Who Will Protect Us From the Police?

Kenneth Harding, the San Francisco Police and the Media
July 27, 2011

I should mention my connection to both San Francisco (where I was born, raised, and reside) and Seattle (where I received a Bachelors degree), where 19-year old Kenneth Harding is from and had an exaggerated criminal past. I say exaggerated because even his one conviction was minor compared to the frenzy about him getting his.

Generally, what happened to Harding happens in colonized spaces to colonized subjects, from Hunter’s Point to Baghdad. The victims are people of color. Five centuries of colonially-constructed rationales have served the purpose of minimizing the value of racialized subjects. White supremacist narratives were constructed out of these European conquests of darker peoples and have outlived Jim Crow and formal colonialism. The benefit of the doubt goes to the white occupiers, or to those doing their dirty work and being vouched for, whether the SFPD or the US military. The white supremacist authority in both cases only needs to make a haphazard justification for its shoot-first and ask-questions-later approach.  Being shot in the back for being black or brown will be justified by a complicit corporate press, and Harding’s exaggerated criminal past is the latest example.

In the immediate frenzy, the SFPD manipulated the vagaries of the incident. They claimed that he shot at them, but witnesses said that the bullets only went in one direction. If one looks at the first video taken, you can see him laying in his own blood, with no crowd around him except for the police aiming their guns at him while they could’ve attempted to save him but didn’t bother.  The next video shows a crowd on the opposite side of Harding’s soon-to-be corpse, and a gun behind them. Why didn’t the officers see the gun, which surfaced at least 20 feet ahead of Harding, before a crowd could impede their vision of it? Why also did they not expand the crime scene to include the area where a gun was picked up off the ground?  The disconnect between Harding and that gun lead many to believe that it was planted. However, no such possibility of a planted weapon exists in the mainstream media, which, at best merely refuses to challenge dominant paradigms or narratives, and at worst, continues to invest in stereotypical narratives that rationalize the status quo benefitting a white power structure. Continue reading

New Orleans: In split verdict, 3 cops convicted of shooting and burning Henry Glover

In Wake of Glover Verdicts, What’s Next for New Orleans’ Troubled Police Force?

Edna Glover, center, mother of Henry Glover, who three current and former police officers were convicted of shooting and burning his body in a car in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, talks to reporters with family and supporters outside the courthouse after a jury reached a split verdict against the men in New Orleans, Dec. 9, 2010.

ProPublica, December 10, 2010

by A.C. Thompson

One of the most striking moments in the federal civil rights prosecutions arising from the death of Henry Glover came when Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann, a police officer lauded in New Orleans for his heroic work after Hurricane Katrina, took the stand.

Scheuermann told jurors  he watched his colleague, officer Greg McRae, set fire to a car containing the corpse of the 31-year old man, igniting a blaze that reduced the body to little more than bone fragments, ashes, and scorched meat.

McRae burned Glover’s body so thoroughly that a forensic pathologist had to saw off a piece of bone and send it out for DNA testing so the remains could be identified. For about nine months, Glover was known only as coroner’s case number 06-00189 while his family members searched to find out what had happened to him.

The jury found McRae’s behavior a crime, and reasonable people might view it as the sort of horrific conduct practiced by the security agents of authoritarian regimes. Yet as Scheuermann told the story, there was no indication he did anything to alert his superiors or co-workers or anybody else to the incineration of a human being — one who it turns out had just been shot by another police officer.

Last night a federal jury in New Orleans rendered a verdict  in the Glover case,  convicting two police officers (for burning the man’s corpse, violating civil rights, obstructing justice, and misleading federal investigators) and a former cop (for shooting Glover with a .223 caliber assault rifle).

New Orleans police Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann, center, refuses to answer questions as he leaves federal court after he was acquitted of all charges in the Henry Glover case on Dec. 9, 2010. (Patrick Semansky/AP Photo)

Scheuermann, a 23-year veteran of the force, won’t be going to prison: The jury cleared him of any wrongdoing (he’d been charged with participating in the arson, as well as civil rights violations and obstruction of justice). The jury also acquitted former Lt. Robert Italiano (he was accused of creating a bogus police report and lying to the FBI).The question now facing Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Police Chief Ronal Serpas is: What verdict do they want to render?

Trials are a blunt instrument for reforming police departments — they typically target a small number of cops who may have committed a handful of acts whose criminality can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Juries are reluctant to convict cops, even without the extenuating circumstances created by the collapse in public order that was post-Katrina New Orleans. Continue reading

Oakland: On October 23, Rally and Shut the Port Down for OSCAR GRANT!


A rally protesting the murder of Oscar Grant

OAKLAND, October 23rd 2010
Rally: 12 Noon, City Hall, 14th and Broadway

An Innocent Black Man Shot in the Back by Police and… 
Killed for No Reason!

Killer Cop Gets Off With Involuntary Manslaughter!

Photographic Evidence Proves: It Was Murder!

Oscar Grant was a father of a young daughter, a working person in Oakland, and innocent of any crime!  He was shot while he was held face-down with his hands behind him, by BART cop Johannes Mehserle!

Only because of massive street protests in Oakland, and cell-phone videos of the shooting which made it onto the nightly news, was the cop eventually charged with murder.  But after a change of venue to Los Angeles, Mehserle received the lightest conviction: involuntary manslaughter.  Oakland’s integrated community rose again to protest.

ILWU Calls Rally & Port Shutdown!

With Mehserle’s long-delayed sentencing set for November 5th, Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), supported by many other unions and local community groups, called for a rally in downtown Oakland for Saturday, October 23rd at 12 noon.

And now the longshore membership has voted for a port shutdown as well, to say: Justice for Oscar Grant!  Labor Unity With the Community!  Jail Killer Cops! Continue reading

California transit cop found guilty of manslaughter–not murder

Demonstrators gather in Oakland, California July 8, 2010 to protest the verdict on the case of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer Johannes Mehserle.

[It is important to note that in the history of the United States, many thousands of oppressed and exploited people have been maimed and killed by abusive police.  Yet over this long history, not even one policeman has been charged and convicted of murder, even when overwhelming documentation has been presented to prove the case.  The system has shown it is unwilling and unable to bring an end to these horrifying crimes it commits against the people.  What must the people do to succeed in their prolonged struggle for justice?-ed.]

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES | Thu Jul 8, 2010 11:15pm EDT

A white former transit police officer was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Thursday in the videotaped shooting death of an unarmed black man last year that triggered riots in Oakland, California.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other civic leaders had called for public restraint as police braced for renewed violence sparked by the Los Angeles jury’s verdict, but protests in Oakland after the decision were calm.

The panel of four men and eight women deliberated for about six hours over two days before reaching their decision, which indicated they essentially believed defense arguments that the shooting on a train platform in Oakland was a tragic accident rather than the intentional act of a rogue cop.

The defendant in the racially charged trial, Johannes Mehserle, 28, testified that he mistakenly drew his gun instead of his electric Taser and shot Oscar Grant, 22, while trying to subdue him during a confrontation on New Year’s Day 2009. Continue reading

Prosecution rests in trial of cop who killed Oscar Grant

A BART police officer before he resigned from the force after executing Oscar Grant, Johannes Mehserle arrived at the Fruitvale BART platform that night to join two officers already there who had detained Grant and his friends. Two and a half minutes after his arrival, Mehserle stood over Grant as he lay face down on the concrete and shot him to death. – Video frame: ABC7

June 21, 2010

by Thandisizwe Chimurenga

The prosecution in People of the State of California v. Johannes Mehserle has rested its case. Mehserle has been charged with murder in the New Year’s Day 2009 shooting death of 22-year-old Oscar Grant. The trial was ordered moved to Los Angeles last fall due to extensive pretrial publicity and concerns about the fairness of jurors.The day’s final witness was Sgt. Charles Spruill with the Vacaville (Solano County) Police Department.

Spruill, an expert witness in group dynamics and crowd control techniques, testified briefly as to the various classes or groupings of people and the emotional and psychological dynamics at play that officers need to be aware of.

Asked by Deputy District Attorney David Stein what officers are taught when they see a fellow officer “losing control,” Spruill replied, “It’s important that we not make our jobs harder. We are responsible for each other. That’s basic learning; cadets don’t leave the academy until they master this.” Continue reading