Mr. Chauvin was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs and will be sentenced in eight weeks. Credit...Still image, via Court TV
Update: Mumia is Recovering from Surgery!
Tuesday April 20 morning update: We just heard from the medical attorneys that Mumia is recovering well from the surgery. Mumia is getting minimal oxygen and one IV which is a good sign. We have not yet heard from Mumia but we expect he will be able to call his family today. We need to see him, hear from him, and know that he has the proper rehabilitation plan. Mumia's wife Wadiya says "I won't know he is ok until i hear from him directly."
Questions and comments may be sent to: email@example.com
PROTEST TO FREE MUMIA
Today, April 20th and Saturday, April 24th
Former Black Panther and revolutionary journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and congestive heart failure. He was hospitalized for four days, and each of his limbs were shackled separately to the hospital bed. The shackles dug into his skin and caused horrific injuries. Now he is in the hospital awaiting heart surgery for blocked arteries!
The Only Treatment is Freedom. Join us for demonstrations to call for Mumia’s release!
1. April 20th, 2021: Protest at KQED Headquarters, 50 Beale St., San Francisco—Protest against Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner, who is trying to keep Mumia imprisoned for life. Krasner is the star of a new PBS documentary, “Philly D.A.”
2. April 24th, 2021 (Mumia’s Birthday)—March and Car Caravan, Oscar Grant Plaza (14th and Broadway) to Alameda County Courthouse, 1221 Fallon Street—Rally on the steps of the Alameda County Courthouse, where the Panthers demonstrated for Huey Newton, on Mumia’s Birthday!
What You Can Do Now
KQED is broadcasting a new, eight-part documentary series “Philly D.A.” about progressive D.A. Larry Krasner. Krasner who opposes Mumia’s appeal from his frame-up conviction and repeats the lies of the Philadelphia Police and the Fraternal Order of Police about Mumia’s case in his brief.
Mumia’s supporters are demanding that KQED give equal time to broadcast a documentary showing Mumia’s innocence, and a video recorded by Colin Kaepernick on behalf of Mumia.
Go to the Comments page for “Philly D.A.” and demand that KQED give equal time to Mumia Abu-Jamal when “Philly D.A.” shows.
“District Attorney Larry Krasner opposes Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeal from his frame-up conviction, despite mountains of evidence showing that Mumia was framed.
KQED should provide equal time to Mumia Abu-Jamal to explain his innocence and highlight Krasner’s failure to defend an innocent man when the key interests of the Philadelphia police and the powerful politicians who support them are involved.”
A Tribute to the Life, Activism, and Legacy of Ernie Tate
About this Event
We warmly welcome you to join us for a tribute to the life, activism and legacy of Ernie Tate (1934-2021).
Ernie Tate believed capitalism is a cruel and unjust system that has to be changed. Ernie was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1934 and emigrated to Canada in 1955. As a Marxist, union activist and revolutionary, Ernie spent his life working to achieve that in organizing against the war in Vietnam, in union struggles at Toronto Hydro, for protecting universal healthcare and living wages, and much else. Ernie, along with Tariq Ali, was a leading organizer of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign in Britain, worked for Bertrand Russell’s International War Crimes Tribunal and was a founding member of the International Marxist Group in Britain. In 2014, Ernie published a memoir of his life on the far left in Canada and Great Britain called Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s and 1960s. This two-volume memoir is an important resource for anyone interested in a gritty account of mid-20th century revolutionary movements. It has been a source of information for the 2020-2021 Undercover Policing Inquiry hearings, taking place in England, in which the illegal and immoral activities of police agents in infiltrating the left have been laid bare.
Ernie died on February 5th this year. Please join us to reflect upon and celebrate Ernie’s life, activism and legacy with many of his comrades and friends from around the world, including: Tariq Ali and Phil Hearse (England), Riche Venton (Scotland), Barry Sheppard and Suzanne Weiss (USA), Pam Frache, Judy Rebick, Caroline Egan, Sam Gindin, Bryan Palmer, Rob Fairley, and John Riddell (Canada), and Patrick Bond (South Africa).
The event will be online, on ZOOM. Please register for your free ticket on Eventbrite. A link to the ZOOM room will be sent to you.
Hosted by Socialist Project, Centre for Social Justice, Spring, Resistance, Green Left Weekly, Socialist Viewpoint
Jeff Bezos has at least $131 Billion!
The Washington State Supreme Court just ruled to allow the right-wing Recall Campaign against Councilmember Kshama Sawant to move forward.
In response, Councilmember Sawant said “This ruling is completely unjust, but we are not surprised. Working people and oppressed communities cannot rely on the capitalist courts for justice anymore than they can on the police.”
“Last summer, all across the country, ordinary people who peacefully protested in multi-racial solidarity against racism and police brutality themselves faced brutal police violence. The police and the political establishment have yet to be held accountable, while in stark contrast, more than 14,000 protestors were arrested.”
“In October, the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously threw out the grassroots recall campaign launched in response to Amazon-backed Mayor Jenny Durkan’s overseeing a violent police crackdown against Seattle protests. Now, this same Supreme Court has unanimously approved the recall against an elected socialist, working-class representative who has unambiguously stood with the Black Lives Matter movement.”
“The recall law in Washington State is inherently undemocratic and well-suited for politicized use against working people’s representatives, because there is no requirement that the charges even be proven true. In effect, the courts have enormous leeway to use recall elections as a mechanism to defend the ruling class and capitalist system. It is no accident that Seattle’s last elected socialist, Anna Louise Strong, was driven out of office by a recall campaign for her links to the labor movement and opposition to World War I.”
The recall effort against Councilmember Sawant explicitly cited her role in Black Lives Matter protests and the Amazon Tax campaign in their articles of recall. In 2019, Kshama was elected for the third time despite a record-breaking influx of corporate money in Seattle elections, including $1.5 million in corporate PAC spending from Amazon, as well as donations from top Amazon executives and numerous wealthy Republican donors directly to Kshama’s opponent.
The Recall Campaign is backed by a host of corporate executives and developers, including billionaire landlord and Trump donor Martin Selig; Jeannie Nordstrom of the billionaire union-busting, retail giant Nordstrom dynasty; Airbnb Chief Financial Officer and former Amazon Vice President Dave Stephenson; Merrill Lynch Senior Vice President Matt Westphal; wealthy Trump donors like Dennis Weibling, Vidur Luthra and Greg Eneil; and plethora of major real-estate players, such as John Stephanus, whose asset management company, Epic, has ranked amongst Seattle’s top 10 landlords for evictions.
Now, because of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Recall Campaign is able to begin collecting signatures to get a recall election on an upcoming ballot. With the financial backing of the corporate elite, we know the Recall Campaign will have unlimited resources to collect their signatures.
That’s why we need your support to massively expand our Decline-to-Sign campaign and defeat this attack on all working people. The Recall Campaign has already raised $300,000. Can you make a contribution to the Kshama Solidarity Campaign today so that we have the necessary resources to fight back?
Kshama Solidarity Campaign
Copyright © 2021 Kshama Solidarity Campaign, All rights reserved
PLEDGE: Stand with Kshama Sawant Against the Right-Wing Recall!
The right wing and big business are going after Councilmember Sawant because she’s been such a powerful voice for working people – for leading the way on the Amazon Tax, on the $15 minimum wage, and for her role in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Amazon spent millions trying to unseat Kshama last year and failed. Now the Recall Campaign is raising money from corporate executives and rich Republicans to try to overturn that election and all our victories. Their campaign is saying Kshama’s support for Black Lives Matter was promoting “lawlessness” – this is a racist attack on the movement. The right wing will be collecting signatures to get the recall on the ballot; we’re building a Decline-to-Sign movement to keep our voice on the City Council and win COVID relief for working people.
Sign the pledge at:
Paid for by Kshama Solidarity Campaign
PO Box 20611, Seattle, WA 98102
9 minutes 29 seconds
Reprinted below is a short legal update from Judy Ritter and Sam Spital, the attorneys who are litigating Mumia Abu-Jamal's conviction. On March 17th, they filed a response to DA Larry Krasner's position on the issues that are being re-litigated, following Tucker's ruling to reopen all appeals filed by Mumia's attorneys between 1998 - 2012. Maureen Faulkner also filed a motion yesterday. Both filings are at the link above.
--Reprinted below is a statement released by attorneys Judith Ritter and Sam Spital on March 18, 2021:
Yesterday we filed our reply brief in Superior Court in support of Mumia’s claims in the re-opened appeals. We focused on four arguments:
(a) the Court’s jurisdiction to hear this case notwithstanding the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Reid that most petitioners seeking to re-open their cases post Williams v. Pennsylvania cannot do so because their claims are not timely;
(b) trial counsel’s ineffectiveness in failing to present evidence that Robert Chobert was on probation at the time of his trial testimony;
(c) the admissibility of Yvette Williams’s declaration reporting what Cynthia White said to hear about lying against Mumia; and
(d) racial discrimination in jury selection in violation of Batson.
Also yesterday, Maureen Faulkner sought permission, again, to intervene in the Superior Court. Essentially her argument is that the DA is not in her view raising—or at least not vigorously raising—a jurisdictional/timeliness argument, which she says reflects ongoing bias and the need for disqualification.Questions and comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Yesterday we filed our reply brief in Superior Court in support of Mumia’s claims in the re-opened appeals. We focused on four arguments:
(a) the Court’s jurisdiction to hear this case notwithstanding the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Reid that most petitioners seeking to re-open their cases post Williams v. Pennsylvania cannot do so because their claims are not timely;
(b) trial counsel’s ineffectiveness in failing to present evidence that Robert Chobert was on probation at the time of his trial testimony;
(c) the admissibility of Yvette Williams’s declaration reporting what Cynthia White said to hear about lying against Mumia; and
(d) racial discrimination in jury selection in violation of Batson.
Also yesterday, Maureen Faulkner sought permission, again, to intervene in the Superior Court. Essentially her argument is that the DA is not in her view raising—or at least not vigorously raising—a jurisdictional/timeliness argument, which she says reflects ongoing bias and the need for disqualification.
INNOCENT AND FRAMED - FREE MUMIA NOW!
NO STATE EXECUTION BY COVID!
NO ILLUSIONS IN “PROGRESSIVE” DA LARRY KRASNER!
The movement to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, the most prominent political prisoner in the U.S., from the slow death of life imprisonment and the jaws of this racist and corrupt injustice system is at a critical juncture. The battle to free Mumia must be is as ferocious as it has ever been. We continue to face the unrelenting hostility to Mumia by this racist capitalist injustice system, which is intent on silencing him, by all means.
Mumia is at immediate risk of death by covid! Mumia has tested positive for covid-19. The PA Department of Corrections and officials at SCI Mahanoy at first denied this, but then needed to hospitalize Mumia. He is now in the prison infirmary. Mumia’s life is on the line. He is almost 67 years old; his immune system is compromised because of liver cirrhosis from years of untreated hepatitis-C. It is also reported that Mumia now has congestive heart failure!
An international campaign succeeded in getting a judicial order that Mumia was deprived of essential health care and be treated with life-saving Harvoni treatment. That has compelled the DOC to provide the medication to Mumia and other prisoners infected with hep-C.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) said it best, “The refusal of health-care reminds us of the conditions we were put in under Apartheid prisons where sick detainees were allowed to die in very deplorable lonely conditions in solitary as part of the punishment for their role in the struggle.”
We, in the Free Mumia movement, call on all to ACT NOW! Mumia must not die in prison from covid! He should be released, now!
Urgent: Email Gov. Tom Wolf, email@example.com; John Wetzel, Secretary PA Department of Corrections, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Demand: Mumia Abu-Jamal Must be Released from Prison! No State Execution by Covid! Prisoners 50 Years and Older Should also be Released from Prison to Protect them from Covid 19!
Mumia’s life was saved from legal lynching of state execution in 1995 and 1999 by the power of mass, international mobilization and protest, which included representatives of millions of unionized workers. Human and civil rights organizations, labor unions, and students won Mumia’s release from death row in 2012 and his medical treatment for deadly hep-C in 2017. Now we need to do the same to save his life from covid-19.
We also must face the latest obstacle in Mumia’s pending legal appeal.
In the prosecution Response to Mumia’s appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, filed February 3, 2021, “progressive” District Attorney Larry Krasner rubber stamps the lying, racially biased, politically motivated and corrupt conviction of Mumia for the murder of P.O. Daniel Faulkner on December 9, 1981 under hanging judge Albert Sabo who promised, “I’m going to help them fry the nigger.”
For decades Mumia fought racist and corrupt prosecutors in Pennsylvania state court and the U.S. federal court. “Progressive” Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner joined their ranks in filing the prosecution legal brief to the Pennsylvania Superior Court stating that Mumia is guilty and should remain imprisoned for life.
There is a moment of opportunity to deepen the struggle for Mumia’s freedom. Political consciousness about the systemic racism of the U.S. injustice system and policing has reached a high level not seen in 50 years, accelerated by the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others, and the massive protests that followed. Mumia’s name has been injected into struggles around Black Lives Matter, the pandemic and the economic crisis. Notably, Colin Kaepernick has called for Mumia’s freedom.
There is also a new danger. Nationally and in Philadelphia, there is a rise in the illusions of the “progressive district attorney” who will upend the entrenched repressive, racially and class-biased [in]justice system, which is integral to capitalism and rooted in the legacy of slavery.
A new legal path to Mumia’s freedom was opened by the historic ruling in December 2018 from Philadelphia Court Judge Leon Tucker, the first Black jurist to review Mumia’s case. Judge Tucker granted Mumia the right to file a new appeal of all the evidence of judicial, prosecutorial and police misconduct that had been rejected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from 1998-2012. That evidence was proof that Mumia is factually innocent and framed and is legally entitled to dismissal of the charges against him, or at least a new trial.
“Progressive” DA Larry Krasner blocked that path with the prosecution’s legal Response to Mumia’s new appeal to the PA Superior Court on February 3, 2021. Krasner opposes Mumia getting a new trial—let alone a dismissal of the charges. And Krasner calls for the appeals court to dismiss Mumia’s appeal without even considering the facts and law. Krasner follows exactly the script of the notorious, pro-cop, racist prosecutors who preceded him, notably Edward Rendell, Lynne Abraham—called “one of America’s deadliest DAs” —and Ronald Castille, whose pro-cop, pro-prosecution, and pro-death penalty bias became the grounds opening up Mumia’s right to file this new appeal.
The Krasner Response begins with the same lying “statement of facts” of the case that has been used since Mumia’s 1982 frame-up trial by District Attorney Edward Rendell. Krasner insists that Mumia’s appeal should be dismissed without considering the merits because it was “not timely filed.” This makes clear the falsity of Krasner’s purported withdrawal of his objection to Mumia’s new right of appeal granted by Judge Tucker.
Krasner also denies that the newly disclosed evidence of state misconduct—“Brady claims”—from the six hidden boxes of Mumia’s prosecution files found two years ago in a DA storeroom are “material” and grounds for a new trial. This is legal jargon for saying the evidence against Mumia at trial was so overwhelming that it wouldn’t have made a difference to the jury that convicted him of first degree murder and sentenced him to death. Krasner’s Response on the new evidence that the trial prosecutor purposely disqualified African-Americans as jurors is that the Pa Supreme Court has previously decided the jury selection process was fair and should not be re-examined.
As District Attorney, Krasner had the legal authority and responsibility to review Mumia’s case and, as constitutionally warranted, to support overturning Mumia’s conviction because of due process violations and state misconduct. Those due process violations included:
*trial and post-conviction judge Sabo was biased and racist
*African-Americans were excluded from juries as a policy and practice of the Philadelphia DA’s office
*police and prosecutorial misconduct in presenting false witness testimony that Mumia shot Faulkner, a fabricated confession and a manufactured scenario of Mumia shooting PO Faulkner which is disproved by ballistics, medical, and other forensic evidence, including photographs of the crime scene; and
*the suppression of witnesses who swore that Mumia did not shoot PO Faulkner, that a shooter ran away and the confession to fatally shooting Faulkner.
But “progressive” DA Krasner argued these factors should not even be considered.
DA Krasner’s Response brief ends with: “For the foregoing reasons, including those set forth in the PCRA court’s opinions, the Commonwealth respectfully requests that this Court affirm the orders denying post-conviction relief.” This means District Attorney Krasner approved all previous court denials of Mumia’s challenges to his convictions made from 1995-2012, including those of Judge Sabo.
This Response is the definitive, final statement of District Attorney Larry Krasner to the Superior and Supreme Courts of Pennsylvania. And should Mumia’s case return to the U.S. federal courts, this would remain the prosecution position: that Mumia is guilty and there are no legal or factual reasons to re-consider his conviction.
Once there has been a conviction and sentence, the District Attorney does not have unilateral authority or power to reverse a criminal conviction, order a new trial or dismiss the original charges. That decision rests the post-conviction review judge or appeals court.
The District Attorney does have enormous authority and credibility to argue to the courts that a case should be reversed, a new trial granted or charges dismissed. The opinion of the district attorney’s office is a persuasive authority to the reviewing court. And it was that process which resulted in overturning the convictions of 18 imprisoned men during the past three years. Those publicized reversals as well as Krasner’s promises of criminal justice reform; his “no objection” to releasing on parole the surviving, imprisoned MOVE 9 men and woman; his partial ban of cash bail and de-escalation of arrests for minor, non-violent offenses, and his record as a civil rights lawyer gave him credentials as a “progressive DA”.
Krasner’s Response to Mumia’s appeal is an undeniable legal blow and has most likely blocked the judicial path to Mumia’s freedom.
To any who held out hope that Krasner would “do the right thing”, Krasner has never given any indication that he questioned Mumia’s conviction, even when—after protest and pressure—he agreed not to oppose the appeal process.
In fact, “progressive DA” Krasner was explicit when questioned during the proceedings brought by Maureen Faulkner to have him removed from Mumia’s case on grounds he was biased in favor of Mumia. Krasner was allowed to continue prosecuting Mumia in the Supreme Court ruling on December 16, 2020. During those proceedings, Larry Krasner assured the investigating judge that, “in my opinion based upon all the facts in law [sic] that I have is that he [Abu-Jamal] is guilty.” Further, the investigating judge found all prosecutors involved, including DA Krasner, stated, “it is their intention to defend the conviction, and that they are aware of no evidence that would support or justify a decision to the contrary or to concede any PCRA relief.”
It is precisely because Larry Krasner has a profile and reputation as “a progressive DA,” and faces hostility from the Fraternal Order of Police, and supporters of racist “law and order” who will be supporting anti-Krasner candidates in this year’s DA election that his total rejection of Mumia’s claim is so damaging.
The rejection of Mumia’s appeals by this “progressive DA” is not just equal to those of prior DAs but is more damaging. The position of the “progressive DA” in opposition to Mumia’s appeal provides additional rationale and justification for the appeals courts to reject Mumia’s appeals.
Krasner must be uncompromisingly exposed and denounced as not different from Judge Sabo and prior prosecutors. Mumia’s prosecution, his conviction, death sentence and appeal denials are an indictment of the entire racist capitalist injustice system. Opening up Mumia’s case exposes the racism, rot, corruption, brutality and fundamental injustice of the whole system. “Progressive” district attorney Larry Krasner would not and cannot go down that road and keep favor with the elements of the ruling class that seek to provide a “progressive” cover to delay and distract those who fight not only for Mumia, but for justice for all.
What is to be done to free Mumia? Continue to mobilize protest action demanding the Department of Corrections and Governor immediately release Mumia – along with prisoners 50 years and older to stop death by covid. In Pennsylvania the governor has the executive power to commute sentences and release prisoners who are serving life without parole.
We must expand the international campaign for Mumia’s freedom, centered on the understanding that Mumia is factually innocent and framed, that he never should have been arrested and prosecuted for a murder the state knows he did not commit. International mobilization has been critical to our prior limited victories. Now more than ever, we need to grow in strength and numbers Mumia’s defenders, including labor, Black Lives Matter, human rights and civil rights organizations, and left organizations in rallies and mass demonstrations.
Rachel Wolkenstein (former attorney for Mumia Abu-Jamal); and for the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal <laboractionmumia.org>: Jack Heyman (International Longshore and Warehouse Union-retired), Bob Mandel (Oakland Education Association-retired, member of Adult School Teachers United), Carole Seligman (Co-editor of Socialist Viewpoint)
March 5, 2021
Call the Superintendent of Mumia's Prison and demand he be taken to the hospital for treatment for COVID-19. It is not okay that they merely test him (they had not asof Fri. night), the results will take days to come back and he is experiencing chest pains & breathing problems now--and COVID requires quick medical care to avoid death.
It Is Now Freedom or Death For Mumia!
BRO. ZAYID MUHAMMAD - March 11, 2021
I’m going help them fry the nigger...” Judge Albert Sabo
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal...” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Imagine all NNPA Black newspapers, for example, carrying regularly featured articles as a matter of priority on all of the evidence suppressed in Mumia’s case.
Imagine Black clergy rallying at major news sites condemning the white-out and/or the demonization of Mumia through their media entities.
Imagine Black elected officials from Philadelphia and from all over the country rallying to denounce the continued ordeal of this man.
Imagine surviving ’60s icons conducting civil disobedience at the governor’s office and the DA’s office in Philadelphia with an eager throng of two generations of action-hungry activists looking to bumrush it, en masse if it didn’t yield results.
Even though Mumia has survived two execution dates, 30 years on death row and several recent dangerous medical challenges, thankfully with the force of a multiracial international campaign at his back and our ancestors, this hasn’t happened yet.
It’s time to ask ‘why?’
As this goes to press, Mumia is in a prison infirmary dangling on a tightrope of both COVID-19 and congestive heart failure, a most deadly medical cocktail!
COVID-19 is most dangerous when it attacks the lungs, creates fluid in the lungs and then triggers fatal blood clots. Congestive heart failure, similarly speaking, creates fluid in the lungs, weakens the heart muscle and the kidneys. These two together are extremely deadly.
Not to mention Mumia’s Hep-C weakened liver and skin. Remember that?
Mumia needs to be hospitalized at minimum and truly needs to be released!
If ever there was a time to step forward for Mumia, it is now!
The most tragic dimensions surrounding Mumia’s current ordeal is that there is now so much ample evidence of his innocence, so much ample evidence of both prosecutorial and judicial misconduct to free him if he can just be allowed to get it in on an appeal and that evidence on the court record. In spite of Mumia clearly being on the verge of objectively vindicating himself, he can tragically die in prison if not enough of us turn it up now!
Wait! What about Philly’s highly prized progressive DA Larry Krasner? Hasn’t he moved to overturn more than a dozen bad convictions rooted in deep-seated Philly racism and corruption? Yes, but not for Mumia.
Even though his office ‘found’ six boxes of missing evidence in his case, which includes a letter from a star prosecution witness Robert Chobert seeking payment for his testimony, reeking of prosecutorial misconduct and granting Mumia a new trial, Krasner, up for re-election, went into court last month and said that no new appellate relief for Mumia ought to be granted because his trial and conviction were sound. From Judge Sabo vowing to help ‘fry the nigger,’ to suppressed eyewitness testimony that was not paid for by anyone totally contradicting Chobert’s, to the illegal exclusion of Black jurors from the trial, to Sabo having Veronica Jones arrested on the stand for telling the truth on how she was coerced to testify against Mumia, to their being clear evidence of another person being the actual killer of Officer Daniel Faulkner and a whole lot more, Krasner showed his true ‘white’ color and is now seeking to block Mumia’s real chance at justice and freedom at a time when it can genuinely cost him his life.
The time is now to turn it up and free this incredible human being who has become a breathing living gracious symbol of human solidarity like few others in the last several decades.
Let us all press Pennsylvania’s other liberal ‘fox’ Gov. Tom Wolf to have Mumia and all aging prisoners who pose no risk to society released to help address this insidious pandemic. Over 100 people have died from COVID-19 in Pennsylvania prisons. All over 50 and with preexisting conditions.
Let’s press Mumia’s overseers John Wetzel head of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and Bernadette Mason superintendent of Mahanoy Prison to get Mumia properly hospitalized.
Press DA Krasner to address his now dangerous wrong and go back into court and encourage a conviction reversal and a new trial for Mumia as he has done for others.
The time is now!
Seize The Time!
Free Mumia Abu Jamal!
Gov. Tom Wolf 717-787-2500
Sec’y Dept of Corrections John Wetzel 717-728-2573
Supt of Mahanoy Corrections Institution Bernadette Mason 570-773-2158
DA Larry Krasner 267-456-1000
To support Mumia locally 212 -330-8029
In Philadelphia, 215-724-1618
Zayid Muhammad is a jazz poet, stage actor and well-known “cub” of the N.Y. chapter of the Black Panther Party.
Questions and comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Pass COVID Protection and Debt Relief
Stop the Eviction Cliff!
Forgive Rent and Mortgage Debt!
Millions of Californians have been prevented from working and will not have the income to pay back rent or mortgage debts owed from this pandemic. For renters, on Feb 1st, landlords will be able to start evicting and a month later, they will be able to sue for unpaid rent. Urge your legislator and Gov Newsom to stop all evictions and forgive COVID debts!
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock our state, with over 500 people dying from this terrible disease every day. The pandemic is not only ravaging the health of poor, black and brown communities the hardest - it is also disrupting our ability to make ends meet and stay in our homes. Shockingly, homelessness is set to double in California by 2023 due the economic crisis unleashed by COVID-19. 
Housing is healthcare: Without shelter, our very lives are on the line. Until enough of us have been vaccinated, our best weapon against this virus will remain our ability to stay at home.
Will you join me by urging your state senator, assembly member and Governor Gavin Newsom to pass both prevent evictions AND forgive rent debt?
This click-to-call tool makes it simple and easy.
Renters and small landlords know that much more needs to be done to prevent this pandemic from becoming a catastrophic eviction crisis. So far, our elected officials at the state and local level have put together a patchwork of protections that have stopped a bad crisis from getting much worse. But many of these protections expire soon, putting millions of people in danger. We face a tidal wave of evictions unless we act before the end of January.
We can take action to keep families in their homes while guaranteeing relief for small landlords by supporting an extension of eviction protections (AB 15) and providing rent debt relief paired with assistance for struggling landlords (AB 16). Assembly Member David Chiu of San Francisco is leading the charge with these bills as vehicles to get the job done. Again, the needed elements are:
Improve and extend existing protections so that tenants who can’t pay the rent due to COVID-19 do not face eviction
Provide rent forgiveness to lay the groundwork for a just recovery
Help struggling small and non-profit landlords with financial support
Ten months since the country was plunged into its first lockdown, tenants still can’t pay their rent and debt is piling up. This is hurting tenants and small landlords alike. We need a holistic approach that protects Californians in the short-run while forgiving unsustainable debts over the long term. That’s why we’re joining the Housing Now! coalition and Tenants Together on a statewide phone zap to tell our elected leaders to act now.
Will you join me by urging your state senator, assembly member and Governor Gavin Newsom to pass both prevent evictions AND forgive rent debt?
Time is running out. California’s statewide protections will start expiring by the end of this month. Millions face eviction. We have to pass AB 15 before the end of January. And we will not solve the long-term repercussions on the economic health of our communities without passing AB 16.
ASK YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS TO SAY YES ON AN EVICTION MORATORIUM AND RENT DEBT FORGIVENESS -- AB 15 AND AB16!!!
Let’s do our part in turning the corner on this pandemic. Our fight now will help protect millions of people in California. And when we fight, we win!
Tell the New U.S. Administration - End
Economic Sanctions in the Face of the Global
Take action and sign the petition - click here!
To: President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and all Members of the U.S. Congress:
We write to you because we are deeply concerned about the impact of U.S. sanctions on many countries that are suffering the dire consequences of COVID-19.
The global COVID-19 pandemic and global economic crash challenge all humanity. Scientific and technological cooperation and global solidarity are desperate needs. Instead, the Trump Administration escalated economic warfare (“sanctions”) against many countries around the globe.
We ask you to begin a new era in U.S. relations with the world by lifting all U.S. economic sanctions.
U.S. economic sanctions impact one-third of the world’s population in 39 countries.
These sanctions block shipments and purchases of essential medicines, testing equipment, PPE, vaccines and even basic food. Sanctions also cause chronic shortages of basic necessities, economic dislocation, chaotic hyperinflation, artificial famines, disease, and poverty, leading to tens of thousands of deaths. It is always the poorest and the weakest – infants, children, the chronically ill and the elderly – who suffer the worst impact of sanctions.
Sanctions are illegal. They are a violation of international law and the United Nations Charter. They are a crime against humanity used, like military intervention, to topple popular governments and movements.
The United States uses its military and economic dominance to pressure governments, institutions and corporations to end all normal trade relations with targeted nations, lest they risk asset seizures and even military action.
The first step toward change must be an end to the U.S.’ policies of economic war. We urge you to end these illegal sanctions on all countries immediately and to reset the U.S.’ relations with the world.
Add your name - Click here to sign the petition:
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or email@example.com
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
Center for Constitutional Rights
Civil Liberties Defense Center
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Grand Jury Resistance Project
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Tilted Scales Collective
Since testimony in Derek Chauvin’s trial began on March 29, more than three people a day have died at the hands of law enforcement.
By John Eligon and Shawn Hubler, April 17, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/17/us/police-shootings-killings.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Katie Wright, Daunte Wright’s mother, speaking at a vigil in Minneapolis. Credit...Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
MINNEAPOLIS — Just seven hours before prosecutors opened their case against Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, a Chicago officer chased down a 13-year-old boy in a West Side alley and fatally shot him as he turned with his hands up.
One day later, at a hotel in Jacksonville, Fla., officers fatally shot a 32-year-old man, who, the police say, grabbed one of their Tasers. The day after that, as an eyewitness to Mr. Floyd’s death broke down in a Minneapolis courtroom while recounting what he saw, a 40-year-old mentally ill man who said he was being harassed by voices was killed in Claremont, N.H., in a shootout with the state police.
On every day that followed, all the way through the close of testimony, another person was killed by the police somewhere in the United States.
The trial has forced a traumatized country to relive the gruesome death of Mr. Floyd beneath Mr. Chauvin’s knee. But even as Americans continue to process that case — and anxiously wait for a verdict — new cases of people killed by the police mount unabated.
Since testimony began on March 29, at least 64 people have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide, with Black and Latino people representing more than half of the dead. As of Saturday, the average was more than three killings a day.
The deaths, culled by The New York Times from gun violence databases, news media accounts and law enforcement releases, offer a snapshot of policing in America in this moment. They testify not only to the danger and desperation that police officers confront daily, but also to the split-second choices and missteps by members of law enforcement that can escalate workaday arrests into fatalities.
They are the result of domestic violence calls, traffic stops gone awry, standoffs and chases. The victims often behave erratically, some suffering from mental illness, and the sight of anything resembling a weapon causes things to escalate quickly.
And their fallout has been wrenchingly familiar, from the graphic videos that so often emerge to the protests that so often descend into scuffles between law enforcement and demonstrators on streets filled with tear gas. Just as one community confronts one killing, another happens.
Across the spectrum, from community activists to law enforcement personnel, there is emotional and mental exhaustion — and the feeling that the nation cannot get this right.
“How many more losses must we mourn?” Miski Noor, the co-executive director of the Minneapolis-based activist group Black Visions, said in a statement after the killing of Daunte Wright, 20, during a recent traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minn.
The pain of George Floyd’s death “is still scarred into our minds and yet history continues to repeat itself,” the statement continued. “Our community has reached its breaking point.”
This past week the mayor of Chicago called for calm as “excruciating” body camera footage was released in the police killing of the 13-year-old, Adam Toledo. The shaky video shows a police officer, responding to a call of shots fired, chasing a boy with what appears to be a gun down an alley at night in a predominantly Latino neighborhood.
“Stop right now!” the officer screams while cursing. “Hands. Show me your hands. Drop it. Drop it.” A single shot fells the boy as he turns, lifting his hands.
Other recent lethal force incidents have rocked communities large and small: Michael Leon Hughes, 32, a Black man shot to death on March 30 after, the police say, he used a Taser on a Jacksonville police officer responding to a domestic dispute in a motel; Iremamber Sykap, 16, a Pacific Islander killed on April 5 as he fled from the Honolulu police in a stolen Honda Civic; and Anthony Thompson Jr., 17, a Black teenager in Knoxville, Tenn., killed by the police on April 12 in a high school bathroom after reports that a student had brought a gun onto campus.
All of those killings and many more occurred as testimony in the Minneapolis trial unfolded, though few attracted as much national attention as the shooting of Mr. Wright less than 10 miles from the courthouse where Mr. Chauvin stood trial. Protests erupted in Brooklyn Center after a veteran police officer fatally shot Mr. Wright, saying she mistook her gun for her Taser, as he attempted to flee during a traffic stop.
Abigail Cerra, a Minneapolis civil rights lawyer and a member of the Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission, said it was unclear why the officers stopped him for an expired registration, an issue for many drivers in the state during the coronavirus pandemic.
But two aspects of the case, she said, were infuriatingly familiar: that Mr. Wright was Black, and that the police tasked with delivering him safely to the courts, where violations of the law are supposed to be adjudicated, effectively delivered a death sentence.
“It’s just another example of a nothing offense escalated to lethality,” Ms. Cerra said.
Though many of these killings have a familiar ring, it is unfair to blame them all on law enforcement, said Patrick Yoes, a retired sheriff’s office captain and president of the national Fraternal Order of Police.
“In a lot of cities it has to do with people feeling hopeless,” he said. “It’s poverty, it’s a failing education system. It’s all of these things that are vitally important to stability of a community.”
That instability often places officers in situations in which they confront individuals who may be dangerous and noncompliant, he said. Part of the reason society has been unable to prevent deadly encounters between law enforcement and the community is that some people are unwilling to discuss the real challenges of crime that officers sometimes encounter, he said.
“There’s just so many factors that people have already made up their minds and they think that law enforcement is based off of race,” said Mr. Yoes, who is white.
Federal and state laws generally hold that officers are justified in using lethal force as long as they have a “reasonable” fear of “imminent” injury or death for themselves or another person. And jurors tend not to second-guess what might be “reasonable” force in the moment.
Of the 64 fatal encounters compiled by The Times for the past three weeks, at least 42 involved people accused of wielding firearms. More than a dozen involved confrontations with people who were mentally ill or in the throes of a breakdown. And at least 10 arose as the police responded to reports of domestic violence.
ome dispute the notion that danger, rather than bias, is more likely to drive a law enforcement officer’s reactions.
“What I see sometimes is in these encounters with people of color, there is a different aggression,” said Ron Johnson, a retired Missouri State Highway Patrol captain who led the police response in Ferguson, Mo., after the police killing of Michael Brown in 2014.
“This adrenaline starts going out of the roof,” added Mr. Johnson, who is Black. “And why? It’s because we don’t have these experiences and these understandings of each other. And in some cases, it’s about humanity. We don’t see them in the same human way that we see ourselves.”
Since at least 2013, with a slight dip because of the pandemic, about 1,100 people have been killed each year by law enforcement officers, according to databases compiled by Mapping Police Violence, a research and advocacy group that examines all such killings, including non-gun-related deaths such as Mr. Floyd’s. The Washington Post, whose numbers are limited to police shootings, reflect a similarly flat trend line.
Nearly all of the victims since March 29 have been men, with Black or Latino people substantially overrepresented — a pattern that reflects broader criminal justice research. And most were under 30. Four were teenagers.
Philip Stinson, a professor in the criminal justice program at Bowling Green State University who studies civilian killings by members of law enforcement, said the most striking aspect of the statistics on lethal police force is how little the numbers have changed in the decade or two since researchers began to comprehensively track them.
Even as cellphone videos and body cameras make it harder to hide human error and abuses of authority by law enforcement — and even as social media amplifies public outrage — only about 1.1 percent of officers who kill civilians are charged with murder or manslaughter, Dr. Stinson said.
Since the beginning of 2005, he said, 140 nonfederal sworn law enforcement officers — such as police officers, deputy sheriffs and state troopers — have been arrested on charges of murder or manslaughter resulting from an on-duty shooting. Of those, 44 have been convicted of a crime resulting from the incident, in most cases for a lesser offense.
That could be because many of the shootings are legally justified, or also, as Dr. Stinson believes, because the legal system and laws themselves are overly deferential to the police. That deference, he added, protects the status quo in the more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country.
“All law enforcement is local,” he said. “Culture eats policy, as the saying goes, and we have a police subculture whose core elements in many places include a fear of Black people.”
Dr. Stinson cited the now-infamous traffic stop of a uniformed Army medic who was held at gunpoint and doused with pepper spray by the police in Windsor, Va., a rural town near Norfolk. The encounter, which occurred in December, was brought to light this month after Caron Nazario, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, filed a federal lawsuit.
Body camera footage shows members of the Windsor Police Department threatening and attacking Lieutenant Nazario, who is Black and Latino, after stopping him because he had not yet put permanent license plates on his new Chevrolet Tahoe.
The footage underscores the extent to which police culture has resisted change in much of the country, Dr. Stinson said.
“We only know about this one because he has a lawyer, they filed a civil lawsuit and they were able to get recordings they could release,” he said.
For many victims of police violence and their families, however, there is no video evidence to rely on.
Daly City, Calif., police officers were not wearing body cameras when they got into a struggle with Roger Allen, 44, as he sat in a car idled with a flat tire on April 7. The officers say that Mr. Allen had what appeared to be a gun on his lap, according to Stephen M. Wagstaffe, the San Mateo County district attorney, who is investigating the case. It turned out to be a pellet gun, but an officer fired a fatal bullet to Mr. Allen’s chest during the fracas.
Now Talika Fletcher, 30, said she was struggling to come to terms with the fact that her older brother, who was like a father figure, had joined the grim tally of Black men who died at the hands of law enforcement.
“I never thought in a million years that my brother would be a hashtag,” she said.
She has little faith that the dynamic between Black men and law enforcement will be any better once her 14-month-old son, Prince, grows up.
“The cycle,” she said, “it’s not going change.”
Alain Delaquérière contributed research.
A majority of states have laws making it illegal to hang anything from a rearview mirror that obscures a driver’s view. But critics say the laws are often used as pretexts.
By Mike Baker and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, April 17, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/17/us/police-air-fresheners.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Phil Colbert was pulled over by a sheriff's deputy for hanging an air freshener from his rearview mirror. Credit...Courtney Pedroza for The New York Times
Phil Colbert was on his way to meet his father for lunch before his shift at an Arizona auto dealership in 2019 when he saw the flashing lights of a sheriff’s patrol car in his mirror. He made sure his hands were on the steering wheel, planted at 10 and 2 as his parents had taught him, and asked why he had been stopped.
“You can’t have anything hanging from your rearview mirror,” the La Paz County deputy, wearing a Blue Lives Matter wristband, told him.
The officer was referring to the tree-shaped air freshener dangling near the windshield but quickly moved on to other questions: Do you have any marijuana? Do you smoke marijuana? When was the last time you did smoke marijuana? Do you have any cocaine? To Mr. Colbert, who is Black, the air freshener seemed nothing more than a pretext for the driving equivalent of a stop-and-frisk.
“At that point, I was like, ‘This dude is coming up with anything. He’s just coming up with anything to talk to me or mess with me,’” said Mr. Colbert, 23, who recorded the traffic stop on his cellphone and ultimately was let off with a warning.
The air fresheners that dangle from rearview mirrors have been a ubiquitous accessory in cars for decades. But they may be treated as illegal in a majority of states, which have laws prohibiting objects near the windshield that can obstruct motorists’ views. They are part of a suite of low-level offenses, such as tinted windows or broken taillights, that civil rights advocates complain have become common pretexts for traffic stops that too often selectively target people of color.
The encounter this week in Minnesota that led to a police officer fatally shooting Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, began when officers initiated a traffic stop and raised the issue of a hanging air freshener, according to Mr. Wright’s mother, who talked to her son on the telephone moments before he was shot.
Pete Orput, the Washington County attorney, said officers had noticed an expired registration tab on Mr. Wright’s license plate and decided to pull his car over. One of the officers later noted the air freshener hanging from the mirror, which was a violation of the law, Mr. Orput said.
Racial bias in traffic stops has been a focus of researchers and civil rights advocates for years. At Stanford University’s Open Policing Project, researchers analyzing more than 100 million traffic stops around the country found persistent racial disparities, with Black and Hispanic drivers more likely to be stopped and more likely to be searched. Collectively, officers found contraband at a lower rate among those searches than in searches of white drivers.
Traffic stops also have the potential to escalate, like the case of Mr. Wright, who was shot by a police officer after he got back into his car as the police tried to arrest him for an unrelated warrant. The officer, Kimberly A. Potter, who had shouted that she was preparing to use her Taser, resigned and was charged with second-degree manslaughter.
Paige Fernandez, a policing policy advocate at the American Civil Liberties Union, said low-level infractions such as expired registrations and air fresheners on mirrors should not be handled by armed police officers.
“The danger that police traffic stops pose greatly outweighs any benefit of having them engage in that,” Ms. Fernandez said.
Mayor Mike Elliott of Brooklyn Center, Minn., where Mr. Wright was killed, said police officers should not be pulling people over because of an expired registration during the coronavirus pandemic.
The prohibitions against objects hanging from rearview mirrors can extend to fuzzy dice, graduation tassels and rosaries. Last year, amid the pandemic, authorities in Maine warned against hanging masks.
A woman who answered the phone for the manufacturer of one of the most common hanging air fresheners, Little Trees, said the company would have no comment on the legal debate. The company’s website shows the scented paper trees hanging from a rearview mirror.
States have long grappled with how to best handle the obstruction issue. After court data showed more than 1,400 citations in one year for people driving on Maryland highways with windshields obstructed by objects or materials, the state changed its law in 2017. The violation is no longer a primary offense, which would justify a traffic stop, but a secondary offense, which can only be cited after a motorist has been pulled over for something more serious, such as speeding.
Virginia has followed suit as part of a broader package of reforms limiting when the police can conduct traffic stops.
Dana Schrad, the executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said the group had supported some of the changes, including a prohibition on stopping people for recently expired registrations. When lawmakers changed the law to require that a driver’s view must be “substantially” obstructed by objects to be considered a violation, police agencies did not object.
Making windshield obstructions a secondary offense could allow some motorists to continue driving even with substantial obstruction that limits their view. Ms. Schrad said that had raised concern that roads could become less safe.
Ms. Schrad said that when officers stop people for minor violations, they can also discover other issues, including outstanding felony warrants or evidence of other crimes. “The more you limit the ability of a law enforcement officer to intervene in something that would be a violation of the law, you limit their ability to discover other criminal activity,” she said.
In places where air fresheners have been treated as a primary offense, the traffic stops have faced legal challenges with various outcomes.
On an April evening in 2008, Benjamin Garcia-Garcia was driving a minivan along Interstate 55 near Springfield, Ill., when a state trooper who had been parked in the median moved onto the freeway and pulled him over. According to court records, the trooper claimed he had seen the pink air freshener hanging from Mr. Garcia-Garcia’s mirror and believed it violated the state statute prohibiting objects that could obstruct the driver’s view.
The trooper later conceded that he did not stop every car with an air freshener and had not observed any other traffic violations. The trooper issued a written warning, but in the process he also learned that Mr. Garcia-Garcia and his passengers were in the country illegally. That triggered a response from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that resulted in Mr. Garcia-Garcia facing a federal charge of crossing the border illegally. He was imprisoned and deported.
Mr. Garcia-Garcia challenged the justification for the stop as part of his criminal case, arguing that the trooper could not have seen the air freshener on a vehicle going at highway speeds and that he could not have concluded it was a material obstruction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected the argument.
“The object the trooper observed was small, but given its size and position relative to the driver, a reasonable officer could conclude that it violated the Illinois statute prohibiting material obstructions,” the judges wrote.
In a more recent case, on the South Side of Chicago, a police officer reported seeing an air freshener in a vehicle and began following the car, then stopped it for violating a municipal code provision prohibiting windshield obstructions. During the traffic stop, officers found guns in the vehicle and arrested the two men inside, who were Black. The men challenged the legality of the traffic stop, but the same appeals court once again held that the stop was constitutional.
But in Connecticut in 2010, after a traffic stop in which a driver had a chain and cross dangling from his rearview mirror, the State Supreme Court sided with the driver, determining that the object was relatively small and that the trooper who initiated the stop did not articulate any concern that the object was blocking the driver’s view.
The case of Mr. Colbert, the motorist stopped in Arizona in an unincorporated area between Parker and Lake Havasu, became public after he posted video of the traffic stop online. He later got a lawyer, Benjamin Taylor, who said he believed that the deputy engaged in racial profiling.
“Even if you are polite, calm, even college-educated, the bottom line is that at the end of the day you are still Black,” Mr. Taylor said. “That’s all the cop sees and stereotypes.”
The Sheriff’s Department later determined that the deputy had no legitimate basis for his repeated questioning of Mr. Colbert. The deputy, Eli Max, was fired in part for his handling of the stop. Mr. Colbert took steps to pursue a lawsuit but settled with the county before it got that far, Mr. Taylor said.
Even for those who are ultimately let go with a warning, being pulled over for a rearview mirror infraction can have a lasting effect. In Galesburg, Ill., Brittany Mixon was a senior in high school when she was pulled over by a police officer in 2003, ostensibly because of the air freshener hanging from her mirror. But when the officer approached the car, she said, his first question was about whether the Toyota Corolla she was driving was hers.
“He kept asking me questions like he wanted to trip me up,” said Ms. Mixon, who is Black.
Even now, at 35, she makes sure not to have anything hanging from her mirror — or from the mirror of a car she is riding in — because she does not want to risk getting pulled over.
“If I get in a car with somebody and they have something hanging from their mirror, I’m like, ‘Can you take that down?’” Ms. Mixon said. “Being a Black passenger might trigger something in a racist cop, so let’s just remove that altogether from the situation.”
Officer Patricia Lio of the Milton Police Department in Massachusetts is accused of berating her son’s 14-year-old Black friend about his stance on the Black Lives Matter movement.
By Allyson Waller, Published April 16, 2021, Updated April 17, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/16/us/patricia-lio-milton-police-assault.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Officer Patricia Lio of the Milton Police Department at a probable cause hearing in Massachusetts on Tuesday. Credit...David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe
A white Massachusetts police officer will face criminal charges in connection with an off-duty episode in which she is accused of berating a Black teenager, a friend of her son, over his support of the Black Lives Matter movement, a court official ruled this week.
An assistant clerk with the Dedham District Court ruled on Thursday after a probable cause hearing that criminal charges against Patricia Lio, an officer with the Milton Police Department, could proceed.
The episode that prompted the charges occurred on Sept. 19, 2020, when Officer Lio’s son had invited two of his friends, one Black and one Hispanic, to his home in Westwood, Mass., to watch a Boston Celtics game and sleep over, The Boston Globe reported.
Officer Lio is accused of confronting the Black teenager, who is 14, about his stance on the Black Lives Matter movement, Alfred A. Gray Jr., a lawyer representing the teenager and his family, said in an interview. She is also facing allegations that she hit her husband when he tried to intervene in the situation, Mr. Gray said.
Officer Lio will face charges of assault to intimidate and assault and battery on a household member, according to court records. She is set to be arraigned in late May.
The Westwood Police Department has been leading the investigation into the matter.
Officer Lio, who joined Milton’s police force nearly 20 years ago, has been on administrative leave since October, her lawyer, Douglas Louison, said. The department’s internal investigation into her matter is continuing, he said, adding that Thursday’s decision was “disappointing” for his client.
“This incident and the facts around it should just not have given rise to criminal charges,” he said.
In a statement, Deputy Chief James O’Neil of the Milton Police Department said that his department “is very concerned” about Officer Lio’s case.
“While the outcome of the criminal and internal cases is still unknown,’’ he said, “the Milton Police Department has zero tolerance for any bias behavior, domestic violence, or aggressive behavior towards children.”
Risa King, a Boston lawyer and the mother of the Black teenager, said in an interview that she had received a “troubling text followed by a phone call” from her son the evening of Sept. 19.
According to Mr. Gray, who is representing Ms. King and her family, Officer Lio had claimed the teenager had posted something negative toward police officers on social media. While the three boys were watching the Celtics game, Officer Lio went downstairs and eventually started berating the teenager about “his stance on Black Lives Matter and her beliefs that his stance on B.L.M. was inappropriate,” Mr. Gray said.
He said that the teenager, in fact, had not written the social media posts in question and “did not express any intent to engage in any violence toward police officers.”
According to testimony at a probable cause hearing on Tuesday, Officer Lio had asked the other teenager, who is Hispanic, if he believed in Black Lives Matter and also referred to him as an immigrant, Mr. Gray said.
But Mr. Louison, Officer Lio’s lawyer, said that although the officer had spoken to the Black teenager about some of the perceptions she felt Black Lives Matter projected onto police, race was “never a component.”
The two teenage friends of Officer Lio’s son were eventually taken home by Officer Lio’s husband, who testified at the hearing that he was not hit by his wife, Officer Lio’s lawyer said.
Ms. King called the aftermath of the episode involving her 14-year-old son “one of the worst, most difficult situations we have had to deal with as a family.”
“We just want to see the officer accountable for her outrageous behavior toward the kids,” she said.
As I walk around my hometown, I see so many boarded up buildings. Who is really being protected?
By Justin Ellis, April 16, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/16/opinion/sunday/george-floyd-daunte-wright-minnesota.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
“White Noise, 2018” Chase Hall is an artist born in St. Paul, Minn. His colorful strokes on cotton canvas aim to create a visual language of resilience and empathy, in hopes of a racial literacy to better understand the painful inheritances of the past and its resonance with the present. Credit...Chase Hall
MINNEAPOLIS — The morning the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd, began, I was visiting my mom at a hospital just blocks from the courthouse. I remember noting that it was unseasonably warm for late March in this part of the Midwest. But that wasn’t the most striking part of the day. Nor was the long line of satellite trucks or the reporters from around the world surrounding the Hennepin County Government Center. Instead, what gave me pause was all the plywood that encased the ground floor of the hospital’s emergency department.
I came back to Minneapolis late last year to work on a book about how Black families have endured racism in the city where I grew up, and to support my mom during her cancer treatment. I’ve been keeping a mental list of the spaces that, since video surfaced of George Floyd’s final moments beneath Derek Chauvin’s knee, have become barricaded versions of their former selves. You can’t move through this city without noticing the hardware stores with floor-to-ceiling wood coverings, the shuttered restaurants that didn’t survive Covid or last summer’s fires, and the brunch spots and boutiques that have hired local artists to soften their fortifications with strained messages like “In This Together,” “Know Justice, Know Peace” and “Love Is All Around,” which reads like a cringeworthy homage to the theme song from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
But there was something especially crushing about the plywood surrounding a building meant to give aid and care to people suffering in the city, leaving just enough room to expose signs reading “EMERGENCY” and “TRAUMA CENTER.”
In the lead-up to Mr. Chauvin’s trial, city officials and business owners often talked about “bracing” for the public reaction, their focus seemingly on protecting the city’s buildings from any harm that might come from a repeat of the demonstrations against police violence that took place last summer.
The verdict in Mr. Chauvin’s trial isn’t expected until next week at the earliest, but even before that, the Twin Cities have been pulled into fresh grief and rage over the killing of yet another unarmed Black man at the hands of the police.
When Kim Potter, a police officer in Brooklyn Center, a town some 10 miles north of Minneapolis, shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright last weekend, history repeated itself in Minnesota: the fences and barricades to keep protesters away from the Police Department, the tear gas used to disperse crowds, the nights of anger and destruction giving way to curfews imposed by local and state officials. Across the metropolitan area, contractors drilled plywood into place, all to protect structures from violence being done to — and in the name of — neighbors. All to protect the city from the unyielding reality facing its Black citizens.
I’m part of the third generation of my family that was born here. My great-grandparents joined in the great migration to land in Minneapolis, and over the years we’ve all seen how our neighbors choose to ignore the suffering of those of us who don’t look like them. The ubiquitous yard signs saying, “All Are Welcome Here,” “Love Is Love” and “Black Lives Matter” don’t change the fact that sections of this city have been hiding behind barriers for a long time, since before the trial started, before Mr. Floyd was killed, and before Mr. Wright was gunned down. Through history, the barricades have taken many forms, like federal boarding schools that forcibly separated Native American children from their parents and deeds that kept Black families out of neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Today they are temporary barriers made from the materials needed to build a shed.
Brooklyn Center, where Mr. Wright was killed, is one of the more diverse cities in Minnesota, with Black, Hispanic, Asian, Indigenous and immigrant residents making up the majority of the population. That’s one city of roughly 30,000 people. This is where it’s important to note that in 1970 Black residents were still less than 1 percent of Minnesota’s total population; by 2019, that number had risen to only 7 percent. There are more Black people in the city of Detroit than in the entire state of Minnesota.
Still, Black drivers account for the majority of traffic stops and searches by Minneapolis police. Officers use force against Black people at a rate seven times greater than against whites. According to a Minneapolis Star Tribune database of police-related deaths of Minnesotans since 2000, Blacks account for 27 percent of the deaths in police encounters.
Whether you call this the result of white supremacy, or a white majority, the consequences are the same. The state has its boot on the necks of the Black people who make up less than 10 percent of its residents. When you are left at the mercy of the state and given no option to heal, fury becomes your voice and your only tool. And in preparing for the Chauvin trial and protecting property against the reaction to whatever verdict is announced, those who have power in Minnesota made clear to us, yet again, what matters most to them.
Gov. Tim Walz, announcing a curfew for the counties covering much of the Twin Cities the day after Mr. Wright was shot, directed his comments at those who planned to “exploit these tragedies for destruction or personal gain,” warning, “You can rest assured that the largest police presence in Minnesota history in coordination will be prepared.” Judging by the growing number of National Guard members I’ve seen occupying the corners of my neighborhood — just miles away from Brooklyn Center — in recent days, that’s not an understatement.
Law enforcement made a plan for managing security around the Chauvin trial, a massive team-up between Twin Cities area police departments, state police, local sheriffs’ deputies and Minnesota National Guard members capable of flooding the region with thousands of officers at a moments notice.
The goal, as the Hennepin County sheriff put it in an op-ed for The Star Tribune, was “to preserve the First Amendment rights of those who wish to protest while, at the same time, fulfilling our mission of protecting property, ensuring public safety and guaranteeing the sanctity of the judicial process.” Naturally they named it Operation Safety Net. It’s not subtle. They want to offer comfort to those they deem worthy of saving, rather than the Black and brown residents who are subject to relentless brutality.
They’ve lived up to that promise almost every night outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department for the past week. In their quest to maintain order they’ve met demonstrators with increasing numbers of police officers and National Guard members, armed with tear gas, flash bang grenades and rubber bullets. All these defensive measures have upended the lives of families living across the street from the police headquarters at the Sterling Square Apartments, a complex filled with Black and immigrant families. It should be the safest place in Brooklyn Center; now residents are evacuating into area hotels.
For the second time in less than a year, a Minnesota police officer is facing manslaughter charges for killing a Black man. Ms. Potter has resigned. Brooklyn Center’s police chief, who has said he believes Ms. Potter mistook her gun for a Taser, has also stepped down. But that doesn’t change the fact that another Black child has been left without a father because of a police officer’s actions. In Minnesota, we’ve had two cases and two sets of all-too-familiar facts: Daunte Wright and George Floyd died from over-policing. They’re not alone. At George Floyd square, the monument that has grown from the scene where Mr. Floyd died, the names of those killed by police are written on the pavement. At the protests in Brooklyn Center those names have been read aloud in exasperation and rage.
As the city awaits a verdict in Mr. Chauvin’s trial, Minnesota’s leaders are posturing for peace while fortifying against the cries of the most vulnerable. It’s an act of desperation — if not outright cowardice — to spare no expense in military might while investing in the cheapest plywood, all in an effort to protect this state’s investment in whiteness. If power has to be maintained through overwhelming force, or even hastily built barriers, those of us standing in trauma on the other side have to wonder who’s really being protected.
Mr. Ellis, a Minneapolis native, is writing a book about how Black families in his hometown endure the racism they experience.
Mr. Prude’s death last year became part of a fraught national conversation around racism and brutality in policing.
By Sarah Maslin Nir and Michael Gold, April 16, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/16/nyregion/daniel-prude-rochester-police.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=New%20York
Joe Prude, right, brother of Daniel Prude, and his son, Armin, with a picture of Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y. Credit...Ted Shaffrey/Associated Press
Over the course of 45 hours, the grand jury convened in the case of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died after being detained by the police in Rochester, N.Y., last year, heard from more than 30 witnesses — including police officers, medical experts, a tow-truck driver and Mr. Prude’s brother, according to minutes of the proceedings released on Friday.
In the end, the records show, the jury voted overwhelmingly not to charge three officers with criminally negligent homicide in Mr. Prude’s death. Fifteen jurors voted not to indict the officers; five disagreed.
The transcripts provide a rare glimpse inside judicial proceedings that are usually kept secret, and they were made public as national attention is focused on two other cases where officers stand accused of killing Black men in their custody.
Mr. Prude became part of a fraught national conversation around racism and brutality in policing after body camera video of his confrontation with the police was released in September. In the video, released months after his death after city officials tried to conceal it, Mr. Prude is seen naked, wearing a hood officers put over his head and handcuffed, lying facedown on the street.
Seven officers who were on the scene of Mr. Prude’s arrest were later suspended, and the police chief was fired for his involvement in obscuring what had happened. After the footage of Mr. Prude’s death was made public, New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, convened a grand jury to review evidence in the case.
The minutes unsealed Friday show that the attorney general’s office asked the grand jury to consider charges against only three of the seven officers; the names of the officers and all other witnesses and jurors are redacted.
According to the grand jury transcripts, one juror asked why the officers — who found Mr. Prude naked on a snowy street, put a mesh bag over his head and pressed him onto the pavement — appeared to move unhurriedly after he lost consciousness. Mr. Prude was taken off life support and died a week later.
Official police reports said that Mr. Prude died of a drug overdose, but an investigation by the Rochester medical examiner determined it was a homicide, with asphyxiation as one cause of death.
Jurors watched body camera footage of an officer holding Mr. Prude’s head to the sidewalk. And they heard one expert testify that the hold, known as “segmenting,” was appropriate.
The transcripts also appear to show jurors grappling with a blizzard of technical information about police tactics, and expert testimonies that appeared at times to conflict. And they illustrate some of the challenges of prosecuting police officers, even as Derek Chauvin, the officer accused of killing George Floyd in Minneapolis two months after Mr. Prude’s death, is currently on trial for murder.
“The way they held him, avoiding the respiratory or ventilatory structures, was — was — it would be textbook in my mind,” one expert, identified as a doctor at the University of California, San Diego’s medical center and a professor of clinical emergency medicine whose name was redacted from the transcript, told the jurors.
But a second expert witness, identified as a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina, appeared to disagree. “The decision to keep him on his stomach for that period of time was — was unreasonable and against police practice,” the expert said, adding that Mr. Prude should have been rolled over and had the pressure on his back released.
One juror appeared to seek help reconciling the two opinions. “It seemed like one expert had an opinion that there was no improper anything done,” the juror said. “And then, another expert had an opinion that there was some — something that was not quite properly done, am I correct?”
That, lawyers explained, was the jurors’ determination to make.
Don Thompson, a lawyer for Joe Prude, Daniel’s brother, said the minutes, and the jury’s decision not to indict any officers, showed the excessive leeway the police are given when using force in the course of their job.
“I’m infuriated,” he said. “Who other than somebody who wears a special costume for their work gets this kind of deference in a homicide case? No one.”
Mr. Thompson also questioned whether prosecutors had done everything they could to secure indictments against the officers.
“It is all perfectly fine to present that evidence,” he said, referring to testimony that appeared to absolve the officers. “But that is evidence what a defendant presents at trial, it is not standardly evidence that a prosecutor offers to a grand jury.”
Mr. Prude’s confrontation with the police occurred on a frigid night in March of last year, after he bolted out of his brother’s home in Rochester, shoeless and in an erratic state. Joe Prude, concerned for his brother’s safety, called 911 for help.
The police who responded to the emergency call found Mr. Prude naked and shouting that he had the coronavirus. After he was handcuffed, an officer pressed him onto the pavement until he vomited and lost consciousness, an interaction captured on body cameras worn by the police.
Over the course of nine sessions, one juror asked why no one offered to cover Mr. Prude, who was naked, with a blanket. Another asked why it appeared, even after Mr. Prude was unconscious, that the officers and emergency medical technicians at the scene did not swiftly aid him.
“It didn’t seem like anyone was really rushing,” the juror said. “So, no one seemed to be concerned that there was a problem?”
In announcing in February that the grand jury had declined to indict any of the officers, Ms. James expressed disappointment with the decision. Her office took the unusual step of petitioning a Monroe County Court judge to release the transcripts from the grand jury’s investigation, citing public interest.
The attorney general’s office said the investigation into Mr. Prude’s death was the first time that grand jury proceedings in a case of a police-involved death had been made public in New York.
The transcripts do not include the grand jurors’ private deliberations or the actual voting, but they show the jurors raising questions with lawyers from the attorney general’s office. At one point before the jurors voted, they viewed videotaped testimony of one expert witness, the records show.
“I’m disturbed a bit,” one grand juror remarked. “I don’t know if that witness was fully informed.”
Another offered an opinion. “It seems once the police got involved, things went for the worse,” the juror said after hearing about how Mr. Prude was handcuffed and held down. “I’m picturing myself laying on my stomach with my hands behind my back, and you trying to breathe. It can’t be a normal thing to do.”
Lawyers for the officers said the released minutes further exonerated their clients. Daniel Mastrella, a lawyer for Officer Troy Taladay, said he believed his client was one of the three officers targeted by the grand jury investigation. Officer Taladay was one of two officers who voluntarily testified, according to his lawyer.
“He decided that he wanted the grand jury to hear from his own lips what occurred on March 23,” Mr. Mastrella said. “He explained exactly what he did, and I would say we were all very fortunate that incident was recorded on various body-worn cameras.”
Michael Schiano, a lawyer for Officer Francisco Santiago, who was on the scene when Mr. Prude was arrested but did not testify, said no evidence of wrongdoing was presented to the grand jury.
“It’s obvious that the evidence supported the fact that these officers did nothing wrong, and if they could have found an expert to testify the other way they probably would have, but they clearly couldn’t,” Mr. Schiano said.
All of the officers — Sgt. Michael Magri and Officer Josiah Harris, Officer Paul Ricotta, Officer Andrew Specksgoor, Officer Mark Vaughn, Officer Taladay and Officer Santiago — remain suspended from the force, according to a spokeswoman for the Rochester Police Department.
After jurors voted overwhelmingly not to indict the three officers, one juror commended the prosecutors for their work putting together a thorough case, according to the transcript.
“If it wasn’t for everything that you presented to us, I don’t think anybody would have come up with a decision,” the juror, whose vote was not made public, said. “You worked very hard and I’m sure nobody took it lightly. It was a very serious case. It’s horrible what happened to him.”
Benjamin Weiser, Troy Closson and Nicole Hong contributed reporting.
A new study shows the role of the super rich in politics since the Supreme Court loosened restrictions on political spending more than a decade ago.
By Shane Goldmacher, April 20, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/20/us/politics/megadonors-political-spending.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
The single biggest spender on federal campaigns from 2009 to 2020 was Michael R. Bloomberg. Credit...Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
A dozen megadonors and their spouses contributed a combined $3.4 billion to federal candidates and political groups since 2009, accounting for nearly one out of every 13 dollars raised, according to a new report.
The report, produced by Issue One, a nonpartisan group that seeks to reduce the influence of money in politics, shows the top 12 donors split equally between six Democrats and six Republicans. The list includes multiple Wall Street billionaires and investors, a Facebook co-founder, a shipping magnate and the heir to a family fortune dating back to the Gilded Age.
The study quantifies the intensifying concentration and increasing role of the super rich in American politics following the loosening of restrictions on political spending by the U.S. Supreme Court more than a decade ago.
“This is a stark illustration of our broken campaign finance system,” said Nick Penniman, the founder and chief executive of Issue One. “Today, a handful of megadonors wield outsized influence in our politics.” Mr. Penniman called on Congress “to pass sweeping reforms to create a democracy that works for everyone.”
The growing influence of multimillion-dollar megadonors has been accompanied by another, competing trend: a surge of small online donations to politicians of both parties. Those contributions — in $5, $10 and $25 increments — have given Democrats and Republicans an alternate source of money beyond the super rich.
Still, the study found that the top 100 ZIP codes for political giving in the United States, which hold less than 1 percent of the total population, accounted for roughly 20 percent of the $45 billion that federal candidates and political groups raised between January 2009 and December 2020. The study used data from the Center for Responsive Politics, which compiles figures from the Federal Election Commission.
Some of the top ZIP codes for giving weren’t even populated by any people at all; instead, they were primarily associated with skyscrapers and post office boxes that were used as business addresses by the wealthy.
The single biggest spender on federal campaigns from 2009 to 2020 was Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, who spent $1.4 billion. Of that, $1 billion went toward his own failed campaign for president in 2020 and $314 million went to other federal candidates, super PACs and political groups.
He is the only donor to spent more than $1 billion. The No. 2 contributor is another Democrat, Tom Steyer, who, like Mr. Bloomberg, lost his bid for president in 2020. Mr. Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, have spent $653 million, with more than half going toward his own presidential campaign and $311 million to other federal candidates and committees.
The report does not include giving to state-level campaigns or politically connected nonprofit groups, which can often remain undisclosed.
The largest Republican contributor was Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, and his wife, Miriam Adelson, a physician. The Adelsons have contributed $523 million to Republican candidates and committees since 2009.
Mr. Adelson’s death in January 2021, at age 87, leaves a potential major shortfall for Republicans who have come to rely upon his largess. Republican operatives have privately fretted that while Ms. Adelson has been politically engaged, she may not have the same appetite for political giving as her late husband.
The report said that all 12 top donors were white and that the top 100 ZIP codes for donations were “typically both more white and more affluent” than the nation as a whole.
The other top contributors among Republicans were Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein ($138 million), founders of Uline shipping; Ken Griffin ($107 million), the investor and founder of Citadel LLC; Patricia and Timothy Mellon ($70 million), an heir to the Mellon fortune and chairman of Pan Am Systems; Marlene and Joe Ricketts ($66 million), the founder of T.D. Ameritrade and whose family owns the Chicago Cubs; and Paul Singer ($63 million), an investor and founder of Elliott Management.
Among Democrats, the other biggest donors were Donald Sussman ($98 million), the founder of Paloma Funds; Jim Simons ($93 million), the founder of Renaissance Technologies, and his wife, Marilyn; Fred Eychaner ($92 million), a media mogul; and Dustin Moskovitz ($83 million), the co-founder of Facebook, and his wife, Cari Tuna.
She started a resistance camp that turned into a movement that opposed fossil fuels while it embraced tribal sovereignty and environmental justice.
By Katharine Q. Seelye, Published April 19, 2021, Updated April 20, 2021
LaDonna Brave Bull Allard in 2017. She said that the global protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, of which she was a leader, was “not just about a pipeline.” Credit...Jens Schwarz/laif, via Redux
When LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, learned of what she called “the black snake” — a 1,170-mile-long underground pipeline that would stretch from the shale oil fields of northwest North Dakota to Illinois — she volunteered the use of her land to establish a resistance camp.
That camp became the base for a global protest movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which Ms. Allard said would veer too close to sacred burial grounds, including the grave of one of her sons; could contaminate the region’s water supplies if it ever leaked; and violated longstanding treaties between Native Americans and the federal government.
The movement stood not only for stopping the pipeline but also against excavating fossil fuels in general while embracing tribal sovereignty, environmental justice and the protection of water sources everywhere.
Ms. Allard died on April 10 at her home in Fort Yates, N.D. She was 64. Her family announced the death online; local media outlets said the cause was brain cancer.
Ms. Allard established Sacred Stone Camp at Standing Rock at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers in March 2016. Neighbors starting bringing food, coffee and wood for a small core group. Indigenous youth spread the word across social media.
Within months, the resistance had turned into a cultural movement, with thousands of people — members of other tribes, environmental and civil rights activists, politicians — joining in, tucking into tents, tepees and trailers in similar camps across the prairie.
The movement also drew what Ms. Allard told Teen Vogue in 2017 were “spiritual leaders from every facet of every Indigenous people — Mongolians, the people out of Africa, India, China, Australia and New Zealand” as well as South America, Canada and the Midwestern United States, all to be part of one of the largest gatherings of Indigenous peoples in more than a century.
Construction of the pipeline began under President Barack Obama. But with demonstrations growing — and security guards attacking protesters with freezing water from pressure hoses, pepper spray, rubber bullets, dogs and mass arrests — the Obama administration later had a change of heart and blocked construction of part of the pipeline.
The reprieve was only temporary. President Donald J. Trump, who viewed the project as a boon to the economy and a way of weaning the country off foreign oil, ordered the pipeline completed and the protest camps evacuated and razed. Environmental and Indigenous groups responded with legal challenges.
The fate of the $3.7 billion project now lies with the Biden administration and the courts. But while an environmental review continues, the pipeline remains in operation.
As one of the leaders of the resistance, Ms. Allard appeared on television; wrote opinion pieces for newspapers, including The Guardian in England; and traveled the world as a keynote speaker on Indigenous history and culture. She argued for the protection of sacred Indigenous lands everywhere, she worked on campaigns to encourage divestment from the fossil fuel industry, and she became an annual speaker at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
“This movement is not just about a pipeline,” she wrote in 2017 on sacredstonecamp.org, a camp publication. “We are not fighting for a reroute, or a better process in the white man’s courts.”
Rather, she said, they were fighting for something much bigger: their rights and for the “liberation” of Mother Earth.
“We want every last oil and gas pipe removed from her body,” she wrote. “We want healing. We want clean water. We want to determine our own future.”
LaDonna Carole Brave Bull was born on June 8, 1956, in Fort Yates to Valerie Lovejoy Brave Bull and Frank Brave Bull.
She spent much of her girlhood with her grandmothers and grew up all over, from the Dakotas to California to New England and Florida. She enrolled in Standing Rock Community College, transferred to Black Hills State College and eventually graduated from the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks in 1990.
After college, she went to work for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as cultural resource planner. She also served as its historian and genealogist. She later helped the tribe create its office of historic preservation and a tourism office.
Ms. Allard said she had been struck by the depth of Native Americans’ historical trauma when she visited the site of the 1863 massacre at Whitestone Hill, in south-central North Dakota, where the U.S. Army slaughtered hundreds of Sioux. In a 2017 essay in Yes! magazine, she linked that event with the pipeline’s destruction of hundreds of archaeological sites and sacred places.
“The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas,” she wrote. “And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people.”
In 2019 Ms. Allard became an official representative for Indigenous peoples within the United Nations Economic and Social Council. She held positions on numerous boards and taught a class on combining Indigenous knowledge with modern technology.
After two early marriages, in 1990 she married Miles D. Allard, whom she had met at the University of North Dakota and whom a family obituary called the love of her life. Mr. Allard died in 2018.
Her survivors include six sons, William J. Brave Bull, Freedom P. McLaughlin, Eric Grey Cloud, Ian Scotty Halsey, Alex Schien and Shannon Meister; two daughters, Prairie Fawn McLaughlin and Nikola Allard; 21 grandchildren; two great-granddaughters; eight sisters; and eight brothers.
Shortly before Ms. Allard died, Indigenous youth on their way to a rally against the pipeline stopped by her house and placed signs in her yard saying “We love you LaDonna” and “Water is Life,” Kandi White of the Indigenous Environmental Network told Indian Country Today.
“Her son told us that LaDonna heard us chanting and knew we were there,” Ms. White said. “She told us not to be sad for her but to continue the fight.”
A jury deliberated for just over 10 hours before pronouncing Mr. Chauvin guilty on all three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
By John Eligon, Tim Arango, Shaila Dewan and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Published April 20, 2021, Updated April 21, 2021
A celebration at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a former police officer, was found guilty of murder on Tuesday. Credit...Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
MINNEAPOLIS — A former police officer who pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck until well past Mr. Floyd’s final breath was found guilty of murder on Tuesday in a case that shook the nation’s conscience and drew millions into the streets for the largest racial justice protests in generations.
The verdict, which could send the former officer, Derek Chauvin, to prison for decades, was a rare rebuke of police violence, following case after case of officers going without charges or convictions after killing Black men, women and children.
At the center of it all was an excruciating video, taken by a teenage girl, that showed Mr. Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on the neck of Mr. Floyd, who was Black, for nine minutes and 29 seconds as Mr. Floyd pleaded for his life and bystanders tried to intervene. Mr. Floyd repeated “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times during the encounter.
The video, played on a horrifying loop for the past year, triggered more than calls for changes in policing. It stirred Americans of all races, in small towns and large cities, to gather for mass protests, chanting “Black lives matter” and challenging the country to finally have a true reckoning over race. Their demands reverberated within the walls of institutions that had long resisted change, from corporate America to Congress.
This week, over the course of two days, a racially diverse jury of seven women and five men deliberated for about 10 hours before pronouncing Mr. Chauvin guilty on all three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
President Biden praised the verdict in a nationwide address at the White House but called it a “too rare” step to deliver “basic accountability” for Black Americans.
“It was a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see,” Mr. Biden said. “For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver just basic accountability.”
Hours before the jury came back with a decision, Mr. Biden had taken the unusual step of weighing in, telling reporters that he was “praying” for the “right verdict.”
“This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America,” he said.
After the verdict, Philonise Floyd, one of Mr. Floyd’s younger brothers, spoke at the Hilton hotel in downtown Minneapolis. “We are able to breathe again,” he said, holding back tears.
He drew a line from his brother back to Emmett Till, a Black child who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. “We ought to always understand that we have to march,” he said. “We will have to do this for life. We have to protest because it seems like this is a never-ending cycle.”
People gathered at the intersection where Mr. Floyd was killed, now known as George Floyd Square, and the word “Guilty” rippled throughout the crowd after the verdict was announced, prompting cheers and sobs. The crowd began to chant, “Black lives matter.”
Mr. Chauvin, who had been free on bail during the trial, was ordered into custody by the judge, Peter A. Cahill, and was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
The verdict was hailed across the country by civil rights leaders and honking motorists. It gave a tense nation a moment to exhale, even as recent police killings in a Minneapolis suburb, Chicago and, on Tuesday afternoon, Columbus, Ohio, sent Americans back into the streets, holding signs that asked, “How many more?”
The case was handled by the office of Attorney General Keith Ellison, the first Black man to hold statewide office in Minnesota. Prosecutors mounted perhaps the most ambitious and extensive case in any trial of an officer for an on-duty killing.
With a rotating cast of prominent lawyers, some of whom volunteered their services, the state presented 11 days of testimony from onlookers, paramedics, fellow police officers and a phalanx of medical experts armed with formulas, charts and timelines.
Among the state’s star witnesses was the chief of the Minneapolis police, Medaria Arradondo, who said Mr. Chauvin had “absolutely” violated training, ethics and several department policies when he kept Mr. Floyd pinned facedown on the street long after he stopped breathing. It is exceedingly rare for a chief to testify against an officer from his own department.
The presumptive sentence for the most serious charge, second-degree murder, is 12.5 years, according to Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines. But the prosecution has asked for a lengthier sentence, arguing that there were children present at the scene, that Mr. Chauvin treated Mr. Floyd with “particular cruelty” and that he “abused his position of authority.”
The judge will sentence Mr. Chauvin, 45, in eight weeks.
George Floyd, 46, was a grandfather, a rapper known as Big Floyd and a security guard who had lost his job during the coronavirus pandemic. On the day he died — May 25, 2020 — the Minneapolis police responded to a call saying that he had used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a corner store, Cup Foods.
Mr. Floyd initially cooperated with officers but he balked at getting into the back of a squad car, saying he was claustrophobic. A struggle ensued that resulted in three officers holding him prone on the street and one standing guard.
Mr. Chauvin was a field training officer and the senior officer at the scene, with 19 years on the force. As he knelt on Mr. Floyd, sometimes with both knees, he dismissed concerns or suggestions raised by the other officers that Mr. Floyd was passing out, had no detectable pulse and should be moved onto his side, a less dangerous position.
When Mr. Floyd said, “You’re going to kill me, man,” Mr. Chauvin replied: “Then stop talking, stop yelling. It takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk.”
Mr. Chauvin continued to kneel on him for about three minutes after Mr. Floyd drew his final breath, according to expert testimony.
The four officers involved were fired the next day. The other three — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — have been charged with aiding and abetting murder and are expected to be tried in August.
Prosecutors began their case against Mr. Chauvin with a series of eyewitnesses to Mr. Floyd’s death, who offered emotional testimony about the trauma and guilt they were left with.
While Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric J. Nelson, attempted to paint those bystanders — who had been out to buy a cellphone cord or a drink, or just to take a walk — as a dangerous and unruly mob, each offered an account of the desperation and helplessness he or she felt watching Mr. Floyd become unconscious beneath the officer’s knee.
“They saw that a human being they did not know was suffering,” Jerry W. Blackwell, one of the prosecutors, said in his closing argument, calling them a “bouquet of humanity.” He added, “And they wanted to try to intervene to stop the suffering.”
One of the witnesses that day, Charles McMillian, broke down on the witness stand as he recalled seeing Mr. Floyd cry out for “Mama.” Another witness, Darnella Frazier, who recorded the cellphone video that was viewed by millions, said she regretted that she had not done more to try to save Mr. Floyd.
“It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” Ms. Frazier said.
The trial was held in a closely guarded government building surrounded by high temporary fencing. Jurors were kept anonymous to protect them from potential threats. Because of the pandemic, Judge Cahill allowed the proceedings to be livestreamed, an exception to Minnesota’s strict rules governing cameras in the courtroom. Jurors sat in chairs spaced six feet apart instead of close together in a traditional jury box, and only two spectators — one from Mr. Floyd’s family, one from Mr. Chauvin’s — were allowed to be present at a time.
The case continues to have broad effects on Minneapolis, where more than 1,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed by vandalism and looting in the unrest that followed Mr. Floyd’s death. The Third Precinct building, which was set on fire, is boarded up. The intersection where Mr. Floyd was killed remains closed to traffic. And the city has endured an agonizing debate over the future of its Police Department.
Community activists celebrated the verdict, albeit gingerly. It was “one trial and one moment in history,” Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights lawyer, said on Minnesota Public Radio. “However, this moment didn’t happen because the system worked,” she added. “This moment happened because the people put in the work. We had to demand justice and accountability.”
Mr. Ellison, whose office prosecuted the case, called it an “inflection point” and called for a broader shift in how the police interact with the communities they serve.
“Although a verdict alone cannot end their pain, I hope it’s another step on the long path toward healing for them,” Mr. Ellison said of the Floyd family. “There is no replacing your beloved Perry, or Floyd, as his friends called him, but he is the one who sparked a worldwide movement, and that’s important.”
Before a jury had even been assembled, the prosecution, the defense and the judge sought to keep the trial’s symbolic heft out of the courtroom.
With strong public opinions and an inescapable torrent of media coverage, the judge allotted three weeks for jury selection, allowing each side to question potential jurors one on one to determine if they could set aside their feelings about the case.
More than 300 Hennepin County residents summoned for jury duty filled out 14-page questionnaires asking them what they knew about the case and what their opinions were on the Black Lives Matter movement, the protests unleashed by Mr. Floyd’s death and policing in general.
Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, Mr. Nelson, suggested to potential jurors that perhaps “this case is not about race at all.” During opening arguments he said, “There is no political or social cause in this courtroom.”
The prosecution, for its part, said that policing itself was not on trial. “The defendant is on trial not for being a police officer — it’s not the state versus the police,” Steve Schleicher, a lawyer for the state, said in his closing argument. “He’s not on trial for who he was. He’s on trial for what he did.”
The 12-person jury included three Black men, one Black woman and two women who identified as multiracial.
The trial centered on two issues: whether what Mr. Chauvin had done was reasonable given the situation, and whether he had caused Mr. Floyd’s death. The defense argued that Mr. Floyd’s heart disease, high blood pressure and other health conditions, as well as his use of methamphetamine and fentanyl, contributed to his death.
Though it presented dozens of witnesses, the prosecution ultimately asked jurors to focus on the central piece of evidence: the video taken by Ms. Frazier, which was shown repeatedly in court. “Believe your eyes,” the jury was told.
“This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video,” Mr. Schleicher said in the closing argument. “It’s what you felt in your gut. It’s what you now know in your heart.”
Reporting was contributed by Andrés R. Martínez, Will Wright, Marie Fazio, Lucy Tompkins and Katie Rogers
We must walk a fine line between truth and hope
By Esau McCaulley, April 20, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/20/opinion/derek-chauvin-verdict-floyd.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
“I do not understand why there is a trial,” my 13-year-old son said to me last week. “There is a nine-minute video.”
He was talking, of course, about the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, which resulted in Mr. Chauvin being found guilty on all three counts brought against him, including second-degree murder. There were all kinds of legal questions to be adjudicated about different charges and sentences. But in the binary world of guilt and innocence in the minds of the young, the answer was plain enough.
I lacked good answers for my son, especially in a moment when Mr. Chauvin’s trial was not the only reminder of our country’s deep racial injustice: The deaths of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minn., and Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old, in Chicago, have been added to an ever-expanding list of tragedies that have occurred when people of color encounter the police.
The United States demands too much wisdom from Black parents. We must walk that fine line between telling the truth about how cruel America can be toward Black bodies and souls and the hope that our children can be their free Black selves. America requires too much of its clerics, who must minister, console, lead and organize a people weary of Black death. Millions of African-Americans have to educate, cook, clean, practice law and govern while processing a series of traumas. The irony of Mike Elliott, the first Black mayor of Brooklyn Center, being called upon to explain what went wrong during Mr. Wright’s arrest is not lost on any of us. The mayor is among the traumatized.
We must press on. At work last week, I stood in front of a group of masked undergrads who made it out of bed and to class by 8:30 a.m. to learn about the beliefs of early Christian communities in Rome and Corinth. As has often been the case for the past few months, their minds were elsewhere. A few weeks ago, after the shootings in Atlanta, I began class with a discussion of anti-Asian racism. Earlier in the year, we processed together the storming of the Capitol. Now their minds are on the events that took place in Chicago and Brooklyn Center. What have I told them? What have I told my children?
I told them the truth. Speaking to an ethnically diverse and politically divergent classroom about our racial divisions is complicated. I know some will be skeptical of any conversations about race and injustice.
I also know that my vocation is education, not punditry. Students need a way of thinking, not a series of conclusions. But I also believe that students deserve the truth as charitably and carefully as I can deliver it. To ignore these issues is a privilege too many of my Black and brown students lack.
So we wade into the troubled waters. I let them all know that there is no escape from these issues. There is no place to hide. There is no world where they can live, learn, fall in and out of love, other than the one they inhabit. A basic teaching of Christianity is that humans are capable of profound and confounding evil. That is not a truth that exists only outside the students. It also exists within them. They must see the world for what it is. Then they must get about the work of living in a world that too often devalues Black and brown lives. There have been and will be times when that disregard will stun them to silence. In those moments, they may be able to lift only half-coherent prayers and laments to God.
My children and the students committed to my care have to live in this world and be frustrated by it, but they do not have to accept it as unchangeable. They do not have to give way to apathy. They are free to weep and mourn as long as they need to do so, but they can also resist. They can plan, organize, protest and march. They have to resist not because any one event will bring the change that they seek. They must resist as a declaration of their worth and humanity. The resistance to injustice, then, isn’t only for America. It is for their own souls.
There is a version of Black pessimism that says that all that remains is the struggle itself, a shouting into the darkness that our lives matter but real change is impossible. There is a version of Black pietism that assumes our only hope is the sweet by and by, in which God swoops in at the end of all things to solve our problems. But there is a third way, rooted in the idea that a just God governs the universe, and for that reason, none of our efforts are in vain.
Resistance in a seemingly impossible scenario is a deep act of faith. It is a belief that God is not limited by our insufficiency, but perhaps might even be glorified through using limited human instruments for his purposes.
But the only way to have that kind of faith is to tell the truth about the nature of the problem. We have to talk about the world in which George Floyd has his neck compressed for nine minutes and Daunte Wright gets shot to death while unarmed at a routine traffic stop.
I am relieved about the guilty verdict in Mr. Chauvin’s trial. “Happy” is the wrong word when a life has been lost. Juries can’t raise the dead. One court case can’t eradicate the distrust that lingers in the hearts of many Black and brown Americans. A single decision is important, but it can’t fix a system. There is still work to do. Mr. Floyd’s family may have some measure of peace, but he was taken from them nonetheless.
I told my son the story of Adam Toledo’s death as I drove him to baseball practice. It slipped from my lips unexpectedly. The gospel singer Kirk Franklin was playing in the background, and we sat in silence for a while as the choir lauded the glories of God. In that moment, we were not just father and son but a Black boy and a Black man trying to make sense of the task of living that stretched out before us.
When I could wait no longer, I asked him, “What are you thinking?” He told me, sounding somber and somehow older, “I want to do some good in the world, to make it better.” That’s it, I thought. That pain never breaks us. We push forward.
At some point, I will sit down with my son and tell him that justice has been served in the Chauvin trial. But I am not sure that the playfulness in his voice will immediately return. He has experienced something that has changed him. That point eventually comes for all Black boys and girls — the moment when the monster reveals itself and the shape of the fight becomes clear. I pray that the resolve he displayed during that car ride will remain.
Dr. McCaulley is a contributing Opinion writer, the father of four children and a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois.
The police in Ohio, who released body camera footage, said the girl had threatened two other girls with a knife before an officer opened fire.
By Neil Vigdor and Bryan Pietsch, Published April 20, 2021, Updated April 21, 2021
The victim was identified as Ma'Khia Bryant, 16. Credit...Etienne Laurent/EPA, via Shutterstock
A teenage girl who the police say threatened two girls with a knife was fatally shot by an officer in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday afternoon, shortly before a jury reached a guilty verdict in the murder trial of the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in last year’s killing of George Floyd.
The girl’s death cast an immediate pall over public expressions that justice had been served in Mr. Floyd’s case and touched off protests in Ohio’s capital city.
At a news conference on Tuesday night, the Columbus Division of Police released body camera footage from the officer, who officials said had been responding to a 911 call about an attempted stabbing around 4:45 p.m. in the southeastern part of the city.
The video showed an officer’s view while approaching a chaotic altercation in a driveway involving at least four people, asking “What’s going on?” Played in slow motion, the footage showed a person in a black shirt lunging first at someone who fell to the ground, then moving with what appeared to be a knife toward someone in pink cowering by a parked car. The officer shouted “get down!” repeatedly and pulled a gun out, firing four shots at the teenager. She collapsed to the ground near the car, dropping the weapon.
“No matter what the circumstances, that family is in agony and they are in my prayers,” Ned Pettus Jr., the public safety director for the city of Columbus, said during the news conference. “They deserve answers. Our city deserves answers. I want answers, but fast, quick answers cannot come at the cost of accurate answers.”
The name of the officer, who officials said has been taken off the street while the shooting is investigated, was not released. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation will conduct an independent inquiry, which local officials said is standard whenever an officer shoots someone. Earlier on Tuesday night on Twitter, Mayor Andrew Ginther of Columbus urged residents to keep the peace as protesters descended on the scene while the authorities reviewed the bodycam footage that was later released.
“This afternoon a young woman tragically lost her life,” the mayor said on Twitter. “We do not know all of the details.”
A woman interviewed by The Columbus Dispatch identified the victim, who was Black, as her teenage niece. The woman, Hazel Bryant, told the newspaper that her niece lived in a foster home and got into an altercation with someone else at the home.
The timing and circumstances of the shooting unnerved people in the neighborhood. Rayshawn Whiting said in an interview on Tuesday night that he was planning to watch the Chauvin verdict at his brother’s house just a few blocks away when he heard the gunshots. When he saw on social media what was going on, he walked down the street to join the throng of protesters who reached between 150 and 200 people at their peak.
“I’ve got daughters,” he said. “And I’m tired of it. I feel like a polar bear with the ice caps melting. We have nowhere to run. If we protect ourselves, we go to jail. If we don’t, we die.”
Chris Roberts said in an interview that he was in his backyard with his twin daughters when he heard the gunshots from just a few yards away. He said they ran in the house and called 911. Since the shooting, he said, his daughters did not want to be alone.
“How do I teach my daughters when you call for help, and you expect help to come, you could be on the other side of the gun?” he said.
A crowd of protesters gathered outside the city’s police building, local news media reported.
The teenager’s death quickly received widespread attention, including from Ben Crump, the Floyd family’s lawyer, amid a continuing reckoning over police accountability and systemic racism.
“As we breathed a collective sigh of relief today, a community in Columbus felt the sting of another police shooting” Mr. Crump said. “Another child lost! Another hashtag.”
Earlier Tuesday night, when members of the Columbus City Council were discussing the need for a civilian review board for police accountability, Shannon Hardin, the council’s president, addressed the shooting.
“As we watched the verdict from Minneapolis many talked about a sigh of relief, but there is a truth that for so many in our community there is no relief,” Mr. Hardin said. “This is not right. It’s not OK, and it can’t continue on.”
Michael Woods, the interim police chief of Columbus, said at the news conference later Tuesday night that it was unprecedented in the city for body camera footage to be released so quickly after a shooting by an officer.
“We wanted to get that out as soon as possible,” he said.
Columbus has been gripped by tension over police shootings since early December, when Casey Goodson Jr., 23, was shot to death at the entrance of his home by a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy assigned to a fugitive task force.
Members of the task force had been in the area looking for someone in an operation that had nothing to do with Mr. Goodson.
Two weeks later, Andre Hill, 47, was shot four times by a Columbus police officer who was responding to a call about a suspicious vehicle. When officers arrived to investigate, they encountered Mr. Hill, and one of the officers, Adam Coy, a 19-year veteran, opened fire within seconds. Mr. Coy, who was fired after the shooting, was charged with felony murder in the case.
Lucia Walinchus and Lew Serviss contributed reporting, and Jack Begg contributed research.
By Reginald Dwayne Betts, April 20, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/20/books/review/richard-wright-man-who-lived-underground.html?action=click&module=Features&pgtype=Homepage
THE MAN WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND
By Richard Wright
228 pp. Library of America. $22.95.
The kinds of men Thurgood Marshall would have saved from the gallows suffer in the fiction of Richard Wright. These men aren’t rescued by civil rights lawyers but languish in the margins that have long defined too much of the Black experience in the United States. One uniquely American paradox of Wright’s books is that they could take a Black boy from the Jim Crow South to international fame, and at the same time reveal the unrelenting precarity of that Black boy’s life.
Wright died in 1960, the year my mother was born, and lately, I’ve been troubled by the fact that I am 40 years old and just a dozen years younger than he was when he died. Sometimes it’s impossible to escape the belief that the America Wright chronicled in his writing did the kind of damage to his heart that leads to an early death.
That damage is indeed disastrous, in many ways, in his novel “The Man Who Lived Underground,” which has just been published in its entirety for the first time. Wright wrote “Underground” between his most famous works, “Native Son” (1940) and “Black Boy” (1945), and the book was rejected by his publisher and cut down to a short story. Today, 80 years after Wright worked on it — in a Brooklyn brownstone an easy walk from where Biggie Smalls once lived — the restored novel feels wearily descriptive of far too many moments in contemporary America.
In the opening scene, when Fred Daniels leaves the house of his white employers after a hard day’s work, with money in his pocket and a pregnant wife waiting at home, he is not yet a Black man to readers. But when he’s stopped by the police, the last thing he wants to see, we know immediately that he is Black and that little else matters, even if he doesn’t know it yet.
“Come here, boy,” says one of the three officers sitting in a patrol car outside the house. Daniels runs down the the litany of names he imagines might save him: his employers, Mr. and Mrs. Wooten, “two of the best-known people in all the city”; Reverend Davis, his pastor at the White Rock Baptist Church, where Daniels teaches Sunday school and sings in the choir; Rachel Daniels, his pregnant wife. What he doesn’t know is that the Peabodys, the Wootens’ neighbors, have been murdered. In the 1940s, or the 2020s for that matter, you don’t want to be the Black man who the police believe committed a murder. And Daniels was the first Black man the officers saw on the street.
Tell me that this scene couldn’t happen tomorrow in New Haven or Memphis or Houston or a dozen other cities in America and history will call you a liar.
Wright finished “The Man Who Lived Underground” in 1942, six years after the Supreme Court decided in Brown v. Mississippi that police officers could not billy-club a confession out of a man, 47 years before officers in New York City coerced confessions out of a group of teenagers who would become known as the Central Park Five, and 78 years before a Minneapolis officer put a knee on the throat of George Floyd and held it there. More than any other Black writer, Richard Wright recognized that understanding Black folks’ relationship to the police is central to understanding racism.
Unlike in Ellison’s “Invisible Man”, we know the name of Wright’s protagonist from the jump, though he is no more seen for it. Walking into the precinct, one of the officers who picked up Daniels tells a colleague that “we’re cracking the Peabody job.”
“He sing yet?” the man asks.
“Naw,” comes the reply. “We got to sweat ’im.” Who their captive really is doesn’t matter, only how tough he will be to break.
The tragedy here is not what ultimately befalls Daniels, but how a single interaction with the police causes him to profoundly question his own identity. For a time, Daniels is optimistic. He believes the ordeal is “a dream, but soon he would awaken and marvel at how real it had seemed.” And then, once he enters the interrogation room, the confession feels inevitable. As much as I wanted the officers to believe some evidence that Daniels offers, I expected the brutal beatdown and forced admission of guilt that follows.
There is something of a lie in every confession. Within the confines of a small room that feels so much like a cell, with handcuffs making it feel even more so, a person will say anything to return to the world that seems so far away. For Daniels, an hourslong beating culminates in his signing an invented statement that he is too battered and sleep-deprived to even read. Then he goes from the police station to one last embrace in his wife’s arms, to the hospital, to a daring escape. One imagines him finding his way back to his wife and his newly born child. But by some cruel Kafkaesque twist, Daniels’s escape is into a manhole, where he retreats into darkness and is nearly washed away by currents.
Underground, Daniels becomes truly invisible. He is no longer a husband. Never thinks of himself as a father. The underground strips the markers of his identity just as any prison sentence does. And so, while the book is no longer concerned with the police and arrests and beatdowns, Wright forces readers to ask what the cost of this freedom is.
A world opens to Daniels; the canals and passages beneath the earth give him unimpeded access to buildings and stores. He pilfers money from a safe, pockets gems and diamonds from a jewelry store, lifts a gun off a sleeping security guard. But these things matter little to him. He uses the currency to paper the walls of his chosen cell in the sewer. The jewels to amuse himself. Deprivation has made him no longer value material wealth. And yet, deprivation has also made him, for a time, feel less morally culpable for what he does. When he takes a workingman’s sandwiches, he feels no qualms about it. And when others take the fall for his theft, he shakes it off.
Yet when a Baptist choir’s soulful “Glad, glad, glad, oh, so glad / I got Jesus in my soul” reaches Daniels through the cracks in a wall, he is troubled. He imagines that “their search for a happiness they could never find made them feel that they had committed a great wrong which they could not remember or understand.” They sing as though they are “pleading guilty, wallowing sensually in their despair.”
My grandmother has been singing in churches my entire life, and through all the minor and major troubles of her babies and grandbabies, she ain’t never felt us guilty, not guilty as Daniels means, which is to believe that you’re condemned to suffer, and deserving. But maybe all of this is Wright’s point. This country pushes some of us to always imagine ourselves through the lens of those who hate us, and when we do, there is no escape, even underground.
There is something of a Catch-22 in all of this. Down below, Daniels at first has no reflection of himself in the world. It is irreverence that leads him to act on the basest impulses that the officers believe are inherent to his Blackness. He becomes something of a caricature of what they think of him; escaping their lie only confirms it. But when Daniels watches the police torture a white security guard from the jewelry store that he has robbed, he wants to scream: “He’s innocent! I’m innocent! We’re all innocent!”
Toni Morrison once said that “the function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.” In this novel, Wright argues that racism makes it possible to live in a “seemingly reasonable world” and be bound to “die a certainly reasonless death.”
A few weeks ago, someone mailed me a first edition of Wright’s memoir “Black Boy.” The jacket was slightly torn, the pages deckled and yellowed, the opening scene with the burning house still remarkably unexpected. Holding the book in my hands made me recall the first time I’d read “Native Son,” in a Virginia prison cell, a place where so many of my own stories began. Maybe it’s prison that makes me so drawn to Wright as a writer. Kiese Laymon has said of Black men: “We make ourselves as small as possible in interactions with police to survive.” “The Man Who Lived Underground” shows us that even when we survive those interactions, ducking the immediate dangers of incarceration or death, we can find ourselves bewilderingly stuck reliving the moment, struggling to find our freedom.
Reginald Dwayne Betts is the author of “Felon,” a collection of poems.