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OP-ED: How Many More Will We Mourn?

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By Cornell William Brooks, President/CEO, NAACP

 

How many more lives of unarmed Black men and women, tragically and senselessly killed by police, will our nation have to mourn before our country moves to fix its unjust and ineffective criminal justice system?

 

Freddie Gray wasn’t the only person to die at the hands of the police in April.

 

Before Gray suffered three broken vertebrae during the course of his arrest by Baltimore police, 17-year-old Justus Howell was fatally shot by an unidentified officer in Zion, Ill. Like the death of Gray, Howell’s death was ruled a homicide.

 

On the day that Gray was laid to rest and protests and demonstrations against police brutality rung out in Baltimore, a group of local and federal law enforcement officers arrived at the home of 20-year-old Terrance Kellom, who was a suspect in a robbery case.

 

Less than 10 minutes after police entered Terrance Kellom’s home, he was dead, shot several times by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer who was part of an inter-agency fugitive task force for reasons that remain unclear.

 

Then there was 37-year-old Natasha Mckenna. This 130-pound woman died after she was taser shocked four times by the Fairfax, Va. police Feb. 3, with her hands cuffed behind her back, shackled around her legs, with a hobble strap connecting both of the restraints. Police say they are still investigating.

 

More than 400 people have died while in police custody this year and the list keeps growing, according to an online database that compiles news reports of instances of use of deadly force.

 

The NAACP says no more.

 

One of our most recent achievements: the NAACP alongside its valiant coalition partners helped to dismantle the practice of stop and frisk in New York and leveraged a successful collaborative campaign to pass anti-racial profiling and police accountability measures.

 

Now the NAACP is advocating for body worn cameras, car cameras and gun and taser cameras. Additionally, we must deploy the use of independent investigation bodies and the use of civilian review boards. But we cannot do it alone. Join us in our fight.

 

Help us pass the End Racial Profiling Act – which comprehensively addresses the insidious practice of biased treatment by law enforcement because of who you are, or who you are perceived to be, by law enforcement. Call your U.S. senators and representative in Washington and tell them to pass the End Racial Profiling Act. The switchboard phone number is (202) 224-3121.

 

Support America’s Journey for Justice: This year, we are continuing our work with America’s Journey for Justice – a trek along the 850-mile route from Selma, Ala., to Washington, DC – through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia – to highlight the need for criminal justice and voting reforms because our lives matter and our children deserve to live.

 

Every American deserves the opportunity to grow and thrive and reach their full potential. And every American child has the potential to become our nation’s leading scientists, entrepreneurs, scholars, lawmakers and law enforcement officials.

 

It is us who must protect them.

 

Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO of NAACP.

Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO of NAACP.

Cornell William Brooks is president/CEO of the Baltimore-based NAACP.

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Bay Area

As Planned Robberies and Thefts Increase, Oakland Officials Grapple for Solutions

On Friday and Saturday evenings in Oakland, “roving caravans” targeted cannabis dispensaries, retail stores and pharmacies throughout Oakland. “At least two dozen businesses were impacted, mostly cannabis operations. Armed individuals exchanged gunfire with police and security guards.

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Councilmembers are saying funding has doubled for violence prevention measures like adding more violence interrupters.
Councilmembers are saying funding has doubled for violence prevention measures like adding more violence interrupters.

By Post Staff

Police and city officials are struggling to deal with a wave of organized smash-and-grab robberies, shootouts, home invasions, random drive-by shootings and muggings that swept across Bay Area cites over last weekend.

Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong called the violent crime wave “unprecedented” and said his police force needs the help of elected officials to meet the challenge.

Armstrong said, “We will have tactical teams deployed throughout the city,” to increase safety over the holiday weekend.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, the police chief’s boss, has been silent about how her office will step up.

In a video interview, Armstrong said, “What we’ve seen in Oakland is not much different than a lot of cities have seen in this Northern California region: roving robbery caravans, homicides and shootings.”

“We’re not going to tolerate this kind of activity in the City of Oakland. We are going to respond,” to be ready to deal with these roving gangs in the upcoming weekend, he said.

“These individuals who come to the city have been heavily armed, from all throughout the Bay Area,” Armstrong continued. “They are not just people from Oakland. They are groups of people coming to target communities. We will be prepared to address it. We will have extended staffing over the weekend to ensure there are enough resources to address the violent crime.”

After 11:00 p.m. roving caravans have targeted cannabis dispensaries, retail shops and pharmacies throughout the city of Oakland. At least two dozen businesses were impacted, most of them cannabis operations. Armed individuals were shooting at staff and others when they met resistance.

On Friday and Saturday evenings in Oakland, “roving caravans” targeted cannabis dispensaries, retail stores and pharmacies throughout Oakland. “At least two dozen businesses were impacted, mostly cannabis operations. Armed individuals exchanged gunfire with police and security guards.

Other organized groups of thieves targeted stores in San Francisco, Hayward and Walnut Creek.

On Sunday, robbers broke into a jewelry store in a Hayward mall, smashing glass cases and driving off with the valuables. In Walnut Creek, police urged businesses to close early after 80 thieves ransacked a Nordstrom last Saturday night.

In San Francisco, thieves broke into high-end stores in Union Square, including Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry and Bloomingdale’s, stealing merchandise worth thousands of dollars.

Oakland City Councilmembers responded quickly to Chief Armstrong’s call for help.

They said they have called a special meeting on December 7 to discuss the violence and underscored their commitment to stopping the violence.

“Absolutely, we are all concerned, and I can attest to that from all councilmembers including the mayor as well, too,” said District 2 Councilmember Sheng Thao, quoted on KGO.

Thao and District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb called for restoring the violence reduction program, Ceasefire, back to where it was before the pandemic.

Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan said the Council is already responding to the post-pandemic crime wave that is surging in many cities. She pointed to new laws to increase funding for tracing and cracking down on illegal guns.

Councilmembers are saying funding has doubled for violence prevention measures like adding more violence interrupters.

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Activism

Crime and Homelessness Reach an All-Time High

These depressing findings were recorded in a poll conducted by the Jobs and Housing Coalition (JHC) between October 16 and 18. They mark an all-time high in negative responses when Oakland residents are asked how they feel about the quality of their lives in Oakland and the direction of the city.

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The three most pressing issues that Oakland residents cited were homelessness and crime, which were virtually tied, and the cost of housing/rents which came in third place. No other issue was reported as a double-digit concern.
The three most pressing issues that Oakland residents cited were homelessness and crime, which were virtually tied, and the cost of housing/rents which came in third place. No other issue was reported as a double-digit concern.

Residents Want to Know What Can Be Done About It

By Paul Cobb

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of interviews with Greg McConnell who commissioned David Binder Research (President Obama’s polling firm) to find out the issues Oakland voters are concerned with.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of Oakland residents feel that the quality of their lives has gotten worse over the past few years. Sixty-three percent (63%) feel that Oakland is headed in the wrong direction.

Greg McConnell

Greg McConnell

These depressing findings were recorded in a poll conducted by the Jobs and Housing Coalition (JHC) between October 16 and 18. They mark an all-time high in negative responses when Oakland residents are asked how they feel about the quality of their lives in Oakland and the direction of the city.

Negative opinion has reached a new high over the last 10 years according to David Binder Research.

This trend has been steadily rising since 2015, however, the trend erupted in a 10-point leap in negative responses – from 53% to 63% – since last June.

The three most pressing issues that Oakland residents cited were homelessness and crime, which were virtually tied, and the cost of housing/rents which came in third place. No other issue was reported as a double-digit concern.

David Binder

“It would be foolish to overlook the obvious,” said Greg McConnell, president and CEO of JHC. “People believe their quality of life is sinking, and the city is headed in the wrong direction. We cannot not ignore those feelings or dress them up to make them go away. So, our options are either to surrender the city to the current trend of negativity or turn things around.”

The question now, asked McConnell, is how do we turn things around? “The last thing we need are big speeches and proclamations. You fix big problems by focusing on the small parts. My recommendation is to get government working more effectively.”

“Oakland must start doing the small things well,” explained McConnell. “Take the homeless crisis for example. This problem will not be solved with lofty speeches. Addressing mental health and addiction issues must be done one day and one issue at a time. No one gets sober overnight. They build one day on another until they have 24 hours, then 30 days, then years.”

The same is true with shelter for the unhoused. Oakland will not build thousands of housing units in a day. They chip away at the problem by building new units every day until we have a sufficient supply. “Doing little things well will impact the big things greatly,” McConnell continued.

“There will always be big political decisions like whether to fund or defund police, but to make a city better, it’s what we do every day that will make a difference and improve life in Oakland”, said McConnell. “If we operate government like government is supposed to operate and if government focuses on small things day by day, resident negativity, depression, and pessimism will fade away.”

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Bay Area

OPINION: Is Travis Scott to Blame for Astroworld?

Festival seating is when the entire venue becomes a mosh pit. It’s a concert where there are no assigned seats, making it a Darwinian every-person-for-himself, go-at-your-own-risk event. The nightmarish, mad rush that occurred at NRG Park at Travis Scott’s hip-hop Astroworld on November 5 was a foreseen possibility, especially since the artist’s encouraging a crowd surge is part of his act.

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Already more than a dozen civil suits have been filed against the concert promoters, which includes Live Nation and Scott himself. Eight people were killed including Danish Baig, 27, born near Dallas, an Asian American Pakistani and a district manager for AT&T, who went with his fiancé to the show.
Already more than a dozen civil suits have been filed against the concert promoters, which includes Live Nation and Scott himself. Eight people were killed including Danish Baig, 27, born near Dallas, an Asian American Pakistani and a district manager for AT&T, who went with his fiancé to the show.

By Emil Guillermo

I grew up in the Bay Area and attended “Days on the Green” at the Coliseum. But I started going to rock concerts in earnest when I was a teenager in Houston. I had taken a gap year from college and was the all-night DJ on the biggest rock station in town. Whenever I saw “festival seating” on a ticket, I knew it was more than just a warning, but an invitation to disaster.

Festival seating is when the entire venue becomes a mosh pit. It’s a concert where there are no assigned seats, making it a Darwinian every-person-for-himself, go-at-your-own-risk event. The nightmarish, mad rush that occurred at NRG Park at Travis Scott’s hip-hop Astroworld on November 5 was a foreseen possibility, especially since the artist’s encouraging a crowd surge is part of his act.

In Houston, the crowd was so packed, witnesses described how they couldn’t move. Then someone would fall, and the domino pile would begin.

For some, it became an “I can’t breathe moment.”

Eight people were killed including Danish Baig, 27, born near Dallas, an Asian American Pakistani and a district manager for AT&T, who went with his fiancé to the show.

He didn’t expect to die in the crush of people as he tried to save his fiancé from being trampled.

“She was stomped on, hit, punched, horrendous things were happening to her that I don’t want to mention,” said Basil Mirza Baig, Baig’s brother, who was also at the concert. “My brother was trying to save her, and he did, he saved her, and it cost him his life.”

At this time no precise cause of death is given. But the family said it was from cardiac arrest suffered from the crush of people.

The fiancé survived. But Mirza, speaking at Baig’s funeral on Sunday wants answers.

“My brother was laying on the ground. They were chanting to stop the event. Nobody stopped the event,” Mirza said in an interview with Dallas news station WFAA. “In this horrendous event, people that were in it (who) took part in this event, Travis Scott’s team, the NRG team, everybody who was associated with this should be held accountable for the lives that were lost today. We’re grieving. We’re in pain.”

Mirza wants answers, not a Tweet, but real answers from Scott.

“He could stop a show for his shoe, but he couldn’t stop the show for people?” Mirza asked. Reports say Scott performed for at least another 30 minutes after an emergency had been declared. “It was upsetting and sad seeing people thrown left and right, stop, girls, guys, everybody, little kids,” Mirza described the scene. “This is not how you do it. You go to a concert to have fun. You don’t go to a concert to die.”

Already more than a dozen civil suits have been filed against the concert promoters, which includes Live Nation and Scott himself. This is not the first time for Scott, who has faced criminal charges related to inciting concert crowds in Arkansas in 2018 (guilty, disorderly conduct), and Chicago in 2015 (guilty, misdemeanor reckless conduct).

Live Nation, too, should have known better. When the word “festival” is on the ticket, there are no seats, forcing crowds to compete for a stage view, and then a fun night becomes Darwinian, the survival of the fittest.

That’s not entertainment.

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