788 posts categorized "Public Safety"

January 02, 2015

Public Servant of the Year: St. Louis Alderman Antonio French

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My choice for Public Servant of the Year is St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who came to my attention in August 2014 as I looked on Twitter for firsthand accounts of the street protests in Ferguson, Missouri following the death of Michael Brown. His Twitter handle (@AntonioFrench) kept coming up. Lauren Williams at Vox described French in action:

Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman, has been a constant presence in Ferguson, Missouri, since Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9. On Twitter and Vine, French has fearlessly documented the nightly protests. Friday night, after days of largely nonviolent demonstrations, a handful of what he calls "troublemakers" changed the tone and began looting several stores in the area. Read French's description of how he, local activist Anthony Shahid, and others tried to stop them, and why it was best for police to keep their distance and let the events play out....

In the photo below by Robert Cohen (@kodacohen) of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, French is helping to hold back some youths for their safety. French routinely put himself at risk to help others, and maintained a steady and reliable voice for justice. Kudos to him.

Antonio_French_at_demo

January 01, 2015

Putting It Together in 2015

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(Photo by See-ming Lee, United Nations Africa Renewal)

My look at the year ahead in LGBT activism is now up at Bay Windows. Here's an excerpt:

From a liberal perspective, 2015 promises continued fights against right-wing aggressions that include vagina policing and other gender-based discrimination; attacks on church-state separation; xenophobia; quackery disguised as science; biased profiling and excessive force by police; and criminalization of healthcare issues.

None of these will be resolved by the likely nationwide victory for marriage equality in the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus, in the words of Ella Baker, "We who believe in freedom cannot rest." Here are some thoughts for the work ahead.

Read the whole thing here.

Dan Savage on Leelah Alcorn's parents

He doesn't mean that literally, of course. But their treatment of their transgender daughter was tantamount to throwing her in front of that tractor trailer. A child is not a parent's property, to be sculpted or abused at the parent's whim. We are talking about a human being with a mind and spirit and life and talents and dreams of her own. We have to protect our youth better than that.

December 31, 2014

Our Lives Matter PSA

Yesha Callahan at The Root reports on this PSA about black boys being profiled by the police.

2014 year in review: Athletes and Ambassadors

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My year-in-review is now up at the Washington Blade. Here is an excerpt:

Military and international. The transition to openly gay military service has gone so smoothly it has generated little news. The fight to end discrimination against transgender service members continues; two dozen have been discharged in the past two years. The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lawsuit by Sexual Minorities Uganda against Scott Lively for crimes against humanity can proceed. In diplomatic news, Ted Osius III joined a growing list of openly gay envoys when he was sworn in as ambassador to Vietnam.

Health. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led 80 senators and House members in urging an end to the lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with men, calling for science to replace stereotypes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for wider use of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention, despite strong opposition by Michael Weinstein of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. There have been no new HIV infections among more than 500 Kaiser Permanente customers using PrEP. New York and the District of Columbia adopted rules forbidding health insurers from denying medically necessary treatment to transgender people. D.C. joined California and New Jersey in passing legislation banning "ex-gay" conversion therapy for minors.

Media. Schadenfreude was rampant after Sean Eldridge failed in his bid to buy a congressional seat and husband Chris Hughes provoked a mass walkout at The New Republic by sacking top editors. Hughes was faulted for wrecking a century-old magazine in his effort to create a "vertically integrated digital media company," that is, a word salad. Former TNR writer Jamie Kirchick at The Daily Beast dubbed them "America's worst gay power couple," but their youthful hubris and confusion of wealth for wisdom transcend sexual orientation.

Read the whole thing here.

December 28, 2014

The officer who did not turn his back

Kudos to the brave officer who resisted peer pressure and did not turn his back on Mayor de Blasio. He doubtless knows that having "the talk" with one's black son (see Springsteen, "41 Shots") is simply responsible parenting, not advocating violence against police.

December 22, 2014

Unity in mourning lost fathers

In the saddest of moments, a glimmer of hope for understanding and reconciliation.

Mayor de Blasio calls for suspension of protests in NYC

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(Photo by Seth Wenig/Associated Press)

Marc Santora at NYT reports:

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday called for protesters to suspend demonstrations in the aftermath of the killing of two New York police officers, who were gunned down in Brooklyn as they sat in their patrol car.

“It’s time for everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in due time,” Mr. de Blasio said in a speech. “That can be for another day.”

The mayor’s call came a few hours after the police commissioner, William J. Bratton, said that the killing of the officers on Saturday was a “direct spinoff of this issue” of the protests that have roiled the nation in recent weeks.

Dear protesters, ignore him and exercise your First Amendment rights of free speech and peaceable assembly (which, btw, do not disappear because police plant provocateurs). Dear Mayor, please grow a pair. The police union, Rudy Giuliani, and Fox News have cynically exploited the murders of two police officers by a suicidal madman to attack the protesters, the mayor, and President Obama. This amounts to saying that any criticism of police amounts to calling for them to be murdered. We cannot accept this pernicious logic. It is not the protesters who want to start a war, it is those among the police and their defenders who spew slanders in every direction. Calling for police reform is not calling for their murder. The lies must be responded to, not pandered to.

December 20, 2014

Two police officers killed by ambush in Brooklyn; suspect dead by his own hand

NYT reports the awful news.

I agree with Jeffrey Wright. Citizens and police must stand together against violence and for justice for all. Otherwise madmen, provocateurs, and sociopaths will rule the day. My heart goes out to the families of the slain officers, and all who are the victims of senseless violence.

Prosecutor in Ferguson case knew some grand jury witnesses were lying

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(Photo by Reuters)

Mike Hayes at BuzzFeed reports:

In his first interview since announcing Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the shooting of Mike Brown, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch told radio station KTRS that he allowed witnesses he knew were lying to testify to the grand jury.

As Shaun King at Daily Kos points out, the perjurer whose testimony most lined up with that of Wilson was Witness #40, who turns out to be a white supremacist named Sandy McElroy. No perjury charges are being contemplated.

McCulloch should be fired at minimum and possibly disbarred. This is not justice. Anyone who could defend him after this is not really disagreeing, they just don't give a crap. We cannot accept this.

December 19, 2014

Taliban's massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar

The massacre by Taliban members at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan a few days ago is so shocking I hardly know what to say. I provide the video above of Malala Yousafzai, who received her Nobel Peace Prize only days earlier. Defeating fanatics who are proud of killing children will not be easy. I am glad at least that the atrocity has united Pakistanis against the Taliban. It will be a hard struggle. Below are related articles from Time.

December 18, 2014

14-year-old exonerated, 70 years too late

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George Stinney, wrongly convicted and executed in 1944 at age 14 in South Carolina, was exonerated Wednesday by circuit court Judge Carmen Mullen. When he went to the electric chair, he was so small he had to sit on a phone book for the execution.

We do not have the knowledge of gods. There are too many people with motives to lie, to make false accusations, to seek out a scapegoat, to set an example. We should abolish the death penalty if only for this reason. It is good for Stinney's name to be cleared at long last; but his life was stolen. The sadness of this is beyond adequate expression.

December 16, 2014

Cleveland's Hawkins: 'A call for justice shouldn't warrant an apology'

Cleveland.com reports:

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins defended his wearing a "Justice for Tamir Rice" shirt during warm-ups before Sunday's game against the Bengals.

"My wearing of the T-shirt wasn't a stance against every police officer or every police department," Hawkins said. "My wearing of the T-shirt was a stance against wrong individuals doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason to innocent people."

Hawkins made the statement the day after Cleveland police union president Jeff Follmer called Hawkins' shirt "pathetic" and said Hawkins should stick to playing football.

Bravo, Mr. Hawkins.

December 15, 2014

Stop Corizon from running D.C. Jail healthcare

GLAA sent letters like this one to all D.C. Council members on Monday afternoon:



Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance
Fighting for equal rights since 1971
P.O. Box 75265, Washington, DC 20013


Monday, December 15, 2014

The Honorable Phil Mendelson, Chairman
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Chairman Mendelson:

We urge you to vote against the Office of Contracting and Procurement's recommendation to award the new five-year D.C. Jail healthcare contract to Corizon, a for-profit company with a bad track record.

This is especially scary for people with HIV, transgender people, and anyone with mental health or medical issues. Quality mental healthcare during incarceration is important to successful reintegration into society.

Continue reading "Stop Corizon from running D.C. Jail healthcare" »

December 11, 2014

December 13 - #Justice4All march in DC

December 07, 2014

Season's Bleedings

My column this week is about a travesty of justice in the Michael Brown case in Missouri. Here is an excerpt:

What is the fuss about? Succinctly: A police officer who was more an occupier than a protector used deadly force to subdue a jaywalker, then prosecutors presented the case for his defense.

As protests sprang up across the nation and overseas last week, Wilson resigned from the force. St. Louis County police shut down a vigilante operation by the Oath Keepers militia. Twenty-year-old Deandre Joshua was murdered during the unrest on the night of November 24. When President Obama said after the grand jury announcement, "[T]here are still problems and communities of color aren't just making these problems up," reactions from the right would make you think he had torched a storefront.

Carlton Lee, Michael Brown Sr.'s pastor, received dozens of racist death threats in recent weeks, and his church, far from the riots, was burned down as he was off trying to keep the peace. Vowing to rebuild at a Sunday service beside the ruins, he urged love in response to the haters.

It is an old struggle....

Read the whole thing here.

Banned from a gay dads' group for raising Michael Brown

Activist Doug Kerr writes at HuffPost:

Watching the events unfold in the suburbs of St. Louis that night, however, I felt a tremendous anger rise up in me as a father. I decided to post a comment in the group about how angry I was and how scary it feels to raise a black son in this world today. There are thousands of other black and white gay families raising black kids, and on a night like this surely they must also be feeling rage, fear and despair.

First the thread was shut down, then he was expelled. Shaking my head.

November 30, 2014

Calling out Don Lemon

CNN's Don Lemon has been embarrassing a lot of us lately with his stupid comments on a number of topics. His comments this past week from Ferguson were too much for one Charles Wade. More on this here.

Tweets of the times

Season's Greetings

Darren Wilson resigns, no severance package

November 21, 2014

Trump, unclear about his antecedents

November 20, 2014

Trans women tell GLAAD their experiences

In honor of Trans Awareness Week and the Transgender Day of Remembrance, our friends at GLAAD have released this video.

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2014

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The Transgender Day of Remembrance is being observed today around the world, as we can see in the photo above tweeted by Pepe Julian Onziema in Uganda. The observance in Washington, D.C. is at the Metropolitan Community Church at 474 Ridge St NW. Here's the description from the Facebook event page:

Doors Open at 6:00 PM - Program will start closer to 7:00 PM

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

According to The Transgender Day of Remembrance Website:

"The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn't perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who've died by anti-transgender violence."

November 18, 2014

On Bill Cosby

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(Photo by Evan Vucci, The Associated Press)

Bill Cosby has entertained generations of Americans with his comedy. He is an educator and has created memorable children's programming. His creation "Little Bill" always says "Hello friend" because that's what Ennis, his murdered son, always said. Cosby is a great philanthropist. One does not want to believe that such a beloved and respected figure is a serial rapist. But 14 alleged victims, one of whom he settled with out of court, coupled with his silence, make it hard to credit his lawyer's dismissals. Sadness is all over this; but the seriousness of the accusations raises troubling questions about wealth and fame putting someone above the law. I sure could have done without this news.

Here are several relevant items:

Update: A thoughtful essay from Katie McDonough at Salon.

'Dress for the job you have, not the job you want'

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What Mr. Oliver said. BTW, I want to meet the young man in that iconic August photo from Ferguson and tell him how awesome he is. He became John Lewis, Hosea Williams, and six hundred marchers in Selma, right there on W. Florissant. Awesome courage. And thank goodness photojournalists were there, also risking their lives to bring us the story.

November 14, 2014

Who are the real thugs?

November 03, 2014

D.C. lawyer Van Teasley murdered in Dominican Republic

Awful news today. D.C. Attorney Van Teasley, seen above in testimony from 2008 on the bias-related murder of Tony Randolph Hunter, was found bound, gagged, and strangled in his vacation home in the Dominican Republic.

GLOV Chair Paul Tupper writes:

It is with sadness that I share with you that a member of the GLOV family, Van Teasley, was found slain in his vacation apartment in the Dominican Republic on Friday. Rather than detail the circumstances of his death, which you can find online, I’m going to try to honor him by focusing on this contributions to GLOV and DC’s LGBT community.

In 2008, Van, a longtime Washington defense attorney, helped coordinate a candlelight vigil for Tony Randolph Hunter, a hate crime victim who eventually died from injuries suffered during his attack. Many of you may remember that the case sparked outrage in DC’s LGBT community because of how the case was investigated by the police and how it was handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The assailant was eventually offered a chance to plead guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge, for which he served the maximum sentence of six months in jail. During this time Van also joined GLOV leadership in testifying before the City Council at a Judiciary Public Hearing on Hate Crimes, articulating how such crimes and how they are often mishandled have long-lasting impacts on our community.

In full disclosure, I never met Van. But as I research him and his work with GLOV, it’s clear to me that his contributions continue to be the blueprint for which we advocate for DC’s vulnerable citizens. I understand he was much loved by many and won’t be soon forgotten. He will forever hold an important place in GLOV’s history. Please keep him and his loved ones in your thoughts during this very difficult time.

If you knew Van and would like to share stories about him, I invite you to do so on GLOV’s Facebook page.

We can take inspiration from Van's eloquent cry for justice on behalf of Tony Hunter. Whether justice can be obtained in his case remains to be seen. In the meantime, our hearts go out to his family and friends. That such hatred continues to kill us is a sobering reminder of the work that remains. Let us channel our outrage into conquering the hate, even if the lives we save are people we never know.

October 30, 2014

Woman who made video about catcalling is getting rape threats

This is very disturbing, even though you would have to be living under a rock to be surprised. Kelsey McKinney writes on Vox:

This video wasn't made for women facing harassment. It was made for men who remain blissfully unaware of how women are treated when they walk down the street. But instead of listening, instead of taking the time to realize how women might feel when men yell at them, these commenters — backed by their anonymity and privilege — have threatened to rape Roberts for daring to talk about it.

Let's lay this out in plain terms. Women are forced to feel uncomfortable and scared for walking down the damn street. Then, when one woman takes the time to show just how uncomfortable those interactions are, people threaten to physically assault her. If the video reminded us that women are constantly made to feel unsafe when they leave the house, the response is a reminder that women are constantly made to feel unsafe when they simply turn on their computer.

The problem here isn't just that men are ignorant of how women are treated. The problem is that many know exactly what they're doing to women, and will try to intimidate and silence women who try to fight back.

Harassment is not a compliment. It is easy to dismiss complaints of this kind of treatment if you are not routinely subjected to it. We need to check our privilege.

I was about to copy a tweet from @Hollaback, the producer of the video, but its Twitter account has been suspended. This appears to illustrate the reality of our misogynistic culture: Men who are called on their sexist and harassing behavior often react angrily and try to silence those who call them on it. Claims of fraud etc. are part of their arsenal. We are so far from done in pushing for equality. We need to defend our sisters.

Now this: Catcalling video edited out the white guys.

And this parody.

October 27, 2014

GLAA: racial disparities in police stops must end

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(Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Today I will testify on behalf of GLAA at an oversight hearing of the D.C. Council Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety on the Metropolitan Police Department's stop and contact policies and procedures. In it I cite findings and recommendations by our allies in the ACLU and NAACP. Here is my conclusion:

In looking at citizen complaints of police practices, we keep coming back to disparities by geography, race, and class. This is unacceptable. As I wrote in 2012, "It is easier to make excuses for stopping and frisking if you are never targeted by police based on your skin color."

Not only police but citizens in all eight wards must face the inequities around us with open eyes. When the law is not enforced in a fair and equitable manner, we undermine respect for the law. The standard carved above the entrance to the Supreme Court, "Equal Justice Under Law," is more a mockery than a reality for all too many. Dr. King issued the challenge the day before he was struck down: "All we say to America is be true to what you said on paper." If his words continue to sting, perhaps it is because love of country is all too often an excuse for self-congratulation instead of a call to self-correction.

Read GLAA's full testimony here.

October 09, 2014

Civil Forfeiture

Introducing Law & Order: Civil Forfeiture Unit, starring Jeff Goldblum. This is funny, but the problem is real, and it is appallingly arbitrary and unjust. Police departments are enriching themselves simply by seizing people's cash during stops and keeping the money without charging the people with a crime, based on arbitrary and evidence-free claims like, "No one carries that much cash for an honest purpose."

September 25, 2014

"Why did you shoot me?"

Yet another example of (1) the boneheaded recklessness of some cops, and (2) the value of dash cams. The ghost of Oscar Grant, on the platform at Fruitvale Station, is in the room.

September 23, 2014

Philadelphia police wrapping up investigation into attack on gay couple

Aubrey Whelan and Mike Newall at The Philadelphia Inquirer report:

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said Monday that the department has concluded its investigation into a Center City assault that left a gay couple seriously injured - and that the District Attorney's Office is now reviewing the case.

"We feel that there is sufficient evidence to have charges placed against some of the individuals there," Ramsey said in an interview.

As prosecutors review differing accounts of the Sept. 11 incident, the case has spurred calls for changes to the state's hate-crime statute, which does not cover crimes motivated by sexual orientation.

On Monday, Ramsey also said he supports modifying the state law, which he said "needs to change, and change very quickly."

Ramsay is D.C.'s former police chief. He received GLAA's Distinguished Service Award from Frank Kameny in 2007.

September 11, 2014

13 years ago today

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(Photo courtesy U.S. Public Safety News & Events)

In lower Manhattan last night, a tribute in lights on the eve of today's 9/11 anniversary. Among the legacies of that awful day have been reckless military adventures abroad and threats to civil liberties here at home. Citizen, awake!

August 28, 2014

Colbert Report: Outrage in Ferguson

Jon Stewart on #Ferguson: Race/Off

Excessive Force

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(Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

My column this week discusses the police abuses and racial injustice exposed by a recent police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. Here's an excerpt:

When civil disorder followed the fatal shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, it was fueled by police aggression that exacerbated existing community mistrust.

Ferguson police, overwhelmingly white in a community two-thirds black, offered a case study in how not to handle lawful protests. While failing to release a proper incident report and initially withholding Wilson’s name, they put out information to imply Brown deserved his fate. Never mind the double standard whereby (say) gun-waving white radicals like Cliven Bundy in Nevada are spared deadly force.

As police innovated daily escalations (infringing First Amendment freedoms, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at reporters and peaceful protesters), community leaders including Alderman Antonio French urged restraint, blocked looters, and transmitted events on social media. Capt. Ron Johnson of the state highway patrol showed maturity by replacing riot gear with respectful community engagement, though events (and some headstrong officers) outflanked him.

Live tweets and subsequent reports reveal belligerent officers with a history of abuse. While demonstrators chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” outsiders instigated violence that gave police an excuse to “drop the hammer,” as SiriusXM radio host Mark Thompson put it. A Missouri GOP official called on-scene voter registration efforts “disgusting.” So pointing guns at protesters is not a provocation, but registering voters is?

Read the whole thing at Metro Weekly.

August 25, 2014

Michael Brown's funeral service

Video of Michael Brown's funeral service, held Monday at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis. May he rest in peace.

New Yorker cover: Ferguson, MO

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Beautiful New Yorker cover this week, by Eric Drooker. Hands up, don't shoot.

August 22, 2014

News outlets misgender Detroit shooting victims

Raw Story reports.

Oh dear lord.