10/14/2007 Newsletter

Contents:

  • O22 Twin Cities Events: Focus on the Juvenile INJustice System
  • Demetrius Cooper Case
  • Editorial: Lessons from Jena
  • Despite Beating Him and Denying Medical Care, Boot Camp Employees Found Not Guilty in Boy's Death
  • Dr. Luke Tripp: Criminal Justice System is Used to Control and Weaken Blacks

OCTOBER 22 NATIONAL DAY OF PROTEST AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY:
TWIN CITIES EVENTS

As people around the country come together to demand justice for the Jena 6, a group of young men who have experienced extreme injustice at the hands of a racist prosecutor and judicial system in Louisiana, we need to remember that many youth in our state experience the same overprosecution as the Jena 6. In the Jena 6 case, the prosecutor promised to destroy their lives with the stroke of his pen. Right here in Minnesota, many young people have their lives forever changed by the stroke of a prosecutor’s pen.

This year, our events are cosponsored by Mothers for a Change, an advocacy group for families with children in the juvenile justice system. Come out and give your support to these brave parents as they fight for justice for all children.

Saturday, October 20
3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Teach In on the Juvenile “Justice” System
Walker Church, 3100 16th Ave S, Minneapolis
Did you know that parents are prohibited from assisting their children when they go to court? Did you know that children get “indeterminate” sentences and can be locked up for years on simple offenses? Did you know that kids have far fewer rights in the court system than adults? Come to this teach in and learn how the juvenile “justice” system really operates and what you can do about it.

Sunday, October 21
6:00 p.m.
Stolen Lives Commemoration Ceremony
Walker Church, 3100 16th Ave S, Minneapolis
Stolen lives are people who died at the hands of law enforcement. They can no longer speak for themselves but we can and will remember them and tell their stories. This year, we will place special emphasis on young people whose lives were cut short.

Monday, October 22
5:00 p.m.
Rally and March Against Police Brutality and Injustice
Juvenile Justice Center, 626 S 6th Street, Minneapolis
Rally and march for justice for all people who have experienced police brutality, especially our youth.


UPCOMING COURT WATCH CASE


Demetrius Cooper
October 22, 8:30 a.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Courtroom C-1955
300 S Sixth Street, Minneapolis

Demetrius was driving on the interstate when Minneapolis cops were following someone else during a high speed chase. Apparently, the MPD lost the person they were following because when Demetrius took an exit, the cops followed him. They pulled him out of his car and beat him mercilessly then placed false charges to cover up their deeds. He was found innocent of those charges and is now suing the MPD for his injuries. This is the start of his civil trial. Not only are civil trials fascinating (much more comes out than in a criminal trial), but we want to be there to show our support for justice for Demetrius. Start your October 22 off with a positive effort for justice for a survivor of police brutality.


EDITORIAL: LESSONS FROM JENA

The case of the Jena 6 was discussed with great interest on the internet for months with petitions and calls for justice. However, it took 100,000 people marching on the tiny town of Jena, Louisiana to finally help this story take hold in the mainstream media. Now, millions have been exposed to the ugly racial hatred of a "white" tree and nooses as well as the equally ugly systematic racial discrimination of unequal justice.

One of the problems with most mainstream coverage is it tends to sensationalize, framing any given situation as stand-alone, without putting it into the broader context. If any lesson is to be learned from the Jena 6 case, we must examine the bigger picture of how something like this can occur in the 21st century.

Since Jena 6 made the news, there have been multiple reports of nooses showing up on college campuses and work sites. On September 7, a noose was found hanging from a tree outside of the multicultural center at University of Maryland. Shortly after African American employees launched a lawsuit in August against Navistar International of Warrensville, Indiana alleging a hostile work environment, a bag of nooses was found under the plant's human resource director's desk. The court is expected to award the Navistar employees $9 million. Calls on websites by white supremacists for the lynching of the Jena 6 (and providing addresses of their families) are essentially electronic nooses.

It would be easy to view these incidents as isolated, or just copycat actions by pockets of disgruntled white students or employees. But, again, that's missing the big picture: federal government attacks on immigrants, Supreme Court rulings against affirmative action and school desegregation, and racist characterizations and dehumanization of Iraqi people in the media as a result of the war have created an overarching sentiment in which racial hatred flourishes and some are emboldened to act on that hate.

As appalling as these acts of racial hatred are, they are but a symptom of the bigger problem--endemic institutionalized racism. And while racism is a problem in many institutions, there is no place in society where racial disparities are more concentrated than in the criminal justice system, especially the juvenile justice system.

In it’s recent report America’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline, the Children’s Defense Fund points out that Black youth are four times more likely than white youth to be incarcerated for the same offense. For drug offenses, Black youth are 48 times more likely and Latino youth 9 times more likely than whites to get locked up. As these youth grow up, the injustice continues. Every Black boy born in this country has a 1 in 3 lifetime chance of ending up in prison.

"I can take away your lives with a stroke of a pen" is the threat made by District Attorney Reed Walters to Black youth in Jena who protested the hanging of nooses on the tree at their high school. He later made this threat real by zealously overcharging a group of six of those students involved in a school yard fight after being taunted by a white classmate.

It would be comforting, perhaps, to think that sort of vicious overprosecution happens only in backwater towns in the south. But it would also be dead wrong. Our state, Minnesota, has the highest rate of overprosecution and overconviction of Blacks of any state in the entire country. This Minnesota trend holds for youth as well as adults. The Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center detains disproportionately more black juveniles for all forms of violations – new offenses, warrants, and arrest and detention orders – and for longer periods than their white counterparts.

If there is any lesson to be learned from the Jena 6 case, it's that "Jena" cases happen in all states all the time.

This year, we will mark the October 22 National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation by exposing the oppressive depths of the juvenile justice system and the ways in which prosecutors, judges and others destroy the lives of our children "with a stroke of their pen." If you care about our youth and, indeed, our future than join us as we educate and activate the community on this vital issue.


BOOT CAMP EMPLOYEES NOT GUILTY IN BOY'S DEATH

http://edition.cnn.com/2007/US/law/10/12/bootcamp.death.ap/index.html
10/12/07

Editor's Note: The outcome in this case in completely outrageous. First, the nurse and guards violated medical standards of practice by using the ammonia ampules, especially in the way they did. Secondly, when someone collapses, it is easy for trained medical personnel to determine respiratory status through common assessment techniques. This young man should not have died and these guards and the nurse should have been convicted of gross malpractice, if not worse, for their deliberate indifference to this young man's suffering. This case points out yet another reason why we will take to the streets on October 22.

PANAMA CITY, Florida (AP) -- Seven former boot camp guards and a nurse were acquitted Friday of manslaughter in the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit and kicked by the drill instructors in a videotaped altercation.

The video of a limp Martin Lee Anderson being hit and kicked by the guards after he collapsed while exercising drew protests in the state capital and spelled the end of Florida's system of boot camps for juvenile offenders.

Anderson died at a hospital the day after the altercation.

The defendants, however, said they followed the rules at a get-tough facility where young offenders often feigned illness to avoid exercise.

Their attorneys said that Anderson died not from rough treatment, but from a previously undiagnosed blood disorder.

Former guard Henry McFadden later said he was relieved that the case was over: "We were innocent all along. We knew this truth would come out," he told Court TV.

The boy's mother, Gina Jones, stormed out of the courtroom after the verdict was read. "I cannot see my son no more. Everybody see their family members. It's wrong," she said, distraught.

Her lawyer, Benjamin Crump, told reporters outside: "You kill a dog, you go to jail. You kill a little black boy and nothing happens."

Anderson's family had long sought a trial, claiming the state tried to cover up the case, and repeatedly sat through the painful video as it played during trial. Watch the boy fall to the ground ?

The all-white jury took about 90 minutes to decide whether the guards were responsible for the death of Anderson, who was black. The guards, who are white, black and Asian, stood quietly as the judge read the verdicts.

The defendants would have faced up to 30 years in prison had they been convicted of aggravated manslaughter of child. The jury could have convicted them of lesser charges, including child neglect and culpable negligence, but did not.

Aside from hitting Anderson, the guards dragged him around the military-style camp's exercise yard and forced him to inhale ammonia capsules in what they said was an attempt to revive him. The nurse stood by watching.

Defense attorneys argued that the guards properly handled what they thought was a juvenile offender faking illness to avoid exercising on his first day in the camp. He was brought there for violating probation for stealing his grandmother's car and trespassing at a school.

The defense said Anderson's death was unavoidable because he had undiagnosed sickle cell trait, a usually harmless blood disorder that can hinder blood cells' ability to carry oxygen during physical stress.

Prosecutors said the eight defendants neglected the boy by neglecting his medical needs after he collapsed while running laps. They said the defendants suffocated Anderson by covering his mouth and forcing him to inhale ammonia.

"You may not hear anything coming out of that video sound-wise, but that video is screaming to you in a loud, clear voice, it is telling you that these defendants killed Martin Lee Anderson," prosecutor Scott Harmon said in his closing argument.

Anderson died January 6, 2006, when he was taken off life support, a day after the altercation. The case quickly grew and shook up the state's boot camp and law enforcement system amid the boy's family alleging a cover-up.

An initial autopsy by the medical examiner for Bay County found Anderson died of natural causes from sickle cell trait. A second autopsy was ordered and another doctor concluded that the guards suffocated Anderson through their repeated use of ammonia capsules and by covering his mouth.

The death led to the resignation of Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Guy Tunnell, who established the camp when he was Bay County sheriff.

Then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Mark Ober, state attorney for Hillsborough County, as special prosecutor in the case. Bush also scolded Tunnell for exchanging e-mails with current Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen, in which he criticized those who questioned the effectiveness of the boot camp concept. He also made light of the protesters in the state capital.

The Legislature agreed to pay Anderson's family $5 million earlier this year to settle civil claims.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IS USED TO CONTROL AND WEAKEN BLACKS

By Dr. Luke Tripp
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder
Posted: Thu, 10/11/2007 - 15:11

Racial profiling just one of several strategies employed

The struggle against racial profiling is directly linked to the historic freedom struggle of Black people. From 1619 to 1865, the struggle for freedom was against racial slavery, and from 1865 to 1968 it was against racial segregation. In this post-civil rights period, the main struggle is against the criminal justice system and the prison industry.

Throughout American history, the government has created institutions that functioned to maintain White privilege and supremacy, resulting in the continuing oppression of Black people. One major arm of the government that is used to control Blacks is its criminal justice system. Since the very inception of the United States, through its ratification of the Constitution in 1787, Black people have had to fight against the legal system which legitimized our dehumanization and enslavement.

Today, the criminal justice system is being used to control and weaken the Black community by felonizing a very large segment of the Black male population. Blacks are over-represented in the criminal justice system. About 50 percent of the 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States are Black, while Blacks represent only 13 percent of the population.

The Human Rights Watch Press Backgrounder issued on February 22, 2002, reported that although Blacks make up three percent of Minnesota’s population, for each White person incarcerated there are 14.3 Blacks incarcerated. Moreover, the National Corrections Program of 1996 found that 49 percent of all African Americans who are incarcerated in Minnesota are drug offenders.

Racial profiling is a manifestation of the political strategy to control and stigmatize Blacks as violent criminals and dangerous drug dealers.

“Black American problem” and the “War on Drugs”

Criminal justice and incarceration as a political strategy began in the 1960s with a call for law and order in reaction to Black people’s human rights struggle of that era. In 1969 President Nixon said, “You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”

He was the first president to declare a war on drugs. Later, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1986. This law mandated harsher penalties for drug possession and trafficking.

The “War on Drugs” has had devastating effects on the Black community. Blacks are much more likely than Whites to be stopped, searched, arrested and imprisoned. In fact, one in four Black men aged 20 to 29 are in prison. Moreover, one in three is on parole, probation, or in prison.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 13 percent of all monthly drug users in America are Black, which is about the same as the percent of the population that is Black. However, 35 percent of those arrested for drug possession are Black; 58 percent of those convicted of drug possession are Black; and 74 percent of those imprisoned for drug possession are Black.

In 2001, 60.5 percent of White persons, aged 18-25, had used illicit drugs in their lifetime compared with only 49.4 percent of their Black counterparts (National Household Survey on Drug Abuse). Although Black Americans have used less illegal drugs in their lifetime, they are incarcerated at 9.6 times the rate of White Americans.

Consequently, Black drug offenders are much more likely than White offenders to develop a criminal record. It is ironic that, in America, a major egregious injustice is in its legal justice system.

Turning the Black community against itself

The social, economic, and political consequences of stigmatizing and criminalizing Black males have seriously weakened the social fabric of the Black community. Black ex-convicts are viewed as social pariahs.

They have been virtually banished from the labor market, and in many states they have been banned from civic engagement by the Felony Disenfranchisement Laws. They return to the Black community from prison with very few skills or opportunities to lead constructive lives.

Thus, out of despair, many succumb to illegal activities and serve as negative role models for the youth. As a result, many Black youth get involved in criminal activity, largely preying on Blacks in their community, and end up being raised from their teenage years to adulthood in the penal system.

The social dysfunctions in the depressed areas of the ghetto can be largely attributed to the anti-Black functions of the criminal justice system, which operates to debilitate the Black community by felonizing a large proportion of Black men who then prey largely on members of their own community ­ “Black-on-Black” crime. Racial profiling is a tactic used in the strategy of the criminal justice system to maintain the subordination of Black people.

But we are fighting back. The mass protest marches to free the Jena 6 in Louisiana show our resolve to struggle against racial injustice in America.

Dr. Luke Tripp is professor and chair of the Department of Community Studies at St. Cloud State University. Dr. Tripp is among those who have experienced racial profiling in St. Cloud and who testified before the Council on Black Minnesotans on October 9.


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