Tuesday, 22 July 2014
Rosa Haire reports from Staten Island on the wave anger and outrage after New York City police targeted an innocent man for harassment--and caused his horrific death.
July 22, 2014
CHANTS OF "I can't breathe! I can't breathe!" rang out in the streets of Staten Island last Saturday, July 19, as demonstrators marched to protest the killing of an unarmed Black man, Eric Garner, who died after being strangled by New York police in an illegal chokehold.
The chant was a reference to Garner's last pleading words, which can be heard on a horrifying video that captured the murder committed by New York cops .
Now, family and community members are full of grief and anger about the death of a man universally described as a "teddy bear"--and they are demanding justice. Eric Garner is dead today, not just because of the violent actions of one cop, but because of a whole police department where racial profiling and brutality are the rule, and a city government under successive mayors that has demanded aggressive police practices in the name of maintaining "law and order."
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GARNER WENT into cardiac arrest after he was placed in a chokehold by plainclothes officer Daniel Pantaleo. Multiple witnesses say Garner had broken up a fight between two teenagers, which is why police were originally called to the scene. Uninterested in the fight, which had ended by the time the cops arrived, officers began to harass Garner over allegedly selling loose cigarettes on the street.
Outrage about Garner's death might have remained confined to the group of people who witnessed his murder and activists challenging police violence if not for the cell-phone video taken by his friend, Ramsey Orta--which has since gone viral, once again exposing the brutality of the NYPD for the whole world to see. When I spoke to Orta later, he looked visibly exhausted, and told me he had been visited and harassed by the cops since the release of the video.
The video shows Officers Justin Damico and Daniel Pantaleo, of the 120th Precinct on Staten Island's north shore, questioning Garner over the sale of cigarettes. Garner had been harassed and arrested repeatedly for the sale of untaxed cigarettes--in the video, he appears exasperated, telling the cops, "I'm tired of being harassed. You didn't see me sell anything...I was minding my business, officer. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone!"
With no command to turn around or place his hands behind his back, the officers begin to grab Garner, who yells, "Don't touch me!" Pantaleo comes from behind Garner and places him in a chokehold, tackling him to the ground. Three other cops pile on in restraining Garner, even though he was not physically resisting.
In the video, another officer can be heard saying, "Alright, he's down"--but Pantaleo continues to choke Garner, while lying on top of him. Pantaleo then places his knee in Garner's back and rams his head into the sidewalk--meanwhile, Garner says repeatedly, "I can't breathe." Later in the video, you see Garner's body limp as he's turned over on the ground.
A video that surfaced later in the weekend , shot from a closer vantage point, shows Garner unconscious on the ground, not visibly breathing. An agonizing seven minutes pass while police officers and paramedics who arrive at the scene stand idly by, not performing life-saving maneuvers. When the woman filming the video asks an officer, "Why are you not performing CPR?" the officer responds that Garner is breathing. Yet the video--which at one point shows Garner's eyes roll open as he's lifted on a stretcher--makes that claim questionable.
Pantaleo was placed on desk duty, stripped of his badge and gun, pending investigations by prosecutors and the NYPD itself--though he and Damico are still on the payroll. The four EMS workers who came to the scene of the killing, but didn't immediately assist Garner, have also been placed on modified duty.
Pantaleo has been sued twice over the last two years for harassment. One lawsuit alleged that Pantaleo arrested two Black men without cause and subjected them to a humiliating strip search, in public and in broad daylight--the case was settled with a $30,000 payment to the two men. The other lawsuit alleged Pantaleo falsified a police report to substantiate charges.
One Staten Island resident, Trisha, a friend of Eric's, said in an interview that this wasn't the first time Pantaleo harassed Garner. This seems evident from the video made by Orta, where Eric references a previous encounter with the officers.
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THE USE of chokeholds, officially banned by the NYPD in 1993, isn't a new issue for the department. Despite the official ban, over 1,000 complaints about the use of chokeholds have been registered with department's Civilian Complaint Review Board in the last five years.
In 1994, Anthony Baez was killed when Officer Francis Livoti put him in a chokehold--after a football thrown by Baez had struck Livoti's patrol car, sending the officer into a rage. The case caused widespread outrage--Livoti was found not guilty of criminal charges, but was convicted of a federal civil rights violation.
Anthony's mother, Iris Baez, has become a leading figure in the movement to end police brutality. In a beautiful show of solidarity, Iris Baez attended a Saturday rally at the National Action Network's headquarters in Harlem to meet with Eric Garner's wife Esaw and other family members.
Mayor Bill De Blasio, who campaigned on a promise to end the notorious "stop and frisk" racial profiling by the NYPD, said he was "deeply troubled" by the footage he saw of Garner's arrest and killing.
Yet this death is a direct result of the so-called "broken window" style of policing championed by De Blasio's newly appointed Police Commissioner William Bratton. Bratton--a recycled police chief from the Giuliani era of the 1990s--pioneered the policy back then. The theory is that petty crimes need to be confronted and punished to the maximum extent possible in order to curb more serious crimes.
The theory has been discredited by researchers who note the drop in New York City's crime rate in the 1990s was part of a national pattern in this era, not the result of Bratton's policy.
But that hasn't stopped Bratton from pursuing the "broken windows" strategy once again. In his first two months as commissioner under De Blasio, there was a 20 percent spike in arrests for low-level violations such as drinking from an open container or panhandling on the subway. Harassing Eric Garner for allegedly selling loose cigarettes is just the kind of petty "crime" that gives NYPD officers an excuse for harassment.
In reality, "broken windows" is nothing more than a war on the poor, especially poor people of color. In a city that is vastly unequal, criminalizing such petty offenses unfairly targets Black, Brown and working-class New Yorkers.
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ON JULY 21, New Yorkers Against Bratton held a press conference in front of City Hall calling for Bratton's resignation, a federal investigation into the NYPD's culture of brutality and an end to "broken windows"-based policing. New Yorkers Against Bratton organizer Josmar Trujillo denounced Garner's murder , describing it as "an extension of low-level policing." Trujillo continued:
Bratton is unable to control his police officers, and another Black man is dead at the hands of the NYPD. This has been going on for far too long, and activists have been marching till our shoes have worn out.Individual police are not the only ones responsible: we must ask for a change that is deep and fundamental. Eric Garner's last words were 'It stops today,' and that's what needs to happen. Bratton is poison for communities of color, and we need a New York City with justice for everyone. That means the demand to democratize, for community control of the police.
Alex Vitale, an associate professor at CUNY's Brooklyn College and author of a widely circulated New York Daily Newsop-ed article on Garner's death , called out NYPD justification for "broken windows," saying "'Quality-of-life' policing is nothing more than harassment of people of color. There is absolutely no support for the theory that 'broken windows' reduces crime."
Garner's funeral will take place on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Bethel Baptist Church, 265 Bergen St. in Brooklyn. After that, activists against racism and police violence plan to continue their campaign to win justice for this latest victim of the NYPD. As Jeanette, another friend of Eric's who witnessed his murder, told me, "Pantaleo should be arrested for homicide and prosecuted as a criminal, because he's the criminal--not Eric."
Eric Garner's cries in the last few moments of his life speak the everyday lived experience of Black men in U.S. cities. Firing the New York cops who applied the chokehold and held him down isn't enough. We need to hold the entire NYPD accountable, starting with an end to the "broken windows" policy that serves as an excuse for abuse and violence.
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Lee Wengraf contributed to this article.
Source from Dr Grabowski Annamaria
Posted by Irishgreeneyes at 12:57
Monday, 21 July 2014
Please forward widely and post this excellent article on Amer Jubran and Palestine:
THIS IS NOT NEWS:
THE ARREST AND DETENTION OF AMER JUBRAN
by Noah Cohen
A man is taken from his home by 20 armed, militarized police in fascist black uniforms. They break in through the doors and windows, rappel from the roof with ropes, storm the home where he lives with his wife and four children, in the dead of night.
They take him away, and no one hears from him for days, and then weeks, and then months. He isn’t charged with anything; for a long time he is simply disappeared. There is no official charge, but he is a known political activist, a writer, a lecturer.
This isn’t news, because the country is Jordan, the orders come from the US or from Israel, and the man is an Arab, a Palestinian.
I met Amer Jubran 13 years ago when he was living in the United States. He was arrested for the first time at a protest in Brookline, MA that he helped to organize against a yearly celebration of the colonization of Palestine called “Israel Day.” Police arrested him, broke up the demonstration, held him over night in jail with hand and leg shackles, and then charged him with assaulting a passerby. After a lengthy series of court hearings, the judge found the charges to be baseless. Information obtained in the course of the hearings revealed instead that the police had been in the pay of the Israel Day organizers, including the Israeli consulate. The police had been communicating with them about the protest–including details about individual protest organizers–and had more or less acted as agents of a foreign government.
At that time, I knew almost nothing about the history of Palestine. I attended Amer’s trial because the civil rights violations involved in his arrest were so egregious that his case required support from anyone who sincerely believed in basic political rights.
The bulk of Amer’s trial in Brookline took place in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001. The US had just declared an open-ended “war against terrorism,” and already news had begun to trickle out about mass detentions of Arab and Muslim men who were being held beyond the reach of any legal authority, detained indefinitely without access to fundamental rights of due process, and stories were starting to come out about the extensive use of torture.
And at the same time the US passed the Patriot Act and reorganized its security apparatus to create a new “Department of Homeland Security.” With it came new types of federal agents with expanded powers over both citizens and non-citizens; federal, state, and local police were increasingly networked with private agencies in JTTFs; ‘fusion centers’ emerged as nodes of uncontrolled ‘information sharing’ about everyone.
Those of us who were politically active at the time could see what was coming. I remember friends circulating a famous quote from Hanna Arendt:
“The first essential step in the road to total domination is to kill the juridical person in man. This was done, on the one hand, by putting certain categories of people outside the protection of the law and forcing at the same time, through the instrument of denationalization, the nontotalitarian world into recognition of lawlessness; it was done, on the other, by placing the concentration camp outside the normal penal system, and by selecting its inmates outside the normal judicial procedure in which a definite crime entails a predictable penalty.” (Origins of Totalitarianism)
We could see what was coming and those of us who cared got involved however we could.
I got to know Amer in the course of his trial and began to learn about Palestine: the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948, the occupation of the remainder of Palestine in 1967, the continuing circumstances of racist oppression and land theft, not only in all of historic Palestine, but in the entire region surrounding it. To be Palestinian in Nazareth, or in Gaza, or in al Quds (also called Jerusalem), or Khalil (“Hebron”), is much the same as to be Palestinian in Amman (Jordan) or in Sabra and Shatila (Lebanon). The refugees fled murder on their land and it sought them out in the camps. To be Palestinian anywhere in historic Palestine is to be subject to arbitrary detention without trial (‘administrative detention’), and it’s the same in Amman or in Cairo.
I visited Khalil for the first time in 2003. What I saw there became for me an image of the entire region. Some 120,000 Palestinians live in the greater area of Khalil–the city and interconnected villages surrounding it. 400 zionist settlers live in a garrison called Kharsina. For their sake, a regime of total lockdown was imposed on all the Palestinians in the city and villages. All village entries and exits were blocked with boulders and other roadblocks. Curfew imposed. Children couldn’t attend school, elders couldn’t reach hospitals, no one could move goods. All this so that 400 settlers can feel ‘secure’ living on stolen land. This is the meaning of ‘security.’
And this is the image of the region. For the sake of less than 6 million highly privileged colonial-settlers, over 150 million Arabs in the surrounding region live under circumstances of political repression, foreign invasion, occupation, and poverty. No freedom of movement, no freedom of expression, no basic political rights. This is what it means when we say ‘for Israel’s security.’
I learned about Palestine and I became active along with Amer and others we knew in trying to speak for the cause of Palestine where we lived in the United States. Together with other Palestinians living in the area, Amer created an organization called the New England Committee to Defend Palestine.
We spoke of the unity of the Palestinian cause, of liberation for all of historic Palestine, for the rights of refugees to return to their homes.
Two days after the first demonstration of the NECDP, FBI and INS agents broke into Amer’s home in Rhode Island and demanded that he answer some questions. “Please the ears of this gentleman,” said the INS agent pointing to the FBI agent, “or you’ll rot in jail for fifty years.” Amer demanded his right to an attorney. They jailed him, at first without charges or access to a lawyer. We obtained a lawyer for Amer, but they refused to give any information to him when he called, and hung up on him. They held him that way for 17 days. It took an international campaign just to get him a bond hearing.
Eventually the INS (which became the ICE) manufactured immigration charges against Amer to justify–and at the same time conceal–the US government’s political persecution. They now claimed that the marriage through which he had obtained his green card had been fraudulent.
For over a year, we fought the case in hearings before the immigration court. The Department of Homeland Security devoted more than 12 FBI agents to “gathering information” on what was ostensibly an immigration matter. Agents visited members of Amer’s ex-wife’s family and tried to intimidate them into testifying against him. In some cases they showed pictures of Amer taken at demonstrations in the US and claimed that they were images from a “terrorist training camp” in Afghanistan. They tried to connect Amer with 9/11, and to suggest that people who didn’t fully cooperate might make themselves liable to prosecution in connection with “terrorism.”
We fought the case in the immigration court for more than a year. In the course of the proceedings, we submitted FOIA petitions that turned up evidence of widespread cooperation between local police and federal agents in monitoring us and other activists for political activities such as demonstrations, educational websites, and court solidarity. These included the following:
*Still photographs of Amer, his friends, witnesses and supporters taken inside the courtroom during his Brookline trial, and sent to the Boston Police
*A fax cover sheet documenting the communication of records between the Brookline Police and the FBI in July, 2003
*More than twelve video tapes made by the Boston police of pro-Palestine, anti-war, and civil liberties/immigrant rights rallies, which all found their way into a file concerning Amer Jubran
*A memo from the FBI refusing to grant the FOIA petition on the grounds that the subject was “under investigation.”
When it became clear that the immigration court was not a venue in which justice could be obtained, Amer took ‘voluntary departure’ and returned to Jordan in 2004.
Amer’s hearings were well attended by activists. The media closely followed his case, and there was considerable outrage that the government would use immigration proceedings to silence political speech.
A decade has passed. In that time, the arrest and prosecution of Arabs and Muslims for ‘terrorism’ based on speech–especially the defense of the rights of their peoples to resist invasion and occupation by the US or Israel–has been normalized in the framework of domestic security. There is openly a 1st Amendment exception for Arabs and Muslims. Torture and extrajudicial killing (assassination) are no longer dirty secrets, but official policy. Habeas corpus died with the Supreme Court decision in the Hamdi case; the body of policies and cases surrounding indefinite detention outside the reach of the law have now been codified in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, giving the US military the power to detain anyone without recourse to meaningful judicial oversight.
So that now, when 20 black-clad militarized police arrest a Palestinian in his home in Jordan for criticizing US and Israeli policies in the region–an arrest carried out almost certainly at the behest of the US–it just isn’t news. No journalist is interested in the story; no major media outlet will cover it.
Amer continues to be held in Jordan without charges, but has finally been allowed a visit by family, and his whereabouts are now known. His spirit remains strong.
Jordan recently passed legislation further criminalizing political speech as part of its “anti-terrorism” laws. The new amendments specifically criminalize activities that are harmful to Jordan’s relationship with foreign governments. Even before the passage of the new legislation, Jordan had already tried Mwaffaq Mahadin for “endangering relations with a foreign state” for speaking about Jordan’s security cooperation with the US on Al-Jazeera, so it isn’t hard to imagine how the new legislation will be applied. Over the past year, Amer has been sending out critical information and articles about Israeli, US and Jordanian cooperation in destabilizing Syria.
But at this point, it’s hardly even necessary to invent crimes and pass legislation. Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate (GID)–the agency responsible for Amer’s arrest– is a black hole, accountable to no one, except possibly its paymaster, the US. One Jordanian lawyer told me, when I asked about the possibility of filing habeas corpus on Amer’s behalf, “There’s no such thing here. Our country is being maintained as a conduit to Guantanamo.”
Amer might sit indefinitely in detention without charges. Or he may be brought up at any time and charged with “terrorism” before the State Security Court, a rubber stamp court for the GID. If so, his lawyer might be told the charges a day or two before the sham trial, which then leads to inevitable conviction–a mere formality.
Only a concerted political campaign that gets widespread international attention can make any difference. It’s up to us to create enough visibility to make that possible.
Noah Cohen is active with the Amer Jubran Defense Campaign (freeamer.wordpress.com) and can be reached through the campaign at defense (at)amerjubrandefense.org.
SIGN THE JERICHO COINTELPRO PETITION!
Free All Political Prisoners!
Posted by Irishgreeneyes at 22:19