Cover Story by Darwin Campbell, African-American News&Issues
HOUSTON- Open Season: A period when restrictions on the hunting of certain types of wildlife are lifted. A period when all restrictions on a particular activity or product are abandoned or ignored.
It is a term with definitions and statistics that should cause shock and great alarm in Black America.
A Black person is killed at the hands of police or vigilante security force every 26 hours somewhere in America, according to a report update by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) – Nearly one Black person every day in 2014!!!
It is an clear indication that is it “open season” on Black people and police appear to have found rich “killing” fields in Texas, Louisiana, California, New York, Florida and Illinois.
“Don’t be fooled or lulled into thinking that this doesn’t affect you,” said Kali Akuno, organizer of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. “It’s hunting season on Blacks. We are being shot and killed at alarming rates and that is a fact that cannot be wished away or prayed away.”
The study, Operation Ghetto Storm: 2012 Annual Report on the Extrajudicial Killings of 313 Black People by Police, Security Guards, and Vigilantes, was completed in 2012, and revealed that nearly a Black person was shot down in cold blood somewhere in the United States every 28 hours.
“Operation Ghetto Storm” follows the trail of extrajudicial killings to the rise of militarized police forces and their occupation of Black communities,” Akuno said. “It explores how systemic racism has led to increased militarization and repression, which in turn has exacerbated the human rights crises devastating Black communities.”
The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, an antiracist grassroots activist organization. The organization has chapters in Atlanta, Detroit, Fort Worth-Dallas, Jackson, New Orleans, New York City, Oakland, and Washington, D.C.
It has a history of organizing campaigns against police brutality and state repression in black and brown communities.
The group uses information from police and media reports along with other publicly available information to do the report. The 2011 report showed that a black person was killed by security forces every 36 hours.
Even more shocking are the tracking of 2013 and 2014 numbers.
Akuno said the results are shaping up to be just as chilling because the numbers are on the rise, and current 2014 numbers appear to be trending higher to one Black person killed by law enforcement about every 24 to 26 hours, he said.
Texas leads the nation in the killing of Blacks with 29 in this report. Other states with high number of killings by police include: Florida, 26; Illinois, 25; New York, 24; California, 23; Georgia, 22; and Louisiana, 17.
With the incidents of police shooting and even killing Black citizens in Texas cities, Black Freedom fighters express great concern for the future of the community given the increasing frequency of attacks.
The vast majority of the time, police officers, security guards, or armed vigilantes who extrajudicially kill black people escape accountability.
National and Community Activist Deric Muhammad said the main issue is justice and its unbalanced scales that fail to protect and serve citizens. He is calling for stronger accountability now before it is too late.
“The future of America’s greatness is in jeopardy because of injustice. Rome, Babylon, Biblical Egypt and other nations were brought to their knees for the same reason,” he said. “In America there are two types of police officers. You have those who wish to justly enforce the law and on the other hand you have “beasts with badges.” These corrupt cops believe that we should obey the law, but that THE LAW SHOULD OBEY THEM. They murder and shoot us down in cold blood and receive a paid vacation for it.”
Statistics from the report are eye opening and should heighten the concern of any Black parent raising children and give some insight into the hostile environment Blacks live in in America.
According to information from the 2012 report, of the 313 killed, 124 or (40%) were between 22 and 31 years old, 57 or (18%) were between 18 and 21 years old, 54 or (17%) were between 32 and 41 years old, 32 or (10%) were 42 to 51 years old, 25 or (8%) were children younger than 18 years old, 18 (6%) were older than 52, and 3 (1%) were of unknown ages.
A significant portion of those killed, 68 people or (22%), suffered from mental health issues and/or were self-medicated.
Such was the case of Michael Garrett Blair, a 26-year-old African American man who had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. On November 4, 2013, Blair, who had never had any episodes of violence, unexpectedly locked himself in the bathroom of his family’s home in Richmond, Texas and threatened to commit suicide. His mother, Kimberly Blair-Olaniyi, called around to several mental health hospitals seeking assistance, but those facilities told her to call 9-1-1. She called 9-1-1, and informed them of the situation and of her son’s mental illness and that she just wanted help for him.
Rather than get the needed assistance, Fort Bend County Sheriffs Deputy ended up shooting Blair 11 times and killing him right there in front of the family. A hidden video tape released recently reveals the troubling last minutes of Blair’s life.
“It has always been open season on killing Black people in America,” said Kofi Taharka, National Chair of the National Black United Front. “ We need to stop acting like this is something new. The Global System of White Supremacy/ Racism may change forms and tactics, but the results are the same our spiritual, mental, economic and physical death!”
Racial profiling also played a major roll with 43% of the shootings occurring after an incident of racial profiling.
Akuno said this means police saw a person who looked or behaved “suspiciously” largely because of their skin color and attempted to detain the suspect before killing them.
Other times, the shootings occurred during a criminal investigation (24%), after 9-1-1 calls from “emotionally disturbed loved ones” (19%) or because of domestic violence (7%), or innocent people were killed for no reason (7%).
Jordan Baker, 26-year old Black male, was killed by off-duty Houston Police officer Juventino Castro, an 11-yr vet assigned to Narcotics Division.
Castro who was working security at a strip shopping center. He allegedly saw Baker allegedly looking into windows of various businesses, and asked for his ID. Baker said he didn’t have any, and began walking away. Castro tried to stop him, a struggle ensued. Castro claims Baker charged at him with his hands in his waistband, so he shot him. Baker died.
WHY POLICE SHOOT
The report digs into how police justify their shootings. Most police officers, security guards, or vigilantes who extrajudicially killed black people, about 47% (146 of 313), claimed they “felt threatened”, “feared for their life”, or “were forced to shoot to protect themselves or others”.
Other justifications include suspects fleeing (14%), allegedly driving cars toward officers, allegedly reaching for waistbands or lunging, or allegedly pointing a gun at an officer. Only 13% or 42 people fired a weapon “before or during the officer’s arrival”.
Ms. Pearlie Golden was a beloved great, great grandmother who was affectionately known as “Ms. Sully” by those in her neighborhood of Hearne, Texas. Golden, 93, who had no record or run-ins with law enforcement was shot dead by a Hearne Police Officer Stephen Stem. She was shot five time after the officer responded to a 9-1-1 call at the residence. Police reports say that Stem fired after Golden allegedly ignored calls to put down a gun she was waving around.
“These cases are not isolated incidents or anomalies,” said Community activist Quanell X. “What we are seeing is clear evidence of police brutality and abuses aimed directly at people of color.”
Quanell X said cases are the same whether they happen in Texas, Florida or California.
“These police have no respect for Black and Brown lives,” he said. “It is time to change the direction of justice and demand these officers be prosecuted, tried and convicted for the senseless killing of citizens.”
MOST NOT ARMED
Most of the people killed were not armed. According to the report, 136 people or 44%, had no weapon at all the time they were killed by police officers. Another 27% were deaths in which police claimed the suspect had a gun but there was no corroboration to prove this. In addition, 6 people (2%) were alleged to have possessed knives or similar tools. Those who did, in fact, possess guns or knives were 20% (62 people) and 7% (23 people) of the study, respectively.
Most police assume black people are violent to begin with. This leads to police overacting in situations involving African-American suspects.
It also may explain why so many police claimed that a black suspect “looked suspicious” or “thought they had a gun”.
Johannes Mehserle, the white BART police officer who shot and killed 22-year-old Oscar Grant in January 2009, claimed Grant had a gun, even though Grant was subdued to the ground by other officers.
Sista Krystal Muhammad, National Chair of the New Black Panther Party said the report and its current updates indicate that the African holocaust continues in 2014.
“Our People of African decent are victims of an ongoing war against us that has never ended since our ancestors were kidnapped and forced into enslavement in the country and the globe,” she said. “We are being hunted down, killed and captured back into slavery by the prison industrial complex. The fact is slavery never ended in “Amerikkka”.The police are and have always been nothing but slave catchers and terrorist instilling fear in this plantation nation. The police murder and torture People of African Descent daily with on real penalty under the laws of this racist – classist cast system government. It is genocide !!”
Police recruitment, training, policies, and overall racism within society all bear responsibility for the current bloodletting on streets. This demonization of Blacks has been reinforced by the fiery propaganda being spit out on conservative radio talk shows, media and television shows and from the very halls of Congress itself.
“Their message is clear that is is okay to hate people that don’t look like you,” said Texas Black Historian and Prairie View A&M Black Historian Frank Jackson. “The hate being spread by conservative over a Black President (Barack Obama) has extended to people who look like Obama and that stirs the issue from the police to neighborhoods and leads to the kind of violence were are witnessing against young African-American males and others.”
Jackson promoting the gun culture has taken us backward to the days of the “Wild, Wild, West”.
“These are systemic human rights violation against a whole Nation of People of African descent,” Krystal Muhammad said. “We have long evolved passed the civil rights movement. It is the time of the Human Rights movement. We have the God given right to rise up against this tyranny and oppression.”
Her organization along with others concerned about these human rights violations are poised to raise the level of Black consciousness by preparing for two mass demonstrations against this genocide called “A National Demonstration for Justice”.
It is scheduled for Aug 28, 2014 @12 noon @ the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
Akuno said it is important to remember and honor the memories of every Black man, woman, and child executed at the hands of the police and other agents of the United States government.
“We must organize our communities to end the terror being waged against us,” he said. “If not, the epidemic of death at the hands of these “hunters” will continue.”
Muhammad was quick to make a grim prophecy about America’s future if the present trend of killing is not stopped.
“Every time this happens America is feeding a sleeping giant that will one day wake up and bite her,” he said. “The people will rise up against this someday. Mark my words. Justice for the Black, Brown and poor is America’s final exam. There will be NO MAKE-UP.”