Tag Archives: Black Lives Matter

Woman whose newborn died in Sheriff David Clarke’s jail to file lawsuit

The mother of a newborn who died in Milwaukee County Jail last July has filed a claim notice against the  office of Sheriff David Clarke that holds  jail staffers responsible for the death.

Shadé Swayzer’s lawyer, Jason Jankowski, wrote that Swayzer told a corrections officer she was going into labor around midnight, but that the officer laughed and ignored her, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The notice of claim, which generally gives agencies a chance to respond to allegations before a lawsuit is filed, says Swayzer is seeking $8.5 million in damages.

The infant was one of four people who’ve died in a Milwaukee County jail cell since April. In September, a man died of dehydration in the jail after guards ignored his pleas for water

The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office said Swayzer never told jail staff she was going into labor. The company responsible for medical care at the jail has said Swayzer’s child was stillborn.

However Swayzer has claimed her child was “born alive, cried profusely and was breastfed.”

An autopsy was conducted on the infant, but results have not yet been released.

Sheriff’s officials have refused to provide details about the death, and a spokeswoman for Sheriff David Clarke said the office would have no further comment.

Clarke, a lightning rod of the radical right, has a history of making shocking statements and performing bizarre acts. He’s blasted Black Lives Matter as a racist group and, using a school-boy insult that was later borrowed by Donald Trump, accused Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele — his political nemesis — of having a small penis. Clarke was widely criticized for cutting security for President Obama when he visited Milwaukee. After one of his budget requests was denied, Clarke asked Milwaukee County citizens to take up arms and help his deputies.

Clarke has a penchant for filing frivilous lawsuits that amuse his white, suburban Republican base but that have cost county taxpayers over $400,000.

Multiple sources report that Clarke, who campaigned strongly for Trump, is under consideration for a job in Donald Trump’s administration, possibly as head of Homeland Security.

After Kaepernick’s protest, singers question anthem

Grammy-winning R&B singer Anthony Hamilton has sung the national anthem in the past. Don’t ask him to sing it in the near future.

Hamilton’s frustration with “The Star-Spangled Banner” is shared by some other black Americans, who feel like the tune sung before major U.S. events is not the best representation of all Americans.

That sentiment became part of the national conversation after the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick announced he would not stand for the anthem in protest of racial discrimination against blacks in the United States, particularly after a spate of police shootings of African Americans.

Since Kaepernick has decided to take a knee while the anthem plays at games, others have followed suit, from the NFL to high school to other sports.

There are still plenty of singers singing the national anthem at major events.

But Hamilton is among those who are reconsidering whether they’d do so.

“I’m gonna take a little time away from the anthem until it starts feeling like it’s for me,” said Hamilton, who is black. “We need a new song, one that really speaks for all of us, or bring some new life to the one that we have.”

Several musicians declined to be interviewed for this story.

The anthem, one of the most popular songs in the country, has become a badge of honor for musicians when invited to sing it, and a well-received live performance of the song normally boosts an act’s career. Whitney Houston’s performance of the anthem at the Super Bowl is considered one of her greatest, and one of the best renditions of it.

Alicia Keys, who has performed the anthem at the Super Bowl and other events throughout her 15-year career, said she gets where the San Francisco 49er quarterback is coming from.

“I understand. I understand,” she said seriously in an interview.

Keys, who like Kaepernick is biracial, said that she learned new information about the anthem after the athlete’s protest sparked countless articles. A third verse that is rarely sung includes the lines, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.”

Francis Scott Key, the song’s author, was a supporter of slavery.

“To actually read the facts, you know, I can understand it. It’s time for a lot of things to change. We know what this country was built off of and based off of, and it’s time for that to evolve. It’s time for the story to evolve,” she said.

“There’s some great things that have carried on for generations and generations and there’s some things that have to change, like that was an old way of thinking and now if we’re going to move toward really looking at each other in the same eyes and in the spirit of oneness, then we have to make changes from past mistakes.”

That third verse is also one reason why John Legend tweeted shortly after Kaepernick’s protest that he wasn’t a fan of the national anthem. While Legend has sung the anthem previously, he called the anthem “weak,” opting for “America the Beautiful” instead.

The NFL said teams arrange for their own anthems, and while some singers are second-guessing performing the song after Kaepernick’s protest, the organization said “no teams have identified this as an issue.” But on Monday at the Sacramento Kings preseason game, singer Leah Tysse, who is white, kneeled while performing the national anthem.

“I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability,” Tysse wrote on her Facebook page. “The sad reality is, as a white American I am bestowed a certain privilege in this nation that is not enjoyed by all people. Black families are having much different conversations with their children about how to interact with the police than white families. Let’s be honest. Until we can recognize that white privilege exists we cannot have a dialogue about race.”

The Kings Organization said in a statement they “respect the personal decision of Leah Tysse to exercise her freedom of speech.”

A Quinnipiac University poll released this week shows that most white Americans disapprove of protests by athletes during the national anthem while black Americans approve of the protests by an even larger margin.

Pop singer JoJo, who burst on the music scene at 13, said she’s still proud to sing the anthem because of the veterans in her family.

“When I sing the national anthem, I’m thinking of the veterans in my family, and I completely respect Colin’s stance to bring awareness to black people who are still facing injustice, and I really do respect it. But for me, I’m just, I enjoy singing the song,” said 25-year-old JoJo, who is white.

“Well this is what my mom said to me: ‘We’re all just trying to somehow make things right, so if we can come together as a country over that song, great. But at the end of the day, it’s easier said than done,”” she added.

Hamilton said he currently feels mixed emotions about being black in America in these racially charged times, and even sometimes feels betrayed.

“It feels like it’s a lie by the way they treat us,” Hamilton, 45, added of the anthem and how blacks are regarded in America. “Seems like the Constitution ain’t really constituting us.”

 

Colin Kaepernick is a true patriot

Patriots are not only men and women who risk their lives to protect our freedoms on the battlefield. They’re also people who risk their lives, careers and reputations here at home to protect our freedoms and strive for a more perfect union.

On Aug. 26, San Francisco 49ers quarterback (and Milwaukee native) Colin Kaepernick showed his patriotism in an usual way: He risked his career by refusing to stand for the national anthem before a preseason game with the Packers. His action was intended to draw attention to the ongoing injustices suffered by African Americans and other minorities. And it did.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he said. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick also stirred discussions about the First Amendment’s guarantee of free expression, a major underpinning of our democracy and the freedoms it affords. Even prominent people who disagreed with the quarterback’s action defended his right to do it. While this reaction was far from universal, it was widespread enough to show how far the nation has come in First Amendment awareness since the sit-ins of the black civil rights movement, which met with brutality and repression.

It’s been a few years since football stars Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo put their careers on the line for same-sex marriage. Since then, we’ve been besieged by negative stories of athletes involved in rapes, shootings, domestic violence and cheating. Against that backdrop, Kaepernick reminded us of the power that sports figures have to influence progress, simply by standing up — or sitting down — courageously for civil rights.

Kaepernick has been joined by a growing number of other athletes. He’s refined his protest strategy, kneeling rather than sitting during the anthem in an apparent reference to the quarterback move of “taking a knee.”

In an op-ed he wrote for The Washington Post, basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul Jabbar presented a compelling defense of the quarterback’s silent protest, which has met with controversy, most of it from whites.

“What should horrify Americans is not Kaepernick’s choice to remain seated during the national anthem,” he wrote, “but that nearly 50 years after Ali was banned from boxing for his stance (on the Vietnam War) and Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s raised fists (supporting the black power movement at the Olympics in 1968) caused public ostracization and numerous death threats, we still need to call attention to the same racial inequities. Failure to fix this problem is what’s really un-American here.”

President Barack Obama seemed to concur, when he pointed out that Kaepernick is only the latest in a long line of athletes trying to highlight issues of social justice. “I’d rather have young people who are engaged in the argument and trying to think through how they can be part of our democratic process than people who are just sitting on the sidelines not paying attention at all,” Obama said.

We hope more athletes will sit — or kneel — in support of Kaepernick, until his message becomes too ubiquitous to ignore.

What could be more patriotic than trying to better our nation?

After unrest, we need to get serious about equal economic opportunity

Milwaukee: Citizen Action of Wisconsin executive director Robert Kraig made the following statement on the civil unrest that exploded over the weekend after another young black man lost his life:

Our hearts go out to all the residents of Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood who have experienced this weekend’s civil unrest, to the family of the young man who lost his life, and to the peace officers who have put their lives on the line to protect public safety.

As public order is restored, it is important we take stock of what happened, and what we have to do together to create a Wisconsin where everyone has an equal chance to live a fulfilling life.

Although the violence and property destruction seemed spontaneous to outsiders, for many African American residents it was a predictable outpouring of frustration flowing from unbearable racial inequality and exclusion. Shocking statistics support this, as the Milwaukee metro area has for many years consistently ranked among the worst in the country for African Americans across a variety of indicators including, segregation, incarceration rates, black male nonemployment, child poverty and many others.

African Americans in Milwaukee, who came during the Great Migration to work and work hard and claim their piece of the American Dream, where drawn by the plentiful opportunities to work in union manufacturing jobs. They have borne the brunt of deindustrialization since the late 1970s. According to the UWM Center for Economic Development, the percentage of African Americans working in manufacturing declined from 54.3 percent in 1970 to 14.7 percent in 2009.

Many leaders in the Milwaukee area seem to see this as a natural phenomenon beyond our control. But the economy is not a natural disaster or an extreme weather event beyond our agency to influence, it is human made. What has been lacking in Milwaukee is the courage and vision to fight for solutions up to the scale of the problem.

Once the dust is settled in Sherman Park, the question will be which public officials, which community leaders, which corporate leaders are willing to stand up and fight for public interventions at the scale necessary to end Wisconsin’s system of economic apartheid and truly guarantee full opportunity for everyone in our great state. This means striving to create an economy where everyone who wants a good jobs can find one near their local community.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin and our over 12,000 members in the Milwaukee area look forward to continuing to work with everyone in the community who wants to work toward economic and social transformation.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin is an issue focused coalition of individuals and organizations committed to achieving social, economic, and environmental justice.

On the Web

Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

Peace and healing march planned in Kenosha

Congregations United to Serve Humanity will hold a peace and healing march July 21 in Kenosha.

An announcement from CUSH said people are invited to gather on the east lawn of the Kenosha Public Museum at 7 pm.

Marchers will go to the lakefront, where community and faith leaders will lead a lantern release — pending DNR approval — representing the officers and people of color who died in recent events.

The event marks a starting point for CUSH to foster dialogue and actions that lead to equity, justice, peace, and healing for our whole community, the news release stated.

CUSH is a non-partisan, interfaith coalition dedicated to “the pursuit of justice through advocacy, education and empowerment.”

For more information about the march or CUSH, call 262-564-8223.

On the Web

Find CUSH on Facebook.

Wisconsin legislator announces ‘Blue Lives Matter’ bill

A Wisconsin legislator announced a “Blue Lives Matter” bill Monday to make targeting law enforcement officers a hate crime in the wake of the Dallas shooting that killed five officers last week.

Rep. David Steffen, a Green Bay Republican, said he believes the law enforcement community deserves the additional protection of hate crime laws, adding Wisconsin to a growing list of states discussing similar bills.

Louisiana became the first state to enact a Blue Lives Matter law in May, allowing prosecutors to seek stronger penalties when police, firefighters and emergency medical crews are intentionally targeted because of their professions. Lawmakers in at least 13 other states and in Congress have floated similar proposals.

Blue Lives Matter laws have failed in four states and is pending in five others and in Congress, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Lawmakers in at least four other states have said they plan to introduce similar legislation but haven’t officially done so.

Steffen said his proposal is “a small, single step” that Wisconsin can take to “reinforce its commitment” to supporting and protecting law enforcement officers.

But Republicans in Madison have cut back severely on revenue sharing with cities, which has made it more difficult for municipalities to maintain an adequate number of police officers and fire fighters. Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011–13 budget cut shared revenue by 9 percent, the biggest cut in at least a decade.

The cuts endanger safety both for professionals and the public.

The reduction in shared revenue are partly the result of massive tax breaks for the wealthiest Wisconsinites. About 78 percent of Walker’s tax cuts have gone to the state’s top 0.2 percent of earners.

But civil rights organizations and activist groups have criticized Blue Lives Matter bills for other reasons, saying a person’s profession should not be included with race, religion and other characteristics that are protected under hate crime laws.

Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, said police officers and their families won’t be helped by “a heighted sense of victimization.”

“We should recognize the stress they confront, but piling on by claiming that there is a war against police, or that the law isn’t already penalizing attacks on police severely, does a disservice to everyone,” he said in an emailed statement.

In Wisconsin, people convicted of a crime can face an enhanced penalty if they targeted the victim based on their race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry. If deemed a hate crime, the penalty for a felony can carry an additional $5,000 fine and an additional five years in prison. The penalty increase for misdemeanors deemed hate crimes depends on the severity of the crime, possibly including additional jail time and thousands of dollars in additional fines.

Steffen’s Blue Lives Matter bill, which he plans to formally introduce in January, would extend hate crime protection to law enforcement officers.

“Law enforcement isn’t just some profession. It is one upon which our quality of life largely depends,” said Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, the state’s largest police union.

Palmer said the legislation would send an important, symbolic message, but that the Legislature could do other things to better protect officers and support law enforcement, including ensuring adequate staffing and improved training. He said legislation to protect law enforcement and efforts to resolve problems between officers and their communities shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

Nurse in photo describes her arrest at Baton Rouge protest

The black woman in the photograph stands in calm protest, her long dress fluttering in the breeze as two policemen clad in the heavy black padding and helmets of riot gear rush to remove her from a roadway in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Officers took about 180 people into custody over the weekend in the state capital, mostly on misdemeanor charges accusing them of blocking traffic on a major thoroughfare during protests over recent police shootings of black men.

But the standoff with one woman, identified by friends as Ieshia Evans and captured in a widely used image by Reuters freelance photographer Jonathan Bachman, has encapsulated for some the spirit of demonstrators across the United States protesting in the past week what they decry as unjust treatment of minorities by police.

“You’ll be seeing this iconic photo from #BatonRouge and versions of it, for the rest of your life,” a man named David Law said on Twitter on Monday.

The Atlantic magazine called the image, which prompted comments on social media from around the world, “a single photo from Baton Rouge that’s hard to forget.” The Washington Post said it “captured a critical moment for the country,” while Britain’s Daily Mail website called it “an iconic arrest photo.”

Evans is a licensed practical nurse who lives in Pennsylvania, according to online records and a Facebook page that appears to belong to her.

“This is the work of God,” she wrote on Facebook after her arrest. “I am a vessel! Glory to the most high! I’m glad I’m alive and safe.”

Baton Rouge has become a flashpoint for protesters after Alton Sterling, 37, was shot and killed last week by city police who were responding to a call that he allegedly threatened someone with a gun outside a convenience store where he was selling CDs.

Sterling’s death, followed by the fatal shooting of another black man, Philando Castile, 32, near St. Paul, Minnesota, revived a wave of protests over police treatment of minorities that has swirled for two years and given rise to a movement called Black Lives Matter.

‘MAKING HER STAND’

Evans, the mother of a 5-year-old boy, traveled to Baton Rouge “because she wanted to look her son in the eyes to tell him she fought for his freedom and rights,” according to R. Alex Haynes, who said on Facebook he had known Evans since childhood.

A jail log from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office showed an Ieshia Evans, 35, was booked on a charge of simple obstruction of a highway and had been released from custody.

Reuters could not reach Evans for comment on Monday.

Bachman said police had cleared a group of protesters, including members of the New Black Panther Party carrying bullhorns and shotguns, from the road before Evans walked onto the highway and stood before a wall of officers. Her face bore no expression and she did not speak, he said.

“To me, it seemed like she was making her stand and she was like, ‘You’re going to have to come and get me,'” the photographer said in an interview.

Bachman said the officers grabbed Evans and hurried her away, with the whole incident lasting only about 30 seconds.

After her arrest, Evans ended another Facebook post with, “Peace, love, blk power! ‪#‎blacklivesmatter.” She asked friends not to give interviews on her behalf, saying she wanted to tell her own story, but said later she was not ready to speak to reporters.

“I want to get home to my son,” she wrote. “I’ve been through a lot.”

 

Preventing tragedies between police, communities

In response to the nationwide concern on police-involved shootings, including the death of Dontre Hamilton, and calls to address the strained relationship between local law enforcement and the people they serve, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, introduced the Preventing Tragedies Between Police and Communities Act of 2016. This legislation would require de-escalation training in our police academies across the country with an overarching focus on preserving life through enhanced training.

A statement from Rep. Moore:

As a mother, grandmother, and elected representative, I personally took the untimely death of Dontre Hamilton to heart. Dontre wasn’t just my constituent, but a member of our community, yet sadly, his story is not unique. Too many young men and women in this country are unreasonably struck down by the very people who swore an oath to protect them. Too many mothers have been forced to bury their children and too many Americans have shared a fate similar to that of Dontre’s.

Upon hearing the news of this young man’s passing, I made a promise to myself and his mother, Maria Hamilton, that his death would not be in vain. This, coupled with the boisterous feedback from my constituents, led me to draft the Preventing Tragedies Between Police and Communities Act of 2016. This bill would give local law enforcement officials the valuable tools and training they need to safely and effectively patrol our streets with a strong emphasis on preserving life, drawing from several ‘best practices’ and recommendations from the Police Executive Research Forum.

We all know that police serve a vital role in upholding public safety and improving the quality of life of communities. Let us not forget the trauma that officers experience in being involved in a violent altercation, especially one that results in the loss of life. It is my sincere hope that my bill will not only help protect our citizens, but also also assist those responsible for keeping us safe and who routinely put their lives on the line everyday. I have confidence that this legislation will garner bipartisan support and will help restore the much needed faith and trust that has been compromised between the public and the police who serve them.