The young African American man killed by police just two nights ago in the Bronx just three blocks from the killing of Amadou Diallo, furor around it continues. The weeping mother of Malcolm Ferguson accused police officers yesterday of executing her son because he was slapping them with a $5 million police brutality suit. Juanita Young’s accusations allege that Malcolm Ferguson was slain because he launched the suit, accusing the police of breaking his hand when they handcuffed him during a March 9, 1999 marijuana arrest. His lawyer, Andrew Miller, said that the police held him for two days before he could see a doctor.
Andrew Miller: “The doctors essentially took one look at it and operated on him practically that evening. It was a very brutal break and, in my opinion, intentional.”
The slain man’s lawyer, Andrew Miller, says that Malcolm Ferguson had filed a legal notice that he intended to sue the New York Police Department for $5 million nine months ago and planned to submit the full suit soon.
And just after that protest, the protest continued to gain steam yesterday evening in the Bronx as Malcolm Ferguson’s death inspired protest.
And just as those protests were happening in the Bronx, again just three blocks from Amadou Diallo’s house, thousands gathered in front of the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., demanding that federal prosecutors take on the Amadou Diallo case and bring civil rights charges against the four white police officers who killed Amadou Diallo. Among those who met with the number two man in the Justice Department, Eric Holder, were Congressmember Charles Rangel, Harlem Congress member, Democrat, as well as the Reverend Al Sharpton. This is Rangel.
Rep. Charles Rangel: “They have monitored the trial of Amadou Diallo, and they have reached the conclusion, as I have, that a formal investigation should take place. That means that something sounds like it’s wrong and that they need evidence to prove it.”
Rev. Al Sharpton: “We met for almost two hours to tell the Justice Department that we cannot accept living under a verdict that says that any police under any imagined fear has the right to shoot at us and then shoot at us forty-one times.”
And the second man in the Justice Department, Eric Holder, talked to reporters just before he had his meeting with Reverend Al Sharpton, Charles Rangel, and others.
Eric Holder: “These are difficult cases to prosecute. The standard that we have to meet on the federal side is a high one. But we will look at the case, we have been involved in the matter since shortly after the shooting, we had people, or a person, at the trial to monitor the trial as it was proceeding, so we will now have our civil rights division in conjunction with our US attorney in Manhattan, one of our best US attorneys, Mary Jo White, apply their skills to look at the evidence and see whether or not federal involvement is appropriate.”
Number two man in the Justice Department, Eric Holder. And we’re going to go to more on that story in just a minute. We’ll be going out to Los Angeles, where activists will be meeting with the Justice Department, as well, calling for an investigation into the Diallo case, as well as others.
In international news, a Chilean Air Force plane believed to be carrying former dictator Augusto Pinochet landed at Santiago’s International Airport. Pinochet left Britain yesterday after that nation’s top law enforcement official ruled that the eighty-four-year-old former dictator was physically and mentally unfit to stand trial on charges of human rights abuses.
Relatives of the victims of Pinochet’s 1973 to 1990 regime are disappointed at Britain’s decision. They say they’ll try to have him prosecuted in Chile. As a Chilean senator, Pinochet enjoys immunity from prosecution, but human rights lawyers have requested that his immunity be lifted. One of the lawyers predicts a court ruling in about a month. Chilean law doesn’t exempt sick people from trial unless they’re certified as deeply mad.
This is on a lighter note, and it’s from the Wall Street Journal. The name of a world leader has gotten George W. Bush into trouble again. After a rally in Canton, Michigan last week, a man posing as a Canadian television reporter told Mr. Bush that Canadian Prime Minister “Jean Poutine” had endorsed him as “the man to lead the free world into the twenty-first century.” Mr. Bush beamed. “I’m honored,” he said. “I appreciate his strong statement. He understands our belief in free trade.” The aspiring president added, “He understands I want to ensure our relationship with our most important neighbor to the north of us, Canadians, is strong. We will work closely together.”
Unfortunately for Mr. Bush, Canada’s Prime Minister is Jean Chretien, not Poutine. Poutine is a French-Canadian concoction of french fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy that is much beloved in Quebec. The man posing as a journalist was Canadian comedian Rick Mercer, whose segment on a satirical weekly TV show often lampoons American ignorance of Canadian matters. He once had the governor of Arkansas congratulate Canada on building a national igloo to protect its Parliament building. The show broadcast Mr. Bush’s reply earlier this week. “We got him hook, line and sinker,” said Geoff D’eon. Calls to Bush’s spokesperson Ari Fleischer in Austin, Texas weren’t returned.
You must have heard the story in the last few days about the little boy, six years old, who killed the little girl, six years old, in Flint, Michigan, an incredible story.
Well, looking at the New York Daily News today, it says he didn’t pull the trigger, but authorities say a nineteen-year-old man should go to jail for letting the little boy get hold of the pistol he used this week to kill a six-year-old classmate. Jamelle James, who police say left a handgun under blankets on his bed, was arraigned on a charge of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of fifteen years in prison. The boy, who lived in the same house as Jamelle, found the gun on Tuesday, took it to the Theo Buell Elementary School and fatally shot classmate Kayla Rolland.
Well, Michael Moore, the filmmaker and media critic, wrote a very interesting piece that has been floating around the web. You know that Michael comes from Flint, Michigan and was editor of the Flint Voice for many, many years and did the film Roger & Me about going after Roger Smith, the CEO of General Motors. This is a letter that he wrote just after the shooting. He says:
“I tried to write this letter to you last night, but the level of sadness in me would not allow me to sit at this keyboard and compose these words.
“How much more can my hometown take? How much more do the people we love have to suffer? [...]
“Isn’t it enough that tens of thousands of lives in Flint have been wrecked, destroyed by the greed of General Motors? Isn’t it enough that my wife and I and tens of thousands of others who love our home — love it more than any of you will ever know — have had to leave Flint in the past 20 years to find work far from family and friends? Isn’t it enough that Flint suffers the highest or near-highest per capita rates of murder, rape and theft in the nation? [...]
“I thought there was nothing else left for Flint to go through. Like Job, it seemed that every imaginable sorrow had been visited upon its people. I guess I was wrong.
“I look up at the TV and a helicopter is hovering over a school while the words ‘Buell Elementary’ flash on the screen.
“Buell? Buell! At the end of The Big One," — the movie that Michael did, he says — “when I twisted Nike chairman Phil Knight’s arm to match my $10,000 contribution to the kids of Flint — that $20,000 went to Buell Elementary. [...]
“Buell Elementary, where the shooting took place, is in the Flint Beecher school district, the poorest school district in Genesee County, Michigan, and perhaps the poorest in the entire state. Eighty-two percent of its children, according to the federal government, live below the ‘official’ poverty level (meaning the number of kids in total poverty is even higher).
“Beecher is Flint’s dump. It is where you go when you have nothing left to your name. 60 percent black, 40 percent white. No municipality in Genesee County wants to govern Beecher, so it exists as a No Man’s Land on the northern city limits of Flint. It covers a small portion of two different townships (one of which is where my wife Kathleen is from). But folks, when you hear the word ‘township’ used in the case of Beecher, those of us from Flint mean it in the way the word was used in South Africa. Buell Elementary in the Flint Beecher school district has a Flint address and a Flint phone number, but the black officials from Flint on the news yesterday tried to point out that ‘this school really isn’t in Flint!’ It is amazing how deep oppression takes its roots when even black leaders find themselves in bed with General Motors and, like Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, repeatedly deny that people of their own race have anything to do with them.”
And it goes on from there, a letter from Michael Moore after he heard about the shooting by a six-year-old of a six-year-old in Flint, Michigan.
Before we move on to our next segment, I just wanted to report on the continuing anti-sweatshop movement around the country, as well as the living wage campaign and how students are getting involved. We got this press release from Harvard students.
Yesterday they disrupted morning activities at the office of the Harvard president, Neil Rudenstine. Harvard University administrators, according to the students, are ignorant of their employees’ need for a living wage. Currently college students across the country are organizing protests in response to their university’s disregard for workers’ rights.
This past Monday, Johns Hopkins University’s Student Labor Action Committee began its occupation of an administration building, demanding a living wage for Johns Hopkins employees.
As part of this national movement for workers’ rights, members of Harvard University’s progressive student labor movement are educating the Harvard administration about the City of Cambridge’s living wage ordinance. Students conducted a roving teach-in in which they traveled to key administration offices, presenting demands and worker accounts that attest to the need for immediate implementation of a living wage. It appears that the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts did pass a living wage ordinance that recommended Cambridge workers be paid a minimum of ten dollars per hour.
Since before the passage of the ordinance, the Harvard progressive students, along with prominent city leaders and over a thousand Harvard students, had been urging Harvard to comply with Cambridge’s standards for employment. The administration, however, has remained aloof to the principles, they charge, expressed in the living wage ordinance, and so students there and around the country are continuing to pressure universities to adopt living wage and recognize workers’ rights. In the last few weeks we have reported also on the anti-sweatshop campaigns of students at the University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, as well as University of Pennsylvania, and we’ll continue to do that.