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Like most southern police departments, NOPD was explicitly segregationist for much of the 20th century. The first Black

New Orleans police officer was not hired until 1950 and it was several more years before Black officers were allowed to

carry a gun or arrest whites. In 1980, the city was rocked by protests when Sherry Singleton, a 26-year old

African-American mother, was shot by police while naked in a bathtub, in front of her four year old child.

 

 

Books by Jordan Flaherty

Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six.

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NOPD Verdict Reveals Post-Katrina History

By Jordan Flaherty
 

 

8 August 2011

In an historic verdict with national implications, five New Orleans police officers were convicted on Friday of civil rights violations for killing unarmed African Americans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and could face life in prison when sentenced later this year. The case, involving a grisly encounter on the Danziger Bridge, was the most high-profile of a number of prosecutions that seek to hold police accountable for violence in the storm’s wake.

The officers’ conviction on all 25 counts (on two counts, the jury found the men guilty but with partial disagreements on the nature of the crime, which could slightly affect sentencing) comes nearly six years after the city was devastated by floodwaters and government inaction. The verdict helps rewrite the history of what happened in the chaotic days after the levees broke. And the story of how these convictions happened is important for anyone around the U.S. seeking to combat law enforcement violence.

The results of this trial also have national implications for those seeking federal support in challenges to police abuses in other cities. New Orleans is one of four major cities in which the Department of Justice has stepped in to look at police departments. Any success here has far reaching implications for federal investigations in Denver, Seattle, Newark, and other cities.

The Danziger Bridge case begins with Hurricane Katrina. As images of desperate survivors played on television, people around the world felt sympathy for people waiting for rescue after the storm. But then images of families trapped on rooftops were replaced by stories of armed gangs and criminals roaming the streets. News reports famously described white people as “finding” food while depicting black people as “looting.” Then-Chief of Police Eddie Compass told Oprah Winfrey that “little babies (are) getting raped” in the Superdome. Then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco announced she had sent in troops with orders to shoot to kill, and the second in charge of the police department reportedly told officers to fire at will on looters.

Evidence suggests that the NOPD acted on these instructions. On Sept. 2, just days after the storm, a black man named Henry Glover was shot by a police sniper as he walked through a parking lot. When a good Samaritan tried to help Glover get medical help, he was beaten by officers, who burnt Glover’s body and left it behind a levee. The next day, a 45-year-old named Danny Brumfield, Sr., was killed by officers in front of scores of witnesses outside the New Orleans convention center when he ran after a police car to demand that they stop and provide aid.

The following morning, two families were crossing New Orleans’ Danziger Bridge, which connects Gentilly and New Orleans East, two mostly middle-to-upper-class African American neighborhoods. Without warning, a Budget Rental truck carrying police officers arrived and cops jumped out. The officers did not identify themselves, and began firing before their vehicle had even stopped.

Officers had heard a radio call about shootings in the area, and according to prosecutors, they were seeking revenge. James Brisette, a 17-year-old called studious and nerdy by his friends, was shot nearly a dozen times and died at the scene. Many of the bullets hit him as he lay on the ground bleeding. Four other people were wounded, including Susan Bartholomew, a 38-year-old mother who had her arm shot off of her body, and her 17-year old daughter Lesha, who was shot while crawling on top of her mother’s body, trying to shield her from bullets. Lesha’s cousin Jose was shot point-blank in the stomach and nearly died. He needed a colostomy bag for years afterwards.

Further up the bridge, officers chased down Ronald Madison, a mentally challenged man, who was traveling with his brother Lance. Ronald was shot in the back by one officer and then stomped and kicked to death by another. Lance was arrested and charged with firing at officers, and spent weeks behind bars.

At the time, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that officers “sent up a cheer” when word came over police radios that suspects had been shot and killed.

A cursory investigation by the NOPD justified the shooting, and it appeared that the matter was closed. In fact, for years every check and balance in the city’s criminal justice system failed to find any fault in this or other officer-involved shootings from the days after the storm.

Eddie Jordan, the city’s first black district attorney, pursued charges against the officers in late 2006. When the cops went to turn themselves in, they were greeted by a crowd of hundreds of officers who cheered for them and called them heroes. Before the case could make it to trial, it was dismissed by a judge with close ties to the defense lawyers, and soon after that Jordan was forced to resign.

After the dismissal of Jordan’s charges, the story of police violence after Katrina remained untold. Jordan believes an indifferent local media bears partial responsibility for the years of cover-up. “They were looking for heroes,” he says. “They had a cozy relationship with the police. They got tips from the police; they were in bed with the police. It was an atmosphere of tolerance for atrocities from the police. They abdicated their responsibility to be critical in their reporting. If a few people got killed that was a small price to pay.”

Other elected officials, like the city coroner, went along with the police version of events. For example, the coroner’s office never flagged Henry Glover’s body, found burned in a car, as a potential homicide.

But the Madisons, the Bartholomews, and the Glovers, along with family members of other police violence victims, refused to be silent. They continued to speak out at press conferences, rallies, and directly to reporters. They worked with organizations like Safe Streets Strong Communities, which was founded by criminal justice activists in the days after Katrina, and Community United for Change, which was formed in response to police abuses. Monique Harden, a community activist and co-director of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, helped to bring testimony about these issues to the United Nations. Another post-Katrina organization, Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund, presented the charges to an international tribunal.

Activists worked to not only raise awareness of specific issues of police violence, but to say that these problems are structural and that any solution must get at the root causes. “This is about an entire system that was completely broken and in crisis,” says former Safe Streets co-director Rosana Cruz. “Everyone’s job in the criminal justice system depends on there being a lot of crime in the city. The district attorney’s office doesn’t work on getting the city safer, they work on getting convictions at any cost. As long as that’s the case, we’re not going to have safety.”

Former District Attorney Jordan feels that investigators should pursue charges up to the very top of the department, including Warren Riley, who was promoted to police chief shortly after Hurricane Katrina and served in that role until 2010. “Riley, by his own admission, never even read the report on Danziger,” Jordan points out. “It’s so outrageous, it’s unspeakable. It’s one of the worst things that anyone can do. It’s hard to understand why he’s not on trial as well.”

“Fish starts rotting at the head,” adds Jordan. “This was all done in the backdrop of police opposition at the very top. It’s not surprising that there was a cover-up. You just have to wonder how far that cover-up went.”

In 2008, journalist A.C. Thompson did what New Orleans media had failed to do, and seriously investigated the accusations of police violence. His reporting, published on ProPublica and in The Nation, spelled out the shocking details of Glover’s killing and pointed toward police coordination with white vigilantes in widespread violence. It brought national attention to the stories that had been ignored. Activists took advantage of the exposure and lobbied the Congressional Black Caucus and the Justice Department for an investigation.

In early 2009, a newly empowered civil rights division of the Justice Department decided to look into the cases. Federal agents interviewed witnesses who had never been talked to, reconstructed crime scenes, and even confiscated NOPD computers. They found evidence that the Danziger officers had radically rewritten their version of what happened on the bridge that day. When FBI agents confronted officers involved in the Danziger case, five officers pleaded guilty and agreed to testify about the conspiracy to cover-up what happened. They revealed that officers had planted evidence, invented witnesses, arrested innocent people, and held secret meetings where they worked to line up their stories.

Before last week’s verdict, the Justice Department had already won four previous police violence convictions, including of the officers who shot Glover and burned his body, as well as of two officers who killed Raymond Robair, a pre-Katrina case in which officers beat a man to death and claimed (with the support of the city coroner) he had sustained his injuries from falling down. About half a dozen other investigations are ongoing. The Justice Department is also looking at federal oversight of the NOPD, a process by which they can dictate vast changes from hiring and firing to training and policy writing.

The Danziger trial has been the most high-profile aspect of the federal intervention in New Orleans, and this verdict will have far-reaching implications for how the effectiveness of federal intervention is perceived. The convictions and guilty pleas in the case reveal a wide-ranging conspiracy that reaches up to sergeants and lieutenants. Marlon Defillo, the second-in-charge of the NOPD, was recently forced to retire because of his role in helping cover-up the Glover killing.

Most importantly, the verdict has helped shift the narrative of what happened in those days after Katrina.

The defense team for the Danziger officers was steadfast in describing their clients as heroes. Attorney Paul Fleming described the cops as “proactive,” saying, “They go out and get things done. They go out and get the bad guys.” Police attorneys in the Glover and Danziger trials also sought to use the so-called “Katrina defense,” arguing that the exceptional circumstances following the storm justified extra-legal actions on the part of officers. With these convictions, the juries have definitively refuted this excuse.

In her closing arguments, Bobbi Bernstein, deputy chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, fought back against the claim that the officers were heroes, saying the family members of those killed deserved the title more. Noting that the official cover-up had “perverted” the system, she said, “The real heroes are the victims who stayed with an imperfect justice system that initially betrayed them.”

Officers went out with a mission to deliver “their own kind of post-apocalyptic justice,” she added. “The law is what it is because this is not a police state.”

In comments immediately after the verdict, family members of those killed on the bridge expressed gratitude for those who had helped them reach this point, but stressed that their pain continued.

Speaking outside the courthouse after the verdict, Sherrel Johnson, the mother of James Brisette, said that the officers, “took the twinkle out of my eye, the song out of my voice, and blew out my candle,” when they killed her son.

Jacqueline Madison Brown, the sister of Ronald Madison, told assembled press, “Ronald Madison brought great love to our family. Shooting him down was like shooting an innocent child.” Commenting on officers who had testified for the prosecution in exchange for lesser charges, she added, “We regret that they did not have the courage and strength to come forward sooner.”

Kenneth Bowen (top left), Robert Gisevius (bottom left), Anthony Villavaso (bottom right), and [Robert] Faulcon (middle left), the officers involved in the shooting, could receive life sentences. Sergeant Arthur Kaufman (bottom middle), who was not on the bridge, but was convicted of leading the conspiracy, could receive a maximum of 120 years. Sentencing is scheduled for December, but will likely be delayed.

Jordan Flaherty is a journalist and staffer with the Louisiana Justice Institute. His award-winning reporting from the Gulf Coast has been featured in a range of outlets including the New York Times, Al Jazeera, and Argentina's Clarin newspaper. He is the author of Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six. He can be reached at neworleans@leftturn.org, and more info can be found at floodlines.org. For speaking engagements, see communityandresistance.wordpress.com.

Source: ColorLines

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5 NOPD officers guilty in post Katrina Danziger Bridge shootings, cover-up

By  The Times-Picayune

5 August 2011

A jury this morning convicted all five New Orleans police officers accused in the Danziger Bridge shootings, which took place amid the chaos after Hurricane Katrina and claimed the lives of two civilians, and a cover-up of startling scope that lasted almost five years.

The verdicts were a huge victory for federal prosecutors, who won on virtually every point, save for their contention that the shootings amounted to murder. The jury rejected that notion, finding that the officers violated the victims' civil rights, but that their actions did not constitute murder.Sentencing for the five officers, all of them likely facing lengthy prison terms, has been set for Dec. 14 before U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt.

Four of the five officers—Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso—have been in custody since their arraignment. The fifth, retired Sgt. Arthur "Archie" Kaufman, who was not involved in the shootings but headed the police investigation into them, remains free on bail.

In remarks on the courthouse steps shortly after the verdicts were rendered, lead prosecutor Barbara "Bobbi" Bernstein said she was "in awe" of the relatives of the bridge shooting victims. Without their persistence, she said, the truth about the incident would never come to light.

Lance Madison, whose brother, Ronald, was shot and killed on the bridge, and who was jailed for allegedly shooting at police, thanked the jury and the federal authorities who brought the case, while noting he will never get his brother back. "We're thankful for closure after six long years of waiting for justice," Madison said.

The landmark civil-rights case—one of four major federal cases involving use of force by New Orleans police to result in indictments so far—has been closely watched around the nation. Because of its sheer magnitude, the Danziger case was the most high-stakes of the nine civil-rights probes into the NOPD the Justice Department has confirmed. Before today's verdicts, five other former officers, all of whom testified during the six-week trial, had already pleaded guilty to various roles in the shootings and the subsequent cover-up

photo right: Lance Madison is shown being arrested on Sept. 4, 2005, after gunfire erupted on the Danziger Bridge in East New Orleans.

The two other cases to go to trial so far—involving the deaths of Henry Glover and Raymond Robair at the hands of police—both resulted in convictions, although two officers accused of different roles in the Glover case were acquitted, and a third officer who was convicted recently had that verdict vacated. While today's verdicts close the book on most aspects of the Danziger case, one officer charged in the cover-up still faces charges: retired Sgt. Gerard Dugue, who is set to be tried Sept. 26.—NOLA

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Deliberations Begin Today in Danziger Trial
Jury to weigh two very different perspectives of police and Katrina

By Jordan Flaherty


3 August 2011

With closing statements completed on Tuesday, focus in the Danziger incident now turns to the jury, which began deliberating today on the 25 charges faced by the officers, after receiving final jury instructions from U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt. The 12-person jury is evenly split between men and women, but has only one African-American member. The jury is drawn from thirteen parishes in the greater New Orleans area.

Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Anthony Villavaso, and Robert Faulcon, the officers involved in the September 4, 2005 shooting, could receive life sentences if convicted. Sergeant Arthur Kaufman, who was not on the bridge, is charged only in the conspiracy and could receive a maximum of 120 years. Justice Department investigations of other incidents are continuing, and it is likely that some form of federal oversight of the department will be announced in the coming months.

During closing statements of a trial that has brought international attention to this city’s violence-plagued police department, lawyers for defense and prosecution directed what often sounded like personal attacks against each other as well as key witnesses while laying out very different versions of what happened on that fateful day.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore Carter said that officers deliberately did not follow procedure, and that if they had done what they were supposed to, no one would have died that day. “It was unreasonable for these officers to fire even one shot,” said Carter, who referred to video footage from that day which he said showed at least “fifty four seconds of gunfire.”

In a spirited defense that seemed to echo Tea Party themes, police attorney Frank Desalvo told the jury, “We know that the United States is the greatest country on earth, and the only thing wrong with it is the people running it.” Depicting Justice Department attorneys as furthering an anti-cop agenda, he told the jury that the prosecutors in this case do not represent the United States and that they are the true Americans. Desalvo also accused the prosecution of speaking “meaningless, emotional drivel,” and giving ammunition to “a segment of the community that believes police are always brutal.”

The trial, which began five weeks ago, focuses on an incident that occurred days after Hurricane Katrina, as two families were fleeing the storm's flood waters, crossing New Orleans’ Danziger Bridge to get to dry land.

In what prosecutors have described as a “hail of gunfire,” two people were killed and four were wounded. Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally challenged man described by family members as gentle and loving, was shot several times in the back and died at the scene. James Brisette, a high school student who friends called nerdy and studious, also died on the bridge. The wounded included Lesha Bartholomew, who was 17 at the time of the incident, as well as her father, cousin and mother, who lost her right arm in the incident.

The case has presented two radically different narratives of not just the shootings, but the overall period after Hurricane Katrina. Defense attorneys have said that their clients were facing a violent and lawless city, while the prosecution has painted a picture of civilians facing a violent and lawless police force. Defense attorneys filled the nearly five hours allotted for their closing remarks with what they said were questions the prosecution had left unanswered.

Both prosecution and defense spoke often about the testimony of Robert Faulcon, the only defendant to testify. Prosecution attorneys noted that Faulcon had admitted that Lance and Ronald Madison were unarmed, and that police officers had continued shooting dozens of shots after any threat had been “neutralized.” Most damning for the defense, Faulcon admitted under cross-examination that there had been a cover-up.

Paul Fleming, one of Faulcon’s attorneys, said that he had been “tricked” by Bernstein in her cross-examination. “He’s not as smart as Bernstein. Neither am I,” said Fleming, who also called FBI agent William Bezak, the lead investigator on the case, “smug.”

Lindsey Larson, another attorney for Faulcon, said that his client was tired and hadn’t known what he was saying when he admitted to the cover-up, saying it was “like when you’re arguing with your spouse” and you just say yes to whatever they say. “He wasn’t even listening,” to Bernstein’s questions, added Larson.

Tim Meche, attorney for Officer Anthony Villavaso, implied that Lance Madison, a key prosecution witness, had colluded with government to change his story. “After he got with the government and all lawyered-up and all that he changed his mind,” said Meche.

Desalvo also levied accusations at Madison, saying that he had a gun, and that the Bartholomew family was also armed. Suggesting that Madison may have thrown his gun in the industrial canal, Desalvo added, “Did he really care about his brother, or was he just trying to get away?” The Madison family, including Lance, filled nearly two rows at the closing, and many seemed visibly upset during defense arguments.

In a breathless 40-minute rebuttal to the defense, Bobbi Bernstein, Deputy Chief of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said that attorneys for the officers had engaged in outright lying on behalf of their clients, saying that the accused had “delivered their own kind of post-apocalyptic justice,” and called at least one of the cops, officer Bowen, “a cold blooded murderer.”

She also mocked the defense for complaining about the “big bad government.” Saying that the DOJ had to intervene because the victims were denied justice from every local source, Bernstein declared “The law is what it is because this is not a police state.”

Pacing back and forth, speaking quickly, and gesturing pointedly to illustrate her arguments as she attempted to respond to as many defense arguments as possible, Bernstein also refuted the claim that the officers were heroes, saying the family members of those shot that day deserved the title more. Noting that the official cover-up had “perverted” the system, she said “the real heroes are the victims who stayed with an imperfect justice system that initially betrayed them.”

Jordan Flaherty is a journalist and staffer with the Louisiana Justice Institute. His award-winning reporting from the Gulf Coast has been featured in a range of outlets including the New York Times, Al Jazeera, and Argentina's Clarin newspaper. He is the author of Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six. He can be reached at neworleans@leftturn.org, and more info can be found at floodlines.org. For speaking engagements, see communityandresistance.wordpress.com.

Source: BraveNewWorld/

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Defense rests in Danziger Trial, insisting victims were armed
 

By Jordan Flaherty
 

30 July 2011

After less than one full week and having presented the testimony of only one of the five defendants, the defense in the Danziger police violence trial rested their case on Thursday.

Much of the defense relied on the scenario that there were armed civilians on or near the bridge firing at officers, or that officers could reasonably have believed that was the case. Shawn Gasaway, a paramedic on the scene that day, testified that he saw people on the grass beside the bridge firing up at officers. The defense also read grand jury testimony from Heather Gore and Donald Haynes III, two officers on the scene who have not been charged in the killings or cover-up. Haynes testified that he saw two Black males “facing the officers with their hands extended.” Haynes admitted he didn’t actually see weapons in their hands, but he insisted the males must have had guns that they were firing at police. “Standing toe to toe with the officers like that I believed he was shooting,” said Haynes.

Gore, who was the last cop to exit the Budget rental truck that carried officers to the bridge, testified that she saw a “Black male with an assault rifle” pointing his weapon at officers and then running up the bridge. Gore said she only saw the man briefly and couldn’t say for sure he was not an officer; however, she insisted that he couldn’t have been with law enforcement because his gun had been pointed in the direction of police.

However, the prosecution repeatedly raised doubts about the credibility of defense witness accounts, pointing out that the various stories did not match up and accusing Haynes and Gore of lying to protect their fellow officers. Prosecutor Cindy Chung also said that the other paramedics traveling with Gasaway that day disputed his version of events and had said that gunfire had ended by the time they arrived on the scene.

Perhaps the most powerful testimony for the defense was a recording played in court of a conversation between officers Barrios and Villavaso. Barrios, who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the prosecution, secretly recorded a conversation with Villavaso, his friend and former partner. On the tape, Barrios repeatedly tries to get Villavaso to admit that civilians on the bridge were unarmed, but Villavaso refuses to budge, insisting that the victims had guns.

The taped conversation also revealed that Villavaso and Barrios feel that the alleged cover-up crafted by Sergeant Kaufman and others unfairly directs the blame at them, as well as at Officer Faulcon. Some observers at the trial have speculated that the cover-up exonerated white cops at the expense of Black officers, although there are other factors aside from race that divide the officers, such as rank, place of work, and social circles.

This element of the story also unfolded earlier in the trial, during the testimony of Jeffrey Lehrmann, a former NOPD investigator and current government witness. Lehrmann admitted that the report he helped write noted that Villavaso fired an AK47, but failed to mention that Bowen also fired the same type of weapon.

The so-called “Danziger Seven” includes three white cops; Sergeant Kenneth Bowen, Sergeant Robert Gisevius, and Officer Michael Hunter; and four Black officers; Robert Barrios, Anthony Villvaso, Robert Faulcon and Ignatius Hills. Villavaso and Barrios were the only two officers not from the seventh district. Faulcon had been with the seventh, but left the force weeks after Katrina.

Hunter, Hills and Barrios have since pleaded guilty, while the four remaining officers are currently on trial along with Sergeant Arthur Kaufman, who was not part of the shooting but is accused of leading the cover-up.

Officer Faulcon was the only defendant to take the stand. Speaking confidently, Faulcon testified to seeing armed men firing at him, saying that he returned fire “until the threat was neutralized.” During a contentious cross-examination by government prosecutor Bobbi Bernstein, Faulcon refused to admit to almost any laws or restrictions on police use of deadly force.

Asked repeatedly about situations when an officer may or may not fire or whether it was necessary to shout a warning first, Faulcon responded, “It’s hard to say yes and it’s hard to say no, that’s up to that individual.” When asked if an officer should follow guidelines on use of force he had been trained on in his years in the military and NOPD, he responded, “According to textbook, yes. According to reality, not necessarily.”

Bernstein also questioned Faulcon’s denial that he had collaborated with the other defendants in conspiring to change their stories. She listed several dates when Faulcon had apparently spoken on the phone with the other defendants, including several calls during the days in January of 2006 when officers gave their official statements for the NOPD internal investigation of the incident. When Faulcon claimed to not have the phone numbers of some of the other officers, Bernstein asked, “Can you sometimes talk to people on the phone even if you don’t have their phone number?”

While we wont know until the verdict comes down what the jury thought of Faulcon, his testimony may have damaged other officer’s cases, especially Kaufman’s. When asked by Bernstein if he agreed that there was a cover-up, Faulcon responded, “Based on what I learned now, yes.”

Jordan Flaherty is a journalist and staffer with the Louisiana Justice Institute. His award-winning reporting from the Gulf Coast has been featured in a range of outlets including the New York Times, Al Jazeera, and Argentina's Clarin newspaper. He is the author of Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six. He can be reached at neworleans@leftturn.org, and more info can be found at floodlines.org. For speaking engagements, see communityandresistance.wordpress.com.

Source: BridgetheGulfProject

 

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Trial Brings Attention to Corruption in the New Orleans Police Department
 

By Jordan Flaherty

 

17 July 2011


In New Orleans’ federal courthouse, five police officers are currently facing charges of killing unarmed Black civilians and conspiring for more than four years to cover-up their crime. The trial, brought by the US Department of Justice, has gripped the city, and daily coverage in local media has focused attention on a deeply troubled department that still has a long way to go before it can regain the trust of residents.

The charges stem from an incident on New Orleans’ Danziger Bridge on September 4, 2005, just days after Hurricane Katrina. Police officers, who apparently had misheard a distress call on their radios, piled into a Budget rental truck and sped to the scene. When they arrived, they came out shooting. James Brisette, a 17-year-old described by friends as nerdy and studious, and Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old man with the mental capacity of an 8-year-old, were killed. Four others were seriously wounded, including Susan Bartholomew, 38, who had her arm shot off of her body, and Jose Holmes, 19, who was shot point blank in his stomach. Susan’s son, Leonard Bartholomew, 14, was shot at by officers, badly beaten, and arrested. Ronald Madison’s brother, Lance, was arrested by officers under false charges that were later dropped.

photo: James Brissette (l) and Ronald Madison

Witnesses for the government include survivors of the harrowing ordeal on the bridge, as well as several officers who have pled guilty to lesser offenses in exchange for their testimony. They have described shocking scenes of violence—one officer is accused of kicking and stomping Madison to death after he had already been shot seven times—and a wide ranging cover-up. “When the shooting stopped, these men realized they had a problem,” said federal prosecutor Bobbi Bernstein during opening arguments. “They lied because they knew they had committed a crime.”

The New Orleans police department has developed a reputation as one of the  most violent and corrupt police departments, and the revelations in this case has stoked anger and outrage, especially in New Orleans’ African-American community. “This case shows the total dysfunction of the New Orleans Police Department,” says Malcolm Suber, a longtime activist against police brutality and project director with the New Orleans chapter of the American Friends Service Committee. “It shows they were just going wild after the storm.” Suber and other activists have called for the DOJ to launch a wide-ranging investigation into a pattern of abuse they say goes back decades. “What Danziger represents is for the first time there’s been acknowledgment that this police department is rotten to the core,” says Suber.

A Department with a Troubled History

Like most southern police departments, NOPD was explicitly segregationist for much of the 20th century. The first Black New Orleans police officer was not hired until 1950 and it was several more years before Black officers were allowed to carry a gun or arrest whites. In 1980, the city was rocked by protests when Sherry Singleton, a 26-year old African-American mother, was shot by police while naked in a bathtub, in front of her four year old child. Police said she was armed, but a neighbor testified that she heard her pleading, “please don’t shoot, please don’t shoot.”

The issue of police violence continued to dominate in the 1990s. Revelations of corruption in the force inspired both mass protest and Department of Justice investigations. Federal involvement combined with aggressive actions on the part of a new mayor and police chief led to 200 officers fired and criminal charges brought against more than 60 cops. Two NOPD officers received the death penalty for killing civilians. One of those officers, Len Davis, was caught on a federal wiretap ordering the assassination of a woman who had complained about police brutality. As officers were being fired and disciplined, the city’s murder and violent crime rates dropped dramatically, and the prosecution of corrupt officers was widely seen as making the city safer.

Advocates say that the changes begun in the 90s were cut short when Mayor C. Ray Nagin became mayor, at around the same time that the Clinton presidency ended and the Bush administration begun. Both Bush and Nagin seemed uninterested in continuing to prosecute police, and New Orleans slipped back into being the nation’s murder capital, as well as the capital of police violence.

Renewed Outrage Brings Energy for Change

The revelations of post-Katrina police violence have brought in a new era of outrage. Political and civic leaders, across boundaries of color and class, have called for systemic change in the NOPD. “The public has a right to know what really happened,” says Anthony Radosti, vice president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, which plays the role of an unofficial watchdog over the NOPD. “The police department failed in their mission,” adds Radosti, a 23-year veteran of the NOPD.

Ronal Serpas, who has hired by Mayor Landrieu to run the department in 2010, admits that the department has a long way to go. “Chief Serpas has always acknowledged that he inherited a fundamentally flawed department,” explains NOPD spokesperson Remi Braden. “He has done a lot, but there is much more to be done.”

Federal agents are looking into at least 9 cases of police killings from the past several years, but that is just one aspect of their involvement. In March, the DOJ released a 58-page report that describes a department facing problems that “are serious, systemic, wide-ranging, and deeply rooted.” The report highlighted a range of areas in which it found “patterns or practices of unconstitutional conduct and/or violations of federal law.”

The bad news keeps coming out of the NOPD. In just the past two weeks since the Danziger trial began, scandal has reached the very top of the department. The NOPD’s second in charge, Marlon Defillo, was found in an investigation overseen by the state police to have neglected his duty to investigate police violence, in effect helping to hinder official investigations. Three police commandersthe position under Defillo, and third in the overall NOPD hierarchyhave also been the subject of internal investigation. One commander was accused of directing officers to specifically target young Black men for questioning during the city’s Essence Festival, one of the nation’s largest Black tourism events.

Criminal justice activists have demanded more federal investigations and a wider scope. “This represents a real opportunity for New Orleans to raise some fundamental questions about the nature of police and what they do,” says organizer Malcolm Suber. “But unless we talk about the entire system, this will repeat again.”

Jordan Flaherty is a journalist and staffer with the Louisiana Justice Institute. His award-winning reporting from the Gulf Coast has been featured in a range of outlets including the New York Times, Al Jazeera, and Argentina's Clarin newspaper. He is the author of Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six. He can be reached at neworleans@leftturn.org, and more info can be found at floodlines.org. For speaking engagements, see communityandresistance.wordpress.com.

Source: TheLoop21

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Autopsy of Ronald Madison

Police convicted of post-Katrina shootings—6 August 2011—Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man described by family members as gentle and loving, was shot several times in the back and died at the scene. One of the officers, Kenneth Bowen, also stamped on him while he lay wounded. James Brisette, 17, a high school student who friends said was nerdy and studious, also died on the bridge. Four others people from the same family were also wounded. "The officers convicted today abused their power and violated the public's trust during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - exacerbating one of the most devastating times for the people of New Orleans," attorney-general Eric Holder said in a statement.—ABCnews

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A Katrina Victory by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund(New Orleans, LA--July 6, 2011)Today, African-American homeowners and two civil rights organizations announced a settlement in a post-Hurricane Katrina housing discrimination lawsuit brought against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the State of Louisiana regarding the “Road Home” program. The suit alleged that the formula used to allocate grants to homeowners through the Road Home program—the single largest housing recovery program in U.S. history—had a discriminatory impact on thousands of African-American homeowners. Road Home program data show that African-Americans were more likely than whites to have their Road Home grants based upon the much lower pre-storm market value of their homes, rather than the estimated cost to repair damage.SeeingBlack

posted 10 August 2011

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Black Rage in New Orleans
Police Brutality and African American Activism from World War II to Hurricane Katrina

By Leonard N. Moore

In Black Rage in New Orleans, Leonard N. Moore traces the shocking history of police corruption in the Crescent City from World War II to Hurricane Katrina and the concurrent rise of a large and energized black opposition to it. In New Orleans, crime, drug abuse, and murder were commonplace, and an underpaid, inadequately staffed, and poorly trained police force frequently resorted to brutality against African Americans. Endemic corruption among police officers increased as the city’s crime rate soared, generating anger and frustration among New Orleans’s black community. Rather than remain passive, African Americans in the city formed anti-brutality organizations, staged marches, held sit-ins, waged boycotts, vocalized their concerns at city council meetings, and demanded equitable treatment. . . . The first book-length study of police brutality and African American protest in a major American city, Black Rage in New Orleans will prove essential for anyone interested in race relations in America’s urban centers. LSU Press

 

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Floodlines

Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six

By Jordan Flaherty

Preface by Tracie Washington / Foreward by Amy Goodman

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it was a tragedy. What followed was a government-sanctioned travesty. Flaherty, a white New Orleans resident and journalist, interviews a number of locals about the recovery effort, outlining a systemic pattern that includes restrictions of service, human rights violations, and destruction of property targeting the city's African-American majority.

The behavior of the notorious New Orleans police department towards this community is appalling, but even more distressing is Flaherty's reporting on the failure of the federal government to respond to the needs of its citizens, and their use of paramilitary mercenaries to enforce a pattern of brutal occupation. To learn how profoundly the system failed (and continues to fail) will be extremely difficult for some readers, and Flaherty pulls no punches in his quest to uncover failures, highlighting how the systems in place for rebuilding (foundation support, non-profit groups, military intervention) remain woefully inadequate. Readers will be compelled, depressed, disturbed, and angered by what they find in this well-written report. Crucial readingPublishers Weekly   YouTube - The Jena Six  

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

 

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Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

By Derrick Bell

In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school's hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell's fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard's president and all of the school's black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination. Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell's And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.Publishers Weekly /  Derrick Bell Law Rights Advocate  Dies at 80

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Related files: Nooses and a legal lynching in Jena, Louisiana     K-Ville (TV Show Review)  Jena Ignites a Movement   World Social Forum Diary  Notes from Inside New Orleans  Fifth Anniversary of Katrina  

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