6/7/2003 Newsletter


  • Know Your Rights Information
  • Spokesman Recorder: Class-Action Lawsuit Offers New Hope Say Organizers
  • Police May Add Own Violence When Called to Homes

Attendees Learn Tips for Surviving Encounters with Police
About 70 people attended a "know your rights" training on Saturday, May 24th that was sponsored by CUAPB, the National Lawyers Guild-Minnesota Chapter, and Community Collaborative. People learned about their rights in traffic stops, pedestrian stops, home visits, their rights as immigrants, history of police repression of political movements, and what to do if they are brutalized by police. People had opportunities to ask questions and to try out their skills with case studies and a role playing exercise.

Overall, people were very pleased about the useful information they received and have asked that this information be put up on our website. We're having a bit of technical difficulty getting it on the site but in the next day or so you'll be able to find it at http://www.CharityAdvantage.com/CUAPB/PreventingBrutality.asp
The training session was also videotaped and will be aired on cable access. We will send a schedule of air times when it becomes available. We are considering future workshops targeted specifically to youth, political activists, immigrants and others.

Some of the information that was shared was highlighted in an article in the Star Tribune:

Lawyers advise silence, no search consent in traffic stop
Steve Brandt, Star Tribune
Published May 25, 2003

Stay calm. Keep your hands visible. Make no sudden movements.

That advice about how to behave during a law enforcement stop while walking or driving was given to about 50 people Saturday at a "community training session" in Minneapolis that focused on citizens' rights.

The advice was more specific for those who feel they're targeted because of race, political activism or immigration status. Lawyers advised: Don't answer questions. Don't consent to a body, car or home search. If police proceed, don't resist.

"The cop has the gun, and you don't," said Scott Moriarity, one of several lawyers who gave presentations. "You have to stay calm and relaxed."

The session, "Stop Police Brutality Before It Starts," was co-sponsored by the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Communities United Against Police Brutality and the Community Collaborative.

Police officers have the right to see a driver's license and insurance card, but not those of passengers, Moriarity said. But if the stop might lead to the impounding of a vehicle, the passenger might want to show a license so he or she can drive if the driver is arrested. Police should be told if the driver needs to reach for a license in a concealed location, such as a glove compartment.

An officer can ask questions without a Miranda warning, he said. Moriarity noted that people can say they'd rather not talk until they've contacted a lawyer. Drivers should assume that their conversations are being recorded, he added.

Drivers also may refuse to grant permission for a search of their person or car. If police go ahead or if the driver feels mistreated, action may be taken after the incident, other lawyers at the event said.

If later action is warranted, a written record of the encounter is important, said Michelle Gross, a founder of Communities United Against Police Brutality. This includes the officer's badge number and physical characteristics, the time of day and the squad car number. Injuries should be recorded on color film, Gross said.

Steve Brandt is [email protected].

Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder
May 29, 2003, Page One
By Shannon Gibney, Associate Editor

Community Coalition for Change (CCC), a new group comprised of individuals from various communities and organizations, has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Minneapolis Police Department in order to address its long-standing problems with police brutality and community/police relations.

"We came together to work for federal mediation," said Michelle Gross, a founding member of CCC. "When it became clear that the City would not mediate in good faith, we decided to put together a federal class-action lawsuit."

She continued, "The lawsuit is not some effort of lawyers on high. The work for the suit is being done by and for the community. All of us are volunteers--lawyers and activists--working together to produce change for the community.

"When we were working to bring mediation to Minneapolis, we called ourselves Federal Mediation Now. Since our focus has changed, we decided to change names to reflect our mission more closely. That's why we chose the name Community Coalition for Change," said Gross.

"This coalition is a great start to get communities of color all working together," said Pauline Thomas, another CCC member. "Together, communities of color make up 42.5 percent of Minneapolis. We are committed to looking at systems that affect our communities."

Other CCC members include Lee Pao Xiong, Yusuf Abdurahman, Jill Waite, Jill Clark, Sunday Alabi, Pablo Tapia and Delvin Cree.

Clark was the attorney who filed the lawsuit. She said that its first phase will involve gathering stories from the community. "We will gather together all of those stories for submission to the court," Clark said. "People who have stories about police misconduct should call 612-874-STOP.

"Then the [class-action lawsuit] would be scheduled for motions and/or trial. Of course, it is possible that the City will want to settle the lawsuit more quickly than that. Any trial to be held would be at the Federal Courthouse in Minneapolis."

CCC members said they are increasingly disillusioned about the City's commitment to address issues of police brutality--especially in communities of color--and believe that the lawsuit is a good first step.

"At this point, the people at the top are hostile to complaints," said Pao Xiong. "They should welcome complaints because that is what will help them have a decent system. Even minority police officers mistrust police.

"When the Vietnamese police officer was shot, he asked a good question: 'How can you have people from within the system investigating the system?' It is a culture of protectionism--the fox guarding the henhouse. Until we get away from that, people will continue to mistrust police," Pao Xiong continued.

Cree said, "For years we [members of the Native American community] have always gone to the City with our complaints of police brutality and civil rights violations by the Minneapolis police. Nothing has been done to correct the problems. It's also very interesting that the City doesn't change its policies to try to correct the problems of police misconduct, even though other cities have."

The group is skeptical that the recently revived plans for federal mediation will yield lasting, positive change for communities of color.

Thomas said, "Every time the City does something, it goes with the same old process. The City uses select people from communities of color to do their dirty work. They use people that they can control, including financially control [many of these nonprofit organizations get mondy from the City]. That means that the City can control the outcome. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that those people can't press hard for change, or their money will disappear!

"Also, the [Minneapolis City Council] resolution that authorized federal mediation requires that everything that is negotiated go back to the city council, and I don't have faith that they will pass the recommendations. They didn't pass any recommendations by the Civilian Review Authority Redesign Committee," Thomas added.

No groups or individuals currently involved in lawsuits against the City or police department can participate in the newest round of federal mediation talks. City Council Member Paul Zerby, who is credited with the current federal mediation revival, said that this is because mediating and litigating cancel each other out.

"I think that the basic notion is that if you're mediating, you're trying to be open with the people you're mediating with and trying to express your views openly and move towards a common ground," Zerby said. In his view, this is not the case with litigation. "[Federal Mediator] Patricia Glenn herself has told me, people can choose to litigate or mediate. You don't have the two of them going at cross purposes," he said.

Still CCC is confident that their efforts will ultimately be more effective than the City's current mediation process. "It is wonderful to see how excited the community has become over this lawsuit. People are feeling hope they haven't felt in years," said Gross.

For more information on CCC, to join their lawsuit againt MPD, or to register a story of police misconduct, call the Police Brutality Hotline, 612-874-STOP.

Shannon Gibney welcomes reader responses to [email protected]

Run Date: 06/05/03
By Luchina Fisher
WeNews correspondent

More aggressive police response to domestic violence is not necessarily the cure for cases involving women of color, according to participants at a recent forum. They called for the development of community-based solutions and stronger legal protections.

(WOMENSENEWS)--While much of the movement against domestic violence has largely focused on a more vigorous response by police, some women of color are now saying that the police are too often part of the problem.

Several participants last month in a New York forum on violence against women of color, for example, expressed their belief that domestic violence involving women of color is often exacerbated by the response from police and government agencies. At that forum, local and national female experts alike testified to the way women of color can not only be battered by their domestic partners, but can also become the targets of employees of other government agencies.

One measure of how in the United States women of color experience domestic violence is the number of "intimate" homicides per 100,000 persons between the ages of 20 to 44. The most recent Justice Department statistics indicate that slightly less than 1 "white" woman per 100,000 is murdered by her spouse or ex-spouse and slightly more than 2 per 100,000 are murdered by their boyfriends. In comparison, slightly more than 3 per 100,000 "black" women are murdered by their spouse or ex-spouse, while nearly 4 per 100,000 are murdered by their boyfriends.

One New York City domestic violence expert, Anannya Bhattacharjee, told the audience of 200 people gathered for the panel discussion on May 21 at Columbia University's School of Law that she recently was unable to help a South Asian woman in Queens who was pregnant and being beaten by her husband. The woman refused to call police. Without legal proof of residence, the woman explained, she feared deportation more than her husband.

Representatives of Sista II Sista, a Brooklyn-based organization by and for young women of color, said that local police have been sexually harassing and brutalizing local women. They cited the example of a young woman who, in 2001, was raped and killed by a police auxiliary officer she was dating. "That made it more clear," said Paula Rojas, one of the group's founders, "that cops are not the solution but also part of the problem."

"Issues of race, class, nationality, citizenship; these are the things people juggle when they think about whether they are going to tell anyone and the response they will get," said Barbara Schulman, a consultant to Amnesty International's Women's Human Right's Program, based in New York, which sponsored the panel discussion. "We need to recognize that if we are creating a movement that is seeking to solve the problem through institutions such as the police, then we're really not solving the problems of ending violence if those are institutions through which violence is being perpetrated. We need to look at a bigger picture."

Expanding Definition of Violence

Part of the bigger picture that Schulman mentioned includes expanding the definition of violence when it comes to women of color. Two participants cited examples of police mistakenly raiding the homes of black and Latin women. One of those women was 57-year-old Alberta Spruill, who died last month after New York City police burst into her Harlem home and detonated a concussion grenade. "These women faced violence in the home," Bhattacharjee said, "but it does not fit the current definition (of domestic violence)."

"We're so vulnerable to violence in our own homes even when the violence is not already there," added New York community organizer Shante T. Smalls.

Andrea Smith, a professor of Native American and women's studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, asserted that the voices of women of color have been marginalized in the women's anti-violence movement. In 2000, she organized the "The Color of Violence: Violence Against Women of Color," conference held in Santa Cruz, Calif., out of which grew the Minneapolis-based organization Incite! Women of Color against Violence, which seeks to mobilize activism against all forms of violence against women of color.

The organization targets not only domestic violence but violence by "the state" since, according to Smith, the two are related. She points out that in military homes, where men are trained to kill, domestic abuse is five times higher. Similarly, says Smith, the number of sexual assaults increases during wartime.

Community-Based Solutions Urged

Smith and the other panel members agreed that the way to end violence against women of color is not through the police, criminal justice system or social services but through local communities. "I think we have violence because the community says it's okay," she says. "You have to change community."

When an audience member asked how to address the problem at the community level, Smith answered that people have to be creative. For instance, she said that the Pitt River Tribe in northern California banned a member after he raped his niece. But they also went further. Since he was a professor, tribal members showed up at his classes and held up signs calling him a child molester.

"This work has to be led at the local level," Bhattacharjee said. "It can't be top down. What is really important are grass-roots communities and bottom-up strategies." She suggested that communities could set up violence-free zones with moral consequences for violating the rules. For example, members of a community might join together to demonstrate in front of the home of an abuser.

Members of the Brooklyn group Sista II Sista described their own local, community action last summer, when they organized "You Have the Right to Break the Silence," an event staged across the street from a police precinct where they performed skits about police harassing young women and showed a 10-minute video, both designed to raise awareness about police harassment in their community.

"The local police have a sense of real ownership in the neighborhood," Rojas says. "Young women are being stopped in a real way and you don't know if it's official or not. The police will ask for your number, almost like they are trying to hit on you. It's just straight-up sexual harassment. And when there's a need to call the cops, you don't feel like you can trust them."

A spokesperson for the New York City Police Department says the department is unaware whether any complaints have been received. However, the spokesperson added if complaints were under investigation, the department would be unable to comment.

Smalls works with the New York-based Urban Justice Center to assist minority communities in Brooklyn and the Bronx find solutions to domestic and child abuse. She suggested that using human-rights laws and treaties could help re-frame the issue of violence against all women, including women of color. The United Nations' International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination declarations, for instance, are more comprehensive than local and civil-rights laws and could succeed in addressing the kinds of violations that slip through the holes of more local laws.

"While a civil-rights perspective might only look at denial of rights, it doesn't look at the attitudes and beliefs that create such an environment. In theory and practice, a human-rights perspective does examine from root to branch," she says.

Amnesty International, the Urban Justice Center and the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund have started a campaign to lobby city governments to adopt human-rights treaties banning racial discrimination and discrimination against women. So far, only San Francisco has adopted the United Nations' Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the human-rights treaty that bans discrimination against women.

Schulman is hopeful that the issues raised by women of color will encourage other organizations rethink their approach to violence against all women.

"There is a new language, new ideas, new terminology and those provide a platform for new strategies," she said.

Luchina Fisher is a freelance writer and television producer in the New York region.

For more information:
Amnesty International--Women's Human Rights
"Violence Against Women of Color and Human Rights A Panel and Discussion":

Urban Justice:

Incite! Women of Color against Violence:
(Copyright 2003 Women's eNews)

Communities United Against Police Brutality
2104 Stevens Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)

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