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
Update: Mumia Abu-Jamal is Recovering from Surgery!
Mumia's wife, Wadiya, has since from Mumia and reports that he sounded strong when she spoke to him. He still needs to be free to get the medical care he needs for his weakened physical condition and, because he's innocent!
Questions and comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
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:
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
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.
The fight for equality doesn’t end after a single conviction.
"It is important to remember that the verdict against Derek Chauvin didn’t change a single police union rule that protects officers from incriminating themselves. It didn’t change a word of the criminal code, which can shield them from prosecution. It didn’t alter a single federal or Supreme Court precedent that prevented them from being convicted.
By Charles M. Blow, Opinion Columnist, April 21, 2021"https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/21/opinion/derek-chauvin-verdict-guilty.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Stanton Sharpe/SOPA Images and LightRocket, via Getty Images
History has been a stern instructor of Black people in this country, beating out hope wherever it dares to emerge.
As James Baldwin once put it, there is embedded in the American Negro the “wise desire not to be betrayed by too much hoping.” The possessor of dashed hopes is in some ways more injured and dangerous than the consistently hopeless. The possessors of dashed hopes spread their wings, which make them vulnerable, and get them clipped. Bitterness is a natural byproduct of such betrayal.
Before Tuesday’s guilty verdict for a former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, in the murder of George Floyd, many of us were afraid to hope that justice would be done. It doesn’t matter the strength of the case or the preponderance of evidence; convicting a police officer of killing a Black man is so rare in this country that I can count the recent cases I recall on my fingers … on one hand.
So when the verdicts came down, for me, there was a moment of shock: The justice system had administered justice to a Black man, a Black family, the Black community, the country and the world. We are so used to the system betraying us that it was stunning to see it serve us.
Could we celebrate? Should we celebrate? Of course we should have, and did.
But even in celebrating that victory, there is sadness. Why is the hurdle set to that nearly impossible height? Must your killing be in slow motion and caught on not one video but multiples?
Must the “Blue Wall” crack and your police chief testify against you? Must a child be put on the stand to explain how your killer’s depraved act has traumatized them?
Most killings of unarmed Black people by the police won’t have that. Most will have the officers’ account and the police department’s statements.
The Minneapolis Police Department’s initial statement on Floyd’s death was headlined, “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction,” and it went on to say of Floyd:
“He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers … Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”
That would have been the story, were it not for witnesses and cellphone video. The truth would have circulated in the community, but the lie would live on in the official record.
This is how many cases live, unresolved, in oral history told from a barber chair or barstool. This is also how hostility, resentment and contempt grow toward policing, criminal justice and politicians. This is why the fundamentals of our criminal justice system must be reshaped in order to restore trust.
So, yes, we celebrate. Even warriors, in an uphill battle, those outgunned and accustomed to loss, are afforded and allowed a moment of celebration over a surprise victory. Such moments can be recharging and restorative. It doesn’t mean that we are confusing the war that still rages for the battle in which we were victorious.
The fight against rules on every level of government that insulate officers and criminalize Black people are part of the war. Systems of racism that have created segregation, concentrated poverty, poorly resourced communities and failing educational systems are part of the war. A public perception that what ails Black people is pathological and that all policing is good and gallant is part of the problem.
It is important to remember that the verdict against Derek Chauvin didn’t change a single police union rule that protects officers from incriminating themselves. It didn’t change a word of the criminal code, which can shield them from prosecution. It didn’t alter a single federal or Supreme Court precedent that prevented them from being convicted.
There are enormous hurdles to overcome in the arrest, charging, trial and conviction of an officer. What this case demonstrated was that there is — at least in this jurisdiction and with these jurors — a limit. It took a case so obvious, so egregious, so depraved, that it could clear the hurdles.
In this extraordinary case, there was justice for George Floyd. But until justice for Black people killed by the state exists not only in the extraordinary case but also in the mundane, until it is not shocking that an officer is held accountable for murder, the crusade continues. One battle is won, but we are still in the middle of the war for equality.
The guilty verdict notwithstanding, the case demonstrated the wide latitude police officers are given to kill people.
By Farhad Manjoo, Opinion Columnist, April 21, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/21/opinion/derek-chauvin-trial.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
It was with more than a little cynicism that I tuned in late last month to the opening arguments in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin.
On Memorial Day last year, Chauvin, then an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, was recorded from several angles kneeling on a Black man’s neck until long after the man, George Floyd, stopped breathing. Yet there is a long, sorry history in America of photographic evidence being swept aside in cases of police misconduct, and such an injustice seemed again possible here. Hence my cynicism: Would our legal system fail once more to conclude that water is wet?
As the trial got underway, though, my disillusionment quickly gave way to a more complex set of emotions. In the past few weeks I have been glued to the case, at once riveted and horrified by its methodical reconstruction of Floyd’s death.
On Tuesday, a jury pronounced Chauvin guilty of two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter, and a sense of relief swept across the nation. But it is not enough to simply celebrate the verdict. If you’d like to understand the entrenched perniciousness of policing in America, I urge you to take the time to watch the Chauvin trial, if not all 16 days of it then at least its key moments — opening and closing statements and testimony from bystanders, emergency medical technicians and police officials as well as medical experts and experts on the use of force.
If this sounds like a lot, it is. But that’s the point. What I found riveting about the Chauvin case was also what was horrifying about it. Thanks to ubiquitous digital photography, there was an avalanche of firsthand evidence pointing to Chauvin’s guilt. We have a clearer picture of what happened to Floyd than we do of perhaps any previous victim of police brutality.
Yet right up until the reading of the verdict, much of the nation was on tenterhooks about the outcome of what ought to have been an open-and-shut case. This suspense over whether the reams of evidence would matter is itself a scandal. Only by wading through the facts as the jury saw them can you appreciate this.
The prosecution’s entire case against Chauvin was damning — far more damning than is apparent in one or two videos from the scene. The defense’s case was weak: It asked us to believe in wild coincidence and out-there hypotheticals in search of some other cause of Floyd’s death.
Yet despite the mismatch, for much of the trial I had little sense that Chauvin would be convicted of the murder we’d seen him commit on camera. The police are given wide latitude in America to use deadly force. Chauvin’s case rested in part on a frightening phrase used by the defense — “lawful but awful” (or, other times, “awful but lawful”), an argument that even if policing sometimes looks ugly and unbefitting of a humane and free society, hey, it’s still legal!
Prosecutors were able to overcome that argument because there was so much evidence of the awfully unlawful. Much of the world has watched the video of Floyd’s death. It was captured by Darnella Frazier, a teenager who was accompanying her 9-year-old cousin on a trip to buy snacks that evening. It was Frazier’s video, released shortly after the killing, that put the lie to the police department’s vague and exculpatory initial statement about Floyd’s death: “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.”
Damning though it is, Frazier’s video was only one clip in a deluge of images. There were cameras everywhere that day. Frazier was just one of several bystanders with a phone pointed at the scene. There were surveillance cameras inside Cup Foods, the convenience store in which Floyd was accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, and outside, mounted on buildings and a city-owned pole. And then there were body cameras worn by officers themselves.
Taken together, all these recordings created a multiplicity of views that could be cross-referenced against one another, providing what felt at times like a God’s-eye view of the killing.
The comprehensiveness helped overcome what is often a central defense in such cases — that the camera doesn’t tell the whole story. In 1991, Los Angeles police officers were videotaped mercilessly beating a motorist named Rodney King. Four charged in the case were acquitted in 1992 in part because their lawyers argued that the camera concealed as much as it revealed. Their contention was that the camera was too far away and offered just a two-dimensional version of a scene that was highly complex.
“When you make a decision on whether these officers are guilty or not guilty, you’re not going to be able to look through the eye of the camera,” one defense lawyer told the jury. “You’re going to have to stand in their shoes.”
Chauvin’s attorney also asked jurors to consider the scene from the officer’s point of view. But unlike that of the cops in the King case, Chauvin’s point of view was caught on tape, too, as were the perspectives of his fellow officers. These recordings were rarely exculpatory, and at times the most chilling details about Chauvin’s conduct were caught by his own camera.
At one point while Floyd was being held on the ground, another officer asked Chauvin, “Should we roll him on his side?” — a position that might have made it easier for Floyd to breathe. “No,” Chauvin said, “he’s staying put where we got him.”
As Floyd begged for his life, Chauvin’s indifference was caught by his body camera. “Uh huh,” he responded dismissively to Floyd’s pleas for air. “It takes a heck of a lot of oxygen” to talk.
It is obviously a relief that prosecutors were able to collect enough documentary evidence to render Chauvin’s defense untenable. But there is also something dispiriting about the enormous trove required to convict this single murderous cop, much of it available only by happenstance — bystanders brave enough to stare down police officers to record the scene, a location that happened to be well surveilled by public cameras, body cameras that weren’t accidentally-on-purpose turned off during the encounter.
If one of these elements was missing, would Chauvin have gotten off? If a couple were, would he even have been charged?
It is the rare police encounter that will be documented as thoroughly as this one. And so even if the verdict, this time, was just, it does little to restrain the freedom we give the police to kill people. It is that ugly picture the Chauvin trial reveals — a picture that is hard to watch, but one we need to see.
New video and 911 calls shed light on what led to the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, who the police said was wielding a knife when an officer fired four shots at her.
By Kevin Williams, Jack Healy and Will Wright, April 21, 2021
A photo of Ma’khia Bryant is held during a demonstration at Beverly and Fairfax in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Credit...Allison Zaucha for The New York Times
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was Valentine’s Day when Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, moved into the foster home where her younger sister had lived for more than a year. The girls were close, and would dance and make TikTok videos together, while Ms. Bryant nurtured a constant hope: to one day live again with her biological mother.
“That’s all she said, was, ‘I want to be with my mom,’” said Angela Moore, who said she provided foster care for Ms. Bryant and her sister on a quiet block on the southeastern edge of Columbus, Ohio.
Those dreams were cut short after a Columbus police officer fatally shot Ms. Bryant on Tuesday afternoon, just moments after arriving at a chaotic disturbance outside her foster home. Body-camera footage released by the Columbus police appears to show Ms. Bryant holding a knife as she lunges toward another person a moment before she is shot.
Her death fanned new waves of sorrow, anger and protest on Wednesday, its timing — just minutes before a jury in Minneapolis convicted Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd — a grim reminder of an unceasing tally of killings by the police.
As the White House on Wednesday described Ms. Bryant’s death as “tragic,” law enforcement authorities in Columbus pleaded for patience from the community as they released 911 calls and new body-camera videos showing the frenzied moments surrounding her shooting.
Michael Woods, the interim chief of the Columbus Division of Police, identified the officer who shot Ms. Bryant as Nicholas Reardon, and said he had been on the force since December 2019.
“Under any circumstance, that is a horrendous tragedy,” Ned Pettus Jr., the city’s public safety director, said during a news conference on Wednesday. “But the video shows there is more to this. It requires us to pause, take a close look at the sequence of events, and though it’s not easy, wait for the facts as is determined by an independent investigation.”
Mr. Pettus said a third-party investigation being conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation would need to answer key questions, including what information Officer Reardon had, what he saw at the scene, and what would have happened if he “had taken no action at all.”
The first 911 call that brought the police to the house came at 4:32 p.m. on Tuesday. It is a cacophony of screaming. The caller, who sounds like a younger woman, says that someone was “trying to stab us” and had “put hands” on the caller’s grandmother. The dispatcher asks again and again whether the caller has seen any weapons.
“We need a police officer here now,” the caller responds. That person’s identity was unclear on Wednesday.
A second 911 call came in minutes later, but the caller hung up because the police had already arrived.
Unlike the agonizingly slow video showing Mr. Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, in which he calls out that he cannot breathe as Mr. Chauvin kneels on his neck, footage released by the Columbus police shows that Ms. Bryant’s killing unfolded in seconds.
Officers were dispatched to the home on Legion Lane at 4:35 p.m. on Tuesday and arrived at 4:44, according to the Columbus police.
As Officer Reardon got out of his vehicle, he encountered seven people outside a two-story brick home and asked, “What’s going on?” Yelling could be heard in the background.
An unidentified girl appeared to fall to the grass after being attacked by Ms. Bryant and then kicked by an unidentified man. The video footage then showed Ms. Bryant, who was holding a knife, appearing to lunge toward a person dressed in pink who was pinned against a car parked in the driveway.
“Hey! Hey!” Officer Reardon said as he pulled his gun. “Get down! Get down!”
He fired four quick shots, and Ms. Bryant dropped to the ground at the edge of the driveway.
A witness yelled, “Why did you shoot her?”
The officer responded, “She came at her with a knife,” apparently referring to Ms. Bryant and the person dressed in pink.
Chief Woods said Columbus officers were allowed to use deadly force to protect somebody who was in danger of being killed by another person. A Taser, he said, is generally reserved for situations where there is no immediate threat of death. Officers are not required to call out that they are about to fire their weapon, he added, though they try to if there is time.
“It’s a tragedy,” Chief Woods said. “There’s no other way to say it. It’s a 16-year-old girl.”
Two experts who reviewed the body camera footage said that in this case, the officer’s use of force appeared at first glance to be justified.
Geoffrey P. Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina, said investigators would look at whether the officer believed that there was an imminent threat to the life of the other woman.
If there was an immediate threat, investigators will look at whether the officer could have resorted to other methods of control, he said. Dr. Alpert said that based on his own review, Ms. Bryant did appear to pose a threat to the life of the other woman.
“Were there other options? Not if she was about to stab that woman,” Dr. Alpert said, adding that a Taser could take too long to deploy, and that the less-than-lethal weapons are not 100 percent reliable. “He’s protecting her life, not his own,” he said. “What if it didn’t work and she ended up killing this woman?”
Still, Ms. Bryant’s family and activists across Columbus questioned why the officer shot Ms. Bryant.
“I don’t know why he shot her,” Ms. Moore, Ms. Bryant’s foster parent, said. “I don’t know why he didn’t Tase her, why they didn’t try to break it up.”
She added, “At the end of the day, it wasn’t worth all this.”
Tensions over police shootings of Black people were already raw around Columbus. In early December, Casey Goodson Jr., 23, was shot to death at the entrance of his home by a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy who had been searching for someone else. Two weeks later, Andre Hill was shot by a Columbus police officer who was later charged with felony murder.
Ms. Moore said that she was at work during the shooting, but that she believed the fight began over an argument about housekeeping. She said one of her former foster children had visited the home on Tuesday and criticized Ms. Bryant and her sister for having messy bedrooms.
“That’s where the problem came,” Ms. Moore said. “I didn’t know they had called the police.”
Ms. Moore said that Ms. Bryant had moved into her home on Feb. 14, and that she was one of three foster children living there, including her sister.
Ms. Bryant’s family expressed dismay and outrage at her death, and described Ms. Bryant as sweet and caring. They said she should still be alive.
“This could have been de-escalated by the Columbus Police Department,” Don Bryant, a cousin of Ms. Bryant’s mother, said. “There are things you can do to avoid pulling out your gun and shooting someone. I question the use of force.”
Mr. Bryant said he did not know how Ma’Khia Bryant had ended up in foster care. But he said that her mother, Paula Bryant, who works as a nursing assistant in Columbus, had been working toward a reunion.
“Paula was working extremely hard to get Ma’Khia back into her home, working to do everything right,” Mr. Bryant said.
Ms. Bryant had been enrolled at Independence High School in Columbus in February. Jacqueline Bryant, a spokeswoman for Columbus City Schools who is not related, said her teachers reported that in the short time Ms. Bryant was there, she was “very respectful, attended school each day, and was eager to learn.”
On Legion Lane, where a memorial of flowers and stuffed animals was growing on Wednesday, neighbors were still stunned. Chris Mitchell, 31, who was visiting from another city, was playing with his two children in a nearby backyard when he heard “very loud arguing” followed by gunshots about two minutes later.
“I came out and saw a young lady on the ground,” Mr. Mitchell said.
Israel Reales, 19, said his mother, Nahomi, was unloading groceries from her car when she heard gunshots. She went outside and saw people with their hands up. She relayed the story through her son, who interpreted.
“The police need a lot more training,” Mr. Reales said. “The way it was handled wasn’t proper.”
Activists who spent Tuesday demonstrating at the scene of the shooting marched on late Wednesday afternoon toward Police Headquarters, and said they planned to demand answers and accountability.
“They didn’t de-escalate the situation,” said DeJuan Sharp, an organizer with a local Black Lives Matter group called the Downtownerz. “I don’t know why the gun was the first thing for him to use.”
Lucia Walinchus contributed reporting from Columbus.
While millions of people struggled to make ends meet, many of the companies hit hardest in 2020 showered their executives with riches.
By David Gelles, April 24, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/24/business/ceos-pandemic-compensation.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Clockwise from top left, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Robert A. Iger of Disney, John Stankey of AT&T, Chris Nassetta of Hilton, David Calhoun of Boeing, Kevin Johnson of Starbucks and Frank Del Rio of Norwegian Cruise (New York Times)
Boeing had a historically bad 2020. Its 737 Max was grounded for most of the year after two deadly crashes, the pandemic decimated its business, and the company announced plans to lay off 30,000 workers and reported a $12 billion loss. Nonetheless, its chief executive, David Calhoun, was rewarded with some $21.1 million in compensation.
Norwegian Cruise Line barely survived the year. With the cruise industry at a standstill, the company lost $4 billion and furloughed 20 percent of its staff. That didn’t stop Norwegian from more than doubling the pay of Frank Del Rio, its chief executive, to $36.4 million.
And at Hilton, where nearly a quarter of the corporate staff were laid off as hotels around the world sat empty and the company lost $720 million, it was a good year for the man in charge. Hilton reported in a securities filing that Chris Nassetta, its chief executive, received compensation worth $55.9 million in 2020.
The coronavirus plunged the world into an economic crisis, sent the U.S. unemployment rate skyrocketing and left millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet. Yet at many of the companies hit hardest by the pandemic, the executives in charge were showered with riches.
The divergent fortunes of C.E.O.s and everyday workers illustrate the sharp divides in a nation on the precipice of an economic boom but still racked by steep income inequality. The stock markets are up and the wealthy are spending freely, but millions are still facing significant hardship. Executives are minting fortunes while laid-off workers line up at food banks.
“Many of these C.E.O.s have improved profitability by laying off workers,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, who has proposed new taxes on the ultrawealthy. “A tiny handful of people who have shimmied all the way to the top of the greasy pole get all of the rewards, while everyone else gets left behind.”
For executives who own large stakes in giant companies, the gains have been even more pronounced. Eight of the 10 wealthiest people in the world are men who founded or ran tech companies in the United States, and each has grown billions of dollars richer this year, according to Bloomberg. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, which saw profits skyrocket with people stuck at home, is now worth $193 billion. Larry Page, a Google co-founder, is worth $103 billion, up $21 billion in the last four months alone, as his company’s fortunes have only improved during the pandemic.
And, according to security filings, a select few are rapidly accumulating new fortunes. Chad Richison, founder and chief executive of an Oklahoma software company, Paycom, is worth more than $3 billion and was awarded $211 million last year, when his company made $144 million in profit. John Legere, the former chief executive of T-Mobile, was awarded $137.2 million last year, a reward for taking over the rival Sprint.
“We’ve created this class of centimillionaires and billionaires who have not been good for this country,” said Nell Minow, vice chair of ValueEdge Advisors, an investment consulting firm. “They may build a wing on a museum. But it’s not infrastructure — it’s not the middle class.”
The gap between executive compensation and average worker pay has been growing for decades. Chief executives of big companies now make, on average, 320 times as much as their typical worker, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In 1989, that ratio was 61 to 1. From 1978 to 2019, compensation grew 14 percent for typical workers. It rose 1,167 percent for C.E.O.s.
The pandemic only compounded these disparities, as hundreds of companies awarded their leaders pay packages worth significantly more than most Americans will make in their entire lives.
“To my mind, they’re the logical consequence of our total embrace of shareholder capitalism, starting with the corporate raiders of the 1980s, to the exclusion and sacrifice of all else, including American workers,” said Robert Reich, a labor secretary under President Bill Clinton. “The pay packages reflect soaring share prices, which in turn reflect, at least in part, the willingness if not eagerness of corporations to cut payrolls at the slightest provocation.”
AT&T, the media conglomerate, lost $5.4 billion and cut thousands of jobs throughout the year. John Stankey, the chief executive, received $21 million for his work in 2020, down from $22.5 million in 2019.
T-Mobile said it would create new jobs through its merger with Sprint, but has already begun layoffs. It made $3.1 billion in 2020. In addition to Mr. Legere’s windfall, the company awarded its current chief executive, Mike Sievert, $54.9 million.
Tenet Healthcare, a hospital chain, furloughed about 11,000 workers during the pandemic, but made nearly $399 million in profit. “The last 12 months clearly have been an extraordinary challenge and learning experience,” the company’s chief executive, Ronald Rittenmeyer, wrote in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In the same document, Tenet revealed that Mr. Rittenmeyer earned $16.7 million last year.
And L Brands, the owner of Victoria’s Secret, cut 15 percent of its office staff and temporarily closed most of its stores during the pandemic. Andrew Meslow, who took over from Leslie H. Wexner as chief executive in February last year, still earned $18.5 million.
“They always talk about how their employees are the most important assets,” Ms. Minow said. “But they sure don’t treat them that way.”
Dozens of public companies have already reported paying their C.E.O.s $25 million or more last year, according to Equilar, an executive compensation consulting firm. Several companies that announced major layoffs last year, including Comcast and Nike, have not yet released executive compensation data for last year.
Many companies defended their executive compensation plans. In some cases, C.E.O.s took less than they were entitled to. Most top executives receive the bulk of their pay in shares, which may decrease in value and often vest over several years. And at many companies, the stock price was up despite the turbulence in the economy and regardless of whether the company was profitable.
“At the end of the day, C.E.O.s end up getting rewarded for how they respond to these external occurrences,” said Jannice Koors, a compensation consultant at Pearl Meyer who works with companies to determine executive pay. “If you think about stores closing, furloughs, etc., C.E.O.s are getting rewarded for making those decisions.”
In many ways, the role of corporate chieftains has never been more pronounced. Beyond running their businesses, C.E.O.s have emerged as prominent voices in the national conversations around race, climate change and voting rights.
At the same time, they face critics on all sides. Senator Mitch McConnell recently told companies protesting Republican efforts to overhaul voting laws to “stay out of politics.” Meanwhile, labor advocates are calling on companies to take better care of their workers.
“It’s time for the corporations in this nation to play their part in a recovery that can be shared by everybody,” said Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees International Union. “We cannot reinforce the economic inequality that existed before the pandemic.”
Executives at publicly traded companies receive most of their compensation in stock, an arrangement intended to align pay with the performance of a company’s share price. When the stock price goes up, the theory goes, investors and executives alike share in the gains.
Defying logic, the stock market has been soaring for months now, more than making up the losses it suffered early in the pandemic. As a result, many chief executives ended the first year of the pandemic having overseen, improbably, a rise in their company’s share price. The resilience of the markets, and the sense that Covid-19 was an act of God, not the fault of any one person, helped companies justify big pay packages.
“Boards were thinking: ‘This isn’t our management team’s fault. This isn’t the result of bad planing or lax governance. This kind of happened to everybody,’” Ms. Koors said. “There was a sense in board rooms that if, despite all this, they managed to deliver on the numbers, who are we to cut those payments in a year when everyone worked their butts off?”
Some investors and corporate governance groups are pushing back on executive compensation plans.
Starbucks shareholders voted last month against the compensation plans for the company’s two top executives. The resolution was nonbinding, however, and the chief executive, Kevin Johnson, received $14.7 million in cash and stock last year.
The biggest clash over pay this year is at General Electric, a company still reeling from years of mismanagement. Larry Culp, the chief executive, received $73.2 million last year and could collect well over $100 million more, thanks to a recently updated pay plan. Several prominent corporate governance groups have come out in opposition to Mr. Culp’s pay, and investors will vote on the issue at G.E.’s annual meeting next month.
Even when executive pay was slashed, it often remained high. Robert A. Iger, the chairman of the Walt Disney Company, last year earned less than half what he did in 2019, but his compensation was still $21 million. The pay cut was a reflection of the difficult year at Disney, which laid off more than 28,000 people as its theme parks shut down.
At Boeing, Mr. Calhoun voluntarily gave up most of his cash salary this year, taking just $269,231 of the $1.4 million he was entitled to. Still, thanks to stock awards, his compensation was more than $21 million.
“Dave obviously gave up a lot,” a Boeing spokesman said in an email.
A Hilton spokesman said the $55.9 million figure reported in the company’s annual filing did not reflect Mr. Nassetta’s actual pay. Because of the pandemic, Hilton restructured several complex stock awards. As a result, Mr. Nassetta’s actual earnings for 2020 will be closer to $20.1 million, a slight decrease from 2019.
“2020 was an anomaly in so many ways,” the spokesman said in an email.ospheric
Isaiah Brown was on a cordless phone with an emergency dispatcher when he was shot, his lawyer said. His family said he was in intensive care.
By Allyson Waller and Michael Levenson, April 24, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/24/us/isaiah-brown-shooting.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
A Virginia deputy shot Isaiah Brown, 32, after Mr. Brown called 911 during a dispute with his brother. The Virginia State Police confirmed that Mr. Brown had been unarmed. Credit...The Cochran Firm
A Virginia sheriff’s deputy shot and seriously wounded an unarmed man early on Wednesday morning, less than an hour after the deputy had given the man a ride after his car broke down, the authorities said.
The Spotsylvania County deputy had initially given the man, Isaiah L. Brown, 32, a lift to a house after responding to a 911 call for a driver whose car was not working at a gas station, the Virginia State Police said.
About 45 minutes later, the deputy responded to another 911 call for a “domestic incident” involving Mr. Brown and his brother, according to the State Police and a recording of the 911 call and body-camera footage.
After finding Mr. Brown walking in a road and talking to a 911 dispatcher, the deputy said, “He’s got a gun to his head.”
“Drop the gun now!” the deputy shouted. “Stop walking towards me! Stop walking towards me! Stop! Stop!”
At least seven gunshots can be heard on the body-camera footage.
“The officer mistook a cordless house phone for a gun,” Mr. Brown’s lawyer, David Haynes, said in a statement. “There is no indication that Isaiah did anything other than comply with dispatch’s orders and raised his hands with the phone in his hand as instructed. The deputy in question made multiple, basic policing errors and violated established protocols.”
Mr. Haynes said the family learned that Mr. Brown had been shot 10 times. Yolanda Brown, Mr. Brown’s sister, said on Saturday that her brother was in an intensive-care unit and on a breathing machine.
“The exact doctor’s words were, ‘Your brother’s not out of the woods yet, and it’s touch and go,’” she said in an interview.
The Virginia State Police confirmed that Mr. Brown, who is Black, was unarmed. Mr. Haynes called the shooting “avoidable.”
Roger L. Harris, the Spotsylvania County sheriff, released the 911 call and body-camera footage on Friday and said in a videotaped statement that the deputy who shot Mr. Brown had been placed on administrative leave. He did not give the deputy’s name, and the sheriff’s office did not return calls on Saturday.
The Virginia State Police, the agency that is leading the investigation, plans to turn over its findings to a special prosecutor for review, said Corinne Geller, a State Police spokeswoman.
Sheriff Harris said the State Police had been contacted at his request to ensure “an impartial and transparent investigation.”
La Bravia J. Jenkins, the commonwealth’s attorney for the city of Fredericksburg, Va., confirmed on Saturday that she had been appointed special prosecutor.
“Video of the incident has been released, but the investigation continues,” she said in an email. “I have nothing further to report at this time.”
The authorities described a fast-moving sequence of events that had begun at about 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday, when the deputy gave Mr. Brown a ride. Ms. Brown said her brother had been dropped off at his mother’s house.
About 45 minutes later, the sheriff’s office received a 911 call for a “domestic incident,” the State Police said.
In the recording of the call, Mr. Brown can be heard arguing with his brother about getting keys to a car parked outside of the house.
While on the phone with a dispatcher, Mr. Brown asks his brother for a gun, which his brother refuses to give him, the 911 call indicates. Mr. Brown then asks the dispatcher to send someone to the house and says, “I’m about to kill my brother.”
Mr. Brown tells the dispatcher that he did have a gun but does not have one on him, the recording indicates. As he continues talking with the dispatcher, sirens can be heard, and the dispatcher tells Mr. Brown to “hold your hands up.”
In the body-camera footage, the responding deputy gets out of his car and begins shouting at Mr. Brown in the middle of a dark road illuminated by the flashing blue lights of his patrol car: “Show me your hands now! Show me your hands! Drop the gun!”
The footage mostly shows the ground and part of the deputy’s car. It does not show Mr. Brown being shot.
After the shooting, the deputy gave medical aid to Mr. Brown, according to the sheriff. On the 911 call, the deputy can be heard telling Mr. Brown’s brother to grab a medical kit in his patrol car.
“Stay with me,” the deputy tells Mr. Brown. “Stay with me.”
“Does he still have the house phone?” Mr. Brown’s brother asks in the 911 recording.
The deputy asks: “Where is the gun at? Where is the gun?”
Moe Petway, the president of the Spotsylvania N.A.A.C.P., said he had watched the body-camera footage and listened to the 911 call on Friday with Mr. Brown’s family. He said the call and the video had left him with questions about the deputy’s response.
“If he believed it was a gun, the guy was not aiming the gun at him, so why didn’t he take some evasive measures, retreat or get behind the car?” Mr. Petway said. “That’s why de-escalation is so important, so officers take measures other than lethal.”
Ms. Brown said she did not understand why the deputy had felt threatened by her brother.
“I would just assume that if the officer felt that he was aggressive or a harm to him or anybody else, that the procedure would have been to take him to jail or take him to a hospital or something to be evaluated,” said Ms. Brown, who worked as a correctional officer for about 10 years at Fluvanna Women’s Correctional Center in Virginia.
More than half of the roughly 270 correction officers disciplined over a 20-month period lied to investigators or filed incomplete or inaccurate reports.
By Jan Ransom, Published April 24, 2021, Updated April 25, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/24/nyregion/rikers-guards-lie-nyc-jails.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=New%20York
Protesters gathered at City Hall in 2019, as the City Council voted on a plan to close Rikers Island. Credit...Joshua Bright for The New York Times
One New York City Correction officer struck a jailed person in the face for no legitimate reason. Another put a detainee in a banned chokehold several times. A third failed to stop subordinates from using unnecessary force, according to newly released discipline records.
But what was equally notable was what happened after the encounters: In each case, the guards lied or provided inaccurate information about what had occurred.
In fact, more than half of the officers in New York City’s jail system who were disciplined over a 20-month period gave false, misleading or incomplete accounts on official forms or in statements to investigators, according to a New York Times analysis of records recently made public after a long court battle.
The data suggests pervasive attempts by guards to cover up uses of force or other infractions at a time when the city has tried to rein in violence in the jails.
Councilman Keith Powers, a Manhattan Democrat who heads the criminal justice committee, said the data “highlights how broken this process is and a need to make real efforts to reform it.”
“It’s a turning point to providing more visibility to an often invisible criminal justice system,” he said.
The city jail system, including the notorious Rikers Island complex, has long been a source of complaints of brutality by guards. Six years ago, when the city entered a landmark legal settlement with federal prosecutors, a key part of the plan was to hold officers accountable for misconduct in a timely way, including a more transparent accounting of episodes involving force.
“The entire system of use-of-force reporting depends upon officers giving accurate facts and telling the truth about what happened,” said Mary Lynne Werlwas, director of the Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project. Unless there is video evidence, Ms. Werlwas added, “the officer’s word gets credited when it is an incarcerated person’s word against an officer’s.”
That changed last summer when, in response to pressure from protests against police violence and racism after the killing of George Floyd, New York legislators repealed 50-a, the section of the state civil rights statute that shielded most law enforcement misconduct records from the public.
The unions representing police and correction officers and their supervisors quickly filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the release of the disciplinary records, but a federal judge and an appeals panel eventually rejected their arguments, including the contention that releasing the records could endanger officers. The city released a database detailing disciplinary actions against correction officers in March.
Taken together, the revelations contained in the database paint a picture of ongoing violence by guards in the troubled city jail system, confirming the findings of a federal monitor last fall.
Lying on official forms or to investigators was a common thread. About 56 percent of the more than 270 correction officers who were disciplined from January 2019 to August 2020, including a dozen supervisors, lied, misled investigators or filed incomplete or inaccurate reports, the records show. At least 17 officers made false statements in interviews with officials who were looking into allegations.
The data released by the department did not specify how the officers were found to have provided false information, but typically investigators compare officers’ statements with other evidence, such as video footage and medical records documenting injuries.
One officer, Lawrence Wallace, a 15-year veteran of the department, was disciplined eight times in less than two years for using excessive force on people held in city jails, including deploying banned restraints and pepper spray. In four of those cases, he lied on official reports about what had happened, and at least once he made false statements to investigators, the records show.
Correction officials allowed Mr. Wallace to keep his job but docked him 55 vacation days and placed him on probation for two years, a decision the department called a “holistic approach.” Reached by telephone, Mr. Wallace declined to comment.
“I don’t know any workplace where five, six, seven violations of major abuses would not result in very serious punishment, if not loss of employment,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Joseph Russo, president of the union representing deputy wardens and assistant deputy wardens, acknowledged that jail staff members sometimes make misleading statements, but he said he thought some were honest mistakes. He argued that officers and supervisors simply do not remember certain interactions, or their memories are spotty because of the stress surrounding the events.
“To recall these details in great detail is very difficult,” Mr. Russo said.
Benny Boscio Jr., president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, said in a statement that the majority of the 8,130 officers in his union did not have “a single disciplinary charge.”
City correction department officials also said the reporting errors were not always intentional. To cut down on lapses, the department created a new course for officers to improve their writing skills and to teach them how to complete official incident reports, officials said. The department has also provided counseling and retraining for officers.
Some gaps in reporting, however, are purposeful cover-ups, correction officers said privately, speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect their employment. One said he had witnessed colleagues use excessive force and omit their actions from official records — for instance, twisting a man’s limb after he stopped resisting, or using pepper spray for longer than allowed.
Another staff member said he had seen officers huddle on Rikers Island to decide what statements to make on official forms. He said a captain once also asked him to change the time of an incident on a report to hide when it took place.
The data offered the most complete portrait to date of staff discipline in the city’s lockups, but the records were still very limited. They identified the officers only by last name, with a brief description of the offense and the outcome.
The records did not include unsubstantiated allegations or cases in which the accused officer was cleared of wrongdoing. Nor did they contain at least five guards who were fired in the past two years. Three of those officers had been criminally charged with beating incarcerated people and then covering up the assaults, according to the Bronx district attorney’s office. Another had been arrested in Queens on a drunk-driving charge.
The data also did not include officers disciplined for drug smuggling or sex crimes. Drug smuggling allegations are generally referred to local prosecutors, officials said, and there were no substantiated rape allegations during the 20-month period in question.
Still, the records showed that, in general, most guards who were brought up on departmental charges of using excessive force escaped serious punishment.
Nine of the more than 270 guards resigned or retired under pressure, the data showed. Twenty-four officers were suspended, and 17 additional officers were placed on probation, which lasted from one to four years. (Some of the suspended officers were also put on probation.) Most of the rest lost vacation days.
Six of the nine officers who resigned or retired had lied or filed incomplete reports about an inappropriate use of force, the records show. “We do not tolerate false reporting, or excessive or unnecessary uses of force under any circumstances,” said Jason Kersten, a spokesman for the Department of Correction.
Of the 11 officers in the data with at least three disciplinary charges for misconduct, only one was suspended. None were dismissed.
The suspended officer, Captain Quincy Oudkerk, was found, among other things, to have kicked an inmate who did not pose a threat and then to have lied about the force he used, records showed. He was suspended for 28 days. Mr. Oudkerk declined to comment when reached by phone.
While the database provided just bare-bones description of each incident, more detailed allegations have emerged in lawsuits filed against Mr. Wallace.
In a 2015 suit, Arthur Ceasar said Mr. Wallace had thrown a pair of shoes at him and pummeled him in a cell at the Manhattan Detention Center, sending him to the hospital.
That same year, Mr. Wallace and several other guards were accused in a second lawsuit of beating another person in jail, Basheer Bajas, so badly that he had internal bleeding in his left eye and severe headaches.
In January 2016, Shymell Ephron said in a third lawsuit that Mr. Wallace had punched him repeatedly in the head while he was being detained. The city settled with Mr. Ephron for $3,000.
The same year, Tobias Anderson, who is also listed in court records as Olivia Anderson, said in a fourth lawsuit that Mr. Wallace called him a homophobic slur and purposely dropped him down a flight of stairs in a transgender housing unit.
Asked why Mr. Wallace was still employed by the department despite being disciplined eight times in connection with seven encounters, the correction department said in a statement that officials had considered “the totality of the circumstances.” Penalties are not determined by the number of violations a correction officer has pending, the department said.
Mr. Wallace racked up another seven charges while he was waiting for the first allegation against him in 2016 to be resolved, the records showed. Such delays are not unusual. Roughly 46 percent of the cases took two years or more to resolve, the data showed.
In one extreme case, it took officials just over six years to discipline one guard, Carlos Rodriguez, who failed to notify a supervisor about using force on an inmate and later falsified a report in March 2014.
A correction department spokesman, Patrick Rocchio, said the department’s disciplinary process was often slowed down because outside agencies, like the city Department of Investigation or state and federal prosecutors, were also investigating.
At least three other officers besides Mr. Wallace were disciplined multiple times, the city data showed. Patrick Alicea, a 10-year veteran, was found to have used excessive force five times over a nine-month period and to have twice provided false statements on official forms. He was demoted from captain to officer.
Two other officers, Maximo Matos and Brian Saryian, who have both been on the force for eight years, were each disciplined on four separate occasions for using improper force, the data showed. Both officers also falsified official statements. Mr. Matos forfeited 60 days of vacation, Mr. Saryian, 55.
Mr. Saryian declined to comment when reached by phone. Mr. Alicea did not respond to requests for comment and Mr. Matos could not be reached.
Adam Playford contributed data analysis.
Mayor Ted Wheeler said he wanted to “unmask” demonstrators who engaged in property destruction. The Oregon city has seen regular demonstrations since the murder of George Floyd.
“Teressa Raiford, a community organizer who founded the nonprofit Don’t Shoot PDX, said activists were focused on saving lives while city leaders seemed to be focused on saving windows.”
By Mike Baker, April 27, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/27/us/portland-protests-mayor-ted-wheeler.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=US%20News
The mayor of Portland, Ore., recently urged people to report anything they might overhear about property destruction plans or boasts. Credit...Alisha Jucevic for The New York Times
PORTLAND, Ore. — After the protests have concluded, sometimes in the early morning hours, Margaret Carter finds herself climbing into her gray Toyota Camry and cruising the streets of Portland so she can see the latest damage for herself.
Ms. Carter, 85, has been downtown to the Oregon Historical Society, where demonstrators have twice smashed out the windows, recently scrawling “No More History” on the side of the building. She has driven past the local headquarters of the Democratic Party, where windows have also been shattered. Last week, she found herself at the Boys & Girls Club in her own neighborhood, nearing tears at the scene of costly window destruction at a place she has worked so hard to support.
“Portland was a beautiful city,” said Ms. Carter, who was the first Black woman elected to the Oregon Legislative Assembly and is now retired. “Now you walk around and see all the graffiti, buildings being boarded up. I get sick to my stomach. And I get angry.”
After almost a year of near-continuous protests since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Portland’s city leaders are signaling that it may be time for a more aggressive crackdown on the most strident street actions.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, himself a target of many of the protests as he oversaw a police department that has repeatedly turned to aggressive tactics, last week put into place a state of emergency that lasted six days and vowed to “unmask” those demonstrators who engaged in repeated acts of vandalism or arson, saying it was time to “hurt them a little bit.”
The demonstrations over racial justice and police violence have struck a chord with many Portland residents, and the mayor’s effort has infuriated some in the progressive city’s more liberal corners. Mr. Wheeler’s call for crowdsourced surveillance has alarmed civil rights advocates, and critics say the city has failed to bring an end to acts of violence by the Portland Police Bureau, a demand echoed by hundreds of demonstrators who have not destroyed property.
One of the latest flash points came this month, when a police officer fatally shot a man in a city park — a shooting that authorities have largely not explained.
Teressa Raiford, a community organizer who founded the nonprofit Don’t Shoot PDX, said activists were focused on saving lives while city leaders seemed to be focused on saving windows.
“There would not be protests if police didn’t continue to murder people,” Ms. Raiford said. “I wish we cared about life as much as we care about property.”
Protests erupted in thousands of communities around the country after Mr. Floyd’s death, but most gradually petered out. Portland, by contrast, had nightly protests for months, with a broad swath of the community demanding changes to confront racism and inequality in the criminal justice system. The Police Bureau exacerbated tensions, using force and tear gas in ways that have drawn the ire of judges and the Justice Department.
But the crowd sizes have waned, and figures such as Terry Porter, the former Portland Trail Blazers player, have called for an end to destructive demonstrations. Mr. Wheeler seemed to use last week’s conviction of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who murdered Mr. Floyd, as an opportunity to bring the most raucous of the protests to a close.
As people around the country went into the streets to cheer the conviction, some businesses in Portland boarded up their windows once again. That night, a small group of activists wearing black approached a group of journalists, threatening to smash the cameras of those who remained on scene. The group later shattered windows at two Starbucks stores. One man was arrested after throwing a punch at a police officer.
The crowds the city has seen are often made up of amorphous groups of people who come for different reasons. Chris Davis, the deputy police chief, estimated there were 150 to 200 people among the regular protesters who were prone to engage in property destruction, although the demonstrations often feature smaller numbers.
Those protesters often seen in identity-concealing black apparel and engaging in vandalism are a mix of anarchists and police abolitionists, said David Myers, an activist who has joined many of the city’s protests. He said that while he was OK with those who engaged in property damage to apply pressure on city officials unwilling to impose change, he bemoaned that some of those demonstrators seemed to be sidelining the original Black Lives Matter message and harming the cause. In some cases, he said, businesses owned by Black people or which support the Black community have been attacked.
“I think everybody in that mix wants to say they are B.L.M., but their actions show otherwise,” Mr. Myers said.
Mr. Myers was among a group of Black activists who posted a letter to the protest community last week, decrying “ongoing behavior seen as detrimental to Black Liberation.” Success, it said, requires “thoughtful action.”
The increasing consternation among protesters themselves provided an opening last week for Mr. Wheeler to announce a crackdown.
In his call for the public’s help, Mr. Wheeler urged people to report anything they might overhear about property destruction plans or boasts. He also called for residents to report protesters who appeared to be disguising their identity and to document their license plates for the police. He urged a local college to expel one student currently facing charges in connection with a demonstration if the student is convicted.
Police officers have been attempting to target and arrest demonstrators who engage in property destruction. Using a tactic known as “kettling” that has been used in policing protests around the country despite concerns from civil rights advocates, officers last month surrounded a crowd and began gathering information about each person caught inside the perimeter. The effort “yielded a lot of information,” Mr. Davis said.
In another recent case, after activists lit a fire at the police union headquarters, investigators reported working with an informant in the crowd to identify a suspect.
Mike Schmidt, the Multnomah County prosecutor, has taken a forgiving attitude toward protesters who remained peaceful. When he took office last summer, he effectively dismissed protest-related charges against hundreds of people.
Since then, he said, his office has been focused on protesters who have committed violent crimes or those involving property; for those who are arrested after such crimes, prosecutors will consider restoring lesser criminal charges that were previously dropped. He said his office was also asking judges to impose additional conditions for the pretrial release of some people charged with crimes, requiring them to leave any demonstration in which police officers declare an unlawful assembly or a riot.
Mr. Schmidt said he was frustrated that people were still engaging in property destruction, noting cases like the Boys & Girls Club.
“These are not just attacks on windows,” he said. “These are attacks on our community. These are attacks on the values of who we are.”
Mr. Myers, the activist, said he was worried about the mayor’s call for members of the public to alert the police when they see people wearing black protester-style clothing, saying it raises the prospect of vigilante actions. “It puts people at risk,” he said.
Mr. Myers said he expected the protests to continue despite the mayor’s efforts to quash them.
Eric Murfitt, who manages Mercantile Portland, a high-end women’s clothing store, said he had heard leaders such as Mr. Wheeler expressing the right determination to end the unrest. But he said he still had not seen a lot of follow-through or results.
“Do we want to live in chaos where there are no laws, no police, no accountability?” Mr. Murfitt said. “Or do we want to live in a civil society?”
Mr. Murfitt said a night of looting in May resulted in $1 million in damage at his store, only days after it had reopened after the coronavirus lockdowns. Later in the year, Mr. Murfitt said, the store’s insurer declined to renew the policy.
The store eventually found another insurer but must pay four times more than the previous policy — tens of thousands of additional dollars per year — for a new policy that does not cover losses from civil unrest, Mr. Murfitt said. He said he was also spending tens of thousands of dollars to put bars on the windows and film on the window glass.
By David K. Li, NBC News, April 27, 2021
Protesters in Elizabeth City on Saturday calling for the release of body camera footage of the police killing of Andrew Brown Jr. (photo: CNN)
The family of a North Carolina man shot and killed by sheriff's deputies said Monday that they were shown just 20 seconds of body-camera video that appeared to show the man with his hands on the steering wheel of his car before he was killed.
Loved ones of Andrew Brown Jr., 42, expected to be shown the bodycam video just before noon Monday, but the viewing was pushed back several hours because of redactions sought by the county attorney, family attorneys said.
But even in 20 seconds of video, Brown's loved ones said, it was clear that he wasn't a threat to law enforcement and shouldn't have been gunned down.
"My dad got executed just trying to save his own life," son Khalil Ferebee told reporters outside the Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office. "It ain't right. It ain't right at all."
Family attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter said the video showed Brown in his vehicle as it was blocked in the driveway in Elizabeth City by law enforcement, making an escape impossible. NBC News hasn't seen the video.
"Andrew had his hands on his steering wheel. He was not reaching for anything. He wasn't touching anything," she said.
"He had his hands firmly on the steering wheel. They run up to his vehicle shooting. He still stood there, sat there in his vehicle, with his hands on the steering wheel while being shot at."
When asked whether Brown was shot in the back, attorney Harry Daniels told The Associated Press, “Yes, back of the head.”
The family conceded that Brown did try to drive away — but said he was fired upon before he tried to escape. Shell casings were flying in the video before his vehicle moved, Cherry-Lassiter said.
"His car was riddled with bullets, shooting him when he was not threatening them in any form or fashion," she said. "There were shell casing before he even backed out. So they were shooting at him when he was sitting there with his hands on the steering wheel in the driveway."
Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy S. Wooten in a video statement later Monday characterized the incident as quick and said that outside investigators are interviewing witnesses and gathering more information.
"This tragic incident was quick and over in less than 30 seconds, and body cameras are shaky and sometimes hard to decipher," Wooten said. "They only tell part of the story."
The redactions and the delay angered Brown's family, especially in light of a search warrant affidavit detailing allegations against him and justifying why deputies sought to arrest him.
"They released a warrant saying all kinds of things about Andrew Brown, but they want to redact the face of police officers that killed Andrew Brown?" said Benjamin Crump, another attorney representing the family.
"Now, Andrew Brown didn't kill nobody. The police killed Andrew Brown. But we're going to protect them and not show their face and not say their names so we can see what their rap sheet is," he said.
Pasquotank County Attorney R. Michael Cox said in a statement earlier in the day that state law "allows us to blur some faces on the video and that process takes time."
The family complained that they were shown 20 seconds of bodycam video from just one of at least eight responding deputies. No dash-cam video was shown, they said.
Cox couldn't be immediately reached for comment late Monday afternoon.
Brown was killed Wednesday, April 21, 2021, as deputies sought to serve a warrant for his arrest on felony drug charges, authorities said. A search warrant affidavit made public Monday accused Brown of selling cocaine, crack, meth and heroin.
The circumstances of his death remain unclear. Seven deputies have been put on administrative leave. Three have resigned; a spokesperson for the sheriff's office said their resignations were unrelated to the shooting.
The shooting occurred in a residential neighborhood in Elizabeth City, which is about 35 miles south of Norfolk, Virginia.
Earlier Monday, Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie Parker declared a state of emergency ahead of the release of the video and a potential "period of civil unrest." The video can be publicly released only by a judge.
The declaration clears a way for the city to receive state and federal assistance "to protect our citizens," Parker said.
Monday protesters took to the streets in Elizabeth City, a community of around 17,600, with some saying the redacted video showed a cover-up, NBC affiliate WAVY reported.
Brown was shot when a SWAT-style team tried to serve the warrants last week, sheriff's officials have said. Brown was a convicted felon with a history of resisting arrest, which meant the procedure was considered to have a higher risk than others, authorities said.
Gov. Roy Cooper has said Brown's death was "tragic and extremely concerning," and he has called for a state investigation "to ensure accountability."
The death of Mario Arenales Gonzalez came one day before a former Minneapolis officer was convicted of murdering George Floyd. Body camera footage was released on Tuesday.
By Will Wright, Published April 27, 2021 Updated April 28, 2021
A screenshot from body camera footage of Mario Arenales Gonzalez, who died in police custody in Alameda, Calif., last week. Credit...Alameda Police Department
Body camera footage was released on Tuesday of a 26-year-old man who died in police custody after officers in Alameda County, Calif., pinned him facedown on the ground for five minutes.
The footage from the Alameda Police Department shows the man, Mario Arenales Gonzalez, becoming unresponsive while in handcuffs and police officers quickly beginning chest compressions.
Mr. Gonzalez died on April 19, one day before Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted of murdering George Floyd by restraining him for nine minutes and 29 seconds, holding him to the pavement with his knee long after Mr. Floyd had become unresponsive.
An initial police report from Alameda, south of Oakland, said that “a physical altercation ensued” when officers tried to detain Mr. Gonzalez and that “at that time, the man had a medical emergency.” The report said Mr. Gonzalez had died in a hospital later that day.
Julia Sherwin, a lawyer representing Mr. Gonzalez’s family, called the explanation “misinformation,” comparing it to the initial police report after Mr. Floyd’s death. Mr. Gonzalez’s family was also concerned with why the police used force in the first place, Ms. Sherwin said.
“His death was completely avoidable and unnecessary,” she said, adding, “Drunk guy in a park doesn’t equal a capital sentence.”
At a news conference on Tuesday, Gerardo Gonzalez said his brother had not been posing any threat when he died.
“Alameda police officers murdered my brother,” he said.
Three police officers have been placed on administrative leave, and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office are both conducting independent investigations. The city of Alameda has also hired Louise Renne, the former city attorney for San Francisco and a former president of the San Francisco Police Commission, to conduct its own investigation.
In addition to the body camera footage, the city released two audio recordings from people who had called 911 to report a Hispanic man later identified as Mr. Gonzalez.
One man says Mr. Gonzalez has been loitering for about a half-hour and appears to be breaking store security tags off alcohol bottles. Another man says Mr. Gonzalez is talking to himself at a fence near the caller’s backyard. “He seems like he’s tweaking, but he’s not doing anything wrong,” he says. “He’s just scaring my wife.”
In the body camera footage, the first officer at the scene asks on his radio whether a nearby store has reported any recent thefts, describing Mr. Gonzalez, who has two Walgreens shopping baskets.
The officer, who identifies himself as Officer McKinley, then continues to speak with Mr. Gonzalez, asking whether he knows Alameda and whether he is thinking of hurting himself or others. Mr. Gonzalez struggles to maintain the conversation or provide his name.
Another officer arrives about seven minutes after the first officer.
“Here’s the plan,” the first officer says. “I’ve got to identify you, so I know who I’m talking to — make sure you don’t have any warrants or anything like that. You come up with a plan, let me know you’re not going to be drinking in our parks over here. And then we can be on our merry way.”
“Merry-go-round?” Mr. Gonzalez replies.
The two officers then ask Mr. Gonzalez for identification and tell him to keep his hands out of his pockets before they begin trying to detain him.
“Can you please put your hand behind your back and stop resisting us?” the second officer says after several minutes.
The officers eventually push Mr. Gonzalez to the ground facedown and handcuff him. “What are we going to do?” the first officer asks. “Just keep him pinned down?”
“It’s OK, Mario,” the officer later says. “We’re going to take care of you.”
The first officer asks for Mr. Gonzalez’s last name and his birthday and tells him to keep talking. He answers in whimpered bursts and later begins grunting. At one point, he seems to say, “Please don’t do it.”
After about four and a half minutes of body camera footage showing Mr. Gonzalez pinned to the ground, a third officer is seen on his legs. When one officer asks if they should roll him on his side, another replies, “I don’t want to lose what I got.”
“We have no weight on his chest, nothing,” the second officer observes, pointing to Mr. Gonzalez’s back. As the first officer tries to adjust his position, the second says: “No, no, no. No weight, no weight, no weight.”
Seconds later, the officers notice that Mr. Gonzalez has become unresponsive. They roll him onto his side and then push him onto his back and begin chest compressions after checking for a pulse.
After emergency medical workers respond, the first officer explains that they administered Narcan, which can reverse overdoses. “He went from combative to nonresponsive almost immediately,” he says.
Several experts testified during Mr. Chauvin’s trial that the prone position was dangerous because it could impair breathing and that officers should put people they are detaining onto their sides as quickly as possible.
The three officers put on leave were Eric McKinley, Cameron Leahy and James Fisher, a city spokeswoman said on Tuesday. When asked for more details about the death of Mr. Gonzalez, she pointed to the Police Department’s previous news releases about the encounter.
The fatal shot was to the back of the head, lawyers for Mr. Brown’s family said. Cries are growing for the authorities in Elizabeth City, N.C., to release body camera footage.
By Richard Fausset, Published April 27, 2021, Updated April 28, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/27/us/andrew-brown-jr-shooting-autopsy.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Demonstrators gathered in support of Mr. Brown in Elizabeth City on Monday.Credit...Carlos Bernate for The New York Times
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — Lawyers for the family of Andrew Brown Jr., who was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies in coastal North Carolina last week, said on Tuesday that a private autopsy paid for by Mr. Brown’s family showed that he was hit by five bullets and killed by a shot to the back of the head.
The results of the autopsy, which the lawyers described in a news conference, came as the F.B.I. announced that it was opening a civil rights investigation into the April 21 shooting, and as Gov. Roy Cooper called for a special prosecutor to take over a case that currently rests with the local district attorney.
It also came amid simmering tension in Elizabeth City, a majority-Black city of about 18,000 people. Residents have been peacefully protesting in the streets since the death of Mr. Brown, who was Black, demanding that body camera footage from the shooting be released to the public. On Tuesday, the city and surrounding Pasquotank County, both already under self-imposed states of emergency, established curfews from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
A hearing on whether to release the body camera footage was scheduled for Wednesday morning. The judge hearing the petition, filed by the sheriff’s office, was also expected to consider a separate petition requesting the release of the videos filed by a group of news media outlets, including The New York Times.
Members of Mr. Brown’s family, plus one of the family’s lawyers, were shown 20 seconds of footage on Monday. On Tuesday, lawyers for the family, including Ben Crump, who has represented the families of George Floyd and several other people killed by the police, continued to express anger that they were shown only a snippet of what must have transpired, saying that Mr. Brown had been subject to an “execution.”
Mr. Crump also on Tuesday used the shooting to argue that the culture of American policing remains deeply flawed. He tweeted video footage of a Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office truck driving down a residential street with deputies sitting in the back, dressed in tactical gear. Mr. Crump referred to it as “the militarized police force rushing to kill Andrew Brown,” adding, “This has become a constant sight across America, the evolution of policing that’s now terrorizing communities of color!”
The video was obtained by WAVY, a Virginia-based television station, through a public records request and shows the truck arriving at a home, followed by shouting and orders to “Get your hands up.”
Deputies from the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office fired several times at Mr. Brown after arriving at his house to serve drug warrants. Seven deputies were placed on administrative leave after the killing. Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, a lawyer for the family who watched the 20-second video with them on Monday, said the footage showed Mr. Brown sitting inside his car, hands “firmly on the wheel,” when deputies began shooting.
The shooting continued, she said, as Mr. Brown drove away from the deputies. Lawyers for the family have asserted that Mr. Brown, 42, was unarmed at the time.
The Sheriff’s Office filed a petition in state court late Monday asking that the footage be released to Mr. Brown’s adult son, Khalil Ferebee, after mounting pressure from a range of officials, including Mr. Cooper and the Elizabeth City Council, that it be made public. Under state law, only a judge can authorize the release of body camera footage.
Sheriff Tommy Wooten II, who has faced calls to resign from the local N.A.A.C.P., has said that he supports the release of the footage as long as it would not jeopardize the investigation into the shooting by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
The findings of an official government autopsy have also not been publicly released. But during the news conference on Tuesday, Wayne Kendall, one of the lawyers for the family, said the independent pathologist’s finding that Mr. Brown was shot in the back of the head supported the lawyers’ contention that Mr. Brown had been shot while fleeing the scene.
“This, in fact, was a fatal wound to the back of Mr. Brown’s head as he was leaving the site, trying to evade being shot at by these particular law enforcement officers who we believe did nothing but a straight-up execution,” Mr. Kendall said.
The F.B.I.’s civil rights investigation was opened by the agency’s Charlotte field office, which will work with federal prosecutors and the civil rights division of the Justice Department, according to a statement.
Mr. Cooper, in a tweet, said the appointment of a special prosecutor would “help assure the community and Mr. Brown’s family that a decision on pursuing criminal charges is conducted without bias.”
Mr. Cooper said his position reflected the recommendation, made in a recent task force report on criminal justice reform, to appoint a special prosecutor to handle all police use-of-force cases.
The Justice Department’s announcement of the charges was the latest in a string of moves to make civil rights protections a priority.
By Katie Benner and Will Wright, Published April 28, 2021, Updated April 29, 2021
The shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery helped prompt last year’s widespread racial justice protests. Credit...Sean Rayford/Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Three Georgia men were indicted on federal hate crime charges in connection with the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while jogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.
The deadly encounter helped fuel nationwide racial justice demonstrations last year, and the charges are the most significant hate crimes prosecution so far by the Biden administration, which has made civil rights protections a major priority.
The suspects — Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and William Bryan, 51, all of whom are white — were each charged with one count of interference with Mr. Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race. They were also charged with one count of attempted kidnapping.
Travis and Gregory McMichael were also charged with one count each of using, carrying and brandishing a firearm. Travis McMichael is accused of shooting Mr. Arbery.
The men intimidated Mr. Arbery “because of Arbery’s race and color,” the eight-page indictment said.
“As Arbery was running on a public street in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Ga., Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael armed themselves with firearms, got into a truck and chased Arbery through the public streets of the neighborhood while yelling at Arbery, using their truck to cut off his route and threatening him with firearms,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
Mr. Bryan, known as Roddie, joined the chase and used his truck to cut off Mr. Arbery, the department said. The three men were accused of chasing after Mr. Arbery in their trucks in an attempt to detain him against his will.
The federal indictment in the Arbery case marks the third time in a week that the Justice Department has taken a significant step to address allegations of policing abuses or of a high-profile civil rights violation around the country. The department also announced broad investigations into the Minneapolis and the Louisville police departments, which both fired officers last year who had been involved in two of the highest-profile deaths of Black people that spurred widespread protests.
Those investigations were revealed shortly after a former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of murdering George Floyd, a Black man who died last May. A state investigation in Kentucky into the death of a Black medical worker named Breonna Taylor who was shot by Louisville police during a botched raid of her home ended in no charges in her death, only an indictment on a lesser count against one officer.
Taken together, the Justice Department actions indicate that Attorney General Merrick B. Garland is carrying out his vows to aggressively pursue civil rights matters.
In a meeting this month with civil rights leaders, Mr. Garland quoted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and pledged that the Justice Department would “once again deploy all of its considerable resources to ensure, in the words of Dr. King, ‘justice for all people.’”
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Mr. Arbery’s mother, said she and her family were grateful to see the indictments. Although the length of time it took to secure the indictment was discouraging, she said, “we never gave up hope.”
“He was killed because of hate. It was initiated by hate,” Ms. Cooper-Jones said of her son. “We look at this as one step closer to justice for Ahmaud.”
The killing of Mr. Arbery in February 2020 prompted an outcry after news reports and video footage indicated a local prosecutor had wrongly determined that the pursuers had acted within the bounds of Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute, and that Mr. McMichael had shot Mr. Arbery in self-defense.
Months after the shooting, video surfaced that seemed to undercut the idea that Mr. McMichael acted in self-defense. The video showed Mr. Arbery jogging, then coming upon a man standing beside a truck and another man in the pickup bed. After Mr. Arbery runs around the truck, shouting is heard and then he reappears, tussling with the man outside the truck. Three shotgun blasts are then fired.
George E. Barnhill, the district attorney for Georgia’s Waycross Judicial Circuit, later recused himself from the case, and the state took over the investigation.
Jason Sheffield, a lawyer representing Travis McMichael, said the federal indictment “ignored the totality of the evidence” that his team has presented in defense of his client.
“We all want restorative justice in this country, especially in cases like this that highlight the space in between tragedies and laws, and practices that are problematic,” Mr. Sheffield said. “Forcing a case into a narrative that simplifies the problem and creates only two choices is fundamentally unfair and wrong.”
Kevin Gough, a lawyer for Mr. Bryan, said that his client had “committed no crime,” and that they were disappointed with the federal indictment. “We look forward to a fair and speedy trial, and to the day when Mr. Bryan is released and reunited with his family,” Mr. Gough said.
A lawyer for Gregory McMichael did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
All three suspects also face state charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony.
No date has been set for the state trial. State and federal prosecutors work together to determine when they will try their cases. State prosecutors, who often can bring a broader array of charges, typically go to trial first.
Kimberly Isaza, a spokeswoman for the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, declined to comment on any effect the federal charges might have on the state’s case.
Mr. Garland made clear in a March 30 memo to all employees that prosecuting hate crimes was among the Justice Department’s top priorities, as law enforcement data showed a rise in such episodes.
“We will persist in our efforts to investigate and appropriately prosecute those who attack members of our communities, set fire to places of worship or use the internet to threaten bodily injury to other persons because of their real or perceived protected characteristics,” Mr. Garland wrote.
He called for more community outreach and data collection so the department could better understand the nature and extent of hate-based crimes, and he said the department had begun a 30-day review to determine how it could best use its tools to more forcefully combat hate crimes.