Tag Archives: race

Nebraska Is Torturing Incarcerated Youth for Having Too Many Books, Passing Notes

By Carey Wedler. Published 1-8-2016 by The Anti-Media

Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility, Douglas County

Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility, Douglas County

A report released by the Nebraska American Civil Liberties Union this week reveals the state’s extensive use of solitary confinement in children across multiple juvenile detention centers. Solitary confinement is considered a form of torture by the U.N., and in recent years, has been outlawed and scaled back in the United States. In Nebraska, however, children are being forced into isolation for offenses as minor as having too many books or passing notes.

According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, in the early 19th century, the United States pioneered solitary confinement as a form of punishment. After its damaging psychological effects became apparent, however, it was discontinued. Though the practice recently regained popularity, it has once again been skewered as excessive and dangerous. Continue reading

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Media Coverage of Oregon Militia Standoff Raises Eyebrows — and Ire

Despite the extreme nature of the demonstration, both media and law enforcement response appears muted, especially in comparison to other recent protests

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-3-2016

Ammon Bundy. Photo: Facebook)

Ammon Bundy. Photo: Facebook

After members of a rightwing militia—many armed with assault rifles—seized the headquarters of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon on Saturday afternoon, observers questioned the corporate media’s treatment of the event, pointing to a double standard in coverage compared to other recent protests.

The Oregonian reported Saturday that Ammon Bundy, the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was the leader of a notorious standoff over cattle grazing rights last year, had “joined with hard-core militiamen Saturday to take over the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, vowing to occupy the remote federal outpost 30 miles southeast of Burns for years.” Continue reading

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Undeterred by Mall’s Crackdown, Black Lives Matter Shuts Down Business-As-Usual

Racial justice protest in Minneapolis moves from Mall of America to airport after lockdown

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-23-2015

A standoff between police and protesters in Minneapolis on Wednesday. (Photo: @BLongStPaul/Twitter)

A standoff between police and protesters in Minneapolis on Wednesday. (Photo: @BLongStPaul/Twitter)

Heavy-handed security efforts at the Mall of America and elsewhere did not deter Black Lives Matter protesters, who disrupted holiday shopping and travel on Wednesday to call attention to systemic racism and police brutality in Minneapolis and beyond.

After police at the mall threatened to arrest hundreds of peaceful protesters, Black Lives Matter activists moved their demonstration to nearby light rail trains and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, according to local news outlets. Continue reading

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How Black Lives Matter came back stronger after white supremacist attacks

By Celia Kutz. Published 11-30-2015 at Waging Nonviolence

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis marches after the shooting by white supremacists. (Facebook/Adja Gildersleve)

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis marches after the shooting by white supremacists. (Facebook/Adja Gildersleve)

When five protesters were shot by white supremacists in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 22, my world turned a bit upside down. My time as an activist there, from 2006-13, has largely informed how I organize and do movement building. I knew at a lot of the people involved and was quickly on the phone. The protesters’ campaign demanded justice for Jamar Clark, an unarmed African American who was killed by Minneapolis police a week before.

I knew that the protest site, the Fourth Precinct Police Station on Plymouth Avenue, had previously been the location of a storefront center for black activism named The WAY. Thirty-five years ago, Police Chief Anthony Bouza bragged about how he would turn the site into a police station to show who was on top. Now the location spotlights the violent police role in institutionalized racism in Minnesota. It’s no wonder that freelance shooters would show up. Continue reading

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Police terror in Brazil

How many deaths of black youth are necessary before they are considered ‘genocide’ or political assassinations?

By Jaime A Alves. Published 10-10-2015 at openDemocracy.

Photo via Tumblr

Photo via Tumblr

Imagine a place where eight Michael Browns are killed every day. Imagine a place where extortion, rape, torture, and killings are routine. This is Brazil. Police terror in Brazil has become so banal that it has lost the media’s interest. Some of us may recall the global media’s coverage of massacres such as Candelaria (1993), Carandiru (1992), Eldorado dos Carajas (1996), and Crimes de Maio (2006). Now, more than ever, slaughter has become the police’s modus operandi. One would expect that with the social achievements promoted by the Workers’ Party in the last decade (40 million people came out of poverty in Brazil), police terror would disappear or at least be far less frequent. Quite the opposite has occurred. In Brazil, there is one thing that unites both left and right-wing governments: their incapacity to fight against police terror. At times, governments in both camps have been complicit with the police state. Continue reading

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Hiding in plain sight: the history of the War on Drugs

The War on Drugs was a direct response to the African American uprisings of the 1960s. Its racist and repressive effects continue to be felt today.

By Paul Bermanzohn. Published August 13, 2015, by ROAR.

Photo: A scene of the 1967 Newark Rebellion, by Don Hogan Charles.

Photo: A scene of the 1967 Newark Rebellion, by Don Hogan Charles.

Recent US history, from the 1960s until today, shows the War on Drugs to be a crusade of repression against African American people, incarcerating millions to prevent a renewal of the struggle for freedom.

We need to look at the whole picture of this drug war, not just a fragment or a piece of it. Most writers on this subject either get lost in the details or cannot see past the lie that the US is a “democracy.” In either case they often fail to see the realities of this history, even though the facts are clear. Presenting well-known events in chronological order clarifies the inner connection among these events and brings out their larger significance.

Indeed, placing the history in sequence makes it plain: the Great Migration brought on a Great Rebellion. A vindictive Great Repression was orchestrated to crush the Great Rebellion and prevent its continuation. Masked as the so-called “War on Drugs,” which has swept millions into prisons and jails across the US, the Great Repression has, in effect, punished generations for the “sins” of their ancestors — those who dared to rebel.

This repression is still underway today. Its effects are clearly racial. But, camouflaged as a “War on Drugs,” it has allowed the country’s rulers to appear “colorblind” or race-neutral — as if they are merely enforcing the law.

The Great Migration

In the early 20th century, fleeing the decaying Jim Crow system of agricultural labor in the fields and farms of the South, millions of African Americans moved out, seeking jobs in the military-industrial centers of the North, the mid West and the West. From World War I to the 1960s, millions migrated from virtual chattel slavery in the South to wage slavery in the North. They found little improvement.

Herded into old ghettos, or into quickly-created new ones, they found discrimination, barely habitable housing with a constant threat of dislocation by projects of urban renewal, or “Negro removal.” Giant housing projects, little more than stacks of shacks, were built to house the many migrants. Overcrowded and neglected schools provided poor or non-existent education for their children.

The misery was compounded by relentless police abuse. When Malcolm X spoke of “the so-called Negro out here catching hell,” he was talking about (and to) this group. Malcolm lived this experience and became the spokesman of urban ghetto dwellers. The desperation and outrage experienced by these migrants made explosion inevitable.

The Great Rebellion

Violent repression of civil rights demonstrators seeking basic respect combined with the migrants’ sufferings to ignite a series of mass urban uprisings across the US. These insurrections are generally seen as individual explosions, city by city, but to grasp their cumulative significance we need to see them as a single process: African Americans striving for freedom in racist America. The rebellion was at the heart of the ’60s and drives American politics to this day, even under the nation’s first black president.

These rebellions are generally dismissed as “riots” and their significance erased.

Kenneth Stahl titled his website and book on the Detroit Rebellion of 1967 The Great Rebellion, but I expand the use of this term to include all these uprisings. Virtually all were precipitated by violent police attacks or rumors of such attacks. Since officials often lie, it is impossible to know what exactly happened in every case, but at any rate a large number of uprisings took place across the country: over 300 cities rose up in the ‘60s, according to the best estimates.

The first insurrection, in New York City, was touched off by a police murder. The initial focus of the demonstration, called for by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), was the disappearance of three civil rights workers in Mississippi. However, when in the early morning of July 16, off-duty police Lieutenant Thomas Gilligan killed 15-year-old African American student James Powell, CORE decided to change the focus of their protest to police brutality in Harlem.

The protest was peaceful, but rage at the murder grew into a mass confrontation with police. Bands of looters operated in Harlem’s streets at night. Upheaval soon spread to Bedford Stuyvesant. After the New York City insurrection abated, like a series of aftershocks, smaller uprisings took place throughout the area, in upstate NY, NJ and Pennsylvania.

A year later, on August 11, unrest broke out in Watts, LA. Among the first targets of looters were gun stores — and they made full use of their weapons. For almost a week, people fought the police and army to a standstill. Black and white looters working together led King to state that “this was not a race riot. It was a class riot.” The Situationist International even treated the rebellion as a “revolutionary event,” with looting seen as a rejection of the commodity system, “the first step of a vast, all-embracing struggle.”

In 1966, there were 43 civil disturbances of varying intensity across the nation, including a notable uprising in Chicago, where the Puerto Rican community exploded into a week-long rebellion after a police shooting. On April 4, 1967, King delivered what is probably his most important speech: Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break SilenceThe relevance of this speech is often downplayed, and if mentioned at all, it tends to be portrayed as King’s speech opposing the US war in Vietnam. It was much more.

In the address, King embraced the world revolution saying, “if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.” He called the US government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and called for an end to “the giant triplets of racism, materialism and economic exploitation.”

The speech galvanized the anti-war movement. Just eleven days later, on April 15, 1967, over 400,00 people marched to the UN to demand an end to the war. It was the first demonstration I ever attended. I vividly remember the excitement in the gathering place, Central Park’s Sheep Meadow, still packed with marchers, when word came that the front of the march, which filled the streets the whole way, had reached the UN over a mile away. The movement’s power continued to grow as the spirit of revolution spread.

In just a few years, the US military began to disintegrate. Eighty percent of soldiers were taking drugs. Combat refusals, naval mutinies and fragging incidents — soldiers shooting their officers — became widespread.

In 1967, over a hundred instances of violent upheaval were recorded. Most notably were the uprisings in Newark, were the violence was sparked by rumors of a black cab driver being killed by police after decades of housing discrimination and massive black unemployment, and the one in the Motor City, Detroit, where 43 people were killed after 12,000 soldiers descended upon the city in an attempt to quell the protests.

The Great Repression

The year ’68 proved to be the watershed. The Rebellion reached its peak and the initiative was seized by the forces of order, who subsequently organized the Great Repression. On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was killed, probably by government assassination. His murder, one year to the day after his revolutionary speech, strikes some as a signal sent by the government to deter people from taking the revolutionary path. If this is so, it did not work. Following King’s murder the largest insurrection occurred. Over 100 cities exploded.

The Holy Week Uprising was the most serious bout of social upheaval in the United States since the Civil War. The largest insurrections took place in Washington, D.C.BaltimoreLouisvilleKansas City, and Chicago — with Baltimore experiencing the most significant political events. The Liberal Republican Governor of Maryland, Spiro T. Agnew, gathered African American community leaders and subjected them to a dressing down for not supporting the US government strongly enough. Seeking to divide and conquer, he said: “I call upon you to publicly repudiate, condemn and reject all black racists. This, so far, you have not been willing to do.”

Agnew’s speech received national headlines and led to his role in the presidential elections later that year, which centered on the urban uprisings of the preceding decade and created the miserable legacy of today. US politicians refined a coded language to conceal their racial motives. The Republican candidate Richard Nixon ran against the liberal Democrat Hubert Humphrey. The civil rights movement drove not only the KKK; it also drove overtly racist language underground. It did not end either.

The election centered on Nixon’s call for “law and order,” a slogan that meant a tough response to insurgents (called “rioters”) and the still popular notion that politicians should be “tough on crime.” Crime, disorder and violence became synonyms for being black.

Nixon eagerly stated to work on a war on drugs before his inauguration. Early in his presidency, he outlined his basic strategy to his chief of staff: “[President Nixon] emphasized that 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.”

Nixon’s diabolical efforts to develop a War on Drugs along these lines involved the highest officials in the US government, including William Rehnquist, later appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by Reagan. Nixon initiated a war on crime as well as the War on Drugs, setting the pattern for future presidents.

Following in his predecessors’ footsteps, Reagan outdid Nixon in his get-tough-on-crime policies and oversaw the steepest rise in incarceration rates. Bill Clinton signed into law an omnibus crime bill in 1994, increasing capital offenses and the federal “three strikes” provision mandating life sentences for criminals convicted of a violent felony after two or more prior convictions, including drug crimes. He poured over $30 billion into militarizing the nation’s police. His group, the Democratic Leadership Council, brought much of the Democratic Party to embrace coded racial politics in order to win over white voters.

For a new beginning

As a movement to stop violent police repression grows across the nation, some of our current rulers seem to understand that they have a tiger by the tail. The Clinton team has begun to suggest that mass incarceration might end. Clinton, herself, as part of her presidential campaign, called “for a re-evaluation of prison sentences and trust between police and communities.”

The Black Lives Matter movement recognizes that discontent fueled by mass incarceration contributes to the movement to stop police murders. Less well-recognized is that granting the police immunity is itself part of the generalized repression of African Americans. The system of mass incarceration rests on a high degree of police discretion in choosing whom to suspect, interrogate and arrest, and in how to do these things. Restricting the police can hardly be allowed if the police are to continue the overall project of racial repression.

Part of developing a new revolutionary movement is to reclaim our history. The masters keep us enslaved by blinding us to our collective strength. The story of the ‘60s uprisings is one rich in power and agency; this is the reason why the rulers want to erase this period from the collective memory altogether.

At the same time, we must also recognize that the uprisings of the ’60s failed. Despite the vast strength revealed in the Great Rebellion, our enemies were able to use the images of violence and looting to further the divisions in US society and to institute their vengeful repression with at least the passive consent of the “white” majority. Time and again, the mainstream media proved a powerful tool in promoting the image of black and brown people as violent, criminal and dangerous.

It must be acknowledged that widespread looting and violence frightened the “white” majority, making it easier for the rulers to split the people and institute the Great Repression. King’s revolutionary non-violence had a much different effect on the American people. This must be pondered by serious revolutionaries.

Conditions for a new revolutionary movement are gradually maturing. There are growing rebellions seeking a new way of life throughout the world. In the US, an ever-spreading movement affirms the value of black lives as increasing numbers of European-American youth take up the struggle of African Americans as their own. Such a movement may, in time, bring an end to the socially constructed notion of whiteness, eliminating a key pillar of the rulers’ domination.

In the Virginia colony in the 17th century, the masters were horrified to see African and European laborers combine to seek to destroy the system of enslavement. Their response was to create a sharp division in condition between their African and their Europeans slaves. They “invented” the white race to split the laborers and preserve their power — a remarkably effective and durable approach.

Race is a social construct devised and manipulated by our masters to maintain their rule. Only by eliminating class society, which continues to depend on racism, can racism as such be swept away.

Paul Bermanzohn, son of Holocaust survivors, is a retired psychiatrist and lifelong political revolutionary. He was shot in the head in an assassination attempt in the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, in which five of his close comrades were killed. His web site is Survival and Transformation.

This article is an edited version of a talk presented at a meeting of the End the New Jim Crow Action Network, on 14 July 2015 (Bastille Day), Kingston, NY.

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Police Arrest 50 Demonstrators as State of Emergency Declared in Ferguson

Under Moral Monday banner, protesters marking one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death take part in civil disobedience outside Ferguson courthouse

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-10-2015

Protesters blocking I-70 in St, Louis, 8-10-15. Photo via Facebook

Protesters blocking I-70 in St, Louis, 8-10-15. Photo via Facebook

At least 50 people were arrested outside the Thomas F. Eagleton Federal Courthouse in Ferguson, Missouri on Monday, where they were demanding the dissolution of the Ferguson Police Department.

Meanwhile, despite mostly peaceful protests marred by an officer-involved shooting overnight that left a teenager in critical condition, the St. Louis County declared a state of emergency for Ferguson on Monday. Demonstrators are marking the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown, who was killed by white police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014. Continue reading

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The Legacy of Michael Brown: Why America should weep with Ferguson

One year following the flashpoint unleashed in Ferguson after the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson, Ferguson may look somewhat different, but their reality has been dismal compared to the promises made in order to bring about an end to the protests that gripped the community.

Mother of Michael Brown, Lesley McSpadden. Image via flickr.

Mother of Michael Brown, Lesley McSpadden. Image via flickr.

As a nation, we watched the news. The majority of whites (80%) still do not see why these protests happen. They do not understand that, in contrast, nearly 78% of the national black community sees police forces in their communities in much the same light as those in Ferguson did one year ago. We have seen the growth of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the backlash for that advocacy. We have listened to a national conversation that has ended in the deafening roar of silence rather than the changes the people recognized were needed.

We now watch as police forces reluctantly pass new rules and policies, slow to introduce new tactics and unwilling to open real conversation with those they are charged with “protecting and serving.” A prime example comes from Ferguson itself, where the city council has reviewed the proposal from the Department of Justice following their investigation that found evidence of a profit-driven court system and widespread racial bias by police. A recent report stated, “Ferguson Councilman Wesley Bell described the Justice Department’s plan as a typical bargaining tactic. “The DOJ didn’t expect us to accept their first proposal. This is just part of the negotiations,” said Bell, elected to the council in April. “That’s all. You want $200. You ask for $400.” With this attitude being prevalent among the predominately white city council, how are the people of Ferguson expected to believe change is coming?

According to The Counted, 695 people have been killed by police or law enforcement agencies since the beginning of 2015 alone (as of August 7, 2015). On average, that is more than 3 people per day. If any other organization or group ran around killing 3 American civilians per day without accountability and with a seemingly all-but spotless record of no wrong doing, we would demand action. (The Counted is a project working to count the number of people killed by police and other law enforcement agencies in the United States throughout 2015, to monitor their demographics and to tell the stories of how they died.)

Sandra Bland. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Sandra Bland. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Most recently, the death of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail cell defies explanation. It has led to attention of black women being abused and violated by police on a regular basis, yet going unreported. As a result, a demand to force those responsible to “Say Her Name” when there are victims has given rise to the movement #SayHerName.

Ferguson continues to weep. Deserving of every tear, these people have endured what most communities will never experience. Any mother, any parent, that can not take pause at the grief and sorrow of Michael’s mother is as heartless as his killer. Ferguson’s new police Lieutenant proudly says things are better, because she sees officers talking to each other and smiling more. Does she see that on the streets of the community they serve? Has anyone from the department looked?

Photo NLM Coalition via Twitter

Photo NLM Coalition via Twitter

Most Americans are unaware that the community that sees more abuse and violence from police and law enforcement agencies throughout America is the Native American community. Vastly under-reported and swept under the rugs in our halls of “justice”, these people have no where to turn for help. “It is a tribal issue,” they are told, if they are able to complain at all. As such, we are finally beginning to see the rise of #NativeLivesMatter.

When the international community looks at America and sees the treatment of our most marginalized citizens as human rights abuses and calls us on the carpet for it, shouldn’t we look more carefully within our own shores before starting up our war machines to invade countries we charge with human rights abuses?

We have a long way to go, America. You can not close the book on the chapter of Ferguson and assume Michael Brown’s story has ended, unless you also close the book on all the other lives that will be lost if we do not confront these issues as a population, and stop waiting for our government to do what it has failed miserably at doing up to this point.

May Michael Brown be able to Rest in Peace – some day.

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Facing Down Taser, Sandra Bland Was Told By Officer: “I Will Light You Up!”

Betraying arrest report, newly released footage shows how arresting officer violently escalating traffic stop by threatening unarmed black woman with Taser

Written by Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-21-15.

In one shocking moment, the officer,  tells Bland that if she does not get out of her car he will "light her up." Subsequently, after she objects to having her head banged against the ground and telling him that she suffers from epilepsy, Encinia responds by saying, "Good." (Image: Screenshot/Youtube)

In one shocking moment, the officer, tells Bland that if she does not get out of her car he will “light her up.” Subsequently, after she objects to having her head banged against the ground and telling him that she suffers from epilepsy, Encinia responds by saying, “Good.” (Image: Screenshot/Youtube)

While many questions still remain about what exactly happened to Sandra Bland in a Texas jail cell before she was found dead under mysterious circumstances on July 13, those looking for answers about why she was initially placed under arrest three days earlier were offered a look at devastating dash-cam footage released by the Texas Department of Public Safety on Tuesday evening which showed the arresting officer, Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia, actively escalating a situation with violence and threatening the unarmed black woman with a Taser.

The manner in which the escalation occurred led law enforcement officials to say that Encinia had not followed department procedures and failed to “maintain professionalism” during the arrest.

In one shocking moment, the officer,  tells Bland that if she does not get out of her car he will “light her up.” Subsequently, after she objects to having her head banged against the ground and telling him that she suffers from epilepsy, Encinia responds by saying, “Good.”

As the New York Times reports, several Texas lawmakers who were shown the footage said it is clear that Bland should never have been treated in such a manner nor ultimately taken into custody by police. “This young woman should be alive today,” said State Representative Helen Giddings, Democrat of Dallas.

According to the Times:

Ms. Bland, an African-American from the Chicago area who had come to Texas for a job at her alma mater, Prairie View University, was arrested after she was stopped July 10 for a failure to signal a turn.

The video also confirmed an account from the family’s lawyer that the confrontation between Ms. Bland and the trooper, Brian T. Encinia, escalated after she refused the officer’s order to put out a cigarette, said [State Senator Royce West, Democrat of Dallas].

Neither the Taser nor the confrontation over the cigarette were mentioned in Officer Encinia’s incident report, which was released on Tuesday by the Waller County district attorney’s office.

Watch the footage [Warning: Graphic and strong language]:

Mother Jones reports:

In a press conference late Tuesday, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety said that Encinia failed to “maintain professionalism” throughout his interaction with Bland, and that he has been taken off the street and placed on administrative duty for duration of the investigation into Bland’s death. In answer to a reporter’s question, Texas state Sen. Royce West said that the dash cam footage showed that Bland should not have been taken into police custody.

The subsequent death of Bland has continued to raise troubling questions since she was found hanged on the morning of July 13. A medical examiner report and the county sheriff’s office ruled her death a suicide, but during the three days Bland spent in jail, Bland’s family members said they spoke to her on the about posting bail, and that a suicide seemed “unfathomable.” An hour before she was found, Bland had asked to use the phone again, county officials said.

On Monday, officials in Waller County released additional details about the morning Bland died, including surveillance video footage showing the hall outside of cell 95, where Bland was held. Citing interviews with family members and with the bail bondsman who was among the last to speak with Bland, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said it is “too early to make any kind of determination” and that “this investigation is still being treated just as it would be a murder investigation,” signaling that he had not ruled out any motives and would explore all leads and evidence, including videos, fingerprints in her cell, and the plastic bag found around her neck.

And Time magazine adds:

The Bland case is the latest in a string of high-profile incidents around the country that have highlighted the strained relationship between the African-American community and local police.

Around two minutes into the 52-minute video, Bland changes lanes without signaling, and the police officer pulls her over. After several minutes while the officer sits in his cruiser, presumably going over paperwork, he returns to the vehicle to find Bland is upset.

“You seem very irritated,” he says. She responds by saying that she only changed lanes because she felt the officer was speeding up behind her.

The officer then asks Bland to put out her cigarette, and when she refuses, he orders her to step out of her car. When she refuses, he opens her car door and orders her repeatedly to step out, while she argues that she did nothing wrong.

The encounter soon turns physical.

“Step out or I will remove you,” he says repeatedly. “Get out of the car now, or I’m going to remove you. I’m going to yank you out of here.”

On Twitter, the reactions to what the newly released footage reveal about the arrest included expressions of outrage and confirmed for many that Bland should never have ended up in that jail cell in the first place.

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Disrupting Speeches, Protesters Challenge Sanders and O’Malley: Say ‘Black Lives Matter!’

Raising the profile of Black women killed by police violence, demonstration forces candidates to address racial injustice

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published July 19, 2015

Photo via Twitter

Photo via Twitter

Demanding that pervasive racial injustice and police brutality against people of color be addressed on the campaign trail, protesters with the Black Lives Matter movement interrupted speeches by Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley Saturday evening.

Cutting off O’Malley’s prepared remarks during the annual Netroots Nation convention in Phoenix, Arizona, activist Patrisse Cullors described the urgency driving the protest. “Let me be clear—every single day people are dying, not able to take another breath,” she said. “We are in a state of emergency. If you do not feel that emergency, then you are not human. I want to hear concrete action plans.”

Protesters said they were galvanized by this week’s one year anniversary of the police killing of Eric Garner and the suspicious and tragic death of Sandra Bland. During the event, they chanted and challenged the candidates to “Say her name,” referring to Bland and other women killed while in police custody, and to “Say that black lives matter.”

The action made it clear that the minority vote should not be taken for granted by candidates on the left.

The Guardian reports:

O’Malley was eventually forced offstage, after the protest and his attempts to respond delayed the appearance of Sanders.

O’Malley, who stood patiently throughout the interruption, which was led by Tia Oso, national coordinator for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration in Phoenix, attempted to answer questions from activists. He eventually left the stage clapping and saying rhythmically: “Black lives matter, black lives matter, black lives matter.”

Sanders began a prepared introduction – as had been delivered by O’Malley – talking about policies, including media bias and the need for a raised minimum wage. Chants of “black lives matter” and either “save our men” or “say her name” then broke out again.

“Black lives of course matter,” Sanders said. “I spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and dignity, but if you don’t want me to be here that’s OK. I don’t want to out-scream people.”

Speaking with Buzzfeed after the event, Angela Peoples, co-director of LGBTQ rights group Get Equal, said the activists wanted to hear specific steps from the candidates on how they’re going to address the issue of police violence as well as the overarching issue of institutional racism. The minority community wants to hear the demands and principles of “black lives matter” reflected in their campaign, she said.

Peoples added that Sanders talking about income inequality isn’t enough.

“We can not talk about income inequality as if that’s going to be the silver bullet that protects black and brown lives when they’re in police custody or when they’re being profiled and killed by the police,” she said.

In an interview with journalist David Dayen, protest organizer Ashley Yeats echoed those same ideas. When asked how a candidate can bridge the divide between racial and economic justice when speaking to the progressive community, she said:

When you talk about economic justice, who’s the poorest of the poor? Talk about gentrification, talk about mass displacement. Talk about the things that actually lead to poverty. Who is affected by that? Talk about whose neighborhoods are flooded with really harmful drugs. Talk about who’s denied access to resources. Talk about who [isn’t]? that is all in black and brown neighborhoods. So if you’re doing economic justice but you’re not talking to black and brown people, you’re not actually doing economic justice. So that’s the challenge I pose and that’s how you bridge the gap, get people to realize that if you’re talking about economic issues, black people are part of every category.

Yeats also said she wants to hear “actual steps that show you’re thinking about something,” using “simple and clear language.”

Saturday’s protest specifically aimed to raise the profile of Black women victims and challenge presidential hopefuls to respond to these issues in “real time.” The candidates, Yeats continued, “claim that they represent all of America, but then you get up there and you see when they’re pressured on issues that are specifically black they fumble.”

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