4/28/2007 Newsletter

Contents:

  • First Amendment and Policing: Upholding the Right to Protest
  • Lectures by Dr. Neville Alexander (Robbin Island Prison Inmate with Nelson Mandela)
  • Stand Up with Prof. Robin Magee--Under Attack by SPPD
  • Imus Virus Hits Cops
  • A Little Bit of Hope: Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal

UPCOMING EVENTS YOU WON'T WANT TO MISS!

First Amendment and Policing: Upholding the Right to Protest
"Miami Model" Video Showing and Discussion
Monday, April 30 at 7:00 p.m.
Arise Bookstore
2441 Lyndale Ave S, MinneapolisFree and open to the public
The RNC Welcoming Committee and CUAPB are cosponsoring this event to examine the First Amendment rights of protesters in the post-911 era.  The "Miami model" refers to a policing strategy developed by Miami police chief John Timoney.  Timoney, who admits to a hatred of protesters, was police commissioner in Philadelphia when protesters were brutalized during the Republican Convention in 2000.  Timoney advanced his free-speech chilling paramilitary tactics during the anti-FTAA protests in Miami in 2003.  After a showing of the IndyMedia film "The Miami Model" CUAPB will lead a group discussion on police tactics against protesters in the Twin Cities.

Lectures by Dr. Neville Alexander
Monday, April 30, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
NorthPoint Heath and Wellness Center
1313 Plymouth Ave N, Minneapolis
and
Tuesday, May 1, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Andersen Library, University of Minnesota (Westbank)
222 21st Ave S, Minneapolis
Both events free and open to the public
Dr. Neville Alexander was held in Robben Island Prison for a decade for fighting against apartheid in South Africa.  He shared a cell and many hours of debate and learning with current South African president and Nobel prize winner Nelson Mandela.  As comrades, Alexander and Mandela eventually saw the end of apartheid.  Dr. Alexander credits education for allowing him to survive prison and continue the struggle.  He is in Minneapolis to support literacy and language as a source of empowerment through the African American Read-In.


ANOTHER LOCAL LAWYER UNDER ATTACK--SPEAK UP, FIGHT BACK
Cops Call for Professor Robin Magee's Resignation over Editorial
Prof. Robin Magee is an African American law professor at Hamline University.  She recently wrote an editorial in which she rightfully called out the decision of Judge Kathleen Gearin to disregard comments by a white juror indicating bias against the black defendant in the Vick case.  As a result, St. Paul police have been calling for her head--they've demanded the school fire Prof. Magee.  Please take a few minutes to read Prof. Magee's editorial (below) and write a brief letter to the president of Hamline University:

Ms. Linda Hanson, President
Hamline University
1536 Hewitt Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55104-1284

Gearin, Minnesota Supreme Court owe Sgt. Vick a proper tribute
ROBIN K. MAGEE
TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 04/17/2007 04:05:06 PM CDT

Ramsey County District Judge Kathleen Gearin's reported decision in the Vick case to ignore, rather than investigate, the report of a racist sitting juror proves that the glare of the numerous studies indicating racial bias in the Minnesota criminal justice system has blinded - not enlightened - the Minnesota judiciary to such racial bias ("Vick's killer appeals over juror's alleged slur," Pioneer Press, March 15). Moreover, the failure of the courts to address racial bias dishonors Sgt. Gerald Vick.

In a seminal study, the Minnesota Supreme Court Task Force on Racial Bias reported that racial bias permeated the Minnesota judicial system and, in particular, jury selection and decision making. Later studies have observed the results of racial bias: Minnesota leads the nation in racially disparate arrests, convictions and imprisonment rates of African-Americans.

And yet the same Minnesota Supreme Court that commissioned the task force that proved racial bias has since condoned every removal of an African-American prospective juror it has reviewed - no matter the absurdity of the reasons offered for the removal - and notwithstanding the inexplicable, startling scarcity of African-Americans in the jury pools of even Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

Gearin is the well-tutored student of Supreme Court precedent. In a series of cases involving another cop killing, the Minnesota Supreme Court twice approved a racial circumstance on a sitting jury. In one circumstance, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld a trial judge's decisions repeatedly forcing an overwrought lone African-American juror to continue deliberations until she capitulated to the otherwise all-white jury who insisted that she refused to summarily vote to convict the black defendant because she, too, was black.

In a second case, the Minnesota court upheld the removal of the lone African-American juror after the lone juror accurately reported a racist comment by a sitting white juror, thereby depriving the defendant of the modicum of diversity the whistle-blowing black juror offered.

Gearin refused to investigate the threat of racial bias on the Vick defendant's jury. A caller had accused a juror of having publicly declared that Katrina was God's way of killing black people. On Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner's insistence and over defense counsel objections, Gearin dispatched the caller's proffer, finding no apparent suggestion of racial bias in the prosecution of a black defendant for the murder of a white police officer before a nearly all-white jury, which reportedly included an anti-black juror with Klan-worthy views.  (Of course, it would - and should - be unimaginable that a judge would tolerate a juror who believed that the Holocaust was God's way of killing Jews on the jury of a Jewish - or any other - defendant.)

The quick first-degree murder verdict of the nearly all-white jury - on facts highly suggestive of either self defense or lesser culpability - challenges Gearin's dogged denial of possible racial influence. As a matter of both perception and fact, the defendant was under threat. In the early morning, during dark hours, without identifying himself as a police officer, the highly decorated but unfortunately very drunk, driving and physically larger police officer Vick drove an unmarked car over a curb toward, and then chased by foot, down an alley, the smaller African-American defendant. Vick bore no indicia of police identity throughout the encounter. Vick wore plain clothes.

He had just left a neighborhood bar, undercover. Vick, therefore, intended to be indistinguishable from any other bar patron. Vick's blood alcohol level, 0.20, was twice what was then the legal limit for driving. Unfortunately for all involved that night, Vick violated police policy and the law by driving and handling a firearm at his level of intoxication.

There was no law enforcement-related reason available to justify Vick's aggression. The only pre-chase violation even suggested was the defendant's companion's late-night public urination.

These events, therefore, might reasonably be viewed as a modern-day version of an antebellum sport of Negrohunting - with the unmarked car replacing the horse, deranged slave catchers replaced by a menacing, inebriated, unidentified large white male - but with the modern twist of the hunted black able to defend himself.

And, indeed, danger lurked. Vick teemed with adrenalin, was rankled and drunk and packed a gun. Stories abound of unaddressed and unjustified macings, Taserings and shootings of submitting African-American citizens, of both genders, ages 11 to 85, by St. Paul officers. Vick himself had fatally shot a black teen before in disputed circumstances.

On its face, Gearin's decision also conjures a slavery analogy: 150 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the escaped slave, and then Minnesota-abiding, Dred Scott, simply had no rights as a black man that a white person was bound to respect. Gearin explained that for her, a life sentence for a black man does not justify the inconvenience to a single white juror of being asked even a single question regarding the juror's possible racial bias.

Gearin's decision suggests deliberate blindness. In disregarding the caller, the judge ignored a plethora of recognized indicia of accuser reliability: The juror's accuser identified herself and left contact information. (This is more reliable than the inscrutable anonymous informant who regularly justifies the arrests of black men.) The caller identified the juror by name, and only the accused juror. (The caller did not offer a broadly applying description, such as the description that prompted the St. Paul police to secure DNA samples of scores of black men.) The caller also offered a basis for her accusation. (The accuser, for example, did not rely on a racial profile of the juror.)

Gearin's decision, however, can provide benefit. The death of a police officer should be a solemn occasion that reminds the entire community of common interests and community debt. In prior times, public lynchings were summary processes against African-Americans that, of course, did not consider gradations of culpability or whether a wrong even occurred.

The appeal of Gearin's decision invites the Minnesota Supreme Court to promote community bonding based on the right reasons. The Minnesota judiciary does not pay appropriate tribute to Vick by offering up the rights of others as sacrifices. Thus, the court should assure that remembrances of Vick's life and work not be colored by concerns of judicial neglect and racial bias.

Robin K. Magee is a law professor at Hamline University School of Law. She teaches police practices and race and the law.


IMUS VIRUS HITS COPS
Words as Weapons
By BOB HERBERT
April 23, 2007
New York Times

Just days after Don Imus was taken off the air for a slur hurled at members of the Rutgers women's basketball team, a police sergeant conducting a roll call at a precinct in Brooklyn is reported to have called the three female officers in the room "hos" as he gave them an order to stand up.

The women, two of whom are black and one a Latina, refused to stand.

Another officer, unable to resist the great "fun" of mocking his female colleagues, is reported to have called out, "No, sergeant, not just hos, but nappy-headed hos."

The women said they were stunned almost to the point of disbelief by the comments. They were the only women in the gathering of 17 police officers in the room, including the supervising sergeant. There was a sickening quality to the moment. The women said they felt violated, hurt and humiliated.

The incident occurred on April 15, a Sunday, at the 70th Precinct, which gained national notoriety in 1997 as the precinct in which Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant, was sodomized by police officers with a broken broomstick.

The three women, Tronnette Jackson, 36, Karen Nelson, 31, and Maria Gomez, 29, said they were attending a routine roll call session when Sgt. Carlos Mateo, referring to them, said, "Stand up, hos."

The Imus controversy, in which Mr. Imus had referred to the Rutgers players as "nappy-headed hos," was still big news and on everyone's mind. The three women remained seated.

They said another police officer, Ralph Montanez, then chimed in: "No, sergeant, not just hos, but nappy-headed hos."

The women remained silent, and seated.

Sergeant Mateo is reported to have said, "Jackson and Gomez, why aren't you standing?"

Another police officer said to the sergeant, "They are offended and they are protesting that you called them hos."

This is just one example of the myriad ways in which racist and sexist comments like Mr. Imus' help to poison the atmosphere all around us. Another example occurred two days prior to this incident when a narcotics sergeant in Queens is alleged to have "jokingly" said to a black female officer, "Don't give me no lip or I'll have to call you a nappy-headed ho."

One of the toughest points to get across in this society is that racism and sexism are always contemptible, and are never harmless. The targets of racist and sexist comments should not just swallow the insults. They should react as if they'd been slapped in the face.

The three women in the 70th Precinct case have decided to fight back. Their initial complaint to Sergeant Mateo, immediately after the roll call, was brushed aside, they said. They then complained to the precinct's integrity control officer and hired a lawyer, Bonita Zelman.

This morning they will file a complaint in federal court, asserting that the degrading comments at the roll call amounted to illegal discrimination against them based on their gender and ethnic background. This is not a small matter. It's fair to wonder, for example, how eager a supervisor might be to recommend a major promotion for an employee he refers to as a "ho."

"We have tremendous concern about the effect of language like this on women police officers," said Ms. Zelman, "particularly women of color trying to make their way in the largely white male bureaucracy of a police department."

Also concerned about the effect of language like this is the police commissioner, Ray Kelly. Discussing the 70th Precinct case, he told me yesterday that he found the comments "despicable." He declined to go into much detail because the matter is being investigated by the department's Equal Employment Opportunity division.

But the department let it be known that Sergeant Mateo had been transferred out of the 70th Precinct and would no longer be serving in a supervisory position. Both he and Officer Montanez could be subject to disciplinary charges.

Commissioner Kelly said he found the entire matter "very, very disturbing" because the city had worked hard over the past few years to make the Police Department a place where women and minorities "could feel at home."

The Queens narcotics sergeant is also likely to face disciplinary action by the department, which has been infected, like other organizations around the country, with what Ms. Zelman calls the "Imus virus."


A LITTLE BIT OF HOPE...
Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal
by Naomi Shihab Nye

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours, I heard the announcement: If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic, Please come to the gate immediately.

Well -- one pauses these days.  Gate 4-A was my own gate.  I went there. An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly. Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick, sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew--however poorly used--she stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the following day.  I said no, no, we're fine, you'll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let's call him and tell him. We called her son and I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and would ride next to her -- Southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life.  Answering Questions.

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies -- little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts -- out of her bag -- and was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California, The lovely woman from Laredo -- we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers -- non-alcoholic -- and the two little girls for our flight, one African American, one Mexican American -- ran around serving us all apple juice and lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend -- by now we were holding hands -- had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, this is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate -- once the crying of confusion stopped -- has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too. This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.


Communities United Against Police Brutality
3100 16th Avenue S
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)


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