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Michael Brown’s Parents File Lawsuit Against Ferguson

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Lesley McSpadden, left, and Michael Brown Sr., right, the parents of Michael Brown, listen as their attorney Anthony D. Gray speaks during a news conference Thursday, April 23, 2015, in Clayton, Mo. The parents of Michael Brown filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Thursday against the city of Ferguson, Mo., over the fatal shooting of their son by a white police officer, a confrontation that sparked a protest movement across the United States. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Lesley McSpadden, left, and Michael Brown Sr., right, the parents of Michael Brown, listen as their attorney Anthony D. Gray speaks during a news conference Thursday, April 23, 2015, in Clayton, Mo. The parents of Michael Brown filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Thursday against the city of Ferguson, Mo., over the fatal shooting of their son by a white police officer, a confrontation that sparked a protest movement across the United States. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

JIM SALTER, Associated Press

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — Michael Brown’s parents filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city of Ferguson on Thursday, opening a new chapter in the legal battle over the shooting that killed their son and sparked a national protest movement about the way police treat blacks.

Attorneys for Brown’s parents promised the case would bring to light new forensic evidence and raise doubts about the police version of events. Some of that evidence, they said, had been overlooked in previous investigations.

“The narrative of the law enforcement all across the country for shooting unarmed people of color is the same: That they had no other choice,” attorney Benjamin Crump said. “But time and time again, the objective evidence contradicts the standard police narrative.”

Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., attended a news conference announcing the lawsuit outside the St. Louis County Courthouse. A tear rolled down McSpadden’s cheek as Crump spoke.

“It’s all part of the journey,” she said.

The case had been expected for months. If it comes to trial, the lawsuit could force a full review of all the evidence in the shooting and bring key witnesses to be questioned in open court, including Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot Brown. Wilson and former Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson were also named in the complaint.

Civil cases generally require a lower standard of proof than criminal cases. Jurors must base their decision on a preponderance of evidence, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard needed to convict in a criminal trial.

A Ferguson city spokesman declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Messages left for an attorney for Wilson were not immediately returned.

Jackson declined to discuss the lawsuit, telling The Associated Press that he was unaware of it until a reporter told him and had not had a chance to review the allegations.

Brown, 18, was unarmed and walking in the street with a friend on Aug. 9 when Wilson told them to move to the sidewalk.

The lawsuit alleges that Wilson told the two to “get the (expletive) out of the street,” causing tension to escalate. Without the “unnecessary and unwarranted profane language,” the encounter would have been “uneventful,” it says.

Moments later, Wilson and Brown became involved in a scuffle through the open window of Wilson’s police vehicle. Wilson shot Brown after the scuffle spilled into the street.

Some witnesses said Brown appeared to be trying to surrender, but Wilson said Brown was moving toward him aggressively, forcing him to shoot.

The attorneys said they planned to cite Wilson’s own initial comments to a supervisor in which, according to the lawsuit, he said Brown had his arms raised moments before the shooting.

Brown’s death led to weeks of sometimes-violent demonstrations and spawned a national “Black Lives Matter” movement seeking changes in how police deal with minorities. In the end, local and federal authorities ruled that the shooting was justified.

In the months since Brown was killed, unarmed blacks have been fatally shot by police in Wisconsin, California, Oklahoma, South Carolina and elsewhere. Unlike Brown’s death, some of those shootings were caught on video.

A St. Louis County grand jury and the U.S. Justice Department declined to prosecute Wilson, who resigned in November. But the Justice Department released a scathing report citing racial bias and racial profiling in the Ferguson Police Department and in a profit-driven municipal court system that frequently targeted blacks.

After the report, several city officials resigned, including Jackson, the city manager and a municipal judge. The municipal court clerk was fired for racist emails, and two police officers resigned over racist emails of their own.

Crump and another attorney for the family, Daryl Parks, said the lawsuit will include evidence that was ignored by the grand jury and the Justice Department, including bullets allegedly fired by Wilson found in buildings.

Civil suits often unfold much differently than criminal matters.

Two decades ago, football star O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. But a civil jury awarded the Brown and Goldman families $33.5 million in wrongful-death damages.

The family of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed man killed by New York police in 1999, settled with the city for $3 million in 2004 after filing a $60 million lawsuit. The city did not admit any wrongdoing. The settlement came after four officers indicted in his shooting were acquitted of second-degree murder and reckless endangerment.

Wrongful-death lawsuits have been filed in other recent high-profile cases, too.

In New York, the family of Eric Garner is seeking $75 million in damages. Garner, who was black and had asthma, died in July after a white plainclothes officer applied what a medical examiner determined was a chokehold. Garner was accused of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on a city street.

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Associated Press Writer Jim Suhr in St. Louis contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee Applauds 2nd Round of Workforce Funding from COVID Community Care Act Legislation

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be awarding $121 million to 127 award recipients of the Local Community-Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access Program.

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Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be awarding $121 million to 127 award recipients of the Local Community-Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access Program.

Announced on July 27, these awards are funded with resources from provisions within the American Rescue Plan Act that Lee led through her COVID Community Care Act.  This reflects the second of two funding opportunities announced in May 2021 for community-based efforts to hire and mobilize community outreach workers, community health workers, social support specialists, and others to increase vaccine access for the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities through high-touch, on-the-ground outreach to educate and assist individuals in getting the information they need about vaccinations.

The first round of funding, which was administered in June, included an $11 million award to the Public Health Institute in Oakland and a $9.5 million award to the Association of Asian/Pacific Community Health Organizations in Berkeley. Three Oakland based organizations, the Public Health Institute, Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases, and Safe Passages, are recipients of this round of funding, bringing the total funding brought to organizations in CA-13 to nearly $23 million.

“We are facing another inflection point in this pandemic. We must make meaningful investments in getting everyone vaccinated—especially communities of color and medically underserved communities,” said Lee.  “I worked hard in Congress to invest in trusted messengers at the community level to build confidence in vaccines and COVID-19 prevention efforts. This is a much-needed continuation of that work, and we’ll see over a million dollars of investment on the ground in our own East Bay community.

“Our Tri-Caucus – the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Native American member Congresswoman Sharice Davids, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone, Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott and Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro deserve credit for their hard work and support in getting this across the finish line in the American Rescue Plan.  We can see that the work of House Democrats is making a real-life impact on the ground for communities.  This is an important step, but we must continue our work to dismantle systemic racism in our public health system and ensure that vaccines are equitably and adequately distributed.”

The purpose of this program is to establish, expand, and sustain a public health workforce to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.  This includes mobilizing community outreach workers, which includes community health workers, patient navigators, and social support specialists to educate and assist individuals in accessing and receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.  

This includes activities such as conducting face-to-face outreach and reaching out directly to community members to educate them about the vaccine, assisting individuals in making a vaccine appointment, providing resources to find convenient vaccine locations, assisting individuals with transportation or other needs to get to a vaccination site.

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Community

Congratulations to Michelle Mack

Nominated for Teacher of the Year

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Photo courtesy Michelle Mack

Congratulations to Michelle Mack, currently a pre-K lead teacher in Atlanta, Ga., who was nominated for Teacher of the Year. A 2008 graduate of St. Elizabeth’s High School who earned a degree in child psychology from San Francisco State University in 2012, Mack received her master’s from Clark University in 2015.

Mack was recognized by the Easter Seals of North Georgia (ESNG) for “serving five consistent years teaching children and helping families with the same company” and awarded the ESNG-Guice Center Award for Individual Excellence.

 

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Commentary

Whitewashing History and Suppressing Voters Go Hand in Hand 

There’s been a lot of news about the Democratic legislators in Texas who fled the state to prevent Republicans from pushing through sweeping new voter suppression laws. Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened to have them arrested to force them to attend a special session of the state Legislature.

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There’s been a lot of news about the Democratic legislators in Texas who fled the state to prevent Republicans from pushing through sweeping new voter suppression laws. Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened to have them arrested to force them to attend a special session of the state Legislature.

Now it turns out that voter suppression is not the only “special” project Abbott has in mind. He and his fellow Republicans are pushing a far-reaching “memory law” that would limit teaching about racism and civil rights.

Abbott already signed a bill last month restricting how racism can be taught in Texas schools. But he and other Republicans in the state don’t think it went far enough. The Republican-dominated state-Senate has voted to strip a requirement that white supremacy be taught as morally wrong. Also on the chopping block: requirements that students learn about civil rights activists Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

It’s not just Texas. Just as Republicans are pushing a wave of voter registration laws around the country, they are also pushing laws to restrict teaching about racism in our history, culture, and institutions. CNN’s Julian Zelizer recently noted that such laws downplay injustices in our history and lead to teaching “propaganda rather than history.”

Here’s a good example:  Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the new legislation is meant to keep students from being “indoctrinated” by the “ridiculous leftist narrative that America and our Constitution are rooted in racism.” If Patrick really believes it is a “ridiculous” idea that racism was embedded in our Constitution from the start, he has already put on his own ideological blinders. And he wants to force them onto teachers and students.

Some of these state memory laws specifically ban teaching that causes “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.” As educators have noted, that’s a recipe for erasing and whitewashing history.

“Teachers in high schools cannot exclude the possibility that the history of slavery, lynchings and voter suppression will make some non-Black students uncomfortable,” history professor Timothy Snyder wrote in the New York Times Magazine. Those laws give power to white students and parents to censor honest teaching of history. “It is not exactly unusual for white people in America to express the view that they are being treated unfairly; now such an opinion could bring history classes to a halt.”

Snyder also explained how new state “memory laws” are connected to voter suppression. “In most cases, the new American memory laws have been passed by state legislatures that, in the same session, have passed laws designed to make voting more difficult,” he wrote. “The memory management enables the voter suppression.”

“The history of denying Black people the vote is shameful,” he explained. “This means that it is less likely to be taught where teachers are mandated to protect young people from feeling shame. The history of denying Black people the vote involves law and society. This means that it is less likely to be taught where teachers are mandated to tell students that racism is only personal prejudice.”

As I wrote in The Nation, far-right attempts to suppress honest teaching about racism is meant to “convince a segment of white voters that they should fear and fight our emerging multiracial and multiethnic democratic society” and to “help far-right politicians take and hold power, no matter the cost to our democracy.”

That’s also what voter suppression bills are designed to do. We cannot tolerate either of these assaults on democracy.

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