Cleveland Police Union President Says Tamir Rice Killing Justified

Cleveland Police Union President Says Tamir Rice Killing Justified

In an MSNBC interview sparked by a Cleveland Browns player’s T-shirt protest, the head of Cleveland’s police union called Tamir Rice’s killing justified. Jeffrey Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association also tells substitute host Ari Melber that if the 12-year-old had been 20 and with a gun—as the officers thought (and were told by dispatch)—“we’re not sitting here today.” The video shows an officer firing at Rice within two seconds of their car arriving on scene. When asked whether the video “clearly shows [Rice] was an imminent lethal threat to the officers,” Follmer says, “Oh, absolutely. I don’t know if you didn’t see it but absolutely.” The five-minute interview is yet another unvarnished look at police perspectives on policing and accountability—and how they may differ markedly from communities they serve.

Follmer is demanding an apology from Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins who wore a Tamir Rice-John Crawford T-shirt during warm-ups before Sunday’s NFL game. In the five-minute interview he defends police officers involved in the Rice and Crawford fatal shootings and advises the nation:

Listen to police officers commands. Listen to what we tell you and just stop. I think that eliminates a lot of the problem. [Like Hawkins] I have kids too. They know how to respect the law. They know what to do when a police officer comes up to them. I think the nation needs to realize that when we tell you to do something, do it. And if you’re wrong [pause] you’re wrong. If you’re right then the courts will figure it out.

Watch the rest on “All In With Chris Hayes.”

Pakistan School Attack, Skype Translator, Greenland’s Vanishing Ice Sheet

Pakistan School Attack, Skype Translator, Greenland's Vanishing Ice Sheet

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

[Video] NFL Football Player Slammed By Cleveland Police Union, Responds

[Video] NFL Football Player Slammed By Cleveland Police Union, Responds

Cleveland Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins got emotional today when explaining why he wore a, “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford” T-shirt during pre-game warm-ups before yesterday’s Browns-Bengal home game. Hawkins’ nearly six-minute reply is a response, according to NEOMG, to Cleveland police union’s president calling the father and athlete’s display of support, “pathetic” and uninformed of the facts of both cases. Hawkins, who becomes emotional when speaking of his 2-year-old son, says in part:

My wearing of the T-shirt wasn’t a stance against every police officer or every police department. My wearing of the T-shirt was a stance against wrong individuals doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons to innocent people. …The number one reason for me wearing the T-shirt was the thought of what happened to Tamir Rice happening to my little Austin scares the living hell outta me. 

The Hawkins police union dust-up recalls a late November incident where the local St. Louis police union clashed with the Rams over five of its players entering the stadium showing, “hands up,” in support of Mike Brown. Black police officers later issued a statement supporting the Rams players.


Proposed Bill Would Mandate Federal Data Collection on Cop Killings

Proposed Bill Would Mandate Federal Data Collection on Cop Killings

When Michael Brown was killed, his shooting death in August reignited a national conversation about how law enforcement police black communities. Among the threads of that conversation was one highlighting how hard it is to pin down just how many people police officers kill every year. 

A new bill, introduced today by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) seeks to change that by requiring the Department of Justice to track exactly that, The Hill reported. “Before we can truly address the problem of excessive force used by law enforcement we have to understand the nature of the problem and that begins with accurate data,” Cohen said in a statement.

As Congress is wrapping up for the year today, should Cohen want to see the bill through he’ll need to reintroduce it next year, The Hill reported.

Follow the bill at

LIVE: Watch Protesters Shut Down the Oakland Police Department

LIVE: Watch Protesters Shut Down the Oakland Police Department

A group of black activists and their allies are set to shut down the Oakland, Calif., police department headquarters this morning to protest the police killing of unarmed black people. You can watch the action, organized by Blackout Collective, live via Livestream currently being operated by @emanithegoddess:

One group of demonstrators, dressed in all black, is standing outside the station, each with a fist in the air. A group of allies, meanwhile, have chained themselves to the entrance of the police station, while another group is standing with signs and banners across the street. One activist has also hoisted a banner on the police station’s flagpole with the images of unarmed black people who have been killed—and other protestors are closing down a growing number of intersections leading to the police department.

You can follow @blackoutcollect@BaySolidarity and @OzoneBeats for ongoing updates. 

FBI Will Investigate Lennon Lacy’s Hanging Death in North Carolina

FBI Will Investigate Lennon Lacy's Hanging Death in North Carolina

At the family’s request and ahead of an “awareness” march this past Saturday meant to drum up attention, the FBI has agreed to investigate the hanging death of a black 17-year-old high school football player. Lennon Lacy was found this August hanging from a wooden swing set in the middle of a trailer park in Bladenboro, North Carolina. Lacy’s family had requested that the feds step in after local officials ruled his death a suicide and closed the case within five days. The family, aided by the local chapter of the NAACP and bolstered by findings of their own private forensic investigation, strongly disagrees.

“We don’t know what happened to my son three months ago, and suicide is still possible. But there are so many unanswered questions that I can’t help but ask: Was he killed? Was my son lynched?” Lennon’s mother Claudia Lacy writes in a Guardian op-ed.

Lacy’s ex-girlfriend, according to CNN, was a 31-year-old white woman (age of consent in the state is 16*) and a local Klu Klux Klan rally had taken place in a nearby town in the weeks before his body was found. Some speculate that Lacy’s interracial relationship with an older white woman could be motive in this small North Carolina town. 

*Post has been updated since publication to include North Carolina’s age of consent.

Sydney Hostage Standoff, Massive Protests Continue, Cosby Breaks Silence

Sydney Hostage Standoff, Massive Protests Continue, Cosby Breaks Silence

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

  • Some 30 people are being held hostage in Sydney, Australia’s business district; five have escaped so far. 
  • Muslim cleric Sheikh Haron has been named as the suspect in Sydney’s hostage standoff—and #IllRideWithYou trends on Twitter as commuters offer Muslims travel with them to help keep them safe. 
  • Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of New York, Washington, D.C. and other cities this past Saturday to protest the killings of unarmed black people. 
  • Elizabeth Warren says she’s not running for president. For now.
  • Five takeaways from the rather failed climate talks in Lima, Peru. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

In San Francisco and Los Angeles, Ethnic Studies on Its Way to Classrooms

In San Francisco and Los Angeles, Ethnic Studies on Its Way to Classrooms

Ethnic studies, as an option to San Francisco students, and as a requirement for Los Angeles students, is on its way to high school classrooms in the two cities. San Francisco’s school board paved the way for the expansion of a pilot ethnic studies program in city schools this fall, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. By the 2017-2018 school year, Los Angeles public high schools will be required to offer at least one semester of ethnic studies, and in order for students to graduate in the 2018-2019 school year students will need to take a course, AP reported.

Both changes were backed by strong student and community support. Ethnic studies courses can translate to concrete educational benefits for students, one researcher has found. According to a new study of Tucson’s now-outlawed ethnic studies program, those who took the Arizona border city’s ethnic studies courses graduated in higher rates than students who didn’t. (A 2011 analysis conducted by Tucson Unified School District and requested by an opponent of the city’s ethnic studies program disputes those findings, however.) 

Cynthia Liu, over at Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post Answer Sheet blog, argues that graduation rates aside, ethnic studies courses offer something deeper, argues: self-knowledge that’s often denied to students of color:

Ethnic Studies is a path to self-understanding for students otherwise denied the histories of those who speak and look like them, but it’s also how all people can empathize across lines of race, culture, religion, ethnicity, and language and feel in our bones the deep commonalities of shared hopes, struggles, and dreams of our individual lives. Yes, empathy can be taught. Anti-racism can be learned and racism and bigotry unlearned. But first we have to set aside blinkered monocultural lenses.

Three Takeaways from Remezcla’s Best of 2014 Lists

Three Takeaways from Remezcla's Best of 2014 Lists

Remezcla has published a series of lists illustrating 2014’s best songs, best music videos, best music trends, best Instagram accounts and best breakout artists. That’s a lot of bests—but well worth the look.

The first pick is gonna require an explanation for those of us who don’t speak Spanish or aren’t familiar with the most hilarious of song requests in 2014. The hook to Corona’s 1993 hit song is: “This is the rhythm of the night.” The thing is, those lyrics could easily sound like, “Esas son Reebok o son Nike?” in Spanish, which translates to, “Are those Reeboks or Nikes?” At some point this year, a Spanish-language listener called the song request in to a station—thinking the song was about a pair of sneakers. His misheard lyrics song request was honored with a good chuckle.

“Son Reebok o son Nike?” went on to live a life of its own in music. So Remezcla included it on its list of favorite music trends of the year. Here’s one remix from Los XL:

No Reeboks of Nikes on the best song list—but check out Princess Nokia’s “Bikini Weather Corazón en Afrika” from the list:

And finally, don’t forget muralist Alexis Diaz’s gorgeous Instagram account:

acrilico y tinta china sobre canvas 2x2 metros para #current @arsenalmontreal Montreal, Canada.

A photo posted by Alexis Diaz (@alexis_diaz) on

Check out all of Remezcla’s 2014 lists—which feature nearly 100 songs, videos and artists you should know about—on their site. It’s seriously worth it. 

North Carolina Family Wants Feds to Investigate Black Teen’s Hanging Death

North Carolina Family Wants Feds to Investigate Black Teen's Hanging Death

The family of Lennon Lacy, a black 17-year-old found hanging from a swing set in a North Carolina trailer park in August, wants a federal inquiry into his death. Local Bladenboro authorities ruled the high school football player’s death a suicide due to depression and closed the case within five days. Family members say the investigation happened too quickly. The local NAACP “has been careful to not call the teen’s death a lynching,” the ABC affiliate reports. “However, it’s raising the possibility that Lennon may have been a victim of ongoing racial tensions from whites in his community.” 

A separate examination of Lacy by a pathologist hired by the family and the NAACP “found a number of inexplicable oversights,” according to IBT:

Lacy’s hands were not bagged to protect them from contamination, no photographs were taken by police at the scene and the shoes found on Lacy’s feet did not match the ones his family had last seen him wearing and were a size and a half too small. The shoes found on Lacy’s body were removed from the body bag sometime between when the body was placed inside it and when it was delivered to the state medical examiner. Additionally, Daily Kos reports that different agencies on site argued over evidence being taken and the need for an autopsy.

Most notably, though, Roberts’ examination found that given Lacy’s height, weight and items at the scene where his body was found, it would have been virtually impossible for him to hang himself.

There will be a march this Saturday in Bladenboro, N.C., to honor Lacy and “bring awareness to the case.” Read more about it on the Guardian and IBT.

House Avoids Shutdown, Fed Approves Pot on Reservations, Mumps Spreads Through NHL

House Avoids Shutdown, Fed Approves Pot on Reservations, Mumps Spreads Through NHL

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

  • The federal government is “allowing” tribal nations (which already have tribal sovereignty) to grow and sell marijuana on reservations, regardless of what the state the reservation is in thinks about it. Not sure if this means medical marijuana would be reimbursed by flexible spending accounts when purchased on the rez. 
  • Like us on Facebook? Cool. Dislike us on Facebook? Not so much
TAGS: Morning Rush

Former Supermodel Beverly Johnson Accuses Bill Cosby of Drugging Her

Former Supermodel Beverly Johnson Accuses Bill Cosby of Drugging Her

Beverly Johnson is the latest and highest profile woman, along with fellow model and friend Janice Dickinson, to publicly accuse Bill Cosby of drugging her. (Dickinson also accuses Cosby of rape.) Johnson, a former supermodel and businesswoman writes in Vanity Fair:

I struggled with how to reveal my big secret, and more importantly, what would people think when and if I did? Would they dismiss me as an angry black woman intent on ruining the image of one of the most revered men in the African American community over the last 40 years? Or would they see my open and honest account of being betrayed by one of the country’s most powerful, influential, and beloved entertainers?

As I wrestled with the idea of telling my story of the day Bill Cosby drugged me with the intention of doing God knows what, the faces of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other brown and black men took residence in my mind.

Read the rest in Vanity Fair, which reports, Cosby’s attorneys declined to comment.

[Video] How Police Are Using Social Media to Lock Up Harlem Teens

[Video] How Police Are Using Social Media to Lock Up Harlem Teens

Teens living in high-crime areas have a new concern: cops tracking them through their Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and other social media posts. A new Verge investigation uses Harlem as a case study to look at how police have been using social media’s strength—cataloguing friends and friends of friends—to catch violent perpetrators and their innocent friends and siblings, too. As noted here and herehigh crime neighborhoods are already highly surveilled, i.e. foot patrols, cameras (street corners, public housing, shops, laundromats), eye-in-the-sky surveillance towers, helicopters overhead and perhaps more. For teens in these neighborhoods, the Internet is no reprieve. From Verge:

Over the last five years, the New York City police department and Manhattan prosecutors office have ramped up their efforts to understand, oversee, and infiltrate the digital lives of teenagers from crime-prone neighborhoods like Harlem. They track the activity of kids through services like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, going so far as to create fake accounts and spark online friendships to sidestep privacy settings. A recent indictment discusses activity of crew members as young as 10, and arrested several 15-year-olds following a four and half year investigation.

Read (and watch above) journalist Ben Popper’s story of brothers, Jelani and Asheem Henry on And the watchers may not be the NSA, but digital surveillance and online privacy also impact poor and working class communities of color. Learn more here and here.

Torture Report Reactions, USAid Infiltrates Cuban Hip-Hop, TIME’s Person of the Year

Torture Report Reactions, USAid Infiltrates Cuban Hip-Hop, TIME's Person of the Year

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

TAGS: Morning Rush

‘Rectal Feeding’ the CIA Used on Alleged Terrorists Had Zero Nutritional Value

'Rectal Feeding' the CIA Used on Alleged Terrorists Had Zero Nutritional Value

Among the many “enhanced interrogation methods” (a.k.a physical and psychological acts of torture) that CIA personnel and independent contractors used on the men they designated as Muslim terrorists and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay and “black” sites around the world was “rectal feeding.”

The Daily Beast’s Russell Saunders points out how this horrific act of violence has no medical or nutritional value: 

Even if one accepts the highly dubious notion that anyone believed “rectal feedings” were a legitimate means of nourishing someone, there was no reason to consider such extreme measures in the first place. The rule of thumb in medicine is “if the guts works, use it,” meaning that it’s best to use the stomach to hydrate a patient if it’s functioning properly. There is no indication that these detainees couldn’t have had tubes inserted into their stomachs through their noses for the purposes of feeding them, assuming that respecting their right to refuse food had already been thrown out the window. For hydration, an IV would have been effective, as CIA medical officers conceded.

In other words, it’s a sickening, humiliating twist on the already-painful force-feeding of imprisoned people through their noses. 

Do Body Cameras Actually Reduce Police Brutality Complaints?

Do Body Cameras Actually Reduce Police Brutality Complaints?

Manufacturers may be the only sure winners in President Obama’s new $75 million plan to outfit cops with body cameras. As everyone tries to figure out now what the new “Body Worn Camera Partnership Program” will mean for police-community relations in their neighborhoods, a three-month Fusion investigation finds body cams help cops, not the community. One big issue: officers control the on/off switch. Says Fusion in its review of records from five police departments, “the way body cameras are used usually serve police more than citizens charging misconduct. And in the data from two cities provided to Fusion, there was little evidence police body cameras reduced police involved shootings or use of force incidents.”

The five participating police departments: Albuquerque, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Oakland and Ft. Worth.

Read more at Fusion. And get digital civil liberties watchdog, Electronic Frontier Foundation’s take on Obama’s body-cam plan, here.

(h/t Fusion)

Torture Report, Pirate Bay Offline, Laughing Gas for Depression

Torture Report, Pirate Bay Offline, Laughing Gas for Depression

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

  • Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO Michael Jeffries, the 71-year-old who touted the chain’s image as a rich white youth brand, steps down suddenly
TAGS: Morning Rush

Complaints of NYPD Misconduct Hit All-Time High

Complaints of NYPD Misconduct Hit All-Time High

Between 2006 and 2012, complaints of New York Police Department misconduct jumped 150 percent to an all-time high of 5,601 in 2012, Al Jazeera America reported. Those complaints are expensive, too. The city pays roughly $45 million every year to settle claims or pay plaintiffs who win in trial. 

While it’s not the most expensive line item among all the kinds of settlements the city must pay out (medical malpractice tops the list), alleged police misconduct is the top claim type filed against New York City.

The information comes amidst the aftermath of a New York City grand jury’s decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who choked Eric Garner. In October, Garner’s family announced plans to file a $75 million suit against New York City over his death. 

Read the rest at Al Jazeera America.

[Video] ICYMI: President Obama’s BET Interview on Race, Policing and National Protests

[Video] ICYMI: President Obama's BET Interview on Race, Policing and National Protests

In response to sustained national uproar over high-profile police killings of unarmed black men, President Obama sat with BET’s Jeff Johnson for a 25-minute interview that aired last night. “Absolutely,” Obama agreed that the vast majority of protesters have been peaceful. On the question of whether he’s been aggressive enough in talking about the number of African-American men shot versus white men, Obama says (11:51):

Well, sometimes people’s concerns are not based on fact. If you look at after what [happened] with [Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner] I’m being pretty explicit about my concern. And being explicit about the fact that this is a systemic problem… I think sometimes what people are frustrated by is me not saying, “This is what the outcome should have been.” And that I can not do institutionally. It is my Justice Department that is investigating these cases. And part of the rule of law is that I’m not putting my fingers, my thumb on the scale of justice. It could compromise investigations if it appeared that I was trying to steer to a particular outcome. So I’m sure there’re some folks who just want me to say, “In such-and-such-a case this is what I think shoulda happened,” and “If I’d been on a grand jury this is what I woulda said.”…I’ll leave it to people to speculate on what I’m saying to myself or Michelle when we’re alone at night. 

Watch the rest of Obama’s interview on BET.

Torture Report, #ShutItDown Continues, ‘Selma’ Makes AFI’s Top 2014 Films List

Torture Report, #ShutItDown Continues, 'Selma' Makes AFI's Top 2014 Films List

Here’s some of what I’m reading up on this morning (don’t skip Curiosity right at the end!): 

  • An executive summary of what is sometimes called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which is a nicer way of saying “torture” post 9/11, could be released as early as Tuesday. 
  • AFI’s top 10 films of the year is actually a list of 11 films—and includes “Selma.”
TAGS: Morning Rush
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