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Forum Post: Collateral Damage in the War on Protesters: Neighbors of the NATO3 Cuffed, Held at Gunpoint

Posted 2 years ago on May 29, 2012, 6:31 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Collateral Damage in the War on Protesters: Neighbors of the NATO3 Cuffed, Held at Gunpoint

Tuesday, 29 May 2012 14:01 By Sam Jewler, AlterNet | Report

Whether or not they are guilty of illegal activity, the original three activists facing terrorism charges in Chicago and their six apartment-mates are not the only people who were raided and harassed the night of Wednesday, May 16, in the days leading up to the NATO protests. In this exclusive, three neighbors of the accused activists give their stories of aggressive, politically reactionary, seemingly incompetent and extralegal harassment by the Chicago Police Department.

In the apartment across the hall from the arrested activists, around 11:30 that night, Ben (not his real name) was coming out of his bathroom when his door crashed in and 25 to 30 armed police burst into his living room. One of them approached him, pointing a gun at his face and yelling at him to get down. When he didn’t get down quickly enough, the man shoved him to the ground and cuffed him. “I thought I was being robbed,” Ben said. “They were wearing dark clothes, and I thought if they weren’t police, I was being robbed, and if they were, I didn’t know why this was happening.”

His apartment mate Olli woke up to two guns in his face, and was, he said, “rolled over and cuffed immediately” while other officers started going through the belongings in his room. They brought him into the living room and sat him on the ground next to Ben.

“That’s when the interrogation and harassment started,” Olli said. “It went on for a while, at least an hour and a half of them hurling insults and questions, really leading questions. The whole experience was really terrifying but it was also kind of hilarious, just the notions they have about whoever they were after.”

The police brought out Olli’s books on Marx, Bakunin, feminism and magic, and started asking questions about them. They called Olli and Ben “commie faggots” and “said we were gonna get our assholes widened in County, but we’d probably like that.”

They asked Olli, “You got Karl Marx here, do you like Hitler?” “They were just rude, cruel and dumb,” Ben said. “Eight dudes would come in, they’d harass us for a while, then they’d leave and eight others would come in, and they’d ask us the same exact things again. They’d be surprised by things we had told them multiple times. They’d be like, ‘What, you guys live here? You don’t know those other people?’ And we’d be like ‘Yeah we’ve been saying that for an hour.’ There was no sense of progress.”

Meanwhile, at the apartment above where the activists stayed, another neighbor’s home was being raided. Jimmy had just gotten off a double shift at work, and heard some commotion downstairs, but wanted to stay out of it. All of a sudden an officer came to his door, and when he opened it, put a gun in his face and told him to come outside.

“He took my ID and my phone,” Jimmy said, “and said he was going to look through my phone, and if he saw something he didn’t like he was going to search my apartment.

“I told him he wasn’t going to search anything without a warrant. The screen on my phone was locked, so all he saw was this painting (Frank Frazzeta,“Flashman at the Charge”). He asked me what was the deal with the painting. I said ‘It’s Frazzeta, it’s for nerds.’ At that point he called for backup.

“Two other officers come up, go into my apartment guns drawn. I’m like really? That’s what you’re gonna do right now, just go in there? They said, 'Well if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about.' They probably searched my place for 15, 20 minutes, went through everything.”

The officer standing outside with Jimmy asked him about the activists downstairs. “I had nothing to do with them,” Jimmy said, “they moved in two weeks before. I work a lot, just see them when I leave, see them when I come back. They asked me why I didn’t call them about the neighbors. I shrugged – they found it suspicious that I hadn’t called them!

“The third officer came up to me and told me he had a hard time believing I wasn’t associated with the people downstairs. His quote exactly was that I had ‘hateful revolutionary things’ in my house. He asked me why I had so many red-colored things (Olli got similar accusations because he was wearing his red work uniform). They were commenting about the red color – I have red curtains and my brother’s an artist, so all his paintings are hanging up, and they found that very suspicious and were trying to say it was part of some kind of conspiracy.

“I was like what the hell, who are you people? All I could think about was McCarthyism, and all of a sudden it dawned on me that our police commissioner’s name is McCarthy. I was like poof,” he said, making a head-exploding gesture.

Back in Olli and Ben’s apartment, the officers were using their kitchen as a staging area for their raid of the activists’ apartment, where they said it sounded like everything – people and belongings – was being “thrown around.” Other officers were continuing to interrogate Ben and Olli.

“It definitely felt politically motivated,” Olli said. “They definitely had made these assumptions that we were something, and if they were able to determine that we were of some certain stripe of politics that people find repellent, then they would feel justified in what they were doing to us.

“I asked to see their warrant and they said, ‘Yeah we’ll show you a warrant when the lawyer gets here,’ in a really mocking way.”

“They acted like asking for a warrant and a lawyer was unreasonable because they hadn’t charged us with anything,” Ben said, “but they didn’t seem to realize that they had kidnapped us in our own home. We were handcuffed on the ground in our own living room.

“It was them harassing us, bullying us, mocking us, and trying to find anything they could hold over our heads. It worked alright because I felt like they could just take me to jail – if this was possible, how could that not be possible?

“They made fun of the way Olli smelled – they said, ‘We should throw you in a laundry machine.’ They said, ‘Do you want to leave here with pants on?’ Neither of us knew what that meant… Olli said, ‘I don’t know if that’s a threat or some kind of weird joke.’” Unlike the activists, whose beer brewing equipment is being used as evidence of their alleged terrorism plot, Olli’s home brewing equipment was simply another butt of the officers’ jokes. “Why don’t you just buy Bud Light?” the officers asked him.

Upstairs the cops were almost done with Jimmy. They told him they would let him go if he opened up his phone for them and showed them all the pictures on it.

“I just got a new cell phone and I didn’t have to open it for them,” Jimmy said, “but I just wanted them out of my place, so I showed it to them. All the cops stood around me and it was like showing your friends photos. I went through each one and gave them descriptions of it: ‘Here’s a picture of me in a house with a mirrored ceiling, here’s a picture of me taking a shit, here’s a picture of my new tattoo – what’s that? That’s two slugs having sex!’ That was the most entertaining part of the night for me.”

“It was an hour and a half cuffed and they kind of hung out with us for another half hour,” Olli said. “I kind of got the sense of ‘We got the wrong guys, we gotta make nice for a little bit.’

“Near the end, the white shirt came in and said, ‘Sorry boys, you all were collateral damage.’ Those were his exact words.” Ben reported being told the same.

“In the other apartment [where the nine were arrested] I thought they’re probably being taken in,” Olli said, “even on flimsy evidence that’s probably political. That’s enough for people who don’t need warrants.”

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[-] 1 points by georgeorwell84 (15) from Montgomery, NJ 2 years ago

"25 to 30 armed police burst into his living room." Really? You lost all credability with that statement. He must have a huge apartment.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 2 years ago

The police returned a few hours later, around 3 a.m. They had “the most phony looking piece of paper that they claimed was a warrant,” Olli said. “It had a big blank space in the middle that should have been a list of what they were looking for, and they said, ‘Yeah we write that in after we find it.’” Ben said they had written the area to be searched as the entire second floor, and saw no signature on the warrant.

“We’re gonna get in here either way,” they told Ben. “We figured they were going to finish off our door,” he said, “so we let them in and watched what they were doing.”

On their return trip one of the cops made a comment about a smell of gasoline, which they claimed was their reason for entering the activists’ apartment. But all three neighbors interviewed for this story, whose apartments are across the hall and above the one in question, said they absolutely did not smell gasoline that night.

“It seems like the cops are fabricating some of the story,” Olli said. “I can’t say whether [the activists] were guilty or innocent, but I can say to me personally there’s a smell of something that’s not quite right with how the police went about everything. Something seems off.” “It just doesn’t make any sense,” Jimmy said of the charges. “You don’t brew a Molotov cocktail.”

The experience seemed to have a strong impact on all three neighbors.

A week later Olli still has a mark on his wrists from the handcuffs, and finds it hard to talk about that night.

Jimmy said, “My takeaway is if it can happen to us, it can happen to anybody. It was just very, very unsettling. I’ve definitely been looking over my shoulder a bit; it’s hard not to. And when I get home, peeking my head around the gate, checking the lock. Going through and checking every room in my house before I go to bed.”

Ben, who claims no interest in politics whatsoever, said, “It’s a really basic civil liberties issue. To me the bottom line is that you don’t have to be political at all to be affected and see that this was obviously wrong.” He declined to give his real name for fear of police retaliation, and said he’s considering leaving the city or even the country. He’s been having dreams about the raid since it happened. “Originally my plans for NATO were to come home from work, drink some beer and watch Star Trek,” Jimmy said. “At the time I had no plans, but after that I decided that I would go to the protest. I had to voice my opinion somehow, so I went and joined the march on Sunday.”

“In my view it’s not that there were terrorists next door,” Olli said. “It’s that the cops were terrorizing us.”

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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 2 years ago

A Mother’s Plea For Justice

Tuesday, 29 May 2012 13:45 By John Carroll, The Texasville Reporter | Report

There are fewif any losses one can experience in life worse than the loss of a child; this everyone can agree upon. On Jan 31, Velma Jean Humphrey, whose son Patrick Humphrey had a history of mental health problems, decided to call 911 and ask for help as her search for a refill for his medicine had been unsuccessful. Her hope was the medics or a trip to the emergency room could give him what he needed. Patrick had never been a problem nor had there been any history of violence.

At approximately 3:15 a.m., a medic and his assistant entered the home and rushed into Patrick’s bedroom. It is unclear whether proper EMS procedure was followed, but what is clear is Patrick did not give his consent to the medics to help him and repeatedly requested for them to leave his room. At some point the argument turned physical when Patrick then forced his way outside of his home, and police were called to assist the medics. In a conversation with Headland EMS chief Chad Hughes, he refused any comment citing patient confidentiality acts and stated we can only give copies of our records to the victim. In this case he’s deceased. When asked if the law allows the “next of kin”, in this case the mother Velma Jean Humphrey, to receive them as a matter of law, he acknowledged they did, but then ridiculously questioned whether Patrick Humphrey’s mother could be considered next of kin, and said he would not release the records to her or anyone else.

What can be agreed on by all who were present is the first officer on the scene, Tony Franks, who goes by the name “Big Tiny” and weighs nearly 300 pounds, arrived, and Patrick, in a state of confusion, banged his hands on the police car door. As the obese patrolman attempted to open his door, Patrick grabbed him briefly, and the officer discharged his weapon which grazed Patrick’s chest. Patrick then quickly retreated into his neighbor’s yard saying he was sorry. The large overweight patrolman slipped to the ground, unable to get up without assistance due to his size, and then asked Patrick’s mother to help get his vehicle into park. At this point what should have then been a deescalation of violence according to police department training, an inexperienced officer with a questionable past arrived on the scene with his weapon drawn.

According to multiple eyewitnesses, Smith approached Patrick Humphrey and ordered him to “Get on the ground” multiple times. Patrick, clearly unarmed, then moved at a diagonal route to cross the street to return to his home and mother less than 20 feet away. Patrick, with palms open and hands extended, repeatedly shouted he was unarmed did not have a gun and “I ain’t got nothing”.

Patrolman Tony Smith then, instead of following the police procedures of and deescalation in the department’s Use of Force Policy, which he had signed and acknowledged his full understanding of, made the decision to not use a taser or wait for any further backup which was moments away. Instead he nervously fired his weapon which struck Patrick Humphrey in the lower torso and resulted in his death.

The policeman then approached a fallen Patrick, saw his mortal wounds and empty hands, walked over to his mother profusely crying saying he was sorry and became sick vomitting in her front yard, falling to his knees and throwing his firearm on the hood of a nearby car. Patrick, bleeding with a severed artery, lay in the street unattended.

It is not always easy for any officer to make a decision to use deadly force nor can at times there be a clear decision according to two highly decorated officers who train police departments we spoke with. What is clear is that officer Smith did not choose to deescalate the situation or use any of the techniques he had been trained to subdue an unarmed Patrick Humphrey. Whether this action is criminal or just incompetent police work is unclear.

But what can be determined about the Patrick Humphrey shooting by Patrolman Tony Smith is clear. Patrick, by according to eyewitness accounts and his mother, lay unattended for close to 10 minutes while he bled to death and minutes are everything in trauma care. His mother was prevented from going to him as a dying Patrick reached out to her for help.

What is also clear is the subsequent investigation into the shooting, at best, is absurdly incompetent or clear evidence of corruption. Three witnesses exist, and authorities have known this since the morning of the shooting. At the D.A’s direction two primary eyewitnesses have not been allowed to tell their story. Strangely, under the direction of this district attorney, Doug Valeska, investigators have purposely not interviewed them. Law enforcement officers know they were present and have commented to me that this is one of the worst cases they have ever known.

Repeatedly, the advocate of the family, local pastor Kenny Sharpton Glasgow has requested the police report for the family and has been denied. This behavior is the core of Glasgow’s complaint and continued struggle against a police department, that we discovered after investigating, has serious credibility issues and what appears to be a pattern of racial harassment among its residents. At first, I must confess, I was highly skeptical that anyone would be treated differently by the Headland Police Department and could not see the logic in a march Pastor Glasgow held where a small group marched through downtown Headland demanding justice. I was very mistaken and have been appalled at the conduct of the police department and blatant disregard for state law. I am further concerned when our community’s retired judges and law enforcement officials speak quietly that there is something very wrong here, and its quickly becoming an embarrassment to our community.

The Alabama code and the office of the Attorney General’s previous opinions are crystal clear in this matter, and it is not legal for Headland Police Chief Mark Jones or District Attorney Doug Valeska to withhold this document from the public.

This newspaper has asked, twice been refused, once after being told once if I provided them with the appropriate legal reference, they would give me a copy. I did, and have further provided the department with the attorney’s general opinion on the matter. Yet, the police department still insists on violating state statues and withholding these records from the family and public. After the third discussion with Sergeant Langley of the Headland Police department he stated we are not going to give out the police report as we have been told not to, when asked who told him this, he stated, you need to ask Doug Valeska for it. After I asked him point blank what authority does Doug Valeska have in the operation of the Headland police Department to violate the attorney general’s opinion and the state law that compels them to release the report, he merely said,They have to do what they are told by him and informed me he was going to end the conversation.

Why and who is to hold them responsible for such a continued violation of law? This, to quote local Pastor Kenny Sharpton Glasgow, is how they operate, Instead of a open and transparent police department based on law and policies, under Chief Mark Jones they have chosen a very different path that breeds distrust and fear into the local community.

And, indeed, several people we spoke with gave stories of racial harassment, routine public use of racial slurs and described what appears to be a pattern of racial intimidation and persecution by some members of the police department. I’m a conservative republican who wears muddy boots, drives a truck, have roots here dating back to before the civil war (not that any of that should matter but in reality it does) and I can now attest to this as well. After days of mulling over what I saw and heard directly from the police department, the EMS director and credible members of the Patrick Humphrey’s community I have known for decades, it left me stunned and asking one simple question.

How is it possible that the witnesses were not interviewed in not one investigation but two as directed by District Attorney Doug Valeska? There are only two conclusions a reasonable person might come to:

1.The D.A’s office and investigators at his direction are grossly incompetent.

2.There is something very wrong going on and the federal authorities- in this case the Department of Justice and FBI, need to step in and investigate what the district attorney’s office has done and why primary witnesses (some of whom we have known for over 15 years and are highly credible) appear to be purposely excluded to prevent their testimony and the motivations behind it determined and appropriate parties removed from office and prosecuted.

One final note - some in the local press and city government have stated that this is a racial issue. I strongly disagree. This is a moral, legal and ethical issue and when a mother’s plea for justice is not answered …we as a community must hear it.

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[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 2 years ago

Living In Two Cities: Tarif And Evelyn Warren

Tuesday, 29 May 2012 14:22 By Susie Day, Gay City News | Report

On May 14, Evelyn Warren and Michael Tarif Warren, attorneys at law, held a press conference. They stood outside the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse and announced that their case, Warren v. City of New York, had been settled. They had dropped their lawsuit against the city and the NYPD officers who had beaten and arrested them five years before.

Early in the evening of June 21, 2007, the Warrens were driving in Brooklyn when they saw police chasing a young man into a McDonald’s parking lot. The cops tackled the youth, handcuffed him, threw him to the ground, and began kicking him in the head. The Warrens pulled over, got out of their car, and respectfully asked one Sergeant Steven Talvy of the NYPD Street Narcotic Enforcement Unit why he and his officers were battering someone who was obviously helpless.

At the press conference, Tarif Warren, with his usual soft-spoken dignity, described how Sergeant Steven Talvy yelled at them to “get the ‘F’ back in your vehicle, stay the ‘F’ out of our business.” The Warrens got back into their car.

But, said Tarif, “because the police weren’t wearing identification or badges, we started taking down license plate numbers of what we thought were police vehicles. Sergeant Talvy saw us, came over, and began to punch me on the left side of my head, bursting both my lips. When my wife asked why he did that, he punched her in the jaw. Then he yanked me out of the vehicle with such force that he ripped all the buttons off my shirt and ripped the entire left pants leg of my suit. He slammed me up against the vehicle, handcuffed me, and shoved me in a police van, injuring my shoulder and my head. Something that will always be with me is the wild rage I saw in Steven Talvy’s eyes. Evelyn and I knew that if I had made one slight move, we would not be here today.”

Tarif and Evelyn were charged with resisting arrest, obstructing government administration, and disorderly conduct — offenses carrying seriously penalties. But after a year of court dates, prosecutors dismissed the charges, confessing to the judge that they had no evidence.

New York City, while admitting no wrongdoing in the settlement, awarded Evelyn and Tarif $360,000. And so a traumatic event upending the Warrens’ lives is resolved. Life for Evelyn and Tarif can return to normal. Right?

Have I mentioned that the Warrens are African-American? Did I need to? Do you need to ask the race of the youth whose beating they tried to stop?

China Miéville’s book “The City and the City” takes place in two cities occupying the same geographical space. One city is upscale and thriving; the other, in decline. What keeps the cities inviolably separate is the conscious perceptions, sculpted from birth, of their citizens. To travel between cities without a permit is worse than criminal; to be in both at once, unthinkable.

In New York, New York (they had to name it twice), there are also two cities.

On one hand is the city of Normal. Normal residents assume that, though unfairness may exist, their world is basically all right. Normal life allows one to ignore or “unsee” the city of Pogrom.

Pogrom, on the other hand, runs on fear and a paranoiac onslaught of police and the courts against mostly brown and black people. Pogrom operates impersonally, under the cool, reptilian assumption that atrocities are a useful way to manage a dangerous population. Pogrom’s stop-and-frisk practices, its beatings and arrests coexist alongside the hardworking, God-fearing people of Normal, who, given the benefit of the doubt, are simply trying to live their lives. On June 21, 2007, the Warrens chose to transgress boundaries — they lived in both cities at once, without a permit.

At the press conference, Evelyn and I talked. “To witness Sergeant Talvy beating my husband, who was offering no resistance and doing nothing wrong,” she said, “has taken a mental and emotional toll on me. I’m no longer as open or receptive to people. I don’t nurture my relationships. It’s like I’ve gone into a shell.”

Though relieved the case is officially over, Evelyn described how disheartened she is that the NYPD hasn’t changed; that, after the incident, Sergeant Talvy was even promoted to lieutenant. In fact, Talvy and his officers were in court last week for jury selection, before the case settled.

“It was like they were at a ball game, laughing, kidding around like they had no real concerns. It’ll sound crazy, but the defendants’ table was behind ours, and it was just killing me that if we went to trial, Talvy would be sitting behind me.”

Later, I described this case to a friend. He’d seen a clip of the press conference on TV news; he was clearly upset that these upstanding people were treated unjustly. But when I mentioned two black men, Ramarley Graham and Kenneth Chamberlain — an 18-year-old in the Bronx and a 68-year-old in White Plains — who were recently shot to death in their own homes by police, my friend backed off a little.

“It’s always been this way,” he said, trying to Normalize the situation. “Maybe it’s worse under Kelly and Bloomberg, but things have always been this way.”

Tarif and Evelyn came of age during the era of civil rights and black nationalism. Different as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were tactically, they shared a conviction in an inherent human goodness. They believed things don’t have to be this way.

That’s why Evelyn talks about “remaining vigilant.” “In spite of what’s happened to us,” she said, “I hope, if we were confronted with the same situation, we’d do the same thing.”

The point is, you usually don’t realize which city you live in until something like this happens to you.

“What they want is to frighten people so no one stops and bears witness,” Evelyn added. “If people have the courage to say, ‘No, what you’re doing is wrong and I’m not going to move on,’ then maybe one day, something will change.”

Then maybe one day, we will all live in the same city.

Originally published in Gay City News. Truthout has licensed this content. It may not be reproduced by any other source and is not covered by our Creative Commons license.