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Forum Post: On the Death and Life's Work of the Unconquerable Rubin "Hurricane" Carter

Posted 7 years ago on April 22, 2014, 4:50 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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On the Death and Life's Work of the Unconquerable Rubin "Hurricane" Carter

Tuesday, 22 April 2014 09:12
By Dave Zirin, The Nation | Op-Ed


“They can incarcerate my body but never my mind”

—Rubin “Hurricane” Carter

For a man who spent nearly four decades of his seventy-six years under the restrictive eye of the US correctional system, few have ever touched as many lives as Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. The world-class boxer turned wrongfully accused prisoner, turned advocate for the rights of the unjustly incarcerated, has succumbed to cancer, but his memory and work will endure as long as there are people outside and inside the prisons of the world fighting for justice.

It is difficult to think of more than a handful of prisoners in history who have had their story memorialized in popular culture quite like Rubin Carter. After his own infamous homicide conviction, Carter’s case inspired an international human rights movement. There were rallies, marches and all-star musical concerts in his name. He was even the subject of a Bob Dylan Top 40 hit, the frenzied fiddle anthem Hurricane. Carter also wrote, while behind bars, the bestselling book The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender to Number 45472. Finally after his release, he was the subject of the Oscar-nominated Denzel Washington film The Hurricane.

Yet despite the overturning of his murder conviction as well as a Hollywood canonization, Rubin Carter never rested. After decades behind bars, no one would have blinked if he had coasted on his celebrity for the remainder of his days. Instead, Mr. Carter started a nonprofit organization in his adopted home of Toronto in 2004 called Innocence International, aimed at shedding light on the cases of the wrongly convicted. Rubin Carter believed that the only thing exceptional about his conviction was the fact that people were aware and outraged that it had happened. In a country with the highest prison rate on the planet, where quality legal representation is more privilege than right, Rubin Carter knew that he had left an untold number of sisters and brothers behind. He had lived the racism of the criminal justice system and he had lived among the poor and mentally ill behind bars. Following his release, he was determined to be their advocate. Carter wrote in February, as he lay dying, that he “lived in hell for the first forty-nine years, and have been in heaven for the past twenty-eight years.” For him, heaven was doing this kind of work and struggle was the secret of joy.

I had many an interaction with Rubin Carter, never revolving around boxing or his near-miss in 1964 to win the middleweight championship. Our shared work existed in the context of campaigns for prisoners' rights. Rubin Carter never refused any of my requests, no matter how obscure the case, to lend his name to a campaign. Like Denzel Washington said when he took Rubin Carter on stage with him when accepting the Golden Globe for best actor for The Hurricane, “He’s all love.”

Sure enough, during the last days of his life and in terrible pain, Rubin Carter was attempting to bring light to yet another prisoner he believed was being denied justice. On February 21, 2014, Carter published “Hurricane Carter’s Dying Wish,” in the New York Daily News. It detailed the case of David McCallum, who has been jailed for murder for almost thirty years, convicted at the age of 16. As Carter wrote, “McCallum was incarcerated two weeks after I was released, reborn into the miracle of this world. Now I’m looking death straight in the eye; he’s got me on the ropes, but I won’t back down…. My aim in helping this fine man is to pay it forward, to give the help that I received as a wrongly convicted man to another who needs such help now.”

The best possible tribute to Rubin Carter would not be to listen to some Bob Dylan or read a few obits. It would be to contact new Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson—his “action line” phone number is 718-250-2340—and ask him to fulfill Hurricane’s request to reopen the case of David McCallum. After all, this was the dying wish of the Hurricane.

This story originally appeared in The Nation.

Copyright © 2014 The Nation 2014 distributed by Agence Global.



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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

Jim Crow in the Classroom: New Report Finds Segregation Lives on in US Schools

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 11:49
, Democracy Now! | Video Interview


As the U.S. Supreme Court upholds a ban on affirmative action in Michigan and the country marks 60 years since the landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education, we look at how segregation is still pervasive in U.S. public schools. An explosive new report in ProPublica finds school integration never fully occurred, and in recent decades may have even been reversed. Focusing on three generations of the same family in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the story concludes: "While segregation as it is practiced today may be different than it was 60 years ago, it is no less pernicious: in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere, it involves the removal and isolation of poor black and Latino students, in particular, from everyone else. In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened." We are joined by Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose article, "The Resegregation of America's Schools," is the latest in the ProPublica series "Segregation Now: Investigating America's Racial Divide."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: The Supreme Court has upheld Michigan's ban on affirmative action at state colleges and universities. The case centers on a 2006 voter referendum in Michigan that barred race- and sex-based preferences in admissions. An appeals court previously ruled the ban violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. But in a six-to-two decision, the Supreme Court overruled the lower court. The justices in the majority argued policies affecting minorities that do not involve intentional discrimination should be decided at the ballot box rather than in the courtroom. In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued, quote, "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race ... is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination."

Tuesday's ruling will likely bolster similar anti-affirmative action measures in several other states, and it comes as this spring marks 60 years since the landmark Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, which was intended to end segregation in America's public schools. But an explosive new report finds school integration never fully occurred and, in recent decades, may have even been reversed. "The Resegregation of America's Schools" is the latest in an ongoing series by ProPublica called "Segregation Now: Investigating America's Racial Divide," and it focuses on three generations in the same family in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

AMY GOODMAN: The report concludes that, quote, "while segregation as it is practiced today may be different than it was 60 years ago, it is no less pernicious: in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere, it involves the removal and isolation of poor black and Latino students, in particular, from everyone else. In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened."

Well, for more, we're joined by the author of "Segregation Now," the whole series, Nikole Hannah-Jones. She covers civil rights for ProPublica, with a focus on segregation and discrimination in housing and schools.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! Congratulations on this remarkable series, and coming out now at the same time that the Supreme Court has backed a ban on race as a factor in college admissions. Before we talk about Tuscaloosa, if you could briefly comment on this idea that race shouldn't matter when you look at the schools of America.

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: Well, I think it's very obvious, if you just look strictly at the facts, that we still have a racialized K-12 system and that black and brown students tend to be in schools where they're receiving an inferior education. They have a less rigorous curriculum. They're less likely to get access to classes that will help them in college, such as advanced placement physics, higher-level math. And they are most likely to be taught by inexperienced teachers. So, when you have this system where black and brown students are receiving a very different education than white students, and then once you get to the college level you say race no longer matters, and despite your disadvantage in a public educational system, that now we are all—everyone should compete at the same level, I think, in some sense, it's just—there's just a big disconnect between what's happening on these two levels of education.

AMY GOODMAN: It's interesting, Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Sotomayor's dissent, very eloquent dissent, against Chief Roberts.

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: Yeah, so, in 2007, Chief Justice Roberts wrote in a decision striking down voluntary desegregation orders in Seattle and in Louisville, Kentucky, and these were two districts that wanted to maintain integration in the schools because they understand the value of that for students as—I guess, really in terms of education. And what Chief Justice Roberts said, a very pithy response, the way to stop discriminating on race is to stop discriminating on race. And Justice Sotomayor definitely addressed that and said, "You can't ignore the existence of race, and the way that you eliminate racial inequality is not to pretend that it doesn't exist." So, she was directly kind of addressing that response.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Could you explain, Nikole—you said that minorities, black and brown students, receive an inferior education. Could you give a kind of overview of why that's the case? Is it because of districting, where schools—what schools get what kinds of resources, etc.? Why is that the case?

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: What's often forgotten about Brown was Brown was really addressing the system of racial caste that we had then and that resources will really—

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean by Brown, Brown v. Board of Education.

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: Oh, I'm sorry. Right, Brown v. Board of Education, which was the 1954 ruling, the landmark ruling that struck down the concept of separate but equal in schools. And what it understood was that resources follow white students in this country, that schools that have a significant percentage of white students get better teachers. They get better textbooks. They get better, really, curriculum. And so, today, that's still the case. We have not eliminated that kind of connection between resources and race.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So could you talk about what it is that prompted this study? This was a year-long investigation that you conducted. How did you come upon the topic and decide to research it in this way and focus on Tuscaloosa?

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: Well, I had—prior to working on school segregation, I had spent nearly two years working on housing segregation and really looking at the federal failure—the 45-year federal failure to enforce the Fair Housing Act, and asking why, when we have a fair housing law, we still have so much racial segregation. And so, during the course of that, I became very interested in the connection between segregated housing and segregated schools, and I knew I wanted to do some reporting on school segregation, in particular.

And I focused on the South because, despite what a lot of people think, the South actually did desegregate. And it went from being completely segregated to, within a span of 40 years, even now, to becoming the most integrated region of the country. The South also educates the most black students. So you have the one region of the country that actually did desegregate, and they're educating the most black students, and they are starting to now slide back on that. And so, to me, it was critical to write about the South first because that's where we have the most to lose.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to 2007. The Tuscaloosa School Board approves a redistricting plan then that further segregated black students. This is school board member Ernestine Tucker speaking in a video that accompanied the ProPublica investigation.

ERNESTINE TUCKER: My position was: We've rushed into this. We need more time. We need more research. But for the majority of the people on the school board, who represented the majority of the voters, it was OK. And I said to them, "We will experience the damage of this decision for the next 50 years." I said, "It's criminal, what we've done tonight."

AMY GOODMAN: That was Tuscaloosa School Board member Ernestine Tucker. This is Shelley Jones, former chair of the Tuscaloosa School Board.

SHELLEY JONES: We have maintained a desegregated school system. There are all kinds of evidence that—that every day, I think, the board endeavors, yet today, to maintain that and to ensure that. Those who had doubts that this would—that desegregation and the Green factors would be maintained of desegregation, I think now they realize, in fact, yes, we do—we see it in action. It is taking place.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

AMY GOODMAN: Former Tuscaloosa School Board Chair Shelley Jones from a video by Maisie Crow called Saving Central. Can you talk about the role of the school board in Central High? You know, it's interesting, Central, because Central was also Little Rock, Arkansas.


AMY GOODMAN: But you looked at Tuscaloosa.

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: Right. So what brought me to Tuscaloosa, what I was interested in was the South had been reshaped largely because of federal court orders. So the courts had forced integration on the South, and it had been successful. And over the last 20 years, we've seen a lot of those segregation orders lifted by the courts, and what we found was that as districts lose their federal oversight, they do begin to resegregate. And Tuscaloosa has become one of the most rapidly resegregating school districts in the country. And that's largely because of what the school board did with Central.

So, in 2000, when a federal judge released Tuscaloosa from its court order, the school board immediately voted to split up Central. And Central had been created by the court order. In 1975—or, excuse me, '79, 25 years after Brown, Tuscaloosa still operated a virtually black high school and a white high school. And so, a court forced the merger of those two schools, and it created Central. And it was actually an integration success story. But because of fears of white flight, the board voted in 2000 to split apart that school, and they created three high schools—two integrated and one that was entirely black.

And so, what I really wanted to show with this report is that segregation is not an accident. And I think a lot of times we focus on, well, it's just—you know, it's natural, or it's based on where people live. But the irony of Central High School is Central High School is actually located in an integrated neighborhood, but the white students right across the street from the school are gerrymandered into a district to go to an integrated school, and that Central was created as a black school by the intentional drawing of district lines.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Could you explain, Nikole, why is it that federal judges have been lifting court-ordered segregation mandates? Because that's obviously had an enormous effect on this resegregation.

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: Right. I think part of it is—I mean, in the '90s, the Supreme Court began to really roll back desegregation. And so, it made it much easier for school districts to get out from under desegregation orders. Prior to that, the Supreme Court had a very high standard, which was districts had to eliminate, root and branch, all vestiges of segregation. But by the '90s, the court was saying that they only had to do it to the extent practicable. In other words, they didn't actually have to eliminate it, but if they showed that they tried in earnest, then a court could release them. So, that started to happen. And then, during the two Bush terms, Bush really had a policy of trying to get as many of these orders dismissed. There was integration fatigue. I think people felt like, after 40 or 50 years, that enough time had passed and that we had eliminated anything that could be related to the time before Brown, and any current discrepancies and any current disparities are related to kind of things like neighborhood and poverty and have nothing to do with race.

AMY GOODMAN: Let's go to the principal of Central. Let's go to Clarence Sutton Jr., speaking in the video Saving Central: One Principal's Fight in a Resegregating South, which accompanied the ProPublica investigation.

CLARENCE SUTTON JR.: If we did school 8:00 to 3:00 like we always did it, we would still be in the same spot. You just can't do school like everyone else does school. It takes me giving up my day, my evening. It takes my wife saying, "Do what you have to do," and be understanding. It takes a faculty to say, "We'll come in our school free. Don't worry about paying us. We'll all donate two hours. We'll come in on Saturday." It takes that kind of people. It's a system that's just getting in place, but I feel like we're 10 years behind. So we're working faster to play catch-up. When I went to Central High School, I felt special. The whole state thought we were special. You had National Merit scholars. You had four or five foreign languages being taught. You had the best teams. You had a math national championship. But to break that up, that's something I think I will never really understand.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Clarence Sutton Jr., principal of Central High School in Tuscaloosa in that video by Maisie Crow. Explain who Mr. Sutton is and his role at Central.

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: So, Dr. Sutton is the principal of Central, and he actually attended the integrated Central and then was a product of that integration and now is teaching at a school that is 99 percent black and more than 84 percent poor. And so, he really talks about the educational struggles, because it's not just the racial segregation, but it's also the segregation of these students by income, that you take the most disadvantaged students and concentrate them in one school, but also don't give that school the resources. I mean, for 10 years, Central didn't even offer a physics class. There were years where it didn't offer advanced placement classes, while the most integrated high school had 12 advanced placement classes. Teachers who were let go of other schools could be rehired at Central. So, what people feared would happen when Central was broken apart, which was that these poor black students would be separated and written off, is largely what people say happened at Central.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: You also suggest, Nikole, that Alabama state officials actively encouraged white parents to remove their children from public schools. Why did they do that? And what was the impact of that ultimately?

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: I think today we tend to forget that there was a reason the Supreme Court had to rule on the issue of school segregation. In the South, it was written into the law. White supremacy was written into the law. And there was a belief that black students should not attend schools with white children. And elected officials fought very virulently against desegregation. And when it became clear that the courts were going to force desegregation, white officials in Alabama and other parts of the South shut down schools. They shut down sometimes entire districts. And they also encouraged what were called segregation academies, which were white flight academies, private academies that were set up to educate white students who were for fleeing the public schools. So, a lot of times we attribute white flight to busing or to desegregation, but it really was begun and led by public officials.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Another striking fact that you bring up in your piece is, while there was this racial segregation, there was an enormous amount of economic diversity. One of the people you profiled, James Dent, one of his classmates at Druid High School was Condoleezza Rice. So how is it that that economic diversity works together with this racial uniformity?

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: Right. So, at the time, in Tuscaloosa and other places, every black person in the community went to the same high schools, because the schools were segregated. So, no matter how wealthy you were or how poor you were, you went to the same high school. And that economic diversity has always been very important. But now, what happens is that in—the integrated high schools are largely being integrated with more middle-class black students, and what's left behind in these segregated schools are the poorest black students in the community. And so, not only are they experiencing no racial diversity, but they're also experiencing no economic diversity.

AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up, I wanted to go to the title of your investigation, "Segregation Now." Let's go to that famous inauguration speech by Governor George Wallace of Alabama, who had been elected as a Democrat on November 14, 1963.

GOV. GEORGE WALLACE: Let us rise to the call of freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South. In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this Earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Democratic Governor George Wallace in his inauguration address after winning the race for governor. That was back in 1963, Nikole. That was more than a half a century ago. And that is the title of your series that you've spent a year investigating and writing.

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: We chose "Segregation Now" not to necessarily say that what George Wallace predicted would be true, because it's not. What George Wallace and others like him wanted was all-white schools. All-white schools don't really exist anymore. But all-black schools do. And that's the segregation today, is that 60 years after Brown, and really, I show through a single generation of one family, integration is gone for many students.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, in New York, a study has just shown New York has the most segregated schools in the country.

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: Absolutely. And this is one of the things where I hoped the story—excuse me—would do some myth busting, because we all up here have this perception of the South. The South did integrate. We have never seen true desegregation in the Northeast or the Midwest. And if you look at in terms of neighborhoods and schools, the most segregated parts of the country have—for black people, have consistently been in the Midwest and in the Northeast.

AMY GOODMAN: Seventy-three percent of charter schools in New York City were deemed so-called apartheid schools, where white enrollment was below 1 percent?

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: Yes. And over all of the New York public schools, it's about a quarter of black students. And in Chicago, it's a third of black students are in these so-called apartheid schools. So I think there's a lot of reckoning to be done.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

AMY GOODMAN: Why apartheid schools?

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: They call them apartheid schools because they're 99 percent black or brown. And that's not my terminology, but when you talk to the researchers who use this term, is they want to shock Americans with that term. They want to say—because we have kind of come to accept once again separate but equal. When you look at Race to the Top, when you look at No Child Left Behind, we're still trying to make these separate schools equal. And never in the history of our country have we managed to do that. So I think what they're really trying to do is say these schools are unjust, and they want to shock people with that terminology.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Nikole, you've done a remarkable job. We're going to link to your series. Nikole Hannah-Jones joined ProPublica in late 2011, covers civil rights with a focus on segregation and discrimination in housing and schools. Her major ongoing investigation is "Segregation Now: Investigating America's Racial Divide." And we will—her latest piece, "The Resegregation of America's Schools." We'll link to it at democracynow.org.

When we come back, the new Pulitzer Prize-winning nonfiction writer Dan Fagin will join us. His book is called Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation. Stay with us.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

They Are Watching You: The National Security State and the US-Mexican Border

Tuesday, 22 April 2014 13:58
By Todd Miller, TomDispatch | News Analysis

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With the agility of a seasoned Border Patrol veteran, the woman rushed after the students. She caught up with them just before they entered the exhibition hall of the eighth annual Border Security Expo, reaching out and grabbing the nearest of them by the shoulder. Slightly out of breath, she said, “You can’t go in there, give me back your badges.”

The astonished students had barely caught a glimpse of the dazzling pavilion of science-fiction-style products in that exhibition hall at the Phoenix Convention Center. There, just beyond their view, more than 100 companies, including Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Verizon, were trying to sell the latest in futuristic border policing technology to anyone with the money to buy it.

The students from Northeastern Illinois University didn’t happen to fall into that category. An earnest manager at a nearby registration table insisted that, as they were not studying “border security,” they weren’t to be admitted. I asked him how he knew just what they were studying. His only answer was to assure me that next year no students would be allowed in at all.

Among the wonders those students would miss was a fake barrel cactus with a hollow interior (for the southern border) and similarly hollow tree stumps (for the northern border), all capable of being outfitted with surveillance cameras. “Anything that grows or exists in nature,” Kurt Lugwisen of TimberSpy told a local Phoenix television station, “we build it.”

Nor would those students get to see the miniature drone -- “eyes in the sky” for Border Patrol agents -- that fits conveniently into a backpack and can be deployed at will; nor would they be able to check out the “technology that might,” as one local Phoenix reporter warned, “freak you out.” She was talking about facial recognition systems, which in a border scenario would work this way: a person enters a border-crossing gate, where an image of his or her face is instantly checked against a massive facial image database (or the biometric data contained on a passport)."If we need to target on any specific gender or race because we're trying to find a subject, we can set the parameters and the threshold to find that person," Kevin Haskins of Cognitec (“the face recognition company”) proudly claimed.

Nor would they be able to observe the strange, two day-long convention hall dance between homeland security, its pockets bursting with their parents’ tax dollars, and private industry intent on creating the most massive apparatus of exclusion and surveillance that has ever existed along U.S. borders.

Border Security Expo 2014 catches in one confined space the expansiveness of a “booming” border market. If you include “cross-border terrorism, cyber crime, piracy, [the] drug trade, human trafficking, internal dissent, and separatist movements,” all “driving factor[s] for the homeland security market,” by 2018 it could reach $544 billion globally. It is here that U.S. Homeland Security officials, local law enforcement, and border forces from all over the world talk contracts with private industry representatives, exhibit their techno-optimism, and begin to hammer out a future of ever more hardened, up-armored national and international boundaries.

The global video surveillance market alone is expected to be a $40 billion industry by 2020, almost three times its $13.5 billion value in 2013. According to projections, 2020 border surveillance cameras will be capturing 3.4 trillion video hours globally. In case you were wondering, that’s more than 340 million years of video footage if you were watching 24 hours a day.

But those students, like most of the rest of us, haven’t been invited to this high energy, dystopian conversation about our future.

And the rebuff is far from a surprise. It has, after all, been less than a year since Edward Snowden emerged on the scene with a portfolio of NSA documents revealing just how vast our national security state has become and how deeply it has reached into our private lives. It has by now created what the Washington Post’s Dana Priest and William Arkin have termed “an alternative geography.” And nowhere is this truer than on our borders.

It is in the U.S. borderlands that, as anthropologist Josiah Heyman once wrote, the U.S. government’s modern expertise in creating and tracking "a marked population” was first developed and practiced. It involved, he wrote prophetically, “the birth and development of a... means of domination, born of the mating between moral panics about foreigners and drugs, and a well-funded and expert bureaucracy.”

You may not be able to watch them at the Border Security Expo, but in those borderlands -- make no bones about it -- the Department of Homeland Security, with its tripartite missions of drug interdiction, immigration enforcement, and the war on terror, is watching you, whoever you are. And make no bones about this either: our borders are widening and the zones in which the watchers are increasingly free to do whatever they want are growing.

Tracking a Marked Population

It was mid-day in the Arizona heat during the summer of 2012 and Border Patrol agent Benny Longoria (a pseudonym) and his partner are patrolling the reservation of the Tohono O’odham Nation. It’s the second largest Native American reservation in the country and, uniquely, shares 76 miles of border with Mexico. The boundary, in fact, slices right through O’odham aboriginal lands. For the approximately 28,000 members of the Nation, several thousand of whom live in Mexico, this international boundary has been a point of contention since 1853, when U.S. surveyors first drew the line. None of the region’s original inhabitants were, of course, consulted.

Now Tohono O’odham lands on the U.S. side of the border are one place among many in Arizona where the star performer at Border Security Expo, Elbit Systems of America -- whose banner at the entrance welcomed all attendees -- will build surveillance towers equipped with radar and high-powered day/night cameras able to spot a human being up to seven miles away. These towers -- along with motion sensors spread over the surrounding landscape and drones overhead -- will feed information into snazzy operational control rooms in Border Patrol posts throughout the Arizona borderlands.

In March, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) awarded a $145 million contract to that Israeli company through its U.S. division. Elbit Systems prides itself on having spent “10+ years securing the world’s most challenging borders,” above all deploying similar “border protection systems” to the separation wall between Israel and Palestine. It is now poised to enter U.S. indigenous lands.

At the moment, however, the two forest-green-uniformed Border Patrol agents search for tracks the old-fashioned way. They are five miles west of the O’odham’s sacred Baboquivari mountain range and three miles north of the U.S.-Mexican border. It’s July and 100-plus-degrees hot. They scour the ground for tracks and finally pick up a trail of fresh ones.

The agents get out of their vehicle and begin to follow them. Every day, many hours are spent just this way. They figure that people who have just walked across the border without papers are hot, uncomfortable, and probably moving slowly. In this heat in this desert, it’s as if you were negotiating the glass inside a light bulb. About an hour on, Longoria spots the woman.

There’s a giant mesquite tree, and she’s beneath it, her back to the agents, her arm shading her head. They creep up on her. As they get closer, they can see that she’s wearing blue jeans and a striped navy shirt.

When they’re 10 feet away and she still hasn’t moved, Longoria whispers, “Oh, shit, why isn’t she reacting?” In Arizona in July, you can almost hear the sizzle of the heat.

In human terms, this is where the long-term strategy behind the Border Patrol’s “prevention through deterrence” regime leads. After all, in recent years, it has militarized vast swaths of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexican border. Along it, there are now 12,000 implanted motion sensors and 651 miles of walls or other barriers. Far more than $100 billion has been spent on this project since 9/11. The majority of these resources are focused on urban areas where people without papers traditionally crossed.

Now, border crossers tend to avoid such high concentrations of surveillance and the patrolling agents that go with it. They skirt those areas on foot, ending up in desolate, dangerous, mountainous places like this one on the sparsely populated Tohono O’odham reservation, an area the size of Connecticut. The Border Patrol’s intense armed surveillance regime is meant to push people into places so remote and potentially deadly that they will decide not to cross the border at all.

That, at least, was the plan. This is the reality.

“Hey,” Longoria says to the woman as he steps up behind her. “Hello.” Nothing.

“Hello,” he says again, as he finally stands over her. And it’s then that he sees her face, blistered from the sun, white pus oozing out of her nose. Her belly has started to puff up. She is already a corpse.

The moment is surreal and, for Longoria, depressing. In the 1990s, almost no undocumented people bothered to cross this reservation. By 2008, in the midst of an exodus from Mexico in the devastating era of NAFTA, more than 15,000 people were doing so monthly. Although the numbers have dropped since, people avoiding the border surveillance regime still come, and sometimes like this woman, they still die.

“The Occupation”


[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

Jersey City Man Shot in the Face and Blinded by Police Faces 30 Years in Prison

Tuesday, 22 April 2014 11:12
By Rania Khalek, Truthout | News Analysis


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On January 10, 2010, 18-year-old Kwadir Felton was shot in the face and permanently blinded by Jersey City, N.J., Police Sergeant Thomas McVicar. Yet it is Felton who faces decades in prison.

McVicar insists he was forced to open fire because Felton tried to rob him at gunpoint. Felton, now 22, vehemently denies having been armed.

At his trial in November, Felton testified that he had just left a baby shower and was on his way to his girlfriend's house when he heard someone say, "Yo, you little black mother fucker, you better get the fuck down before I blow your fucking brains out."

"There's no reason to have a weapon on me," Felton told the courtroom. "That's not me. I was raised better than that."

There is evidence to suggest Felton is telling the truth. PQ His fingerprints and DNA were nowhere to be found on the weapon in question, the police version of events is full of holes and discrepancies at every turn, and witnesses have been harassed into silence by authorities.

But this wasn't enough to sway the jury, which found Felton guilty on all counts, including aggravated assault of an officer, unlawful possession of a handgun and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.

Upon hearing the verdict, Felton's mother, 51-year-old Dawn "Renee" Felton, who was recovering from open heart surgery, fell to the floor weeping and was quickly dragged out of the courtroom.

Felton broke down as well, sobbing and shouting at an officer, "I don't understand! You didn't have to shoot me in the head for no reason! You trying to charge me with something I didn't do!"

His fingerprints and DNA were nowhere to be found on the weapon in question, the police version of events is full of holes and discrepancies at every turn, and witnesses have been harassed into silence by authorities.

Brooke Barnett, Felton's attorney, has since filed several motions for a new trial, citing "prosecutorial misconduct" and calling the state's evidence against Felton "absolutely and unequivocally contradicted." All motions thus far have been denied with one motion still pending that accuses a juror of having a conflict of interest.

Felton has yet to be sentenced, but prosecutor, Ray Mateo, said at trial that he faces up to 30 years in prison with 15-year parole eligibility.

Cowboy Cop

According to McVicar, he was alone inside his vehicle doing undercover surveillance in relation to the drug conspiracy investigation when Felton tried to rob him at gunpoint, forcing him to open fire through the closed car window, striking Felton in the face.

However it remains unclear whether McVicar was on or off duty that night. "There was no physical evidence showing he worked that day. There was no timesheet. There was no dispatch," Barnett told Truthout.

McVicar was driving his personal vehicle, a red Toyota Tacoma, which happened to be covered in bumper stickers celebrating gun ownership and conservative politics, "things that we felt went to his state of mind and character," said Barnett. But the judge would not allow it.


Even more damning is that McVicar did not immediately report the shooting. Instead, he reported that shots were fired in a different location, where there had been no shooting. Between 20 to 30 minutes passed before McVicar reported that Felton had been shot, during which time Felton received no medical attention. "They did not think that this kid was going to live," said Barnett. And perhaps they did not want him to.

Also called into question is McVicar's claim that he shot Felton with his .45 caliber service weapon. Chase Blanchard, the defense's forensic pathologist, testified as an expert witness that it would have been impossible for Felton to survive a shot to the head with a .45 caliber with hollow point bullets at close range. Even though the bullet wound to Felton's head was a through and through wound, meaning it entered one end and exited the other, the bullet was never recovered from the scene, leaving more questions than answers.

"I've never seen this reaction of people on the streets refusing to be involved, not out of fear of retaliation from criminals, but from fear of retaliation from the cops."

Furthermore, Blanchard argued that the absence of "dicing injuries" from shattered glass to Felton's hands and face suggests he was not shot through a closed car window, as McVicar alleged.

For many in the neighborhood, McVicar's behavior did not come as a surprise given his reputation as a brutalizer. But according to Barnett, people in the community were scared to speak publicly about their violent encounters with McVicar.

"I've never seen this reaction of people on the streets refusing to be involved, not out of fear of retaliation from criminals, but from fear of retaliation from the cops," Barnett told Truthout.

The stories of McVicar's brutality continued to pour in even after the trial. "Right after the verdict came out, someone reached out to me who literally moved to Atlanta because he had been beaten so badly by [McVicar]," said Barnett. "This is a cowboy cop."

With Barnett's attempts to obtain McVicar's internal records rejected and his victims too scared to come forward, McVicar's violent streak was shielded from the jury.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

Officer Can't Get Story Straight

Jersey City police sergeant Joseph Sarao, allegedly the first officer to respond to the scene of Kwadir's shooting, offered several different versions of how the gun Felton was allegedly armed with was handled, each one more contradictory than the next.

In a statement to the Shooting Response Team shortly after the shooting, Sarao said he arrived at the scene to find Felton laying on the cement with a gunshot wound to the head and a gun resting beside his calf. "I decided not to move the gun at this time to try to preserve the crime scene," he explained.

But Sarao offered a significantly altered story at trial.

According to a transcript of Sarao's testimony provided to Truthout by Barnett, Sarao told the jury that he arrived at the scene to find the gun lying beside Felton's bloodied head rather than his calf. He added that he dragged the weapon with his foot several feet until it was next to Felton's thigh.

"[T]he gun was right near his head. He was still twitching, and I wasn't sure if he was still a threat, so I, with my foot, dragged it away from him at least three or four feet," Sarao told the courtroom.

Barnett told Truthout that this discrepancy calls into question why there were no traces of Felton's DNA found on the gun, which would surely have been bloodied had it been next to Felton's head, which was pooling blood.

"He saw what happened, but the cops harassed this man so much, he moved away twice."

Sarao also told the jury that an unnamed officer under his direction bagged the weapon and took it to police headquarters for storage without registering it as evidence and then brought it back two hours later to be photographed at the crime scene. But during cross-examination, Sarao again changed his story, denying that the gun had ever left the scene.

Witness Harassed Into Silence

A couple of months after her son was shot, Renee told Truthout that she spoke with a man who witnessed the aftermath of the shooting, which occurred just outside of his house.

"He saw what happened, but the cops harassed this man so much, he moved away twice," said Renee.

The man heard a noise, presumably the gunshot, and went outside to check things out.

"He said he seen Kwadir laying on ground but he said he seen no gun laying by Kwadir's body," said Renee.

"He said there were two cops in the car. One cop got out on passenger side, the other cop got out on driver's side. He said when all the cops was coming there were no sirens, no flashing lights. He said it was just so quiet like they didn't really want too much attention."

"He said when the cop got out that shot Kwadir, he seen the cop kicking Kwadir's right leg, and he seen his left leg shake. And then he said Kwadir sat up and the cop pushed him back down and started searching him."

"He said if we need him for anything he would not have a problem going to court to testify."

But months later, when Renee paid him a visit, she learned from neighbors that he moved away. By the time Barnett managed to track him down, the witness changed his story. He moved a second time after state authorities located him.

The man ended up testifying at trial but left out the details that were most damaging to the officers.

"There is no cooperation from anybody," said Barnett. "Even post-verdict, anybody that my detectives tried to talk to would not leave their phone number. They don't want to be involved for fear of retaliation, not from the streets, but from the police department."

"It's Been Hell"

Felton said at his trial that after losing his eyesight, he lost the will to live and on several occasions tried to kill himself.

"(Going blind) took life from me," he told the jury. "If I couldn't see, I didn't want to live."

It was a rough road for Renee, as well. "The last four years has been the worst years of my life," she told Truthout. "It's been hell."

Renee rushed to the hospital when she learned Felton had been shot, but was prevented from seeing him. All she knew was that her son had been arrested while laying unconscious and handcuffed to a hospital bed in the ICU, and no one would tell her why.

Three days later, with his brain still hemorrhaging, the authorities moved Felton to a prison hospital and bail was set at half a million dollars.

"They didn't even give him time to heal," said Renee. "If we didn't get him out, he would've died in jail."

Felton's court-appointed lawyer got the bail reduced to $200,000. With help from a local pastor, friends and family, Renee raised the $4,000 needed to secure a bail bond and Felton was released. But a week later, he was arrested again, this time on drug conspiracy charges. Though he was wheelchair-bound and blind, bail was set at $125,000.

The drug conspiracy charge was related to a wiretap investigation that had little to do with Felton. Of some 900 phone recordings, Felton was in a handful of them. "Kwadir did not become relevant to their conspiracy until he was shot by a police officer," explained Barnett. PQ "They used the drug evidence to really dirty him up to lose the sympathy of the public."

Shortly after Felton's arrest, Renee was kicked out of Jersey City public housing. She soon lost her job and had to move in with her daughter, where she became Felton's full time caretaker.

"I had to do basically everything for him," said Renee.

In addition to a life-altering physical disability to contend with, Felton was, and still is, emotionally traumatized.

The criminal justice system has a penchant for punishing victims of police violence who are lucky enough to survive.

"You have no idea how many times I went to the psych ward," said Renee. "He felt because he couldn't see no more, there was no purpose for him living. I had to hide all the knives in the house. I had to hide all the medication."

"It took him almost three years to accept he was blind," said Renee. But eventually Felton went back to school and earned the high school diploma he would have received the year he was shot.

At his trial, Felton told the jury that walking in last June's Snyder High School graduation ceremony was "one of the greatest feelings in the world," adding that he wants to pursue higher education so he can teach the blind.

"I want to attend college and get my degree, get my master's degree in education and communication and teach braille," he said. "I want to work for the commission of the blind."

But his dreams have once again been shattered.

As he awaits sentencing, Felton, who suffers seizures and constant physical pain, is locked up at Hudson County Jail where he is unable to access the medical services he desperately needs.

"I speak to Kwadir every day," said Renee. "He's just sitting in jail; he can't see, and he's on anti-depressant medicine."

On top of blinding him, the shot to his head shattered his entire sinus cavity and left a cyst on the right side of his brain, leaving him in constant pain. According to Renee, doctors have determined that his right eye will need to be removed at some point.

Punishing Victims

Felton is not alone. The criminal justice system has a penchant for punishing victims of police violence who are lucky enough to survive.

Leon Ford Jr. was just 19 years old when he was paralyzed by Pittsburgh police who pulled him over in 2012. Today he is facing 20 years in prison for allegedly assaulting the officers who paralyzed him.

"[Jersey City authorities] just want to bury it, because the amount of money that this kid and his family would have recovered would have been astronomical."

Lamont Earl Dukes, 30, was trying to surrender to the St. Louis police officer who was chasing him when he was shot him twice last July. The next day police visited Dukes in his hospital bed to charge him with "resisting arrest."

Andre Fiorentino, a 32-year-old black man from Coatesville, Pennsylvania, nearly died when he was shot several times by police outside his home in November. He has since been charged with attempted murder of the officers who say he shot at them twice. Though Fiorentino denies having been armed, authorities spent no longer than 24 hours investigating the shooting before siding with police.

The overzealous prosecution of Kwadir Felton seems to fit this pattern.

Not satisfied with robbing Felton of his eyesight, the state of New Jersey appears determined to take the next several years of his life as well.

"[Jersey City authorities] just want to bury it," said Barnett. "because the amount of money that this kid and his family would have recovered would have been astronomical."

Renee doesn't care about the potential payout. She just wants justice for her son. "This cop needs to be off the street because he goes around shooting our babies for no reason," she said. "I'm fighting for Kwadir's freedom, and I'm fighting for justice."

Copyright, Truthout.