Monday, March 9, 2015

Jessica Hernandez, Selma, Obama and police "freedom" to shoot

        A heartbreaking story below from Noelle Phillips in the  Denver Post  underlines the importance of Black Lives Matter!(h/t Brother Jeff)  Why did the police "need" to shoot unarmed people (a big question for all of these murders)?


    Why did an ordinary 17 year old girl, kind and acting out some, trying to figure out being transgender in an often unkind society, get shot in the head for being at the wheel of a stolen vehicle?


    Why are there not legally enforced or even customary police rules to prevent such firing (there were 5 other people in the car..);  if a cop kills a driver, the car may move...


     Yes, there are lot of guns in America, and the US leads the industrial countries, including Russia, in police murders.See police killings: US 458, England and Japan 0 here.  But the routine police use of guns leads the way (as well as the absence of police and judicial interest - extreme corruption revealing again the importance of Black Lives Matter! - in solving gang murders of young people).



     The film "American Denial" here shown a week ago on PBS illustrates how common it is for police officers - sometimes even nonwhite officers - to make subconscious judgments about the supposed dangers of nonwhite, unarmed young men...See also here.



      At a glance, Jessica might have looked like - a young man...



      At a community meeting in early February organized because of  protest after 6 shootings of black and chicano young people in Denver,  police chief White said that he could not say whether the officer shot Jessica Hernandez because she had hit another officer and fractured his leg, as the officers say, or the officer shot Jessica and being dead at the wheel, the car then lurched on, and eventually hit the officer?



     A month after the shooting, if there were clear evidence for the former, rather unlikely possibility. would not the Denver police department, having arrested everyone in the car and combed the area - be able to say...?



     Recently Tahj Blow, a student at Yale returning from the library to his dorm in the early evening, was stopped by a police officer with a drawn gun.   He was walking while black at Yale...(imagine if  he were a "street kid" anywhere else in New Haven...)


     Charles Blow, his father, wrote about this fiercely in the New York Times - see below and the apt comments of Cara McLellan, a 3rd year student at Yale Law here.



     Yet the Yale and New Haven Police Departments have officially kept in place the policies which "allowed" even this.



     Police with guns, using guns, free to shoot - that's just the way it is.  The police are there to control black people, to maintain their domination (that is an error in Barack's great speech Saturday in Selma), though ordinary cops often want to do the right thing.



    But the police have a license to kill - hence so many incidents in the last 4 months even in Denver...



     The Ferguson police department is, according to the Justice Department, shockingly racist, to make money. See here.   3 officers who sent racist messages have resigned or been fired though clearly those who were in charge of the department, including in the city government, need to be doing something else...



     And the New York Times ran a long story yesterday about how Ferguson is not even the worst among the many places in Missouri which feed off fines and jailing of poor black people.  This is not, as Obama says, the old South quite, but it pushes the matter.



      Yet the Justice Department said nothing about the militarization of the Ferguson police force by the Pentagon (the same thing is happening in Denver...)...



       American militarization - the US has a trillion dollar a year military budget,  1280 military bases abroad (no other country independently has more than 5)  - thus also has frightening, exacerbating consequences at home.



     And the US arms Israel to the teeth to impose brutal conditions in Occupied Palestine.



      Suburbs of St. Louis with racial profiling thus are - armed against the "Palestinians"...



      In Palestine, the colonial police are at war with ordinary people.



      In America, a quasi-  or more aptly. increasingly colonial police - fearing uprisings against the .001% - are at war with citizens.



       Obama was right Saturday that great progress has been made since Selma, doors opened through struggle from below - by ordinary, humble people as he put it - that had been firmly shut to many.  That is a bright hope of America.



       Obama is right that the law now says some things that should bar this plethora of police murders.  And his and Eric Holder's actions about this are heartening (they are response to and need more pressure from below).



    But oppression, as he says, you just need to look around to see it (nonwhite folks have to live it; some whites, particularly in the South and among the wealthy, pretend otherwise).



     Just after Mike Brown was riddled with bullets, Senator Rand Paul wrote an article in Time against this militarization. But he has said nothing this week...



    These wanton police shootings are mainly directed at nonwhite people, but also affect poor and even middle class whites.  The disenfranchisement of many - the Selma gathering emphasized it  - for instance leads to a Congress of, by and for the rich in which even Obama's decent "middle class agenda" can't pass...


     100 Congressional representatives - yet despite Obama's eloquent naming of the issue, Congress is not likely to amend the Supreme "Courts" gutting of the great Voting Rights Act for which so many, like Jimmie Lee Jackson and James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo at Selma, gave their lives...



     By "current" standards - a lone cop in a car going after two black kids walking in a street, some witness dispute, physical evidence that Michael Brown was in the window of the car at some point (whether assaulted by the cop or assaulting is not clear, though the latter is unlikely...) - there is apparently no "legal" basis for saying that the cop who murdered an unarmed man - oh, a big black guy - by shooting him 6 times committed a crime.



  Should  "legal" standards about what the police are allowed to do with guns be looked at by people not interested in abusing and controlling blacks, i.e. the democracy from below?



    As Jessica Hernandez and Ferguson show, the community and Black Lives Matter! are a hope for a decent future...

Parents: Jessica Hernandez had a
warm-heart, plans for the future
By Noelle Phillips
The Denver Post
POSTED:   02/23/2015 12:01:00 AM MST

Laura Rosales cries Thursday as she talks about her daughter, Jessica Hernandez. (Brent Lewis, The Denver Post)

Their eyes are red-rimmed and weary.

And the tears are quick to surface for Jose Hernandez and Laura Sonia
Rosales as they talk about their 17-year-old daughter, Jessica Hernandez,
who was killed a month ago by two Denver police officers.

Still, stories of Jessica's life come easy.

They flow one after the other, forming a narrative of a teenage girl with a
 big heart, who had stumbled a few times but was trying to find direction.

Their memories are of a young girl who stood up for the poor, the hungry,
 the nerds, the sick and an occasional stray animal.

"She had a lot of love to give," Hernandez said.

It is those memories Hernandez and Rosales want to share with those who have read about their daughter's death and the ongoing investigation into the Denver Police Department's actions, they told The Denver Post. The couple said they are disturbed by the portrayal of their daughter as just a troubled teen who drove a stolen car toward police officers.

Sure, Jessica was not perfect, her parents said. But she had hopes and
dreams and wanted a better life for herself.

"When you know your child is dead, it is unimaginable," Rosales said. "I just want the community to know the pain I'm going through. I loved her with all my heart, more than my own life."

Rosales speaks of the time her daughter fished a bottle of water out of a
grocery bag to give to a woman who was severely coughing outside a store.

Jessie insisted she and her mother wait with the woman until a
family member came to pick her up.

Rosales tells of the Taco Bell lunch Jessie gave to a homeless man. And then, to the mother's surprise, the man told Jessie how she always was so generous and kind to him.

There also was the time Jessie took a fairly new pair of shoes to a classmate who was being teased about her clothes.

And then there were the kind words to a sobbing sister who was upset
over being called a nerd.

Jessica told her sister, Laura, "You know that we love you, and I love that
you are so intelligent," Rosales quoted her oldest daughter as saying.

Rosales said she would tell Jessie, "I am so happy you are the way you are."

Jessica Hernandez in a photo provided by the family. Photo provided by family
Jessica Hernandez in a photo provided by the family. Photo provided by family (HANDOUT | )
Eye on police policies Jessica was killed Jan. 26 by Denver police in an 
alley between the 2500 blocks of Niagara and Newport streets in the Park
 Hill neighborhood. She and four other teens inside the stolen Honda sedan had refused police commands to get out, Police Chief Robert White has said.

The officers fired their guns when she drove toward them, White said.
One officer suffered a broken leg during the incident, but White has said it is undetermined whether he was hurt while trying to move out of the way or because the car hit him. Jessica was wounded several times.

It was the fourth time in seven months Denver police have shot at a moving vehicle, and the shooting led Independent Monitor Nick Mitchell to launch a review of the department's policies, practices and training for those situations. White also has said he has ordered an internal review.
Since her death, Jessie has become another symbol for those who say police brutality toward minorities is out of hand. Multiple vigils and rallies have been held in Denver for the teen, and her name also has become familiar to activists across the country. A street artist even painted her portrait on a brick wall in Brooklyn.

On Thursday, Presente, a Latino advocacy group, and the Colorado
Anti-Violence Program gave a petition to the FBI that asks for a federal
investigation into Jessie's death.

Hernandez, Rosales and their attorney, Qusair Mohamedbhai, also have
called for an outside investigation into the police officers' actions. They have no confidence that Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey will be impartial, Mohamedbhai said.

"A 17-year-old girl was shot and killed by police, and there's no plausible
explanation for it," Mohamedbhai said. "It's almost unfathomable to
understand why they would be allowed to shoot at a vehicle full of teenagers."

Morrissey's office has said prosecutors are following standard procedures
for police shootings in Denver. No timeline for a decision on whether to prosecute has been set, said Lynn Kimbrough, Morrissey's spokeswoman.

Hernandez and Rosales said they have very little information about what
 happened the morning their daughter was killed.

The day before Jessie's death, the family went to church and hosted a few
teenagers for a Bible study, Rosales said. Jessie also played basketball, walked her dogs and tossed a football with a younger brother.

Around 10 p.m., Rosales saw her daughter outside with some friends from 
their Thornton neighborhood. She worried some in the group would
"influence her a lot."

She told Jessie not to leave with them, and the daughter promised she would not. By 10:30 p.m., Jessie was gone.

Rosales called her daughter's phone, but a younger sister brought it into the room. They tried to send messages to friends but still did not hear from Jessie.

Rosales said she wasn't too mad because her daughter had promised to stick around the neighborhood. She usually lived up to her word.

By morning, no one had heard from Jessie as Hernandez left for work at his
construction job and Rosales got the other children off to school.

At 8:30 a.m., two Thornton police officers and a victim advocate from
Denver came to the house to break the news.

The next hours are a blur for Rosales and Hernandez.

At one point, during an hours-long interview with Denver police, Rosales
asked if she could see her daughter's body. Police cited the investigation and
said no.

"That's easy for you to say, but I want to hold my daughter," Rosales said.

Since then, the family has not heard from police or prosecutors, who are
investigating the shooting. It's typical for investigators to remain tight-lipped.

Hernandez and Rosales also have not spoken with the other teenagers in the car. They said the teens have suffered and they don't want to pressure them.

Trying to fit in In the days after Jessie's death, hints of a criminal record surfaced, although law enforcement officials have declined to release any

The one available court record showed charges filed in January in Adams
County for speeding, eluding a police officer and resisting arrest.

Her parents said their daughter did not have a driver's license but had been making plans to apply for one.

Jessie's parents said they spoke with their daughter about staying out of
trouble and focusing on her goals.

"I would tell her we are going to overcome this," Rosales said.

Others who knew Jessie also said she was trying to figure out where she
fit among her peers and adults.

Jessie had enrolled in Denver's Art from Ashes program, which works
with at-risk youths to find their voices through writing and theater.

She had embraced poetry, said Catherine O'Neill-Thorn, the program's
executive director who worked with Jessie.

Her poems reflected her dreams of overcoming the challenges she faced as a child of immigrants and amid a life surrounded by poverty, O'Neill-Thorn said. Jessie also struggled with authority figures, who she perceived as not 
understanding her.

Jessie kept a journal, and one of her last writings has this paragraph written
on the back of a poem: "My voice is not really heard much when it comes to the law."

"For me, Jessie was not a bad kid," O'Neill-Thorn said. "She was someone 
who engaged in bad choices. I got to see the heart of the child.

"She wanted something different for herself. We have to live our way into it. She didn't get to live into it."

Since their daughter's death, her parents have been spending time with
Jessie's five younger siblings, who range in age from 15 to 4. The 4-year-old, Kevin, still asks for his sister, Hernandez said.

After Jessie died, a Marine Corps brochure arrived in the mail with her name
on it. Unbeknown to her parents, she had spoken to someone at New America
School-Thornton about joining the military and had written for information.

She also had talked about becoming a police officer or a pilot. She had
recently checked out two coffee table-sized library books about aircraft and aviation.

After the Marine Corps brochure arrived, the family gathered around the
kitchen table to talk about Jessie's plans. Each child was asked about his or her dreams for the future, Rosales said. One wanted to be a neurosurgeon. Another wanted to be a mechanic. One considered being a pilot.

"I still think to myself, 'It's a dream,' " Rosales said. "I say, 'You know I need to wake up. She's not here, but her dreams remain.'

"One day, her siblings can realize her dream. For her, they will do it."
Noelle Phillips: 303-954-1661, or

New York Times op-ed
Library Visit, Then Held at Gunpoint
Charles Blow: At Yale, the Police Detained My Son
JAN. 26, 2015

Saturday evening, I got a call that no parent wants to get. It was my son calling from college — he’s a third-year student at Yale. He had been accosted by a campus police officer, at gunpoint!
This is how my son remembers it:
He left for the library around 5:45 p.m. to check the status of a book he had requested. The book hadn’t arrived yet, but since he was there he put in a request for some multimedia equipment for a project he was working on.Then he left to walk back to his dorm room. He says he saw an officer “jogging” toward the entrance of another buildingacross the grounds from the building he’d just left.
Then this:
“I did not pay him any mind, and continued to walk back towards myroom. I looked behind me, and noticed that the police officer was following me.
He spoke into his shoulder-mounted radio and said, ‘I got him.’
“I faced forward again, presuming that the officer was not talking to me. I then heard him say, ‘Hey, turn around!’ — which I did.
 “The officer raised his gun at me, and told me to get on the ground.
“At this point, I stopped looking directly at the officer, and looked down towards the pavement. I dropped to my knees first, with myhands raised, then laid down on my stomach.
“The officer asked me what my name was. I gave him my name.
“The officer asked me what school I went to. I told him Yale University.
“At this point, the officer told me to get up.”
The officer gave his name, then asked my son to “give him a call the next day.”
My son continued:
“I got up slowly, and continued to walk back to my room. I was scared. My legs were shaking slightly. After a few more paces, the officer said,
 ‘Hey, my man. Can you step off to the side?’ I did.”
The officer asked him to turn around so he could see the back of hisjacket. He asked his name again, then, finally, asked to see my son’s ID.
 My son produced his school ID from his wallet.
The officer asked more questions, and my son answered. All the whilethe officer was relaying this information to someone over his radio.
My son heard someone on the radio say back to the officer“something to the effect of: ‘Keep him there until we get this sorted out.’ ” The officer told my son that an incident report would be filed, and then he walked away.
A female officer approached. My son recalled, “I told her that an officer had just stopped me and pointed his gun at me, and that I wanted to know what this was all about.” She explained students had called about a burglary suspect who fit my son’s description.
When I spoke to my son, he was shaken up. I, however, was fuming.
Now, don’t get me wrong: If indeed my son matched the descriptionof a suspect, I would have had no problem with him being questionedappropriately. School is his community, his home away from home, and he would have appreciated reasonable efforts to keep it safe. The stop is not the problem; the method of the stop is the problem.
Why was a gun drawn first? Why was he not immediately told why he was being detained? Why not ask for ID first?
What if my son had panicked under the stress, having never had a gun pointed at him before, and made what the officer considered a“suspicious” movement? Had I come close to losing him?
Triggers cannot be unpulled. Bullets cannot be called back.
My son was unarmed, possessed no plunder, obeyed all instructions,answered all questions, did not attempt to flee or resist in any way.
This is the scenario I have always dreaded: my son at the wrong end of a gun barrel, face down on the concrete. I had always dreaded the moment that we would share stories about encounters with the police in which our lives hung in the balance, intergenerational stories of joining the inglorious “club.”
When that moment came, I was exceedingly happy I had talked to him about how to conduct himself if a situation like this ever occurred.
Yet I was brewing with sadness and anger that he had to use that advice. I am reminded of what I have always known, but what some would choose to deny: that there is no way to work your way out — earn your way out — of this sort of crisis. In these moments, what you’ve done matters less than how you look.
There is no amount of respectability that can bend a gun’s barrel. All of our boys are bound together. The dean of Yale College and the campus police chief have apologized and promised an internal investigation, and I appreciate that. But the scars cannot be unmade. My son will always carry the memory of the day he left his college library and an officer trained a gun on him.

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