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NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Michael Brown’s High School Has an Alarmingly High Suspension Rate

Michael Brown's High School Has an Alarmingly High Suspension Rate

Michael Brown, the 18-year-old African-American teen who was gunned down by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last Saturday lived in a community with longstanding residential segregation, issues with racial profiling and concerns about the racial makeup of its police force. He also graduated from Normandy High School, a racially isolated high school with a dismal graduation rate—and alarmingly high school suspension rate. 

The national suspension rate for secondary schools is 11 percentNormandy’s was nearly four times that, journalist Dana Goldstein reports in a portrait of Normandy High school by the numbers.

Typically, racial disproportionality is a central part of the conversation around school suspensions. But African-American students already make up 98 percent of the school, so it’s barely surprising that the school’s black students received 99 percent of the school’s out-of-school suspensions in 2011.

Read Goldstein’s blog post, which offers a quick look at the conditions Brown went to school in and survived before he was killed.

Read Colorlines’ long look into the school-to-prison pipeline, its impact on black youth and efforts to reimagine the school discipline paradigm in our Life Cycles of Inequity series.

Following Ferguson: Thursday’s Roundup

Following Ferguson: Thursday's Roundup

A new eyewitness last night shared her account of the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer. Tiffany Mitchell’s description of Brown is graphic, cautions local station KMOV, and matches the statement given by Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson. After last night’s arrests and tear-gas volleys and today’s presidential address, the court of public opinion is in highest gear. Here’s what to keep in mind as you wade through (and for those just joining, start here):

The militarization of local police forces has a long history—and libertarian Sen. Rand Paul is calling for its end. In St. Louis County, according to an August 2013 report, about neighbors shaken up by the sight of heavily armed officers, police have been using SWAT teams to serve felony warrants, no matter what they’re for. This June, the ACLU issued a comprehensive report, War Comes Home—and they don’t mean St. Louis.

Ferguson is not Watts, 1965. It’s not even Crown Heights, 1991. Today’s St. Louis American editorial provides perhaps the best first draft of history you’ll read explaining why Ferguson residents stood together in the hours following Brown’s death. Ferguson fits into the well-documented history of police abuse triggering demonstrations and riots. But pay attention too, to Ferguson’s differences. They may indicate whether we’re witnessing something new.

Among many African-Americans, feeling themselves drown in a waterfall of murdered unarmed men and women, pushback against the Obama model is gaining fresh ears. From Duke University professor Mark Anthony Neal:

Six years into the Obama Presidency, we now realize that pulled-up, belted pants, neatly-pressed dress-suits and bow-ties are apparently a policy initiative intended to save Black men and boys. President Obama was seemingly shamed into the creation of My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), in the aftermath of the Trayvon [Martin] shooting and with the stark realization (via every index imaginable) that the lives of Black youth were not significantly better under his leadership, and perhaps worse.

Finally, consider how Michael Brown’s death in suburban, out-of-the-way Ferguson became news in the first place—and be wary of threats to the spread of that information. Zeynep Tufekci’s*, “What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson” is a great primer on legislative and corporate efforts to further restrict Internet freedoms. Also, the arrest-and-release of mainstream journalists rightly provoked the Twitterati’s furor last night and drew President Obama’s attention today. But many if not most journalists capturing the pulse of communities like Ferguson do not work for mainstream media. They’re freelancers or citizen journalists like Alderman Antonio French, also arrested and held last night. From Tufekci*:

The citizen journalists held on, even as choked from the gas, some traditional media started going live from the region, and today, [Ferguson’s] on the front page of many newspapers.

As always, feel free to share your own must-click links. See you back here tomorrow.

* Post has been updated.

Obama on Ferguson: ‘No Excuse for Police to Use Excessive Force’

Obama on Ferguson: 'No Excuse for Police to Use Excessive Force'

“There is no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protestors,” President Obama said this afternoon as he addressed the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the ongoing protests that have erupted in the aftermath of his death. 

He commented directly on Brown’s death, and the police repression of protestors and journalists:

It’s important to remember how this started. We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances. He was 18 years old. His family will never hold Michael in their arms again. When something like this happens, local authorities, including police, have a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death and how they are protecting people in their communities.

There is never an excuse for violence against police or those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism and looting. There is also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protesters or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. Here in the United States of America police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground. Put simply, we all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority.

I know emotions are raw right now in Ferguson, and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened … Let’s remember we’re all part of one American family. We’re united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law, basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest, a reverence for every single man, woman and child among us, and the need for accountabilty when it comes to our government.

Obama confirmed that the Department of Justice and FBI have independent investigations open into Brown’s death. The DOJ is also, Obama said, “consulting with local law enforcement on ways they can maintain public safety without restricting the right to peaceful protest and while avoiding unnecessary escalation.”

Los Angeles Public Schools Open for Child Migrants

Los Angeles Public Schools Open for Child Migrants

Fall semester for Los Angeles Unified School District students began this week, and the school district is opening its doors to some new enrollees. The district is planning for 1,000 new unaccompanied minor children to enroll in its schools, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy told the Los Angeles Times.

The district isn’t rolling out the welcome mat out of mere kindness. It’s also the law. Under a 1982 Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe, school districts may not deny a child access to public education based on their immigration status. 

While the unaccompanied minors crisis exploded this year, the district has already been experiencing increased demand for services for immigrant children. The Los Angeles Times’ Howard Blume reports:

During the 2013-14 school year, the immigrant enrollment center handled 1,800 students, an increase of 400 from the previous year. In the latter months, 80% were “children who crossed the border unaccompanied,” one just 7 years old, according to an internal district analysis.

The numbers from the center don’t provide a full count because schools typically enroll new students on their own.

The impact, however, is probably reflected in the figures for Spanish-speaking students who are not fluent in English. Their numbers had been declining in L.A. Unified, but increased last year from 142,457 to 146,794, even as overall enrollment dropped.

Read the rest at Los Angeles Times.

Will Missouri Governor Pull St. Louis PD Out of Ferguson?

Will Missouri Governor Pull St. Louis PD Out of Ferguson?

It took Missouri Governor Jay Dixon five days to get to Ferguson after the shooting of Michael Brown. Dixon, a Democrat, finally announced in the middle of the night that he would be altering his schedule to head to St. Louis County. The governor says he’s listening at Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri.

Police have arrested some 60 people in and around Ferguson since Saturday—including two journalists and alderman and community journalist Antonio French. The local police department has meanwhile declined to release the name of the officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, which is one of the few modest demands demonstrators have been making. One of several Anonymous accounts on Twitter has claimed to have the officer’s name, but it hasn’t been independently verified.

It appears that Governor Dixon will soon announce that he’ll be relieving St. Louis County police officers of their duties in the county. Bloomberg’s Derek Wallbank tweeted that Representative Lacy Clay (D-Missouri) told him as much:

It’s unclear which agencies would replace the St. Louis police department:

President Obama is expected to issue remarks on Ferguson later today. 

Why Did Ferguson Explode?

Why Did Ferguson Explode?

Ferguson escalated last night and first thing across my screen this morning was a powerful, soul searching editorial from black weekly, The St. Louis American. Outsiders don’t know Ferguson or St. Louis like they do. They answer the million-dollar question: Why did Ferguson explode? “With deep humility we admit we did not see this coming,” it begins. But from there it documents abandonment, disinvestment and persecution experienced by a generation of perhaps poorly educated but observant and intuitive young people. The St. Louis American is today’s essential reading on what’s happening in Ferguson. 

On schooling:

It may take a village to raise a child, but many administrators and parents in better-resourced parts of our region had no problem saying quite publicly that Michael Brown and his brothers and sisters [who wished to transfer from their unaccredited districts] did not belong in their village.

On police-community relations:

In many North County municipalities, it seems police run contests to see how many young black men you can pull over, flaunting the officers’ power and the motorists’ powerlessness….

But Michael Brown was not pulled over while driving. He was told to get out of the street while walking. For offering what was initially, according to an eyewitness, the mildest of resistance to a rude and unnecessary police order, this unarmed teen was shot in the middle of the day, and his bullet-riddled body left by police to lay in the street for hours, as if to provide a grisly example.

That did it. That’s what drove people (not just young people) to act out their pent-up rage. That’s what drove people to demonstrate (which is within their rights). 

Read the rest at The St. Louis American.

 

St. Louis Alderman, Citizen Journalist Antonio French Spent the Night In a Ferguson Jail

St. Louis Alderman, Citizen Journalist Antonio French Spent the Night In a Ferguson Jail

Among those arrested last night at a Ferguson, Missouri, protest was St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, for unlawful assembly. Using Twitter and Vine, French has been reporting on the unrest that has followed the police killing of Michael Brown, a black, unarmed 18-year-old who was walking down the street. From USA Today:

French, alderman of the 21st ward in St. Louis, was taken into custody, said his wife, Jasenka Benac French, who uses the Twitter handle @senka.

She tweeted that “@antonioFrench is in Ferguson jail,” and that he had been arrested. About 90 minutes later she tweeted, “@AntonioFrench being booked now. Not sure what the charge is yet. Was ordered out of his car and arrested because he “didn’t listen.’”

French was released at around 7 a.m. CDT according to a tweet from journalist Gabe Bullard.

 

Watch Journalists Get Arrested in Ferguson McDonald’s

Watch Journalists Get Arrested in Ferguson McDonald's

Police in Ferguson appear to have crossed a clear line and jeopardized freedom of the press—which is protected by the First Amendment—Wednesday evening. Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery and Huffington Posts’s Ryan Reilly were both arrested while they were working at a local McDonald’s by people who look more like soldiers than they do police officers.

Lowery published his account of the night’s events over at the Washington Post:

As they took me into custody, the officers slammed me into a soda machine, at one point setting off the Coke dispenser. They put plastic cuffs on me, then they led me out the door.

I could see Ryan still talking to an officer. I said: “Ryan, tweet that they’re arresting me, tweet that they’re arresting me.”

He didn’t have an opportunity, because he was arrested as well.

The officers led us outside to a police van. Inside, there was a large man sitting on the floor between the two benches. He began screaming: “I can’t breathe! Call a paramedic! Call a paramedic!”

Ryan and I asked the officers if they intended to help the man. They said he was fine. The screaming went on for the 10 to 15 minutes we stood outside the van.

“I’m going to die!” he screamed. “I’m going to die! I can’t breathe! I’m going to die!”

Lowery and Reilly were eventually released without charge—and without the names or badge numbers of the officers involved in their arrest.

You can read Lowery’s full account at the Washington Post

Why the GOP’s Black Voter Outreach Won’t Stick

Why the GOP's Black Voter Outreach Won't Stick

The Republican Party’s overtures to black voters have been awkward. And with newly re-established College Republican chapters on historically black college campuses and a calculated deployment of Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus to the National Urban League and the National Association of Black Journalists, they continue. In an op-ed for the New York Times, University of Connecticut historian Jelani Cobb takes the GOP to task for its ongoing and seemingly blithe racial ignorance.

Cobb writes:

The party that hopes to attract black students is the party whose congressional leadership filed a baseless lawsuit against the first African-American president. It is the party whose representatives allied with birthers who demanded that the president prove his citizenship. It is the party that has endorsed the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act and made it more difficult for the very people it is courting to actually cast a ballot for its candidates. Senator Paul himself has expressed ambivalence about enforcing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Read the rest for a quick history lesson on why the GOP has a long way to go before it can really win black voters.

New Witness, New Video in Michael Brown Shooting

New Witness, New Video in Michael Brown Shooting

A new witness to Michael Brown’s shooting has emerged—and she’s also got new amateur video from Saturday in Ferguson. Her account of what happened corroborates what Dorian Johnson says he saw on Saturday.

Tiffany Mitchell told KMOV News 4 that she saw an officer inside a police vehicle wrestling with Brown through the car’s window before a shot rang out. That’s when she says that Brown began running away. Mitchell says the officer fired again and Brown raised his hands in the air before being fired upon until he was killed.

“The cop just continues walk up on him and shoot him until he goes all the way down,” she recalls. Mitchell also has new video, taken from her cell phone.

Mitchell has been dealing with the trauma of witnessing Brown’s shooting and says that she cries herself to sleep as a result of what she saw. 

Chaos in Ferguson, New Michael Jackson Video and More Salt for a Healthy Heart

Chaos in Ferguson, New Michael Jackson Video and More Salt for a Healthy Heart

Here’s some of what I’m reading up on this morning:

  • A new app called Spring will supposedly make online shopping more fun and beautiful. 
  • The massive arapaima, an Amazonian fish that can weight up to 500 pounds, may soon go extinct due to overfishing. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Police Dispatch Tapes From Michael Brown’s Shooting

Police Dispatch Tapes From Michael Brown's Shooting

Anonymous has obtained and released St. Louis police dispatch audio from the day Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson Police Department officer. The audio is largely unedited and contains police codes throughout the recording. 

It appears that Ferguson police called for additional cars, officers and K-9s from different precincts to control crowds—and waited several hours before calling in an ambulance for the 18-year-old Brown. His body lay on the ground for hours, uncovered before it was attended to. 

Following Ferguson: What’s Being Said Today

Following Ferguson: What's Being Said Today

Referring to his late but hard-won graduation this summer, one of Michael Brown’s high school teachers told the Washington Post, “In the last two months, man, Mike was there every doggone day and he was giving it his full effort.” In the past 24 hours, more details are filtering out about the life of 18-year-old Brown, cut down in Ferguson, Missouri, by a still unreleased number of police-issue bullets. Below, here’s today’s wrap-up of reporting or commentary that helps cut through the noise of this national story (or, that just makes me think). Let’s go.

“We don’t need to keep talking about [Mike Brown’s] college plans to communicate that his killing was dead wrong.” Or do we? Would Ferguson have protested under similarly suspicious shooting circumstances for a more questionable kid? Would Ferguson be national news if Brown wasn’t a “gentle giant?” Whatever your position on the need for victims to be innocent in order to get justice, check out parent Jasmine Banks’s provocative essay.

Writing for Essence.com, ProPublica’s Nikole Hannah-Jones calls out national media for overlooking critical details in Ferguson and hewing to the official police version of events last Saturday. “The reliance on law enforcement to provide the official record of a shooting it was involved in is highly problematic,” she says. “Over and over again, we’ve seen the first reports on police shootings contain errors or just be plain wrong. For instance, in the July death of Eric Garner in New York, an internal police report did not mention the chokehold used on Garner and said that Garner was not in ‘great distress.’”

Why did Ferguson explode this weekend? The definitive account is still a ways off. But in the search for answers, it appears that local concerns about racial profiling, residential segregation, police diversity and more are being explored with a new intensity and purpose.

And finally, in “Why you’ve been seeing young kids at Ferguson crime scenes,” Post-Dispatch reporter Aisha Sultan gives voice to families in the neighborhood.

As always, feel free to add to this list. See you back here tomorrow.

10 Tweets: Munitions in Ferguson

10 Tweets: Munitions in Ferguson

It’s getting hard to distinguish Ferguson, Missouri, from a war zone these days—a war in which one side has its arms up in the air with signs demanding justice for Michael Brown, while the other is armed with more conventional weapons.

Local police, backed by other authorities, roam the streets in tanks and armored trucks, and have been dispersing crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets. Every morning, residents and journalists take to Twitter to post photos of the canisters, magazines and bullets left behind from the previous nights:

A volunteer cleans up rubber bullets from the street

 

Wooden batons used to disperse protestors

 

Tear gas canister, magazine and rubber bullets

 

Another tear gas canister and more rubber bullets

 

And more rubber bullets

 

Unknown munition

 

And even more rubber bullets

 

Peppershots, filled with hot chili powder and designed to
burst on impact 
to irritate the nose, eyes and throat.

 

Rubber bullet magazine

 

And, of course, even more rubber bullets

Will Demanding Justice for Mike Brown Land You a Visit from the FBI?

Will Demanding Justice for Mike Brown Land You a Visit from the FBI?

An unnamed caller recorded himself placing a phone call to the publically listed phone number for the Ferguson Police Department, demanding justice for Mike Brown. The person who answers the phone—in all likelihood a Ferguson police officer—sarcastically answers that “justice isn’t here right now” before threatening to show up at the caller’s home with the FBI. 

Trial Underway for North Carolina Sheriff Accused of Targeting Hispanic Drivers

Trial Underway for North Carolina Sheriff Accused of Targeting Hispanic Drivers

A non-jury federal trial began yesterday in the case of a North Carolina sheriff accused of jailing Latino drivers in order to boost deportations, the Justice Department says. Two retired deputies have already testifed that Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson ordered them in 2007 to 2008 to lock up Latino drivers for traffic violations instead of issuing citations. One reportedly spoke to investigators because, according to the AP, “he worried the sheriff’s priorities would be adopted by young law officers.”

Johnson, a Republican, is running unopposed for a fourth four-year term in November. His defense says the Justice Department will not be able to prove a pattern of racial profiling.

(h/t The Guardian)

No Fly Zone Lifted in Ferguson

No Fly Zone Lifted in Ferguson

Journalists covering the unrest in Ferguson following the killing of Michael Brown have warned that authorities there are preventing them from doing their jobs. The issue became more concerning when Ashon Crawley, a professor and writer, tweeted that the Federal Aviation Administration had designated the airspace over Ferguson a restricted area:

Authorities claim the move was prompted by shots fired at a police helicopter on Sunday—and restricting flights would keep police safe. But that didn’t ease the fact that media helicopters were also banned from flying over Ferguson through Monday.

But, according to the Lambert-St. Louis Airport’s Twitter account, the no fly zone has been lifted:

Police and media helicopters have presumably resumed their flights. 

Clashes Continue in Ferguson, Apple’s ‘Diversity’ and Baby Panda Triplets

Clashes Continue in Ferguson, Apple's 'Diversity' and Baby Panda Triplets

Here’s some of what I’m reading about this morning: 

TAGS: Morning Rush

Understanding What’s Happening in Ferguson

Understanding What's Happening in Ferguson

If you’re catching up on the shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer, the day’s must-read is this exclusive Trymaine Lee interview with Brown’s friend. It describes 22-year-old Dorian Johnson’s last image of Brown. With police brutality and the apparent cheapness of black life making national news again, reaction and commentary are coming at a furious clip. Here are a few items to guide you through the noise.

As my colleague Jamilah King wrote yesterday, Michael Brown’s shooting did not occur in a vacuum. Besides racial profiling, police shootings and lack of transparency surrounding their investigation has for the past few years been a subject of local concern. According to a January 2012 Post-Dispatch analysis, “St. Louis officers fire their guns at a higher rate than those in many other metropolitan forces…. And unlike many other departments, St. Louis has no third party checking the process.” 

What’s up with the PD’s tank-like vehicles and full-on riot gear? Local police departments all over the country, according to a June New York Times article, have been tricking themselves out with surplus Iraq and Afghanistan war gear, blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Welcome to the new normal.

Creative push-back against mainstream media portrayals of young black men as thugs or criminals came via trending hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. But see, too, Journal-ism’s interview with a top Post-Dispatch editor concerning newsroom diversity. Ferguson’s PD may be overwhelmingly white—but so too are area newsrooms. It raises questions about local media’s responsibility to not only cover the accretion of abuses leading up to Brown’s death but to measure and track the community’s growing unrest. 

Over on The South Lawn blog, guest columnist S. Lorén Trull gets personal and responds to one popular question asked after suspicious police shootings: why don’t victims just comply?

And finally, on Medium, organizer Melissa Byrne explains, “How the [Ferguson] police are doing everything wrong and how it’s dangerous for everyone.” Be sure to check the solutions that round out Byrne’s 7-point don’t list, including:

Sending in the dogs. On the evening of the murder of Mike Brown, the police responded to the first wave of community anger and protest with German Shepherds. First, for historical reasons it is wrong for white police officers to show up in a predominately black community with attack dogs at a protest. Secondly, over policing creates an environment where anger accelerates.

Dressing up in riot gear. You don’t wear your party shoes if you don’t want to dance. When the police dress up in their riot gear and plastic shields, they are sending the message that they are ready to fight the crowd. 

Those links should get you started. Feel free to add your own must-reads. See you back here tomorrow.

Ferguson Police Won’t Release Name of Officer that Killed Michael Brown

Ferguson Police Won't Release Name of Officer that Killed Michael Brown

Protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, denouncing Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a police officer have made requests. A group known as The Ad Hoc Committee for Justice on Behalf of Michael Brown has handed out flyers with four demands:

  1. The officer involved in the shooting death of Michael Brown be IMMEDIATELY identified.
  2. The same officer should be immediately fired and charged with murder.
  3. The Ferguson Police Department “Protocol Handbook” be distributed throughout the Ferguson community.
  4. The racial composition of the Ferguson Police Department should reflect the racial demographics of the community.

It’s unclear if the officer involved in the shooting will be terminated or charged, if the department’s handbook will be made available to the public, or if police department employees will engage in any meaningful discussions about race. But the first demand, to know the name of the officer who killed Brown, seems doable.

Ferguson’s police chief, Thomas Jackson, promised reporters that his office would release the name of the officer that killed 18-year-old Michael Brown by noon local time on Tuesday. Apparently he’s changed his mind. Time reports that, citing safety concerns, officer Timothy Zoll says the department is declining to make the officer’s name public:

“A lot of threats against the officer were made on Twitter, Facebook, all social media,” Zoll said. “We are protecting the officer’s safety by not releasing the name.”

Time adds that St. Louis police says they “will not ever release the name of the police officer,” because doing so is at Ferguson’s discretion. 

Police, often roaming in tanks and armored trucks with various weapons, have made dozens of arrests in Ferguson since Saturday, the day Michael Brown was killed. News of the police department’s refusal to release the officer’s name to the public could lead to more unrest. 

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