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Police Brutality in Asheville

In case you’re not following this local incident of police brutality, abuse of power, and racial profiling by the Asheville Police Department, here’s an update from my perspective. And please follow this story, as this is the horrid underbelly that is alive and thriving in Asheville. You can find this information yourself in City of Asheville blog, APD twitter account, Asheville Citizen-Times, WLOS, and New York Times, WashingtonPost articles, and facebook posts. Please correct me if any of this is wrong.

  • The local DA and police department are swiftly acting to investigate who “leaked” the police body cam video, in order to charge that person as it is illegal in the state of NC for body cam video to be viewed by the public. This is much swifter action than appears to have been taken to investigate the beating, based on the timeline that APD released.
  • National news sources have picked up and are reporting on the incident.
  • There is evidence that the FBI was involved in investigating the case, but unclear if they still are.
  • The police chief, mayor, and vice mayor met with the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and the Baptist Ministers Union where pastors expressed their concern.
  • City Council is holding a special meeting, closed session, on Monday to discuss the release of additional information related to a former APD officer’s use of force.
  • The Citizens/Police Advisory Committee (CPAC), a group that serves as a liaison between the police department and community, will have their monthly meeting on March 7, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. in the classroom at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center located at 285 Livingston St, Asheville, NC. Normally the police chief attends these meetings. She was not scheduled to attend this one as it was supposed to be a community meeting with no police. There have been requests for her to be there as this is the ONLY institutional way for the public to communicate with the chief. There is no word on if she will attend.
  • Black organizers are hosting a community engagement meeting for mainly the black community to identify what actions to take moving forward.
  • The police chief has issued an apology (a couple of days ago, not when the incident happened in August) and many folks who are new to paying attention to APD’s leadership and communication styles feel encouraged that she is admitting the mistake. She is not addressing the many other concerns around this incident.
  • The officer who violently used excessive force resigned from APD almost 5 months after the incident. It does not appear that charges were brought against him. It does not appear that he is being held accountable for his brutality and abuse of power. I’ve not heard anybody find if he’s gotten a job at another police department yet.
  • The Asheville Police Captain Stony Gonce is on paid, investigative suspension. It is unclear if this is related to the police brutality incident or not.
  • It seems that the other officer on the scene who watched and permitted this to happen has not had any disciplinary action against him.

“I jay walk this intersection all the time. It’s terribly designed. It’s very hard to cross because of the poorly designed crosswalks. I have done it at least once when a cop car went by. I was never stopped let alone harassed, arrested and assaulted. Arresting a black man for trespassing and jay walking is some messed up Jim Crow nonsense.”
~ Cindy Conway, white woman

Read this article for some important perspectives from local leaders.

And this one from the Asheville Blade is an in-depth look at this incident in the context of past events.

 

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People Are Murdered and Criminalized for Speaking out for Justice

Berta Didn’t Die, She Multiplied! 30 Minute cut from Sam Vinal- Mutual Aid Media on Vimeo.

(Film in Spanish)

DJs2UM8VYAA4AAQAround the world, including in the US, North Carolina and even Asheville, activists are harmed, harassed, murdered, incarcerated, or wrongly convicted for standing up for the rights of the people and the land — they are criminalized for speaking out for justice and exercising their fundamental rights to free expression and assembly.

Knowing this threat, people continue to risk their lives to protect their people, the earth, and the well being of future generations. These are people who are deeply devoted to the common good and the well-being of people living now and in the future. These are not folks who want to look like they are committed to a better world, but people whose actions and lives reflect their actual devotion.

Today I am praying to those who are now ancestors to guide and protect those who are still alive and are walking this path today. I am praying that more of us will release from the fog of denial, open our eyes to the fact that so many rights are being threatened all around the world and in our own neighborhoods, and find concrete and courageous ways that we can join the struggle to stand for freedom for all.

Screen Shot 2018-03-02 at 11.08.37 AM2 years ago today, Berta Cáceres, a Lenca organizer, activist and leader  in Honduras, was assassinated in her home. From 2010-2017 in Honduras, 124 environmental activists were assassinated for their grassroots efforts to defend indigenous rights and the environment, fighting against the Honduran oligarchy and international corporations that are stealing and trying to steal indigenous land to build dams, gated communities, refineries and more. The activists standing up to these government and corporate powers are fighting against the increase in militarism and military spending as education and health go unattended to (sound familiar) and the earth is extracted for profit. They are standing up against patriarchy, homophobia, the stealing of land, and discrimination against indigenous people. They are defending the rivers. These indigenous communities are fighting for the future.

The military force and brutal repression being used against them is funded by US taxpayer dollars, and US companies are profiting from it.

The below video is a beautiful and informative window into this situation in Honduras and a mirror for situations all over the world. These indigenous people are calling on us all to build societies that are able to coexist in a way that is fair, dignified and for life. These are examples of alliances of people coming together to defend rights. “The people united will never be defeated.” Their resistance includes songs, theater, drums, and community.

The question for me these days is not so much “what can I do?” But, more so, who are the people that are with me, sincerely devoted to taking action together for the rights of all people, the well-being of current and future generations? There are many different roles we can play, there is so much to do, not acting is not an option for me.

In honor of the 2 year anniversary of Berta’s assassination, please consider a quick phone call to your House representative asking them to sign the Berta Cáceres Act. Details below.

——
The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act is a landmark bill introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and currently co-sponsored by 70 Members of the House of Representatives.

Find out if your House Rep has signed it.

The bill states: “The Honduran police are widely established to be deeply corrupt and to commit human rights abuses, including torture, rape, illegal detention, and murder, with impunity” and that the military has committed violations of human rights. Therefore, the bill asks that the United States suspend all “…security assistance to Honduran military and police until such time as human rights violations by Honduran state security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Note, two of the accused murderers are former Honduran soldiers trained by the United States in Ft. Benning, Georgia, home of the School of the Americas

Please call your Representative NOW and ask to speak to his/her Foreign Policy Aide! Because the bill has been re-introduced, all of the bill’s co-sponsors will need to co-sponsor again! If your representative has not yet signed, call them and ask them to add their support as a sponsor of the bill!

Script:

“My name is _____. I’m a constituent from (your town/city) in (your state), and I’m calling to ask Rep. _____ to co-sponsor H.R. 1299, The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, calling for a suspension of U.S. security aid to Honduras until human rights violations committed by the Honduran security forces cease. Has Rep. _______ seen this bill? Can I count on him/her to sign on? Please call me this week at (your phone number) to let me know if you have seen the letter, and if Rep. _____ will sign it.”

More info about the situation:

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Attend City Council Meetings

“What can I do?”

Go to a City Council meeting if you haven’t. Learn what decisions our representatives are making. See how the process works for speaking and letting your voice be heard. And then let your voice influence the direction of this city. Hold our city leadership accountable.

Asheville City Council meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 5 p.m. The agenda is released the Friday before. Take time to read the City Council Agenda. See what decisions our city is making. Let them know what you care about. For instance — as I read today I see that the architect firm that is being hired for a $188,000 contract to redesign the ART Transit Station is not local. I think we should be putting more pressure on the council and city manager to be hiring contractors and consultants from Asheville. There is also a resolution to establish a Homeless Initiative Advisory Committee. I wonder if our people who are living and working on the streets are supportive of this initiative.

 

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If Change is Why You March…

womensmarch2017Some people marched yesterday.
Marching at a Womens March illustrated numbers and allows people to feel the presence of other bodies standing up at this tim. It’s a chance to sing, chant and learn from each other, be in conversation about what is important. As my brother said, yesterday’s march was the “easy public place” to vocalize resistance or vocalize what you believe in. It was also a day for many people to be recharged and revitalized in a time when it is essential that as many of us as possible have the energy and motivation to keep acting so things will change for those who are most vulnerable at this time. If you marched, I hope it nourished and motivated you in some way that helps you stay engaged.

Some people did not march yesterday.
Some are not able to march. Some did not feel included in the purpose of the march. Some did not feel a clear purpose behind the march. Some are standing and resisting in other ways all the time and did not feel the need to march. Some saw this as an opportunity to hold people in positions of power accountable and educate about the ways officials are using their power. Some did not feel safe at the march.

I believe that the majority of Americans are unpracticed in how to stand up to the state, corporate, and institutional powers that control and govern our society. More of us continue to wake up every day, feeling the churning in our gut, the fire in our heart that says, “Things aren’t right. You have to be a part of changing things. You have a role to play in creating a future that you dream of. You are part of the solution to stop the horrors that many are facing right now.” Fortunately, elder organizers remind us that civic engagement is a skill that gets better with practice.

I am beyond grateful that we are hearing the calls. I pray that we will take risks, be bold, and turn towards one another to learn from each other about how to move forward in response to this call. I emphatically believe that the answers emerge from:

  • listening deeply to the inner voices of divine guidance
  • listening intently and responding to the guidance from those who are most impacted by the injustice, discrimination and inequity
  • working together

Nothing-changes-if-nothing-changes-252x300If you are feeling uncomfortable with the diverse perspectives around the march and how to make change, if you’re feeling uncertain about what is the “right” thing to do — GOOD. If we are not practiced in standing up for what is right, it is valuable for us to feel unsettled as we step into this territory. The habits and patterns and behaviors that have allowed us to get to this point require undoing. We need to be disoriented and unsettled so that we can connect to the solid ground of our values, be vulnerable in unfamiliar territory, and allow the fire-to-act to grow stronger within us. The more we unsettle our old ways of being, the clearer we will get. That means unsettling feelings of righteousness as well. Then we can genuinely recognize when we take steps forward that influence growing the world we dream of. A better future requires our participation now in order for it to come to life.

Thank you Chris Corrigan, for inviting me into the power of the word/practice of unsettling.

More reading:

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Translating Sentiment to Action… or Not

I’ve been thinking a lot about tomorrow’s women’s march, particularly the one in Asheville. I imagine a sea of people with smiles, excitement and signs — feeling inspired that others are “showing up”. Feeling proud of marching in the name of things they believe in or things they are against. And yet… I also have a hollow pit in my stomach when I think about it– what good is it? What have the people marching done in the year since they last marched to actively change the discrimination and violence that is happening in our own community? How are people changing their own lives, making sacrifices that make lives better for those who are most targeted — which are NOT white, cisgendered women?

Then I read the below statement from Tranzmission, a local group that I really respect. So much of Asheville’s institutional leadership is not bold, is not willing to take risks to stand up for what is morally and ethically right. And so many of Asheville’s people have not been willing to stand up to this leadership, to demand better, to push for what is morally and ethically right. We have to do better. And to do better, we have to actually DO THINGS — not just voice our outrage and find others to complain with.

If you’re going to tomorrow’s march, I’d love to hear what you are invested in doing this next month to be a part of change here in Asheville. I do not judge your choice to recharge and remotivate in a public way, I just plead that you don’t stop there and that the rush of energy you get from being engaged gets translated to a city council room, attending a board of commissions, putting pressure on the people you know who hold positions of influence in local government, at Mission, at the universities, in the school system, police or sheriff’s department, etc. Consider putting your AirBnb up for rent instead and accept section 8. Do something radical, take a chance in service to actually being a part of real change. I continue to believe that Asheville is capable of remarkable shifts… but it will take all of us being active much more than the majority of us currently are.

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White Folks Are Needed to Help Undo Systematic Oppression

“So in 2018, white folks, stop showering us with empty compliments, being over-eager to befriend us & all that- just stop. It’s sad how badly you want your niceties to morph into freedom from white guilt.

And it doesn’t accomplish what you think it does, it just insults us when you think your biased kindness suffices in a world where we need you to actually undo systematic oppression.”
~ Alex Williams (read the full post)

I see a lot of white folks feeling pushed to a new edge with the blatant racism of the president of our country calling Black and Brown countries shithole countries.

I’m glad it is unsettling.
We’re all needed to actually undo systemic oppression.

“It’s more important for level-headed people to be strategic rather than outraged.” ~Don Lemon

May we use our outrage strategically to work together and undo systemic oppression.

Thank you Alex Williams for the education and Kristin Wilson and Desiree Lynn Adaway for the links.

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Freedom School with Desiree Adaway

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I see a lot of people who are feeling anxious about the state of things, want to do something, and aren’t sure what to do. To really be involved in making change, we have to do our homework and understand the complexity of the situations we find ourselves in. If you are committed to ending a pattern of caring-but-not-really-knowing-what-to-do — Freedom School might be the next step for you.

Desiree Lynn Adaway is a powerful leader and educator and is offering a great service by creating this introductory exploration of the ideas and topics most relevant to understanding and navigating our current social and political landscape. Freedom School will help you develop your self-awareness and capacity to take action in ways that will create lasting impact. Check it out. Spread the word. And let me know if you sign up!

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