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Will Oscar Grant Murder Trial Be Repeat of Rodney King Verdict?

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By Charlene Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from the Final Call –

LOS ANGELES (NNPA) - Jurors were set to resume deliberations July 7 in the murder trial of the White former transit cop who shot an unarmed Black passenger in Oakland.

As a verdict neared, some analysts and activists wondered whether L.A. would see a repeat of “Rodney King.”

Rodney King is the Black motorist whose infamous 1991 videotaped beating by members of the Los Angeles Police Department drew national outrage. A predominantly White jury acquitted three of the officers, deadlocked on one, and set off six days of rioting throughout South L.A. The period became popularly referred to as the “1992 L.A. Rebellion” and the “Rodney King riots.”

Video of police beating of Rodney King, May 3, 1991.

“The acquittal of the officers that beat Rodney King triggered one of the worst riots in American history. If the jury with no Blacks acquits Mehserle, it will be silence in the community. It will come. It will go. You will hear angry statements from some youth leaders. You will hear angry statements from the relatives from Oscar Grant, but as far as community anger, rage, you will hear nothing,” predicted Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, political commentator and talk radio host.

The reason is a lack of local and national media attention and what appears to be a lack of emotional engagement and public attention, except for a consistent contingent of youth led protests and scrutiny from community leaders and activists in the Bay Area since Johannes Mehserle shot 22-year-old Oscar Grant, III. on a station platform on Jan. 1, 2009, he said.

According to Dr. Hutchinson, one parallel is that White officers are accused of victimizing Black men, but a difference is there is no sense of a city on edge in the Grant murder as with Rodney King's beating.

The LAPD was on trial, not just the four officers who beat Mr. King, because of its long, well documented history of brutality against Blacks and Hispanics, Hutchinson told The Final Call.

The sordid history includes an almost relentless war with LAPD which spawned beatings, riots, brutality, and murders, but the analyst and writer felt the same relationship doesn't exist with BART.

“Rodney King was just waiting. King was not isolated. King was not an aberration. King was part of a pattern of abuse from a police department to a community. ... Those four officers that beat Rodney King weren't just seen as four rogue cops. They were seen as the face of a brutal police department but Mehserle is seen as just one bad cop,” Hutchinson said.

Aidge Patterson, an organizer with the L.A. Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant, said the system has set the stage for a repeat of Rodney King by lying to people's faces.

"They're trying to tell us what our eyes see is not what the truth is. They're trying to cover this murder by another one of their foot soldiers up but at the same time I see an amazing effort of people across the state to have this cop locked up and let them know they don't have the ability to get away with it like they did back then,” he said.

“As the trial of Johannes Mehserle comes near its conclusion; the city of Oakland fears the response shown in L.A. after an acquittal in the beating of Rodney King. Those whose anger led them to the streets of Los Angeles to protest an unjust verdict were justified in anger. Oakland should learn that the road to peace is the proper administration of justice. Minister Louis Farrakhan teaches us that injustice creates an imbalance of mind; and when the mind is imbalanced, so too can be our actions,” said student Minister Keith Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam mosque in Oakland.

Jan. 1, 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant by Oakland police.

“Our hope is that city leadership will take courage, stand together, and demand justice. There is no need to wait for the verdict to call for peace and calm; demand justice now. This case has zero Black members of the jury. This case should have been monitored closely by the federal government. City leaders should stand on the mountain top and demand justice. Then the people may feel that government is on their side and not the side of rogue police, who are trained to cover their tracks,” he said.

“Remember, Johannes Mehserle is the first peace officer in the history of California to face a murder charge for unjustified homicide or murder. Remember, no peace officer in the country has ever been convicted for murder while on duty. Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Elenor Bumpurs, and a long list of other police killings have all been considered by courts, justifiable homicides. Cities are paying millions of dollars to settle lawsuits; yet no criminal court has convicted an officer for murder.”

News media indicate the Oakland Police Department recently simulated a riot to prepare for the Mehserle verdict, but rebellions only occur when people get fed up with police injustice and terrorism, Patterson noted.

Instead of preparing for war against its own citizens, Oakland police should prepare to create better relationships in communities and a society that's just and better for everyone, he added. Instead, they would rather send the message to the people of Oakland that whatever the verdict is, there's nothing they can do about it, Patterson continued.

“They've made Johannes Mehserle into a victim in this case and he's nothing but a brutal killer. It's like they've been egging the people of Oakland on to smash on the people but they could have done this better. They could have put African Americans on the jury, even African Americans that like police, but they made it blatantly obvious that they've drawn a racist line in the sand,” Patterson said.

He believes a lack of media coverage of the first cop to be tried for murder in California was intended to quiet people down, the same way media refused to show bodies returning from wars." They learned from Rodney King how they're going to show these cases. This is obviously one of the most historic cases in the entire country and it should be on every news station, but they're good at keeping people ignorant.”

Steele Draws New Criticism for Afghanistan War Comments

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is once again in hot water. This time it is over comments he made about the U.S.’s role in the ongoing war in Afghanistan, which he called, “a war of Obama’s choosing.”

“This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in,” Steele said during a July 1 speech in Connecticut. “It was the President who was trying to be cute…flipping a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be Afghanistan. Well, if he’s such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan?”

Steele’s comments have already drawn the ire of conservatives nationwide, including the 162 members of his national committee because Republicans and conservatives clearly support the war in Afghanistan, which was started by President Bush. Steele has begun a new round of damage control as calls for his resignation have arisen once more.

“As we have learned throughout history, winning a war in Afghanistan is a difficult task. We must also remember that after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it is also a necessary one,” Steele said. “That is why I supported the decision to increase our troop force and, like the entire United States Senate, I support General Petraeus’ confirmation [to oversee the war]. The stakes are too high for us to accept anything but success in Afghanistan.”

That is not enough for some. Many say he needs to show his face in public and face the music.

“It will take more than an e-mail to 162 people,” Karl Rove, former advisor to President George W. Bush, told Fox News. “He’s going to have to take the public stage and take his licking there and say he misspoke.”

Some have gone further, calling for Steele’s ouster. William Kristol, editor of the conservative publication The Weekly Standard asked for Steele’s resignation in a July 2 column that noted. “Your tenure has of course been marked by gaffes and embarrassments.”

Community Rally Protests Punching Incident And Lack Of An Apology By Officer

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Special to the NNPA from The Seattle Medium –

(NNPA) - Members of the African-American community have taken to the streets to show their displeasure with the chain of events that have stemmed from the punching of a Black female teen by a Seattle police officer.

The group, led by Blacks in Government, are demanding an apology from the chief of police to not only the girl but also to the community, revisions of alleged police policies that allow for officers to punch people in the face, and for more police accountability to the community.

According to a statement outlining their demands, protestors are asking for a clear statement that the officer’s actions and behavior are inconsistent with proper police policy.

"We understand that the police guild maintains that the officer acted consistent with police policy under such circumstances,” read the statement. “We are aggrieved by a police policy that includes punching girls. If this is policy then we demand that policy be changed.”

According to James Bible of the Seattle-King County NAACP, the manner in which the apology that was issued by the young woman who was punched in the face to the officer was misrepresented by SPD.

“There has been a misrepresentation to everyone about the apology that took place,” said Bible.

“There was an apology, but there was not acceptance of her apology by the officer,” he continued. “What there really was, was a berating of her by the office of how what she did was wrong.” The story gets even more complex.

“There were two wrongs, but we only got one apology,” said Charles Oliver, president of Region X of Black in Government. “Why is he getting an apology, she was the victim!”

The over-riding message from the rally was that Black men in our community were not going to sit-by and let anyone, especially police officers, put their hands on Black women.

“I want to make it clear, you don’t put your hands on our sisters, I don’t care who you are,” said Min. Milford Muhammad of the Nation of Islam.

“You will never, ever, be able to justify putting your hands on no Black woman,” continued Min. Muhammad. “You can arrest her, but you won’t put your hands on her.”

“If I were here when that officer put his hands on that sister, I would have stepped between them and said that you cannot do this,” said Alton McDonald of the National Action Network. “For too long, our women have been strong. It’s time for our brothers to stand up and stop White supremacy.”

In addition, organizers vowed to not let history repeat itself as they made reference to past police incidents where officers seemed to be rewarded or glorified for their “unjust actions’ against African Americans.

“I’m getting sick of these cops coming down here mistreating our youth and getting promoted,” said Oliver. “If the officers think they can come to Seattle and continue doing what they do, they’ve got another thing coming.”

“That officer should be suspended until a full investigation has taken place,” said Min. Muhammad.

The bottom line for protesters seems to be respect. Respect for women, children and for the African American community as a whole. Organizers vow to stay with this issue until justice prevails and the victim/community are made whole.

“We want people who say they care about us to recognize that there was a girl involved in this too,” said Rev. Carl Livingston. “We’ve been quiet much too long, but we cannot be quiet any longer.”

Pastors Cite Racial Discrimination in Police Captain Suspension

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By Yasmine Regester, Special to the NNPA from the Carolina Peacemaker –

GREENSBORO (NNPA) - A Greensboro police captain has been placed on administrative duties after filing grievances on behalf of himself and other police officers. A press conference regarding the recent actions taken by the Greensboro Police Department against Captain Charles Cherry was held June 24 by the Pulpit Forum at New Light Missionary Baptist Church in Greensboro.

Cherry is the commander of GPD’s Eastern Division and has served the department for the last 23 years. Cherry’s suspension comes at the beginning of Greensboro Justice Summer, a grassroots movement organized by Beloved Community Center along with other faith based and social activism groups to organize and inform the public of their rights and to address issues surrounding the Greensboro Police Department.

Cherry was placed on administrative duty on June 7, pending a Fitness for Duty evaluation based on the following reasons: 1. writing and submitting grievances on behalf of several officers; 2. an inability to accept reasonable responses from department supervisors, and 3. his physical reactions in front of subordinate employees.

On June 9, Cherry was prohibited from the Maple Street police station and squad line-ups for the Eastern Division or any other divisions. He has also been stripped of his badge and gun. Cherry must also be evaluated by the department psychologist before being permitted to return to active duty.

Cherry sent an email to his employees on June 17 giving the reasons why he was placed under evaluation via the recommendation of a Bureau Commander. He also provided explanations of his actions. Cherry was accused of writing and submitting grievances from several officers who expressed the need for his assistance in writing such grievances. In the memo Cherry states that doing so was not in violation of Departmental Directives or city policy, however, it was one of the reasons provided as to why he is undergoing a Fit for Duty Evaluation.

Cherry told the Peacemaker he felt his employees and the community have a right to know why he was placed under Fit for Duty Evaluation. “I sent the memo to explain to my employees, and I also want the community to know because I serve them. I feel like they have a right to know what is going on.”

The pastors of the Pulpit Forum are citing racial discrimination and double standards within the GPD, which they say is the basis of the content in the submitted grievances. In a press statement released by the Pulpit Forum the pastors state, “This devious and unconscionable action is about covering up the culture of corruption and double standards within the GPD, pure and simple. It is a retaliatory measure…”

They also do not believe that hiring a new police chief will help alleviate the situation and are concerned the city will try to sweep the issues out the door with Police Chief Tim Bellamy when he retires on July 31.

The Pulpit Forum has written letters to the city manager’s office with a list of 97 questions addressing issues they believe need to be discussed publicly by the police department. Members of the forum have also spoken before city council on several occasions but have yet to receive any response to their list of questions.

Rev. Cardes Brown of New Light Missionary Baptist Church and president of the NAACP Greensboro branch, has been quite vocal in addressing members of city council as well as Mayor Bill Knight. Brown had been a supporter of Police Chief Tim Bellamy when Knight made a statement during a political forum in 2009 that he believed the chief only got his position because he was Black.

At the press conference, Brown stated that he owed Mayor Knight an apology for challenging his statement.

“I first challenged the statement because of Bellamy’s credentials. But now I do believe that Bellamy was made chief because he was Black and he could be used to show favor on the force. I believe Bellamy was willing to go along with things requested of him,” said Brown.

Rev. Nelson Johnson of Beloved Community Center added, “I think the apology from the Mayor was called for, because when you are placed in a high position such as mayor, you can’t play with stuff like that. But I do believe the chief is incidental to this.” The pastors and supporters demanded an apology from the mayor on more than one occasion but never got a response.

Johnson explained that he has access to several officers’ grievances because he and Rev. Brown have been asked to be spiritual advisors to them. “These grievances cite racial discrimination, harassment and hostile work environments. I think an interview with the city manager would be helpful because that is where everything has stopped,” said Johnson.

According to Johnson, city manager Rashad Young has a stack of grievances currently on his desk and the majority of them were filed by Blacks and other minorities. Under city policy, Young is required to respond in a timeframe of 20 days per complaint filed.

According to Michael Speedling, Assistant City Manager of Public Safety, Young is in the process of responding to the grievances as well as getting a response to the 97 questions presented by the Pulpit Forum.

'Africa's Worst Dictator' Wants To Spiff Up His Image

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – The President of Equatorial Guinea, once called “Africa’s Worst Dictator”, will get an image upgrade from a former aide to President Bill Clinton. Lanny Davis will receive $1 million for the job.

EG President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who seized power in 1979, is believed to have stashed about $700 million in private accounts from the first wave of revenues from offshore oil.

Davis, a regular cable news presence told the Huffington Post this week that he agreed to the contract because the African leader expressed sincere hopes of modernizing his country and implementing major political reforms.

Earlier this month, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said it would delay awarding a controversial prize named after and funded by the Equatorial Guinea president after protests from over 270 organizations and former Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

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