Today, the Power Check coalition, a new national non-partisan network of leaders and organizations focused on tapping the power of social media to engage infrequent voters, will launch a final push that urges voters to “check their power” before November 6th. It includes a follow up event with Sommore on October 25th in Harrisburg Pennsylvania.
Actor-comedian Tracy Morgan and other people in a limousine struck from behind by a Wal-Mart truck on a highway in June are at least partly to blame for their injuries because they weren’t wearing seatbelts, the company said in a court filing Monday.
The filing was made in federal court in response to a lawsuit Morgan filed in July over the accident, which killed his friend James McNair, who was accompanying the former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” star back from a show in Delaware. Morgan spent several weeks in rehab with rib and leg injuries
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., based in Bentonville, Arkansas, said in the filing that the passengers’ injuries were caused “in whole or in part” by their “failure to properly wear an appropriate available seatbelt restraint device,” which it said constitutes unreasonable conduct
An attorney representing Morgan and the other plaintiffs called Wal-Mart’s contentions “surprising and appalling.
“It’s disingenuous,” attorney Benedict Morelli said. “It’s not what they said they were going to do initially, which was take full responsibility. I’m very upset, not for myself but for the families I represent.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and punitive and compensatory damages. It says the retail giant should have known that its truck driver had been awake for more than 24 hours before the crash and that his commute of 700 miles from his home in Georgia to work in Delaware was “unreasonable.” It also alleges the driver fell asleep at the wheel.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said in an email that the company “continues to stand willing to work with Mr. Morgan and the other plaintiffs to resolve this matter.”
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, who helped oversee last month’s aggressive response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, said Monday that communications failures led police to lock up peaceful citizens during daytime hours.
Belmar testified in federal court about the so-called five-second rule that police in Ferguson allowed protestors before enforcing Missouri’s law against refusing to disperse. Though the statute only applies to individuals who refuse a police order to leave an “unlawful assembly, or at the scene of a riot,” police in Ferguson repeatedly demanded crowds disperse during protests last month of a police officer’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown, 18, who was unarmed.
Police applied the rule to everyone, from protesters and journalists, to children and a 73-year-old woman. Even during daylight hours, officers arrested people who stopped moving for a few seconds, and threatened those who didn’t keep in motion. The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri is suing both St. Louis County and St. Louis Highway Patrol over the enforcement of the law on behalf of protesters, seeking an injunction forbidding police from arresting protestors who are standing still.
Belmar testified that the five-second rule was only supposed to be applied at night. Yet the rule was enforced during daylight. Even a news photographer was arrested during a peaceful daytime protest, apparently because he stopped on the sidewalk to take photos and wasn’t inside the designated media area.
Belmar said the “keep moving” instructions were applied by mistake by officers. He said there had been a breakdown in communication.
“I don’t think we were clear enough as commanders,” Belmar testified, according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Some instructions, he said, “confused” the officers. “We understand that now, but I didn’t understand it then,” he said.
ACLU attorney Grant Davis-Denny testified that the rule was so inconsistently enforced that it was unconstitutional, according to St. Louis Public Radio.
“It gives citizens absolutely no idea when their activity is lawful or unlawful. It also gives police officers way too much discretion,” Davis-Denny testified, according to the report. “And it’s particularly problematic that all this occurs in a place where people are exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Tony Rothert of the ACLU of Missouri said he was surprised by Belmar’s testimony, noting that he was “more confused” about how the police were told to enforce the “no walking” rule after the hearing than he was before. An ACLU expert testified that the strategy to keep people in constant motion didn’t seem to come from anywhere.
“It seems like it was just an idea someone had, and that’s where it came from,” Rothert said. “At minimum, it was not communicated well what exactly the rule was and when it should be in use and when it should not be in use.”
Rothert said it was tough to imagine that Belmar had no clue that the “no walking” rule was being enforced during daylight.
“It might not be believable. That is one option,” Rothert said. “I don’t know what is better, that he didn’t know or that he’s not being forthright.”
Protester Johnetta Elzie said that she testified about how she felt when she was out on the street in Ferguson.
“I told him I’m afraid for my life, basically, because at any given moment I could be snatched away,” Elzie told The Huffington Post of her testimony.
DeRay McKesson, another protester who testified, said he talked about how the rule was was inconsistently enforced.
“It depended on where you stood on West Florissant. Some people were like ‘You gotta keep moving,’ some people didn’t care,” McKesson said.
A federal judge is likely to rule on the ACLU’s request for a permanent injunction sometime in the next couple of weeks.
Eight people were arrested outside the Ferguson police department on Sunday night following the weekend shooting of a police officer. Tensions heated up late Monday as well.
This story has been updated to include comments from Tony Rothert.
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE of AP via Huff Post Black Voices
WASHINGTON (AP) — The widespread mistrust of law enforcement that was exposed by the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man in Missouri exists in too many other communities and is having a corrosive effect on the nation, particularly on its children, President Barack Obama says. He blames the feeling of wariness on persistent racial disparities in the administration of justice.
Obama said these misgivings only serve to harm communities that are most in need of effective law enforcement.
“It makes folks who are victimized by crime and need strong policing reluctant to go to the police because they may not trust them,” he said Saturday night in an address at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual awards dinner.
“And the worst part of it is it scars the hearts of our children,” Obama said, adding that it leads some youngsters to unnecessarily fear people who do not look like them and others to constantly feel under suspicion no matter what they do.
“That is not the society we want,” he said. “It’s not the society that our children deserve.”
Obama addressed the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown carefully but firmly, saying his death and the raw emotion it produced had reawakened the country to the fact that “a gulf of mistrust” exists between residents and police in too many communities.
The shooting sparked days of violent protests and racial unrest in the predominantly black St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The police officer who shot Brown was white.
“Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement — guilty of walking while black or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness,” said Obama, who has spoken of enduring similar treatment as a younger man.
He said significant racial disparities remain in the enforcement of law, from drug sentencing to application of the death penalty, and that a majority of Americans think the justice system treats people of different races unequally.
Obama opened his remarks by praising Attorney General Eric Holder as a great friend and faithful public servant.
The president announced Holder’s resignation this week after nearly six years as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Holder attended the dinner and received a standing ovation. He will stay on the job until the Senate confirms a successor.
“We will miss him badly,” Obama said.
Holder visited Ferguson after the shooting to help ease tensions, and the Justice Department is investigating whether Brown’s civil rights were violated.
There was more gun violence Saturday night in Ferguson when a police officer investigating suspicious activity at a closed community center was shot in the arm. The wounded officer is expected to survive and the police were looking for two suspects early Sunday.
Authorities said they didn’t believe the shooting was related to demonstrations that were taking place at about the same time to protest the killing of Brown.
At the dinner, Obama also announced the addition of a “community challenge” to My Brother’s Keeper, a public-private partnership he launched earlier this year to help improve the lives of young minority men. Communities across the U.S. will be challenged to adopt strategies to help all young people succeed from the cradle through college and to a career.
Obama said government cannot play the primary role in the lives of children but it “can bring folks together” to make a difference for them.
Helping girls of color deal with inequality is also important, he said, and part of the continuing mission of the White House Council on Women and Girls. The effort has involved his wife, Michelle, the mother of their 13- and 16-year-old daughters.
Obama noted that black girls are more likely than their white peers to be suspended, jailed and physically harassed, and that black women struggle daily with “biases that perpetuate oppressive standards for how they’re supposed to look and how they’re supposed to act.”
“I’ve got a vested interest in making sure that our daughters have the same opportunities as boys do,” he said.
A photo posted on social media during demonstrations in Ferguson on Tuesday night appears to show an officer working crowd control wearing a wristband that reads “I am Darren Wilson.” That slogan is affiliated with a campaign in support of the Ferguson police officer who killed Michael Brown on Aug. 9, and whom protestors want to see arrested. A grand jury currently is weighing the evidence against Wilson, and the FBI has launched a separate civil rights investigation into the case.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said the wristbands were “not a statement of law enforcement” and that he would have conversations with law enforcement agencies about officers wearing the wristbands.
Christy Lopez, deputy chief of the special litigation section of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, sent a letter to Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson on Friday indicating that Jackson had agreed to prohibit Ferguson officers from wearing “I am Darren Wilson” bracelets while in uniform and on duty. The letter said Jackson had said he would make sure the other municipal agencies working in Ferguson would prohibit their officers from wearing the bracelets as well.
Lopez said St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar and Missouri Highway Patrol Ron Replogle had indicated to Justice Department officials they also would ban the bracelets.
“These bracelets reinforce the very ‘us versus them’ mentality that many residents of Ferguson believe exists,” Lopez wrote in the letter.
In a separate letter that DOJ sent to Jackson this week that was released on Friday, Civil Rights Division officials asked him to make sure his officers were wearing name tags while on duty. Lopez had mentioned that letter in a meeting with St. Louis County residents earlier this week, and Jackson reportedly assured federal officials that officers would wear name tags while on duty.
“Sometimes things are just so obvious that we feel like we can recommend a change right away,” Lopez said at the meeting. “In a democracy, people need to know who their police are.”
Some social media users have reported that officers from other police departments assisting police in Ferguson still were not wearing name badges at protests this week.
“Officers wearing name plates while in uniform is a basic component of transparency and accountability. It is a near-universal requirement of sound policing practices and required under some state laws,” the letter to Jackson states. “Allowing officers to remain anonymous when they interact with the public contributes to mistrust and undermines accountability. The failure to wear name plates conveys a message to community members that, through anonymity, officers may seek to act with impunity.”
Police officers regularly ditched their name tags during protests last month, allowing them to operate anonymously and making it more difficult for citizens to hold individual officers accountable for their actions. Asked about officers not wearing name tags last month, Johnson said people were harassing officers online, while Jackson said that protestors would use an officer’s name to taunt them. “It kind of reduces that personal taunt and allows us to be generic,” Jackson said at the time.
Protests have heated up in Ferguson this week, six weeks after Brown was killed after Wilson stopped him and a friend because they were walking in the middle of the street.
Jackson also apologized to the Brown family and protestors this week in a video released by a public relations firm working for the city. Jackson had been heavily criticized for releasing footage that showed Brown allegedly committing a strong-arm robbery at a convenience store shortly before he was killed.
Another component of the Justice Department, the Community Relations Service, also held meetings with Ferguson residents this week in an attempt to sooth tensions in the area.
Joshua DuBois –thedailybeast.com
“Holder is up there with the greats—including Bobby Kennedy,” said Joseph Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr. “I don’t know anyone who has been more diligent and thoughtful on matters of civil rights.”
The attorney general announced that he would step down from his post as soon as his successor is confirmed. I spoke with Holder about his legacy, what’s next for him, and how he dealt with often-intense criticism from the House GOP.
Holder called his work on criminal-justice reform his “signature achievement,” telling me, “After years of over-reliance on incarceration as a criminal-justice strategy, we finally started to turn this aircraft carrier around.” The attorney general pointed to a decline in the federal prison population this year by more than 4,800 inmates—projected to reach 10,000 inmates by 2016, or the equivalent of five newly empty federal prisons—as evidence of reform, following changes last year that reduced prison terms for nonviolent drug offenders.
Holder also counted progress on LGBT equality and work defending voting rights among his major accomplishments, along with proving that the United States could prosecute terrorism cases in federal civilian courts. He said that after a judge sentenced Abu Ghayth—a high-ranking al Qaeda operative and Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law—to life in prison last week, “my belief and continuing faith in the Article Three court was vindicated.” Looking back wistfully at the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was transferred from civilian court to a military commission after political uproar, Holder said, “I know—I just know—we could have tried KSM in an Article Three court.”
While he said he’s “not quite done thinking” about what he’ll do next, Holder indicated that among his post-administration roles will be continued work on criminal-justice reform. “I’d like to continue being involved with issues that animated my time as attorney general—criminal-justice reform and civil rights especially,” Holder told me. “I don’t just want to give speeches; I’d like to involve myself in this work in a systematic way.”
“Some of the opposition against us is difficult, but if you keep a historical perspective, all of this stuff is manageable.”
Holder is sensitive to the concern among some black Americans that civil-rights issues will take a backseat after he departs (“Black Twitter” erupted with trepidation following his announcement, with some users starting a petition on the White House website asking the attorney general to stay.) But Holder says the concerns are misplaced, noting that the reforms he implemented were the president’s handiwork as well. “Barack Obama is still the president of the United States,” Holder told me. “He and I share a worldview, and he is just as committed to these issues as I am… I don’t think you’ll see any letup” on civil-rights issues “and he will pick a new attorney general that shares his values, and my values as well.”
That next attorney general will also face a similarly arduous trek, if the list of unfinished business that Holder ticked off is any indicator. The attorney general pointed to a federal death-penalty review, financial-fraud investigations, and continuing work to build bridges between law enforcement and communities of color as some of the most important items still pending on his plate. His successor will also have to deal with sustained criticism from Republicans in the House, who have perhaps been Holder’s greatest foe.
In 2012 the House GOP held Holder in contempt of Congress following hearings on Operation Fast and Furious, the first time an attorney general has been held in contempt. Many observers found the action racially motivated, and Democrats walked off the House floor in protest, chanting in unison, “Shame on you.” But Holder, for his part, said he holds no grudges. “It’s the same with the president,” he told me. “We both understand that a lot of the criticism is just politics, just noise.”
That din never grew loud enough to force Holder out. When he wraps up his tenure, Holder will be the fourth-longest-serving attorney general in the nation’s history, with many of his signature accomplishments occurring after the House’s 2012 vote. Holder said that it was less a desire for politics, and more echoes from history, that kept him coming back for more.
“I remember being in Texas at the LBJ Library for a speech on voting rights,” Holder said. “And I looked up and saw a picture of my sister-in-law,” the late Vivian Malone Jones, one of two black students to integrate the University of Alabama in 1963, after Gov. George Wallace attempted to block their entry into the school. “When you consider what she had to deal with, and what our ancestors had to deal with in the 18th and 19th centuries… some of the opposition against us is difficult, but if you keep a historical perspective, all of this stuff is manageable.”
“That’s what I learned from those folks. You keep your eyes on the prize, you try to do what’s right, and eventually, you’ll reach your goal.”
The women say the nature of the game of football promotes violence. They believe that since NFL makes millions off a violent sport, they should take more responsibility for some of the violence and commit to funding holistic, family-oriented counseling, training and prevention programs.
Noting that violence in the NFL is a reflection of the broader society, Campbell adds, “It’s not just Goodell who needs to get it right. The owners, coaches, and others in management must take the lead in the quest to eradicate violence in the NFL, other sports and, since so many young people look up to athletes, in the broader community. The NFL needs to step up given their role in society.”
The women provided details about specific actions they will take over the next few weeks to elevate the voices of Black women in the conversation about domestic violence in the NFL, other sports, and the broader issue of domestic violence nationally. Actions include:
- Creation of an online petition (http://tinyurl.com/ll6cnw7) urging Commissioner Roger Goodell to immediately include Black women as external domestic violence experts on the NFL’s Domestic Violence Advisory Board.
- Launch of a social media campaign that will include twitter town hall meetings featuring celebrities. The first twitter town hall will take place Tuesday September 30, 2014 at 2 PM ET. (Hashtag #NFLgetitright).
- Outreach to BWR partners to write letters to the NFL supporting the BWR initiative.
- Provide recommendations on Black women experts and Black organizations.
- BWR and partners will meet with corporations who sponsor the NFL
- Meet with Ana Isaacson and Troy Vincent to plan a larger meeting to address domestic violence, sexual assault and other diversity issues plaguing the NFL. (Set for October 1st in NY)
- Meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as requested in the BWR open letter.
On September 16, 2014 BWR sent an open letter to a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell requesting an emergency meeting with him to address the fact that there are no black women included in the recently established advisory group of women appointed to assist in developing new policies to eradicate domestic violence within the NFL. To date, our request to meet with Commissioner Goodell has not been scheduled.
Walter Smith, publisher
New York Beacon
In WW I and WW II, incredibly, one million five hundred and fifty thousand (1,550,000) black American soldiers and sailors served in segregated military divisions AND NOT ONE received the Medal of Honor until 1991, although many were recommended for it.
In the segregated armed forces of WWI and WWII, black soldiers were usually confined to jobs in manual labor or supply units. Even when the Army allowed blacks to go into combat, it rarely accorded them the recognition they deserved. Of the 433 Medals of Honor awarded by all branches of the military during the war, not a single one went to any of the 1.5 million blacks in the service.
Congressman Mickey Leland, (D-TX) who headed the Congressional Black Caucus in 1987/88 and Congressman Joseph J. DioGuardi (R-NY) combined to pursue a course of action to obtain our nation’s highest award for WW I Sgt. Henry Johnson of NY and WW II Seaman Dorrie Miller of Texas.
Because of the work of the two Congressmen, in 1991 George H W Bush awarded the Medal of Honor to Freddie Stowers an African American corporal in the United States Army who was killed in action during World War I, while serving in an American unit under French command.
Of the 1.5 million African Americans serving in WWI and WWII Freddie Stowers was the very first African American to receive the award.
Congressman Mickey Leland died tragically in 1988 while on a humanitarian mission to deliver food and medicine to the starving people of Ethiopia. Joseph J DioGuardi has continued this work as a concerned citizen and former Member of Congress, in no small part in memory of his friend and former congressional colleague Mickey Leland.
Joe DioGuardi, singlehandedly is very close to getting justice for WW I soldier and hero, Sgt. Henry Johnson of Albany NY, through the continuing hard work of Senator Chuck Schumer of NY, with whom Joe served in the House from 1985 to 1989.
For the past 27 years, Joseph J. DioGuardi has unselfishly and relentlessly pursued justice for African American WWI and WWII heroes with minute success. The Black Press of America can assist him in this endeavor with their political pens and influence.
Upon the prodding of Mickey Leland and Joe DioGuardi, In the early 1990s, responding to requests from black veterans and a white former captain who had commanded black troops in combat, the Army asked Shaw University, a historically black college in Raleigh, N.C., to investigate why no blacks had received the Medal of Honor during World War II. The inquiry found no documents proving that blacks had been discriminated against in decisions to award the medal, but concluded that a climate of racism had prevented recognition of heroic deeds.
Military historians gave the Army the names of 10 black servicemen who they believed should have been considered for the Medal of Honor. Then an Army board, looking at their files with all references to race deleted, decided that seven of these men deserved to be cited for bravery “above and beyond the call of duty.” Four of the men — Lt. John R. Fox of Cincinnati; Pfc. Willy F. James Jr. of Kansas City, Mo.; Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers of Oklahoma City; and Pvt. George Watson of Birmingham, Ala. — had been killed in action. Two others — Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter Jr. of Los Angeles and Lt. Charles L. Thomas of Detroit, who retired as a major — had died in the decades after the war. Those six received the medal posthumously awarded by Bill Clinton at the White House ceremony in 1997.
In recent developments, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh has approved Schumer’s request to grant a Medal of Honor to the late World War I hero and Albany resident, Sgt. Henry Johnson. With McHugh’s sign-off, the request has moved to the desk of U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Hagel has recommended Johnson for the award. The only step remaining after Hagel is approval by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the President.
Joe needs help in urging President, Barack Obama, to arrange another historic White House ceremony to issue two more Medals of Honor in memory of a great humanitarian and congressional hero, Mickey Leland, so that we can finally close the military’s tainted books on African American war heroes from World Wars I and II, and in the process also close an embarrassing chapter of military history by correcting an egregious historic injustice.
I strongly urge each and every one of you to write to your representative in Washington DC and your local representative and solicit their support in getting our president to move on this issue quickly.
Walter Smith, publisher
New York Beacon
By Paige Lavender –The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African-American to hold the nation’s top law enforcement position, plans to announce on Thursday that he will resign the post he’s held for nearly six years as soon as a successor can be confirmed.
Holder plans to make the announcement, which was first reported by NPR’s Carrie Johnson, at a press conference at the White House on Thursday afternoon. The 63-year-old will call his tenure as attorney general in the “greatest honor” of his professional life, according to a Justice Department official.
The White House has not announced a candidate to replace Holder, who has a close personal relationship with President Barack Obama. Holder discussed his plans with Obama on several occasions over the last few months, and finalized his decision at the White House residence over Labor Day weekend, according to a DOJ official. If Holder stays in office until December, he will become the third-longest serving attorney general in the history of the United States.
Holder, a frequent target of Republicans in Congress over the past several years, had made criminal justice reform his top priority in the last year. In an interview with The Huffington Post earlier this year, Holder said he had no firm plans about when he would step down.
“In terms of my own thinking of how long do I stay … I talk about tasks and trying to see certain things through,” Holder said. “I want to try to get a few things done before I ultimately leave.”
As a private citizen, Holder wants to find ways to help restore trust between law enforcement and minority communities, according to a Justice Department official. Holder visited Ferguson, Missouri, last month, and has focused much of his career on civil rights issues.
Holder has plans to visit Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Friday, where he’ll complete his goal of visiting all 93 U.S. attorney’s offices.
Holder has spoken about his resignation before, telling the New Yorker in February he was planning to leave office sometime this year.
by Frederick H. Lowe
Lewis Carl Hamilton (pictured), the only black driver on the Formula 1 circuit, bolted into the lead this weekend for the world drivers’ championship after winning, his seventh victory so far this season.
Hamilton, a black Englishman who drives for Mercedes, defeated Sebastian Vettel, who finished second and Daniel Ricciardo, who finished third.
Hamilton started from the pole position and he drove the fastest lap. The race was held Sunday on the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate and rival, Nico Rosberg of Germany, did not finish the race because of his car’s mechanical problems. Both men drive for Red Bull Racing.
The victory gave Hamilton a three-point lead over Rosberg for the world drivers’ championship, which Hamilton won in 2008. Hamilton has racked up 241 points to Rosberg’s 238 points with five races remaining in the Formula 1 season. Upcoming races are the Japanese Grand Prix on October 5, the Russian Grand Prix on October 12, the U.S. Grand Prix on November 2, the Brazilian Grand Prix on November 9 and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 23.
There are 19 races in the Formula 1 season, the world’s most-expensive sport, and Hamilton has won seven of them, including the Grand Prix races in Malaysia, Bahrain, China, Spain, Great Britain and Italy.
The 29 year-old Hamilton, who is from Stevenage, the United Kingdom, is named in honor of Carl Lewis, the U.S. Olympic Gold Medal winner in track and field.