Demonstrations continue in the US. Ulcerated by the fact that the police officers responsible for the death of two young unarmed blacks Ferguson (Missouri) and New York were exempted from prosecution, thousands of people marched on Thursday, December 4, in New York, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Oakland, Sacramento, chanting “Black lives matter,” contrary to what seem to think the local police and juries (grand juries) that allow to kill them with impunity.
In Washington, protesters blocked a roundabout near the White House, but President Barack Obama has not responded to the New York judgment, happening ten days after that of Missouri. His attorney general Eric Holder, who resigned – and plans to take his retirement to found an institute for racial justice – happened to be in Cleveland (Ohio), scene of another blunder, which saw a 12-year-old Tamir Rice, in possession of a toy gun, killed by police on November 22. Mr. Holder has denounced the use of “excessive” use of force by the Cleveland police, already described by a federal investigation launched in March 2013, after a series of incidents.
The Minister of Justice US denounces the methods of the Cleveland Police
The US Secretary of Justice, Eric Holder on Thursday, December 4, slammed the “excessive” use of force by the police of Cleveland, citing the results of a federal investigation. This statement is made shortly after Tamir Rice, black 12 year old boy was killed by a policeman while he was handling a toy gun in a playground in the city.
The survey, launched in March 2013, evaluates the use of force practices in the Cleveland police, where several major incidents were recorded in the past. “The investigation concluded that there was reason to believe that the police of Cleveland is committed to customary practice of unreasonable and unnecessary force in violation of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution” said the minister, himself black, visiting Cleveland. The Ministry of Justice and the City of Cleveland agreed on a series of reforms to be implemented.
Mr. Holder has embarked on a tour of some policies of the country after the death of many black Americans in interventions by white policemen. This declaration came a day after the announcement by a grand jury in New York that a white police officer would not be charged after the death of a black father. However, the government has opened a federal investigation into possible civil rights violations. Last night was marked by demonstrations without major incident in Manhattan, during which 83 people were arrested.
Moreover, as a result of this ruling, the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon on Thursday urged the United States to ensure that their police responded in a more accountable way. The UN Committee against Torture had already denounced in a report excessive use of force by US police and police firing against unarmed blacks. The report followed the death of Michael Ferguson Brown, an unarmed African-American aged 18. The white policeman who killed the teenager was not prosecuted.
In Arizona, police officer kills a black suspect who was unarmed
In the streets of Phoenix (Arizona), where an unarmed black man was killed by police during his arrest Tuesday, people marched in protest of police impunity.
After Ferguson, Cleveland and New York, it was the turn of the city of Phoenix, Arizona, to be the site of a new scandal of police violence. A 34 year old black man suspected of selling drugs was killed on Tuesday by a white police officer, said Phoenix police on Thursday, 4th December.
This announcement came as thousands of protesters had gathered again in the evening in New York and in several US cities to protest against the decisions of two grand juries that have exempted from prosecution of police officers responsible for other deaths caused by irresponsible behaviour of police officers.
Two hundred protesters marched to the headquarters of the Phoenix police after the death of Rumain Brisbon requesting identification of the policeman who shot him.
As in Ferguson and New York, the victim in Arizona was not armed. According to a police report, Rumain Brisbon tried to escape and refused to obey “several orders” said the white policeman, whose name was not disclosed. The police officer is 30 years old but has seven years’ experience, according to the official source.
The officer first spotted Mr Brisbon sitting in a car in front of a grocery store. Witnesses said that the occupants were drug traffickers. The officer then called for reinforcements and saw Rumain Brisbon take something in the back seat of the car. He then asked him several times to put his hands in the air, but the man moved a “live up to its size” before fleeing.
The officer caught up in the fight and he said he felt a gun in your pocket or hand the suspect was diving. “The officer ordered the suspect several times to get to the ground but he refused to comply, shouting nonsense,” said the police in a statement. Both were later found in a building lobby. “Fearing that Brisbon had a gun in his pocket, the officer fired two shots that hit Brisbon torso,” it continues. The latter was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after the arrival of firefighters and police reinforcements.
“He did not carry weapon and threatened no one”
The pocket of Mr. Brisbon actually contained an oxycodone pill box, a powerful and addictive painkiller sometimes used as a recreational drug. A semi-automatic pistol and a box containing what appears to be marijuana were also found in the car.
The officer was not injured and the reinforcements he had called arrived after the fact. The spokesman for the Phoenix Police Trent Crump said at a news conference on Wednesday that “despite the unfortunate outcome of this case, the officer did exactly what he is asked to do,” says NBC News.
Mr. Brisbon was known to police and was charged with assault and robbery, said the Phoenix court.
Marci Kratter, a Phoenix lawyer representing the family, said that there were “several witnesses who dispute the version of the police.” “It’s a tragedy. He had no weapon and did not threaten anyone. We are considering all the possible consequences under the law,” she added. Mr Brisbon was the father of four children.
Brandon Dickerson, who said she was in the car with Rumain Brisbon before the violence, who had witnessed some of the incident, told the Arizona Republic newspaper that Mr Brisbon was there because he was about to deliver meals from fast food to the children in their apartment.
During a press conference shortly before the decision of the grand jury on Wednesday morning, Bill Bratton, the chief of the New York Police, said he hoped the events would be peaceful, while stressing that the police were preparing for any eventuality. “We had a little time to prepare for the events to be held here in the coming days,” he said. He stressed that to ensure that people can express their opinion, the police would “take strong action” against those who would use the demonstrations to break the law.
The most important event took place in New York, where 83 people were already arrested on Wednesday. Strangled in August during a violent arrest by six police officers while he was unarmed and had been only selling cigarettes on the sly, Eric Garner, 43, asthmatic, has become the emblem of racial inequality to justice. His last words, “I cannot breathe”, featured in an amateur video, have become in a few hours the rallying cry of a youth disgusted by the injustices and, as in the 1960s becomes the cause for the black youths to flood the streets. On social networks, the “I cannot breathe” Eric Garner was added to the “Hands up, don’t shoot” launched on August 9 by Michael Brown before being killed, slogan repeated throughout the country, of the football team St. Louis Rams to the African-American members of Congress.
The authorities do not know how to stop this unrest, especially as burrs continue to multiply. On Thursday, December 4, it is in Phoenix (Arizona) that a police officer shot a 34-year-old unarmed. Police said Rumain Brisbon refused to obey the orders of the police officer who tried to arrest him under the suspicion of drug trafficking. The officer “believed to have felt the butt of a revolver,” and he shot twice. Rubain Brisbon actually carried no weapon. And he was black.
On December 1, Obama announced a $263 million program (€212 million) to equip the police. These measures include funding to equip with cameras mounted on patrol uniforms, technological response smudge. These cameras were to be put in place precisely on Friday, December 5 in New York in three pilot stations.
Figures in US policy call for a reform of the judicial system
In her first reaction to the verdicts of juries of Ferguson and New York, Hillary Clinton, likely candidate for president in 2016, said on Thursday that the US criminal justice system was “unbalanced” at the expense of blacks. She said the federal government should not fund the purchase of “weapons of war” by the police. She called for a reform of the US penal system.
“Despite all the progress made on the whole, blacks, especially men, are more likely to be stopped and searched by police, convicted and sentenced to longer sentences,” said Hillary Clinton.
She is a Democrat, it is conservative. And they may face in 2016 the US presidency. But after the turmoil sparked by the dismissal of two white police officers who killed two black men, unarmed, one in Ferguson, the other in New York, Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul have both called for a reform of the US judicial system on Thursday, December 4.
“Each of us has to think hard truths about the color of the skin and justice in the United States,” said Ms Clinton in a speech before the Massachusetts Conference for Women in Boston. “For despite all the progress made on the whole, blacks, especially men, are more likely to be stopped and searched by police, convicted and sentenced to longer sentences.”
While paying tribute to police officers who are doing their job, Hillary Clinton called for a reform that “federal funds in charge of local police forces are used to promote good practices, and not buy weapons of war that have no place in our streets and lead to the use of force or unnecessary arrests.”
The Democrat, who spent an hour in the Oval Office on Wednesday with Barack Obama, supported the US president, who had launched a working group to improve links between police and local communities. Hillary Clinton, 67, is best placed for presidential Democratic primary in 2016 but has not declared her intentions. Her schedule includes speeches made until February, and observers have concluded that no nomination would take place by then.
Support Rand Paul
For his part, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky – unofficial contender for the 2016 election and potential adversary of Hillary Clinton – agreed with her words. “We gladly accept her involvement if it is to join us to defend this proposal [to reform the penal system] he said on CNN. I work with Senator [New Jersey Democrat] and other Democrats on this issue. She is welcome to join.”
Rand Paul is among the conservatives who hunt on the ideological terrain of the American left, feeling the need to review the judicial treatment of convicted drug use.
On July 17, Eric Garner, suspected of illegal cigarettes retailing in New York, died after being strangled and then thrown to the ground by a white police officer, Daniel Pantaleo and his colleagues. A grand jury decided on Wednesday not to send them to the official court.
Ten days earlier, in Ferguson, Missouri, a grand jury acquitted a white police officer, Darren Wilson, who killed during an altercation unarmed Michael Brown on August 9. Both decisions have led to demonstrations across the country.
Confidence problem with police
“There is a tension, real problems. They think that the police are neither fair nor impartial. They have no confidence at all in us and we have to fix it,” said Thursday Charles Ramsey, head of the Philadelphia police. Barack Obama told him on Monday to chair a working group to make recommendations to restore that confidence. Ramsey shares the presidency with Laurie Robinson, a professor at George Mason University, in Virginia, and former deputy minister of justice.
On Thursday, US Secretary of Justice, Eric Holder, has criticized the use of “excessive” use of force by the police when he presented the findings of an investigation in March 2013, which was relaunched last month by the death of a 12 year old child killed by police while he was playing with a toy gun.
For the second time in less than ten days, a US grand jury decided on Wednesday, December 3, not to pursue a white police officer involved in the death of a black suspect. A popular assembly of Staten Island, New York, estimated that Daniel Pantaleo should not be charged for the death of Eric Garner, whom he had tried to stop on 17 July. Another grand jury had decided similarly, on November 24, about the officer who fired in August shots at Michael Brown, a teenager in Ferguson (Missouri), whose death had caused a series of violent demonstrations.
Mr Garner, 43, was suspected of illegal sale of cigarettes. The father of six children was the subject of a violent arrest. The scene was filmed by an amateur videographer. We see several police officers arrest him, one of them putting his arm around the neck of Mr. Garner to force him to the ground. The man, overweight and with asthma, complained of not being able to breathe, before losing consciousness. After being taken to hospital, he was declared dead a few moments later. The medical examiner concluded a homicide, by strangulation of police.
“Licence to kill a black”
“The grand jury found that there was no reasonable cause to vote for an indictment,” said the attorney of Staten Island, Daniel Donovan, while the popular assembly proceeded with the hearing of sixty witnesses. “Oh my God, are you serious?” Exclaimed the widow of the victim, Esaw Garner, upon hearing the news. “You can see in the video that the cop is completely in the wrong,” she told the Daily News. For the father of the victim, Benjamin Carr, this decision “is just a license to kill a black man”, saying that the judicial system “is worthless.” Nevertheless, he called for calm.
Rallies were formed around New York: Staten Island, in the district of St George, near the site of the tragedy, as in Manhattan, with the slogan “I cannot breathe” (the last words of Eric Garner). In the Grand Central Station, as well as the Sixth Avenue, several dozens of protesters were lying on the ground in silence, in solidarity with the victim. Despite some arrests, demonstrations were held peacefully.
The Minister of Justice, Eric Holder, announced on the evening of the opening of the federal courts for them to be “independent, deep, fair and timely.”
In Washington, Barack Obama reacted to the decision of the grand jury saying: “When someone is not treated equally under the law, it is a problem and it is my job as president of the country to solve it.” The Justice Department also announced on Wednesday night the opening of an investigation for violating federal civil rights in this matter, longstanding request from the family of Eric Garner, says Washington Post.
Daniel Pantaleo also expressed himself through a statement: “I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” he said. That was never my intention to harm anyone and I feel terrible about the death of Mr Garner. My prayers are for him and his family and I hope they will accept my personal condolences for their loss. “Since the tragedy, the police officer was stripped of his gun and police badge. He remains suspended until the outcome of an internal investigation to be made.
This case comes as the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, who took office in January, presented as a priority the reform of police practices to recreate trust with communities, including Hispanic and black ones. “Violence will get us nowhere,” said Mr. de Blasio at a press conference in Staten Island on Wednesday, calling for the name of Eric Garner’s name not to become a chant of violence.
But anger continued to rumble through the streets of New York on Thursday, December 4 in the evening. Following the decision of a grand jury not to prosecute Daniel Pantaleo, there were still thousands massed in Foley Square, in the south Manhattan to protest against what they called denial of justice.
While the procession swelled, the police closed the main tunnel connecting Manhattan to New Jersey, televisions showing thousands of protesters massed in the west of Manhattan.
According to media reports, demonstrations were also held in Chicago, Boston, Baltimore. In Washington, a hundred people were blocking an intersection to a roundabout near the White House.
Already on Wednesday night, hundreds of people gathered in New York and other cities to protest against the court decision that exonerated the police who strangled Eric Garner, suspected of reselling the cigarettes illegally. An amateur video showed the suspect grabbed by the neck, pinning him to the ground. Eric Garner, asthmatic, complained of not being able to breathe. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after admission.
The placards of protesters read on Thursday night: “Black lives count”, “Racism kills” or “Ferguson is everywhere.”
These two decisions have opened a debate in the country about police violence, including victims from the black population. Barack Obama notably proposed to equip the police board with cameras.
Officers from Ferguson and New York are, however, not immune to any further proceedings: two federal investigations have been initiated to determine whether the civil rights of the victims had been violated.
On Thursday night, the US Secretary of Justice, Eric Holder, admonished the Cleveland (Ohio) police, who use “excessive” force, according to a federal investigation. Charles Ramsey, head of the Philadelphia police, charged by Barack Obama to make a report on the relationship between the police and minorities himself has estimated on Thursday that the police should address the “trust deficit.”
The mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, himself has announced that the city’s police officers will undergo a multi-day training assignment to learn how to manage certain conflicts. “People need to know that the life of blacks is as important as that of whites,” he insisted.