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ACLU Claims Police Govt. Inaction Regarding Racial Disparity in Traffic Stops

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By Starla Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from The Final Call –

CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) - In 2004 in an effort to study and identify alleged patterns of racial profiling and bias during police traffic stops, the State of Illinois began requiring every law enforcement agency provide data on traffic stops. The results then showed Blacks and Latinos were more likely to be pulled over than Whites for a traffic stop and more than two and a half times more likely than Whites to have their car's contents searched when pulled over.

The 2010 statistics released in mid-July of this year by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), prepared by the Center for Research in Law and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago shows nothing has changed. The new data shows Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately targeted.

This new report comes on the heels of an administrative complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois to the special litigation section of the civil rights division at the U.S. Department of Justice June 7 to investigate “substantial racial disparate impact” caused by the Illinois State Police consent searches.

“We have seven years of data that consistently show that African-American and Latino drivers are consistently two to three to greater than three almost four times likely to be consent searched as White drivers,” said Edwin C. Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the Illinois ACLU.

According to the data, it is more likely that contraband will be found in the cars of White motorists, Yohnka told The Final Call. He says the reason the ACLU filed a complaint with the DOJ is because they could not get the political leadership in Illinois to focus on the issue and to “deal with it.”

Yohnka says the ACLU had repeatedly reached out to current Illinois Governor Pat Quinn as well as recently convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich with few results. The initial bill authorizing the traffic studies was introduced in 2003 and “championed” by then Illinois state senator, now President of the United States Barack Obama.

In 2006, a statewide panel consisting of state legislatures and others was supposedly formed to analyze the data and make recommendations. For whatever reason that panel has never been formed and has never met says Yohnka.

“There's a very simple solution to this particular problem. The governor of the State of Illinois controls the state police. He could pick up his pen today and sign an order which places a moratorium on all consent searches and the harm that takes place every single day on the highways and byways of our roads and expressways in Illinois through the use of these consent searches would be brought to an end,” explains Yohnka.

In a telephone call to Gov. Quinn's office by The Final Call, a representative referred all questions regarding the matter to Monique Bond, a spokesperson for the Illinois State Police (IPS). Bond says IPS is currently reviewing the information from 2010 and previous years to make sure the data provided is consistent and to also analyze what the data means. “What was behind that stop? Were there weapons recovered? Were there narcotics recovered? Did it lead to a criminal investigation?” asked Bond.

All of this needs to be taken into account before we can just come out and just accept numbers as they are in their raw form, Bond told The Final Call in a telephone interview. Bond also stressed that with “consent searches” the person has the right to refuse to have their vehicle searched.

“There is no need for investigation. These are seven consistent years of data that has revealed and continues to reveal this problem,” argues Yohnka.

Out of 443,000 stops in 2009 less than one percent is for consent to search says Bond. “So there's probable cause and when they are being stopped, their initial stop isn't based on the color of their skin, they're doing something to be stopped,” says Bond. There is some violation to make an officer stop a motorist, she added.

Out of those stops, continued Bond, over 2,000 firearms and almost 15,000 pounds of illegal narcotics were seized.

However according to the last several years of IDOT data, Blacks and Latinos are still being asked to consent to a search more often even though they are found less likely to have contraband.

Yohnka says there is no set standard for consent searches established in Illinois so vehicles are often searched “on a hunch” by law enforcement. “Clearly the police and the Illinois State Police in particular are applying a different standard to those hunches when it comes to African American and Latino motorists then when compared to White motorists,” he added. Whatever the cause of that different standard ought to be stopped says Yohnka.

Everybody wants to feel safe and secure in their community. But, the problem with these consent searches is the valuable time that law enforcement could spend looking for someone who is actually engaged in some type of criminal activity, he added.

In response to an email inquiry from The Final Call to the DOJ seeking response to the ACLU complaint as well as the 2010 IDOT report, a spokesperson said, “The department is reviewing the letter. We decline further comment at this time.”

Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Howard Creecy Dies at 57

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

The Rev. Dr. Howard Creecy Jr., who led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as president for just seven months, died July 28 of an apparent heart attack. He was 57.

Creecy, a longtime civil-rights activist and father of two, died in the early morning hours at his home in Atlanta. While the cause of his death was not immediately clear, his family suspected he suffered a heart attack. An autopsy has been commissioned, the SCLC said in a statement.

“We thank the community for the outpouring of compassion and condolences during this difficult time,” Creecy’s wife, Yolanda Grier Creecy and his family said in a statement.

According to The New York Times, Creecy was elected president of the civil rights group in January after Bernice King, daughter of the organization’s founder Dr. Martin Luther King, declined the position. He had previously served as interim president of the conference, which was founded in 1957.

Isaac Newton Farris Jr., the nephew of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will now assume the role of interim president.

“We are shocked,” Farris stated. “As far as I knew, Howard was in great health. He has been my lifelong friend; this news hits me at my core. Howard has been a prophetic leader who deeply inspired me along with countless others across this great nation and world. From his inspired leadership, which revitalized the SCLC, we will work to continue on the path that he and leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. lay before us.”

Activist, Politician Julian Bond Looks Back at Civil Rights Past

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By Gregg Reese, Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly –

Social activist and civil rights leader Julian Bond became the latest speaker at the Zócalo Public Square lecture series held in the Petersen Automotive Museum, in Los Angeles.

Displaying the charisma and easy intellect that served him well as a public servant to an overflow audience, including moderator Warren Olney of public radio station KCRW, he reflected on the highlights of his career, from his role as a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960 and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in 1971. Between heading those two organizations, he was part of the inner circle of the movement to end segregation throughout the South.

As a result of this activity and his well-publicized opposition to the Vietnam War, he and other civil rights colleagues were the subject of scrutiny by law enforcement from the stereotypical redneck sheriffs in Dixie backwater communities to the federal minions of FBI honcho J. Edgar Hoover. Reflecting on the fear that was a by-product of those volatile times, Bond ruefully noted “we were always right on the edge of paranoia, but even paranoids have enemies.”

After election to the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate, followed by a stretch teaching at universities like Harvard and University of Virginia, Bond was compelled to link up with the most prominent civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1998. The dissolution of once-thriving groups like SNCC, along with financial and internal strife within the NAACP prompted this move, and after assuming the role of chairman, he helped the venerable institution become financially solvent, increase its membership, and he exerted a strong political presence, demonstrated by a dramatic increase in Black voter turnout as the millennium approached.

Bond continued as chairman through the association’s 100th anniversary in 2009, while exhorting it to champion the rights of other disenfranchised groups (his appearance at Zócalo coincides with the NAACP’s 102nd convention being held at the Los Angeles Convention Center). He has become a vocal supporter of gay and lesbian civil rights, along with same-sex marriage (infamously boycotting the funeral of Coretta Scott King, because it was held in a church notoriously opposed to gay rights).

He suggested that the root of Black cultural hostility toward homosexuality might be rooted in the conservative Christian dogma that serves as the bedrock of many African American communities, but suggests that antipathy toward gay issues is changing.

Bond summed up the NAACP’s accomplishments by stating that it enabled the election of Barack Obama to the presidency. The fear and suspicion that are a by-product of his civil rights experiences precluded his personal commitment to the Obama campaign, since he reasoned his would be a wasted vote for a candidate who couldn’t possibly win, but the pivotal victory in the Iowa primary proved to be his own private mid-life epiphany.

Even so, he did not anticipate the intensity of the racism coming from factions within the Republican Party, and Bond believes it will continue to cast a shadow over the rest of Obama’s tenure, regardless of his re-election or limitation to just one term.

“I think he faces an unusual amount of hostility from the other party,” he declared. “Is it because he’s from Chicago? Is it because he’s tall and thin? No, it’s because he’s Black.”

Senegal Government Rounding Up Critics Including Popular Rapper

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By Fungai Maboreke, Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

The arrest of Omar Toure, Senegalese rapper and vocal critic of President Abdoulaye Wade, has sparked a round of rallies and protests by Senegalese youth linked by a Facebook page called Y’en a Marre, or “We’re Fed Up.”

Toure was detained recently for addressing a rally and calling for the aging President not to seek a third term.

Touré was reported to have said: “An old man can still be useful to a country when he is striving for the right path. But an old man of 90 years who goes back on his word — or who lies — should not stay in a country.” (Many in Senegal believe the president is older than his official age of 85.)

Senegal’s next presidential election is in February 2012.

Touré’s rap group and the protest movement are closely linked and have for months urged young Senegalese to register to vote in order to voice their displeasure with Wade’s government. “You’re not a citizen if you don’t have a voting card” is among his favorite rhymes.

Somalia's Prime Minister Lashes out at Failed Relief Efforts for Drought Victims

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Following a quick tour of the camps for drought-displaced people, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali snapped when viewing the starving, dying population of mostly women and children.

“[Aid agencies] get money claiming they will help Somalia, yet the people who arrived at Mogadishu were dying of hunger and that is absolutely unacceptable,” he said grimly.

Nearly 170,000 Somalis have fled to already crowded refugee camps in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia since January, according to U.N. figures recently released. In Kenya, about 1,300 Somalis are arriving daily; an average of 1,700 are entering Ethiopia.

Complicating the survival strategies, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has issued rules barring the spending of U.S. government money on projects if it might “materially benefit” a listed terror organization, including Al Shabab, an Islamist group linked to Al Qaeda that controls most of southern Somalia, the area worst hit by the current Horn of Africa drought.

Since the Treasury rules came into force in 2009, U.S. aid to Somalia – once the largest share of all world donors – plummeted by 88 percent, from $237 million in 2008 to $20 million in 2011.

"Aid is not flowing to where people are. It is flowing to certain centers and people have to walk sometimes days to get there and unfortunately not everyone makes it," said U.S. based Horn of Africa expert J. Peter Pham.

As thousands of Somalis walk days and sometimes weeks to reach the refugee complex known as Dadaab, young, lifeless bodies lay abandoned by their parents on the sandy paths which have been called "the roads of death."

In other cases parents perish during the journey, leaving children in the wilderness, alone.

The U.N. says it plans to start airlifting emergency rations into parts of drought-stricken Somalia this week.

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BVN National News Wire