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Law and Murder in America John Burl Smith As a supporter of the National Day of Prayer and Protest on May 8th, the Saturday on before Mother’s Day, groups like Black Live Matter, Movement for Black Live, The Squad, Mothers Against Gun Violence, NAACP, Urban League, the National Action Network and many others are calling on Americans to pray for victims of gun violence and protest the refusal of Congress to enact meaningful gun control legislation to end the epidemic of mass shooting, and the wanton policing killing of unarmed Black people. We are coming together to not only raise our voices and march, but gather in churches, parks and homes to mourn and commemorate the huge toll of over 12,400 women, men and children who were killed, as a result of gun violence in the United States thus far in 2021 alone. An admonition from the last chapter of Ecclesiastes says; “Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor thy years draw nigh, when thou shalt say; I have no pleasure in them.” These words have little meaning or resonance for those “diehards,” who are totally committed to the past. They find no pleasure in or concern for the present. They see history through the rearview mirror, while speeding ahead to build roadblocks to stop the changes those who will live in today’s tomorrow, which they want to mimic their grandfather’s day. They would kill off an entire generation to return to a time that avoided recognizing the lies and harsh reality of those times, which they know only through history books. Remembering is the only way a society can improve itself and accommodate the hopes of those who must live with the decisions leaders today are making to keep young people from implementing changes that will build a sustainable society and world. I offer April 20, 2021, the day the guilty verdict against Derek Chauvin was rendered, which served as a classic example of the possibility of change. I felt such relief with that verdict because it offered hope that the long nightmare of police murders of black people would come to an end. Watching news reports, it seemed the world was taking a much needed sigh of relief!! However, in less than an hour my feeling of relief turned to dread, as news flashes sounded the alarm, announcing that a police officer killed a 16 year old black child Ma'Khia Bryant. Then came many attempts to “blame the black victim” to justify the total lack of empathy and restraint by what was supposed to be a well-trained officer. Before pulling the trigger “4 times,” there was no forethought of intervention short of “deadly force.” The fact that her weapon was a knife, which could have caused only superficial wounds if any, there was at least one other response a trained officer could have initiated. Perceiving black people as hostile, aggressive or any other behaviors, police respond to judge actions or violations as a death sentence for people of color. I frame this situation as “blame the black victim” because when white people engage in similar behavior, police exercise undue caution and have a totally different reaction or attitude and no lives are lost. Social media is replete or awash in videos of encounters showing unruly white men and women with white police. They show violent lawbreakers assaulting police, taking their clubs and beating them, some driving away from the scene, resulting in high speed chases, but during these encounters no shots are fired and do not end in the death of assailants. Such videos show verbal altercations, where police admit and verbally acknowledge the rights of white people to refuse to comply with instructions and no arrest are made. A few show assailants take police vehicles and escape without a single shot being fired. Moreover, not one of these encounters have police fire shots, let alone kill a single white person. I may have missed it, but I cannot recall one white person being killed in 2021. Contrarily, even white men involved in mass shootings that did not kill themselves were taken alive. Even more aberrant, following the 9 shooting deaths of prayers at the Emanuel Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, police took the murderer out to lunch. Although this social media information is available for comparison, not one police department, politician or media pundit, to my knowledge, offer the previously mentioned videos to highlight disparities between white and black death by police. Instead they offer ridiculous “blame the black victim” explanations, while ignoring black to white deaths disparities, as a reflection of racist police behavior. Implying the Biden administration will begin looking at such discrepancies, on Wednesday (4-21-21), AG Merrick Garland announced that the US Justice Department launched a “pattern or practice” investigation into the Minneapolis police department. He said, “Today, the Justice Department has opened a civil investigation to determine whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a ‘pattern or practice’ of unconstitutional, unlawful policing.” AD Garland continued, “It will examine the use of force by police officers, including force used during protests, and whether the department engages in discriminatory practices. It will also look into the department’s handling of misconduct allegations and its treatment of people with behavioral health issues and will assess the department’s current systems of accountability.” However, just 2 hours after the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, Columbus, Ohio police shot and killed Ma'Khia Bryant. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said in a Wednesday tweet, “Ma’Khia Bryant should be alive right now.” The Minneapolis Police Department is also being investigated by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which is looking into the police department’s policies and practices over the past decade to see if it engaged in systemic discriminatory practices. The concerns and conditions AG Garland outlined certainly fit Columbus, Ohio police department. It has logged several police killings of black men this year alone. Casey Goodson Jr. is at the top of the list. Columbus, Ohio’s latest data, which covers 2013-19, mapping Police Violence shows Columbus police killed 40 people 27 were black. Six years after the tragic police killing of 12-year old Tamir Rice, DOJ declined to file charges against the Cleveland police officers that murdered him. There are many surveys that list the number of black men, women and children killed by police across America and the numbers are staggering. One such account shows police in the U.S. killed 164 Black people in the first 8 months of 2020. The following are just a few of their names: (Part I: January-April): Tyree Davis, Chicago, Illinois, Tina Marie Davis, Spring Valley, New York, Jamarri Daiwon Tarver, Las Vegas, Nevada, Brandon Dionte Roberts, Cocoa, Florida, Kwame Jones, Jacksonville, Florida, Miciah Lee, Sparks, Nevada, Earl Facey, New York, New York, and Abdirahman Salad, Columbus, Ohio. What stands out about this list is some states names appear only once or twice, while states like North Carolina, Florida, New York, Georgia, Texas and Ohio appear at least 6 or more times for 2020. Anthony Brown Jr. was unarmed, when he was fatally shot by Pasquotank County, North Carolina by sheriff’s deputies, John Pena Montez, 57, was armed with a knife and threatening his estranged wife in a domestic disturbance was shot and killed by San Antonio police. They were among 6 victims of police killing following the Derek Chauvin verdict. It seemed the murder of Trayvon Martin, and the acquittal George Zimmerman (2012), followed by the fact that the officer that murder Michael Brown in Ferguson was not even charged, let alone indicted in Missouri (2014), seems to have unleased the murderous policing culture Black people are enduring in America. Murdering Black men accelerated exponentially and seem to occur almost daily somewhere in America. The thing is, most police murders of Black men are for non-felonious crimes, involving traffic stops, unconstitutional vehicle or personal searches, improper and unlawful demands for information or snap judgements about knives, which there are no laws prohibiting their possession or the ridiculous claim I thought he had a gun. Why doesn’t that happen to white men, who are known to carry guns and ride around with several displayed in their trucks? Speaking to that point 6 black men have died in 2021 because police thought a cell phone was a gun. Isaiah Brown, 32, is the latest victim shot by a deputy that gave him a ride home, while on the phone with 911. For all intent and purpose, police have become Judges and juries on the spot when Black people are involved and they issue death penalties without reprieves. All these factors are things AG Garland needs to address. It is a fact police do not respect the Constitutional Rights of Black and brown people. They have never believed the Constitution applies to Black people because of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1857. Today they continue to operate like slave catchers and act with impunity, while pole departments and police unions condone such behavior, as part of policing Black people. AG Garland’s probe in Minnesota must be extended nationwide to look first at states like North Carolina, Florida, New York, Georgia, Texas and Ohio, which have had an inordinate number of Black people killed by Police since 2012. Moreover, it should be made clear “snap judgments” by police involving non-felonious acts that result in the death of Black citizens will be investigated, as civil rights violations, with severe penalties.
National Day of Prayer and Protest Cast thy bread upon the water!!! My Name is John Burl Smith a disabled veteran, activist and author of “The 400th” From Slavery to Hip Hop; these are just a few of the honors I have achieved as a proud American citizen. However, there are many things I am not proud of as an American; the most prominent is the level of gun violence and gun culture that is growing across this country. It seems, as a nation, America is trying to return to the days of the late 1800 hundreds, everyone carried guns, when lynching and massacres of Native People were commonplace. The Gun Violence Archive says 147 mass shootings have occurred so far in 2021. Their definition of mass shooting is a minimum of four gunshot victims. President Joe Biden has announced a half-dozen executive actions to combat what he called an “epidemic and an international embarrassment” of gun violence in America. Moreover, AD Merrick Garland has ordered an overhaul of guns, especially “long gun” policy and definition. Both of these actions are sorely needed, American citizens need to reinforce government actions, by expressing their outrage with the current wave of mass shooting and the easy access to guns. I have joined with concerned citizens, activists and political leaders like Black Live Matter, Movement for Black Live, The Squad, Mothers Against Gun Violence and many others in calling for a national day of prayer and protest May, the on Saturday before Mother’s Day. We are coming together to not only raise our voices and march, but gather in churches, parks and homes to mourn and commemorate the huge toll of over 12,400 women, men and children who have been killed as a result of gun violence in the United States in 2021 alone thus far. These gatherings will call the names of victims and release balloons, with names attached to carry prayers and love aloft. This “National Day of Prayer and Protest” is just a small effort against the billions in blood money of advertising and political power of the gun lobby in America, but the mothers, fathers, siblings, friends and other loved one can say “NO” to murder and mayhem, we in America are enduring. We will never relent and surrender to those who live large on the blood money from death, pain and grief. We ask all Americans to sing, pray and protest with us on May 8th the Saturday before Mother’s Day. Someone needed to say this out loud (SOL).