Top New Jersey Parole Board officials acknowledge that admission of guilt by a person is not a condition for either a person’s release from prison on parole or a person remaining on parole once released from prison.
However, some N.J. State Parole Board employees are pushing to put Trenton, N.J., community activist Daryl Brooks back in prison for his failure to admit guilt.
This demand on Brooks by parole employees to admit guilt is the very admission top Parole Board officials said is not required for released parolees.
A top Parole Board executive, when responding to a Philadelphia Tribune inquiry in late June, responded “No” to a question about guilt admission as a parole release or continuance condition — a response affirmed by another top Board executive last week.
Brooks, a 6’5’’ man with an affable personality, maintains his innocence since his 1995 arrest on improbable sex assault charges, through his evidence-deficient 1998 trial, three-year imprisonment and during the during a decade on parole.
Yet, when Parole Board employees arrested Brooks this May, they charged him with violating conditions of his parole, citing his failure to admit guilt during counseling the Board forced him to undertake a few years ago despite years of infraction-free parole.
That arrest, curiously, occurred days after Brooks issued a press release that criticized failings in the Board’s forced counseling following Brooks’ observing how a sex offender who [allegedly] received little counseling-session treatment stalked some children in a park outside Trenton.
Brook’s May arrest forced him to spend his rent money on bail resulting in his eviction.
In bashing Brooks for parole violation Board personnel also barred him from the Internet.
That Internet ban shut down Brooks’ top-rated “Today’s News N.J.” blog.
That ban also blocks Brooks from searching for employment that now widely requires online submission of job applications.
“The possibility of going back to prison for a crime I didn’t do is terrible,” Brooks said during a recent interview. “It is like some parole people are out to destroy me. I feel this is a form of slavery.”
The Parole Board declined comment on Brooks’ case citing privacy regulations, one official said last week.
The Parole Board didn’t require admission of guilt when initially releasing Brooks from prison.
Brooks, who regularly campaigns against drug dealing, violence, mass incarceration and governmental corruption, enjoys far flung support from diverse entities including Occupy The Hood N.J. and the New Jersey Tea Party.
Rabbi Gordon Gellar of Margate, N.J., who possesses a law degree and has analyzed Brooks’ conviction, said Brooks’ case is a “gross example” of the justice system gone awry.
“It is ludicrous to demand a confession,” Gellar said.
Gellar, who worked for 12 years as a chaplain in a federal prison and respects the ideals of the American justice system, said Brooks’ case fits into America’s “dark history of injustice.”
Trenton, N.J., police and prosecutors claimed Daryl Brooks masturbated in public — nude from the waist down — while holding a bottle of brandy on April 19, 1995.
Those authorities found nothing fishy with many disturbing facts.
Brooks’ alleged crime took place in daylight on a busy street inside a then bustling North Trenton public housing project directly outside the window of a police mini-station.
Yet, no one saw this lewd act except two young girls — suspiciously the daughters of a drug dealer targeted by Brooks’ anti-drug activism.
That drug dealer’s daughters provided the only evidence producing Brooks’ jury verdict conviction.
Police couldn’t or didn’t produce any other eyewitnesses to Brooks’ act despite scores of people occupying the three dozen-plus apartments overlooking where Brooks reportedly masturbated at that housing project where Brooks, then a biblical college student, grew up.
Since Brooks regularly assailed Trenton political corruption before his arrest Rabbi Geller believes Brooks’ political enemies exploited that suspicious arrest to “shut him up” with incarceration which “ruined the life of a remarkable individual” by making him a life-long sex offender that blocks things like employment opportunities.
Brooks is not alone in enduring Kafkaesque predicaments from parole authorities.
Pennsylvania parole authorities, for example, have denied Philadelphia-convicted prisoner Wendell Caldwell parole nine times during his 25-year imprisonment allegedly telling Caldwell to finish his full 30-year sentence.
“I was told to max out for refusing to admit to a crime which I did not commit,” Caldwell recounted in an “Open Letter” sent to two critics of Pa.’s parole system that included a former Pa. governor.
“I have earned over 70 certificates for courses and programs … including college credits,” Caldwell stated in that letter. “I saved the life of a correctional officer during the worst prison riot in Pennsylvania history.”
That ex-governor, George M. Leader, co-authored an insightful critique of inefficient parole practices this year that included an account of Pa. parole authorities holding one inmate for 100 additional days after his parole due to that inmate’s inability to pay a $13.70 prison fine.
That “bureaucratic nightmare” cost Pennsylvania taxpayers nearly $10,000, the Leader critique stated.
Brooks said a Board contracted counselor from New Jersey’s University of Medicine and Dentistry ejected him from her counseling earlier this year following his refusal to admit guilt — an admission Brooks said parole agents told him he didn’t have to make.
Brooks supporter Harold Fleming, a retired mental health worker, criticizes the guilt admission demand.
“Here’s a good man trying to contribute to society.”
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
What a disgusting spectacle!
Mobs of mad (as in insane) shoppers violently surging through shopping malls from Staten Island to Seattle to snatch-up expensive Air Jordan sneakers.
Mob members — overwhelmingly Black in composition — punched, kicked, trampled and pepper-sprayed each other while pursuing their perverse right to pay a small fortune for shoes that supposedly make a fashion statement but brings little improvement to their daily lives beyond intangible emotional satisfaction.
At a Philly suburb, Burlington County, N.J. mall witnesses told news reporters that men threatened gunfire to bolster their efforts to “get their pair.”
Yes, a willingness to shoot someone to eliminate a shoe purchase competitor — a willingness to shoot someone — not to secure a full-time job or snatch a jackpot Mega-Millions lotto ticket but blasting a human being for a pair of shoes that will surely soil when worn regularly which is necessary for making that fashion statement.
Needless to say many racists raging around cyberspace exploited this disgusting spectacle rightly ranting about the stupidity of predominately poor Blacks fighting to spend scarce money on overpriced sneakers.
Typical of racists, their criticisms contained no reference to the larger context of consumerism gone wild in America — mindless spending of the kind that one London newspaper account about Black Friday Christmas shopping frenzy termed an “orgy.”
Let’s not forget that post-Thanksgiving shoppers scratched and clawed each other for items to buy with one Los Angeles area shopper using pepper spray to secure an X-Box for his purchase and shoppers in a Little Rock, Arkansas Wal-Mart physically battling each other over waffle makers selling for $2 bucks each.
And we shouldn’t forget another salient point.
That violent consumerism evident in sneaker wars is another branch of the amassing-possessions tree that includes those top tiered financial types (a/k/a fraudsters) who wrecked the economic system by their orgy of exploiting get-rich-quick schemes like credit default swaps and mortgage-backed securities.
Those schemes accelerated the economic damage arising from the regular tax avoidance and insider-trading misconduct among the wealthy.
Is this rioting over sneakers and the rich paying-off politicians to prevent higher taxes on the (often ill-gotten) fortunes creeping indicators of what the Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin warned a few weeks ago of America becoming ungovernable?
That mid-December assessment from the think-tank behind the GEAB stated that the “already insolvent” United States “will become ungovernable bringing about for Americans and those who depend on the United States violent and destructive economic, financial, monetary, geopolitical and social shocks.”
The GEAB predicts that the impact of global systemic crisis on the U.S. during the four year period between 2012 and 2016 “will radically transform the country’s institutional system, its social fabric and its economic and financial weight.”
Despite the larger context of consumerism excesses and U.S. empire collapse the spectacle from mobs of Black folks battling over paying nearly $200 dollars for sneakers contains particularly disturbing aspects.
Disturbing aspects arise from facts like it’s virtually impossible to consistently assemble hundreds of Black folks to address ills crushing their lives like unemployment.
Unemployment in Black communities is larger in scope and longer lasting in duration than in all other sectors of American society.
Where are those ready-&-willing to demonstrate against the structural joblessness that created economic Depression in Back communities long before America’s Recession of the past few years?
Why is it so hard to find unemployed persons possessed with vigor to protest their conditions comparable to that sneaker-purchase-zeal?
There are enough unemployed Back folks in and around Washington, D.C. alone to pack Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to Capitol Hill daily to demand that the president push for targeted jobs creations initiatives and the recalcitrant Republicans controlling Congress approve such initiatives.
Where’s the sneaker-purchase enthusiasm to protest against a menacing facet of the prison-industrial-complex where private prison operators provide state legislators with campaign contributions and lobbying largess to enact favorable measures.
Those measures include actions like transferring prisons from state government to private control, passing harsher sentences for non-violent offenses and provisions for keeping people in prison longer — all measures that benefit the financial bottom-lines of for-profit prison operators.
Blacks and other non-whites provide the “raw material” the private prison industry needs.
A new form of slavery is how many rightly reference this renewed mass imprisonment push — interestingly coinciding with decreases in crime rates.
However, the U.S. Constitution permits slavery for prisoners. The post-Civil War amendments eliminating slavery allowed slavery “as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”
A Forbes.com article in November about the private prison operator Corrections Corporation of America carried the headline — “Still Locking Up Fat Profits.”
The CCA that operates 60 facilities in 19 states and D.C. made $433.5 million in profits during the past year according to the Forbes.com article, up ten million from the year before.
With politicians controlling employment and penal policies, where are the Black masses protesting what a report issued in December by the NAACP and NAACP Legal Defense Fund declared is “a coordinated and comprehensive assault … against our voting rights.”
During 2011, that report stated, 14 states approved over two dozen measures designed to restrict or limit access to ballots — blatant anti-democracy onslaughts by Republicans against minorities, the elderly and students who often vote for Democrats.
Those sneaker-snatchers need to focus their attention on the feet of exploitation systemically planted in their backsides.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
Give a “cut-above” credit to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey for quietly traveling to barber shops in numerous neighborhoods around the city to talk with customers, engaging in conservations about community perceptions of police.
The Commissioner taking his time to listen — getting earfuls from folks sharing their complaints and kudos — is smart policing. This is the type of initiative needed to move the phrase “community partnership” from a politically popular cliché to an effective crime fighting practice.
Commissioner Ramsey and Mayor Nutter both know about and care about doing something about the biggest crime related problem confronting Philadelphia: the outrageous levels of murders.
The victims of those murders are disproportionately young Black males as are the perpetrators.
As Philadelphia Tribune City Editor Daryl Gale perceptively noted in a commentary last week, “young Philadelphians are so hopeless and filled with shortsighted desperation that they’ve engaged in what could well be the first case of self-inflicted genocide in human history.”
The 324 murders recorded in Philadelphia last year produced the unenviable distinction of ranking Philly as #1 in murder rates among America’s ten largest cities…more than New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston.
And before the smoke of New Year’s Eve fireworks dissipated the smoke of gunfire besmirched the dawning of 2012 with another spate of homicides around Philly.
Mayor Nutter, during his inauguration speech last week for his second term, described this murderous behavior among some (and certainly not all) young Black men as “a local and national epidemic not sufficiently talked about, much less tackled.”
Mayor Nutter went beyond the standard “we’re going to put more police on our streets — 120 new officers on foot patrol by summer this year” by promising to “continue to build partnerships with the community through community policing and Philly Rising.” Let’s hope that 2012 is truly the year for new commitment and new thinking in City Hall about engagement with “community” in crafting and implementing crime reduction strategies.
One of the biggest failings in Philadelphia regarding crime reduction is the failure of City Hall to effectively work with community groups that daily work in the trenches with those impacted by crime and those apart of destructive criminal behavior.
As one community activist noted during an interview last week, “There’s been a disconnect between police and community initiatives. The City has to work in partnership with communities. There are groups out there working on violence reduction that never get credit.”
While politicians and police officials talk about partnerships with communities you rarely see community groups included in press conferences where City Hall pats itself on the back by announcing reductions in murder rates and/or decreases in crime generally.
Community based violence reduction efforts already confront uphill battles on the front lines from those they are trying to impact who feel these efforts have little influence among the power-brokers in City Hall and Center City corporate suites that hold real sway over matters involving employment, education and criminal justice policies.
City Hall brushing aside these efforts — deliberately or inadvertently — reinforces the perception of powerlessness of those efforts in the minds of people those efforts are trying to reach. Community groups are getting ready to launch a new violence reduction initiative captioned “Live and Let Live” — phrasing that tactically addresses a prime trigger for much of the conflicts leading to fatal violence: arguments over perceptions of someone not “respecting” someone.
The Mayor, City Council, corporate and civic leaders need to back these kinds of community initiatives, not just with making the easy endorsements but with resources inclusive of providing money.
Mayor Nutter deserves credit for declaring during his inauguration speech his willingness to “extend a hand” to persons ready to “put guns down.” Nutter said, “We must show them that if you put the gun down we’ll work with you to put a book in your hands, to put some work and a job in your hands, to put a paycheck in your hands.”
To transform the mayor’s sincere rhetoric into reality City Hall has to stop shooting itself in the foot with counter-productive practices like the Police Department’s Stop-&-Frisk campaign and the sweet-heart Project Labor Agreement Nutter announced late last year for trade unions with a history of racial discrimination.
Stop-&-Frisk is infused with racial profiling mainly targeting Black and Latino males. This dragnet policing alienates people who the police need for cooperation in identifying criminals. Commissioner Ramsey bemoaned the lack of community cooperation in solving murders and the impact that has on lower rates of solving murders yet some of that lack of cooperation comes from adverse reactions to offensive policing.
As law professor Sherrilyn Ifill noted in a short essay posted recently on The Root there are “unintended consequences” from the Stop-&-Frisks in New York City that like Philadelphia overwhelmingly targets non-whites. “Fostering a relationship of hostility with the city’s Black and Latino male population is not only wrong; it’s also not smart policing,” Ifill wrote noting disincentives like discouraging providing police with crime solving tips.
Last June the Nutter Administration entered a legal settlement to reform Stop-&-Frisk yet months later the mayor committed city-funded construction jobs exclusively to discriminatory building trade unions, the types of jobs needed for that “hand-up” referenced in his inauguration speech.
The time is ripe for real engagement with communities.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
LONDON — Something brand new rises skyward in the “American Ground” section of London’s historic Battersea Park.
This new addition is a massive sculpture constructed of steel recovered from the collapsed World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City.
This 28-foot high artwork made of mangled metal from the towers — entitled “After 9/11” — was unveiled during a special ceremony on Monday, September 5, that was attended by London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, and the artist of the sculpture, Miya Ando.
Nearly 70 British citizens died when the towers collapsed during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the highest death total of any single country behind America.
Britain is the only country in Europe to receive steel from the World Trade Center Towers.
The “American Ground” section of Battersea Park gains its name from trees and bushes specifically imported from North America and planted when the park opened on the shores of the Thames River in 1858.
This sculpture, which was unveiled just days before the tenth anniversary of 9/11, is not a memorial, according to the man who spear-headed the project to secure the steel and have the sculpture created, London resident Peter Rosengard.
“This is about life and the future. This is a part of an educational project because I want young people learning about this so it doesn’t happen again,” Rosengard said last Thursday during an interview while visiting the sculpture.
“Most young people today are learning about 9/11 from the internet that is filled with conspiracy theories.”
Rosengard said the sculpture is crafted from the steel as it was sent except for polishing one section to a shiny finish to “symbolize renewal.”
Rosengard wants to site this sculpture permanently in a central London location but for now its park placement is a magnet with people stumbling upon the artwork or specially traveling to see it after finding out about it from the news media.
Peter Blezard, a book author, rode his bicycle to Battersea Park especially to see the sculpture and touch it.
“This is an incredibly evocative lump of steel. There is something iconic about it,” said Blezard, who watched the towers fall on television while working for a London radio station in 2001.
After the Twin Towers fell, Blezard called a friend of his, a high-wire walker, who is now the only person ever to have walked a wire strung between those two skyscrapers.
“He was speechless,” recounted Blezard, who’s visited ground zero. Looking at the sculpture, Blezard said, “From the ashes of disaster comes roses of success.”
During the days after 9/11 Londoners stood in a line outside the U.S. Embassy to sign their condolences to those who lost their lives.
Standing in that line were Muslims…who tragically have been demonized since that terror attack, which was conducted by men linked to al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization founded by Osama Bin Laden who himself was assassinated earlier this year by U.S. Special Forces troops in Pakistan.
Two days after that 9/11 sculpture unveiling, Reza Choudhury stood outside a Muslim mosque on London’s iconic Brick Lane decrying the demonizing of Islam since 9/11.
Choudhury cited the news media and politicians in America, Britain and elsewhere for much of that demonization.
“Before 9/11 most people did not even know the word Islam…now they think Muslim means terrorist,” said Choudhury, who is from Bangladesh, a predominately Muslim country next to India. Bangladesh is far from the Saudi Arabia birthplace of the men the U.S. identified as the 9/11 terrorists who perished in the World Trade Center attack.
Choudhury worships at the Brick Lane Jamme Masjid, which interestingly was a Jewish synagogue for over 70 years until it was converted into a mosque, in 1976. Christians, Jews and now Muslims have utilized the building as a place of worship continuously since 1744.
Simon Woolley, the executive director of the London-based Operation Black Vote, was one of the first British citizens to fly into the U.S. following the 9/11 attacks when he participated in a tour of America sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
“There was a truly historical, magical movement of unity during the days after 9/11,” Woolley said.
“Unfortunately, that moment of unity was squandered due to the crude response of the War on Terror that America launched and Britain backed. That war brought more terror, death and insecurity than we could have ever dreamed of…”
National and local news media lavished accolade-filled coverage on Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter last summer when Nutter harshly lashed irreverent trouble-making teens and their irresponsible parents during a Sunday morning church service address.
Nutter’s remarks, a mixture of accurate and disingenuous, fit a favored news media narrative: aberrant behavior among Blacks arises principally from personal deficiencies not perverse reactions to structural inequities ingrained in American society.
Given the command of news media coverage narratives, irrespective of narratives so often contradicting fact, it’s no surprise that the news media blithely by-passed serious analysis of an action by Nutter weeks ago inflaming the inequities undergirding the matrix of behaviors the mayor castigated during his pulpit outburst.
The persistent failures within too much of the white news media — mainstream and alternative — to provide probative coverage of racial realities in America is not a new phenomenon.
These failures are American as apple pie and old as the news media’s beginnings in America according to detailed findings contained in the insightful new book “News For All The People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media” (Verso 2011).
Mayor Nutter’s announcement of exclusive employment deals (Project Labor Agreements) with local building trades unions — infamous for racism — condemns qualified minority construction workers and contractors to years more of exclusion from publicly financed projects with consequent damage to the already tattered economic fabric in non-white communities across Philadelphia.
Mayor Nutter promises that his supervision of PLAs will ensure inclusive opportunities for non-whites and city residents.
But the mayor’s promises will require more than a few miracles to make real based on the lack of inclusion by the building trades unions and major contractors under previous PLAs.
“The majority of the population of a large American city has just been sold-out once again,” stated National Black Chamber of Commerce head Harry Alford in a commentary carried in the Black Press including The Philadelphia Tribune condemning the PLAs announced by Mayor Nutter.
Alford, citing facts ignored by news media coverage, noted that past PLAs in Philadelphia and everywhere else have been a “total disaster in terms of diversity” for Blacks, Hispanics, other non-whites and women.
The awareness-expanding “News For All,” book examining both the development of the news media in America and the role of race in news content, is co-authored by Juan Gonzalez, who began his award-winning journalism career at the Philadelphia Daily News in the late 1970s.
“Why have stereotypes been so persistent in American news, given the nation’s founding commitment to freedom of the press and its many struggles over slavery, territorial expansion and civil rights?” Gonzalez and his co-author Joseph Torres ask in the book’s introduction.
“For more than 250 years the nation’s news media, no matter how politically liberal, conservative or radical, no matter what class they purported to represent, remained the press of its white population.”
Gonzalez, a columnist for the New York Daily News and co-host of the nationally/internationally syndicated TV and radio show “Democracy Now,” was in Philadelphia last week to talk about his latest book.
In full disclosure, Gonzalez is a professional colleague and personal friend of mine from our days at Philly’s Daily News. The first journalism award we won at the Daily News was for a 1979 investigative series on housing gentrification in Philadelphia.
Gonzalez and I were founding members of that paper’s Third World Caucus which pushed for more inclusive coverage, hiring and promotion practices at that paper.
Caucus efforts contributed to the Daily News hiring its first Black executive editor in 1985, Jay Harris…an event noted in “News For All.”
Harris hired a Wall Street Journal reporter named Michael Days who eventually became the first Black to lead that paper…one of the few Blacks to ever head a major urban daily newspaper.
Gonzalez, during his remarks last week, presented little known history about the U.S. news media like how the U.S. Postal Service during most of its first one hundred years of operation distributed more newspapers than personal letters.
“The federal government played a pivotal role in the distribution of information because the Founders felt that information was critical to the development of democracy,” Gonzalez said during a talk at Temple University’s Center City campus that followed a reception held in his honor by Al Dia, the Delaware Valley’s largest Hispanic-owned newspaper.
“News For All” also examines some of the news media’s dirtiest laundry — the media’s active roles in lynching Blacks, exterminating Native Americans and brutally harassing Hispanics and Asian-Americans.
“News” recounts the little known Wilmington, N.C. uprising of 1898 where a racist mob, egged on by an influential newspaper editor, overthrew that city’s elected government suffering no reprisals from state or federal officials.
A prime target of those racist rioters was the South’s most successful Black-owned newspaper — forcing that paper’s editor to flee to Philadelphia.
Another of the many interesting stories in the book is that of Pedro Gonzalez, a Latino broadcaster in Los Angeles whose opposition to the racist deportation of Mexicans in the early 1930s led to a false rape conviction and deportation.
“Here is a hero who stood up to oppose mass deportation and was struck down — and no one knows about him,” Gonzalez said.
“A lot of minority journalists were targeted and jailed for fighting for a free press…”
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
Overshadowed by the political posturing of an epic Capitol Hill battle over funding priorities was news of an agreement between federal officials and rouge mortgage agency Countrywide Financial.
That announced agreement produced a historic $335 million settlement regarding massive discrimination by Countrywide against minorities seeking mortgages.
According to U.S. Justice Department officials Countrywide — once America’s largest single-family mortgage lender — charged non-whites higher fees and shunted them into costlier mortgages than whites from 2004 to 2008.
Now, under the standard terms of civil settlements, Countrywide does not admit that it did what it did: discriminate against minorities.
But excluding ugly race-based discrimination as Countrywide pretends, what explains that firm persistently slamming high income earning non-whites with solid credit into predatory adjustable rate mortgages while giving more favorable treatment to whites with lesser income and worse credit histories?
The time frame of Countrywide’s alleged skullduggery covers the period of the greatest loss of wealth in the histories of America’s Black and Latino communities.
During that time frame Blacks and Hispanics lost in excess of $350 billion in wealth from just foreclosures and home value depreciations triggered by foreclosures, according to an array of expert examinations.
Other consequences roiling within this wealth loss is a widening of the wealth gaps between whites and non-whites in America.
In 2005 that gap was ten times while by 2010 that gap increased to nearly twenty times with the average white family having $113,000 in wealth compared to $6,300 for Hispanics and $5,700 for black families.
While Countrywide, now owned by Bank of America, was not the sole cause of that historically high wealth loss (a.k.a. fraudulent theft), it was a major player.
And as a major player, here’s a major rub: Few, if any, responsible for that wealth loss have faced prosecution, much less endured imprisonment for their misdeeds.
Yet, during that 2004-to-2008 time frame tens of thousands of non-whites ended up in federal and state prisons across America for crimes (and false convictions) of far less devastation than those committed by economic fraudsters.
Another major story overshadowed by the recent Washington wrangling over extending payroll tax cuts (really siphoning money from Social Security) and extending unemployment benefits to those still eligible involved news that federal prosecutors back away from pressing cases against financial big-shots because it’s allegedly too hard to prove “criminal intent.”
The same feds that can find (and/or manufacture) criminal intent from the most innocent of acts among the poor to facilitate criminal charges suddenly fall stupid when it comes to finding comparable intent among fraudsters who can afford the best defense money can buy to exploit a presumption unavailable to the poor.
That presumption respected by judges and juries is that the wealthy are innocent even when proven guilty.
The entrenchment of extreme economic inequities symbolized by the 99 percent vs. 1 percent is one of the things clearly exposed during Year 2011.
The subtle and in-your-face favoring of the wealthy prompted unprecedented resistance in 2011.
In Philadelphia criticisms were raised by a few (unfortunately too few) over this city government’s failure to collect the School Income Tax with the same aggressiveness as property taxes for public school funding.
That Income Tax impacting “toys’” of the wealthy like bonds, stocks and trusts raked in less income that the city’s liquor-by-the-drink tax, another income sources siphoning revenue disproportionately from the less wealthy.
That exposure of economic inequities and companion political corruption during 2011 drove the “Occupy” movements across the U.S. and other countries plus spurring pro-democracy revolts in many Arab nations.
“People are trying to take power from the government because the government is just about helping the rich make more money,” said Nuage Noire, a Black man participating in Occupy Paris, during an interview a few weeks ago.
“The way the government operates is not good for people because it costs too much just to live,” said Noire, as fellow Occupy participates cleaned their site at La Defense, the showcase major business district containing most of the tallest buildings in the French capital.
But while folks finally started hearing the realities of economic inequities they still were not listening to the race-based rhythms of those inequities cited for decades by Blacks.
The 1951 petition to the United Nations charging the U.S. government with genocide against African-Americans pointedly identified “monopoly capital [as] the prime mover” in the mammoth conspiracy of genocide.
“While monopoly’s immediate interest is profit, its long term aim is keeping the political and economic control it now enjoys over the American people and the American government through emasculating democratic mass movements by disfranchising millions and setting one group of Americans over and against others.”
Those behind that genocide petition, progressive Blacks and whites, endured cavalier dismissal then and now with critics blasting them as communists.
Even earlier this year a Princeton Black History professor who should know better use communist to demean when referencing petitioners who included respected activist Mary Church Terrell and then lawyer/later U.S. Congressman George Crockett.
In 2011 with millions of dollars now legally flowing into political campaigns to sway outcomes, authorities unleashing SWAT cops on peaceful Occupy protestors and media pundits aligned with the wealthy purveying racist divisiveness the accuracy of assertions in the 1951 genocide petition remain evident…for those who want to see…
Hopefully, clarity will continue in 2012…
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Fellowship Program.
If one instant is too long to endure an injustice imagine the anguish of suffering nearly one billion seconds locked inside a solitary confinement prison cell for a crime evidence indicates you did not commit.
That is the plight of the most recognized death-row inmate in the world, Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Philadelphia-born journalist whose imprisonment reaches the thirty-year mark this Friday, Dec. 9, 2011.
For many in Philadelphia, Abu-Jamal’s guilt is solid fact so Abu-Jamal spending 946-million-plus-seconds inside a cell since his arrest for killing a Philadelphia policeman constitutes just punishment.
However, for millions around the world, the 15.7-million-plus minutes of Abu-Jamal’s incarceration constitutes a horrific miscarriage of justice staining America’s cultivated image of commitment to legal fairness.
“Every time I demonstrate for Mumia down in London’s financial district I see this guy who says he’s from Philadelphia, and he always shouts that Mumia is guilty as hell,” said Osagyefo Tongogara, the head of Britain’s Free Mumia Coalition.
“But when I ask this guy to debate, putting his facts out and I presenting my facts, this guy just runs away,” said Tongogara said during an interview last week.
Those convinced of Abu-Jamal’s guilt cite facts like Pennsylvania courts constantly confirming Abu-Jamal’s guilt by dismissing all of his appeals.
Yet, those convinced of Abu-Jamal’s mistreatment question the propriety of Pennsylvania courts voiding more than 200 death penalty convictions citing various factual and procedural errors while claiming that not a single legal error exists anywhere in the most controversial murder case in Pennsylvania’s 300-year-plus history.
Pennsylvania courts, for example, have eliminated over two dozen death sentences on the sole procedural issue of defense lawyers failing to present mitigating evidence against capital punishment during the trial’s death penalty phase.
Although Abu-Jamal’s overwhelmed/undermined defense lawyer presented no mitigating evidence during the 1982 trial, state courts claim no error exists like in similar cases receiving relief by contending Abu-Jamal “controlled” his defense.
That rationale of Abu-Jamal controlling his defense contradicts the reality that the 1982 trial judge snatched away Abu-Jamal’s self-defense right days before that trial began and then barred Abu-Jamal from attending most of his trial because of Abu-Jamal’s protests against having his self-defense right robbed.
That asserted “control” is legal fiction marauding as fact.
But that assertion is consistent with court patterns twisting established law to speciously justify rejecting Abu-Jamal’s valid appeal claims.
While Abu-Jamal detractors say disruptions rightly resulted Abu-Jamal losing self-defense rights, news accounts from 1982 contradict that contention.
Those news accounts depict Abu-Jamal’s courtroom behavior as “business like” and non-disruptive until the trial judge revoked self-representation, granting the prosecutor’s unproven assertion that some potential jurors found Abu-Jamal’s dreadlocks scary.
“Mumia has been a popular hero for many French people [because] he is the victim of a corrupt justice system,” said Claude Gillaumaud, a professor in France who began campaigning for Abu-Jamal in 1995 by organizing her college students.
Abu-Jamal is an honorary citizen in more than 20 French cities, Gillaumaud said, and a street in the Paris suburb of St. Denis carries his name. Similar support for Abu-Jamal exists across Europe and beyond from South America to the African nation of Ghana.
“He’s an example to all of us because he remains an activist even after spending 30-years in hell,” said Gillaumaud, who published a 2007 Abu-Jamal biography “A Free Man on Death Row.”
Typical of tensions in this scrutinized case Abu-Jamal opponents and proponents see different things in the same set of facts.
Opponents cite the eyewitness who testified he saw Abu-Jamal shoot Officer Daniel Faulkner from his cab that was parked behind Faulkner’s patrol car.
Proponents question this eyewitness account by citing the failure of any official police crime scene photographs to show the parked cab.
Some opponents say police immediately took the cab and its driver to homicide headquarters for questioning.
But police crime scene investigation regulations operative in 1981 forbade removal of that cab and if removed required chalk-marks listing its location.
If police, in fact, moved the cab they improperly tampered with the crime scene, enhancing error by failing to make regulation required chalk-marks.
Police even failed to follow standard procedure by testing Abu-Jamal’s hands to confirm he fired a gun that night.
Police claim they just forgot to perform that standard test — curiously the same test police didn’t forget to perform on others initially suspected of possible involvement in Faulkner’s fatal shooting.
That failure to perform such a basic and crucial test evidences either sloppy police work or police hiding results of a test proving Abu-Jamal’s innocence.
“This is ridiculous and disgraceful that the government ignores evidence of innocence in this case,” said Demitry Lapidus, a student at the prestigious London School of Economics. “I am from Russia, and it makes me sad to see political prisoners in the U.S. the same as in Russia.”
Despite questions about what did or didn’t happen at the 1981 crime scene or during years of appellate court review, it is unquestionable that they jury convicting Abu-Jamal in 1982 did not hear all available evidence.
Will Francome, the Englishman at the center of the award-winning 2007 film “In Prison My Whole Life” examining the Abu-Jamal case, criticized this inauspicious 30th anniversary.
“It’s clear to me that there are and always have been major questions surrounding the case, and a grave injustice has been done.”
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
Veteran Philadelphia broadcaster Jeff Hart stood outside the Criminal Justice Center in Center City last Tuesday afternoon showing a reporter a stack of documents including a citation Hart received from the FBI for successfully completing a citizens training program.
Hart brought those documents with him for a court proceeding to help refute charges leveled against him by a Philadelphia policeman who claimed Hart became disorderly during the arrest of a suspected gunman a block from Hart’s West Philadelphia home.
Hart said the officer’s charges against him are false, slapped on him after he asked that officer not to curse when that officer demanded that Hart and another man clear the corner where they stood watching that suspect’s apprehension.
That arrest, Hart said, included an apparent beating inside a police car.
“I would never interfere with police. I’ve been through FBI simulations and know procedures,” Hart said. He has worked with police officials and officers in his area on anti-crime/anti-violence issues.
Given the violence often accompanying police–citizen encounters in Black communities Hart is lucky he wasn’t beaten or shot.
Last week an overwhelmingly white jury in Pittsburgh, Pa., deadlocked on claims arising from three white policemen violently beating a Black high school honor roll student into a days-long coma and permanent brain damage during a 2010 arrest near the student’s home.
Last month police in Jonesboro, Arkansas, claimed a 21-year-old Black man shot himself in the head while handcuffed inside a police car — a suspicious death police listed suicide now under FBI investigation.
The sequence of events that landed Hart in a 19th Police District holding cell began when Hart left his home on a Saturday evening in early July to get some Jamaican food.
Hart said “all hell broke loose” when a number of police cars rushed up when he reached an intersection.
One police car drove into this guy police were chasing, Hart said. Police subdued that suspect and drug him into a police car.
“I heard one of the officer’s say, “We got the gun.” They apprehended him in what I’d describe as a ‘rough’ way. But the police said he had a gun,” Hart said.
About ten minutes later one officer entered the police car containing the suspect and appeared to beat the suspect.
That’s when Hart said he exclaimed, “Oh my God!”
And, that’s when Hart went from observer to wrong-doer in the eyes of one policeman.
“This Black officer, Officer Moore, tells us to move back saying ‘get the F*#k outta here’ repeatedly. I said “You don’t have to talk to us that way.” I went to walk away as ordered and that officer grabbed me up by the back of my shirt and slammed me on a police car,” Hart said.
When released hours after his curb-side detention Hart said he refused to sign paperwork police told him to sign because it contained false claims.
“The officer wrote that I cursed him with the F-word. That’s a lie. The officer said I drew a crowd to harass officers. That was a lie,” Hart said.
From Hart’s perspective his arresting officer abused his authority — a claim that officer apparently disputes due to his charges against Hart.
Legally, if the charges against Hart do not arise from unlawful conduct then the charges against Hart constitute an unlawful arrest.
While there are always two sides to every story, an infamous legacy of abuse from verbal insults to fatal shootings stains the Philadelphia Police Department’s mission of ‘protect and serve.’
Abuse of authority by Philadelphia police officers comprises the largest category of complaints lodged with this city’s Police Advisory Commission — over 80 percent of all complaints filed with the PAC since 1995 compared to the 31 percent of complaints claiming physical abuse.
Abuse of authority, as defined the PAC, includes unlawful detentions/arrests, improper searches, improper seizure of property and discriminatory or selective law enforcement.
Embedded in Hart’s July 7th encounter with police are multiple ironies.
It’s ironic that ‘The System’ pursues a pound of flesh from Hart who helps police fight crime based on a legally de minimis incident that even if the arresting officer’s worse account is accurate remains dismissive.
“I now have letters from ministers, business owners, community leaders and my city councilman praising my work in the community. I got these letters (nearly two dozen) within 48 hours to present in court,” Hart said.
“Some of those letters tell how I defend the police.”
Perhaps the ugliest irony is that another Black policeman reflexively abused another Black citizen — this time a broadcaster who’s repeatedly exposed the deep-seated discrimination still operative within the PPD.
The [alleged] mistreatment of Jeff Hart evidences the sordid circumstance of some Black police being ignorant and/or unappreciative of the long history of Black folks fighting for their police force presence in hopes that Black police would act more fairly than too many white police.
The hiring of Philadelphia’s first four Black policemen in August 1881, for example, resulted from Black leaders vigorously pushing top Philadelphia politicians of both parties for integrated policing.
The often interracial nature of police abuse disproportionately targeting Blacks evidences a prejudicial institutional culture police vigorously deny.
Since Hart pled not guilty he faces another court proceeding later this month.
Prosecutors should drop the charges against Hart because an ‘adrenaline-rush’ by Hart’s arresting officer is no excuse for abuse.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
“Seeing is believing,” states the old saying.
However, Rev. William Moore couldn’t quite believe what he saw during a tour of housing construction sites in North Philadelphia early last week not far from the Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, on N. 19th St. near Master St., where the widely respected Moore has served as pastor for the past 38 years.
What troubled Moore the most was not what he saw but what he didn’t see.
Rev. Moore saw virtually no Blacks working on those bustling construction sites that are creating rental housing for students attending Temple University.
“On the ten to fifteen sites we visited I saw two African Americans working,” Rev. Moore said during an interview last Friday afternoon. That lack of Black workers, Moore said, “is representative of hundreds of sites in North Philadelphia.”
What Moore witnessed is another body-shot from the structural unemployment historically plaguing Black residents of North Philadelphia.
Sprawling North Philly, located several blocks north of Center City, houses Philadelphia’s largest concentration of communities containing rates of unemployment ranging from 20.2 percent to 37.2 percent according to data compiled this year by the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board.
North Philadelphia — its lower and upper sections — contains “higher unemployment than citywide figures” according to statistics posted by the Workforce Board.
Citywide, Philadelphia’s unemployment rate hovers between 10 and 11 percent. Unemployment rates for North Philly and citywide do not include the long-term unemployed — making Philadelphia’s real unemployment rates much higher.
The purposeful exclusion of Black workers from the tens-of-millions-of-dollars worth of (principally) private sector student housing construction in North Philly parallels the exclusion of Black subcontractors, architects, suppliers and other professionals on those projects.
“The developers of many of these projects bring workers into the community everyday by the vanloads. These workers [many of them Mexican] are paid in cash every day. Paying these workers in cash avoids the payment of city, state and federal taxes,” Rev. Moore said.
This exclusion of Blacks on North Philadelphia student housing projects comports with the exclusion Black construction workers and Black-owned construction businesses from over a billion dollars of publicly funded construction currently underway across Philadelphia.
This purposeful exclusion is an enduring shame for Philadelphia yet public and private sector leaders (whites and increasingly Blacks) shamelessly skirt their duties to attack this illegal and immoral exclusion.
“City officials are co-conspirators with this institutional racism,” one knowledgeable source said. “When was the last time a Philadelphia mayor walked one of these private or public construction sites, saw this exclusion and expressed strong outrage publicly?”
This purposeful exclusion from employment and contracting opportunities is another vivid example of the societal prejudice aggravating the poverty/unemployment ravishing communities like North Philly.
Impacts radiating from this purposeful exclusion contradict the [purposeful] misperceptions that ‘ghetto dwellers’ possess a predilection for quality-of-life-crippling joblessness and impoverishment.
The poor housing, abandoned housing and razed housing plaguing North Philly arose in large part from purposeful public/private sector policies & practices like the Rizzo Administration withholding millions of dollars in federal Community Development housing renovation funding during the 1970s plus decades of ‘redlining’ by banks and insurance companies.
“The residents of North Philadelphia have endured years of hardships created by circumstances beyond their control including the absence of governmental investment in infrastructure, housing stock and social services,” James S. White said during City Council testimony in March opposing a measure to give owners of multi-unit rental properties in North Philadelphia unprecedented control over development decisions in that area.
White held ranking City Hall posts under two Philadelphia mayors, including housing related positions, served as Temple University’s chief operating officer and currently serves on Temple’s University board of trustees.
Guiding Rev. Moore on that construction site tour were Tom Massaro, a former City of Philadelphia housing director and Philadelphia Hospital Workers Union President Henry Nicolas.
Both Massaro and Nicolas live in North Philadelphia. And both Massaro and Nicolas have vigorously complained about some of that student housing construction in North Philly violating City zoning and building codes — blatant violations currently receiving the blind-eye from City Hall.
“Debris from some of that construction is dumped on vacant lots with cement running into the sewers. Plus, the dust, containing asbestos and lime, goes into homes. There is one playground at a daycare center where this dangerous dust coats the equipment every day,” Massaro said.
“There is one site where a developer is putting 72 units on three lots that under zoning are to have three single family homes,” Massaro said. “These developers are not even using the kids from YouthBuild (charter school) who are trained in construction and go to school blocks from these building sites.”
Rev. Moore said he saw an “egregious” example of corruption where a city trash truck removed construction debris from one site where the developer is supposed to retain private removal instead of paying-off city workers for removal.
Rev. Moore said people in North Philadelphia want to work.
Moore referenced a job fair held in North Philly three months ago, sponsored by state Rep. Curtis Thomas, where the line to get inside stretched nearly two blocks.
Thomas, during an interview with a Philadelphia Tribune reporter about that jobs fair, said, “… there’s systemic unemployment with folks having barriers cutting off access to opportunities.”
Rev. Moore said city officials must address “uncontrolled development” in North Philadelphia.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Fellowship Program.
The malice of an anonymous letter-writer falsely accusing a whistle-blowing Philadelphia policewoman with involvement in a 2010 fatal car crash may provide some explanation of circumstances surrounding the perplexing arrest of that whistle-blower last week.
That letter-writer laid fault for the two fatalities during that 2010 crash “squarely on [the] shoulders” of police Lt. Aisha Perry, a policewoman with a record of reporting misconduct and corruption within the Philadelphia Police Department.
The whistle-blowing by Perry has resulted in many instances of vile retaliation and harassment directed towards her from some within Philadelphia Police Department ranks, probably including that letter writer who possessed police-specific information.
While sexism and racism certainly play roles in the retaliation targeting Lt. Perry a pivotal instigator for these assaults against the 31-year PPD veteran is the warped reality of whistle-blowing violating that “Code of Silence” practiced by many police.
This unofficial “Code of Silence” pervasive within police culture across America demands silence from law enforcers about lawlessness within police ranks as a perverse expression of solidarity among police officers.
Perry won a federal lawsuit she filed against the PPD in the late 1990s charging ranking PPD personnel with denying her a promotion as retaliation for her arresting a drunken hit-&-run driver who turned out to be an off-duty Philadelphia policeman.
Although the federal judge presiding at Perry’s whistle-blowing trial specifically admonishing Philadelphia’s then police commissioner to halt attacks against Perry PPD supervisors slapped her with a series of misconduct charges on the first day she returned to work following that federal jury ruling in her favor.
Facts contained in PPD documents about that 2010 crash in East Falls easily refute that anonymous letter-writer’s false accusations against Lt. Perry.
Further, those facts expose errors in news media reports about that crash that relied on Police Department-provided information.
That December 2010 crash occurred as a police sergeant chased a car after police command ordered officers not to engage in pursuing that car. This policewoman denied hearing the no-chase order.
The car went out of control during that pursuit down narrow School House Lane, striking a tree and bursting into flames.
Two men burned to death inside that car while the crash ejected a third occupant.
Police initially tagged that survivor as the driver but flummoxed when the survivor’s family stated he was blind and couldn’t have driven any vehicle.
News reports of that crash reported that it occurred “after” police ended that pursuit making no reference to the active pursuit by the police sergeant.
Those reports also listed the survivor — the blind man —– as the driver of the car.
One police accident investigator, incensed by what he considered errant acts by the pursuing sergeant, initially coded that car crash as manslaughter-gross negligence-no arrest.
Lt. Perry did come to that accident scene, taking charge as a ranking supervisor at the chaotic scene, performing supervisory duties that the pursuing sergeant did not.
Last week the Police Department declined comment on what actions it took with that sergeant for her reengaging the cancelled pursuit.
Also last week, the Police Department declined to provide specifics on the arrest of Lt. Perry and another officer arrested with her on charges of stealing utility services by tampering with meters to obtain electric, gas and water service without paying.
The PPD referred questions about the duration and dollar amount of the alleged utility thefts to the District Attorney’s Office that provided a basic press release providing the list of charges, the ages of Perry and Officer George Suarez and their tenure in the PPD.
Police did not answer a question about how many officers have faced arrest and firing for similar theft of utility services charges.
Police officials immediately suspended Perry and Suarez with intent to dismiss following their arrest.
Supporters of Perry see last week’s arrest as another instance of retaliatory assault against this whistle-blower.
Such a contention is not without foundation given the sordid history of retaliatory acts against whistle-blowers by PPD personnel and police union officials that take place during and after work.
For example, retaliation drove three white policemen — Ray Carnation and brothers Bill and Mike McKenna — from the PPD in the late 1990s for their reporting racism and misconduct.
They received a record setting $10-million federal jury verdict but City Hall appeals and suspect rulings by a federal judge stripped them of their rightful reward for retaliation.
Earlier this summer, Lt. Perry found herself in the news when a friend accidentally drowned in her backyard swimming pool.
Although a city medical examiner ruled that drowning accidental after reviewing video from Perry’s surveillance system and other evidence, a Northeast detective division supervisor provided a media interview implying fault by Perry during that tragedy.
That detective supervisor bashed Perry for maintaining a filthy, algae-filled pool yet photos of the pool taken hours after the drowning show crystal-clear water.
That supervisor said he was investigating Perry out of his concern for the drowned man’s family but neither the supervisor nor his underlings contacted that family.
Police whistle-blowers frequently find little support from their police union.
Earlier this year that union won its campaign to reinstate a policeman fired for stealing money from civilians after those acts had been observed by other police and documented by PPD investigators.
That money-grabbing policeman had denied wrong-doing.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Fellowship Program.