Tag Archives: racial

Study: Racial disparities found in police traffic stops

A study of statewide police traffic stops in Vermont, the second-whitest state in the country, has found racial disparities in how police treat drivers.

Black drivers were four times more likely than whites to be searched after traffic stops, and Hispanic drivers were nearly three times more likely, according to the University of Vermont study, Driving While Black and Brown in Vermont. At the same time, black and Hispanic drivers were less likely than white and Asian drivers to be found with contraband that leads to an arrest or citation, according to the report, which was based on 2015 data.

Black and Hispanic drivers also were more likely than white drivers to get traffic tickets versus warnings, and black drivers were twice as likely as white drivers to be arrested after stops, the study said.

“Almost all of the agencies in our study exhibit disparities in traffic policing to one degree or another,” said study co-author Stephanie Seguino, a professor in the university’s Department of Economics. “In other words, the results are not uniquely attributable to one or two agencies, but it’s really a widespread problem in terms of policing.”

One of the reasons some police officers use to explain the higher rate of searches of black drivers versus white drivers is concerns about the opioid crisis and drugs coming in from out of state, and there’s a racial component to those perceptions, Seguino said. But the study found white and Asian drivers were more likely than black or Hispanic drivers stopped to be found with contraband.

Vermont, which has a population of about 625,000, was 94.8 percent white the year the policing study was done, according to U.S. Census figures. Only Maine, at 94.9 percent, was whiter. Blacks made up 1.3 percent of the Vermont population, Hispanics 1.8 percent and Asians 1.6 percent.

The study looked at traffic stop data from 29 departments across Vermont, following a 2014 state law that required police to collect such race information. But many agencies had missing data in key categories, said co-author Nancy Brooks, of Cornell University, who said more work is needed to improve the data quality.

Police treatment of drivers varied among departments, the study found.

In Rutland, for example, police searched black drivers at a rate of more than six times that of white drivers while white drivers searched were found with contraband at a higher rate than black drivers.

Rutland police Chief Brian Kilcullen, who has been on the job since November 2015, said he was somewhat surprised by the findings.

“You start with awareness, and that’s what this does,” he said of the report, adding that the police department has done training sessions.

Burlington police Chief Brandon del Pozo said his department is seeing an improvement in the rate at which searches lead to contraband, called the hit rate, meaning police are doing fewer unnecessary searches.

To reduce the racial disparities, the report’s authors recommend creating a standardized system for collecting data, giving officers feedback on their performance during stops, supporting police departments in giving frequent training sessions on bias and monitoring disparities annually.

President signs bill to review civil rights-era cold cases

Racially motivated, civil rights-era killings that are now cold cases will get fresh looks under legislation signed by President Barack Obama.

Obama signed the bill earlier this month. It indefinitely extends a 2007 law that calls for a full accounting of race-based deaths, many of which had been closed for decades. The law was set to expire next year.

The bill is named after Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy killed in 1955 after whistling at a white woman. His killers were acquitted of murder but later admitted their crimes to a reporter and couldn’t be retried.

Many other similar cases were poorly investigated and prosecutions were rare.

The law provides federal resources to local jurisdictions to look into the cases and extends the time span of cases to be considered to Dec. 31, 1979. It will also require the Justice Department and the FBI to consult with civil rights organizations, universities and others who had been gathering evidence on the deaths.

There has so far been one conviction as more than 100 cases from the 1960s and earlier have been reviewed. New racially suspicious deaths have been identified for investigation.

North Carolina GOP Sen. Richard Burr and Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill sponsored the bill in the Senate.

In the House, the bill was negotiated by civil rights icon John Lewis, D-Ga.; John Conyers, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee; and Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.

1 person shot, officer injured on 2nd night of Milwaukee protests

Tension flared again on Aug. 14, with one person shot and a police officer injured, in the Milwaukee area where the fatal shooting of a suspect by an officer had sparked rioting, prompting Wisconsin’s governor to activate the National Guard.

Police violence against African-Americans has set off intermittent, sometimes violent protests in the past two years, igniting a national debate over race and policing and giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

After peaceful vigils by small groups of demonstrators earlier, Milwaukee police said late on Aug. 14 they had rescued one shooting victim, who was taken to hospital.

It was not known whether the injured person was a protester.

One police officer was hospitalized after a rock smashed a patrol car windshield, the MPD said.

Police said they began attempting to disperse crowds after shots were fired and objects, including rocks and bottles, were thrown by some protesters. Several arrests were reported.

About 20 police in riot gear faced a group of more than 100 protesters in a tense standoff that continued into the early morning hours, punctuated by sporadic reports of gunfire.

Despite the violence, police said the National Guard had not been called in, as authorities worked to restore order.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took the precaution of activating the National Guard in case more violence broke out over the death of Sylville K. Smith, 23, who was shot while trying to flee from an officer who had stopped his car.

Aiming to reassure the community that the police acted properly, Chief Edward Flynn said on Sunday he had viewed video from the officer’s body camera and it showed Smith had turned toward him with a gun in his hand after a traffic stop.

The Sherman Park neighborhood, where a heated confrontation between residents and officers clad in riot gear turned violent overnight, had been peaceful at dusk.

About 200 people lit candles and gathered near the spot where Smith was shot. A few officers looked on as faith and community leaders implored protesters to restrain their anger.

“We are not ignorant and stupid people,” a pastor told the crowd, echoing a feeling among many of the city’s African-Americans that they are systematically mistreated.

“Every single person needs to be looked upon as human beings and not like savages and animals.”

The previous night, shots were fired, six businesses were burned and police cars damaged before calm was restored in the area, which has a reputation for poverty and crime.

Seventeen people were arrested, and four officers were injured.

At a news conference with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Flynn said the officer who fired the fatal shot was black and media reports also identified Smith as black.

He said a silent video of the incident appeared to show the officer acting within lawful bounds. He said the officer stopped Smith’s vehicle because he was behaving suspiciously and then had to chase him several dozen feet on foot into an enclosed space between two houses.

He said the moment when the officer fired his weapon could not be determined because the audio was delayed.

“I’m looking at a silent movie that doesn’t necessarily tell me everything that will come out in a thorough investigation,” Flynn said. “You know the fog of war. You know first reports are frequently wrong or slightly off.

“I know what I saw. Based on what I saw, didn’t hear, don’t know what the autopsy results are going to be, he certainly appeared to be within lawful bounds,” Flynn said of the officer.

The mayor said Smith did not drop the gun as ordered before he was shot.

Smith had a lengthy arrest record, Barrett said, and officials said earlier he was carrying a stolen handgun loaded with 23 rounds of ammunition when stopped.


On the evening of Aug. 14, several of Smith’s sisters addressed the crowd, saying their brother “did not deserve” to be shot.

“My brother was no felon,” said one of them, Kimberly Neal, 24, as she wept. “My brother was running for his life. He was shot in his back.”

Walker announced the National Guard activation after a request from Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who met Walker and Wisconsin National Guard Adjutant General Donald Dunbar.

But Barrett said any decision to deploy the troops would come from the police chief.

The National Guard, which is under the dual control of the federal and state governments, was deployed in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014 after several nights of rioting over the police killing of an unarmed black man.

This summer has brought deadly ambushes of police. Five officers were slain by a sniper in Dallas last month as they provided security at an otherwise peaceful protest against police killings. Three officers were killed by a gunman in Baton Rouge less than two weeks later.

Policing in Milwaukee has come under scrutiny since 2014, when Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill, unarmed black man, was fatally shot in a park by a white officer, an incident that sparked largely peaceful protests.

Additional reporting by Chris Michaud and Laila Kearney in New York and Julia Harte in Washington; Writing by Frank McGurty, Bill Trott and Chris Michaud; Editing by Howard Goller, Michael Perry and Clarence Fernandez.

School officials probe racial slurs at soccer game

A Wisconsin school district is investigating after racial taunts were directed at female high school soccer players during a recent game, including references to Donald Trump’s vow to clamp down on illegal immigration from Mexico.

A small group of Elkhorn students shouted racial slurs at minority players from Beloit during a game late last week, including chanting, “Donald Trump, build that wall,” according to Beloit Memorial coach Brian Denu.

Denu told WISC-TV that some of the players left the game, saying the taunts may have come from a small number of students, but they made a huge impact.

“I could just see the hurt and pain on their faces and know that this was obviously something that they hadn’t seen before,” Denu said. “You know, it was from a small pocket of the Elkhorn fans, but those words are things you can’t take back.”

Denu said he and other coaches consoled players during and after the game

“Seeing the impact on those kids is something I’ll never forget as a coach,” he said, adding that this isn’t behavior he would expect to see in 2016.

Elkhorn district administrator Jason Tadlock said officials have confirmed some students on the sidelines were yelling offensive comments and that the matter is being investigated.

Students in Indiana and Iowa have recently been admonished for similar chants at high school games in apparent support of the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.


News guide: A look at the protests at the University of Missouri

Racially charged incidents at the University of Missouri led to numerous protests, a hunger strike by a graduate student and at least 30 black football players announcing they were on strike. Many students called for the president of the four-campus system to be removed, and he stepped down Monday. Here’s a look at the situation:


University of Missouri system President Tim Wolfe and Columbia campus Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced Monday that they are resigning after months of student anger over the university’s handling of racial issues. A black student’s hunger strike and the weekend announcement by 30 black football players that they wouldn’t be participating in team activities until the Wolfe was removed helped bring the issue to a head.

At a special meeting of the system’s governing board, Wolfe said he takes “full responsibility for the frustration” students had expressed regarding racial issues and that he hopes the school community uses his resignation “to heal and start talking again to make the changes necessary.”

Wolfe’s resignation is effective immediately.

After Wolfe’s announcement, Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student who went on a hunger strike on Nov. 2 and vowed to not eat until Wolfe was gone, tweeted that his strike was over.

Loftin said he’s stepping down at the end of the year and will shift to leading research efforts.


The treatment of minorities has been the focus at the state system’s flagship campus in Columbia, and campus groups, including one called Concerned Student 1950, that have been protesting the way Wolfe has handled matters of race and discrimination. The 35,000-student population is overwhelmingly white.

The football players issued a statement aligning themselves with campus groups, and on Sunday, coach Gary Pinkel expressed solidarity on Twitter by posting a picture of the team and coaches locking arms. His tweet read: “The Mizzou Family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players.”

Wolfe responded to the criticism Sunday, saying that it “is clear to all of us that change is needed” and adding that his administration has been “meeting around the clock” to address the issue. The statement, however, made no mention of Wolfe resigning.

The protests began early in the semester after Missouri’s student government president, who is black, said he was called a racial slur by the occupant of a passing pickup truck while walking on campus. Days before the Oct. 10 homecoming parade, members of the Legions of Black Collegians said racial slurs were directed at them by an unidentified person walking by. And a swastika drawn in feces was found recently in a dormitory bathroom.


Wolfe, a former software company executive and 1980 Missouri graduate, began leading the four-campus system in February 2012.

Loftin, former president of Texas A&M University, started as chancellor at the Columbia campus in February 2014.

Concerned Student 1950 draws its name from the year the university accepted its first black student, and has demanded, among other things, that Wolfe “acknowledge his white male privilege” and be removed immediately, and that the school adopt a mandatory racial-awareness program and hire more black faculty and staff members.


The University of Missouri system’s governing body plans to begin several initiatives in the next 90 days aimed at improving the racial atmosphere on the system’s four campuses.

The Board of Curators will appoint the system’s first chief of diversity, inclusion and equity officer. Each campus also will have its own such officer.

The board also promised a full review of all policies related to staff and student conduct, more support for those on campus who have experienced discrimination and the hiring of a more diverse faculty and staff.

Changes planned specifically on the Columbia campus include mandatory diversity, inclusion and equity training for all faculty, staff and future students, as well as a review of student mental health services.

Debate day in Milwaukee is demonstration day

The Republican presidential candidates gather in Milwaukee tonight for a presidential debate. And demonstrators from across Wisconsin will be gathering in Milwaukee to demand a change in rhetoric from the Republicans and also an agenda that addresses racial, economic and environmental injustices.

Meanwhile, across the country, fast-food workers and others fighting for living wages, plan to walk out their jobs.

In Milwaukee, participants in the day of action include Fight the $15 Wisconsin, Black Lives Matter, Voces de la Frontera, People for the American Way, Wisconsin Jobs Now, Milwaukee Teachers’ Union and more, as additional protests are being organized by Occupy-affiliated organizations and peace and justice groups.

Already this morning, fast-food workers were organizing the largest strikeline yet at McDonald’s, 2455 W. Wisconsin Ave.

Later, at 4 p.m., demonstrators are gathering at Voces De la Frontera Action, 1027 S. Fifth St., to march to city hall.

They will assemble on the Market Side of Milwaukee City Hall, 200 E. Wells St., where there will be a raised stage for musical performances and speeches. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, is set to speak, along with civil rights leader Delores Huerta.

From city hall, at 6 p.m., the demonstrators will march to the Milwaukee Theatre, 500 W. Kilbourn Ave.

The strike day is 12 months before the 2016 general election — and most likely one of the candidates on stage Nov. 10 at the Milwaukee Theatre will be in the running for the White House.

A statement on the action said, “Milwaukee’s coalition of economic and racial justice organizations, organized and led by Fight for $15 WI, will rally and march in unity to tell anyone running for office — from dogcatcher to president of the United States — that the nearly 64 million workers in this country who are paid less than $15 are part of a voting bloc that can no longer be ignored. Candidates must earn their votes by standing in support of $15 and union rights, Black Lives Matter and immigrant justice.”

Additional speakers at the day of action events include state Rep. Jocasta Zamarripa and Voces de la Frontera executive director Christine Neumann-Ortiz.

Waukesha’s quest to divert Lake Michigan water challenged

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources opened the floodgates and in poured opposition to Waukesha’s quest to divert water from Lake Michigan.

Waukesha argues that diversion is the only answer to a court order to improve water quality by June 2018 and to also meet expected demands for more water in the area.

However, opponents make economical, technical and environmental arguments against diversion and maintain that diverting Lake Michigan water to the suburbs would worsen segregation and increase racial disparities in the region.

And then there’s the issue of precedence. Dozens of lawmakers from Wisconsin and other Great Lakes states, along with scientists, attorneys, community activists and environmentalists, emphasize that Waukesha’s quest for diversion is a test case. Approval could lead to applications from other thirsty jurisdictions outside what is known as the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin, which is protected by a historic 2008 compact, as well as an agreement with the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

“What happens in Waukesha doesn’t stay in Waukesha,” said Marc Smith, policy director for the nonprofit National Wildlife Federation. “People from all across the Great Lakes region are concerned that Waukesha’s application does not meet the requirements of the Great Lakes Compact.”

The legislatures of the Great Lakes states — Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania — ratified the compact and Congress provided its consent. 

Waukesha is outside the basin, but Waukesha County straddles the basin and, according to the compact, a straddling county can request a diversion of water. 

Waukesha has been making — and revising — its case for diversion since at least 2010, when the city became the first municipality in the United States outside the basin to request a diversion under the 2008 compact.

Waukesha wants …

Waukesha, located 17 miles west of Lake Michigan, is under a 2009 court order to resolve naturally occurring radium contamination in its water supply by 2018. The city relies on a well system that draws from a deep sandstone aquifer but, according to the DNR’s summary of the application, “depressed water levels in the deep aquifer have compounded a problem of high radium concentration … in the groundwater.”

The city seeks to divert an annual average of 10.1 million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan and a daily maximum of 16.7 million gallons by mid-century to accommodate a growing population and expansion.

The water would come from the Oak Creek Water Utility via a new pipeline.

After “consumptive use,” water would go to Waukesha’s wastewater treatment plant and then get discharged into the Root River and back into the Lake Michigan basin. 

The water supply and wastewater pipelines would be about 20 miles long and cost $207 million to build.

Waukesha’s application says its plan is “most protective of the environment — particularly regional ground and surface waters — and of public health.”

State says …

The DNR seems inclined to agree.

In June, the DNR said the application appears to meet key technical requirements and invited public comments on the proposal, as well as the DNR’s draft environmental impact statement.

“We appreciate the strong public interest surrounding this project,” stated Eric Ebersberger, section chief for water use in the DNR’s drinking and groundwater bureau.

After releasing the draft review, the state held a series of public hearings in Waukesha, Milwaukee and Racine and collected written comments.

“We were impressed but in no way surprised at the great turnout at all three public hearings,” said Cheryl Nenn, an official at Milwaukee Riverkeeper, a science-based advocacy organization. “This is an important issue for our state and our region and a decision that will affect people’s lives and our Great Lakes, which are only 1 percent renewable by rain or snowmelt. The number of people at the hearings sends a very clear message to the DNR that the public is taking this diversion decision very seriously and they should too.”

Ezra Meyer of the environmental group Clean Wisconsin said of the interest in the issue: “People from all across the Great Lakes Basin and across Wisconsin care about this world-class resource.”

Flood of opposition

In addition to the 500 or so people who attended the hearings, thousands wrote in response to he DNR’s call for public comment.

The Compact Implementation Coalition — member organizations include Milwaukee Riverkeeper, National Wildlife Federation, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Clean Wisconsin, Waukesha County Environmental Action League, River Alliance of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and attorney Peter McAvoy — helped people submit more than 2,600 comments challenging the application.

Also, a dozen legal and technical experts affiliated with the CIC filed a lengthy response to the application, arguing that Waukesha failed to:

• Justify why it needs to more than double its daily maximum water supply;

• Consider reasonable alternatives to provide potable water.

The CIC also said Waukesha wants to divert Great Lakes water for communities that do not need the water or that have not employed conservation measures.

Earlier in the summer, the CIC suggested a “Nondiversion Solution.” The proposal said Waukesha “can supply its growing population with safe, clean water, now and in the future, by blending deep- and shallow-aquifer water and updating its outdated technology to ‘best available’ technology for removing radium and other contaminants.” 

Waukesha, however, dismissed the “solution” as having critical flaws. In a news release, Waukesha Water Utility general manager Dan Duchniak said, “The proposal by our opponents fails to recognize environmental impacts, fails to supply the volume of water claimed, fails to comply with radium standards and fails to account for predictable costs.”

He said Waukesha only wants to “withdraw one one-millionth of 1 percent of Great Lakes water.”

Meyer, of Clean Wisconsin, said, “The bottom line is that Waukesha’s application doesn’t pass legal muster. The Great Lakes Compact does not allow diversions for future water use. … Waukesha admits that it doesn’t need the water now and is applying for future unknown, unsubstantiated water needs.”

Meyer called Waukesha’s proposal “fatally flawed” and noted strong grassroots opposition.

Allies in the fight include the Sierra Club, the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope and the NAACP-Milwaukee Branch.

The racial justice groups object to Waukesha’s application because diverting water to the suburbs will worsen segregation and racial disparities.

Waukesha, in its application, makes clear that it wants a diversion of water to accommodate growth — industrial, commercial and residential expansion.

Representatives with the racial justice groups say the planned growth means continued suburban sprawl and job migration from Milwaukee. This, said Fred Royal, president of Milwaukee’s NAACP branch, perpetuates racial and economic segregation “to the clear disadvantage of persons of color, especially African-Americans.”

“Thus far, the environmental impact study has utterly failed to address, much less resolve, the needs and concerns of communities of color,” added Karyn Rotker, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Wisconsin.

Dozens of Republican and Democratic lawmakers from the Great Lakes states also object to the application, making it clear that if the Wisconsin DNR sanctions diversion, approval remains a long shot. Support for diversion must be unanimous among the states in the compact.

“Since the compact was signed into law, this is the first time a community has asked for a diversion,” said Wisconsin state Rep. Cory Mason, D-Madison. “I think the reason so many legislators are concerned is because of a shared sense of needing to get this right.”

Great agreement

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact is a historic agreement among the eight Great Lakes states.

The agreement went into effect on Dec. 8, 2008, to protect habitat and wildlife from water diversions from the basin and promote water management within the basin.

An agreement among the Great Lakes states and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement also exists to protect natural resources.

Any diversion of water outside the basin must be reviewed for impact.

The first significant test to the compact is Waukesha’s request to divert water. The application is pending before the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

— L.N.

Texas county where Sandra Bland died has history of racial tension

In the searing 100-degree Texas heat, Sylvester Nunn uses three worn beach umbrellas to protect himself and the produce piled in the bed of his old Chevy pickup truck as he carries on a generations-old summer tradition.

The 78-year-old is selling watermelons by the roadside just outside Hempstead, Texas, where the perfect combination of sandy soil and rainfall make this the watermelon capital of Texas. During the first half of the 20th century, the area was the nation’s largest shipper of the sweet red fruit.

But it’s a more troubling tradition — of racial strife — that has resurfaced here in the days since a black woman named Sandra Bland died in the county jail after a traffic stop by a white state trooper.

Video of the confrontational stop ignited long-simmering passions and caused some blacks to raise their guard around law enforcement in Waller County and the county seat of Hempstead, once known as “Six Shooter Junction” because of white supremacist violence in the 1800s.

“I’ve lived here my whole life,” said Nunn, who is black. “I know how it could happen, but nothing’s happened to me. It’s been all right with me.”

Other people insist the area about 50 miles northwest of Houston has left its troubled past behind.

Bland, a 2009 graduate of nearby Prairie View A&M University, had just accepted a job at her alma mater when she was jailed July 10 for allegedly assaulting the trooper who pulled her over for an improper lane change.

Three days later, the woman from the Chicago suburb of Naperville was found hanged in her cell — a suicide, according to a medical examiner. Bland’s relatives and other supporters dispute that finding.

The FBI is leading an investigation.

“It’s a sad thing,” Michael Wolfe, Hempstead’s mayor since 2004 and the city’s third black mayor since the 1980s, said of Bland’s death and the negative attention it has drawn. “It is not a true reflection of people who live here. It creates a level of animosity that may not be true. The community has changed tremendously.”

District Attorney Elton Mathis acknowledges the county “does and did have a lot of things that went on here that we’re not particularly proud of, as far as racial interaction.”

Mathis said he could understand how some people “looking at some of the bad things in our past would jump to the conclusion that this was a murder and not a suicide.”

But, he added, “people need to realize there is a new generation in control of government here … a more progressive generation.”

Waller County was named for Edwin Waller, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico in 1836, who four years later became the first elected mayor of Austin. Whites make up 44 percent of the 47,000 residents, Hispanics 29 percent and blacks 25 percent.

First settled in the early 1820s, the area became home to slave-labor cotton plantations. Hempstead was incorporated in 1858 thanks to a railroad terminus.

The plantations were dismantled with the end of the Civil War in 1865. Three years later, historical records report a race riot, followed by unrest in the 1880s, when a White Man’s Party was established to blunt active black political participation in the county where blacks outnumbered whites.

That’s when violence blamed on the Ku Klux Klan and other extremist groups gave it the “Six Shooter” sobriquet.

More recently, voter intimidation and voting-rights complaints have arisen from students at Prairie View A&M University, a college established in 1876 specifically to train black teachers.

The complaints led to a federal lawsuit. The district attorney at the time, in 2004, reached a settlement and apologized. But the issue resurfaced only two years later and again in 2008, when additional early voting sites in the county were established only after federal pressure.

“There’s a lot of prejudice going on,” said Eugene Hood, citing a history of police harassment as he cut hair at Chad’s Barber Shop on University Drive, just south of where Bland was arrested outside the main entrance to the university.

Marie Armstrong of Dallas, a Prairie View senior, remembers being pulled over and ticketed for a broken brake light and being forced to go court. She wished police would exercise some judgment.

“I’m not saying he was wrong,” she said of the officer who stopped her. “We’re college students. I was just going down the street. I got it fixed the next day.”

Resa Henderson, 48, has lived in the area all her life and said she has never felt discrimination.

“I try to stay out of trouble,” she said from behind a counter at the A-1 Variety Flea Market, Beauty Supply & Apparel shop where she works now after a 20-year nursing career.

Sheriff Glenn Smith has been singled out by some activists as the person who needs to be fired in the wake of Bland’s death.

Smith was suspended for two weeks in 2007 and ordered to take anger-management classes after using profanity and pushing a black man during an arrest, according to Patricia Cernosky, Hempstead’s mayor pro tem.

He was fired as Hempstead police chief in 2008 and then elected county sheriff.

“I’m not a racist,” Smith insisted, blaming “small-town politics.” He plans to seek re-election next year.

Jessica Cotton, a junior at Prairie View from Houston, said she’s never had any problems with law enforcement, but what happened to Bland gave her pause.

“It could have been me,” she said.

Updated: Protests follow fatal police shooting of Madison biracial teen

UPDATED: Almost 2,000 university, high school and middle school students walked out of their classes on March 9 to join a demonstration against the fatal police shooting of unarmed biracial teen Tony Robinson in the state capital.

Students also amassed in the Capitol rotunda, waving signs and chanting, “Black lives matter,” which has become a standard slogan in dozens of protests around the country over the past several months — all of them organized to draw attention to a spate of police killings of unarmed black men, including Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee. 

Robinson, 19, was shot and killed by Madison police officer Matt Kenny. According to a police report, Kenny responded to a call at about 6:30 p.m. on March 6 complaining about a person “yelling and jumping in front of cars.” A second call to police said the man was “responsible for a battery,” Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said during a press conference on March 8.

The police report said Kenny, who is white, went to an apartment on Willy Street looking for the suspect and forced his way inside after overhearing a disturbance. There, he encountered Robinson, who struck Kenny in the head and knocked him to the ground before Kenny fired at him, according to the report.

Koval said police are investigating to determine how many shots were fired and to analyze the incident.

Robinson’s killing was the second incident in which Kenny used lethal force in his career. Eight years ago, he killed a white man who pointed a pellet gun at him. Kenny was exonerated of wrongdoing in that case and even awarded a commendation for it.

The March 6 incident was also Robinson’s second run-in with the law. At the time of his death, he was on probation for an armed break-in during 2014. 


During a March 8 press conference, Koval acknowledged that the fact Robinson was unarmed was “going to make this (case) all the more complicated for the investigators, for the public to accept.”

His concern quickly proved to be true. Peaceful protests and rallies were ongoing in the days following the killing. The city of Madison’s website was shut down on the night of March 9 and its email systems were disrupted by what city officials said might have been a cyberattack related to Robinson’s killing. Officials said the attack is similar to those experienced by other cities after officer-involved shootings.

The cyberattack affected in-car laptops used by law enforcement across the county, in addition to Madison’s system.

Since his initial press conference, Koval has reaffirmed his pledge to uncover the details of the case. He’s apologized to Robinson’s family and prayed with Robinson’s grandmother. 

Robinson’s uncle Turin Carter said his family wanted a thorough investigation, but added that family members do not endorse anti-police attitudes.

“We understand that law enforcement is necessary and mandatory and we need to change our mindset about the police,” Carter said in a news conference outside the house where Robinson was shot.

Robinson, a 2014 graduate of Sun Prairie High School, was well-liked, according to Olga Ennis, a neighbor and family friend. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Ennis said.

She said many in the community don’t trust police officers. “We’re afraid of the cops,” she said. “Who do you call for help now?”

Mayor Paul Soglin called the shooting “a tragedy beyond description” in a statement. “I hope as the pain eases that something constructive will come of this,” he told the Wisconsin State Journal.

Robinson’s shooting came days after the U.S. Justice Department cleared Darren Wilson, the white former Ferguson, Missouri, officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, of federal civil rights charges. A second report found patterns of racial profiling, bigotry and profit-driven law enforcement and court practices in the St. Louis suburb.

There have been several high-profile deaths of black suspects killed by police officers in recent months. In New York City, Eric Garner died after officers put him in a chokehold and a video showed him repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.” A police officer in Cleveland fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who had been pointing a pellet gun at a playground. And although Milwaukee police determined the officer who fatally shot Dontre Hamilton acted in self-defense, he was fired for ignoring department policy and treating Hamilton as a criminal by frisking him.

The Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, which has organized the protests in Madison, said “black people are eight times more likely to be arrested than white people” in Madison. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Politifact found the statement holds true for all of Dane County.

Koval has assured protesters that his department would defend their rights to gather, but he’s implored the community to exercise “responsibility and restraint.”

Koval said he understood the anger and distrust taking hold in the community. He said that “for those who do want to take to the street and protest,” his department would be there to “defend, facilitate, foster those First Amendment rights of assembly and freedom of speech.”

Koval also asked protesters to follow what he said was the lead of Robinson’s family in asking for “nondestructive” demonstrations. The Dane County NAACP issued a statement calling for “calm and vigilant monitoring of events as they unfold.”

Late on the afternoon following Robinson’s shooting, people filled the Fountain of Life Covenant Church for a community meeting. Family members took the stage and read a statement prepared by Robinson’s mother Andrea Irwin.

“I can’t even compute what has happened,” Irwin’s statement said. “I haven’t even had a chance to see his body.”

She was not present, and the statement said she was taking time to grieve with her children. Robinson’s grandmother, Sharon Irwin, was on the stage as the statement was read, but left immediately after.

Timeline of events in Ferguson, Missouri

A timeline of key events following the fatal police shooting of an unarmed, black 18-year-old in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

AUG. 9 – Michael Brown and a companion, both black, are confronted by an officer as they walk back to Brown’s home from a convenience store. Brown and the officer, who is white, are involved in a scuffle, followed by gunshots. Brown dies at the scene, and his body remains in the street for four hours in the summer heat. Neighbors later lash out at authorities, saying they mistreated the body.

AUG. 10 – After a candlelight vigil, people protesting Brown’s death smash car windows and carry away armloads of looted goods from stores. In the first of several nights of violence, looters are seen making off with bags of food, toilet paper and alcohol. Some protesters stand atop police cars and taunt officers.

AUG. 11 – The FBI opens an investigation into Brown’s death, and two men who said they saw the shooting tell reporters that Brown had his hands raised when the officer approached with his weapon and fired repeatedly. That night, police in riot gear fire tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse a crowd.

AUG. 12 – Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson cancels plans to release the name of the officer who shot Brown, citing death threats against the police department and City Hall.

AUG. 14 – The Missouri Highway Patrol takes control of security in Ferguson, relieving St. Louis County and local police of their law-enforcement authority following four days of violence. The shift in command comes after images from the protests show many officers equipped with military-style gear, including armored vehicles, body armor and assault rifles. In scores of photographs that circulate online, officers are seen pointing their weapons at demonstrators.

AUG. 15 – Police identify the officer who shot Brown as Darren Wilson, 28. They also release a video purporting to show Brown robbing a convenience store of almost $50 worth of cigars shortly before he was killed, a move that further inflames protesters.

AUG. 16 – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declares a state of emergency and imposes a curfew in Ferguson.

AUG. 17- Attorney General Eric Holder orders a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on Brown.

AUG. 18 – Nixon calls the National Guard to Ferguson to help restore order and lifts the curfew.

AUG. 19 – Nixon says he will not seek the removal of Ferguson prosecutor Bob McCulloch from the investigation into Brown’s death. Some black leaders questioned whether the prosecutor’s deep family connections to police would affect his ability to be impartial. McCulloch’s father was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty when McCulloch was a child, and he has many relatives who work in law enforcement.

AUG. 20 – Holder visits Ferguson to offer assurances about the investigation into Brown’s death and to meet with investigators and Brown’s family. A grand jury begins hearing evidence to determine whether Wilson should be charged.

AUG. 21 – Nixon orders the National Guard to begin withdrawing from Ferguson.

SEPT. 25 – Holder announces his resignation but says he plans to remain in office until his successor is confirmed.

SEPT. 25 – Ferguson Chief Tom Jackson releases a videotaped apology to Brown’s family and attempts to march in solidarity with protesters, a move that backfires when Ferguson officers scuffle with demonstrators and arrest one person moments after Jackson joins the group.

OCT. 10 – Protesters from across the country descend on the St. Louis region for “Ferguson October,” four days of coordinated and spontaneous protests. A weekend march and rally in downtown St. Louis draws several thousand participants.

OCT. 21 – Nixon pledges to create an independent Ferguson Commission to examine race relations, failing schools and other broader social and economic issues in the aftermath of Brown’s death.

NOV. 17 – The Democratic governor declares a state of emergency and activates the National Guard again ahead of a decision from a grand jury. He places the Ferguson Police Department in charge of security in Ferguson, with orders to work as a unified command with St. Louis city police and the Missouri Highway Patrol.

NOV. 18 – Nixon names 16 people to the Ferguson Commission, selecting a diverse group that includes the owner of construction-supply company, two pastors, two attorneys, a university professor, a 20-year-old community activist and a police detective. Nine of its members are black. Seven are white.

NOV. 24 – The St. Louis County prosecutor announces that the grand jury has decided not to indict Wilson. During ensuing protests, at least a dozen buildings and multiple police cars are burned, officers are hit by rocks and batteries and reports of gunfire force some St. Louis-bound flights to be diverted.