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Ferguson Protesters Victimized by Heavy-Handed Tactics That Protect and Serve Police

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By Ishmael Sistrunk
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American

In the world of sports, big, strong black Americans are cheered, celebrated and worshipped. GMs, scouts and fans fawn over an athlete’s height, weight, reach, speed, strength and agility. On the streets of Ferguson, the St. Louis metro area and all across America, those same attributes can be a death sentence.

When Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson decided to end the life of Michael Brown Jr., he did so with an excessive amount of force. No, the full details of what happened of what happened that fateful Saturday afternoon haven’t emerged, thanks to a County investigation shrouded in secrecy. The fact remains, however, that Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot at least six times, including twice in the head. He didn’t have a gun, a knife or any other weapon but was slain in the middle of the street, in broad daylight. To some, the 6-foot-4, 292 pound teenager’s size and skin color offer enough of an excuse to give the officer the benefit of the doubt.

The irony in this case, which has garnered global attention, has been the police response to protesters. The community is outraged by the killing of another young black man due to extremely excessive force by police officers. Somehow, the law enforcement officials charged with maintaining public safety in Ferguson still find it appropriate to demonstrate excessive force on a nightly basis.

West Florissant Ave. has become a war zone. Mine-resistant armored vehicles roam the streets. Police officers decked out in camouflage and riot gear aim automatic rifles at peaceful protesters. Sound cannons, tear gas, smoke bombs and rubber bullets are fired into massive crowds, all in the name of public safety despite the fact that it’s the public on the receiving end of these weapons of war. How can police officers expect to maintain peace by making residents stare into the barrels of high-powered weapons all day and night? A level of resentment already existed against law enforcement. The flexing of power certainly doesn’t help.

To be fair to the officers, there is certainly an element of danger lurking behind the peaceful protesters. Outside agitators have been present on the ground in Ferguson everyday, intent to causing conflict. They are a miniscule minority but one that poses concern for officer safety and public. That is understood. Still, it’s hard to believe that in 2014, with all the technological resources at hand, the law enforcement officials cannot identify and apprehend rogue agents without attacking thousands of innocent people.

Each time I’ve visited Ferguson in the wake of Michael Brown’s death and the ensuing looting, people have pointed out outside agitators to me, faces to be wary of. Police officers walk amongst the crowds during daylight hours. They have open dialogue with the brave peacekeepers who also risk their lives to protect the people and keep unrest at a minimum. Why are citizens and peacekeepers able to identify these individuals but the police cannot? It’s hard to believe that there’s no way to find and apprehend those behaving badly, but instead treat everyone as criminals.

In hostage situations, police officers are trained to protect innocent lives at all costs. In Ferguson, their tactics are akin to gunning down hostages in order to kill the kidnappers. It doesn’t make sense. Now the National Guard has been called onto the scene. Their job? Protect the police. Yes, the group with helicopters, high powered rifles, armored vehicles and a full militaristic arsenal gets military protection while the community is left to fend for itself.

Several of the nights tear gas was deployed, the instigating factor was reported to be plastic and/or glass bottles tossed at law enforcement. Should protesters be throwing those items? Absolutely not? But do we as a society really believe the proper response by trained police personnel is to fire weapons at everyone? Man, woman, young, old, black, white, peaceful, militant are all grouped into one and the mindset of law enforcement is ‘us against them.’

That’s the mindset that got us into this situation in the first place. There’s a strange and dire disconnect between police and the people they are sworn to protect. Monday afternoon another young, black male was shot and killed by police, this time in the City of St. Louis. Police and witnesses reported the man was approaching officers with a knife drawn. There is not the same outrage as in the case of

Brown because to their credit, St. Louis Metropolitan police were transparent and timely in their reports. In a legal sense, the shooting appears to have been justified. Still, one has to wonder why a taser wasn’t used instead of lethal force. Different killing, same narrative.

Force is all these officers seem to understand. Mike Brown already paid the ultimate price of this policing strategy. How many more lives must be lost before we find a better way to protect and serve.

Christensen Set to be U.S. First Black Female Governor

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By James Wright
Special to the NNPA from The Afro-American Newspaper

The United States has never had a Black female as the governor of a state-level jurisdiction but that could change in the November general election. U.S. Virgin Islands Del. Donna Christensen (D) is well on her way to becoming the governor of her territory. She and Basil Ottley Jr. won the crowded Aug. 2 Democratic Party primary for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively, and because of the strength of the party, will face minor opposition from the island’s other political parties in the Nov. 4 general election.

Christensen was delighted to win her latest political battle. “I am pleased to have the nomination of the Democratic Party and I invite all of my fellow Democrats to work together with me to ensure victory in November,” Christensen, 68, said. “We have a lot of work to do; our people expect that we will have a common vision and a plan to move our territory forward.”

Christensen has been the delegate from the Virgin Islands since 1997. Before her election to Congress, she practiced family medicine for 21 years and held other political offices in the territory.

The delegate earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. in 1966 and her medical degree from the George Washington University in the District in 1970. She did her residency at Howard University Medical Center from 1973-74.

While African-American females have served as lieutenant governors of such states as Ohio and Florida, no Black female has mounted a serious bid to lead a state.

The Virgin Islands has a population of 106,405 and is 76 percent Black. The residents are United States citizens but cannot vote in presidential elections even though they can participate in the Democratic and Republican party activities.

As a delegate like the District’s representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), Christensen cannot vote on the floor of the House but is allowed to fully participate in committee activities, party caucuses and to gain seniority based on years of service. Christensen, who is serving her ninth term, is the first female physician to serve in the U.S. Congress, the first woman delegate from the Virgin Islands and the first woman to represent an offshore territory.

In the House Democratic Caucus, she served as an assistant minority whip. As an active member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Christensen chairs the Health Braintrust which is the focal point of the organization’s stands on health issues affecting the country’s Black citizens.

In her quest to lead the Virgin Islands, Christensen received support from key women’s political groups. The Women’s Campaign Fund, which helps female candidates for office raise money, has listed Christensen as a “game changer.”

“Christensen has been a strong supporter of the Virgin Islands’ Women’s Coalition and other organizations that advocate for women, especially against [domestic] abuse,” the organization’s website said. “She has always participated in programs on the [Capitol] Hill and elsewhere that addressed women’s issues and is actively involved in the Virgin Islands Commission on Women’s Issues and the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues.

Christensen has also gotten the support of EMILY’s List, the powerful political organization which trains and funds female candidates for political office. “Donna Christensen has an outstanding record of service to the women and families of the Virgin Islands,” Stephanie Schriock, president of the organization, said. “The EMILY’s List community of over three million members is thrilled that Donna is one step closer to becoming the first woman governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

If elected governor, Christensen will be the first Black woman to become a member of the National Governors Association, the trade association for the leaders of the states and territories. Michael Fauntroy, a political scientist who teaches at Howard University, said that is an important perk for Christensen. “The National Governors Association will give her a chance to participate with her fellow governors in dealing with national issues and give her a national profile,” he said.

Fauntroy said that while Christensen’s election will be a boon for Black women it does have its limits. “While her election will be noteworthy and represents another step for African-American women in politics, running the Virgin Islands is somewhat off the national radar,” he said. “It isn’t like she would be the governor of New York or Maryland, but it still is important.”

Jamaica: Help for Schools in Drought Stricken Areas

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

CMC – Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has instructed that action be taken to help schools cope as the dry spell continues to affect the country.

With the countdown now on to the start of the new academic year, a meeting will held with several Government Ministries, and a plan of action will be outlined early next week.

Water Minister, Robert Pickersgill, says schools in parishes experiencing severe drought could be could be impacted and as a result the ministry will also focus on hospitals and infirmaries in areas adversely

affected by the reduction in rainfall.

The National Water Commission (NWC) in collaboration with the Local Government Ministry will be supplying water to schools in affected areas.

The NWC has already assisted some schools in the Corporate Area, that are experiencing challenges with their supply, by providing water tanks.

PIckersgill has urged school administrators to place importance on establishing catchment and storage facilities.

“I am encouraging all schools to establish additional facilities for storage, so that in the absence of regular supplies, water may be supplied to them and stored. After all, we are all aware that ‘water is life’,” he said.

Although the island has been experiencing some rainfall in recent days corporate communications manager for the NWC, Charles Buchanan, says there has not been much improvement in the country’s water supply.

“It is still severe, and, in some places, worsening ,” he said.

Buchanan said both rural and Corporate Area water systems were under pressure and this was likely to increase for the reopening of schools.

Caribbean Immigrant Children May be Placed on Fast Track to be Deported

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Obama Administration speeds up deportation proceedings

By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

If Caribbean nations and their consular representatives in New York and Miami see a surge in the number of families being deported by the U.S. especially children they shouldn’t be surprised. That’s because the Obama Administration is moving swiftly to place entire families, including toddlers onto a fast track for deportation to their respective homelands.

It’s a change in strategy, charge immigration advocates and attorneys, which is being fueled by the steady influx of unaccompanied Central American children, some of whom are being taken to remote parts of the country, including Texas and New Mexico where their cases are being heard by immigration judges.

In Texas, for instance, the Administration is adding new beds in a center in Karnes City to house more than 532 adults and children. It is doing a similar thing in Pennsylvania, albeit for much smaller numbers of immigrants. “Our borders are not open to illegal immigrants,” warn Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, as he sought to explain the reasons for the fast track approach.

Before the new approach was launched recently, immigrant families were released while their deportation cases were moving slowly through the system. But Washington has changed gears expanding facilities so that centers can house more families.

In New York where immigration judges are hearing hundreds of cases involving families from the English, French and Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries as well as Central America, attorneys say entire families were being moved to the top of the deportation list so their cases can be resolved expeditiously.

“It seems as if the Administration has made a determination that families, not simply adults must be deported if they are in the country illegally,” said a Caribbean consular representative who has attended hearings involving nationals of his country.

“The perception is that people come there to get deported,” insisted Laura Lichter, a former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association who has helped to assembly a group of lawyers to work on immigrant cases in Artesia, Texas where as many as more than 600 women and children, most of them from Central America were awaiting a hearing while being held in a center.

The strategy is in line with President Barack Obama’s vow to fast-track deportations to Central American countries.

More than 50,000 youths from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have come across the U.S. borders in Texas, Arizona and California, fleeing gang violence at home. The policy has stirred the anger of Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a prominent voice in the immigration movement who has strongly criticized the fast track policy. “We should not take short-cuts and circumvent due process at this critical time when children are fleeing violence and asking for our help,” the lawmaker said. Although Vice President Joseph Biden has stopped far short of urging the Administration to soften its fast track deportation policy, he did say “there’s an awful lot of kids who need help.”

Jesse Jackson Calls Michael Brown Shooting 'Crime of Injustice'

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By Chris King
The St. Louis American

ST. LOUIS — Jesse Jackson told The American he hopes that the U.S. Department of Justice sees the Ferguson Police shooting of Michael Brown on Saturday and resulting community violence as “systematic of a national crisis.”

Jackson said, “It was a crime of injustice.” Jackson said.

The injustice, he said, was two-fold: a police shooting of an unarmed black teen followed by black youth from high-unemployment neighborhoods erupting in rage.

“Black men should not be the objects of target practice,” Jackson said of the shooting. “It’s not a unique situation. It’s a prototypical American situation. Police departments do not reflect the population. It’s awful, but it’s not unique.”

The resulting community violence on Sunday, following a non-violent candlelight vigil to commemorate Brown, should be seen in the context of a chronic urban crisis, he said.

“Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction,” Jackson said. “Poverty is in the community, guns are in, drugs are in, jobs are out. Banks are bailed out without meaningful community reinvestment. Too many people have no stake in the culture.”

Jackson said that chronic urban problems remain to be addressed after the shooting of Michael Brown and the community’s outrage are resolved.

“These kids need educations, skills, job training, jobs, scholarships to college,” Jackson said. “We need a national forum on urban policy, justice and repression. This is a national crisis that has manifested in Ferguson.”

Asked for advice to organizers on the ground, Jackson said, “That’s tough. I saw a sign that said we need quietness. Quietness is not the answer. Quietness is the absence of noise. We need the presence of justice.”

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