DSC03486

Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond by Marc Lamont Hill

dsc02623

Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond  by Marc Lamont Hill, is a phenomenal work that concisely discusses the way all of us – liberal and conservative, racist and humanist – have created the social conditions and political state that deem the poor and the black as Nobody’s.  From the state violence by individual police officers and departments; to the court system inadequately funding criminal defense for the poor who are accused of crime in comparison to city and county funding of prosecution; to the prison industrial complex which relies on full occupancy to maximize profits and insure a community with jobs; to the broad attack on a community of poor and Black by poisoning their water system by a state’s decision to run a local government with business principles.  Hill has achieved a deep and concise examination of current events and history that makes this 184-page book enlightening and thought-provoking.

I have included below some quotes from the book and videos tied to the topics within each chapter, to enhance your experience.  I found that after reading about Michael Brown and Eric Garner, seeing the videos again hammered home Hill’s points.  Other videos enhance the discussion, such as the video featuring the theory of how Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, and Democracy Now!’s interview of Heather Ann Thompson on the Attica uprising.

Chapter One:  Nobody

The Ferguson Police Department released this video at the same time as the officer’s name.  It was an attempt to paint Michael Brown as someone who was less than innocent.  However, theft is not a capital offense in the United States, and police officers have no right to become executioners above and beyond the judicial system.

 

Chapter Two:  Broken

Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo walked out of a grand jury that failed to indict him on a homicide charge.  Ramsey Orta, the man filming the incident, was sentenced to four years in prison for unrelated charges on October 3, 2016 – over two years since the video.  In this interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, Orta states that he has been video recording NYPD officers “abusing their power,” and believes he became a target of NYPD.

Chapter Three:  Bargained

In 2014, a Baltimore Sun report found that in the preceding four years, more than one hundred people had won judgments or earned settlements for police brutality…As recently as October 2015, the city paid $95,000 to a woman who claimed that she, like Freddie Gray, was subjected to a ‘rough ride’ by police.  All of these claims likely represent only a small percentage of the people who were actually assaulted.  Imagine how many others never reported such crimes or had their reports discarded or ignored. – Pg. 83

Chapter Four:  Armed

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.  Dunn is supposed to be a good guy with a gun?

To have to endure the insults being flung his way, move his car to another parking space, or drive off to another convenience store, all to avoid confrontation with one who was “wrong” – well, that, according to the logic of “Stand Your Ground” would not only be unfair but unmanly.  The prosecutor highlighted this theme when he offered that Dunn’s rage at Davis emerged not because he feared that Davis had a weapon but because he knew that Davis had a “big mouth” and that he felt disrespected by it.  “That defendant didn’t shoot into a carful of kids to save his life,” he told the jury.  “He shot into it to save his pride.”  Page 105.

No-Knock Search Warrants

Chapter Five: Caged

Black Codes of the post-Civil War era…combined with the loopholes of the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery except as punishment for a crime, conspired to create easy end runs around the Emancipation Proclamation.  Simply put, slavery was allowed if Blacks committed crimes, so nearly everything they did was criminalized.  Page 128.

Using the language of war (War on Drugs) to attack a social problem worked to distort the image of those who suffered, just as propaganda in real wartime serves to distort the image of the enemy into a subhuman monstrosity.  In both instances, there is the need to transform the object of our rage into something hateful, deserving not of our mercy but of our brutal assault.  Page 141.

 

In the fight over whether the criminal was “one of us” gone bad and in need of help, or “one of them” who was fundamentally flawed and disposable from the body politic, the “one of them” theory had won.  Page 143.

Chapter Six:  Emergency

(B)y definition, the emergency manager works for the State, not the public; her priority is not the people’s safety and welfare but fiscal discipline.  Page 161.

“The general evolution is clear,” writes (Thomas) Piketty.  “Bubbles aside, what we are witnessing is…the emergence of a new patrimonial capitalism.”  Page 169.

Chapter Seven:  Somebody

All around the country, people are engaging in profound acts of civil disobedience.  Page 181.

The People have asserted that they are, in fact, Somebody.  Page 184.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Sunday at Cass: May 24, 2015

Sunday at Cass
May 24, 2015

sundayatcass002

What exactly is “Sundays in the Park with Our Friends and Forgotten Workers?”  How did it come about?

Sundays in the Park with Our Friends and Forgotten Workers began in the summer of 2011.  The Wobbly Kitchen of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) participated with the Detroit Underground Initiative with this event in solidarity of the Food Not Bombs group that had been arrested for giving food to the hungry in Orlando, FL.  Other social groups began participating in the semi-monthly gathering.

In 2013, a committee of volunteers coordinated a fund-raiser in which all the money raised would be spent on food and supplies donated at the park.  The first was held on November 14, 2013, with subsequent fundraisers held on October 16, 2014 and October 1, 2015.

If you are interested in participating, just come down to Cass Park in Detroit on the 2nd or 4th Sunday of the month.  The table and food set-up begins at 11AM and lasts a couple hours.  Don’t feel you have to bring something.  Just show up, and soon you’ll discover how you can help.

(Sources:  “Helping Friends at Cass Park.” and Fundraiser email by Maryanne Dunmire.)

 

DSC08897 DSC08898 DSC08900 DSC08901 DSC08903 DSC08905 DSC08907 DSC08908 DSC08909 DSC08910 DSC08911 DSC08912 DSC08914 DSC08915 DSC08919 DSC08924 DSC08926 DSC08927 DSC08929 DSC08930 DSC08931 DSC08932 DSC08933 DSC08934 DSC08935 DSC08936 DSC08942 DSC08944 DSC08946 DSC08947 DSC08950 DSC08951 DSC08954 DSC08958 DSC08959 DSC08960 DSC08961 DSC08962 DSC08963 DSC08964 DSC08965 DSC08966 DSC08968 DSC08969 DSC08972 DSC08973 DSC08975 DSC08976 DSC08977 DSC08978

Sunday at Cass: February 22, 2015

Sunday at Cass
February 22, 2015

I had heard about this semi-monthly action of compassion from Barbara Ingalls, a friend of mine.  She had often posted photos of this on her Facebook page.  It was easy for me to find reasons not to come down.  We had purchased a house in Chesterfield Township, a 30-mile jaunt down I-94; Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple’s service begins at 10:30AM, ending around 11:30AM, not leaving much time to swing down to Cass Park in time to participate significantly; and lately, there always seemed to be construction on I-94 on the weekends leading into Detroit, with more detours and back-ups obstructing the drive.  Then there was the weather – the cold and snow during the winter and the summer distractions.  And, to be honest, busy weeks and late-night Saturday nights discouraged me from setting an alarm on Sunday mornings.

But I wanted to do this.  I wanted to balance this with my practice.  I decided on this particular Sunday, after the service at Still Point, to witness what was going on at Cass Park.  My hope was to alternate Sundays – with sitting practice at Still Point on the 1st and 3rd (and 5th) Sundays of the month, and life practice on the 2nd and 4th.

I happened to pick a Sunday that Barb couldn’t attend.  I felt a little out of place, standing out in my Detroit Vipers jacket and camera slung around my neck.  I mingled a little.  One volunteer asked me about my Vipers jacket.  She told me her sister had dated Peter Ciavaglia – one of the stars of the team back in the day.  He is still in the area, she told me, as a financial consultant.  Vintage as it is, that Vipers jacket still opens the door to conversation.

DSC07462 DSC07463 DSC07464 DSC07465 DSC07466 DSC07467 DSC07468 DSC07469 DSC07470 DSC07471 DSC07472 DSC07473

I chatted with the man on the left in the photo above.  He was a mechanic for twenty-plus years.  He admitted to using cocaine while employed, but held down the job all those years until the business went under.  He sought recovery and has been off drugs, which cost him his family.  He explained to me that they deserted him because they were all drug users and felt uncomfortable about his clean and sober lifestyle.  He worked for a garage for another couple years, but it closed, then he lost his apartment and had been homeless ever since.  He talked about taking care of his brother who had suffered a stroke and lived on the west side of Detroit.  His brother just sits around the house and bemoans about not being able to do anything, losing all sense of purpose.  He said he’d much rather be homeless and alive then moping around a home feeling hopeless.

DSC07474 DSC07475

The scarves on the trees were left behind for those who wandered into Cass Park after everyone had left.

I was conservative about my photography, unsure of the protocol and wanting to respect the sanctity of what I was witnessing.

Vinyl memories #3 – The War of the Worlds

DSC07399

I had written previously about my grandparents and father who grew up on old-time radio shows as the source of their entertainment.  This record of Orson Welles’ adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds was another that had been passed on to me because I enjoyed listening to it so much whenever I visited.

On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles played the ultimate Devil’s Night prank on America with this adaptation.  Neither television nor the internet existed back then, so it was the radio that connected people to the broader world than their communities.  News, sports, comedy, suspense, and music emerged from this new magical box which engaged the theater of the mind.  Welles, with script writer Howard Koch, chose to create a version of Wells’ classic that came across as if it were actually happening.  A musical program interrupted by breaking news reports of unusual gas explosions on the planet Mars.  The music continues, then a new update about something crashing to the earth near Princeton, New Jersey.  The music returns, then a cut back to the site where a flying saucer had landed, its pilot emerging from it and firing a heat ray at the witnesses, cutting the reporter’s commentary and connection to instant silence.  The radio station is then taken over by the government for use of a coordinated effort to put down the invasion.  Act One does not end well for us Earthlings.  In Act Two, Welles, who is playing the character of Professor Richard Pearson, an astronomer from the observatory at Princeton University, narrates a monologue of what he, as one of humanity’s last survivors, witnesses.

Act One was so realistic it created a panic in the country.  The back of the album provides samples of Associate Press reports such as:

Pittsburgh – A man returned home in the midst of the broadcast and found his wife with a bottle of poison in her hand, screaming, “I’d rather die this way than like that.”

Indianapolis – A woman ran into a church screaming:  “New York destroyed; it’s the end of the world.  You might as well go home and die.  I just heard it on the radio.”  Services were dismissed immediately.

The video below is a BBC interview of Orson Welles and some of the after-effects he experienced due to his dramatic program.

As a kid, first hearing it on a record album, it was thrilling.  Unlike the stories portrayed on old time radio, it was intentional on the part of Welles and Koch to present the story in a realistic way.  The second act reveals its fictional nature with Welles’ monologue, but by then, the monster was loose on the public, and hysteria commenced.

This is a masterpiece of horror.  It didn’t rely on blood and gore and sudden shocks to create fear.  It was a slow and subtle build up to the end of the world as it was happening at a particular place, with the belief that the martians would soon appear in your town, and brought to you through the most intimate and powerful media of the time.

As you watch the BBC interview, at the end of it Welles shares that he had intended to provoke Americans this way.  The media holds power.  The internet, television, and back then, radio, has the power to sway our perception of reality.  In the video Orson Welles confesses that this was his attempt to shake Americans into not believing everything heard on this new, magical box called the radio.

This message is relevant today.  Just because a story is on the news or on a news commentary program on television or radio, or reported on a website, doesn’t mean it’s true.  It is being presented for some reason and from a viewpoint.  Question it.

You may wonder how people back on October 30, 1938, could have fallen for a story about a martian invasion.  How many irrational beliefs have you encountered that people profess because they read it on the internet or saw it on TV?  Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq?  Kenyon-born United States presidents?  The Newtown massacre as a hoax?  Climate change deniers?  Creationism as science?  The list goes on.

When it comes to things reported in the media, trust little, question a lot.

I didn’t realize how early in my life skepticism of the media had originated until I listened to this album again.

How can you represent those people? Part Two.

“What I’m Thinking About” Wednesday
June 18, 2014

(If you would like to read Part One, click HERE)

I gave Donna Goodwin(1) a copy of the police report.  It included copies of the prescriptions that she allegedly had filled.  Goodwin explained to me that she lived on a fixed income in Detroit, her doctor’s office within walking distance of her home, and the pharmacy she filled her prescriptions with was on the corner.  She had never heard of the doctor whose name was on the prescription.  Until this charge, she had never been in Clinton Township.  She provided me with the name of her doctor and her office location.  Goodwin also told me that her state id had been stolen from her the summer before.

In February, 2008, I sat for the Michigan Bar Exam.  I had left the City of Detroit to try my hand at running a business, which lasted eighteen months during the recession.  I then clerked for a legendary labor arbitrator whose office was in Detroit, and with his encouragement I decided to go after the license to practice law.  I swore into the Bar in May, 2008.

DSC02079
Swearing in before Judge Richard Caretti in Macomb County Circuit Court.

I took Eddie Lee and his neighbors aside to go over the police report.  He was alleged to have been drunk, left the lawn chair he had been sitting on in Al’s (his neighbor) front yard, then crossed the street to where the alleged victim was sitting on the front porch of a male’s home.  She claimed that Lee started hugging on her and had touched her private parts through her clothing.

Al told me that her story was complete fabrication.  The woman was the neighborhood’s busybody, sticking her nose into every neighbor’s business.  Al was barbequing with Lee sitting in a lawn chair.  Yes, he was drunk.  So drunk that Al said there was no way Lee could have walked across the street without falling face first on the ground.  Ms. Busybody had walked in front of Al’s home, looked at the two men and said, “I smell marijuana.”  Al told her to leave because the only thing smoking was the burgers on the grill.  She walked away in a huff and joined Gerry, a known alcoholic and loud mouth, on his front porch.  About twenty minutes later the police arrived and talked to Ms. Busybody.  They then walked over and arrested Lee.  Two of the neighbors confirmed Al’s version of the story.

The arbitrator was near the end of his career (though I wouldn’t be surprised if  he was still arbitrating labor cases around the country today, six years later).  I needed to consider my options.  The City of Detroit Law Department was hiring in the Labor and Employment Section, where I had clerked during law school.  The interview with two people I had previously worked for was promising, but the open position was for an experienced attorney, not an entry level attorney.  What options were available to me, a forty-six year old male at the start of his law career?

Scott Young told me that he was driving his mother grocery shopping.  He took her to a store where she purchased some groceries.  However, she needed to go to a second store to get the things she needed that the first store did not have.  Young dropped his mother off at the front door, then parked the car and waited for her.  Thirty minutes later, Mom came out of a different door.  No groceries.  No cart.  He drove to meet her.  When she entered the car he asked her what she was doing.  She insisted he drive away.  They drove out of the parking lot, but was immediately pulled over by the police.  According to the police report, Mom had filled a shopping cart with groceries and had pushed them past all points of sale and into the foyer between the two sets of doors leading out.  (This was where the restrooms were located in the store).  Two plain clothed security guards stopped her and began to question her.  She claimed she needed to use the restroom, but they assumed she was trying to walk out with the cart.  She abandoned the cart and left the store.  The two security guards followed and alleged that Young had sped the car in their direction, almost striking them as he stopped to pick Mom up.

A guy I went to law school with, who sponsored me when I swore into the Bar, Kevin Johnson, suggested I look into criminal defense because he said that it seemed right for me.  I shadowed him on his court days, then took the full day session, “A is for Attorney” held on the first day of the Fall 2008 Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan conference.  That launched my criminal defense practice.

DSC02078
Kevin Johnson sponsoring me on my swearing into the Bar.

In 2000, Danny Hugel was seventeen years old.  He plead to a charge of criminal sexual conduct fourth degree for touching the breasts of a thirteen year old girl without her consent.  He was sentenced under Michigan’s Holmes Youthful Training Act (HYTA) which allows a defendant under the age of twenty-one to plead guilty to a charge then be sentenced to a period of probation.  If the defendant successfully complete the term of probation, the case is then dismissed and becomes a non-public record.  However, in 2000, the Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA) required someone convicted of a criminal sexual conduct fourth degree to register as a sex offender.  The law contradicted itself.  HYTA dismissed the charge, however SORA proclaimed it to be a conviction of a sex crime.

There’s the back story.  That’s the “how.”  You really want to know “why.”  Why would I dedicate my practice to representing those people?

I’ll answer that by starting with a question.  Who are those people?

Concluded next week.

(1)  All clients name’s have been changed.

Superstitious? Finding friends in federal prison and Detroit City FC pride

Friday, Finally!
June 13, 2014

– Friday the 13th.  Feeling superstitious?

–  You’ve seen it on the news often.  A person is taken into custody and charged with a crime.  Neighbors and family are interviewed and many times you’ll hear phrases like, “He seemed like a nice, quiet guy.”  “Never had a problem with him.  Always pleasant.  Kept to himself.”

Marie Mason was a girl I knew in high school.  An intelligent, soft spoken girl, I don’t recall how many classes I had with her, but they were usually college-prep type classes, like physics, trigonometry, pre-calculus.  I don’t recall any specific conversations with her, but I remember the sense I had about her.  She was mature for a teenager.  An old soul within a young body.  Always nice.  Always kind.

DSC05658
(Marie held the Secretary position on the Executive Forum, top right photo, she’s on the left, and also in the bottom row, second photo from the right).

DSC05662

On a high school campus that graduates over one thousand people, and in a time before the internet, I lost track of her.  It wasn’t until a year or so before my 30th class reunion that I found her.  And federal prison was not the place I expected.

On September 8, 2008, Marie entered into a guilty plea of Conspiracy to Commit Arson, and two counts of Arson.  According to the Plea Agreement, during the evening of December 31, 1999, Marie, her then-husband Frank Ambrose, and three others, set a fire to Agriculture Hall on the Michigan State University campus.  The next day, January 1, 2000, they destroyed, by fire, a John Deere Hydro-Ax Shear and commercial flatbed trailer – equipment used in commercial logging – parked on the side of the road near Mesick, Michigan.

Marie and Ambrose were committed environmentalists and had become affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front (ELF).  ELF was a loosely organized movement of individuals committed to the eradication of commercial, research, and other activities that are harmful to the natural environment.  The Agriculture Hall was identified by this small group as a place where records of, and papers relating to, plant genetic research were maintained.

Ambrose filed divorce papers almost ten years later on the day Marie was arrested.  For two years, he spied on activist groups for the FBI, taping incriminating conversations with activists including Marie.  (See www.supportmariemason.org and “Green Scares & Marie Mason“, fifth estate, Spring, 2011).  The Feds recommended a twenty year sentence (240 months) for Marie.  In the Defendant’s Sentencing Memorandum Regarding Disparity was a recitation of sentences by defendants committing far more acts of arson and property damage than the four arsons and $4 million of damages Marie plead to.  A sample of these are:

Jacob Ferguson – 21 arsons – over $30 million damages- sentenced to probation.
Stanislas Meyerhof – 11 (or more) arsons – over $30 million damages – sentenced to 156 months.
Kevin Tubbs – 11 arsons – $20 million damages – sentenced to 151 months.
Chelsea Gerlach – 7 arsons – $27 million damages – sentenced to 108 months.

On February 20, 2009, Marie was sentenced to 240 months on the conspiracy charge; 262 months on the arson of the Agriculture Hall; and 180 months to the arson of the logging equipment.  Restitution was also ordered in the amount of $4,139,536.  All sentences to run concurrently.

If that wasn’t already excessive punishment, Marie is currently being held in a maximum security federal prison in Texas, in a special wing with restrictive policies regarding communication.

Needless to say, she didn’t make it to our 30th class reunion.

It is easy to accept that Marie plead guilty to the charges and as punishment should do time.  But her case is one of the  harshest sentences imposed under the guise of eco-terrorism.

Today, at the Cass Cafe, an exhibit of Marie’s paintings created while incarcerated at the Carswell Federal Prison in Fort Worth, Texas, opens.  The exhibit will run through Saturday, June 21st.

– No DCFC soccer this weekend.  At least not at Estadia Cass Techia.  They do play in Cleveland on Sunday, which would make a nice Father’s Day outing.  And if I don’t make that, there’s ten World Cup matches from now through Sunday.

Last week’s match against Erie was awesome.  Once again, the crowd reached sellout proportions, setting another record at 3,234 fans in attendance.  DCFC partnered with the “You Can Play” project to promote inclusivity in sports.  The players wore a special jersey and were given to the highest bidder of a silent auction which took place during the game.  The proceeds of the auction were donated to the Ruth Ellis Center, a Highland Park shelter that serves at-risk LGBT youth.  Sadly, I didn’t win a jersey in the auction, but a limited number of jerseys were available for sale, which I did purchase one of them.  The match itself ended in a 2-2 draw against the hated Erie Admirals.  After falling behind 1-0, Detroit City mounted a comeback with a goal by Shaun Lawson in the 66th minute and a penalty kick conversion in the 72nd minute by captain Josh Rogers.  Unfortunately Erie scored a late equalizer in the 89th minute.

DSC05552

DSC05572

 

DSC05611

Quote:  (sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle”)
“Come on City score a goal
It’s really very simple.
Put the ball into the net
And we’ll go fucking mental!”

Northern Guard Supporters chant.

Monday Musings: June 9, 2014

– It’s that time again.  Every four years, the world’s thirty-two best soccer teams meet in a predetermined county – this year it will be Brazil – to compete for The World Cup.  The opening match is Thursday, and the World Cup final will be held on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro.

This is the world’s sport, which captivates citizens across the globe.  Over a billion people – yes, billion with a “b” – viewed the final match of both the 2006 and 2010 World Cup finals.  So, for the next few weeks, I will certainly be musing about the beautiful game’s largest tournament.

Americans aren’t drawn to this massive world event.  According to a recent poll, 86% of Americans know nothing or little about the World Cup, two-thirds won’t be following it, but 7% will be following it closely.   

I’m not going to hypothesize why that is.  I’m sure there are several reasons.  I’m one of the 7% who will be following it closely.  And I’ll likely be musing about it.

If you’re one of the 86%, let me start you out with how this works.  I’ll do this slowly as the tournament proceeds.

The first step is the Group Stage.  The 32 teams that have spent the last couple years qualifying in their regions for a place in the World Cup, are randomly drawn (with some rules to evenly distribute teams by national regions) into eight groups of four teams.  Each team plays every team in their group once.  The winning team gets 3 points, and if the match ends in a draw, both teams get 1 point.  The top two teams in each group advance to the next round.  If there is a tie in the number of points, goal differential (goals for minus goals against) is the first tie-breaker, and if goal differential is tied, then whichever team has the most goals breaks the tie.

The groups for the 2014 World Cup are as follows:

Group A:  Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon.
Group B:  Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia.
Group C:  Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan.
Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy.
Group E:  Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras.
Group F:  Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria.
Group G:  Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA.
Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea.

The United States is in Group G, which you’ll hear referred to as “The Group of Death.”  This is because most groups have one or two dominant teams which should advance, however Group G has four quality teams which means two quality teams will be eliminated after this round.

Thursday the tournament begins with Brazil vs Croatia.  ESPN and ESPN2 will be televising the matches, so check your local listings for times.

– I seem to have a lot of premiere’s on my calendar this week.

On Wednesday evening in Troy, Grey Wolfe Publishing is holding a Summer Launch Party for a number of books in their line.  I will be there to sign copies of my novel, The Y in Life.  For details, go to Grey Wolfe Publishing’s website.

On Thursday evening in Detroit, Lolita Hernandez will be releasing her new collection of short stories, Making Callaloo in Detroit.  Details HERE.

On Friday evening, the Cass Cafe in Detroit will be opening the art exhibit, Marie Mason: Prison Work, which runs through June 21st.  For now I’ll say that Marie Mason graduated from Plymouth Salem High School in 1980 with me, and is currently serving time in Carswell Federal Prison in Fort Worth, Texas.  I’ll write more about her story on Friday.  For now, here’s the info on the opening, and a song by the fabulous folk singer, David Rovics about Marie.

Cass Cafe
4620 Cass Avenue
Detroit, MI
July 13, 2014
7PM- 10PM