Category Archives: Black Lives Matter

Documenting Trump’s insane comments and racist behavior in Kenosha

Trump flies to Kenosha but lands on Planet Zog

President Trump listens to officials during a roundtable discussion on community safety at Bradford High School in Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
Washington Post, by Dana Milbank, September 1, 2020

President Trump took off on Air Force One on Tuesday morning on his way to Kenosha, Wis. He landed on Planet Zog.

In real life, protests (some peaceful, some violent) erupted after police shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back. A Trump-supporting militia member allegedly gunned down three of the protesters, killing two of them.

But in the imaginary Kenosha that Trump created Tuesday afternoon at an invitation-only “roundtable” — in a high school cafeteria serving as a government “command center” — things were quite different.

There was no pandemic in this Kenosha; at his suggestion, everybody in the roundtable took off their face masks. There was no right-wing violence. (I heard no mention of the killings by the Trump-backing extremist.) There was no such thing as police brutality (Trump quickly swept aside any such notion). And there were hardly any Black people (only two of the 23 in the room).

It quickly became clear that the pair, a pastor and his wife, were to be seen rather than heard. James Ward, who said he is the pastor to Blake’s mother, was asked by Trump to offer a prayer, then offered to discuss “the real pain that hurts Black Americans.” Trump wasn’t interested.

When Trump opened the roundtable to questions, a reporter asked the pastor whether he believed that there is systemic racism in law enforcement.

Before Ward could answer, Trump broke in to say there were only “some bad apples” among police, of which “I have the endorsement of so many, maybe everybody.”

The reporter tried again. “Could the pastor answer my question, please?”

Trump called on another questioner.

Then, shutting down the session, Trump turned to the muted pastor he had just used as a prop. “Fantastic job,” he said.

As the election gets closer and closer, Trump appears to be getting further and further from reality. Tuesday’s stagecraft in Kenosha was Trump’s most audacious attempt to rearrange reality since … well, since the night before. On Monday, he informed Fox News’s Laura Ingraham that Joe Biden is the victim of mind control by “people that you’ve never heard of, people that are in the dark shadows.” They are, he said, the same “people that are controlling the streets.” Trump further reported the existence of a plane, “almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms.” He said they “were on the plane to do big damage.”

Pressed for details, Trump said he could divulge no more. “I’ll tell you sometime, but it’s under investigation.” As NBC reported, Trump’s fantastical tale closely matched a two-month-old conspiracy theory making the rounds on Facebook.

By the time he arrived at Joint Base Andrews for his trip to Wisconsin, Trump had already developed more details about his new conspiracy theory. This time, “the entire plane filled up with the looters, the anarchists, the rioters.” And Trump said he has a firsthand account from a person on the plane. “Maybe they’ll speak to you and maybe they won’t,” he said. (They didn’t.)

Arriving in Kenosha, Trump toured a camera shop that had been damaged. There, he chose to speak about Portland, Ore. — about 2,000 miles away. Portland “has been terrible for a long time, for many decades, actually.” Portland is frequently ranked among the “most livable cities” in America.

Trump didn’t meet with the Blake family, instead moving on to the high school cafeteria, draped with blue curtains and decorated with flags.

“I feel so safe,” Trump remarked, after a tour in which he was protected by armored personnel carriers, military trucks and police in camouflage carrying automatic rifles.

He received thanks from a participant for “sending the National Guard.” (That was actually the work of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who, like Kenosha’s mayor, urged Trump not to visit.)

Trump reported that “there was love on the street, I can tell you, of Wisconsin when we were coming in … so many African Americans.” According to the “pool” reporters traveling in the president’s motorcade, he had been greeted by friends and foes alike, including one “large group protesting the president, their middle fingers pointed at motorcade.”

The two African Americans in the roundtable did their best to bring Trump around to reality. James Ward prayed for a restoration of “empathy and compassion.” Sharon Ward noted that “it’s important to have Black people at the table” and called it “a good opportunity for us really to solve the problem.”

But Trump would not be moved. Asked about nonviolent protests and structural racism, he answered with “anarchists,” “looters,” “rioters” and “agitators.” He said Democrats like riots and want to close prisons and end immigration enforcement. “The wall will be finished very shortly,” he added.

Maybe that’s true — on Planet Zog.

‘Insulting’: California police reform bills die without vote

State takes small steps toward reform

Vallejo Times-Herald, By Nico Savidge, September 3, 2020
[See also: Associated Press, California bill to strip badges from ‘bad officers’ fails]

Three months ago, with protests against racism and police brutality gripping the state and nation, California lawmakers had plans for new legislation that would make sweeping changes to law enforcement.

But as their session came to a chaotic end at midnight Tuesday, state legislators had only approved a handful of relatively modest changes to police practices, while more controversial proposals — to strip problem officers of their badges, broaden public access to police misconduct records and limit the use of rubber bullets and tear gas at protests — died without the votes they needed to pass.

The defeat of those measures, coming in the Democrat- dominated Legislature of a state that positions itself as a beacon of progressive government, is a stinging disappointment for activists, civil liberties groups and lawmakers, who believed the time had come for major changes meant to bolster police accountability and transparency.

“To ignore the thousands of voices calling for meaningful police reform is insulting,” Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, said in a statement early Tuesday morning after his bill to “decertify” officers who commit crimes or serious misconduct failed to get a vote in the final hours Monday. “Today, Californians were once again let down by those who were meant to represent them.”

Policing wasn’t the only issue that left advocates and lawmakers unsatisfied — bills that passed for eviction protections and housing also fell short of what many hoped to see in the shortened legislative session that was upended by the coronavirus.

The law enforcement bills lawmakers did approve included a requirement that state authorities investigate certain deadly police shootings, as well as a ban on the carotid “sleeper” restraint a Minneapolis officer used in the deadly arrest of George Floyd on Memorial Day.

But Dennis Cuevas-Romero, a legislative advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, noted that many police departments have already prohibited officers from using the carotid restraint. Gov. Gavin Newsom also directed the state’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training after Floyd’s death to no longer offer training on the tactic.

And while Cuevas-Romero said having state authorities investigate police shootings “could be really significant,” he also noted that the bill only requires the state to investigate fatal police shootings of unarmed civilians, as opposed to all deaths at the hands of police.

“This was our concern from the very beginning, when all the police reform legislation was introduced,” Cuevas-Romero said. “The ones that were less impactful would be the ones that make it to the finish line,” allowing lawmakers to claim victory “without actually doing significant reform.”

The ACLU cosponsored Bradford’s decertification bill. California is one
of only five states that doesn’t have such a process, and an investigation by this news organization found dozens of police officers with criminal records were still working in departments across the state.

Bradford’s bill also would have rolled back some of the legal protection known as “qualified immunity,” which shields officers from liability in many excessive force lawsuits. Activists charge the legal doctrine is a significant barrier to holding police accountable, and the bill got a late lobbying push from a raft of celebrities, including Kim Kardashian West and Los Angeles Laker Kyle Kuzma.

Law enforcement groups say they are open to creating a decertification process, and have called for a special session of the Legislature to create one. But they vehemently opposed the bill’s limits to qualified immunity, which helped make it the most controversial of this year’s police reform proposals.

“We are pleased that the late-session rush to enact a flawed bill that would have had debilitating repercussions for police officers and public safety was not voted upon,” Craig Lally, the president of the union representing Los Angeles police officers, said in a statement after Bradford’s bill failed. “It is more important to get it right and not rushed, and we pledge our cooperation to work collaboratively with likeminded stakeholders and the legislature to get it right.”

Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, said the shortened session made it difficult for his organization representing more than 75,000 police officers to negotiate with lawmakers. In the next session, Marvel said, “We will have a much better opportunity to collaboratively work with the authors on creating legislation.”

Bradford pledged to bring his proposal back next year.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, said she would do the same with her bill sharply limiting the use of rubber bullets and tear gas, prompted by what critics derided as a heavyhanded police response to racial justice demonstrations. That bill, which also faced opposition from police lobbying groups, similarly never came up for a vote Monday night.

Benicia Police Chief Erik Upson in conversation with local seniors group

“Culture Trumps Everything” says Benicia Police Chief

Benicia Herald, by Lois Requist, July 17, 2020

Carquinez Village invited Benicia Police Chief Erik Upson to speak to the community via Zoom last Monday. I’m using today’s column to report on that meeting.

Chief Upson began with a national perspective, saying that national standards for policing on testing, hiring, ongoing training, etc. don’t exist. Contrary to other occupations, a podiatrist, for example, for which national standards exist, the consumer can rely on a podiatrist anywhere in the nation having similar training.

Chief Erik Upson

The chief’s philosophy is that “culture is most important.” Even if a police agency has good guidelines written down, bad things can happen, depending on the culture. Egregious events such as happened in Minneapolis can occur if the culture doesn’t reflect the written policy. More about this later.

Chief Upson said his philosophy is “We’re neighbors. We care about the whole community.” He went on to say that he tries to follow a policy of being a great human being. Caring about other people. When he interviews a candidate to work in his department, he goes out to coffee with them, to try to get a sense of the person. He talked about the “golden shovel” award, which is about “recognizing and rewarding officers for exemplifying our culture, going out of their way to do something that benefits the community though it might not fit in the more accepted perception of what policing is about. Caring about people as people and manifesting a true sense of caring about humanity.” Upson understands the need to respect everyone and learn to recognize our own implicit bias, something we all have, but aren’t always aware of.

Chief Upson was asked if blacks, even blacks who live in Benicia, are stopped more frequently than whites. Of course, he’s aware of racial profiling, but he wouldn’t want that to happen here. He’s been Benicia’s Police Chief for five years, so he has hired most of the police force. He tries to weed out people who don’t fit with his philosophy.

In New York, a young white woman called the police on a black man who was bird watching, saying he had threatened her. Since the incident was recorded, it was easy to see that wasn’t the case. He’d asked her to put her dog on leash. Upson has a policy that, if someone calls and complains about another person, but doesn’t indicate that the other person has committed or is committing a crime, the police may not follow up on the call.

He was asked about the possibility of having town hall meetings here, as some other communities have, to discuss racial inequities; he thought that a good idea. Schools also came up in a question to the chief. He said that two officers work with the schools, endeavoring to have good relationships with the children and the staff.

One person asked the chief about the release of 8,000 prisoners in California due to outbreaks of the Corona Virus in prisons. Upson said they get a list of anyone being released who has ties to Solano County. They would check out the situation if appropriate. He pointed out that many people being released are older people over 65, who were scheduled to be released in 90-120 days.

Another person asked about handling of homeless people. Approximately 40 people are identified as homeless in Benicia. Working with the county, Benicia police try to help by getting these folks into shelters, and offering other mitigations, as appropriate.

Upson has been a police officer for 30 years and has never shot anyone, though he certainly recognizes the need for officers to carry guns, reminding us there are 250-300 million guns in the country and a good number of people quite willing to use them.

He was also asked about crime during these times of COVID-19. He said there is an increase in property crime—stealing of cars and damaging property, not breaking into homes, as most people are at home now. “There is also an uptick in domestic violence,” according to the chief.

He was also asked what “taking the knee” means to him. He said it’s a “demonstration of caring.” Some people, when hearing the slogan “black lives matter” ask “don’t all lives matter?” Upson remarked that “when a house is on fire” you turn your attention to that. It doesn’t mean that other houses (or lives) are any less valued.

I mentioned earlier about Chief Upson’s approach that “culture trumps everything.” So, I asked the chief how the culture can be changed. He answered that it takes time, modeling good behavior, and leadership.

In terms of implicit bias, he said the department has made a Public Service Announcement (PSA), and he is aware of the concept of “restorative justice.” In that regard, I’d like to add a link here of an article I’ve read on that subject.

He urged us to ask if we have needs or questions, and I think that applies to the entire community. Chief Upson was approachable, direct, and honest about the situations the department faces and his philosophy about the best ways to handle whatever comes up. I was pleased to spend the hour in conversation with him. I should also point out, that on the city’s website there’s much more information about the police.

In Martinez, Contra Costa and elsewhere – white backlash to Black Lives Matter

White backlash to Black Lives Matter was swift. It was also expected

San Francisco Chronicle, by Otis R. Taylor Jr. July 9, 2020 
Justin Gomez at the site of a Black Lives Matter mural that he and his wife, Angela helped organize and that had been defaced shortly after being completed in Martinez, Calif., on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. The couple that vandalized the Black Lives Matter mural (since restored) on Court Street on July 4th, has been charged with a hate crime each for their actions.
Justin Gomez at the site of a Black Lives Matter mural that he and his wife, Angela helped organize and that had been defaced shortly after being completed in Martinez, Calif., on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. The couple that vandalized the Black Lives Matter mural (since restored) on Court Street on July 4th, has been charged with a hate crime each for their actions. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

The expected hostility toward the racial uprising energizing the country has begun.

It was expected by behaviorists and historians because history reveals that when some white people feel threatened by social justice movements, they lash out.

On July 4, the paint had barely dried on the 165-foot long Black Lives Matter mural on the street in front of the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse in Martinez when a man and a woman showed up. They dumped black paint on the yellow letters.

“This is not happening in my town,” the woman said as she spread the paint with a roller.

The hateful display of counterfeit patriotism was video-recorded by bystanders and went viral. On Tuesday, Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton charged Nicole Anderson and David Nelson with a hate crime for defacing the mural.

“It was a peaceful mural, and it was a powerful way, as we’ve seen all over the country, that has been used to think about the importance of Black lives,” Becton told me. “But this one in particular was to think about the importance of Black lives in Contra Costa County.”

The county is roughly 43% white, according to census data. Black people make up less than 10% of the county’s population, while Latinos account for about 26% of county residents.

A 2018 report by UC Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project and the California Housing Partnership studied housing prices and demographic changes in the county from 2000 to 2015 to, among other things, understand trends producing “patterns of segregation and unequal access to high-resource neighborhoods that have defined the county’s racial and economic geography for decades.”

By 2015, the report concluded, “approximately half of low-income Black and Latinx households in the county lived in segregated, high-poverty tracts — approximately triple the rate of low-income Asian and White households, and a steep increase from 2000. Families in these types of neighborhoods typically face greater barriers to economic mobility [and] are more likely to suffer adverse health outcomes.”

Once again, systemic racism impacts the health, economic and educational outcomes of people of color.

The permitted Black Lives Matter mural in Martinez was repainted almost immediately, but get this: The very next day, a man was arrested for allegedly pulling a gun on people looking at the mural, according to the Police Department.

The retaliation is driven by hate, resentment and fear. Don’t be surprised if it lasts beyond next year’s presidential inauguration.

“These are old means of subordination that white people have used,” said UC Berkeley psychology Professor Dacher Keltner, referring to recent viral incidents, including in Indiana where a Black man was attacked in the woods by white men. “This racism is the fabric of this culture.”

And when protesters rallied earlier this week to support Vauhxx Booker, the Black man who called the Indiana incident an “attempted lynching,” someone drove their car through the crowd, NBC News reported.

Wait, there’s more. A white woman used the N-word while arguing with a Black woman in a Sacramento-area convenience store on June 25. A white diner called someone enjoying a family celebration at a Carmel Valley restaurant an “Asian piece of s—.”

“Trump’s gonna f— you,” he said, rising from the table.

He already has.

The president is a grifter who knows hate is currency in America. He stokes white fear and resentment by painting Black Lives Matter protesters as terrorists and thugs. On July 1, he called Black Lives Matter murals symbols of hate. If his lies were your main source of information about people of color, you’d think the white, Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous people marching for social justice were a bigger threat to this country than the coronavirus.

That’s why a white couple in St. Louis pointed their guns at protesters who marched past their home.

“The narrative of police brutality, the narrative of oppression, the narrative of racism — it’s a lie,” said the man in the Martinez incident, identified as Nelson, who wore a red T-shirt with “four more years” on the front. “Why don’t you guys learn about history?”

Once again, ignorance is a hallmark of white supremacy.

Here’s a brief lesson in American history: Southern white people went to war and sacrificed a generation to preserve the right to buy, sell and trade Black bodies. Then this country built statues to honor human traffickers and to remind Black people that their place — no, our lives — were conditional. After slavery was abolished, the lynchings of Black people became appointment viewing. Black people’s homes, churches and offices were bombed during the civil rights movement.

I could go on, but you get the historical context. In this country, when some white people feel their way of life — their status — is threatened, they respond with violence.

Dana Frank, a research professor of history at UC Santa Cruz, told me that some white resentment turns into anger instead of reflection.

“There’s white people that are well-meaning or confused and clueless, and then there’s the people who are actively crossing over into hostility. The second category is much harder to reach,” she said. “I think it’s very hard for your average white person to see all those forms of institutionalized racism in which they come out ahead. How do you open the door to somebody seeing that without that person feeling threatened?”

By getting white people to talk to white people about systemic racism.

Justin Gomez, who obtained the permit for the street mural, organized the effort a week after flyers calling for white unity were distributed in Martinez. Gomez, who is Filipino and was raised in Walnut Creek, has two children. He’s a stay-at-home dad, and his wife is a health care worker.

He told me he was blown away at how quickly the mural was defaced. Then again, he lives in Contra Costa County.

“We see Confederate flags,” Gomez said. “We see a lot of racist rhetoric in our local social media circles, so we fully knew that that was going to happen and we were ready for it.”

Six gallons of yellow paint were delivered to him Monday.

“We’re ready to fix it again,” he said.