy, preventing evidence from being edited to misguide how recordings should be used, and how long retained.

Here, in greater detail than I should summarize, are ACLU’s policy proposals for effective use of police body cams. I’ll be sending this to Sen. Turner’s office. I hope police chiefs and local municipal officials also give it a read.  

It Takes an Assemblyman being Wronged to get Police Cameras Right

This is cross-posted from the Local Knowledge Blog. Promoted by Rosi.

Over the past few weeks I’ve tried to display some balance amidst the celebratory coverage of the Camden County Police Force. I hope it is possible to celebrate the drop in crime while also acknowledging the politics played with both the department and its numbers over the past few years. More importantly, I think it’s critical to highlight the voices of those, particularly racial minorities, who are having a different experience with the police force. Part of the reason that is critical is that the troubles of Ferguson were underpinned by a lack of voice for that same population. That’s why I found the recent rush to legislation over crime cameras to be such good news, but also indicative of the difficultly we have in listening to vulnerable communities.

No, Camden is not the “un-Ferguson”

This post is cross-posted from the Local Knowledge Blog

Thank you, Stephen, for posting this here. Promoted by Rosi.

It’s always good to see positive news about Camden, so I was tentatively excited to see Kate Zernike’s New York Times article “Camden Turns Around with a New Police Force.” What I saw made me nervous. The New York Times piece shared good news, but without appropriate context or history, and it was framed with a cringe-worthy comparison to Ferguson, while simultaneously, and ironically, discrediting local NAACP leadership. This one tweet, retweeted by Kate Zernike, sums it up by calling Camden the “un-Ferguson.” But it’s not. Camden’s story is more complex than that, and it faces many of the systemic challenges around police treatment of African-Americans and other minorities that simmered under the surface in Ferguson.

Watch: Nutley Commissioner Steve Rogers slams Ferguson’s Capt. Ron Johnson

Gratitude to johnleesandiego (his post here) for tipping us to Nutley Commissioner Steve Rogers’ appearance on Fox & Friends yesterday. Rogers is also an expert in community policing. I consume a fair amount of far-right filtered information because I like to see how they charge up their masses (ask me about my Rush Limbaugh habit – no, don’t). But even I don’t watch Fox & Friends except, rarely, in clips.

So, this, with the host bemoaning “the violence … and the looting!” as though the unrest comes from the ether, is a revelation to me. I should know better. Here, the enormously skilled lawman turned lawbreaker train wreck turned Fox News guest, Rogers and Fox News’ Bo Dietl talk Ferguson.

captain-ron-johnsonRogers has a problem with  Captain Ron Johnson (pictured at right) the widely respected Missouri Highway Patrol lawman now in charge of police in Ferguson. Rogers thinks it’s a problem Johnson didn’t know there was a disconnect between community and police till now. Rogers’ criticism reads like somebody who thinks Johnson’s been in charge all along, instead of being placed there to take charge during an emergency the local chief couldn’t handle. He says Johnson, who is black and originally from the Ferguson area, “took sides,” “emboldened the wrong people” and should be relieved of command. Fox News contributor Bo Dietl, who frankly seems stupid, explains how unarmed Mike Brown got shot in the head: “Bullets go that way.” Behold:

Nutley’s Steve Rogers Supports Military Equipment For The Police

Nutley Commissioner Steve Rogers appeared on Fox & Friends Monday August 18th with a convicted felon and novelist to support military equipment for the local police. The segment was typical Fox hyperbole playing on the fears of older white Americans by pointing out the other.

Bernard Kerik, thrice married, employer of illegal immigrants, and regular on FoxNews spent four years (correction: 36 months served – Rosi) in federal prison.

FoxNews contributor Bo Dietl used the time on camera to fan the flames of racism and intolerance. At one point he claimed that the terrorists are coming back.

Rogers went on about a failure of leadership in goverrnernt and added “Ron Johnson should be relieved of command for this. What he did was embolden the wrong people.” (the wrong people being ‘not the police’)

While Bo Dietl’s comments are the most outrageous, one seriously has to ask why someone rumored to have their eyes on a Congressional seat would appear on a program with people of so little character.

Of course everyone should ask why Rogers didn’t speak out about some of the outrageous assertions made by the other two.

Both Salon and Addicting Info have done great jobs on the main story (Dietl); Rogers support for military vehicles should be of concern of Garden State residents as he has already launched a “Re-elect Steve Rogers Commission” Facebook page in Nutley.

Nothing quite like a bloke receiving two government pensions supporting even more government interference in our lives.  

Protesters, Police and Molotov Cocktails in Ferguson, Mo. Make for a Disturbing Mix

As the conflict in Ferguson, Missouri continues into its fifth day, we see a disturbing narrative unfolding. But based on the knowledge and documentation we already have, there are some observations I’d like to make.

First, the police shooting of Michael Brown needs to be vigorously investigated by state and Federal authorities. Witnesses and police are providing contradictory testimony, and this needs to be examined carefully. Either Brown was gunned down by police in cold blood or justifiably killed while in the process of attempting a homicide…this is a pivotal issue. And the community has a right to see this justice through in an open, public legal forum.

But then there is the larger question of whether or not the police overreacted against protesters with excessive use of force. Now here is where, from my perspective, things get complicated.

Yes, there were peaceful demonstrations. We’ve seen that. And there seems to have been open acts of civil disobedience. That’s documented too. These demonstrations and like acts are being undertaken by a population that has every right to express itself in order to promote genuine social change. As Americans, that’s our way. In our schools we lionize past activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks for speaking truth to power; for standing up against authority and hatred for the cause of fundamental fairness.

But I won’t just brush away police actions and the concerns of law enforcement. And I’ll tell you why. It is because there is another element in the demonstrations that, frankly, are not making any secret that they’re organizing and arming themselves, and in the process of trying to kill cops.

Over the past few nights, journalists and civic activists have presented dozens of photographs of large crowds of young men gathering together on the streets, creating “Molotov Cocktails” and throwing these weapons at police.

I think it does a real disservice to the public to even use the term “Molotov Cocktail,” because most Americans simply do not know what it means. A Molotov Cocktail is a firebomb, plain and simple. It is a small but highly effective and cruel weapon designed to roast people alive. The weapon is created when gasoline or some other flammable liquid is placed in an empty soda or beer bottle, and a connected rag (usually also doused in gasoline or oil) is lit. The “user” then tosses the bottle towards a target – a police officer in this instance – and then when the bottle cracks the gasoline is released like lava, creating an instant, durable inferno. When you have five or six or ten of these thrown at the same time the effect is, obliviously, intensified. But it takes work and organization to make these crude devices, and those what make them are not exercising some lauded First Amendment right, they’re engaging in murderous acts of combat.

So in one respect, I can see how people, viewing this situation from afar, feel that that the police are overreacting. But not in every instance, not by a long shot. Amongst these protesters are people – right now at least dozens of them – who are actively, intensively attempting to slay police officers. So how are police supposed to react to this sort of situation? Or are they just expected to sit there and, like in a scene right out of the Spanish Inquisition, be incinerated alive?

And please don’t reply by saying that this is some minor detail, that it is somehow  “besides the point.” These well documented actions will go on to haunt all the other protesters, because later, when they press their criminal and civil cases against the Ferguson police in courts of law, the police will cite these specific events in defending their decisons. And it will leave judges and juries in a quandary and create a lot of reasonable doubt in favor of law enforcement. Bottom line: you don’t have the right to actively attempt to murder police officers. It’s not noble. It’s not in the tradition of progressive nonviolence. It’s not the legal, acceptable or decent way to promote social change in America.