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The Great March on Galveston

NNPA NEWSWIRE — News of the arrest of Donald Neely spread like wildfire, after a couple of shocking photos appeared on social media showing two White, uniformed Galveston Mounted Patrol Officers escorting Neely, who is Black, down the middle of 23rd Street in Galveston like a runaway slave; handcuffing him with his hands behind his back and leading him by rope down the street like a captured animal as they rode their individual horses down the street.

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Civil Rights Attorney Benjamin Crump addresses media at historic Jack Johnson Park in Galveston, Texas. Photo Credit: Jeffrey L. Boney

Attorney Benjamin Crump Threatens to Bring National Civil Rights and Mental Health Advocates to Galveston if Sept. 15 Deadline Not Met to Release Body Camera Footage

By Jeffrey L. Boney, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Back on August 3rd, Donald Neely was arrested by Galveston police after he allegedly committed the crime of criminal trespassing at a commercial property located at 306 22nd Street, and after allegedly being warned not to do trespass on the property several times before.

It was not the arrest of Neely that caused a stir, it was the way in which he was detained that has caught the attention of people across the country, including many civil rights activists and attorneys. This action caught the immediate attention of several witnesses, who took the pictures and shared them on social media.

News of the arrest spread like wildfire, after a couple of shocking photos appeared on social media showing two White, uniformed Galveston Mounted Patrol Officers escorting Neely, who is Black, down the middle of 23rd Street in Galveston like a runaway slave; handcuffing him with his hands behind his back and leading him by rope down the street like a captured animal as they rode their individual horses down the street.

Neely, 43, suffers from mental illness.

According to Neely’s family, he has suffered from mental illness for over a decade and had been homeless based off their last known interaction. The family had not seen him in roughly four years, but saw the disrespectful and dehumanizing photos of him circulating online.

According to a statement released by the Galveston Police Department, they state that “when a police car was not immediately available, he (Neely) was escorted by mounted police officers about four blocks to a nearby staging area.”

National civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump held a major press conference on August 12th, calling on the Galveston Police Department to release the body camera footage of the incident to be able to determine whether Neely’s civil rights may have been violated.

“This isn’t 1819. This is 2019, Galveston, Texas,” said Crump. “The Galveston Police Department should have no problem releasing the body cam video, so we can see with our own eyes the content of the character of these two officers; based off of how they talked to and how they treated this unarmed Black citizen who suffered from mental illness.”

Nearly 170 years ago, the federal government passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which gave individuals known as “slave catchers” the legal mandate to go anywhere in the country to locate and prosecute runaway slaves and return them to their slave masters.

These slave catchers were usually individual citizens who were paid to catch runaway slaves, and some were members of local law enforcement. Nevertheless, the majority of these slave catchers were known to ride horses, as well as use ropes and chains to secure the runaway slaves, making them walk behind or beside their horses until they reached their destination.

Fast forward to 2019, and we see that the slave catcher model has reared its ugly head once again; this time in Galveston.

One of the people who received a copy of the picture and shared it on social media, is a former Galveston resident named Erin Toberman, who is White and whose father was a police captain.

At the press conference, Toberman spoke to reporters and made some strong and salient points about the incident.

“I’m a White woman and I have nothing but respect for law enforcement and I know how hard their job can be, because my father was a police Captain,” said Toberman. “Members of law enforcement have always told me that if I see something, I should say something. Well, I saw something and I said something, but now I’m being told that I shouldn’t have saw anything or said anything.  That isn’t right.”

Crump said that once Galveston Police Department releases the video and they can determine the content of the character of the officers involved to be in line with what the police department is saying, they will leave, but until then they do not plan on leaving the city.

“We are not going anywhere,” said Crump.  “As a matter of fact, if you don’t release the video in 30 days, we are going to invite other civil rights advocates, mental health advocates and human rights advocates, and we will have a great march on Galveston. We are going to march down the same street that you dragged Donald Neely down by rope.”

State Senator Borris L. Miles released a statement regarding the Galveston Police Department Mounted Patrol incident, stating:

“I condemn Officer P. Brosch and A. Smith for their actions during this arrest and for unnecessarily subjecting Mr. Neely to that public humiliation. I applaud Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale for his swift response and apology to Mr. Neely. I ask him to consider disciplinary actions against those two officers and to institute department-wide sensitivity training to ensure that officers, present and future understand why this was wrong, why it was inhumane and why it was downright racist.”

Crump set the deadline date to release the video for September 15. In the meantime, both the Texas Rangers and the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the controversial arrest. In expressing their seriousness about the release of the video, Crump led attendees in a chant to demand its release, chanting, “Say No Mo’…Release the Video.”

According to the Galveston Police Department, the body cameras were functional and were live during the encounter with Neely, so now it boils down to the actual release of the footage.

Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale and Galveston City Manager Brian Maxwell, both made statements expressing their belief that the officers may have used poor judgment regarding the incident and the officer’s handling of Neely.

“Although this is a best practice in certain scenarios, I don’t think it was the best practice at this point in time,” said Chief Hale.

Chief Hale has stated that his department has ended the use of this practice effective immediately. However, this is not good enough for Neely’s family, his attorneys and for many community advocates who have been riveted by this incident.

Time will tell if the Galveston Police Department will comply with Crump’s demands and inquiring minds want to know what exactly they will hear and see once the footage is released.

Jeffrey Boney is a political analyst and frequent contributor for the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com and the associate editor for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is an award-winning journalist, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur and business development strategist. Follow Jeffrey on Twitter @realtalkjunkies.

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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