Judge Rules NYPD Must Disclose Surveillance of Black Lives Matter Protesters Under Freedom of Information Law

NYPD authorities “make blanket assertions and fail to particularize or distinguish their surveillance or undercover techniques and records,” Mendez wrote. (SAM COSTANZA/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

article by Stephen Rex Brown via nydailynews.com

The New York Police Department must disclose documents and video revealing surveillance of Black Lives Matter protestors at Grand Central Terminal in 2014 and 2015, a judge has ruled. The case, brought by protester James Logue, challenged the NYPD’s denial of a Freedom of Information Law request for information on its monitoring of rallies following the police killings of Eric Garner in Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Logue decided to file the request after suspecting that police were “compiling dossiers” on individuals at the peaceful protest, his attorney David Thompson said. The NYPD had argued that revealing its tactics would interfere with law enforcement work. But Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Manuel Mendez ruled the NYPD could not decline to comply with the law on such “overly broad” grounds.

NYPD authorities “make blanket assertions and fail to particularize or distinguish their surveillance or undercover techniques and records,” Mendez wrote, adding that the department had failed to show why the use of redactions could not protect ongoing investigative work.

The judge noted that the MTA and Metro-North, which also monitored the rallies, responded to Logue’s FOIL request with some paperwork. Mendez ordered the NYPD to comply with Logue’s request within 30 days. He signed the ruling last Monday, though it was made public Wednesday.

To read more, go to: NYPD must disclose surveillance of Black Lives Matter protesters – NY Daily News

Quiet Billionaire Robert Smith Makes Some Noise with $20 Million Gift to National African American Museum

In 2013, when the founders of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture were seeking donors, people directed them to one man: Robert F. Smith.

“We kept wondering, ‘Who is this Robert Smith?’ ” said Adrienne Brooks, director of development for the museum. Meeting Smith became a priority, said Lonnie G. Bunch III, the museum’s founding director. “We wanted to meet him. And soon,” Bunch said, laughing.

Soon many more people will know Robert Smith by name as the museum celebrates its grand opening this weekend. The private-equity financier was the museum’s second-biggest private donor, with a $20 million gift. Oprah Winfrey was No. 1, with $21 million.

Smith has built a fortune that’s made him one of the nation’s richest men — worth $2.5 billion, according to Forbes — but until now he has kept his work and philanthropy relatively quiet.

Even the website of his company, Vista Equity Partners, does not have a picture of him. Better, he had thought, that investors and executives know him first by his abilities. If they saw only the caramel skin of an African American, he might lose out on opportunities.

As Vista’s chairman and chief executive, he is in the business of buying, growing and selling off software companies. Vista’s portfolio has 35 companies with $26 billion in assets under management. He is the majority shareholder of Vista’s management company.

Beyond Wall Street and Silicon Valley, Smith long enjoyed moving in relative obscurity. That changed last fall when Forbes magazine put him on its cover, with an article for which he declined to be interviewed.

Now in an exclusive interview with The Washington Post, he’s ready to talk about his life’s work and the powerful social force that has pulled him out of the shadows: the racial tension escalating across the nation. Smith said he grew fearful that the very fabric of the country that allowed his parents to earn doctorate degrees and him to build a successful business is vulnerable.

Watching TV news, he saw the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., after the 2014 fatal shooting of an unarmed black youth, Michael Brown, by police. Last year he watched the turmoil following Freddie Gray’s funeral in Baltimore. Across the land, he feared, a sense of opportunity is giving way to rising hopelessness and despair.

“The vision I was sold as a kid is unraveling. I see the little tears in the fabric of society every day. This cannot be,” Smith said in the interview.

His philanthropic efforts go back years. Through the Fund II Foundation, of which he is the founding president, he has supported nonprofit groups that focus on African American culture, human rights, music education and the environment.

It was time to emerge, he thought, and do more. “We have to do something,” he said. “We have to do something for our community.”

To read full article, go to: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/who-is-this-robert-smith-a-quiet-billionaire-makes-some-noise-with-20-million-gift-to-the-african-american-museum/2016/09/23/547da3a8-6fd0-11e6-8365-b19e428a975e_story.html

Ferguson Hires Delrish Moss as Police Chief; Moss Promises more Diversity on Force

In this Aug. 9, 2006 photo, Miami police officer Delrish Moss, helps David Jenkins into the van taking the family to Disney in Miami. (Al Diaz/The Miami Herald via AP)

In this Aug. 9, 2006 photo, Miami police officer Delrish Moss, helps David Jenkins into the van taking the family to Disney in Miami. (Al Diaz/The Miami Herald via AP)

article by Maria Sudekum via thegrio.com

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — A veteran Miami police officer with two decades of experience dealing with the media and community leaders will take over as police chief in Ferguson, hoping to help the St. Louis suburb heal as it rebounds after the fatal 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown.

U.S. Justice Department Sues Ferguson, Mo., to Force Police Reform

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch ce Department (Photo via newsweek.com)

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (Photo via newsweek.com)

article by Stephan A. Crockett, Jr. via theroot.com

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Wednesday that the Department of Justice has filed a federal lawsuit against Ferguson, Mo., after the City Council voted Tuesday to change the terms of a deal that would have brought sweeping changes to the city’s embattled Police Department.

“The residents of Ferguson have waited nearly a year for their city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe,” Lynch said, according to ABC News. “They have waited nearly a year for their Police Department to accept rules that would ensure their constitutional rights. … They have waited decades for justice. They should not be forced to wait any longer.”

The Justice Department launched an investigation into the Ferguson Police Department last year after the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown by Police Officer Darren Wilson in August 2014. Wilson was not charged in the shooting, but the Justice Department investigation found “systemic and systematic racial bias within the force’s policing practices,” ABC reports.

The findings of the investigation were announced last year, and the city of Ferguson and the Justice Department began negotiations that ABC notes lasted 26 weeks, seeking an agreement that would address the Justice Department’s findings.

In January it was announced that the two sides had reached a tentative agreement that was set to include a complete overhaul of basic policing practices, including “how officers conduct stops, searches and arrests, use their firearms and respond to demonstrations,” among other significant changes, the Associated Press reports.

ABC notes that Ferguson leaders, however, had always balked at the tentative agreement, which they estimated would cost the city $3.7 million during the first year alone.

Superintendent Tiffany Anderson Has Figured Out How to Make School Work for Low-Income Kids in Jennings, MO

— School districts don’t usually operate homeless shelters for their students. Nor do they often run food banks or have a system in place to provide whatever clothes kids need. Few offer regular access to pediatricians and mental health counselors, or make washers and dryers available to families desperate to get clean.

But the Jennings School District — serving about 3,000 students in a low-income, predominantly African-American jurisdiction just north of St. Louis — does all of these things and more. When Superintendent Tiffany Anderson arrived here 3 1/2 years ago, she was determined to clear the barriers that so often keep poor kids from learning. And her approach has helped fuel a dramatic turnaround in Jennings, which has long been among the lowest-performing school districts in Missouri.

“Schools can do so much to really impact poverty,” Anderson said. “Some people think if you do all this other stuff, it takes away from focusing on instruction, when really it ensures that you can take kids further academically.”

Public education has long felt like a small and fruitless weapon against this town’s generational poverty. But that’s starting to change. Academic achievement, attendance and high school graduation rates have improved since Anderson’s arrival, and, this month, state officials announced that as a result of the improvements, Jennings had reached full accreditation for the first time in more than a decade.

Gwen McDile, a homeless 17-year-old in Jennings, missed so much school this fall — nearly one day in three — that it seemed she would be unlikely to graduate in June. But then she was invited to move into Hope House, a shelter the school system recently opened to give students like her a stable place to live.

She arrived a few days after Thanksgiving. The 3,000-square-foot house had a private bedroom for Gwen, who loves writing and poetry; a living room with a plush sofa she could sink into; and — perhaps most importantly — a full pantry.

She’s no longer hungry. She has been making it to class. She believes she will graduate on time.

“I’ve eaten more in the last two weeks than I’ve eaten in the last two years,” Gwen said on a recent afternoon, after arriving home from school and digging into a piece of caramel chocolate. “I’m truly blessed to be in the situation I’m in right now.” Continue reading

Ferguson, U.S. Department of Justice Near Deal to Reform Police Department

US-POLICE-RACISM-UNREST

Nine months after the United States Justice Department released a damning report detailing the racial biased practices of the Ferguson Police Department, the Missouri city and DOJ officials are nearing a reform deal that will likely effect change and overhaul what has been called “unconstitutional” policing.

The report, released earlier this year, was prompted by the death of Michael Brown — a Black Ferguson teenager who was fatally shot by former police officer Darren Wilson. Last November, a grand jury elected not to indict Wilson on criminal charges.

According to the New York Times, the agreement is set to include new training for officers and new-improved record keeping. But the changes won’t come easy or cheap, the Times notes.

Completing the deal, however, will require support from diverse factions of Ferguson’s leadership, which will have to sell residents on the idea of a federal policing monitor and of huge new expenses for a city that is already struggling financially. Some officials said a local tax increase appears unavoidable, which in Missouri requires approval from voters…

The two sides have been negotiating for several months, after a scathing Justice Department report in March described Ferguson as a city where police officers often stop and arrest people without cause, where the court operates as a moneymaking venture, and where officers used excessive force almost exclusively against blacks.

The deal’s anticipated close was confirmed by Mayor James Knowles III, who, in a telephone interview, told the Times the city has made “tremendous progress.”

“We’re at a point where we have addressed any necessary issues, and assuming it is not cost prohibitive, we would like to move forward,” Mr. Knowles said.

“The talks with the city of Ferguson to develop a monitored consent decree have been productive,” Dena Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said in a statement. “The department believes that in order to remedy the Justice Department’s findings, an agreement needs to be reached without delay.”

The agreement would allow the city to avoid a lawsuit from the Justice Department.

article via newsone.com

Black Men Rally In D.C. For 20th Anniversary Of Million Man March

(TIM SLOAN VIA GETTY IMAGES)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Black men from around the nation are gathering on the National Mall to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March and call for policing reforms and changes in black communities.

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who spearheaded the original march, will lead an anniversary gathering Saturday at the Capitol called the “Justice or Else” march.

“I plan to deliver an uncompromising message and call for the government of the United States to respond to our legitimate grievances,” Farrakhan said in a statement.

Attention has been focused on the deaths of unarmed black men since the shootings of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012 in Florida and 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Deaths of unarmed black males at the hands of law enforcement officers have inspired protests under the “Black Lives Matter” moniker around the country.

The original march on Oct. 16, 1995, brought hundreds of thousands to Washington to pledge to improve their lives, their families and their communities. Women, whites and other minorities were not invited to the original march, but organizers say all are welcome Saturday and that they expect to get hundreds of thousands of participants.

The National Park Service estimated the attendance at the original march to be around 400,000, but subsequent counts by private organizations put the number at 800,000 or higher. The National Park Service has refused to give crowd estimates on Mall activities since.

President Barack Obama, who attended the first Million Man March, will be in California on Saturday.

Life has improved in some way for African-American men since the original march, but not in others. For example:

-The unemployment rate for African-American men in October 1995 was 8.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In September it was 8.9 percent.

-In 1995, 73.4 percent of African-American men had high school degrees. In 2004, 84.3 percent did, according to the Census Bureau.

-Law enforcement agencies made 3.5 million arrests of blacks in 1994, which was 30.9 percent of all arrests, the FBI said. (By comparison, they made 7.6 million arrests of whites that year, which was 66 percent of all arrests.) By 2013, the latest available data, African-American arrests had decreased to 2.5 million, 28 percent of all arrests.

Anti-Muslim protesters plan to demonstrate at mosques around the nation on the same day.

article by Jesse J. Holland via huffingtonpost.com