Monday, September 30, 2013

White Privilege, Racism, White Denial & The Cost of Inequality (Tim Wise)



14 Caribbean nations sue European countries for slavery reparations


Lawsuits seek reparations from Britain, France, Netherlands for their roles in Atlantic slave trade

Saint Vincent and Grenadines' Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves speaks during the 68th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters.
Mary Altaffer-Pool/Getty Images
Fourteen Caribbean nations are suing the governments of the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands for reparations over what the plaintiffs say is the lingering legacy of the Atlantic slave trade.
In a speech Friday at United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves said the European nations must pay for their deeds.
“The awful legacy of these crimes against humanity – a legacy which exists today in our Caribbean – ought to be repaired for the developmental benefit of our Caribbean societies and all our peoples,” Gonsalves said. “The European nations must partner in a focused, especial way with us to execute this repairing.”
The lawsuits – which are likely to amount to a lengthy battle – are being brought by The Caribbean Community, or Caricom, a regional organization that focuses mostly on issues such as economic integration. They will be brought to the U.N.'s International Court of Justice, based in The Hague in the Netherlands. It is not immediately clear when court proceedings will begin.
The countries will focus on Britain for its role in slavery in the English-speaking Caribbean, France for slavery in Haiti and the Netherlands for Suriname, a Caricom member and former Dutch colony on the northeastern edge of South America.
They have hired British law firm Leigh Day, which waged a successful fight for compensation for hundreds of Kenyans who were tortured by the British colonial government as they fought for the liberation of their country during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s and 1960s.
According to Martyn Day, a lawyer from the firm, the first step will be to seek a negotiated settlement with the governments of France, Britain and the Netherlands along the lines of the British agreement in June to issue a statement of regret and award compensation of about $21.5 million to the surviving Kenyans.
"I think they would undoubtedly want to try and see if this can be resolved amicably," Day said of the Caribbean countries, speaking to The Associated Press in July. "But I think the reason they have hired us is that they want to show that they mean business."
Caribbean countries Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda already have national commissions on reparations, and each country that does not have a commission has agreed to set one up. The 14 Caricom nations voted unanimously to wage the joint campaign, saying it would be more ambitious than any previous attempt.
In the United States, the idea of reparations has surfaced and disappeared numerous times.
After the end of the Civil War, about 400,000 acres of land along the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts was taken from former slave owners and set aside for freed slaves, who would each be granted a 40-acre plot of land to farm and make a living. It was the first attempt in the U.S. at reparations, and was reversed by President Andrew Johnson after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865.
Most recently in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama said he did not support reparations for the descendants of slaves, which put him at odds with the NAACP, The Urban League, the SCLC and about two dozen members of Congress who sponsored legislation to create a commission on slavery.
The House issued an apology for slavery in July 2008, and the Senate followed suit in 2009, but neither mentioned reparations. 
Caribbean officials have not specified a monetary figure for the lawsuits, but Gonsalves and Verene Shepherd, chairwoman of the national reparations commission in Jamaica, both mentioned the fact that Britain at the time of emancipation in 1834 paid 20 million pounds – the equivalent of 200 billion pounds today – to British planters in the Caribbean.
"Our ancestors got nothing," Shepherd said. "They got their freedom and they were told ‘Go develop yourselves.'"

Saturday, September 28, 2013

#InstantClassic KOTD - Rap Battle - Bonnie Godiva vs Young Gattas


One of the hottest commodities in the now upward trending field of female battle rap, Bonnie Godiva has seen her stock skyrocket as of late. Seen most frequently on Queen of the Ring, the Yonkers rapper has positioned herself nicely to continue growing her popularity. Posting impressive showings against opponents such as Steamz, Looney Divine and Germ Free, Bonnie has been reaching out to various other leagues to promote herself. Finally arriving on King of the Dot's radar for the Fresh Coast Takeover event, Bonnie showed out in her debut performance, warranting a spot on the legendary World Domination 4 card.
Likely the most well known active female battler, Young Gattas has proven time and time again that she is not only one of the best women doing it, but one of the best in general. One of the the only females to have battled a male opponent, Gattas' track record shows that she doesn't hesitate to take on any challenger. Managed by RapGrid founder Drect, Young Gattas came up in the GrindTime days, taking on opponents such as Tut, QB and Unorthodox Phrases. Distinguishing herself as a threat, Gattas has moved forward in her career by leaving body after body in her wake. Making her King of the Dot debut, Young Gattas takes on one of the other top rated femcees, Bonnie Godiva, in this epic clash from World Domination 4.


A frightening new weapons technology will let police and others tag people and identify them through DNA. The High Velocity DNA Tagging System consists of special guns that will allow police to tag and trace others.

The system works like this: A shooter fires a pellet into a person; the pellet contains a special synthetic DNA that enters the blood stream; police or anybody else can later test the person to see if it is the correct individual.
The system is made by a British company called Selectamark. The firm’s Managing Director (the British Equivalent of a CEO) Andrew Knights told reporters that it was designed for riot control work. Knights also stated that there will be pistol and rifle variations of the weapon available at some point in the future. The gun is similar in many ways to RFID smart guns, which Anthony Gucciardi has been sounding the alarm over for quite some time.


It’s pretty easy to see how this technology could be abused. Authorities could use it to tag protesters then target them for retaliation, such as arrest or job loss.
There are also the potential health risks; we don’t know what effect the synthetic DNA might have on the human body. Damage to DNA, the building blocks of life, can lead to many ailments, including cancer. Remember Agent Orange was supposed to be safe, but it wasn’t.
A final danger from this technology is that it could be used to inject other chemicals or synthetic DNA into the human body. I could imagine such pellets being used to deliver tranquilizer or mood altering drugs. Those drugs could be used to knock protestors out or simply make them more passive and easier to control.
Obviously, injecting people with mood altering drugs against their will would be a human rights violation. It is easy to imagine those who sign off on such travesties as drone attacks resorting to such methods.


The company behind this technology, Selectamark, is pretty frightening too. It manufactures “asset and property labeling systems,” such as those we see on vehicles.
One has to wonder if Selectamark is trying to create a human labeling system next. Such a system could be used to keep track of prisoners or even citizens in a city. The NSA geniuses that love to monitor all of our communications would undoubtedly welcome such technology. Once again, more technology is being abused to create new and better means of limiting our freedoms.



The National Security Agency operated a wide-ranging surveillance program that targeted critics of the Vietnam War and Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Recently declassified documents show that Martin Luther King Jr., humor writer Art Buchwald, Muhammad Ali, and the president of the Urban League were among the targets.

The operation, called MINARET, was supposed to try and find links between communist governments and American radicals, yet the NSA documents show that it targeted a wide range of Americans, including U.S. Senators Howard Baker and Frank Church. Baker, a staunch anticommunist, was an outspoken supporter of the Vietnam War. Church was a prominent Democratic Senator and a supporter of Lyndon Johnson’s domestic programs.


The same documents show that the NSA monitored the communications of Buchwald, who wrote a humor column for the Washington Post, and another prominent journalist, New York Times reporter Tom Wicker. Wicker and Buchwald were targeted because they were critics of the Vietnam War and President Lyndon Johnson. We, amazingly, see the exact same NSA spying tactics used today to target those who are critical of the government.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali were also targeted for their opposition to the Vietnam War. Many other opponents of the war were also targeted. Whitney Young, the head of the African-American group the Urban League, was specifically added to the MINARET list after voicing his opposition to the Vietnam War.


It’s also interesting to note that the NSA didn’t spy on Young while Lyndon Johnson was in the White House. Young was a political supporter of Johnson and an advisor to his administration. That indicates MINARET was motivated by politics, not national security.
Interestingly enough, the justification for MINARET was similar to that for more recent NSA surveillance. It was supposed to be monitoring communications in an attempt to detect terrorists. It’s hard to see how Martin Luther King, a Baptist pastor, a pacifist, and a believer in nonviolence could have been considered a terrorist.
It looks like the NSA has a long history of violating Americans’ rights for political reasons. It has a long history of extremely dubious activities. A lawyer that viewed the MINARET documents, declassified on Sept. 24, labeled them: “Disreputable, if Not Outright Illegal.”

Thursday, September 26, 2013

New trial for Marissa Alexander

                      BECAUSE THE PEOPLE TOOK ACTION!

Protesters point toward the Courthouse Annex building as they listen to speakers calling for the resignation of State Attorney Angela Corey on July 20, 2013, in Jacksonville, Fla.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A Florida appeals court is ordering a new trial for Marissa Alexander, the local mother now serving a mandatory 20 year prison sentence for a dispute with her husband.
Marissa Alexander new trial

The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that a judge did not properly instruct the jury handling the case.

Alexander's case earned national attention because she tried to use the Stand Your Ground law as a defense.

She claimed her husband was abusive and threatened her during a dispute in 2010.  She claimed she fired a gun in a wall near her husband and her two stepchildren as a warning.

The State Attorney's Office said Alexander's defense under Stand Your Ground was denied because a judge found she fired the shot in anger and not in fear.

Alexander was also offered a plea deal for three years in prison, which she refused.

A jury ultimately convicted Alexander on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.  She received the maximum sentence of 20 years.

The appeals court did also state that the judge was right to block Alexander from using the state's "Stand Your Ground" law as a way to defend her actions.
Her case in Jacksonville has drawn attention and criticism aimed at mandatory-minimum sentencing laws.

Alexander's Attorney Bruce Zimet said a news conference will be held soon in Ft. Lauderdale or New York.  His team is in the process of alerting Alexander of the overturn. 

The case of Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville mother of three, has been used by critics of Florida's "stand your ground" law and mandatory minimum sentences to argue that the state's justice system is skewed against defendants who are black.
The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that Alexander deserves a new trial because the trial judge handling her case did not properly instruct the jury regarding what is needed to prove self-defense.
The ruling, written by Judge Robert Benton, said the instructions constituted a "fundamental error" and required Alexander to prove self-defense "beyond a reasonable doubt."
But the court also made it clear in its ruling that the judge was right to block Alexander from using the state's "stand your ground" law as a way to defend her actions. That law generally removes people's duty to retreat in the face of possible danger and allows them to use of deadly force if they believe their lives are in danger.
Faith Gay, one of the attorneys representing the 33-year-old Alexander, said she was grateful for the "thorough consideration" provided by the appeals court.
"We are looking forward to taking the case back to trial," Gay said.
Alexander had never been arrested before she fired a bullet at a wall one day in 2010 to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her. Nobody was hurt, but the judge in the case said he was bound by state law to sentence her to 20 years in prison after she was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Alexander has maintained that the shot fired was a warning shot.
The sentencing sparked criticism from the local NAACP chapter and the district's African-American congresswoman, who said blacks more often are incarcerated for long periods because of overzealous prosecutors and judges bound by mandatory minimum sentences.
State Attorney Angela Corey, who oversaw the prosecution of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, has stood by the handling of Alexander's case. Corey said she believes that Alexander aimed the gun at the man and his two sons, and that the bullet she fired could have ricocheted and hit any of them.
Jackelyn Barnard, a spokeswoman for Corey, said that the conviction was reversed on a legal technicality and that the office was gratified that the "stand your ground" ruling was upheld.
Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, called the ruling a "welcome development in a case that represents the double standards in our justice system."
"From the streets to the courthouse, race continues to influence the judicial process, and it certainly seemed to have played a role here," Jealous said in a statement issued by the civil rights organization.
The state's "10-20-life" law was implemented in 1999 and credited with helping to lower the violent crime rate. Anyone who shows a gun in the commission of certain felonies gets an automatic 10 years in prison. Fire the gun, and it's an automatic 20 years. Shoot and wound someone, and it's 25 years to life.
On Aug. 1, 2010, Alexander was working for a payroll software company. She was estranged from her husband, Rico Gray, and had a restraining order against him, even though they'd had a baby together just nine days earlier. Thinking he was gone, she went to their former home to retrieve the rest of her clothes, family members said.
An argument ensued, and Alexander said she feared for her life when she went out to her vehicle to get the gun she legally owned. She came back inside and ended up firing a shot into the wall, which ricocheted into the ceiling.
Gray testified that he saw Alexander point the gun at him and looked away before she fired the shot. He claimed that she was the aggressor, and that he had begged her to put away the weapon.
The judge threw out Alexander's "stand your ground" self-defense claim, noting that she could have run out of the house to escape her husband but instead got the gun and went back inside. Alexander rejected a plea deal that would have resulted in a three-year prison sentence and chose to go to trial. A jury deliberated 12 minutes before convicting her.
Alexander was also charged with domestic battery four months after the shooting in another assault on Gray. She pleaded no contest and was sentenced to time served.
Supporters of Alexander have asked Gov. Rick Scott to pardon Alexander, but her case has not yet been taken by the state's clemency board.

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Duval County (49.9KB)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

U.S gun rights could be in the hands of other nations

The Associated Press is reporting that Secretary of State John Kerry will sign the United Nations Arms Treaty on Wednesday this week.
It is feared and predicted by many gun rights groups and advocates that the treaty, if ratified, could open up the US gun market to international regulation.
According to a letter written by CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gotlieb,
The uncertainty begins in the discussion of small arms. Where will the regulations on our small arms start, and where will they stop? They are even trying to include ammunition regulations in the Arms Trade Treaty! Will the United Nations try to impose international licensing requirements, an international registry, or international?
The last negotiations for an Arms Trade Treaty took place in July 2012, just four months before the Presidential election. Obama did not want to take a big stance for global gun control just months before his re-election but now he has made it clear he is for total gun control. He also told voters he would not be re-visiting negotiations for an Arms Trade treaty but here we are.
Since his re-election it has become clearer than ever what is at the top of his agenda; taking our guns away! The Obama Administration has been exploiting tragedies since the election to push gun control at the city, state, federal, and now GLOBAL level.
Our Senate took a stance before the Presidential election when 51 of them wrote Obama a letter saying they would not support an Arms Trade Treaty. We must let our entire U.S. Senate know we do not support international gun control. They must not ratify this international treaty.
Despite Kerry’s pending signature, don’t panic just yet. The treaty must also be ratified by the Senate, which is unlikely to happen in the immediate future.
In fact, in March, the Senate voted to keep the US out of the arms treaty by a vote of 53-46.
Treaties require a 2/3 majority vote by the Senate in order to be ratified, however, unlike regular bills, treaties do not have to be reintroduced for each session of Congress. This means the treaty could sit in committee until the Senate is more likely to pass it after future elections.
One particularly troubling part of the treaty is the process for amending it. Amending the treaty only requires a 3/4 majority vote of member nations. This means that US gun rights could be in the hands of other nations who take part in the treaty in the future, making the treaty a slippery slope.
As it stands, the treaty does not regulate gun ownership in the United States, but could immediately affect the availability and cost of foreign made guns and ammo if ratified. Also, as mentioned, the amendment process leaves the US open to having new gun control regulations imposed on it by a 3/4 majority vote of member nations.
The treaty will not take effect until at least 50 member nations sign and ratify it.

        Link:        John Kerry to Sign UN ARMS Treaty!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

FDA Finally Admits Chicken Meat Contains Cancer-Causing Arsenic

   Chickens raised for slaughter
After years of sweeping the issue under the rug and hoping no one would notice, the FDA has now finally admitted that chicken meat sold in the USA contains arsenic, a cancer-causing toxic chemical that’s fatal in high doses. But the real story is where this arsenic comes from: It’s added to the chicken feed purposely!
Even worse, the FDA says its own research shows that the arsenic added to the chicken feed ends up in the chicken meat where it is consumed by humans. So for the last sixty years, American consumers who eat conventional chicken have been consuming arsenic, a known cancer-causing chemical.
Until this new study, both the poultry industry and the FDA denied that arsenic fed to chickens ended up in their meat. The fairy-tale excuse story we’ve all been fed for sixty years is that “the arsenic is excreted in the chicken feces.” There’s no scientific basis for making such a claim, it’s simply what the poultry industry wanted everybody to believe.
Now the evidence is so undeniable that the manufacturer of the chicken feed product known as Roxarsone has decided to pull the product off the shelves. Interestingly enough, the manufacturer that has been putting arsenic in the chicken feed for all these years is Pfizer — the very same company that makes vaccines containing chemical adjuvants that are injected into children.
Technically, the company making the Roxarsone chicken feed is a subsidiary of Pfizer, called Alpharma LLC. Even though Alpharma now has agreed to pull this toxic feed chemical off the shelves in the United States, it says it won’t necessarily remove it from feed products in other countries unless it is forced by regulators to do so. As reported by AP:
“Scott Brown of Pfizer Animal Health’s Veterinary Medicine Research and Development division said the company also sells the ingredient in about a dozen other countries. He said Pfizer is reaching out to regulatory authorities in those countries and will decide whether to sell it on an individual basis.”
But even as its arsenic-containing product is pulled off the shelves, the FDA continues its campaign of denial, claiming arsenic in chickens is at such a low level that it’s still safe to eat. This is even as the FDA says arsenic is a carcinogen, meaning it increases the risk of cancer.
The National Chicken Council agrees with the FDA. In a statement issued in response to the news that Roxarsone would be pulled from feed store shelves, it stated, “Chicken is safe to eat” even while admitting arsenic was used in many flocks grown and sold as chicken meat in the United States.
What’s astonishing about all this is that the FDA tells consumers it’s safe to eat cancer-causing arsenic but it’s dangerous to drink elderberry juice! The FDA recently conducted an armed raid in an elderberry juice manufacturer, accusing them of the “crime” of selling “unapproved drugs.” Which drugs would those be? The elderberry juice, explains the FDA. You see, the elderberry juice suddenly becomes a “drug” if you tell people how it can help support good health.
The FDA has also gone after dozens of other companies for selling natural herbal products or nutritional products that enhance and support health. The FDA is also waging a war on raw milk which it says is dangerous. Currently in America, thee is a food and drug regulatory agency that says it’s okay to eat arsenic, but dangerous to drink elderberry juice or raw milk.
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New York Cop Steals Resident’s Pro-Second Amendment Signs




After a Somers, New York, resident discovered someone was coming on to his private property and repeatedly stealing his pro-Second Amendment signs, he thought up a brilliant plan to catch the perpetrator.
The gun rights advocate purchased a trail cam and placed it near the entrance to his driveway, where he placed his signs, and filmed away.
Sure enough, the sign was stolen again, but this time the homeowner had the evidence he needed to find out who the sign-thief was.
At first, the resident had suspicions the thieves may be one of his neighbors; an elder couple had complained about his “Repeal the New York SAFE Act” sign in the past.
As it turns out, however, the culpable party was a Somers police officer.

The resident, who goes by the handle “thecelt,” captured several photos of the officer arriving to his property, kicking over his sign and placing it in the back of his squad car. He also posted the whole riveting story on the forum right up until the moment he caught the bandit red-handed.
He did acknowledge throughout the 24-page thread it was technically a violation of town code to put signs within 15 feet of the road, but as another thread commenter noted, the ordinance subverts freedoms outlined in the First Amendment. Additionally, one of the town building inspectors had told him the sign was ok “for now.”
Numerous thread commenters have advised “thecelt” to pursue legal actions against the officer to the full extent of the law for committing any number of infractions, up to and including destruction of personal property, petty theft, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, and Petit Larceny.
According to the last thread post left earlier today, the man who had caught the sticky-fingered cop will begin responding to media requests.

High School AP History Book Rewrites 2nd Amendment


Guyer High School (and obviously several others) are complicit in attempting to condition students to interpret the 2nd Amendment in a clearly opposite manner in which it was intended. The 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th are also misinterpreted as several commenters below pointed out.
This textbook, currently being used by Guyer High School, is attempting to redefine the Second Amendment to impressionable young minds. Parents, you must speak up and demand action. Investigate your child's history book ASAP, and post more pictures in the comments below. Call your school and demand that revisionist history books like this are removed from the school district.

It is our duty to stop stuff like this.
Textbook version: "The people have a right to keep and bear arms in a state militia."
Actual 2nd Amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
Did you catch the sleight of hand?
A militia is a body of citizens enrolled for military service, and called out periodically for drill but serving full time only in emergencies. It's a common man army of citizens, NOT soldiers. The citizens are called up in emergencies to protect the free State.
The 2nd Amendment says that a militia is necessary to protect a free State, so in order to be able to have a militia, the citizens have a natural right to keep and bear arms and the government cannot infringe on that right.
The textbook version implies that we're only allowed to keep and bear arms if we're in a State militia, a clear misrepresentation of the 2nd Amendment.

A mother's pain and a tragic death


Cheryl Spear lost her son over a year ago, but the pain and the questions about his death won’t go away. She believes police mistakenly killed her teenage son. His body was riddled with 19 bullets, his mom isn’t sure why.

    Omarri Williams

ORLANDO, Fla. ( - What began as an exciting day filled with hope ended in a tragedy forever changing the lives of a still grieving mother, her new grandson, and a family with a haunting question: Was Omarri Williams murdered when three officers with the Orlando Police Department shot the 17-year-old last September?
Officers Alberto Negron, Travis Lamont and Ben Chisari riddled Omarri’s thin body with 19 bullets after receiving reports about a robbery. According to investigative reports, the officers fired more than 105 shots, five striking the teen’s head. The Orlando Police Department called the shooting justified. The department said Omarri fired a gun at the officers.

“They murdered my son and they’re supposed to serve and protect but all they did was they robbed, they stole and they killed and don’t even have no remorse for it,” Cheryl Spear, Omarri’s mother, told The Final Call during a visit to the place where her son died. The officers involved in the shooting were White, Black and Latino, she said.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which investigates officer-involved shootings, closed its case in May 2013 and the State Attorney’s Office ruled the shooting justified.

“The autopsy showed that my son had never shot a gun, had no gunpowder on him or anything,” Ms. Spear said.
Police said upon approaching the gated, upscale Camden Reserve apartment complex, they saw Omarri firing at them. The officers began shooting.
Cheryl Spear, mother of 17-year-old Omarri Williams, points to where police shot her son. Photo: Charlene Muhammad

Local news reports at the time indicated police could not confirm whether Omarri had fired a semi-automatic weapon found at the scene.
In addition, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy told The Final Call in a phone interview she did not see any gunpowder residue on Omarri’s hands or clothing. Dr. Jan Garavaglia, chief medical examiner in Orlando, said she did not perform a gunshot residue test and no request for the test was made by police. It’s not a very good test, because it says a person touched a gun or was near a gun when it fired, she said. “I did not see any gun powder residue on his hands. I didn’t put it in the autopsy because I didn’t see any,” Dr. Garavaglia said.
She also told The Final Call she would review the autopsy again to double check about gun powder residue tests. Dr. Garavaglia had not called back at Final Call presstime.

At press time, The Final Call’s question about whether Omarri’s fingerprints were on the gun officers said he used was also unanswered by officials. The Orlando Police Department denied several requests for interviews.
The Final Call also e-mailed Noel Piros, executive assistant to Richard Wallsh, 9th Judicial State Attorney, to request an interview about his office’s findings, to ask about fingerprints and how many excessive force incidents involving the Orlando Police Department had come before his office this year and a monthly breakdown of such cases.

On Sept. 19, Ms. Piros replied she had forwarded the requests to deputy state attorney Jeffrey Ashton and was awaiting his response. Four-days-later she told The Final Call deputy state attorney Ashton would not grant an interview.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Ashton has declined your request for an interview.  I believe this concludes our response to your public records request. If I am mistaken, please contact me immediately,” said Ms. Piros in a Sept. 23 e-mail.
In a separate e-mail in response to The Final Call’s further request for any public records the state attorney may have regarding Omarri’s fingerprints, Ms. Piros responded: “If (the) information you received from FDLE does not give details about the fingerprints from Mr. Williams, I am not able to answer that question. I have no documents except those from FDLE. There are no other public records in our possession related to the use of force investigation in this case.”

She also provided in the same e-mail letters from assistant state attorney M. Ryan Williams, clearing police officers of any misconduct. In the letters, the assistant state attorney said there were conflicting accounts from witnesses, but there was no wrongdoing by officers.

“The only inconsistent statements obtained by the FDLE investigators came from the civilians who initially contacted 911 as alleged victims of a purported armed robbery. Witnesses Jaime Moreno and Brandon Vega provided testimony indicating suspect Williams robbed witness Brandon Vega at gunpoint, but provided no reason for Williams doing so. Witnesses Victor Torres and Aracely Bruno—both acquaintances of suspect Williams—gave statements contradicting those provided by Moreno and Vega and indicating suspect Williams was blameless,” he wrote. 

These inconsistencies, however, had no bearing on the officers’ use of force since none of the civilian statements contradict the testimony of officers “in regards to hearing shots fired,” he concluded.
“They (police) accused him but they did the crime. They accused him of robbery but they did something far more than Omarri could ever do. It’s murder,” said the teenager’s mother.

Police reports listed the gun, which they said was stolen, as Omarri’s property but no registration information was cited. His mother wants to know if his fingerprints were on the gun. She told The Final Call she has been stonewalled by Orlando Police Department investigators and no representative of any investigating agency reached out to her with information about what happened.

The FDLE records found no disciplinary action relevant to the investigation about Omarri.
But in August 2012, a jury awarded $880,000 to an 86-year-old man after Officer Lamont broke his neck in 2010 in an unrelated case.

By June 2013, the police department had investigated 8 fatal officer-involved shootings in Orange County and Orlando, according to news reports.
“The recent increase in deadly force encounters occurring within the Central Florida area is of grave concern to this office as well as the community we jointly serve,” state attorney Ashton wrote in a June 14 letter to Orange County Police Chief Paul Rooney.

Tension between Orlando cops and Black community? 
“The relationship is horrible and it’s gotten worse between the police and the community,” said Antjuan Jefferson, a community activist in Orlando. Part of the problem is people have shot at police in recent months, he acknowledged.

“But why are people shooting at the police? A lot of it has to do with their aggravation, which started with an undercover Orlando Police Department task force. There’s been a lot of harassment, pulling people over for no reason, and it’s gotten out of hand and people are fed up,” Mr. Jefferson said.
While police and political leaders have tried to pull the community together to discuss the tensions, the people’s trust just isn’t there so they don’t show up, he noted.

“We as a community in Orlando need to come together. That’s the only way we’re going to stop the violence because anger on anger is never going to stop the violence,” Mr. Jefferson continued. 
He recommends holding events like the Sept. 7 Unity in the Community day of panels dedicated to youth, and smaller forums to help get people engaged about issues, such as the Omarri Williams case.
The NAACP Orlando Branch hadn’t heard about Omarri’s case before contact from The Final Call, according to Kran Riley, branch president. He plans to have someone check into it.

On activists’ concerns about a hostile relationship between Orlando police and the Black community, Mr. Riley said, “If you ask 10 people, you might get that but there’s a lot of facts behind it, too, you know. We look at both sides. We don’t uphold neither one.”

“Sometimes, on the streets, they’ll tell you one thing and it’s really not that. I’m not saying there’s not, in all agencies there’s problems. There’s no perfect agencies around,” Mr. Riley told The Final Call.
Changes in a son
Ms. Spear insists Orlando police officers made a mistake the night they killed her son and feels they should just admit it. 

Mother and son were both moving into new homes that day. Omarri was trying to earn and save money to take care of his unborn child and girlfriend. Ms. Spear didn’t know why at the time, but a definite change was taking place with her son.

They were almost settled into their new, separate places. That evening, Omarri was helping his mom move into a quiet, middle-class community. He paused to go buy a money order for his own rental deposit, Ms. Spear said. On his way back to her place, Omarri called for help, according to his mother.

“ ‘Mom. I’m lost. How do I get back to your apartment? This place is huge,’ Omarri said. I told him how to get back and then he said, ‘Mama, I’m getting wet.’ I said well, ‘take your shoes off,’ ” Ms. Spear said. She knew her son hated for anything to happen to his sneakers, so walking in Florida rain in bare feet was her advice.

As the call was ending, Ms. Spear said she heard gunshots through the phone and loud gunfire outside her apartment. “Right away I ran to try to see what was going on. I was telling the policemen, ‘Look. My son is down here and he’s lost,’ but they wouldn’t let me through. They wouldn’t let me see him,” she told The Final Call.
“As a mother, I felt it. I actually felt it and knew it was my son, though they wouldn’t tell me that it was,” she said. “They wouldn’t even tell me who had killed him, just that there was a robbery in progress.”

The next morning watching the 6 a.m. news, she learned Omarri was killed by police officers. Media also reported 2 robbery victims named Omarri as their assailant along with another man. Richard Calderon was arrested Sept. 12, and police say he told officers Omarri asked him to take part in a fake drug deal. According to Ms. Piros, Mr. Calderon was charged with six counts, three counts of robbery with a firearm and three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm. He pled no contest to the first count and in exchange, the other counts were dismissed, Ms. Piros said. He was tried and sentenced to just over 4 years in prison, Ms. Piros said.

“I told them it’s impossible. My son was on the phone with me. How would he be shooting a gun and robbing someone at the same time?” Ms. Spear asked.
Ms. Spear acknowledged Omarri’s once frequent marijuana use reported in the local media. She told The Final Call she didn’t want news media to think it could paint her son as a monster by embellishing anything or ambushing her with questions about something she already knew about Omarri.
In fact, the mother believes her son was robbed of money he had for a deposit on his new apartment. His girlfriend was pregnant. They were quietly preparing for their new life together, said Ms. Spear.
“I was trying to help him get a place. Never did they tell me that she was pregnant but he was trying to do some things before I found out. He was trying to make things right, to clean up his life, stop smoking, to be a daddy,” she said softly.

The days are long and rough for Omarri’s girlfriend and the mother of a young son. The baby’s mother stays depressed and this grandmother rarely sees her grandchild, said Ms. Spear.
“Omarri would have made a great dad. He loved kids. I think we all need justice. It would make the hurt go away a little,” she said.

Haunting images, flowers and prayers
Eyewitnesses, who requested anonymity, said police left the teen’s body in the rain, uncovered, from approximately 8:45 p.m. that night until 6 a.m. the next morning. 

One witness heard two shots right outside a window, but doesn’t know who fired the shots and whether it was Omarri or 32-year-old Calderon, who escaped that night but was arrested by police days later.
“When I walk out, I still see him with his feet sticking up, one tennis shoe sticking straight up in the air,” a male witness said, demonstrating Omarri’s final position in nearby bushes. “One shoe was off,” he said. 
Ms. Spear said Omarri had one sneaker on because he hated getting his shoes wet and had begun taking them off. 
She sat quietly, soaking up the witnesses every word and watching a demonstration by a female witness. The reenactment with a wooden stick on their dining table was the closest picture she’s received of her son’s last moments.

“And then when they told me he was 17 that really shook me up,” the male witness said. 
“I could still hear him (the witness) shaking when he’s sleeping, saying, ‘No! No!’” said the man’s wife. The shooting traumatized the man and the couple sometimes goes to the place where Omarri died to pray or lay flowers. 
“I thought it was overkill when they done it. I see different things on TV that the cops are in the wrong when it’s done. They could very well be in the wrong with that. They’re not perfect and nobody’s perfect,” said the male witness. 
“If this is not a case of excessive use of force then what is?” asked Kendrick Muhammad, student coordinator of the Nation of Islam Study Group in Orlando.
He’s concerned about Ms. Spear’s assertions that she has received no evidence, communication or a follow up about her son’s case from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or the State Attorney Office. According to Ms. Spear, she didn’t know the investigation was complete or that a ruling was issued, until told so by The Final Call in September 2013. 

“If this is accurate, in my view, they failed to follow up with Ms. Cheryl Spear as to the outcome of their investigation ... If it’s not the policy of FDLE or the 9th Judicial District State Attorney Office to send communication with an update on the outcome of their investigation then I think it should be a policy,” said Mr. Muhammad.
It was 8 months before Ms. Spear received information about the shooting. 

Attorney Beatrice Brown helped her to obtain Omarri’s autopsy April 2 through a freedom of information request. According to Atty. Brown, who had represented Omarri in an unrelated matter, the treatment and lack of information Ms. Spear has received since the incident isn’t typical. 
She also credits the City Attorney’s Office with obtaining the autopsy.
“I was finally able to press upon them ... It’s been all this time. What’s left to know? Omarri’s dead. The other man’s been charged. What else you’ve got to do?” Atty. Brown asked.

“Here’s this grieving mother and it was coming up on his birthday, and that’s why I give them credit. She’s saying, ‘Look, it’s my baby’s birthday coming up and I don’t even know what happened.’ And that’s just heartbreaking.” 
The authorities didn’t rush but they provided the autopsy, the former public defender continued. 
Atty. Brown doesn’t believe Omarri committed robbery with a firearm. “He had the baby coming and all of that,” she said.

“I want justice and some answers. The police won’t give me everything. They would not give me his phone, not his Louis Vuitton bag, which was mine. They didn’t give me his watch, nor his money. But they did give me his grill filled with blood,” said Ms. Spear.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Obama DOJ Asks Court to Grant Immunity to George W. Bush For Iraq War

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., (Aug. 20, 2013) — In court papers filed today (PDF), the United States Department of Justice requested that George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz be granted procedural immunity in a case alleging that they planned and waged the Iraq War in violation of international law.

Plaintiff Sundus Shaker Saleh, an Iraqi single mother and refugee now living in Jordan, filed a complaint in March 2013 in San Francisco federal court alleging that the planning and waging of the war constituted a “crime of aggression” against Iraq, a legal theory that was used by the Nuremberg Tribunal to convict Nazi war criminals after World War II.  
“The DOJ claims that in planning and waging the Iraq War, ex-President Bush and key members of his Administration were acting within the legitimate scope of their employment and are thus immune from suit,” chief counsel Inder Comar of Comar Law said.
The “Westfall Act certification,” submitted pursuant to the Westfall Act of 1988, permits the Attorney General, at his or her discretion, to substitute the United States as the defendant and essentially grant absolute immunity to government employees for actions taken within the scope of their employment.
In her lawsuit, Saleh alleges that:
– Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz began planning the Iraq War in 1998 through their involvement with the “Project for the New American Century,” a Washington DC non-profit that advocated for the military overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
– Once they came to power, Saleh alleges that Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz convinced other Bush officials to invade Iraq by using 9/11 as an excuse to mislead and scare the American public into supporting a war.

– Finally, she claims that the United States failed to obtain United Nations approval prior to the invasion, rendering the invasion illegal and an act of impermissible aggression.
“The good news is that while we were disappointed with the certification, we were prepared for it,” Comar stated. “We do not see how a Westfall Act certification is appropriate given that Ms. Saleh alleges that the conduct at issue began prior to these defendants even entering into office. I think the Nuremberg prosecutors, particularly American Chief Prosecutor Robert Jackson, would be surprised to learn that planning a war ofaggression at a private non-profit, misleading a fearful public, and foregoing proper legal authorization somehow constitute lawful employment duties for the American president and his or her cabinet.”
The case is Saleh v. Bush (N.D. Cal. Mar. 13, 2013, No. C 13 1124 JST).
See the attached certification, publicly filed on ECF / PACER system.
For further information contact:
901 Mission Street, Suite 105
San Francisco, California 94103