Federal Judge Catherine Perry Rules St. Louis Police Force Against Protestors Unconstitutional

Photo: St. Louis Public Radio

(Photo: St. Louis Public Radio)

via blavity.com

Wednesday, a federal judge placed restrictions on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, claiming their conduct during recent protests has violated demonstrators’ constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry ruled that the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against St. Louis police “are likely to prevail on the merits of their claims” that their First and Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.

The case stems from protests which took place in September, following the “not guilty” verdict in the murder trial of Jason Stockley, a white police officer who shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, in 2011.

Perry found sufficient evidence that although there was no violence, police declared an assembly without taking the protesters’ rights and opinions into consideration. She also ruled that there was “no credible threat of force or violence to officers or property” when police rounded up citizens, including journalists, on Sept. 17. Following those arrests, the sitting head of the St. Louis MPD declared his department “owned” the night, as the officers mocked protesters by chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!”

Perry shared that officers had clearly retaliated against protected First Amendment speech simply because they did not prefer being criticized, and used chemical weapons to divert speech they didn’t favor.

“Plaintiffs’ evidence — both video and testimony ― shows that officers have exercised their discretion in an arbitrary and retaliatory fashion to punish protesters for voicing criticism of police or recording police conduct,” Perry wrote. “When all of the evidence is considered, plaintiffs have met their burden of showing that they are likely to succeed on their claim that defendant has a custom or policy of deploying hand-held pepper spray against citizens engaged in recording police or in expressive activity critical of police in retaliation for the exercise of their first amendment rights, in violation of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments.”

Perry says police are not permitted to declare an unlawful assembly unless there’s a clear and present threat, and they cannot use the law to punish people engaged in protected activity, such as protesting. Perry additionally confirmed chemical agents can’t be used, unless there is probable cause to arrest, and police are not able to threaten to use chemical agents against anyone engaged in expressive, nonviolent activity.

In October, during a hearing, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Anthony Rothert proclaimed “pepper spray is the new fire hose,” and said officers were using pepper spray “arbitrarily, gratuitously and without warning.” We are hopeful that more injustices will be brought to light and rightfully punished, as well as justice be served as these officers and others misusing their duty to serve and protect are corrected.

To read more, go to: https://blavity.com/a-federal-judge-calls-st-louis-police-force-against-protestors-unconstitutional

Houston Texans Stage Mass Protest of Team Owner’s ‘Inmate’ Comments

Houston Texans players kneel and stand during the singing of the national anthem Sunday. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

by Jay Busbee via sports.yahoo.com

The Houston Texans, incensed by team owner Bob McNair’s poorly worded description of players as “inmates,” staged a mass protest during the national anthem prior to Houston’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Virtually all Texans knelt for the anthem, locking arms or holding hands on the sideline. National media in attendance put the number of players standing at about 10. At the NFL owners’ meetings last week, McNair had expressed frustration with the way that the protest had affected the NFL’s business, and said, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.” He apologized on at least two occasions for that unfortunate turn of phrase, but players were not convinced. Receiver DeAndre Hopkins left the Texans’ facility on Friday after learning of the comments.

The Texans had discussed several options for protest prior to Sunday’s game, including kneeling, sitting, remaining in the locker room during the anthem or peeling the Texans’ logo off their helmets. Clearly, the protest was large, one of the most significant by any single team to date, but not unanimous.

This marked the first time any Texans players had protested during the anthem. Offensive tackle Duane Brown had raised a fist last season, the only demonstration the Texans had shown since protests began in the 2016 preseason. On Friday, Brown called McNair’s comments “embarrassing, ignorant and frustrating.”

To see full article, go to: Texans stage mass protest of owner’s ‘inmate’ comments

NFL Protests: League Came Together for a Powerful Day

Denver Broncos kneel in protest during the national anthem before their game against the Buffalo Bills. (Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig, USA TODAY Sports)

by  via usatoday.com

Empty sidelines in Nashville and Chicago. Jacksonville owner Shad Khan standing arm in arm with his players. The Miami Dolphins wearing “I’m With Kap” T-shirts during warm-ups. Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis eloquently explaining his change of heart about players protesting during the national anthem. The NFL had one of its finest moments before the games even began Sunday, coming together from every corner – players, coaches, owners and league office – in forceful rebuke of the latest torrent of hate from President Donald Trump.

Whether black, white or brown, on bended knee or with locked arms, the NFL’s rare show of unity was both a dignified condemnation of the wrongs we still must right and a reminder that, for all of our differences, America remains our common ground. “Over the last year, though, the streets have gotten hot and there has been a lot of static in the air and recently, fuel has been added to the fire,” Davis said in a statement. “… Not only do we have to tell people there is something wrong, we have to come up with answers.“That’s the challenge in front of us as Americans and human beings.”

Be it Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King or Magic Johnson, sports has long been the prism through which we see society. And fondly as we regard those trailblazers now, that wasn’t always the case. Changing hearts and minds, getting people to shed their stereotypes and ignorance, took sacrifice, anger and, yes, even protest.

In that way, the NFL’s league-wide show of unity was merely the latest in a long history of sports and activism being intertwined. It wasn’t even particularly radical when measured against the outspokenness and activism by current NBA players and coaches.

But what made Sunday so stunning was how out of character it was, a seismic shift for a league that has been loath to allow any kind of individuality or personal expression. The NFL barely tolerates touchdown celebrations, let alone a call to acknowledge the pervasive racism that marginalizes a good portion of our country.

Maybe that’s what Trump was counting on with his remarks Friday — and again Saturday and Sunday — that were as ignorant as they were inflammatory, yet more racist dog whistles for his base. Perhaps he figured the league that has effectively blackballed Colin Kaepernick would let his thinly veiled bigotry pass in uncomfortable silence.

But the NFL showed Sunday that Trump has badly overplayed his hand.

“We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country,” the Seattle Seahawks said in a statement announcing that the team would stay in the locker room during the national anthem.

Even in a league where blinders might as well be part of the uniform, it was not lost on anyone that Trump found a way to defend Nazi protesters yet called Kaepernick and anyone else who protested during the national anthem a “son of a (expletive).” Ditto for his history of calling out and criticizing people of color while letting egregious behavior by whites go unchallenged.

The demonstrations by Kaepernick and the other players who have joined in are not about the national anthem or the military or the flag. They never have been. They are about the racism that continues to be pervasive in our society, manifesting itself in police brutality, economic inequality and disparity in education and opportunity.

No one is naïve enough to assume the NFL will now be the standard bearer in this latest fight for civil rights; moving as all the demonstrations were, it did not go unnoticed that the theme was “unity” rather than inequality, and that very few white players took a knee.

To read full article, go to: NFL protests: League came together for a powerful day

MLB Legend Hank Aaron Defends NFL QB Colin Kaepernick: ‘He’s Getting a Raw Deal’

Hank Aaron (l); Colin Kaepernick (r) [via nydailynews.com]

by  via ftw.usatoday.com

Halfway through the NFL preseason schedule, Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed. Despite teams like the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins recently shopping for another quarterback to add to their rosters, no one has elected to sign Kaepernick. A variety of sports figures have expressed their disappointment in NFL teams appearing to blackball the 29-year-old – from Mark Cuban to Dick Vitale to Johnny Manziel.

Add 83-year-old MLB legend Hank Aaron to the long list of Kaepernick supporters. During an interview with journalist Roland Martin posted to YouTube, Aaron said:

“I think he’s getting a raw deal. I’ve been watching pro ball for a long time, and I think that if you look at all the quarterbacks in the league right now, I think you have to say he is one, two, three, four. I don’t think anybody can do the things that he (does). So I just wish somebody would open up and give him a chance to do his thing and say, ‘Hey, he’s entitled to whatever he did, and let’s forget about it.’”

Last season while playing for the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick sat and kneeled during the national anthem, protesting racial injustice and oppression. Although Kaepernick isn’t on a roster, several players have demonstrated during the national anthem in their own ways during the preseason, including Michael Bennett, Derek Carr, Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long.

When Martin asked Aaron if he wanted to see more NFL players stand with Kaepernick and his message, Aaron said:“I’d love to see some other players stand with him. I would love that. I think it would give him some incentive. I think it would help him. I think the thing that bothers me about this whole situation is the fact that he has gone to all these camps, I suppose, and nobody seems to think he stands a chance of being No. 1. Here’s a man, a young player that almost carried a team to a championship – to the Super Bowl. I remember that.”

Aaron also said he believes Kaepernick remaining unsigned is a decision made by team owners, rather than general managers. To see full video of Aaron’s remarks, watch  below:

To read original article, go to: Hank Aaron defends Colin Kaepernick: ‘Give him a chance’ | For The Win

People Rally Outside NFL Headquarters to Show Support for Colin Kaepernick

(Image via USA TODAY Sports/Mike DiNovo)

by  via complex.com

Hundreds of people gathered outside NFL headquarters in New York City on Wednesday to show their support for quarterback Colin Kaepernick. With the start of the NFL season nearly two weeks away, Kaepernick remains a free agent, and it’s become evident that his current status has more to do with his national anthem protest last season than his skills on the football field.

At the “United We Stand” rally, the large crowd held signs while making sure their voices were heard and their presence was felt. Even Kaepernick’s fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, came out to support their brother. Derrick Johnson, NAACP interim president and CEO, has sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, requesting a meeting to discuss “the issue of First Amendment rights and free speech issues surrounding players” in the league. Johnson insinuates that Kaepernick’s inability to sign with a team has to do with being blackballed by the NFL after taking a stand against racial injustice.

“As outlined in your office’s public statement, this act of dissent is well within the National Football League’s stated bylaws. Yet, as the NFL season quickly approaches, Mr. Kaepernick has spent an unprecedented amount of time as a free agent, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that this is no sheer coincidence,” Johnson wrote. “No player should be victimized and discriminated against because of his exercise of free speech—to do so is in violation of his rights under the Constitution and the NFL’s own regulations.”

To see full article, go to: People Gather Outside NFL Headquarters to Show Support for Colin Kaepernick | Complex

NFL’s Michael Bennett said a White Player Needed to Kneel During the Anthem – Seth DeValve Listened

(photo via ftw.usatoday.com)

by Andrew Joseph via ftw.usatoday.com

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett sat for the national anthem during the Seahawks’ first two preseason games — something he says he’ll continue to do for the regular season — and he said that it would take a white player joining the national anthem protests to really change the conversation.

On Monday, Cleveland Browns tight end Seth DeValve listened.

DeValve (No. 87, above) joined teammates Jamie Collins, Christian Kirksey, running backs Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell, wide receivers Kenny Britt and Ricardo Louis, safety Jabrill Peppers and cornerback Jamar Taylor in taking a knee for the anthem before a preseason game against the Giants. DeValve is the first white player to kneel for the anthem since Colin Kaepernick started his protest last season.

While Kaepernick remains without a team, Bennett and many other NFL players have continued that protest. On Wednesday, Bennett said that it would take a white player kneeling to amplify the conversation about social injustice in the U.S.

Bennett said via ESPN:

“It would take a white player to really get things changed because when somebody from the other side understands and they step up and they speak up about it … it would change the whole conversation. Because when you bring somebody who doesn’t have to be a part of [the] conversation making himself vulnerable in front of it, I think when that happens, things will really take a jump.”

In recent weeks, Chris Long and Derek Carr were among white NFL players who gestured support to teammates by placing their hand on a teammate’s shoulder while standing. DeValve is a second-year tight end from Princeton. He’s made past community outreach trips to Mexico and was the team’s religious leader at Princeton.

After the game, DeValve spoke about his decision to kneel.

Source: Michael Bennett said a white player needed to kneel during the anthem. Seth DeValve listened. | For The Win

Journalist Shaun King Reveals 1st Part of 5-Part Investigative Series on Corrupt Policing and Arrest Quotas in NYC

Investigative Journalist Shaun King

A snippet and the link to this brave man’s work is below. Please read and follow this groundbreaking series via medium.com as well as Shaun King (Facebook, Twitter). He is doing so much what needs to be done to root out injustice not only in NYC, but all across the country:

What I’m about to tell you is the most painful, traumatic, outrageous, outlandish, over-the-top story of government sanctioned police brutality, wrongful imprisonment, wrongful convictions, forced testimony, widespread corruption, money, lots of money, and deep, deep, deep soul-snatching psychological abuse in modern American history. I would not have believed it had I not seen it all for myself. The rabbit hole I am about to take you down is deep and twisted. It should lead to the termination of a whole host of officials. Many should be arrested and a comprehensive independent investigation should begin immediately.

I receive hundreds of personal emails about injustice in America every single day. In mid-July, dozens of those emails were about a Bronx teenager named Pedro Hernandez. People all over the country had seen reports from Sarah Wallace of NBC New York or James Ford of Pix 11 on how Hernandez, who was jailed at Rikers Island, was running out of time to be released in time to start college. Hernandez had won awards at Rikers for his leadership and academic performance, and had also been granted a scholarship from the Posse Foundation to enter college this fall. Offered a plea deal from the Bronx DA’s Office to be released for time served, Hernandez did what few people in his position would do — he turned down the deal. Accused of shooting Shaun Nardoni, a neighborhood teenager, in the leg on September 1st, 2015, Hernandez was offered a ticket out of Rikers in exchange for admitting he shot Nardoni. The District Attorney even sweetened the pot and pledged to expunge his record in five years if he met all of the terms of his probation. Hernandez still refused to take the deal — continuing to pledge that he was completely innocent and would rather take his chances with a jury before admitting to something he didn’t do.

Pedro Hernandez (photo via medium.com)

For nearly a week, people emailed me about Pedro’s case before I finally clicked on the link to see what it was all about. Tory Russell, an activist and organizer from St. Louis, who I’d come to know fr

om Ferguson, sent me a direct message on Twitter asking me if I could read the story and support Pedro somehow.  I was on vacation with my family and it still took me another three days to finally read the story. I was hooked, but I had questions. As I Googled Pedro’s name and case, I saw several local reports that stated he had been wrongfully arrested and harassed by the NYPD for years. A guard at another facility was actually arrested and charged with criminal assault, endangering the welfare of a child, criminal obstruction of breathing and blood circulation, and harassment after being caught on film brutally beating and choking Pedro. Eight different eyewitnesses had all come forward to state that Pedro was not the shooter. Many even went so far as to identify the actual shooter. Why then, did Pedro remain behind bars? Why did it seem like the NYPD had it out for him? And how could the Bronx DA simultaneously believe that Pedro was safe enough to set free if he took the plea, but so dangerous, that if he didn’t, his bail would be set at an outrageous $250,000 with a stipulation that he not pay the typical 10%, but pay all $250,000 — effectively ensuring that he’d never get out on bail. That Pedro Hernandez, with the entire deck stacked against him, still refused to take a plea, hooked me.

As I reached out to Pedro’s family, I was immediately struck by something peculiar. I’ve written nearly 1,000 stories about police brutality and misconduct and have interviewed hundreds of families suffering through the consequences of those things. Almost every single one of those families, particularly when they are still in a stage of grief or conflict, without fail, want to speak exclusively about their very specific case. Pedro’s family was different. They immediately wanted me to know that Pedro was not alone, but that he was just one of hundreds of victims whose lives had been turned upside down by officers from the 42nd precinct in the Bronx who were working in close concert with the Bronx District Attorney’s Office. The accusations were so sweeping and broad that I wasn’t sure how to process them.

To read full article, go to: Soul Snatchers: How the NYPD’s 42nd Precinct, the Bronx DA’s Office, and the City of New York…

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