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Tired of Black Men Getting Shot Down, Killed in Cold Blood

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Muhiydin D'Baha leads a group protesting the shooting death of Walter Scott at city hall in North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, April 8, 2015.  Scott was killed by a North Charleston police office after a traffic stop on Saturday. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager,  has been charged with murder. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Muhiydin D’Baha leads a group protesting the shooting death of Walter Scott at city hall in North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

by Brian E. Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call

COLUMBIA, S.C. (FinalCall.com) – What began as a minor traffic stop apparently for a malfunctioning tail light ended with a homicide. Another Black man, another White cop and another video of a police officer killing an unarmed person.

The amateur recording showed Michael Slager, 33, a North Charleston, S.C., police officer calmly squeezing the trigger of his gun eight times—firing at the back of 50-year-old Walter Scott, a Black laborer, forklift operator and father of four.

“We’re tired of Black men getting shot down and killed in cold blood,” said DeAndre Muhammad, the Charleston representative of the Nation of Islam.

With the killing of Walter Scott, Trayvon Martin, Tanisha Anderson, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and others—men and women—shot down by police, we must recognize we are not in a post racial America, said Student Minister Muhammad. “This is an outright war and attack on Black people in general and Black males in particular.”

The Charleston County Coroner’s Office declared Mr. Scott died from multiple gunshot wounds to the back, and ruled his death a homicide. Coroner Rae Wooten said an autopsy was performed one day after the shooting, according to media reports.

Footage from Mr. Slager’s vehicle DashCam released by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED)—the state agency that investigates police involved shootings—showed Mr. Scott exiting his car and running.

Mr. Scott was possibly concerned about an outstanding warrant related to back child support payments.

However an outraged community says being shot in the back as seen on the video is never justified.

The video from the camera phone recorded by Feidin Santana placed a spotlight on continued concern about police officers brutalizing, terrorizing and killing Black, Brown and poor people.

Using cell phone videos and swift online distribution has birthed a new tool for accountability independent of the criminal justice system, said social justice advocates.

“This technology in the hands of regular people is what alerts the citizenry of what’s going on,” saidThandisizwe Chimurenga, the Los Angeles-based author of “No Doubt: The Murder(s) of Oscar Grant.”

“It is a great tool in the hands of regular people to put a check on police officers’ actions and hold them accountable, but more is needed from a policy level,” she said.

Many also say without the video, the slaying of Walter Scott would have been logged as another justifiable homicide.

Originally Off. Slager told investigators he feared for his safety and Mr. Scott struggled to take his taser.

The video contradicted the Slager claim and showed him shooting Mr. Scott from a distance, as the man ran away.

The video caused authorities to change the story they initially circulated in the press. It resulted in Off. Slager’s arrest, said James Johnson of the National Action Network-North Charleston branch.

“The police chief defended the policeman for three days stating that we would see in evidence that Mr. Scott took the taser from the officer,” Mr. Johnson told The Final Call.

Only after receiving a copy of the tape did officials call a press conference “within an hour” announcing Off. Slager would be arrested and charged with murder, he explained.

The common practice in police incidents is to believe the word of the officer, said analysts.

Because of the video there are growing calls for to hold other officers involved in the Scott death accountable as initial versions of events appear false.

The National Bar Association, America’s largest Black lawyers group, is demanding the firing of some officers who showed up after the shooting.

“In light of the fabricated statements made by Officer Slager and the incomplete police report filed by Officer Clarence Harbersham, the National Bar Association is demanding the immediate termination and indictment of Officer Harbersham and any other North Charleston police officer who filed a false police report,” the group said April 13. Other media reports allege several officers, including officers Slager and Habersham, did not perform CPR on Mr. Scott.

Mr. Santana, who shot the video, told media outlets there were no attempts to provide medical care to Mr. Scott.

His video recorded Off. Slager handcuffing a mortally wounded Scott, leaving his body, and returning with an object he dropped next to Mr. Scott. Some believe the object to be a taser and an attempt to cover up a deadly crime.

According to a report of Columbia’s daily newspaper, The State, police in South Carolina fired their weapons at 209 people in the past five years. Few officers were accused of illegal shootings and none convicted of crimes, according to an analysis by The State.

The analysis also found at least 101 Blacks were shot resulting in 34 fatalities. In comparison 67 White suspects were shot at with 41 fatalities. Four other shooting victims were classified as Latino, Asian or Native American.

“I believe the police are part of the mechanism of control and containment, part of the record of terrorism and keeping certain populations in their place—people of color, immigrants, working class people.

“I believe they’re part of the hammer used to terrorize these types of populations,” said Ms.  Chimurenga.

Mr. Johnson described North Charleston policing as suppressive with poor people regularly preyed upon. “(Police) are not immune to killing a Black person,” he remarked.

Unprecedented police arrests in S. Carolina? 

Recently South Carolina authorities have arrested police officers for grave crimes—though none have been convicted yet. The state’s actions in charging and arresting officers runs counter to decisions other places to not charge officers or to pass the decision to charge or not grand juries—grand juries which refuse to come back with indictments.

What will happen with prosecutions of officers in South Carolina remains to be seen.

“We saw Oscar Grant in Oakland, Calif., being murdered and the convicted cop was given two years and actually did less than one year in prison. We all saw Eric Garner being murdered and the justice system didn’t bring forth an indictment on the police,” Ms. Chimurenga pointed out.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said the agency is following the law—whether  infractions by police or the public.

“Our position is that we follow the law, and when someone violates the law, they’re to be held accountable, said SLED spokesman Thom Berry, in a telephone inquiry with The Final Call.

SLED would not comment on the calls for the arrests of other officers involved in Mr. Scott’s case.

On the same day of Off. Slager’s April 7 arrest, SLED announced the re-arrest of Justin Craven, 25, a White police officer from North Augusta, S.C., who allegedly shot through a car window killing Earnest Satterwhite, in February 2014. According to a copy of the arrest warrant provided by SLED, Off. Craven is charged with a felony, “discharging a firearm into a vehicle while occupied,” which if convicted carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.

Media reports said the 68-year-old Black grandfather was killed after police followed him on a slow speed chase that ended in his driveway. Off. Craven fired into the closed car window and was outside his legal jurisdiction, according to accounts of other officers who picked up the pursuit after it crossed county lines. The arrest warrant also reveals the incident was recorded on video.

The new felony charge is stiffer than the “misconduct in office” charge meted from a grand jury that was significantly less than manslaughter charges initially sought by state prosecutors. Citing an active investigation, SLED spokesperson Berry declined to answer Final Call questions about the timing of the Craven arrest on the same day as Off. Slagen’s arrest and growing hostility stemming from the Scott killing.

Addressing the question of timing—in a defensive manner—Mr. Berry only said critics were “making an assumption.”

Asked if he was denying the Slagen charges had anything to do with timing in the other case, the spokesperson told this reporter, “you will have to talk to others about that.”

In another South Carolina case, former Highway Patrolman Sean Groubert, 31, released a barrage of bullets at Black motorist Lavar Jones at a Columbia, S.C., gas station during a traffic stop. Mr. Groubert was fired, arrested, and charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and released on bail last year.

Mr. Groubert’s case is currently going through the courts, said Gary Cross, a spokesman for South Carolina’s Fifth Circuit Court. Mr. Jones, the shooting victim, settled out of court with the state for $285,000. Scott family attorney Chris Stewart announced a wrongful death and civil rights violation lawsuit April 9.

But is the arrest of and murder charge Off. Slager faces enough?

“I think it’s a little too late,” said Charleston community activist and Pastor Thomas Ravenall. The relationship “has been horrible for years” between the police and the Black community, he said.

“Black people are fired up and angry,” said the pastor. Animosity has been brewing for a long time, he added.

According to the National Bar Association, just two percent of police officers are charged with use of excessive force and less than .002 percent are actually convicted.

Some advocates for justice in police brutality cases say stronger legislation is needed.

“Mr. Scott’s case is now the poster child for why there is an immediate need to pass legislation to establish a succinct definition and mandatory training for escalation of force,” said Pamela Meanes, president of the National Bar Association. Until Congress passes such laws “we will continue to see police officers murder African Americans and the ‘law’ deem it ‘justifiable’ or ‘self-defense,’ ” she said.

Other advocates are convinced that a new and revolutionary solution is needed.

“There is a climate of total dissatisfaction,” said Student Minister Muhammad, referring to the criminal justice system and law enforcement.

“We really need to start looking at these situations and see it as a wake-up call for us to do something for ourselves,” he said. “Because the justice system is corrupt to the core; it is racist to the core.”

In the aftermath of Walter Scott’s killing the state government released funds to equip North Charleston police officers with body cameras. Mayor Keith Summey announced the grant at an April 8 press conference.

The shooting accelerated the debate in South Carolina around body cameras and led to the grant for the equipment.

“It won’t make a difference,” predicted Student Minister Muhammad. “That was a move just to pacify Black people in North Charleston as if they are really doing something. It was a political move more than a sincere act to give justice or security to Black people.”

The system is corrupt and body cameras don’t address the attitude and mindset of Whites who control the city, he added.

For Ms. Chimurenga the structures that are supposed provide checks and balance deter civilians and protect law enforcement.

Black and Brown communities are capable of defending and protecting themselves and that kind of discussion needs to happen, she said.

“The police are a threat to Black and Brown public safety,” added Ms. Chimurenga.

Commentary

Biden, Vax Americana, and What the Recall Could Mean in COVID-19 Wars

Masking works. You can see it working. Vaccines work too, but we’re on the honor system for that. And people lie or show a fake vax cards. 

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COVID/Photo Courtesy of Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire 

At Oakland’s Stagebridge, I taught a class this year. One of my students couldn’t make the final. The student had COVID.

I don’t know if the student was vaccinated or whether this was a breakthrough case. But the fact remains, the COVID war must be our No. 1 priority—no matter how many people you see on TV at football games and sporting events unmasked. 

Masking works. You can see it working. Vaccines work too, but we’re on the honor system for that. And people lie or show a fake vax cards. 

This is why President Joe Biden’s speech last week, what I call his “Vax Americana” speech was so much more important than people want to admit.

It was his first get tough moment. And it reminded me of the phrase, “Pax Americana,” from post-World War II in 1945 to describe how the U.S. used its dominance to bring peace and prosperity to the world. 

After months of “nice,” Biden was a little less nice ordering federal workers to get vaxed, and OSHA to lean on employers with 100 workers to mandate vaccinations.

But all you need to remember from the speech was the last line, when Biden in a hushed, aggressive whisper said, “Get vaccinated.” 

What are you waiting for—a death bed conversion? 

It’s time to get serious about public health, about caring for our country and each other. 

We can end the war on COVID if we all do our part, masked and vaxed. 

I wonder if Biden knows about a non-profit in Stockton called Little Manila Rising

“Someone Pulled a Gun” 

You know what guns do to a situation. In the COVID wars, the anti-vaxers are insane. 

One of the handful of Filipino American canvassers for Little Manila Rising going door to door to provide the public with good information, got a rude greeting from an anti-vaxer.

“A gun!” said Amy Portello-Nelson, the head of the Get-Out-The-Vaccine drive in Stockton. The canvassers are armed only with information. No one was hurt, but you see how dangerous fighting COVID can be when you’re armed only with facts. 

Here’s what Little Manila Rising’s done in two months on the job. It has knocked on more than 32,000 doors and had 20,000 conversations. The area they’ve worked has gone from a vaccination rate of 32% to more than 50%. 

Talking to people and telling them to get vax works. It’s how we’re going to get back to normal. It’s going to take a “Vax Americana” effort.

The Recall

Of course, whatever happens with this gubernatorial recall will determine how quickly the state gets to the 70%-80% rate that gives us an effective herd immunity. 

My deadline is before any official recall results. And even then, mail-in ballots with a September 16 postmark will take time to be counted. 

The talk of voter fraud is greatly exaggerated. There’s more rhetorical fraud than anything else. 

With more than 8 million ballots in already, unless there’s a strange crossover vote, the Democrats should continue in power. 

But let’s say the recall succeeds and a person with the most votes among 46 also-rans becomes the new governor, it would not bode well for the state.

The Black conservative Larry Elder was leading among those who want to replace Governor Gavin Newsom.

Elder is an anti-vaxxer and has espoused views indicating that – under his leadership– California would look a lot more like Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and Florida on the COVID map. 

That would be the real monumental tragedy for California and for Vax Americana. 

Let’s face it, the political virus unleashed by the Republicans on our democracy is worse than COVID. 

The recall effort needs to die a natural death this week.

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Bay Area

Sept. 11, 2001, 20 years later: ‘Remembrance’ held aboard the USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

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U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment: Sgt. Tristan Garivay, Sgt. Michael Her, Cpl. Adrian Chavez and Cpl. Quentavious Leeks. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, Commanding Officer, 23rd Marine Regiment. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

The ceremony recognized the impact and consequences of the series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed on 2001 by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Queda against targets in New York City and Wash., D.C. Nearly 3,000 people died that day and 6,000 were injured.  This was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in U.S. history. 

The ceremony aboard the USS Hornet began with the presentation of the colors by the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment. (Pictured above.)

Leon Watkins, co-founder of The Walking Ghosts of Black History, was the Master of Ceremonies. He spoke about the extensive death and destruction which triggered the enormous U.S. effort to combat terrorism.

Daniel Costin, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, spoke of the lasting impact of 9/11 terrorists attack on first responders. He recounted incidents where first responders rushed into the scenes of the attacks, many at the sacrifice of their own lives. More than 400 police officers and firefighters were killed that day: 343 members of the New York City Fire Department and 71 members of their law enforcement agencies.

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, commanding officer of the 23rd Marine Regiment, spoke about the recovery efforts at the Pentagon following the terrorists’ attack where 125 people perished. He reflected on the actions of three first responders who recovered the U.S. Marine Corps flag from the commandant of the Marine Corps’ office at the Pentagon. This flag was still standing after the attack. It was a symbol of America’s resolve.

At the end of the formal presentations, the Marine Corps Wreath Bearers went to the fantail of the Hornet. After the playing of ‘Taps,’ they tossed a wreath into the San Francisco Bay to give final honors.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Community

Many in Black Communities are Choosing Vaccination 

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists. 

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Vaccination/Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

The trail of illness and death left amid the spread of COVID-19 in Black and African American communities should come as no surprise.

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists.

COVID-19 vaccinations offer us an opportunity to better balance the scale.

Unfortunately, even with widely available testing, highly effective vaccines, and extraordinary efforts by health departments to educate and encourage people of color to get vaccinated, many Black Californians remain skeptical.

We can only hope that the FDA’s full regulatory approval of the Pfizer vaccine on August 23 for those 16 and up convinces more to get the vaccine.  It’s worth noting that emergency-use authorization also remains in place for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots, as well as Pfizer’s for 12- to 15-year-olds – and that all of these vaccines are safe and effective in protecting against COVID-19 and its highly contagious variants.

Eddie Fairchild and Steph Sanders were skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine but came to understand why vaccination benefits our entire community.

Fairchild, a Sacramento insurance agent, said he knew of research that found Black and white people are often treated differently for the same health conditions leading to poorer health outcomes.

“I was hesitant,” he said. “I was going to wait and see how it panned out with everyone else.

But when a Black friend in the health care field told him he’d opted to get vaccinated, Fairchild asked him why.

“He said, ‘Risk-reward, and the risk is death.’ At that point I didn’t have to ask him what the reward was.”

With a finance degree and a belief that numbers don’t lie, Fairchild looked at the data. He learned that until 2020 the average number of Americans who died each year was about 2.6 million, but in 2020 that figure was 3.4 million. There was only one possible explanation for the death rate surge, he said.

“COVID is absolutely real,” he said, adding that three of his cousins died from the virus. “Taking all that into consideration, I decided that it’s risky to engage in the world and not be vaccinated. It made sense for me to get it.”

Racial gaps in vaccination have thankfully narrowed in recent weeks. But as of September 1, while Black people account for 6% of the state’s population, they account for 6.6% of COVID-19 deaths, which is 11% higher than the statewide rate, according to state department of public health data. Only about 55% of Black people in California have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

Reasons for the discrepancies run the gamut, from conspiracy theories like Black people are getting a less effective vaccine than whites or that the vaccine will eventually be deadly, to challenges in health care access. 

Mostly, it’s based on a lack of trust in medical and scientific institutions, which have a long history of racism and mistreating Black people.

So even when it comes to good things like vaccines, which are scientifically proven to be good for the community, it always comes back to trust.

Sanders, a Vallejo school principal, was hesitant because of the Tuskegee syphilis studies in which Black men who had the disease were intentionally not treated with penicillin. And he was dubious that an effective vaccine could be developed so quickly. 

In fact, the science and technology enabling development of the COVID-19 vaccines was in development for a more than decade before the virus emerged in 2020. The FDA authorized three vaccines for emergency use after they underwent a rigorous process and were proven through trials to be safe and effective at preventing severe COVID-19, hospitalization, and death.

He decided to get vaccinated when his school board decided last spring to bring students back into classrooms.

Today, he’s a fervent vaccine advocate. He holds “lunch and learn” forums for educators, encouraging vaccination.

“I’m a leader and people are relying on my knowledge,” he said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t make this about you, but about the people you love and care about. It’s about protecting them.’”

There is still a long way to go before Blacks achieve true health equity, but vaccination against a virus that is taking a terrible toll on our communities is a critical step in the right direction.

 

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