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A Call to Action in Mississippi Horse Trainer’s Death

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Pallbearers bring out the casket containing the body of Stonewall, Miss., resident Jonathan Sanders following his funeral services Saturday, July 18, 2015, at the Family Life Center in Quitman, Miss. Sanders, who had been driving a horse and buggy died after a fight with a Stonewall police officer. (Jeff Byrd/The Meridan Star via AP)

Pallbearers bring out the casket containing the body of Stonewall, Miss., resident Jonathan Sanders following his funeral services Saturday, July 18, 2015, at the Family Life Center in Quitman, Miss. Sanders, who had been driving a horse and buggy died after a fight with a Stonewall police officer. (Jeff Byrd/The Meridan Star via AP)

Jeff Amy, ASSOCIATED PRESS

 
STONEWALL, Miss. (AP) — Hundreds of people gathered Sunday night at a baseball park in a small Mississippi town to remember a black man who died after a physical encounter with a white police officer and to call for action.

The crowd repeatedly shouted “No justice, no peace!” Lawrence Kirskey, president of the Clarke County NAACP, suggested they boycott local businesses because of lack of action in the death of 39-year-old Jonathan Sanders.

Sanders died after crossing paths with part-time Stonewall police officer Kevin Herrington, 25, late July 8. Sanders had been riding in a two-wheeled buggy pulled by a horse.

What happened that night is intensely disputed, and is being investigated by the FBI and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.

Lawyers for Sanders’ family and for witnesses say Herrington attacked without provocation after the two saw each other at a convenience store a mile across town. C.J. Lawrence, who represents three witnesses, said Sanders was doing nothing illegal and didn’t resist while Herrington choked him to death.

But Herrington’s attorney, Bill Ready Jr., said Sanders had what appeared to be illegal drugs and grabbed the officer’s gun during a struggle.

Neither Sanders’ mother nor his sister spoke at the rally. But Kayla Clark and Charita Kennedy, the mothers of Sanders’ 9-month-old son and 1-year-old daughter, thanked the crowd and asked town residents to keep supporting the family.

About 200 people from this town of 1,100 near the Alabama line attended the rally, avoiding the dozens of fire ant hills that dotted the park. Another 100 or so joined from parking lots across the street or after parking on neighborhood streets, and marched about a mile to the police station.

Herrington is on unpaid leave and left town on a family trip, Ready said. Sanders’ survivors buried him Saturday.

Authorities are asking for calm while they finish investigating. But there were already two protests last weekend.

Attorneys for Sanders’ family paint his death as part of a larger nationwide struggle over police brutality against black men, and they see it as part of the unfinished civil rights movement in Stonewall, a town named after Confederate general Stonewall Jackson.

Chokwe Antar Lumumba, the Sanders family lawyer, said authorities told relatives that an autopsy found he died from “manual asphyxiation” — strangulation. He said the manner of death was homicide, not accidental.

A spokesman for MBI said the agency doesn’t discuss ongoing investigations.

The autopsy finding doesn’t necessarily mean Herrington committed a crime and accounts so far leave unanswered questions: What triggered the encounter? Was Herrington using necessary force, or was Sanders the victim of an overly aggressive officer?

And at a time when police departments are under intense scrutiny for treatment of black suspects, did race play a factor?

Stonewall doesn’t have cameras in police cars or on officers, putting the focus on witnesses. Clarke County Sheriff Todd Kemp said one witness is Rachel Williams, a jail guard in neighboring Lauderdale County.

Lawrence, the witnesses’ attorney and Lumumba’s law partner, won’t confirm her name, or describe the others, except to say they are related and also distantly related to Sanders by marriage. Lawrence said the witnesses sought lawyers because they fear for their safety.

Also present at the time of the death was Herrington’s wife, Kasey Herrington, who was riding that night in his police car.

The lawyers for the witnesses relayed their accounts to The Associated Press but said they did not want to talk directly with reporters: The witnesses say Herrington drove up behind Sanders and flashed his blue lights, making the horse rear. Sanders fell off the buggy and chased the horse, while Herrington ran up and grabbed Sanders by the strap of a headlamp he was wearing that had fallen around his neck. They say Sanders fell to the ground in a fetal position, trying to relieve pressure on his neck but otherwise not resisting, while Herrington lay atop him and put him in a chokehold.

The attorneys said one witness went outside and pleaded with Herrington to release Sanders. He refused until his wife retrieved his gun. Then Herrington directed his wife to radio for backup. When Herrington finally released Sanders, witnesses say he was unconscious, with blood coming out of his mouth.

Ready, on the other hand, said a struggle began after Herrington found Sanders with drugs and Sanders tried to run.

“It is my understanding that Mr. Sanders fought back and actually grabbed the officer’s gun,” Ready said.

He also said that Sanders outweighed Herrington, making it hard for the officer to subdue Sanders. He said Herrington did not intend to harm or kill Sanders.

“This was just an unfortunate result of an encounter between him and Mr. Sanders,” Ready said.

State investigators have so far only described what happened as a physical “altercation.”

Lawrence said his witnesses deny Herrington found drugs, or that Sanders grabbed the officer’s gun. He and Lumumba say Kasey Herrington retrieved the gun from her husband’s holster while he restrained Sanders.

Sanders has a history of drug troubles. He was convicted in December 2003 for selling cocaine and went to prison until May 2007. He was arrested again in April for allegedly possessing cocaine. A lawyer who was representing Sanders said authorities were trying to seize his Chevy Tahoe and some cash. Ready noted that if Sanders had drugs, his bond on the earlier charge could have been revoked and he would have had to stay in jail until the charges were resolved.

Herrington has been described as both an excellent police officer and a “Rambo” who held a grudge.

He graduated from a police academy in nearby Meridian in December 2013. Until last week, he was working occasional shifts in Stonewall and two nights a week in neighboring Enterprise. Ready said he also has a full time job as industrial worker, but wouldn’t be more specific.

Enterprise Police Chief Joey Moulds said Herrington is a conscientious officer who kept on good terms with people — even after he’d written them citations.

Moulds said there were few complaints about Herrington and said he was very non-confrontational.

“I would have to put him at the top of the list. He’s the most humble person I know of, extremely humble, extremely responsible,” Moulds said.

But Eddie Crosby, who lives near Enterprise, thinks otherwise. Crosby said Herrington pulled him over multiple times this year to the point where Crosby felt Herrington was harassing him. He wrote a complaint to Moulds and the mayor and complained in a letter published in April by a local newspaper. He didn’t include Herrington’s name — describing the officer only as a “Rambo” type — but confirms he was referring to Herrington.

Afterward, Crosby said Herrington would flash his police lights at him and recently ticketed him for rolling through a stop sign.

“If he got it in for you he was going to have you,” Crosby said. “I could understand the first time but you just don’t stop somebody and make up an excuse.”

Friends of Sanders describe him as a horse-lover who made a living buying, training and selling the animals. He lived next to his mother on a wooded side-road. Clifton Follins, the neighbor, said Sanders’s two children didn’t live with him but frequently visited.

“Ever since he’s been big enough, he loved those horses,” said Follins, 69.

___

AP Photographer Rogelio Solis contributed to this report.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Bay Area

Oakland Program Distributes $500 to Families of Color

The assistance, which targets low-income families of color in the 426,000-population city, will last 18 months. Mayor Schaaf detailed that the money comes with “no-strings attached,” and recipients can use it as they please. “We have designed this demonstration project to add to the body of evidence and to begin this relentless campaign to adopt a guaranteed income federally,” Mayor Schaaf told the local ABC News station.

In the middle of a worldwide awakening to the centuries-old racism and oppression suffered by Black people, some African Americans finally see tangible assistance – even if the help isn’t characterized as reparations.
Oakland, Calif., Mayor Libby Schaaf announced that the city would begin a guaranteed income project that would provide $500 per month to Black and Indigenous families.
The assistance, which targets low-income families of color in the 426,000-population city, will last 18 months.
Mayor Schaaf detailed that the money comes with “no-strings attached,” and recipients can use it as they please.
“We have designed this demonstration project to add to the body of evidence and to begin this relentless campaign to adopt a guaranteed income federally,” Mayor Schaaf told the local ABC News station.
The station reported that, for the project, the Oakland Resilient Families program has so far raised $6.75 million from private donors, including Blue Meridian Partners, a national philanthropy group.
The programs require residents have at least one child under 18 and income at or below 50 percent of the area median income – about $59,000 per year for a family of three.
Half the spots are reserved for people who earn below 138 percent of the federal poverty level or about $30,000 per year for a family of three, ABC reported. Participants are randomly selected from a pool of applicants who meet the eligibility requirements.
The report noted that Oakland’s project is significant because it is one of the most outstanding efforts in the U.S. so far, targeting up to 600 families. And it is the first program to limit participation strictly to Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities.
Oakland, where 24 percent of the residents are Black, is among a growing list of municipalities providing financial payments to people of color – or reparations.
Evanston, Illinois, a city where 18 percent of its more than 74,500 residents are Black, approved the Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program, which provides up to $25,000 for housing down payments or home repairs to African Americans.
The bill, authored by California Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, establishes a nine-person task force that will study the impact of the slave trade on Black people.
It does not commit to any specific payment, but the task force will make recommendations to legislators about what kind of compensation should be provided, who should receive it, and what form it would take.
“After watching [the presidential] debate, this signing can’t come too soon,” Newsom declared during a videoconference with lawmakers and other stakeholders, including the rapper Ice Cube, who championed the bill.
“As a nation, we can only truly thrive when every one of us has the opportunity to thrive. Our painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions,” the governor stated.
“Hundreds of years of Black blood spilled that fills the cup we drink from today,” said Councilman Keith Young, one of two African American members of the City Council that voted 7-0 in favor of reparations.
“It is simply not enough to remove statutes. Black people in this country are dealing with systemic issues,” Young declared.
Asheville’s resolution doesn’t include monetary payments to African Americans but promises investments in areas where Black people face disparities.
Earlier this year, Congress debated H.R. 40, a bill that doesn’t place a specific monetary value on reparations but focuses on investigating and presenting the facts and truth about the unprecedented centuries of brutal enslavement of African people, racial healing, and transformation.
The commission’s mission includes identifying the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering adverse effects of slavery on living African Americans and society.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee, who sits on numerous House committees, including the Judiciary, Budget, and Homeland Security, has made the reparations legislation her top priority during the 117th Congress.
“I think if people begin to associate this legislation with what happened to the descendants of enslaved Africans as a human rights violation, the sordid past that violated the human rights of all of us who are descendants of enslaved Africans, I think that we can find common ground to pass this legislation,” Congresswoman Jackson Lee pronounced.
“Can anyone imagine that we’ve never gotten a simple, effective, deeply-embedded, and well-respected apology?”
The project in Oakland targets groups with the city’s most significant wealth disparities.
According to CNN and per the Oakland Equality Index, the median income for White households in Oakland to be nearly three times that of Black homes.
“The poverty we all witness today is not a personal failure. It is a systems failure,” Schaaf remarked. “Guaranteed income is one of the most promising tools for systems change, racial equity, and economic mobility we’ve seen in decades.”
Two years ago, 100 residents in Stockton, California, began receiving unconditional $500 payments, CNN reported. Other initiatives in Newark, New Jersey, and Atlanta, Georgia, were launched as recently as 2020.
Former Stockton Mayor, Michael Tubbs, is the founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a network of advocating mayors founded in 2020.
Oakland Mayor Schaaf is also a founding member of the network.
“One of my hopes in testing out a guaranteed income is that other cities would follow suit, and I’m thrilled that Oakland is among the first,” Tubbs told CNN.
“By focusing on BIPOC residents, the Oakland Resilient Families program will provide critical financial support to those hardest hit by systemic inequities, including the pandemic’s disproportionate toll on communities of color.”

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Barbara Lee

In a Letter to Voters, Rep. Barbara Lee Reflects on Pres. Biden’s First 100 Days

I was particularly struck seeing the Bay Area represented on the dais by Vice President Harris and Speaker Pelosi. That was the first time in history two women have held that position. It was reflective of the price women have paid to get to this point.

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Dear Friend,

     Last week marked the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s presidency. On (April 28), President Biden presented his vision for an American future that builds back better after some of our most challenging years. 

     I sat in the chamber and listened to President Biden reflect on his first 100 days, confidently reporting that we have a stronger economy, more resilient pandemic response, and a unified mission of building back better and bolder.

     I was particularly struck seeing the Bay Area represented on the dais by Vice President Harris and Speaker Pelosi. That was the first time in history two women have held that position. It was reflective of the price women have paid to get to this point. While this was a historic moment, as Vice President Harris pointed out, it is past time that it becomes “normal.”

      During his speech, President Biden discussed his recently unveiled American Families Plan (AFP). The AFP is a bold step in advancing racial equity and closing the gap in education, childcare, wealth inequality, and more. By extending provisions under the American Rescue Plan (ARP), and through programs of its own, the AFP would lift more than 10 million people out of poverty.

      I am excited to support this plan and similar efforts to improve equity in our school and childcare systems, and to combat inequality in the East Bay and across the country.

     The AFP offers an extended tax cut for families with children and American workers. This includes the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This will work to mitigate the growing wealth inequality that we see in America and invest in low- and middle-income families who help our economy thrive.

     Additional provisions of the AFP include:

  • Making child care affordable by ensuring that families will pay no more than 7% of their income on high-quality child care
  • Creating a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program through worker payments of up to $4,000 a month
  • Expanding school meal programs and summer EBT funds
  • Extending ACA premium tax credits that were expanded under the American Rescue Plan
  • Providing up to $1,400 in additional assistance to low-income students by increasing the Pell Grant award
  • Addressing teacher shortages and improving teacher preparation, including programs that strengthen pipelines for teachers of color

     (Last) week, we heard about some of the progress we have made in the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration, but we cannot let our foot off the gas. Among many challenges ahead, we need we need to address disparities in our public health system, do more to help families that are struggling through this economic crisis, dismantle structural racism, implement police reform and immigration reform and address the climate crisis. 

     We still have much work to do, but I am committed to continue fighting for you.

     As always, my office is here for you. If you need help with a federal issue, please call my Oakland office at (510) 764-0370. You can also connect with me via email, Facebook Twitter , and Instagram .

Please continue to stay healthy and safe.

Best,

Barbara Lee

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Featured

Chauvin Is Guilty. Our Work Is Cut Out for Us.

Our gratitude for this measure of accountability is soul-deep. And now we ask ourselves, will things really be different this time? The answer is that they can be, if we seize this moment.

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Photo Credit: Christy Price
Just a few days have passed since Derek Chauvin’s conviction in the murder of George Floyd. But the images from that moment are seared in our memories forever: the murderer, led away in handcuffs. The Floyd family, Philonise Floyd speaking through tears, at the microphones after the verdict. The crowds outside the courthouse erupting in cheers when the verdict was read.
Our gratitude for this measure of accountability is soul-deep. And now we ask ourselves, will things really be different this time? The answer is that they can be, if we seize this moment.
Washington has sent encouraging signs that it is serious about addressing police violence and systemic racism. Congress should pass the imperfect but important George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The Justice Department is forging ahead with investigations of police departments in Minneapolis and Louisville, and the shooting of Anthony Brown in North Carolina.
We have work to do in our own neighborhoods, too.
Policing is a local function, controlled by city, county and state governments. These governments answer directly to us, the citizens. And there is a lot we can do to insist on change.
One of the most inspiring examples today is in Ithaca, New York, a college town led by a dynamic young Black mayor. There, Mayor Svante Myrick and the city council approved a plan to do away with their traditional police department and replace it with a new Department of Community Solutions and Public Safety, in which some personnel would carry weapons – and, importantly, some would not.
Instead, unarmed social workers would respond to the many calls in which an armed response is unnecessary and even dangerous. The new department will have a civilian supervisor. It will focus on de-escalating situations in which people are at risk, and restoring trust among the city’s communities of color, homeless residents, LGBTQ residents and residents with disabilities.
The plan came together with input from local residents as well as city and county officials. It is the kind of innovative thinking we want in communities across the nation, and the energy around the Chauvin trial helped get it over the finish line.
We all can harness that energy where we live. Our year of speaking out and taking to the streets will serve us well; we can organize, and demonstrate, and show up in the places where local lawmakers meet to do their work. We can contact our local representatives directly; they might live next door or down the street.
And while the task of changing thousands of police departments, one by one, seems huge, think of this: more than half of Black Americans live in 25 metropolitan areas. We can get serious about saving Black lives by starting in those metro areas. And we can build a movement that inspires others to act.
One of the most emotional moments after George Floyd’s murder last year came when his daughter Gianna, then six, said, “Daddy changed the world.” If we want her to be right in the long run, we can do our part to make her words come true. And each of us can start right here at home.

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