2016 Hopefuls · Sen. Bernie Sanders

On Day One Of His Presidential Campaign, Bernie Sanders Is The Kochs Worst Nightmare

bernie sanders 2016 koch brothers
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) |Attribution: none


Bernie Sanders used his press conference to send the message that he is going to be the Koch brothers worst nightmare come to life. Sanders didn’t just criticize the Kochs. He exposed the conflict of interest behind their attempt to buy elections and the government.

At a press conference where he laid out his agenda, Sen. Sanders took on the Koch brothers:

The major issue is how do we create an economy that works for all of our people rather than a small number of billionaires, and the second issue directly related is the fact that as a result of the disastrous Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, we now have a political situation where billionaires are literally able to buy elections and candidates. Let’s not kid ourselves. That is the reality right now.

So you’ve got the Koch brothers and other billionaire families now prepared to spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in elections to buy the candidates of their choice, or for the extreme right-wing candidates.

I’m the former chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, and I can tell you that I don’t believe that the men and women who defended American democracy fought to create a situation where billionaires own the political process. That’s a huge issue that we’ve got to deal with.

After Sen. Sanders had been asked about what he considers fair game in his campaign, he said, “I think what is more fair game for my campaign is the role of money in politics. Where are the conflicts of interest when the Koch brothers are going to spend $900 million in this campaign. Making a lot of their money from fossil fuels and having a platform which as I understand it calls for the elimination of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Ideas that are increasingly palatable to my Republican colleagues, so that’s a conflict of interest.”

Bernie Sanders is coming out of the gate as the Koch brothers worst nightmare. Many on the left have decried the flood of Koch dollars into the nation’s electoral process, but Sanders connected the dots. The Koch brothers aren’t spending millions and billions of dollars because they are patriots. When Charles and David Koch buy a candidate, they expect a return on their investment. They require the politicians they buy to deny climate science, deregulate the areas of the economy where they make their money and push an agenda that calls for moving all the nation’s wealth upwards to the richest Americans.

Sen. Sanders is going to spend his presidential campaign exposing a dirty system that has put the government up for sale to the biggest contributor. The Koch brothers want to operate in the shadows. Most Americans don’t know or understand what the Kochs are trying to accomplish.

Bernie Sanders is out to expose the attempted hostile takeover of elections and government by a few conservative billionaires. The presidential campaign has given Sanders a national platform, which is very bad news for the Koch brothers.

Editorial · President Barack Obama

What It Means When Obama Says ‘Thug’ On National Television ~ Editorial

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin


I started thinking about all the other forms of violence which are approved and non-thuggish, and I realized that Obama is too smart for such a lazy read. In light of all the civil protest, thug is a sloppy and offensive term. By tossing the phrase around we are only showing what society considers appropriate violence versus inappropriate violence and highlighting the hypocrisy buried in the word’s use.

To understand “thug,” it’s important to know the word’s meaning in the current context as well as what forms of violence aren’t considered to be that of thugs.

Thugs are masked men. Thugs are in the street. Thugs are black.

As has often been reported, when white teenagers riot over a sports game or a bad concert, these people are not thugs. Even though they may be masked, in the streets, destroying property, injuring and killing, these people aren’t thugs because they aren’t black. This form of violence receives to the terror code status of ‘rabblerousers.’ They are dismissed as drunken mobs, fools, idiots, or the more European and jovial-sounding hooligans. In the morning after a riot, hooligans get to put back on their suits and ties. They get to chalk up violence to alcohol or a stupid referee call, or even a surprising victory.

In comparison, “thug” is used to delegitimize one form of violence over another by judgment. It is a condemnation of one’s permanent character. It removes all the social context that led up to a particular incident and focuses on the solely on the individual. And what Baltimore and Ferguson has shown us is that no sudden violent eruption of rage exists in a vacuum of personal responsibility.

The finger jab of “personal responsibility” is never done by a sitting public official toward a police officer. No one would dare call any police force “thugs.” Despite the unprecedented daily evidence of police brutality and judicial collusion with cop violence, none of this is considered “thuggish” behavior. These actions escape that label because it’s perpetuated by people with badges, timesheets and unions. These actions are merely unfortunate and the cops don’t receive any personal label that judges their character. When Henry Louis Gates was arrested in his own house by an overzealous cop who was standing in the professor’s living room, Obama made the mistake of saying that the officer acted “stupidly.” He quickly backtracked when the Fox News suggested that he didn’t respect the law, because “stupid” (even though it was in reference to the action and not the person) was seen as a judgment word.

When cops are caught on camera committing murder they are often deemed as corrupt aberrations, not thugs. To say these occurrences are corrupt implies that police brutality is against the normal protocol. I would beg to differ. Police murders have been going on for generations. State-sponsored violence isn’t the exception to the rule for black communities. It is the rule.

The rules promote cop-initiated robbery, lying, false testifying, planting evidence, unconstitutional jailing, illegal search and seizure, conspiratorial cooperation between judges and police, and homicide. I would argue that these rules—much more than teenagers tossing rocks—are heinous, thuggish, and dangerous to the public welfare.

For future reference, here are some other non-thuggish forms of violence: the FBI forging evidence for generations that resulted in executions of countless innocent people, the penal system’s allowance (and even running joke) of prison rape that leads to rising rates of HIV contraction, clubbing Occupy Wall Street protesters for exercising constitutional rights, sexually assaulting people while they’re in custody. In short, anything that involves technology or bureaucracy escapes the dreaded label. Killing thousands of foreign people with drone attacks isn’t thuggish behavior. This is technological advancement. This is approved. Americans like this kind of violence. It shows our technological superiority, which we often mistake for moral superiority. Police reports and judges’ rulings aren’t the kind of things that comes from thugs. These actions are efficient and documented.

At first I simply saw Obama’s use of the word as a pre-emptive strike against the radical right’s inevitable accusations that his mere existence in the Oval Office gives sociological permission to riots. But given the way that word has been thrown around to smear Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, the entire city of Ferguson, and now Baltimore, “thug” has a much more racial meaning in context of civil protests. And the Obama administration knows better.

Aurin Squire is a freelance journalist who lives in New York City. In addition to being a playwriting fellow at The Juilliard School, he has writing commissions and residencies at the Dramatists Guild of America, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and National Black Theatre.

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: April 30, 2015

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttlel)

The Week

1.Freddie Gray protests spread to New York and other big cities
Protests over Freddie Gray’s death in police custody spread from Baltimore across the nation on Wednesday. Hundreds of people marched in New York City to show solidarity and peacefully protest the treatment of African Americans by police in the two cities. More than 100 people were arrested in the Manhattan protest. Similar crowds demonstrated in Boston, Seattle, San Diego, and Denver, where 11 people were arrested.

Source: The New York Times, NBC News

2.Bernie Sanders says he is running for the Democratic presidential nomination
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, confirmed Wednesday that he is running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. “I believe (voters) want a fundamental change so that government works for ordinary Americans and not just billionaires,” Sanders told USA Today. Sanders plans to formally announce his campaign on Thursday. He will join former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the only declared candidates for the party’s nomination.

Source: USA Today, Reuters

3.Fed view of labor market dims, delaying interest rate hike
The Federal Reserve downgraded its assessment of the jobs market on Wednesday as economic data indicated the U.S. economy had slowed down. Hours before the Fed released its statement, the federal government reported first quarter gross domestic product that was lower than expected. The central bank’s statement suggested it would wait until September or later to start raise interest rates for the first time since June 2006, a move some had expected in the summer.

Source: Reuters

4.Hillary Clinton calls for police reforms
Hillary Clinton on Wednesday called for an end to “the era of mass incarceration” and the “unmistakable and undeniable” pattern of excessive force by police against African Americans. In the first major policy speech of her presidential campaign, Clinton said at Columbia University that the unrest over deaths of black men after confrontations with police in several cities recently signaled the need for justice system reforms, such as making more police wear body cameras and devising alternative punishments for petty drug crimes.

Source: The New York Times

5.Leaked police report suggests Freddie Gray injured himself
A prisoner who was in the same police van as Freddie Gray said he heard “banging against the walls” and thought Gray “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to a sealed police report obtained by The Washington Post. The prisoner was separated by a partition and could not see Gray, who died of injuries suffered in police custody a week later, triggering a series of peaceful protests, as well as riots. Gray family lawyer Jason Downs questioned the account, written by police. “We disagree with any implication that Freddie Gray severed his own spinal cord,” he said.

Source: The Washington Post

6.Teen rescued in Nepal after five days buried in earthquake rubble
Rescuers on Thursday pulled a boy, 15-year-old Pema Lama, from the rubble of the collapsed Hilton Hotel in Katmandu, where he had been trapped for the five days since Nepal was struck by a 7.9-magnitude earthquake. The death toll has risen above 5,500 in Nepal, with at least another 100 deaths in India and China. Bad weather has grounded  helicopters, slowing the delivery of relief supplies to some of Nepal’s remote mountain villages, where many people remain stranded.

Source: BBC News

7.Baltimore police release 103 people arrested during riots
Baltimore authorities late Wednesday released 103 people who had been arrested during rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray. They were allowed to go free without being charged because the swamped police department could not process their paperwork on time. Before the second night of a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, thousands of demonstrators participated in a peaceful rally at City Hall.

Source: NBC News, The Baltimore Sun

8.Pope Francis calls inequality of pay for women “a scandal”
Pope Francis on Wednesday called for equality in the workplace, saying it is “a scandal” that women are paid less than men for the same work. “Why is it taken for granted that women must earn less than men? No! They have the same rights,” the pope told a crowd in St. Peter’s Square. Women in Europe made 16.4 percent less than men in 2013. Pope Francis said Christians have a duty to “decisively support the right to equal pay for equal work.”

Source: Reuters

9. Shark kills woman in Hawaii
A shark killed a 65-year-old woman in Hawaii on Wednesday. Her body was found floating by snorkelers about 200 yards from shore at a popular surfing spot. The Department of Land and Natural Resources closed the waters, and crews on jet skis cleared swimmers, divers, and surfers from the area. It will remained closed until at least noon Thursday as authorities investigate. There were no witnesses to the attack — the first in the state this year.

Source: ABC News

10.Weight Watchers founder Jean Nidetch dies at 91
Jean Nidetch, the founder of Weight Watchers, died Wednesday at her home in Parkland, Florida. She was 91. Nidetch said she was “an overweight housewife obsessed with cookies” until the early 1960s, when she started holding meetings with friends in her Queens apartment. The group’s support helped Nidetch, who weighed 214 pounds, lose 72 pounds. In 1963 she launched Weight Watchers International. The organization quickly attracted millions of members and spawned thousands of franchises.

Source: The New York Times, People

12 Things To Know

Time Magazine’s 12 Things to Know Now 4-30-2015

Time Magazine’s The Brief

What’s Next for Baltimore

The city faces systemic issues involving patterns of segregation and police mistrust

Uber Is About to Change Dramatically

The car-hailing service looks to be planning a massive same-day delivery program

Inside Nepal’s Next Crisis: Overflowing Hospitals

Hospitals are flooded with patients and thousands are in need of care for acute injuries after a massive earthquake Saturday killed more than 5,000 people

The Strategy Behind Ariana Grande’s Success

“The way you get five hits is to have five strong songs that could all be first singles”

Senator Bernie Sanders Is Running for President

These Are America’s Most Polluted Cities

Why Tattoos Might Be a Huge Problem for the Apple Watch

Mexican Cartels Invent Ingenious Weapons to Help Battle Government

Pope Francis Calls for Equal Pay for Women

Furious 7 Director in Talks to Direct Robotech for Sony

Read an Oxford Student’s Open Letter to Her Attacker

France Investigates if Soldiers Raped Children

Chinese Abnormal Weather Patterns

China Bans “Unofficial” Weather Reports Because It’s Kind of a Drag When They’re Wrong

China would like to inform you the weather for this photo taken at Tiananmen Square is sunny and 70 degrees |Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images


This just in: There is no truth to the rumor (started here) that China banned amateur weather predictions out of sheer boredom this week. In China you are still allowed to talk about the weather and, perhaps, complain about the weather, but prognosticating about the weather is about to be a no-no and against the law.

No, it’s not that the Televised Meteorologists Union of China is abnormally strong in the country, or even a real thing for that matter. The problem is, given the country’s chokehold on information of all sorts, official statements—including weather reports—aren’t particularly trustworthy. “In China, where tight press controls lead to a vibrant market in rumors, fake weather predictions aren’t the only hoax that can spark a panic,” the Wall Street Journal notes. Since panic is generally a state of being best avoided, China decided something must be done. Here’s what the regulation looks like (via the WSJ):

The regulation, which goes into effect Friday, covers any weather predictions involving “clouds, wind direction, wind speed, air temperature, humidity levels” as well as visibility and more. Those who distribute false or manipulated weather information and “create a negative impact on society” with such reports are liable to be fined as much as 50,000 yuan (around $8,000).

The primary “impact on society” of a fake weather report is sadness. You thought it was going to be clear and sunny so you were happy, but then it turns out your online weather guru of choice was actually a panda. The second most common impact of bad meteorology is annoyance. Even a panda wouldn’t have worn shorts in this weather.

There are, of course, real consequences to erroneous weather reports during natural disasters.  From the Journal: “The state-run tabloid Global Times said that false information suggesting a super typhoon would hit Fujian province went viral earlier this year in the run-up to the country’s tomb-sweeping holiday, leading some residents to needlessly jettison their travel plans.” Jettisoning their travel plans? There has to be a better example. I will update this post with better examples as soon as China gets back to me with some.

2016 Hopefuls · Hillary Clinton 2016 · Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Hillary Clinton, TPP And The Lurking Elizabeth Warren

Hillary Clinton – Elizabeth Warren | Attribution: none


Hillary Clinton has a real conundrum on her hands. It’s her walking-on-eggs observation about the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership vote. The vote will be in tandem with another controversial trade deal with the European Union, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. TTIP is another secretive and offensive deal of little benefit to the average U.S. citizen.

For our purposes, the concentration will be on TPP. When you’re an announced candidate for the Democratic Party presidential primary, and when you’re a former first lady and U.S. Senator, and you’ve just come off a stint as Secretary of State, the political paparazzi is going to pressure you relentlessly on your TPP stand. Yea or nay, Hillary?

Balancing the progressive vote with giant special interest donors, is a Herculean task for Clinton. There’s also the question of possibly defying the president who has been beneficial to her political career after the hard fought 2008 presidential primary. He appointed her as Secretary of State, sheltered her from right-wing attacks and, if he leaves office with a modicum of popularity, could be an important factor in her campaign efforts.

So far, Politico and other sites, attribute to the candidate, the tepid TPP statement that “Whatever agreement is reached, it needs to protect American workers and have appropriate safeguards.” Not an endorsement, not a rejection. The issue is a building-to-building tightrope walk on a windy day.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, the non-candidate who continues to behave like a candidate, shows no such reticence on the subject. She, among other Congressional critics, drew the president’s ire in their renouncing of his support of TPP. He singled out Warren in this AP-reported statement, “I love Elizabeth. We’re allies on a whole host of issues. But she’s wrong on this.”

In leaving no doubt where she stands on TPP and by extension, TTIP, she hasn’t wavered from her Washington Post opinion page statements of February 25th of this year. She begins with a question: “Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multinational corporations in the world?”

She answers her own query with this pithy paragraph: “One strong hint is buried in the fine print of the closely guarded draft. The provision, an increasingly common feature of trade agreements, is called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS. The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled. Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.

Compressing the opinion piece, this is her explanation of what would happen in a typical ISDS action: “Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.”

Continue reading here…

Same Sex Marriage Debate · SCOTUS Oral Argument

Traditional marriage gets a SCOTUS smackdown: The incomprehensible right-wing logic that’s poised to go down in flames

Traditional marriage gets a SCOTUS smackdown: The incomprehensible right-wing logic that's poised to go down in flames
Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy (Credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Salon ~ 

Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has gone. Yesterday’s Supreme Court argument showed as clearly as anything could have that same-sex marriage will prevail, not only because of the strength of its arguments, but because those arguments meet no resistance: The opposing view has become incomprehensible.

Justice Stephen Breyer, who usually has a lot of respect for legislative judgments, here found it difficult to find anything to defer to. When states try to justify denying same-sex couples the right to marry, “the answer we get is, well, people have always done it,” observed Breyer. That answer won’t do, because it was used to justify racial segregation. “Or, two, because certain religious groups do think it’s a sin.” That can’t justify a law either. “And then when I look for reasons three, four and five, I don’t find them. What are they?”

There was a time, not long ago, when same-sex marriage was unimaginable. But the meaning of marriage has changed. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed, traditionally, “marriage was a relationship of a dominant male to a subordinate female.” In recent decades, it has become less gender-specific, and sexual satisfaction has become a more important part of it — so it made less and less sense to try to force gay people into heterosexual marriages. It increasingly plausible for same-sex couples to claim that they were not distinct from heterosexual couples in any way that mattered. The older, gender-specific understanding of marriage has faded so far that it is not merely rejected. It is not even understood.

John Bursch, the attorney defending Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage before the court, argued that the purpose of marriage was “to encourage children to be bonded to their biological mother and father.” And that clearly is an important part of the historicaljustification for marriage. If our species did not reproduce sexually, we wouldn’t have the institution. But several of the justices pressed him on how same-sex marriage could possibly frustrate that purpose. Bursch explained that “changing the meaning of marriage from one where it’s based on that biological bond to one where it’s based on emotional commitment” would lead adults to think “that this relationship is more about adults and not about the kids.” But the causal connection here is doubtful.

A less vulnerable justification for the discrimination was suggested by Justice Samuel Alito in his dissent in United States v. Windsor in 2013, which struck down the federal Defense Of Marriage Act: “Marriage is essentially the solemnizing of a comprehensive, exclusive, permanent union that is intrinsically ordered to producing new life, even if it does not always do so,” Alito wrote. This view simply deems unions of the procreative kind intrinsically better than same-sex relations could possibly be. It’s internally coherent, but there’s no daylight between premise and conclusion. It simply states a raw intuition — and one that fewer and fewer people share. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked yesterday: “Why would that feeling, which doesn’t make any logical sense, control our decision-making?”

The big story of same-sex marriage, the most important development that has brought us to the brink of nationwide recognition, is the failure of conservatives to pass on their values to their children. Young people, who overwhelmingly support same-sex marriage, don’t so much reject their elders’ argument as find them unintelligible.  Even Alito didn’t make much effort to revive the comprehensive-union argument yesterday. Instead, he emphasized deference to the states. But that leads us back to Breyer’s problem: If you want to defer, you need something intelligible to defer to.

Incomprehension can, of course, cut both ways. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who almost certainly will cast the deciding vote, began the argument by stating his doubts: “I don’t even know how to count the decimals when we talk about millennia. This definition has been with us for millennia. And it – it’s very difficult for the Court to say, oh, well, we – we know better.” Precisely because he doesn’t understand the tradition, he is reluctant to mess with it. But as the argument went on, he seemed to talk himself out of his reluctance, coming back to the theme, which dominated his earlier gay rights opinions, of the dignity of gay people.  When Bursch argued that marriage law had nothing to do with anyone’s dignity, but was about encouraging bonds between adults and children, Kennedy responded: “I thought that was the whole purpose of marriage. It bestows dignity on both man and woman in a traditional marriage.” This gives a pretty clear sign of how Kennedy will swing.

It remains to be seen what rationale the Court ends up relying on. Many of the principal candidates present difficulties that the Court may want to avoid. It has not decided the constitutional status of discrimination based on sexual orientation, but it has not announced a new class of people protected from discrimination for many decades. Marriage is a fundamental right, but the Court has been reluctant to declare such rights, which smack of judicial legislation. The abstract idea of dignity, with which Kennedy is enamored, can’t decide concrete cases. He can write an opinion that relies on that, but it will be pretty mushy.

Chief Justice John Roberts noticed that there is a way to resolve this case without engaging such difficult questions: “If Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t. And the difference is based on their different sex. Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sex discrimination?” In the past, Ginsburg and Kennedy have both shown some sympathy for that argument.

The Court has long held that laws that discriminate based on sex must be presumed unconstitutional and invalidated unless the government can prove that they can pass rigorous, heightened judicial scrutiny. Since the state has such difficulty articulating a rational basis for denying marriage to same-sex couples, it could not withstand such scrutiny.

Bursch responded that the sex discrimination precedents “have always involved treating classes of men and women differently. And that’s not what we have here.” This has become the standard response to the sex discrimination argument: Laws banning same-sex marriage do not discriminate because they affect members of both genders equally: Men are forbidden to marry other men, and women forbidden to marry other women. But this is exactly the same kind of reasoning that the Supreme Court rejected when it struck down laws banning miscegenation and interracial marriage. The defenders of those laws claimed that they did not discriminate on the basis of race because both blacks and whites were equally barred from marrying members of the other racial group. But the law still denies rights to both men and women solely on account of their sex. The fact that Tom cannot marry Joe solely on account of gender is not somehow balanced by the fact that Sue is forbidden to marry Carol.

The cleanest, most lawyerlike way for the Court to resolve the case is just to apply its settled sex discrimination law. We will find out in June. The most controversial cases drag on until the end of the Court’s term, and this is one of those.  But it’s already clear which way this is moving.

Andrew Koppelman is John Paul Stevens Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University.

Baltimore PD · Baltimore Unrest · Freddie Gray

The Mysterious Death of Freddie Gray

Freddie Gray | Attribution: None

The following article was written on April 22, 2015.  Freddie Gray died while in police custody at a local hospital on April 19, 2014.  I’m publishing it here so readers can get some insight and perspective on the original incident which prompted the chaos and violence in Baltimore on Monday night.

This is the back story…

The Atlantic

Freddie Gray’s death on April 19 leaves many unanswered questions. But it is clear that when Gray was arrested in West Baltimore on the morning of April 12, he was struggling to walk. By the time he arrived at the police station a half hour later, he was unable to breathe or talk, suffering from wounds that would kill him.

Gray died Sunday from spinal injuries. Baltimore authorities say they’re investigating how the 25-year-old was hurt—a somewhat perverse notion, given that it was while he was in police custody, and hidden from public view, that he apparently suffered injury. How it happened remains unknown. It’s even difficult to understand why officers arrested Gray in the first place. But with protesters taking to the streets of Baltimore since Gray’s death on Sunday, the incident falls into a line of highly publicized, fatal encounters between black men and the police. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a reserve sheriff’s deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, pleaded not guilty to a second-degree manslaughter charge in the death of a man he shot. The deputy says the shooting happened while he was trying to tase the man. Black men dying at the hands of the police is of course nothing new, but the nation is now paying attention and getting outraged.Authorities can’t say if there was a particularly good reason why police arrested Gray. According to the city, an officer made eye contact with Gray, and he took off running, so they pursued him. Though he’d had scrapes with the law before, there’s no indication he was wanted at the time. And though he was found with a switchblade, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, “We know that having a knife is not necessarily a crime.”

The police say Gray didn’t resist arrest and that officers didn’t use force, which seems to be mostly corroborated by video shot by bystanders. Gray seems to shout in pain, and his leg seems injured as officers drag him to a police van. (Someone off camera shouts, “His leg broke and y’all dragging him like that!”) Gray also had asthma and requested his inhaler, but didn’t get it. Yet it’s not the leg or the asthma that killed him. Instead, it was a grave injury to his spinal cord. Gray’s family said he was treated for three fractured vertebrae and a crushed voice box, the sorts of injuries that doctors say are usually caused by serious car accidents. The van made at least two stops before reaching the police station, but there’s no footage to say what happened during the journey or at those stops.It’s a baffling conundrum. “None of the officers describe any use of force,” Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said. “None of the officers describe using any force against Mr. Gray.” And yet somehow Gray was fatally hurt while in police custody.

The lack of clear evidence in Baltimore is a reminder of just how unusual the case of Walter Scott was. The North Charleston, South Carolina, man was shot in the back by a police officer while running away, but a bystander caught the incident on video—debunking the official account in a police report. Officer Michael Slager has now been charged with murder. As my colleague Robinson Meyer wrote, society owes much to the brave bystanders who tape encounters like this, and their footage has gone a long way to helping achieve justice and to awakening the public to police brutality.

The obvious tie between the Gray and Scott cases, though, is that in both incidents police apprehended black men under questionable circumstances—Scott for a busted tail light, Gray for, well, it’s unclear. In both cases, the black community feels its members were unfairly targeted by the local police

“I’m not saying Fred was an angel; whatever he did is now in the past. But the police already have made up their minds about who we are,” Rudolph Jackson told The Baltimore Sun. “They figure every black person with their pants hanging down is a suspect, and they stop them without probable cause.” That echoes complaints of African Americans around the nation, from Ferguson to Staten Island to Cleveland, about how they experience the police not as benevolent defenders of the peace but as an arbitrary menace, more likely to violate a citizen’s rights than preserve them.

Six officers have been suspended with pay and placed on desk duty in the Gray case, and while the Baltimore Police Department didn’t specify their races, the three officers in the clip arresting Gray all appear to be white. One thing that separates this case from, say, Ferguson or North Charleston is the demographics of those in power. It’s true that whites are overrepresented in the Baltimore Police Department compared to the city’s overall population, but black and white officers make up roughly equal proportions of the force. In addition, both Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts are African Americans.

Conflicts between the police and black citizens are often discussed as though the question is whether officers profess personal racism—a trap that even FBI Director James Comey, in an otherwise sympathetic and thoughtful speech on race and law enforcement, fell into. Troubled relationships like the one between Baltimore’s black community and its police force, despite the presence of elected and appointed black leaders, show how racism is a systemic problem. It is the way people behave, rather than whether they manifest any personal animus. The issue is how the justice system as a whole treats black men.The other obvious problem here is what happens when the police not only aren’t being filmed but aren’t even being watched. Despite movement to provide police with body cameras, many still don’t wear them. There is much that’s still unknown about Gray’s fatal injuries, but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion—based purely on what the mayor and others have said—that his injuries came at the hands of police officers in the van. “He did suffer a very tragic injury to his spinal cord, which resulted in his death,” Rodriguez said at a news conference. “What we don’t know, and what we need to get to, is how that injury occurred.”

A common estimate is that 400 people die every year while being arrested—a number that CityLab‘s Richard Florida notes is probably an undercount—and six in 10 of those deaths are homicides, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. There are plenty of baffling cases that aren’t ruled homicides, too. For example, in 2013, Jesus Huerta, a teenaged resident of Durham, North Carolina, died of a gunshot wound to the head while handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. While that case elicited outrage, the district attorney said there wasn’t evidence to disprove the police contention that Huerta shot himself with a gun an officer missed during a frisk.Calming frayed nerves and ensuring justice in Gray’s death will require figuring out what happened in that van. Rawlings-Blake has promised to do so, and the U.S. Department of Justice says it will also investigate whether officers violated Gray’s civil rights. But if the police can’t be trusted to get a man to jail without grave injury, can they be trusted to investigate this death effectively? And if they can’t, who will?

 DAVID A. GRAHAM is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers political and global news. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

Baltimore PD · Baltimore Unrest · U.S. Politics

Twitter Explodes Over Baltimore Activist’s Dramatic Arrest On Live TV (VIDEO)


There’s no doubt that the video was indeed  dramatic…

TPM LiveWire

CNN’s camera showed the organizer, later identified as 21-year-old Morgan State University student Joseph Kent, walking back and forth in front of a police line with his hands up at about 10:40 p.m. local time — 40 minutes after the start of a citywide curfew.

“Everybody has to disperse, everybody has to leave,” Kent said.

The live shot then showed an armored police vehicle driving up the street. When the vehicle approached the police line, a number of officers in riot gear suddenly rushed toward Kent. The vehicle obscured the camera’s view of what happened next, though, and Kent was gone by the time the vehicle rolled out of the shot.

The sudden nature of that visual led Twitter users to characterize the incident as a “kidnapping”:


CNN anchor Chris Cuomo explained what the camera didn’t catch. “He wasn’t almost hit by that armored vehicle,” Cuomo said. “They drove the vehicle up and when it got close enough to create a wedge they ran out and grabbed him, pinned him against that and arrested him.” The CNN anchor added that police shot pepper bullets at Kent the first time he walked up the street with his hands in the air. Kent then came around and told the media to disperse from the area, Cuomo said. Steve Beatty, a local lawyer who tweeted that he was a “concerned citizen” who did not represent Kent, confirmed that the activist was in police custody:

— The Big Acquittal (@BeattyLaw) April 29, 2015


 3/3 hours. I do not yet rep him although I will gladly if he wants me to.But everyone breathe.No longer in BPD hands. CO’s have him. Safer.

— The Big Acquittal (@BeattyLaw) April 29, 2015

“Everyone knows me at Morgan already, organizing and making sure everything running the correct way and peaceful and everything like that,” Kent told the Baltimore City Paper in November. “So, everybody already knows I’m going to do things the right way, so when everybody else and community people and civilians and people who joined and saw that the Morgan students were looking up to it, before you knew it, the whole city was on my back and I was just carrying the whole city.”

Watch below: