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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.

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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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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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History: 58 Years Ago Black and White Children Learning Together was Illegal

IMG_2523Who do you know that is 58 years young or older? Think about how recent 58 years ago was — on this day 58 years ago, the Governor of Georgia threatens to withhold PUBLIC SCHOOL funding to any school that tries to integrate black and white students. What do you know about how schools and classrooms are still segregated today in 2018? What do you know about educational and political leaders that are still using policy and power to keep learning opportunities segregated, to hinder learning for some students? If you don’t know anything about how these things are still going on, what are you doing to educate yourself? If you do know, what are you doing to change it? How are you supporting the people who are making efforts to drive change? Do you believe in the power of education, that all young people have a right to quality learning experiences?

I am on day 11 of the Equal Justice Initiative Calendar. Reading these daily reminders of history, of how we humans allow one another to act, and of the timeline of how recent so many of these things are is not a joy-filled moment of my day, but it is incredibly powerful in helping to ground me in the reality of our past and our present. The calendars are only $5. Can you take a minute each day to remember the history we were born out of?

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Electing Judges in North Carolina

Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 12.34.30 PMIn 2018 here in North Carolina, we get to be a part of electing our judges and sheriffs. These people hold a lot of power and influence. Do you care about what “the law” determines is fair or not fair, just or not, reasonable punishment or not? Do you care about how law enforcement enact their jobs?

The people that are elected into these roles will hold power that allows them to influence large numbers of people’s lives. So — We’ve got 9 months to learn about the people that are wanting to be elected and to influence the outcome of who is elected.

Learn more from the flyer that Democracy North Carolina has created and stay engaged! Links in the comments.

Continued confessions: It is new for me to be engaged in the governing/politicing process, all year long, not just around elections. Thank you to those that have been and those that paved the way for me to be. I still don’t see the system working effectively — but I see potential and I’m joining the experiment more actively.

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Facing the Challenges of This Time

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“In the face of daunting challenges, we must summon the courage to believe we are the ones we have been waiting for, take risks, and experiment towards solutions. We’re being asked to believe in our inherent capacity, step into the unknown, and challenge deeply held assumptions. For most of us, that’s radically disruptive and contrary to how we’ve organized ourselves to succeed in life… Together we will become the leaders we collectively need. And in the process we will continuously grow and shift and change to meet each new challenge.”

Jodie Tonita from Social Transformation Project, published in Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown.

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Follow the Leadership of Black Women

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