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Tolan Family wants End to Racial Profiling

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By Cierra Duncan
Special to the NNPA from the Houston Defender

HOUSTON – Police shooting victim Robbie Tolan and his family want to see justice done, while ending the assault on young Black men.

“We all experienced this as a family, as a community, and as a culture but my prayer is that we have not missed the meaning,” Tolan said during a recent press conference in Houston. “This is bigger than Robbie Tolan. This is bigger than Trayvon Martin. This decision has undoubtedly been a blessing.”

The Tolan family was joined by their new attorney Benjamin Crump, who represented Trayvon’s family. Crump made reference to the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently reinstated a civil rights lawsuit filed by Tolan, who in 2008 was shot and seriously injured by a White police officer outside the Bellaire, Texas home he shared with his parents. Police said they thought Tolan was armed and had stolen a vehicle.

“The Supreme Court said that this [case] should go to a jury,” Crump said. “If this could happen to a model family like this, it could happen to anyone here.”

Marian Tolan, Robbie’s mother, said “I want laws changed. There are laws against racial profiling but they are not being enforced. It’s time for that to change.”

Crump said it was “incredible” that the Supreme Court even heard the Tolan case because of the overwhelmingly high number of cases they are presented with. He then said it is “miraculous” that the court ruled in their favor.

“It is historic when you get a unanimous decision from the United States Supreme Court,” Crump said. “For all nine justices to agree that what happened was wrong…all glory goes to God.”

Crump said that every mother would be “proud to call Robbie their son” and that there was no reason for him to be shot and his family to be victimized.

The Tolans say that their faith has helped them as they continue to pursue justice. Robbie was a 23-year-old aspiring pro baseball player when he was shot. His father, Bobby, played in the Major Leagues.

“Our pastor constructed a prayer just for this case and the Supreme Court,” Marian Tolan said. “In that prayer we prayed for each Supreme Court justice, we asked God to give them a clean heart so that they can do His will,” she said. “From the beginning, I’ve asked God to use this case for change. God saved Robbie for a reason. This decision has placed us in a position to bring that reason forth.”

Extended family, community members, church leaders and elected officials gathered in support of the Tolan family.

“There are a lot of people who can be inspired by the dogged determination that has been exuded by the Tolan family,” said Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church. “We have to change these laws. This is not just about what happened six years ago. This is still happening today.”

U.S. Congressman Al Green (D-Texas) said there cannot be a law that allows police to shoot an unarmed person on their own property and go unpunished.

“I agree with the Supreme Court that it is important that this case be reviewed again,” said Green, whose district sits in Houston. “The circumstances of this case, the shooting of an unarmed young man in his parents’ yard, are deeply troubling and raise many questions. I trust that after a just review, a jury will be able to sort through the facts and come to a just resolution.”

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said she and Green will meet with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and ask for an investigation in the case based on civil rights violations and any “criminal aspects” in the case.

She urged the community to unite behind the Tolan family and support them as they pursue a new trial. “We must leave this place and demand a new trial for Robbie,” Jackson Lee said. “The trial he never had.”

Opposition Party Planning Protest to Force Election Date

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

CMC – The main opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) says it will begin a series of protests and pickets next week in a bid to force Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer to name a date for the general election.

Prime Minister Spencer has in the past indicated that the date would be announced “very shortly”. He had delayed naming the date for the poll while awaiting the ruling ot the Appeal Court on two matters filed by the ALP leader Gaston Browne.

The court handed down its ruling last month and Prime Minister Spencer said he would announce the date as soon as he was sure that the Electoral Commission was prepared to hold the polls.

But Brown, who had given Prime Minister Spencer a May 9 deadline to name the date for the election, said the leader of the ruling United Progressive Party (UPP) has no excuse for not naming the date for the election.

He said it is the responsibility of the prime minister to set the date for the election, which is now constitutionally due no later than July 26.

The ALP leader said that historically, Antigua and Barbuda has had general elections within the five year parliamentary cycle which on this occasion ended on April 26.

The ALP accuses Prime Minister Spencer of disrespecting convention and tradition by seemingly pushing the election to the latter stages of the constitutional deadline.

In the last general election, the UPP won nine of the 17 seats, with the ALP winning seven. The other seat was won by the Barbuda People’s Movement.

AIDS Institute Leader Condemns Sterling's Rants

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By James Wright
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

Disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling publicly stumbled when he attacked NBA Fall of Famer and entrepreneur Ervin “Magic” Johnson and other people living with HIV/AIDS, during a May 12 interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Sterling was then taken to task by the leader of the Black AIDS Institute of Los Angeles.

Sterling, 80, said, in essence, that Johnson – who contracted the virus that causes AIDS during his years as a professional basketball player, is a not a role model for children because of his former sexual promiscuity.

“I think he should be ashamed of himself,” Sterling said. “I think he should go into the background.”

Phill Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, said Sterling’s comments “are shocking and appalling.”

“We are not going back to the dark ages when people living with HIV/AIDS were categorized as promiscuous sexual predators, who should hide and be ashamed,” Wilson said. “Mr. Sterling would have us go back to the days of keeping children out of school, and denying people with HIV housing.”

Wilson said that his organization has worked with the Magic Johnson Foundation and the National Basketball Association “to fight stigma, increase knowledge and awareness about the facts of HIV and end the type of misinformation that Mr. Sterling tried to disseminate to deflect attention away from his own bigotry.

“Instead of demonizing people with HIV/AIDS and alienating them from care, we should be taking advantage of the opportunity that currently exists to end the AIDS epidemic so that our children can grow up in an AIDS-free generation,” Wilson said.

Congressional Black Caucus Fights to Preserve Voting Rights

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By Stacy M. Brown
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

Voting rights continues to be the most pressing issue facing the Congressional Black Caucus, whose members have ramped up efforts to craft legislation that would restore key components of a 1965 bill which the Supreme Court struck down last year.

Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Marcia Fudge, (D-Ohio), met with civil rights leaders from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union on May 2 to discuss strategies to push new legislation forward.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.), also attended the summit in which officials discussed legislation introduced by State Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and State Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), which would require that any state with past voting violations be subject to federal approval before being allowed a change in their election laws.

“If you think about our voting rights, they are under vicious attack and you have legislators passing laws that are supposed to be anti-fraud, but we know that there is no fraud to speak of,” said Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, a veteran of the House of Representatives for more than 32 years and a CBC member.

Cummings said voting rights laws must be restored and the CBC has urged Republicans to help craft and pass a satisfactory bill before the congressional legislative session ends next month.

“Our values are expressed through our votes and if you cut off our voice, we have no way to express what our values are,” said Cummings, 63.

“I do believe that we are in a revolutionary period in this country where there is a tremendous effort to turn back the clock 100 years and I think we all have to be on guard.”

Since 2011, nearly 180 restrictive pieces of legislation regarding voting laws have been proposed in 41 different states and more than a dozen have passed bills that are detrimental to the rights of African Americans and other minorities, Cummings said.

At least 12 states have new requirements for voters to show proof of citizenship and, at least 13 states have laws limiting voter registration mobilization efforts and other opportunities, trends that trouble the CBC, he said.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The provision, found in Section 5 of the law, provided a formula by which to identify states requiring federal oversight because of a history of discrimination against blacks and minorities.

In their 5-4 decision, the justices declared the rules supervising the original law to be outdated. The court suggested that Congress draft new provisions, but lawmakers have so far failed to act on that recommendation.

“We’re in the most intense national struggle over voting since the 1960s,” said Wendy R. Weiser, a program director for the Brennan Center for Justice in New York.

The New York Times reported that nearly every new and reputable study shows that voter identification requirements disproportionately affect black and Latino voters, college students and the disabled – groups that vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

T&T Government to Acquire New Helicopters, Drones

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

(CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago government says it will spend nearly TT$600 million (One TT dollar = US$0.16 cents) to purchase six helicopters and four Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones) for the National Operations Centre (NOC).

National Security Minister Gary Griffith told reporters that the UAVs will be of significant value to add to national security apparatus for remote sensing, reconnaissance, surveillance, deterrence and early warning purposes.

Griffith said the UAVs will be the first of its kind in this country and “we are moving with the times” noting that in the past there were “blimps, defective radar, defective fast patrol vessels, defective offshore patrol vessels, defective interceptors they will now have UAVs, ensuring no blind spots in the radar system, effective 50-metre patrol vessels, effective long range patrol vessels and high tech interceptors.

“So with the use of the UAVs it is going to play a phenomenal role in ensuring real time information, intelligence gathering, monitoring what is happening and being able to assist as well in our border protection,” he said.

He added that the four aircraft now in operation in Trinidad had been provided by three different manufacturers and the new helicopters will be provided by a single manufacturer.

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