11/1/2005 Newsletter


  • Community Forum on "False Reporting
  • Walter Collins Case Update
  • David Croud Case Update
  • Good Outcome in Atak Case
  • Real Rosa Parks Story: Movement in Place Before Act

Thursday, November 3rd, 7:00 p.m.
Walker Church
3104 16th Ave S, Minneapolis
A new law was passed in the last legislative session that makes it a crime to make a "false" report of police brutality.  The question is: who decides a complaint is false? Is it the same department the person is complaining about?  This law is so vague it could extend even to journalists who report on police incidents or attorneys who represent their clients to Internal Affairs, if the incident is later not proven true.

Complaining about police misconduct and seeking redress is a First Amendment right.  Come to a meeting to learn about this new law and get involved in getting it overturned.  Police brutality is a crime--reporting it shouldn't be! 

ALSO be sure to sign our petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/cuapb02/petition.html

For more info, call our hotline at 612-874-7867.

We told you last week about the wrongful death suit, in which Walter Collins was shot in the back as he ran from police.  Witnesses said Collins was unarmed and during the hearing there were strong indications that police used a "throw down" gun to justify their shooting.  We talked with the family spokesperson this evening and it is not clear at this time what has caused this mistrial.  We will let you know when this case goes back to court.  Here's the Strib story on the case:

Mistrial declared in lawsuit over police shooting
November 1, 2005
By Margaret Zack

A mistrial was declared Monday as a Hennepin County jury deliberated in the wrongful death civil case of Walter K. Collins, who was shot two years ago by Minneapolis police officer Jamie Conway.

Hennepin County District Judge Richard Scherer released no information on the reason for mistrial. David Shulman, attorney for Collins' mother, Sara S. Collins, and Assistant City Attorney Jim Moore, representing Conway, did not return calls Monday.

Collins, 21, was shot Oct. 10, 2003, in the 2200 block of Park Avenue S. Two officers had stopped to investigate what they thought was a drug deal when Collins and another man took off.

During the foot chase, police said, Collins reached for a gun in his waistband and turned toward Conway, who shot him once in the chest. A Hennepin County grand jury declined to indict Conway.

The case is expected to be retried in January.

If ever a case cries out for public pressure, this is it.  The BCA has "investigated" the eight cops involved in this in-custody death.  From past experience, we know that BCA investigations are generally whitewashes set up to exonerate cops.  Help keep up the pressure by signing the online petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/Croud/petition.html

ACLU investigating death of man arrested in Duluth
November 1, 2005
By Chao Xiong

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is investigating the death of David Croud, a Duluth man who went into a coma after he was arrested last month by several Duluth police officers.

The investigation could lead to a civil rights suit, the ACLU said in a news release Monday.

Croud, 29, was taken off life support Oct. 18, six days after witnesses said police slammed him against a stone wall as they were arresting him.

Police were told Oct. 12 that Croud was harassing people at the Fond-du-Luth Casino. By the time police arrived, Croud had fallen to the ground. He was apparently intoxicated. Croud became belligerent as police tried to arrest him, authorities have said. Two witnesses said police were the aggressors.

Croud, a native of the White Earth Reservation, was taken to St. Mary's Medical Center and was medicated after he reportedly became combative with police and medical personnel. He slipped into a coma and was put on life support.

Eight Duluth police officers have been interviewed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in the case.

Despite a major effort by media to depict Christopher Atak as a wild man who deserved to be shot at point blank range by a Rochester cop (who happened to be the Taser instructor for the department!), we are happy to report that he prevailed in his lawsuit against the police.  One of the conditions is that cops had to apologize to Atak, a condition we'd like to see as part of more lawsuits.

Rochester settles with man accidentally shot by police
Associated Press
October 21, 2005

ROCHESTER, Minn. A man accidentally shot by a Rochester police officer who thought he was reaching for a stun-gun will receive $900,000 in a settlement reached in U.S. District Court.

On Sept. 2, 2002, two Rochester police officers were responding to a call involving Christofar Atak, a refugee from Sudan, who had been drinking and jumped in front of a police car.

Investigators said during a struggle an officer thought he was pulling the trigger of his Taser against Atak's back but instead of a Taser, it was his .40-caliber Glock handgun.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Ramsey County Attorney's office and an Olmsted County grand jury all determined the shooting was an accident. No criminal charges were filed in the case.

One of Atak's lawyers, William French, said the shooting left Atak with a serious injury that he continues to deal with. More surgery will probably be required to remove bullet fragments near his spine.

The settlement was reached Wednesday. A trial was scheduled for next month.

"We're very pleased with the resolution in this case,'' French said. "We think the settlement is good for both sides.''

Police Chief Roger Peterson said his department has apologized. One of the city's attorneys, Jon K. Iverson, apologized again during the settlement conference on Wednesday.

"We are sorry that he was accidentally shot,'' Iverson said. "It was a mistake.''

Peterson said the settlement was a "result of the fact that we hurt someone we didn't intend to hurt.''

Since the mix-up, the Police Department has purchased new stun guns that are much smaller and a different color than their service pistols. The Tasers are also positioned on the other side of the holster from the handgun.

This article tells the real story of Rosa Parks, who worked behind the scenes building the civil rights movement for years before she took her courageous action.  This is important because the movement would not have been in position to take advantage of her action and subsequent arrest if the foundation had not already been laid by the work she and others had already done.

The Real Rosa Parks
By Paul Rogat Loeb

We learn much from how we present our heroes. A few years ago, on Martin Luther King Day, I was interviewed on CNN. So was Rosa Parks, by phone from Los Angeles. ''We're very honored to have her,'' said the host. ''Rosa Parks was the woman who wouldn't go to the back of the bus. She wouldn't get up and give her seat in the white section to a white person. That set in motion the year-long bus boycott in Montgomery. It earned Rosa Parks the title of 'mother of the civil rights movement.' ''

I was excited to be part of the same show. Then it occurred to me that the host's familiar rendition of her story had stripped the Montgomery, Ala., boycott of its most important context. Before refusing to give up her bus seat, Parks had spent 12 years helping lead the local NAACP chapter. The summer before, Parks had attended a 10-day training session at Tennessee's labor and civil rights organizing school, the Highlander Center, where she'd met an older generation of civil rights activists and discussed the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision banning ''separate but equal'' schools.

In other words, Parks didn't come out of nowhere. She didn't single-handedly give birth to the civil rights efforts. Instead, she was part of an existing movement for change at a time when success was far from certain.

This in no way diminishes the power and historical importance of her refusal to give up her seat. But it does remind us that this tremendously consequential act might never have taken place without the humble and frustrating work that she and others did earlier on. It reminds us that her initial step of getting involved was just as courageous and critical as the fabled moment when she refused to move to the back of the bus.

People like Parks shape our models of social commitment. Yet the conventional retelling of her story creates a standard so impossible to meet that it may actually make it harder for the rest of us to get involved. This portrayal suggests that social activists come out of nowhere to suddenly materialize to take dramatic stands. It implies that we act with the greatest impact when we act alone. or when we act alone initially. It reinforces a notion that anyone who takes a committed public stand--or at least an effective one--has to be a larger-than-life figure, someone with more time, energy, courage, vision or knowledge than any normal person could ever possess.

This belief pervades our society, in part because the media rarely represents historical change as the work of ordinary human beings who learn to take extraordinary actions. And once we enshrine our heroes on pedestals, it becomes hard for mere mortals to measure up in our eyes. We go even further, dismissing most people's motives, knowledge and tactics as insufficiently grand or heroic, faulting them for not being in command of every fact and figure or not being able to answer every question put to them. We fault ourselves as well for not knowing every detail or for harboring uncertainties and doubts. We find it hard to imagine that ordinary human beings with ordinary hesitations and flaws might make a critical difference in worthy social causes.

Yet those who act have their own imperfections and ample reasons to hold back. ''I think it does us all a disservice,'' said a young African American activist from Atlanta, ''when people who work for social change are presented as saints--so much more noble than the rest of us. We get a false sense that from the moment they were born they were called to act, never had doubts, were bathed in a circle of light.''

She added that she was much more inspired to learn how people ''succeeded despite their failings and uncertainties.'' That would mean she, too, had a ''shot at changing things.''

Our culture's misreading of the Rosa Parks story speaks to a more general collective amnesia by which we forget the examples that might most inspire our courage and conscience. Most of us know next to nothing of the grass-roots movements in which ordinary men and women fought to preserve freedom, expand the sphere of democracy and create a more just society: the abolitionists, the populists, the women's suffragists and the union activists who spurred the end of 80-hour work weeks at near-starvation wages. These activists teach us how to shift public sentiment, challenge entrenched institutional power and find the strength to persevere despite all odds. But their stories, like the real story of Parks, are erased in an Orwellian memory hole.

Parks' actual story conveys an empowering moral that is lost in her public myth. She began modestly by attending one meeting and then another. Hesitant at first, she gained confidence as she spoke out. She kept on despite a profoundly uncertain context as she and others acted as best they could to challenge deeply entrenched injustices, with little certainty of results. Had she and others given up after their 10th or 11th year of commitment, we might never have heard of Montgomery.

Parks' journey suggests that social change is the product of deliberate, incremental action, whereby we join together to try to shape a better world. Sometimes our struggles will fail, as did many earlier efforts of Parks, her peers and her predecessors. Other times they may bear modest fruit. And at times they will trigger a miraculous outpouring of courage and heart, as happened in the wake of Parks' arrest. For only when we act despite all our uncertainties and doubts do we have the chance to shape history.

Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of ''Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time'' (St Martin's, 1999). Web site: www.soulofacitizen.org.

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

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