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  1. The Baltimore Rebellion: Some photos and a brief reflection on a march

    May 4, 2015

    It’s embarrassing to admit but my knowledge prior to the outbreak of the Baltimore Rebellion was limited more-or-less what I gained from watching The Wire. Like thousands of others, I have been profoundly inspired by the growing rebellion against racism and police terror, Baltimore being another eruption in a growing continuum of uprisings over the past several years. I wanted to see what was happening in Baltimore for myself and went down on Saturday with several comrades.

    The Friday announcement that the six officers responsible for the death of Freddie Gray filled me with emotion. While small relative to the scale of the violence human suffering imposed by the police, the indictments constitute a welcome victory.

    In that vein, the rally and march on Saturday from City Hall to Sandtown felt like a victory march. Tens of thousands demonstrated with a sense of confidence that I have not ever seen before. Most of the people I spoke with argued that the rebellion had secured the indictments of the six officers who murdered Freddie Gray, against the claims of the self-styled “practical” politics of establishment officials and their apparatchiks in the non-profit sector that protest should be polite and mediated through the proper channels. There was just as much recognition, however, that there is still a long campaign ahead through the trial — not to mention the continued curfew and National Guard occupation (the curfew has since been lifted and the National Guard has reportedly begun to withdraw).

    As we marched, I was captivated by the familiar landscape. Large grassy fields spread across the neighborhoods outside the city center, marked throughout with abandoned and boarded up houses, apartment buildings, and storefronts. It reminded me very much of Detroit.

    Seeing tens of thousands of people confidently march through such a space was moving for me. I hadn’t consciously thought it before, but I realized during the march that I had never fully expected to see anything like this. While I routinely argued against the assumption that such mass mobilizations are no longer on the agenda in a so-called “post-industrial” cities like Detroit and Baltimore, I had taken the core premises of the position for granted. Naturally, these assumptions are not entirely foolish or without important kernels of truth: a rebellion requires both people and resources that such cities and spaces usually lack. What’s been happening in Baltimore, however, proves that the matter is much more complex.

    There’s a lot more to reflect on with regard to the significance of the Baltimore Rebellion and there have been plenty of people more well suited than myself who have done the work to begin that discussion. So I’ll sign off here and share some photos that I took from Saturday’s demonstration.

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  2. Obama: NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly “Well-Qualified” to lead Homeland Security

    July 19, 2013

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    President Obama has said he’s eying New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to replace Janet Napolitano as the head of Homeland Security.

    “Ray Kelly’s obviously done an extraordinary job in New York,” Obama told reporters. “I think Ray Kelly is one of the best there is. He’s been an outstanding leader in New York. Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is, but if he’s not I’d want to know about it, because obviously he’d be very well qualified for the job.”

    During his tenure as the NYPD Commissioner, Kelly has consistently been under fire for overseeing the notorious stop-and-frisk program.  According to data released by the NYPD (which has to be made public as part of a lawsuit), there have been over 5 million stop-and-frisks in New York City. Nine out of every ten people stopped are completely innocent. Over 80% of those stopped are Black and Latino.

    Not only does the data reveal clear racial discrimination, but Kelly defends it.  “About 70 to 75 percent of the people described as committing violent crimes,” Kelly told reporters last March. “So really, African-Americans are being understopped in relation to the percentage of people being described as being the perpetrators of violent crime. The stark reality is that a crime happens in communities of color.”

    These aren’t just casual stop and chats, but often are very violent, and laden with overt racism.  Watch below:

    The choice of Kelly is not only disturbing, but perplexing.  As Colorlines points out, “Kelly’s stop-and-frisk policy is being challenged in federal court by the Center for Constitutional Rights right now. Obama’s own Justice Department may be sending in a federal monitor to ensure that NYPD stops racial profiling.”

    Last month, Colorlines editor Kai Wright drew out the connection between the growing surveillance state and stop-and-frisk, writing:

    “The logic used to defend secretly collecting the communications data of people not accused of any crime is the same logic used to defend NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program and Homeland Security’s deportation apparatus. The logic of “national security” was developed and honed by law enforcement practices inside communities of color. It is one of the more striking examples of a basic truth: racial injustice is cancerous; it eats the national body from the inside out.”

    So is this what we can expect from a DHS headed by Commissioner Kelly? The implications are truly disturbing.

    Alongside stop-and-frisk, Ray Kelly’s tenure as NYPD commissioner has also been marked by the revelation that the department used explicitly Islamophobic films as part of police training, created a program targeting Muslims for surveillance, and a startling rise in police brutality against Blacks and Latinos–including the murders of Ramarley Graham, Kimani Gray, and Shantel Davis.  In 2011 two NYPD officers were charged in the sexual assault of a woman who asked the police to escort her home because she was too intoxicated to walk home alone. They were acquitted, even though one of the officers admitted on tape to having sex with her with a condom on.

    Obama’s choice of Ray Kelly falls in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal.  The murder of Trayvon Martin has sparked a nationwide debate on racism and the ongoing criminalization of young Black men in America.  An official White House statement issued following the acquittal  completely ignored that debate, however, calling instead for people to remain calm and respect “law-and-order.” The ignorance and dismissal of the crisis facing Black communities in Americans is consistent throughout Obama’s administration, reflecting the real priorities of his administration.