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Community Outraged Over Police Officer's Punch of Black Teen In The Face

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By Chris B. Bennett, Special to the NNPA from The Seattle Medium –

(NNPA) - Members of the African-American community woke up appalled and angered by the images of a young Black female being punched in the face by a Seattle Police officer. The video, aired on KOMO 4 TV, shows Seattle Police Officer Ian Walsh punching the Black teen in her face while struggling to handcuff another Black female.

The incident began, according to police reports, as the officer had stopped a young Black male for jaywalking across Martin Luther King, Jr. Way just south of the intersection of Rainier Avenue and MLK. The officer was explaining to the young man the need to use the pedestrian overpass that runs over the busy intersection instead of jaywalking.

Then four young women jaywalked across the street – admittedly to find out why their friend (the Black male) had been stopped by the officer. The officer then attempted to stop the four females for jaywalking and gather their information in order to issue a verbal warning or a citation, when one of the females, age 19, began walking away. The officer told her that she was required to identify herself so he could issue her a citation, and if she refused to do so she would be arrested for obstruction. At this point, Walsh indicates that the young woman continued to walk away. Walsh then walked up to the young lady and “took hold of her upper left arm with his right hand,” and according to Walsh’s report she tensed up and began to resist.

The video shows the officer struggling with the young lady for some time, and then her friend steps in and attempts to help separate the other young lady from the officer. After she steps in and pushes the officer, the officer steps back, looks at the young lady, strides towards her and punches her in the face. “It’s appalling to me to see this,” said Rev. Robert Jeffrey, Sr. pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church of the video. “If a man had done this in their home we would have put him under the jail.”

“The police walk around like they are exempt from the basic rules of decency and honor, if this is honor then we have sunk to the lowest level in this city,” added Jeffrey.

Nicole Gaines, president of the Loren Miller Bar Association, was equally disturbed by the video and the actions of the officer.

“It troubles me that an officer, who is trained, could allow a jaywalking incident to escalate into an incident where force and violence were used,” said Gaines. “He is the adult in this situation. He is trained to make sure that incidents like a jaywalking incident doesn’t escalate into violence.”

According to SPD, the incident will be reviewed by both internal affairs and a civilian review. However, they did indicate that the girls were being “verbally antagonistic” towards the officer, and that the 17-year-old girl intervened while Walsh was attempting to place the other teen in handcuffs and placed her hands on him causing the officer to believe that she was attempting to physically help the other teen to escape. SPD alleges that Walsh pushed back the second girl, but the girl came back at him, and Walsh then punched her.

“The provocation by this 17-year-old kid may have presented a confrontation situation, but the use of violence in the form of a full punch in the face was just plain wrong,” said James Kelly, President and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. “We thought the Police would have learned lessons about overreacting to non-violent situations based on the recent incident involving a Hispanic youth a month ago...Our police should be thinking that overreaction to a non-violent situation is a last resort — not the standard practice,” continued Kelly. “One can only wonder what would have happened if the video had not been made.”

However, SPD was not convinced that the officer handled the situation incorrectly.

“The issue we have to investigate is whether the force he used is reasonable given the combative resistance he was facing,” said Assistant Seattle Police Chief Nick Metz. “We’re not going to pass judgment on that until the matter has been thoroughly investigated.”

According to Metz, Walsh will be transferred to SPD’s training section.

“The officer is going to be transferred to the training section for a few days to review the tactics that he’s been taught,” Metz said.

While the police indicate that they’ve been proactive in reaching out to the African-American Community, African American leaders want action and accountability.

“At this time our community seems to be in an abusive relationship with law enforcement,” says Seattle/King County NAACP president James Bible. “We’re living in a hostile environment for people of color, and a hostile environment for people in poverty.”

Harriett Walden with Mothers for Police Accountability said, "We know that jaywalking is not an arrestable offense ... They [the police] are our employees, they are not volunteers. And I didn’t like how they used my money yesterday. I want to see him fired.”

The community has been increasingly enraged.

“This was an appalling act of injustice,” said pastor Reggie Witherspoon of Mt. Cavalry Christian Center. “There is no way it can be looked at as proper behavior and we are demanding that something be done about it.”

Both teens were cited for jaywalking. The 19-year-old was booked into the King County Jail for investigation of obstructing an officer. The 17-year-old girl was booked into the Youth Service Center for investigation of assault of an officer.

Haiti: Punished for Rebellion, Not Religion

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By Charles Hallman, Special to the NNPA from the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder –

(NNPA) - Haitian-Americans find local Black disinterest ‘disappointing’. A recent community forum offered an alternative view to the longstanding image of Haiti as a land of poverty, illiteracy, hunger and disease. About 30 people attended the June 6 event at the Rondo Community Library in St. Paul, where Haiti, its history and its future was discussed by Haitian-Americans.

The first major Black rebellion took place in Haiti in 1791, which left an estimated 10,000 Blacks and 2,000 Whites dead. Over 1,000 plantations were sacked and razed. French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte later sent 34,000 troops to subdue the slave armies, but they were unsuccessful. Haiti instead became an independent nation in 1804.

“A little tiny nation was able to overcome larger nations with military might,” said University of Minnesota graduate student Barbara Pierre-Louis, one of five Haitian-American Minnesotans who were featured speakers at the forum.

Haiti is the oldest Black republic in the world, but also the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. In the view of Pierre-Louis, the country essentially has been “punished” for decades by the West because it sought independence.

France only recognized it after demanding the country pay 150 million francs.

Most nations, including the United States, shunned Haiti for over four decades because of fear that its example could stir up more uprisings among slaveholding countries. After the U.S. did grant Haiti diplomatic recognition in 1862, it named Frederick Douglass the consular minister.

The U.S. invaded Haiti in 1915 and held veto power over all governmental decisions there until the military left in 1934. A commission appointed by President Herbert Hoover later concluded that Haitians were excluded from positions of real authority, and the U.S. presence helped create “poverty, ignorance, and the lack of a tradition or desire for orderly free government.”

Two decades later, in 1957, Francois Duvalier was elected Haiti’s president.

Duvalier, better known as “Papa Doc,” was a ruthless ruler who changed the constitution in 1964 so that he could be elected president for life. After his death in 1971, his 19-year-old son took over; Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier proved even more ruthless than his father until his regime finally collapsed in 1986.

After the 1791 revolution, “There was no one left to teach from the beginning trades, how to run a country…none of that ever happened,” local attorney and panelist Jacqueline Regis pointed out. “We have seen the aftermath of that some 200 years later.”

Evangelist Pat Robertson was quoted as saying that the Haitians once “got together and swore a pact to the devil… Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another.” In fact, Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Haiti. Most Haitians do believe in and practice some aspects of voodoo, which revolves around the belief in family spirits.

Hamline University French and Creole Professor Max Adrien explained that after Columbus arrived in Haiti in 1492, “The first thing they [did] is evangelize, and they started to capture [the residents] and enslaved them.” Voodoo was later seen by the slaves as a “liberator” as opposed to Christianity, which was practiced by the White slaveholders.

Adrien added that voodoo supposedly emerged during a secret gathering by the captive, enslaved Haitians. “Christianity told us that we had to suffer. The sky split in half, and suddenly a woman came down among them. That woman…stood among them, pulled out a sword and plunged it into [a] pig’s heart. When she did that…[the slaves] became mad dogs and went out and killed each master that they encountered in the road. For Haitians, this was the road to independence.”

The speakers also discussed ways to help Haiti’s recovery after an earthquake devastated the island country back in January. “It was like the end of the world,” said panelist Roulio Lundy, who was in Haiti when the quake stuck and recently returned to Minnesota after remaining in his home country to help family and others during the aftermath. Lundy told his account in Creole interpreted by his wife Maria Roseler-Lundy, a native Minnesotan who has lived and worked in Haiti.

Lundy said he was driving as the quake took place and walked almost 60 miles to return to his home. He vividly recalled the devastation while he and others helped victims.

“People looked like zombies with dust on [their] faces,” he continued. Many people cried in vain for help, but they were fatally overwhelmed by the rubble created by the collapsed buildings upon them. “People offered to give all their possessions [to us] if we could get them out. But there was no amount that could help [them],” he bemoaned.

In the aftermath of the January earthquake, Haiti continues to need help during its recovery — but not a handout, the speakers all say. Roesler-Lundy suggested, “For a long time, the international community has been giving to Haiti, and for a long time Haitians have learned how to receive. My challenge for you is not to give to Haitians, but to work together with them.”

Haiti must remain a “stable, democratic country,” said Regis, who moved to the U.S. at age 16. “I think it is in the best interest of the United States and the world to make sure that they are engaged in rebuilding Haiti, and not just the roads and the buildings, but also the culture.”

The country’s illiteracy rate is nearly 50 percent, she added. “The education that I believe is most crucial for Haitians [is] how to read and how to be leaders, how to produce the next generation of political leaders who are going to lead, and not in a narrow sense that enrich themselves and not the people.”

The Obama administration “is one of the best hopes that Haiti has had in its willingness to understand Haiti,” noted Regis.

Pierre-Louis, who also teaches languages at Metropolitan State University, expressed her disappointment afterwards about the low number of Blacks (around three or four) who attended the forum. “I’ve gone to many events where we are talking about what happened on January 12, and I haven’t seen much of a connection [with local Blacks],” she pointed out.

“Haiti is certainly a part of our history as a people who crossed the Atlantic several hundred years ago to come home,” surmised Pierre-Louis. “I would like to see a bit more involvement with Haiti from the African-American community. It’s a bit disappointing.”

Concluded Regis, “Our destiny is tied together, and we need to get up and tell the world that we are united."

Taking a Cue From U.S., Nigeria Issues Warning On Spills

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Special to the NNPA by the GIN –

(GIN) – After years of standing idly by as western oil companies fouled Nigerian rivers, dirtied the air, killed fish and birds, the Nigerian government, spurred by U.S. action in the Gulf of Mexico, is showing a little fight-back.

This week, Nigerian officials threatened ExxonMobil with sanctions if the company fails to manage spills properly. Idris Musa, head of Nigeria's oil spill response agency, said the meeting was to "call the attention of ExxonMobil, for the last time, to the need to put a stop to the incessant oil spills that we have been having within its operation area."

Musa told reporters after the meeting that his agency had since 2006 recorded about 2,405 oil spills involving all the major international oil companies operating in Nigeria.

"The oil spills in the Niger Delta are more than what has happened in the Gulf of Mexico," said Alagoa Morris, field monitor for Environmental Rights Action in Bayelsa state.

ExxonMobil Safety and Environment Manager, John Etuk, admitted that there was a spill in May, but was promptly reported to the relevant agencies. He disputed the official charge that the oil group did not carry out the clean up to specification.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., ExxonMobil joined other oil companies in blaming BP for its actions leading to the spill that has befouled thousands of acres of shoreline along the Gulf.

World Cup Fanfare Brings Demands To The Surface

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – With thousands of World Cup revelers thronging the streets of South Africa, and all eyes riveted on the games, labor unions are seizing the time to push normally reluctant employers to raise their low wages and provide needed benefits.

Tuesday, hundreds of black-clad workers gathered just outside the stadium grounds around midday, chanting and dancing, as grim-faced riot police, toting shotguns, looked on.

Earlier in the week, workers walked off the job in Cape Town and Durban, and bus drivers in Johannesburg quit in the middle of their shifts Monday, stranding about 1,000 fans outside Soccer City stadium. On Sunday, riot police using rubber bullets broke up one demonstration by striking workers in Durban, injuring two.

South African Transport and Allied Workers Union coordinator Mzwandile Jackson Simon said it appeared that wage promises made to the striking workers were not kept.

"To the millions of our workers and the poor, their problems are much bigger than the World Cup and they will never surrender their genuine struggles for a living wage in the interests of appeasing ... visitors to our country," a spokesman for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) said.

Meanwhile, some 16,000 workers at the electric power company Eskom, many of whom live in shacks without electricity, could go on strike later this week. The workers are seeking wage hikes of 18% and a housing allowance. The company is offering 5%.

U.S.- Backed Somali Gov't Training Children For War

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) - Recruited voluntarily or by force, child soldiers (boys and girls under the age of 18) are fighting in more than 30 conflicts worldwide - as combatants, messengers, porters, cooks or for sexual services.

The north African nation of Chad, with 450,000 displaced people in its eastern areas, is beset with child soldiers fighting for both government and rebel forces.

This week, a picture in The New York Times gripped readers with a heart-rending image of small boys, Mohamed, 12, and Ahmed, 15, holding heavy weapons, trained in killing by the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. Because that government is backed by the U.S., it is likely that U.S. taxpayer money trained and financed these boys.

American military advisers oversee the training of Somali government soldiers in Uganda and officials acknowledge it is impossible to guarantee that American money is not being used to arm children. Fifteen year old Ahmed recalled his training: “One of the things I learned,” he said, “is how to kill with a knife.”

“I’ll be honest,” a Somali government official told the reporter from The Times. “We were trying to find anyone who could carry a gun.”

A U.N. report released last month also accused Somalia's transitional government and the country's al-Shabab rebels of killing and maiming children.

The United States and Somalia are the world’s only two countries not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits the use of soldiers younger than fifteen.

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