By Antone White
In the 1630’s, King Charles I of England administrated ‘The Star Chamber’, a sui generis court (a form of legal protection that exist outside of typical legal protection) that presided in absentia of the public to suppress dissent. Due to its secrecy, ‘The Star Chamber’ became an absolute abuse of power.
Originally, ‘The Star Chamber’ was established in the 15th Century to enforce jurisprudence against social & political notables so powerful that ordinary courts would be hesitant to convict them of any crimes. However, ‘The Star Chamber’ became synonymous to a tyrannical court through unchallenged punishment of defendants wielded in secrecy, for crimes the court deemed to be morally reprehensible, but were not in violation of the letter of the law. For example, committing adultery is not illegal but it is highly frowned upon in the moral sense.
The vile reputation and absolute power of application of ‘The Star Chamber’ became a potent symbol in America of oppression; and the hostility of the ‘Founding-Fathers’ morale to reject the abuse of power of ‘The Star Chamber’; and sought a liberty interest & protection for democracy independent of England’s crown.
In the U.S. Constitution, the enumeration of certain rights as specified in the 9th Amendment, the right to a public trial by jury is ascribed to be among the most important privileges of an American; and further decreed to receive the highest form of judicial protection. “According to the Supreme Court the right to a public trial by jury under the 6th Amendment is granted to criminal defendants in order to prevent oppression by the government, and safeguard against any attempts to employ the courts as instruments of persecution”.
In the mid-1980’s, during America’s declaration on the ‘war on drugs’, the ‘Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Guideline’ was enacted into law. The primary goal was to alleviate sentencing disparity that research had indicated was prevalent in the previous sentencing system. Nonetheless, upon initiation, it has subsequently cited as evidence of an unconstitutional pandect that utterly marginalized the ‘Due Process Clause’ of the U.S. Constitution. Therein, the 5th Amendment determined that, ” No person shall be held to answer for an infamous crime unless on a presentment of an indictment…. nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law”.
The Supreme Court has ruled that ‘Due Process’ requires the government to comply with certain standards in criminal cases, specifically mentioned in the ‘Bill of Rights’; such as a public trial by jury. As well as, the right to a presumption of innocence, and to have the government prove its case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The underlying concept is that the government many not behave arbitrarily and capriciously, but must act fairly according to established rules.
Notwithstanding, under the guise of the ‘Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Guideline’, we have an instrument of persecution that dubiously infringes on defendants’ right to due process, and to a
trial by jury; by employing ‘Federal Prosecutors’ and its team of ‘Probation Officers’ to reconvene in place of a jury trial, and veto the decision by the jury. Hence the Federal Prosecutors and its team dictates what element of facts of the crime that the defendant will be sentenced without regards to the letter of the actual conviction. This action is similar to the tyrannical court of ‘The Star Chamber’. In Baltimore and Carolina Line vs. Redman (1935), the Supreme Court upheld that juries decide facts of a case, and judges determine what laws are relevant to those facts.
For over a span of 30 years, since the inception of the ‘Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Regime’, criminal defendants have been damned to ‘cruel and unusual’ inflated sentencing above the guideline range of their actual convictions for elements of hearsay and suspicion of uncharged or unindicted crimes; and stridently bizarre for indicted charges that were acquitted or dismissed. Which consequently, double, triple or aggregate a life without parole prison sentence. A summary of this authoritarian proceeding is riddled in Criminal Defendants’ PSI (Pre-Sentenced Investigation Report), or what I deem to be equivalent to “The Star Chamber Report”.
The ‘Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Guideline’, imputes the government and its probation authorities, or the court – at sentencing, to go outside the presentment of an indictment and forged up other crimes; and additionally, undermine the jury’s verdict and determine their own theoretical belief of the case; as well as, utilize acquitted conduct to enhance a defendant’s sentence above the maximum range of the guideline of their actual conviction. At sentencing, a defendant can be acquitted of counts on their indictment and found guilty on other accounts, but be sentenced as if they were guilty of every account based on evidence the court has deemed fact in “The Star Chamber Report”. This is un-American and antithetical to all the tenets in which the ‘Founding-Fathers’ and Farmer’s sought to preserve and protect in the ‘Bill of Rights’.
The marginalization of due process based on Secret Courts fact finding continuously results in countless defendants being ‘Unjustly Sentenced’; this has been perpetuated to an extravagant numbers of decades that aligned Criminal Defendants to their life expectancy, or outright execrate a life without parole prison sentence for nonviolent conviction. These Secret Court proceedings are uniquely malevolent and blameworthy to have fueled the decades of growth of ‘Mass Incarceration’ and as a consequence defendants will continue to receive unjustly punishment for years to come. Which undoubtedly will continue to fuel the United States as number # 1 in Mass Incarceration.
Bounding criminal defendants to punishment according to their actual conviction can cure the Mass Incarceration crisis almost overnight; and thus, the system won’t have to alter their stance on crime policy.
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By Elliot Booker — 1 month ago
By OBI EGBUNA Jr.
Obi Egbuna Jr At every phase of our struggle for liberation and human dignity, Africans at home and abroad who have courageously and selflessly fought on the front line, all arrive at the conclusion that unity is undeniably the most invaluable weapon at our disposal. One of Mother Africa’s brightest sons Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah told us all “ The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart”, in the heat of battle it becomes extremely necessary to remember the most fundamental lessons that benefit our genuine resistance collectively.
On the African continent specifically, one of our best test cases concerning unity in perpetual motion serves us well, is both Zimbabwe’s 2nd and 3rd Chimurenga primarily because on the Patriotic United Front between ZANU and ZAPU, at height of the protracted armed struggle and the Unity Accord seven years after initial independence in 1980.
As history moved forward the last three administrations of US(The Bush and Obama and Trump currently ) let it be known to all who listen that while Zimbabwe is a small country it presents rather a peculiar problem concerning US interests in the region.
Whether the regime change agents in MDC, ZCTU or the 400 civil society groups whose blind loyalty is to US EU Imperialism, ever acknowledge this publicly, it is Zimbabwe’s political culture that has always been driven by unity, that forced them to become part of the inclusive government with Zanu-PF between 2009 and 2013.
While the example of Zimbabwe takes place on our Mother continent, it serves as an example and inspiration, that front line fighters and supporters of these efforts in the diaspora can not only learn from but aggressively incorporate on the strategical and tactical level.
If there is any indifference or backlash , it will come from quarters who are not comfortable looking to the African continent for insight and direction, because in the final analysis an amputated narrative of the African experience serves as their political and intellectual blueprint.
This amputated narrative which draws a striking resemblance to diced onions or dandruff on our scalps, happens to be the engine behind a social media driven network, that goes by the name American Descendants of Slaves(ADOS). We can only imagine how Bishop Richard Allen and Absalom Jones who started the Free African Society in 1794, would feel about the name ADOS.
The most visible and vocal proponents of the ADOS are a so called African American female and male tandem Ms. Yvette Carnell and Mr. Antonio Moore, Mr. Moore is a graduate of both UCLA and Loyola Law School and Ms. Carnell is a graduate of Howard University.
When articulating the ideological position of the ADOS, Mr. Moore takes on the character of a lawyer in the courtroom, where on the other hand Ms. Carnell who has a blog entitled Breaking Brown, has a more provocative and confrontational style of communication that appears to work for her.
At the forefront of the ADOS network’s political agenda is the age old question of reparations, similar to the manner that naked police terrorism defined Black Lives Matter and Imperialist corporate greed drove Occupy Wall Street movement.
Another characteristic that makes ADOS similar to both Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street, is what appears to be a deliberate choice to have political space, detached from the organized formations who developed and championed the very issue that steers their political efforts and program.
We challenge any and everyone to go back and review the articles of Mr. Moore and blogs of Ms. Carnell and find them humbly recognizing the tireless and selfless work of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika, the New Afrikan Peoples Organization, NCOBRA(National Conference of Blacks For Reparations In America), Malcolm X Grass Roots Movement, December 12th Movement, and The National Black United Front. Even before these organized formations, the Nation of Islam and Africans who were in the Communist Party many moons ago, also pushed the question of reparations.
Because of our political culture takes on a matralineal character, the heart and soul of the reparations movement inside US borders was the larger than life Garveyite Queen Mother Moore, who took the red black and green flag of the UNIA-ACL and insisted it be the symbol of the reparations movement, that same flag is the symbol of what the internationally acclaimed hip hop group Dead Prez call RBG which stands for Revolutionary but Gangsta.
For whatever reason Mr. Moore and Ms. Carnell decided to yankee doodleize the Reparations question by not only dismissing the New Afrikan approach to reparations, but theoretically and figuratively draping themselves in the US flag.
When it comes to reactionary sentiments, we do have choices, you can either come out of the gate with plantation love like ADOS or wait until your twilight years like the NFL legend Jim Brown and scold Colin Kapernick for desecrating the red white and blue or Kareem Abdul Jabber who boycotted the US Olympics in 1968 over the Vietnam war but as a senior citizen became the cultural ambassador for the US State Department . Sadly this includes James Brown going from singing I’m Black and I’m Proud in the 60’s and then singing Living In America in the movie Rocky IV in the 80’s.
Another disturbing posture by Ms. Carnell and the ADOS network was to give the Pan Africanist movement a eulogy, which metaphorically speaking would be the equivalent of burying a human being alive. While genuine Pan Africanists were either angered or humored by this statement, we are delighted to know exactly Imperialism recruited for this opportunist mission.
When their appetite for for clarity and research increases, the ADOS will discover that the organizers who have pushed reparations in the streets beyond the comforts and confines of social media, gained crucial momentum when the reparations movement took on a Pan Africanist character.
Thanks to their contributions, reparations is a banner that has a home in the Caribbean thanks to the lawsuit by CARICOM and without question the efforts of our comrades in Namibia taking Germany to task for atrocities committed during the colonial era.
Cuba’s revolutionary demand for reparations stemming from the blockade is also part of the mix.
What this exposes is the ADOS refuses to acknowledge the boost Pan Africanist forces gave the reparations question at the UN conference on racism, xenophobia and other related intolerances. that took place in Durban, South Africa back in 2001. All patriotic Zimbabweans remind the world that was also the birth of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act.
Concerning relations between Africans at home and abroad a micro nationalist approach is not consistent with Ms. Carnell’s political origin. As a student at Howard University, Ms. Carnell was the Chief Financial Officer of former HUSA President Neville Welch who was born in Guyana, whose Chief of Staff Elsie Aguele was born in Nigeria. Perhaps today Ms. Carmella would say Mr. Welch should have been the head of the Caribbean Student Association and Mr. Aguele should have remained in the African Student Union, and only students born in the US should lead Student Governments at HBCUS.
What Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore must also recognize is that even though the New Afrikan movement never deviated from the program of seeking five states
in the south seeking five states in the South, at no pointing their history did they consider themselves politically exempt from fighting US-EU Imperialism’s Africa policy.
Since Mr. Moore is a lawyer interested in Reparations, he should know that the late freedom fighter Chokwe Lumumba through NAPO was at the forefront of breaking former US President Ronald Reagan’s travel ban on Libya in 1987. In 2009 Comrade Lumumba persuaded both NAPO and the National Conference of Black Lawyers to sign an appeal to the Obama administration demanding US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe be lifted immediately.
One of the most consistent organizations that was fought for Reparations based in New York the December 12th Movement, has remained at the forefront of defending the territorial integrity of Zimbabwe.
Every New Afrikan Organization gave platforms to ANC,PAC and AZAPO at their annual conventions.
What ADOS has done is challenged the legitimate forces committed to reparations, to distance themselves from the frauds, who exploited its mileage and don’t understand its roots. This includes Trans Africa Forum founder Randall Robinson and Retired US Congressman John Conyers .Robinson’s book The Debt What America owes to Blacks was a national best seller and Mr. Conyers pushed A reparations bill. Mr. Conyers voted in favor of sanctions on Zimbabwe and Mr. Robinson did nothing when TAF got in bed with the National Endowment for Democracy and worked for US EU regime change in Zimbabwe.
Would ADOS tell Senator and Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders and former US President Barack Obama if they change their position on Reparations, maintaining sanctions on Zimbabwe is not an issue.
A rather interesting dynamic is that Mr. Moore’s articles are archived by a website called inequality.org,which is a front for the Institute of Policy Studies, financed the face liberal imperialist philanthropy George Soros, which unfortunately means if ADOS like so many others who are eating at Mr. Soros table, their expression of reparations doesn’t consider self determination a principle to die for.
Other ADOS mouthpieces have gone as far as stating Pan Africanism has achieved nothing concrete, if nothing else, as an act of humility and good will, let the Pan Africanist sector of our movement send the most consistent mouthpieces of ADOS a box of library cards.
ADOS front runners and extended mouthpieces should know the 5th Pan Africanist Congress resulted in thirty five countries in Africa liberating themselves from Settler Colonial Rule from 1957-1960, which remains the most rapid swing towards power ever witnessed in modern history.
One wonders if Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore would have supported the deportation of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, because the feel a Jamaican born African could not build the largest mass movement in modern times, that was launched on US soil.
If it was up to them Mr. Moore and Ms. Carnell would have told the writer Claude McKay to stay in Jamaica, as opposed to coming to Harlem to help build the Harlem Renaissance.The follow up would have been to tell Arthuro Schomburg to stay in Puerto Rico and not come to Harlem and start the American Negro Academy or build the Schomburg Library of Black Culture, or even better Kwame Ture should have not been allowed to chair SNCC because he was born in Trinidad.
This also suggests Paul Robeson should have stayed away from Claudia Jones and threw a bash in Harlem when she was deported for joining the Communist Party which violated the McCurran Act.
ADOS had better recognize the CTS which is an acronym to contributors to struggle, which focus on commitment not birth. What if Katherine Dunham and Pearle Primus didnt use dance to teach us about the Haitian Revolution or the anti colonial movement in Africa?
Every so called African American drumming and dancing ensemble, owe their very existence to that great Pan African giant Ahmed Seku Ture.and the PDG who championed the African Cultural Revolution.
What if Langston Hughes told the Cuban born African poet Nicholas Guiilen the poet laureate of the revolution I only want to work with poets of my color born in the US?
What if Fela Kuti never read the autobiography of Malcolm X, given to him by ex Panther Ericka Huggins, which made him embrace his mother’s legacy of struggle and the black power movement he avoided in Britain.
Should Cuba deport Assata Shakur and Nehanda Obiodun and tell them to join ADOS????
How much substance would Manning Marable’s book How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America coned if he never studied How Europe Underdeveloped Africa who was inspired after reading George Padmore’s How Britain Ruled Africa?
Were SNCC and the Panthers wrong for distributing The Wretched Of The Earth because Frantz Fanon was born in Martinique and fought in the Algerian Revolution?
Lastly if Nnandi Azikwe and the Osagyefo never came to Lincoln University or Edwardo Mondlane and John Chilembwe didn’t attend Oberlin College or Virginia Theological Seminary, how would Ghana,Nigeria,Malawi and Mozambique look today? Would it matter if Amadou Diallo was shot down by the Contee regime in Guinee or the NYPD?.
Let us salute that Spanish speaking African Jesus Chucho Garcia for leading the Afro Descendant movement in the America’s, which is an alternative to a social media network that implies the slaveship was like an express train from Africa to the US with no stops in between.
While defending Pan Africanism falls on our shoulders going back and forth with ADOS is not a substitute for a concrete program.
Obi Egbuna Jr is the US Correspondent To The Herald and External Relations Officer to ZICUFA(Zimbabwe Cuba Friendship Association
His email is email@example.com
READ MORE AT: https://www.herald.co.zw/fyi-ados-pan-africanists-today/Post Views: 216
Bigots are Yelling for Black People to ‘Go Back to Africa!’ – But What Does It Mean? And Is It Possible to Return?By Elliot Booker — 3 years ago
Posted by David Love
“Go back to Africa!” It is the phrase du jour for racist whites, typically when used as part of a bitter, angry, expletive-laden rant against Black people. There are so many examples of the popularity of this insult these days.
A Beaufort, South Carolina teacher told a Black high school student to go back to the continent after he refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. In Virginia, the Sons of Confederate Veterans told the African-American community to go back amid calls for the city council to remove the Confederate flag from a local museum. A Black student at Southern Illinois University was told the same thing when she was confronted by Donald Trump supporters in a residence hall. And at Trump rallies in Chicago and Cleveland, Trump supporters were heard yelling the phrase, along with other racial epithets.
“If you call yourself an African-American, go back to Africa. If you’re an African first, go back to Africa,” said a white man to a Black woman and #BlackLivesMatter supporter at a Trump rally in Cleveland this past March, as reported by MSNBC.And recently, a Bank of America employee in Atlanta was fired for her racist Facebook rant.“When a bigot says ‘Go back to Africa,’ he or she is simply being nasty and irrational,” Dr. Wilson Jeremiah Moses, Ferree Professor of American History at the Pennsylvania State University, told Atlanta Black Star. Moses is the author of Classical Black Nationalism: From the American Revolution to Marcus Garvey and Liberian Dreams: Records of an African Return 1853, among other works. “I am not wise enough to know to how one can best respond to nastiness and irrationality.”
To be sure, there is a nastiness to the phrase, particularly when accompanied by other insults, threats and acts of violence. For example, in October 2014, when a group of Black protesters outside a St. Louis Cardinals game sought to bring attention of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, they were met with a crowd of virulent white racists. As Crooks & Liars reported, the white fans responded to the Black protesters by chanting “Let’s go Cardinals,” which changed to “Let’s go, Darren!” in honor of Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown. While attempting to initiate acts of violence, the white fans told the protesters to go back to Africa and called them jobless, while one of the white men called a Black activist a “crackhead.”“We’re the ones who gave all y’all the freedoms that you have!” shouted one white woman at the African-Americans, as a number of fans began chanting “Africa, Africa” – shorthand for the suggestion they go back to the motherland.
“Go back to Africa!” It is the phrase du jour for racist whites, typically when used as part of a bitter, angry, expletive-laden rant against Black people. There are so many examples of the popularity of this insult these days.
A Beaufort, South Carolina teacher told a Black high school student to go back to the continent after he refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. In Virginia, the Sons of Confederate Veterans told the African-American community to go back amid calls for the city council to remove the Confederate flag from a local museum. A Black student at Southern Illinois University was told the same thing when she was confronted by Donald Trump supporters in a residence hall. And at Trump rallies in Chicago and Cleveland, Trump supporters were heard yelling the phrase, along with other racial epithets.“If you call yourself an African-American, go back to Africa. If you’re an African first, go back to Africa,” said a white man to a Black woman and #BlackLivesMatter supporter at a Trump rally in Cleveland this past March, as reported by MSNBC.And recently, a Bank of America employee in Atlanta was fired for her racist Facebook rant.“When a bigot says ‘Go back to Africa,’ he or she is simply being nasty and irrational,” Dr. Wilson Jeremiah Moses, Ferree Professor of American History at the Pennsylvania State University, told Atlanta Black Star. Moses is the author of Classical Black Nationalism: From the American Revolution to Marcus Garvey and Liberian Dreams: Records of an African Return 1853, among other works. “I am not wise enough to know to how one can best respond to nastiness and irrationality.”To be sure, there is a nastiness to the phrase, particularly when accompanied by other insults, threats and acts of violence. For example, in October 2014, when a group of Black protesters outside a St. Louis Cardinals game sought to bring attention of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, they were met with a crowd of virulent white racists. As Crooks & Liars reported, the white fans responded to the Black protesters by chanting “Let’s go Cardinals,” which changed to “Let’s go, Darren!” in honor of Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown. While attempting to initiate acts of violence, the white fans told the protesters to go back to Africa and called them jobless, while one of the white men called a Black activist a “crackhead.”
“We’re the ones who gave all y’all the freedoms that you have!” shouted one white woman at the African-Americans, as a number of fans began chanting “Africa, Africa” – shorthand for the suggestion they go back to the motherland.
nd part of the assumption among whites is that Black folks should be happy to be in America, which, through its kindness and generosity, has rendered African-Americans the most fortunate Black people around. There is a perverse, outlandish assertion that Black people — kidnapped at gunpoint and brought to these shores in the belly of a slave ship, and, if they survived, were raped, tortured and forced to toil in prison camp plantations — should leave if they cannot appreciate all that white people have done for them. Of course, the parties to whom Black people would presumably return the favor came to North America from Europe — unannounced and uninvited — and stole the land from the indigenous population right from under their feet. Yet, never are there any calls for whites to return to Europe.
This sentiment was best articulated by conservative commentator Pat Buchanan in 2008.
“First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known,” Buchanan wrote on his website.
“Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream,” he added. “Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks — with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas — to advance black applicants over white applicants.”
While the concept of returning to Africa is pejorative and insulting when articulated by white racists, it also represented a movement throughout history, with Blacks and whites involved in “back-to-Africa” movements — Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 19th century, Marcus Garvey in the early 20th century, and Pan-African activists and intellectuals such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Kwame Ture settling in West Africa. It is a complicated history.
“In the later editions of From Slavery to Freedom, John Hope Franklin gave a nuanced analysis of the multiple and complicated reasons why some whites and blacks supported African deportation before the Civil War,” said Dr. Moses.In that book, Franklin wrote that as early as 1714, there was a proposal to send Blacks back to Africa. Whites believed the races could not live together in harmony, and free Black people could not adjust to life in America, and created a problem for maintaining the system of slavery.“There is no adequate history of the American Colonization Society,” said Moses of the organization which helped relocate thousands of freed Black people to what would become Liberia. “There is no satisfactory treatment of Henry Clay’s advocacy of African deportation or of Abraham Lincoln’s decreasing interest in African deportation, as he evolved from a Whig to a Republican. In my view, Lincoln was never convinced of the practicality of deportation, for reasons that Alexis de Tocqueville had articulated,” Moses offered. “I touched on my reasons for believing that Lincoln was not serious in my biography of Alexander Crummell (Oxford UP, 1989). As for Jefferson, I think he was absolutely insincere about African deportation. Jefferson was a complete phony, and like many populists he used democratic rhetoric to cover up aristocratic programs. He never joined the American Colonization Society and contrary to popular belief, never supported the abolition of slavery. Jefferson only called for ending the Atlantic slave trade except in order to inflate domestic slave prices,” he added.
“I would suggest that no discussion of the Back to Africa movements, either the white racist ones, or especially the Black ones (such as Garvey’s), is complete without considerable explanation of the nadir of race relations,” said James W. Loewen, the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me; Lies Across America; Sundown Towns; Teaching What Really Happened; and The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader. During the nadir, which began during the end of Reconstruction and lasted through the early 20th century, was a time of white supremacy, Jim Crow segregation, racial terrorism and a loss of civil rights for Black people.
“Going back to Africa was hardly irrational, given how race relations grew worse and worse after 1890. That needs to be explained, lest Garvey, et al., come across as charlatans,” Loewen, who taught race relations at the University of Vermont, told Atlanta Black Star.
Meanwhile, many African-Americans today are crossing the Atlantic to live in Ghana, once a major starting point of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and one of the first African nations to emerge from colonial rule. While millions crossed the Middle Passage by force via Ghana for a life of permanent enslavement in America — 40 percent never making it to the other side — some of their descendants are returning for a better, more comfortable life, business opportunities and to rediscover their roots.
Ghana has a Right of Abode program that grants permanent residency and dual citizenship to people of African descent. According to the African-American Association of Ghana, 3,000 African-Americans live in Ghana, most in the capital of Accra. So, some Black people are going back to Africa, but they are doing so on their own terms. And as the future becomes more difficult and more uncertain for people of African descent in the U.S., certainly more will consider the option
By Elliot Booker — 3 years ago
Every five days, on average, a Chicago police officer fired a gun at someone.
In 435 shootings over a recent six-year span, officers killed 92 people and wounded 170 others.
While a few of those incidents captured widespread attention, they occurred with such brutal regularity — and with scant information provided by police — that most have escaped public scrutiny.
Now, after months of struggles with Chicago police to get information through the Freedom of Information Act, the Chicago Tribune has compiled an unprecedented database of details of every time police fired a weapon from 2010 through 2015.
Analysis of that data revealed startling patterns about the officers who fired and the people they shot at.
Among the findings:
•At least 2,623 bullets were fired by police in 435 shootings. In 235 of those incidents, officers struck at least one person; in another 200 shootings, officers missed entirely.
•About four out of every five people shot by police were African-American males.
•About half of the officers involved in shootings were African-American or Hispanic.
•The officers who fired weren’t rookies but, on average, had almost a decade of experience.
•Of the 520 officers who fired their weapons, more than 60 of them did so in more than one incident.
•The number of shootings by police — hits and misses — declined over the six years, from more than 100 in 2011 to 44 in 2015.
The analysis comes at a time when police in Chicago and throughout the country face heightened scrutiny after several controversial police shootings, often of minorities, have been captured on video and gone viral.
The Tribune’s study encompasses high-profile cases such as the McDonald scandal as well as scores of incidents that were not caught on video and received little or no attention. It begins on New Year’s Day 2010 with a teen shot in the stomach while handcuffed to a security fence in the Park Manor neighborhood. It ends six years later, on the day after Christmas 2015, when an officer wounded an armed suspect on the Far South Side.
For years, examining the full scale of the problem in Chicago was impossible because the city refused to release most details about police-involved shootings. Before the release last year of the video of Laquan McDonald’s killing brought pressure for transparency, the only information made public in the hours after a shooting came in comments from a police union spokesman at the scene and perhaps a short statement from the Police Department. As investigations dragged on for months or years, the details remained hidden.
The data on officer shootings were released to the Tribune only after a seven-month battle with the city over its failure to fulfill public records requests. The department finally produced the data in July after the Tribune threatened to sue. Reporters then spent weeks comparing the data with information that was gathered earlier this year from the city’s police oversight agency as well as with other records, including autopsies and court records.
To be sure, policing the city’s most dangerous streets can be harrowing. Nearly 6,000 illegal guns have been seized in the city so far this year — a staggering amount of firepower that far outpaces other big cities. The dangers were on display in graphic detail earlier this month when the department released dramatic dashboard-camera video of officers being shot at while pursuing a carjacking suspect in their squad cars on the South Side. One officer suffered a graze wound to his face.
“As a police officer, you don’t wait for the shot to come in your direction,” Dean Angelo Sr., president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, told the Tribune recently about the database findings. “You might not get a chance to return fire.”
But for many of those who live in the largely African-American communities where police most often open fire, the narrative of self-defense seems like a familiar script.
At a recent rally protesting police shootings, Charles Jenkins, a 61-year-old community activist who has spent his entire life on the city’s West Side, said he believes race plays a role in how authorities investigate shootings by police.
“It’s easier to believe, because they’re black, that an officer was in fear of their life and get(s) off,” he said
Those shot by Chicago police ranged in age from early teens to the elderly, the records show. The youngest, Dejuan Curry, was 14 when he was wounded in the leg in August 2015 after police said he refused to drop a weapon he held in his hand as he ran. A federal lawsuit is pending against Victor Razo, the officer who allegedly fired the shots. The Tribune’s records show that Razo was involved in two other shootings between 2010 and 2015.
The eldest victim, Hazel Jones-Huff, 92, was wounded when off-duty Officer Courtney Hill opened fire during a quarrel between neighbors, killing Jones-Huff’s 86-year-old husband. Jones-Huff was charged with battery for allegedly going after the officer with a broom, but a judge later acquitted her of all counts.
The records show the shootings in which a civilian was injured or killed were concentrated in a handful of high-crime police districts, all with largely African-American populations.
Leading the list was the Gresham District, which had 30 police shootings in which someone was injured or killed in the six-year span. Next were two other South Side districts — Englewood with 27 and Grand Crossing with 18. The Calumet and Harrison districts on the West Side each had 17, according to the records.
By contrast, the Jefferson Park and Near North districts, which have majority-white populations, each had four police shootings over the six years. The Town Hall District, which includes part of Lincoln Park, Wrigleyville, the rest of Lakeview, Lincoln Square and part of Uptown, had none, the data show.
The officers who shot
From the data, the Tribune was able to identify the race of 300 of the 324 officers who opened fire in shootings that resulted in injuries or death.
Although white officers make up a larger portion of the police force, they don’t shoot citizens at a higher rate. Hispanic officers, meanwhile, make up only 19 percent of Chicago’s police force but fired in 26 percent of officer-involved shootings.
A little more than half of the officers who fired shots at people were minorities — 84 Hispanics (28 percent) and 69 blacks (23 percent). White officers made up 45 percent of the total — 136 officers in all. The other officers were listed as Asian/Pacific Islander.
The officers also tended to be experienced, not rookies who suddenly found themselves in over their heads. The records show officers who have shot at citizens had an average of about nine years on the job.
Not surprisingly, 87 percent of the police officers who fired their guns in fatal or nonfatal shootings were on duty, the analysis found. Yet that meant 31 shootings involved off-duty officers who wounded or killed people.
Over the six-year period, 520 officers fired a gun at a citizen. The force generally has about 12,000 members. But the Tribune found that 64 of them were involved in at least two separate shootings.
Several of the repeat shooters have been featured in Tribune stories in recent years. At least two of them, Marco Proano and Gildardo Sierra, have been the targets of criminal investigations by the FBI, although no charges have been filed against either.
Proano, who remains on the force on paid desk duty, killed a teenager during a struggle outside a South Side dance party in 2011, then was captured two years later on dashboard camera video cocking his gun sideways and firing into a car full of teens as it drove away, wounding two. Sierra was profiled in the Tribune in 2011 after he was involved in three shootings, two of them fatal, during a six-month span. Sierra resigned from the department last year.
In the past, the Independent Police Review Authority has not tracked officers involved in multiple shootings if the shootings were deemed justified.
Guglielmi, the police spokesman, said the department is now developing an early intervention system to identify and mentor officers who may be at risk, including officers who were recently involved in a shooting or other high-stress situation. The system “will not be designed to be punitive” but will function more as a “risk management” plan to get to an officer’s issues before they manifest on the street, he said.
Officers who have fired their weapons in multiple incidents also avoided public scrutiny in part because the police union contract bars the department from identifying officers after a shooting. In most cases, no information about the officers involved was ever made public unless a lawsuit was filed — and even then the city typically fought in court to keep records sealed.
Meanwhile, the Independent Police Review Authority’s investigations of officer-involved shootings often included testimony and reports from other officers who backed up one another’s accounts — a “code of silence” that has been criticized for years.
In all but a handful of shootings that IPRA investigated over the six-year span, the agency ruled the officers were justified in their use of deadly force.
The Tribune’s analysis showed that Chicago police are the only witnesses listed in most of the shootings, with civilian witnesses identified in just 83 of the incidents.
Alexa Van Brunt, an attorney with Northwestern University’s Roderick MacArthur Justice Center, said it’s often challenging to prove misconduct or a cover-up when it comes to an officer’s word against that of a civilian.
“We don’t have video evidence often,” Van Brunt said. “And if you have police officers lying on reports, that becomes the official record.”
‘He put me in that position’
No officer has fired at citizens more during the time period examined by the Tribune than Tracey Williams, an African-American tactical officer with nearly a decade on the job.
Over five years, Williams fired her gun five different times in various neighborhoods throughout the city — from North Lawndale to Fuller Park, the Tribune analysis shows.
Each time, she fired at a black male. The targets ranged in age from 17 to 45. One died, one survived with a gunshot to the leg and three others were not hit.
The only investigation to capture public attention involved the Dec. 4, 2010, killing of Ontario Billups in the South Side’s Gresham neighborhood.
Billups, 30, was sitting in an idling minivan with two friends in the 8100 block of South Ashland Avenue when Williams and her partner pulled up in an unmarked Chevrolet Tahoe, according to IPRA records.
In a statement she later gave to investigators, Williams said the car looked suspicious so she shined a spotlight into the van and ordered the occupants to show their hands. She was running up to the passenger side of the vehicle with her gun drawn when she said she saw Billups with a “dark object” in his hand.
“He turns,” Williams said. “As he’s turning towards me quickly his hand is coming out quickly with this dark object. I immediately fire a shot.”
Billups was shot once in the chest and died. The dark object turned out to be a bag of marijuana. Even though Billups was unarmed, Williams defended her use of force in her interview with IPRA investigators.
“His actions led to my actions,” she said. “He put me in that position.”
Meanwhile, Williams remained on the street. In one six-month period, from July 2012 to January 2013, the officer fired her gun in three separate incidents but missed. The next year, she wounded an armed 17-year-old boy in the leg. A review of that incident is pending, though most of the records have been sealed by IPRA and the Police Department because the boy was a minor.
In November, the city agreed to pay $500,000 to settle an excessive force lawsuit brought by Billups’ family. That brought the total cost to $643,000 for taxpayers to settle four lawsuits related to Williams since 2010, court records show.
The Tribune’s analysis found that most of the officers involved in multiple shootings over the six years were involved in two each.
Holding a socket wrench
The data compiled by the Tribune show how police calls turned into confrontations — ranging from seemingly benign calls such as trespass or drinking in the public way to extremely dangerous situations such as hostage standoffs or gang shootings.
Police released information about why officers were initially at the scene in 185 shootings over the six-year period. About a third of the incidents — 63 in total — began with officers responding to a report of shots fired or a person with a gun, according to the data. Fifteen shootings happened after police responded to a report of a robbery.
At least 40 shootings began with a traffic or street stop, either because of an alleged violation or after officers stopped and questioned a group congregated in public. In more than a third of the stops, officers gave chase on foot, pursuing suspects through residential backyards, alleys or over fences before opening fire, the data show.
In statements issued by police after the shootings, six of every 10 cited a suspect either pointing a gun or shooting at police as the reason officers opened fire. But of the 74 autopsy reports reviewed by the Tribune, at least 11 showed the shooting victims had been struck only in their back, buttocks or back of the head. The data show police also shot people who wielded other types of weapons, including knives — such as in the McDonald case — but also tire irons, screwdrivers, baseball bats and crowbars. In some cases, the gun police thought they saw turned out to be something else entirely — a wrench or a watch, a cellphone box or wallet.
Georgia Utendhal comforts one of her granddaughters, whose 16-year-old brother was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer in the 8700 block of South Morgan Street in Chicago on July 5, 2014.