Chicago Police Put Antlers on Black Man and Posed for Pictures

by Juan Thompson
The Intercept

The photo shows two white Chicago Police officers posing with an unidentified black man. The officers -- Timothy McDermott and Jerome Finnigan -- are holding rifles as the black man lies on the floor with a dazed look on his face and with antlers on his head as if he were a prized, big buck finally hunted down.

Finnegan is smiling and grabbing the right antler, while McDermott is holding up the man's head as if it were his trophy.

The photo was taken in a police station on the West Side of Chicago sometime between 1999 and 2003. The Chicago Police Department successfully kept it hidden from the public until a judge refused to keep it under seal and the Chicago Sun-Times pulled a copy from a court filing.

Finnigan is a notoriously dirty ex-cop who was a member of the police department's elite Special Operations Section (SOS) until 2006, when he was charged with leading a gang of fellow officers who robbed suspects, illegally invaded homes and stole thousands of dollars in cash. He's now serving 12 years in federal prison.

In a 2012 interview with Playboy, Finnigan admitted the SOS beat and tortured multiple suspects, and described shutting down an internal affairs investigation by appealing to one of his comrades in blue who worked in the Internal Affairs Division.

The Sun-Times reports that federal authorities gave the photo to Chicago Police in 2013, after Finnigan's prosecution. As a result, a police board last year voted to fire McDermott -- but only by a 5-4 margin.

After the Guardian disclosed this year how Chicago police kept their detention and torture at the Homan Square facility off the books, police told me no suspect is detained without proper paperwork. But it's not at all surprising to find out that Finnigan and McDermott filed no arrest report the night the photograph was taken.

As for the man in the photo, he has no name. The police claimed he was dealing drugs, but there is no reason to believe them. Ultimately, whether the man was a drug dealer or not is irrelevant.

He was a human being, dehumanized by other men who swore to protect and serve the public good. And if the police, who have a monopoly on sanctioned violence, view a segment of the population as not quite human, then they will do anything to those people.

Against this backdrop, the deer photo -- so reminiscent of the "trophy" pictures taken by the torturers at Abu Ghraib -- has a direct relationship to the way police treat black communities.

The anti-black sickness that infects America's police departments will not be solved by body cameras or any other ornament of reform. A more profound, national rejection is called for.


Joshua Oppenheimer Explores Aftermath of Killing in New Documentary

by Nick Turse
The Intercept

Mostly I remember my heart as I headed up the front walk. I’m sure my skin was getting damp. A million scenarios were running through my head, everything I’d read or heard about the man on the other side of the door. “Stone-cold killer,” that’s what one guy called him. But mostly I remember my heart, hammering away. It was my first interview with a confessed murderer.

The man who answered the door was old and short and doughy, hardly the steely-eyed super-assassin I had conjured in my mind. Killers are often ordinary. They often live next door, especially when they’ve killed in the service of their government.

In The Look of Silence, American filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer shifts his focus from the murderers who dominated his acclaimed 2012 documentary, The Act of Killing, to their second set of victims, the survivors of Indonesia’s 1965 military coup and the bloodbath that followed. This group is represented primarily by the aged parents of Ramli ? an ordinary man slaughtered along with a million others during a government-sponsored purge of supposed communists ? and by Adi, the younger brother he never knew.

Silences play a major role in this documentary, which will be shown next month at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, adding weight to the dialogue. Unnerving silences, as Adi formulates questions for men involved in his brother’s murder; stony silences as he sits with pursed lips, numbed, hollow-eyed and hushed, watching video footage of two grinning, graying former militiamen who talk of hauling victims to a riverside to be decapitated, who talk of the spray of blood, of kicking corpses into the water, of fish feeding on the dead. In the middle of a reenactment of their murders, the death squad duo literally stop to smell the flowers: “It’s pretty. It smells lovely. But it’s subtle.”

Following this interlude, they describe repeatedly stabbing Ramli and castrating him as the coup de grace. At least they’re honest enough to admit what they’ve done. As Adi, followed by Oppenheimer, confronts men up the chain of command, they completely reject responsibility ? while issuing not-so-veiled threats. When Adi reminds one culpable official, the current speaker of a regional legislature, that a million people were killed, the man’s reply is as blase as it is chilling: “That’s politics.”

Watching Oppenheimer’s film made me contemplate different types of silences that arise in response to slaughter. In the United States, official silences regarding the Vietnam war have recently been augmented by something more dangerous. The government is currently in the midst of a 13-year “Vietnam War Commemoration” ? a series of traveling exhibits, symposiums and other public events celebrating veterans and “highlight[ing] the service of the Armed Forces.” All of this is accompanied by online educational materials and an interactive timeline ? a Pentagon-approved history of a conflict that cost the lives of nearly four times as many people, twice as many civilians, as the slaughter in Indonesia. Instead of truth-telling, however, the effort ? which will have cost taxpayers about $15 million by the end of this year ? is devoted to advancing a counterfeit history of the Vietnam War, ignoring the civilian costs right down to a whitewash of its one well-known massacre.

On March 15, 1968, members of the 23rd Infantry Division’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, were briefed by their commanding officer, Captain Ernest Medina, ahead of an operation in an area they knew as “Pinkville.” What stuck in artillery forward observer James Flynn’s mind was a question one of the other soldiers asked: “Are we supposed to kill women and children?” And Medina’s reply: “Kill everything that moves.”

The next morning, roughly 100 soldiers were flown to the outskirts of a hamlet called My Lai and followed Medina’s orders. Over four hours, the Americans methodically slaughtered more than 500 Vietnamese civilians. Along the way, they raped women and young girls, mutilated the dead, burned homes, fouled the area’s drinking water. It took a year and a half to unravel a cover-up that extended from soldiers in the field to generals at the top of the division.

In a two-sentence entry, the Pentagon’s interactive timeline referred to My Lai as an “incident,” not a massacre, with a death toll of “more than 200,” and singled out only Lieutenant William Calley (who had no shortage of blood on his hands), as if the deaths of all those Vietnamese civilians, carried out by dozens of men at the behest of higher command, could be the fault of just one junior officer.

After I wrote an article about it and several other whitewashes in the timeline, the Pentagon made changes to each of them. The new My Lai synopsis was expanded by one sentence and now says U.S. troops killed “up to five hundred civilians” ? an improvement undermined by a final sentence that is factual but disingenuous: “Calley would be convicted of war crimes and sentenced to life in prison.” Left unmentioned was the fact that President Richard Nixon freed Calley from prison, and although convicted of murdering 22 civilians, Calley served just 40 months of his sentence, most of it under house arrest. Worse yet, the Pentagon still refused to use the word that always follows My Lai: massacre.

Throughout the rest of the timeline, the Pentagon remains largely silent on how almost all of the estimated 1,999,500 other Vietnamese civilians were killed. And out of more than 1,700 commemoration events across the country, none appears devoted to anything like the soul-searching that has accompanied The Look of Silence.

The Indonesian murderers of 1965 may still walk free and hold great power in the country, and officials may not have facilitated the making of Oppenheimer’s documentary, but two government agencies ? the National Commission on Human Rights and the Jakarta Arts Council ? hosted The Look of Silence’s premier last November, and the film was screened almost 1,000 times in 116 cities across the archipelago nation, leading to much public debate and press coverage.

The situation has been very different in the United States. The man who set my heart pounding had confessed to murder in Vietnam when interviewed by Army criminal investigators in the early 1970s. Members of his unit were found to have massacred 19 women and children. Neither he nor any of the men responsible for those crimes were ever prosecuted, let alone punished. When the massacre became front-page news in the Los Angeles Times in the mid-2000s, the government took no action and there was no outcry among most Americans.

Just as in Indonesia, these aging murderers live among us. And with a culture of impunity akin to Indonesia’s, they’ve been joined by a new cohort of killers and torturers from more recent U.S. wars who received slaps on their wrists or no punishment at all for similarly heinous crimes.

Oppenheimer has done a great service in shining a light on Indonesia’s unrepentant, unprosecuted killers and created a sophisticated and elegant piece of art in the process. His crisp, clean filmmaking is so refined that it looks effortless ? a visually stunning, emotionally harrowing, and completely unflinching effort that transcends the Indonesian context and stands worthy of taking him from Oscar nominee to Oscar winner.

His directorial skills shine brightest when his camera is off the killers and trained on survivors. With great subtlety, he shows how pain ripples through time, warping and disfiguring lives decades after the initial trauma. Words from Adi’s dignified, silver-haired mother almost smother her son. He was, she tells him, very much a replacement for Ramli, the brother who died before Adi was born. His birth may have saved her life, but it left Adi shackled in all sorts of ways, finally leading him on a quest to confront the men responsible for his brother’s death.

While he was born after the bloodshed, Adi is marked by it ? you can read it in his face, in his put-upon posture. His tiny, sweet-faced mother is marked, too ? she prays for vengeance, for violence to cascade down the generations onto the children and grandchildren of her son’s killers. And Adi’s wife is gripped by fear that her husband’s quest will lead him to literally follow in his brother’s footsteps, a bloody end at the hands of the same men. She asks if he considered what that would mean for her and their children ? leading to yet another long, devastating silence.

Maybe it’s time for an Indonesian filmmaker to shock the conscience of the United States, amplifying the silences surrounding our atrocities, shining a similar light on crimes that Americans are unwilling to face. Let’s hope she produces a film half as arresting, powerful and poignant as The Look of Silence.

Nick Turse is the author of “Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam.” His latest book is “Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa.”


Israel Locks Community of 6,000 Behind Steel Gate

by Jesse Rubin
The Electronic Intifada

For the past few weeks, the 6,000 people of al-Zaim have been locked behind a steel gate that forms part of Israel’s massive wall in the occupied West Bank.

Because the gate is only open for a few hours each afternoon, local children have to pass through a different exit than they normally would to attend school in nearby Jerusalem. A journey that should be no longer than 15 minutes can now take an hour.

Ashraf, one of al-Zaim’s residents, has to take time off from work to drive his six-year-old son. The boy had previously traveled to and from school by bus. But the gate’s closure means he would have to cross a busy highway if Ashraf did not drive him. “It is not safe at all,” said Ashraf.

The Israeli authorities have closed the gate since the evening of 24 April. The closure followed Israel’s killing of 17-year-old Ali Muhammad Abu Ghannam at a military checkpoint beside the entrance to al-Zaim.

The blockade has disrupted life in this community.

Cars wishing to enter al-Zaim must continue past a checkpoint on Highway 1 toward the Dead Sea. Then they have to look for the next exit for the Israeli settlement Maale Adumim, make a U-turn and head back toward Jerusalem again.

“Out of our control”
“I am losing this time from my life,” said Ashraf. “This is not a dangerous neighborhood, people here don’t make problems, they don’t throw stones. I want my son to get to and from school safely.”

Because public buses are no longer running into al-Zaim, businesses are also strained. The Atallah Wedding Hall has received cancellations for events booked three months in advance. Carwashes sit empty and one auto shop owner is considering closing for good. “I had to tell my workers to go home, there is nothing to do because no one will come here anymore,” he said.

The al-Zaim local council, headed by Naeem Sob Laban, has organized demonstrations at the gate each Friday since it was closed. Council members have held placards reading “We want to live free” and “This is a village, not a prison.”

At the most recent Friday demonstration on 15 May, children from al-Zaim stood at the front of a crowd of approximately 60. The protest was peaceful and closed with afternoon prayers.

When asked if he is hopeful at the prospect of opening the gate, Sob Laban said, “it’s possible if you ask for it.”

Approximately 95 percent of al-Zaim residents have identity cards issued by the Israeli authorities that allow ID holders to travel to Jerusalem without obtaining permits.

This means that the people of al-Zaim have tended to have greater access to Jerusalem than those of some other Palestinian communities near the wall. Locals fear, however, that there could be long-term effects on their access.

On 10 May Israeli authorities called residents in al-Zaim, threatening to confiscate the blue Jerusalem ID cards of anyone who participates in the demonstrations. Al-Zaim’s local council has complained to the Israeli authorities.

According to Hamood, a local resident, the situation will probably worsen. “It is like an earthquake coming,” he said.

“We are living under a curfew, we are living in a big prison,” he added. “People here are scared to be happy, they are scared get their hopes up, because tomorrow can always be bad, and it’s out of our control.”


The Pathology of the Rich White Family

by Chris Hedges

The pathology of the rich white family is the most dangerous pathology in America. The rich white family is cursed with too much money and privilege. It is devoid of empathy, the result of lifetimes of entitlement. It has little sense of loyalty and lacks the capacity for self-sacrifice. Its definition of friendship is reduced to “What can you do for me?” It is possessed by an insatiable lust to increase its fortunes and power. It believes that wealth and privilege confer to it a superior intelligence and virtue. It is infused with an unchecked hedonism and narcissism. And because of all this, it interprets reality through a lens of self-adulation and greed that renders it delusional. The rich white family is a menace. The pathologies of the poor, when set against the pathologies of rich white people, are like a candle set beside the sun.

There are no shortages of acolytes and propagandists for rich white families. They dominate our airwaves. They blame poverty, societal breakdown, urban violence, drug use, domestic abuse and crime on the pathology of poor black families--not that they know any. They argue that poor black families disintegrate because of some inherent defect--here you can read between the lines that white people are better than black people--a defect that these poor families need to fix.

Peddle this simplistic and racist garbage and you will be given a column at The New York Times. It always pays to suck up to rich white families. If you are black and parrot this line, rich white people are overcome with joy. They go to extreme lengths to give you a platform. You can become president or a Supreme Court justice. You can get a television talk show or tenure at a university. You can get money for your foundation. You can publish self-help books. Your films will be funded. You might even be hired to run a company.

Rich white families, their sycophants opine, have tried to help. Rich white families have given poor people numerous resources and government programs to lift them out of poverty. They have provided generous charity. But blacks, they say, along with other poor people of color, are defeated by self-destructive attitudes and behavior. Government programs are therefore wasted on these irresponsible people. Poor families, the sycophants tell us, will not be redeemed until they redeem themselves. We want to help, rich white people say, but poor black people need to pull up their pants, stay in school, get an education, find a job, say no to drugs and respect authority. If they don’t, they deserve what they get. And what the average black family ends up with in economic terms is a nickel for every dollar held by the average white family.

Starting at age 10 as a scholarship student at an elite New England boarding school, I was forced to make a study of the pathology of rich white families. It was not an experience I would recommend. Years later, by choice, I moved to Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood when I was a seminary student. I lived across the street from one of the poorest housing projects in the city, and I ran a small church in the inner city for nearly three years. I already had a deep distaste for rich white families, and that increased greatly after I saw what they did to the disenfranchised. Rich white people, I concluded after my childhood and Roxbury experiences, are sociopaths.

The misery and collapse of community and family in Roxbury were not caused by an inherent pathology within the black family. Rich people who treated the poor like human refuse caused the problems. Layers of institutionalized racism--the courts, the schools, the police, the probation officers, the banks, the easy access to drugs, the endemic unemployment and underemployment, the collapsing infrastructures and the prison system--effectively conspired to make sure the poor remained poor. Drug use, crime and disintegrating families are the result of poverty, not race. Poor whites replicate this behavior. Take away opportunity, infuse lives with despair and hopelessness, and this is what you get. But that is something rich white families do not want people to know. If it were known, the rich would have to take the blame.

Michael Kraus, Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner, social scientists at the University of California, did research that led them to conclude that the poor have more empathy than the rich. The poor, they argued, do not have the ability to dominate their environments. They must build relationships with others to survive. This requires that they be able to read the emotions of those around them and respond. It demands that they look after each other. And this makes them more empathetic. The rich, who can control their environments, do not need to bother with the concerns or emotions of others. They are in charge. What they want gets done. And the longer they live at the center of their own universe, the more callous, insensitive and cruel they become.

The rich white family has an unrivaled aptitude for crime. Members of rich white families run corporations into the ground (think Lehman Brothers), defraud stockholders and investors, sell toxic mortgages as gold-plated investments to pension funds, communities and schools, and then loot the U.S. Treasury when the whole thing implodes. They steal hundreds of millions of dollars on Wall Street through fraud and theft, pay little or no taxes, almost never go to jail, write laws and regulations that legalize their crimes and then are asked to become trustees at elite universities and sit on corporate boards. They set up foundations and are admired as philanthropists. And if they get into legal trouble, they have high-priced lawyers and connections among the political elites to get them out.

You have to hand it to rich white families. They steal with greater finesse than anyone else. If you are a poor black teenager and sprint out of a CVS with a few looted bottles of shampoo, you are likely to be shot in the back or sent to jail for years. If there were an Olympiad for crime, rich white families would sweep up all the medals; blacks would be lucky to come within a mile of the first elimination trial. I don’t know why black people even try to compete in this area. They are, by comparison, utter failures as criminals. The monarchs of crime are rich white people, who wallow in their pilfered wealth while locking away in prisons a huge percentage of poor men of color.

Rich white families are also the most efficient killers on the planet. This has been true for five centuries, starting with the conquest of the Americas and the genocide against Native Americans, and continuing through today’s wars in the Middle East. Rich white families themselves don’t actually kill. They are not about to risk their necks on city streets or in Iraq. They hire people, often poor, to kill for them. Rich white families wanted the petroleum of Iraq and, by waving the flag and spewing patriotic slogans, got a lot of poor kids to join the military and take the oil fields for them. Rich white people wanted endless war for the benefit of their arms industry and got it by calling for a war on terror. Rich white people wanted police to use lethal force against the poor with impunity and to arrest them, swelling U.S. prisons with 25 percent of the world’s prison population, so they set up a system of drug laws and militarized police departments to make it happen.

The beauty of making others kill on your behalf is you get to appear “reasonable” and “nice.” You get to chastise poor people and Muslims for being angry fanatics. You get to spread the message of tolerance with a cherubic smile--which means tolerating the crimes and violence of rich white people. Compare a drive-by shooting in Watts with the saturation bombing of Vietnam. Compare a gangland killing in Chicago with militarized police shooting a person of color almost every day. No one else knows how to churn out corpses like rich white people. One million dead in Iraq alone. And the rich and powerful kill staggering numbers of people and never go to prison. They can retire to a ranch in Crawford, Texas, and paint amateurish portraits of world leaders copied from Google Image Search.

There is no decadence like the decadence of rich white people. I knew a billionaire who in retirement spent his time on a yacht smoking weed and being catered to by a string of high-priced prostitutes. The children of rich white families--surrounded by servants and coddled in private schools, never having to fly on commercial airlines or take public transportation--develop a lassitude, sometimes accompanied by a drug habit, that often leads them to idle away their lives as social parasites. Mothers never have to be mothers. Fathers never have to be fathers. The help does the parenting. The rich live encased in little kingdoms, one guarded by their own private security, where the real world does not intrude. They are cultural philistines preoccupied with acquiring more wealth and more possessions. “Material success,” as C. Wright Mills wrote, “is their sole basis of authority.” They meld into the world of celebrity. And the organs of mass media, which they control, turn them into idols to be worshiped solely because they are rich. Public-relations specialists manufacture their public personas. Teams of lawyers harass and silence their critics. Acolytes affirm their sagacity. They soon believe their own fiction.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1965 wrote what is known as the Moynihan Report, or “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” The report concluded that “at the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family.” The oppressed were to blame for their oppression. Social programs alone could not save the poor. The report offers a classic example of a neoliberal economic model repacked as an ideology.

The pathologies of the rich will soon drive us over an economic and ecological cliff. And as we go down, the rich, lacking empathy and understanding, determined to maintain their privilege and their wealth, will use their Praetorian Guard, their mass media, their corporate power, their political puppets and their security and surveillance apparatus to keep us submissive. “The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been discovered, because it was properly executed,” Honore de Balzac wrote of the rich in his novel “Le Pere Goriot.”

The rich executed a coup d’etat that transformed the three branches of the U.S. government and nearly all institutions, including the mass media, into wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. This coup gives the rich the license and the power to amass unimaginable wealth at our expense. It permits the rich to inflict grinding poverty on growing circles of the population. Poverty is the worst of crimes--as George Bernard Shaw wrote, “all the other crimes are virtues beside it.” And the ability of a rapacious power elite to let children go hungry, to let men and women suffer a loss of dignity and self-worth because there are no jobs, to abandon cities to decay and squalor, to toss the mentally ill and the homeless onto the streets, to slash the meager services that give some hope and succor to those who suffer, to lock hundreds of thousands of poor people in cages for years, to wage endless war, to burden students with crushing debt, to unleash state terror and to extinguish hope among the least fortunate exposes our wealthy oligarchs as the most dangerous and destructive force in America.


Four Corners' Fishbowl Journalism Does More Damage To Aboriginal People

by Amy McQuire

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Particularly when it comes to responsible reporting of Aboriginal poverty. Amy McQuire explains.

Last night Four Corners pointed its lens into a few Aboriginal communities in Western Australia and produced a beautiful piece of promotion for the WA government and its plans for a catastrophic assault on Aboriginal homelands.

Every year, there seems to be a new story on Aboriginal poverty. But it’s more than just ‘poverty porn’. This is called ‘Fishbowl Journalism’, where the Australian media arrive to film devastating pictures of the Aboriginal problem one month, feel outraged and dismayed and shocked by it, and then a couple of months later do basically the same story from another remote corner of the country.

Then, a year later, they do it again, effectively swimming in circles, drunk on their own reflection, viewing Aboriginal Australia through the distorted view of their own privileged fishbowl.

Last night’s Four Corners was a good example of it, complete with the usual images of poverty within Aboriginal communities, of allegations of domestic violence, child sexual abuse and alcoholism, voiced predominately through the concerns of non-Aboriginal people with power.

Four Corners even went down and filmed Aboriginal people living in the parks and streets of Broome, struggling with alcohol abuse. One has to argue about the ethics of that.

Four Corners’ intention was to provide an “unflinching portrait” of WA Aboriginal communities in order to find out if the WA government’s plans to stop funding services to up to 150 remote communities is justified.

The plans were announced following an agreement signed between the state and federal governments, offloading the Commonwealth responsibility to fund essential and municipal services in remote Australia onto the shoulders of the Barnett government.

It sparked anger around the country after Prime Minister Tony Abbott backed Barnett, saying taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to fund the “lifestyle choices” of Aboriginal people who choose to live remotely. The plans have been the subject of protests which drew tens of thousands of people around the country, but which were largely ignored by mainstream media.

Four Corners promised to confront the “uncomfortable truth” about these communities. But instead it presented a distorted one. What is more uncomfortable for journalists is taking the time to untangle the complicated history within Aboriginal affairs, to look at the enormous level of government neglect and disempowerment, and examine how that has led to the sad situation facing many Aboriginal people in remote Australia today.

It is easier to take the soundbites of people like non-Indigenous lawyer John Hammond, who claimed that remote communities are a “disgrace”, of the state Indigenous affairs minister Peter Collier who regurgitated the same tired government lines about “sustainability” while facing no challenge from the journalist, the WA Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan in a state which jails the highest number of Aboriginal people per population, and a representative of the Broome Chamber of Commerce, who doesn’t believe in alcohol restrictions for the town because tourists don’t want to be told what they shouldn’t drink… “It’s not the Australian way”.

Interspersed with these interviews are comments from Aboriginal people, who largely talk about their own experiences, but are not given the opportunity or the time to outline their own solutions, unless they are talking about Aboriginal people taking more responsibility for their poverty and deflecting blame away from government.

The program probed the community of Oombulgurri, which was bulldozed in 2011 after the state evicted the last remaining residents following cases of child sexual abuse.

The government could do this because while the local Balanggarra people won native title following a 20-year fight in 2013, it did not include the Oombulgurri community. That land instead remained in the WA government’s Aboriginal Lands Trust.

After the eviction, the community lost their ability to practice their culture. They own a barge which transported them across the Forrest River, which was seized by the government and now prevents many Traditional Owners from going back to country to exercise the native title rights they spent 20 years fighting for.

The residents’ white goods and other items were seized. People were forced into the nearby town of Wyndham, where many slid into homelessness among a reported increase in suicides.

The ongoing trauma was documented by Amnesty International’s Tammy Solenec who understands that while it is important to try and deal with the problems afflicting remote Australia, further disempowerment will only traumatise an already traumatised people.

The Barnett government’s 11th hour justification to close the communities - that they are havens of domestic violence and child abuse while failing to present evidence - is given little scrutiny in the Four Corners piece. It’s reminiscent of the media complicity that helped the Howard government pave the way for the NT intervention.

That policy is still the greatest Aboriginal rights abuse in recent times, and was supported by months of reporting on child sexual abuse lead by the ABC’s Lateline program, which broadcast lies about a predatory paedophile in the Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu. The community had actually kicked out the man months before, but was nevertheless placed under administration.

Lateline’s reporting lead to a moral panic from white Australia, the majority of whom have no contact with Aboriginal people and are used to viewing them as the “other”. The ensuing media coverage slandered the majority of Aboriginal men with the lie that they are all child abusers, painted Aboriginal communities as protectors of paedophiles, and as a people who do not care about the safety of their children.

The media uncritically accepted the lies put forth by then Indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough that there were “paedophile rings” in every community, a claim that was obviously false, and later proved to be.

What was left out was the fact that for years the NT and Commonwealth governments had underfunded and underspent on communities in the Northern Territory, and that this systematic neglect - for example overcrowding and poor housing - had a direct impact on rates of child abuse.

The NT intervention led to a deep sense of disempowerment across the prescribed communities, and attempted suicide and self-harm rates more than quadrupled. When the ability to control your own life is taken out of your hands, it is very hard to see a future.

The role of trauma, and the ongoing negative effects of intergenerational trauma in Aboriginal communities is not going to be solved by closing down communities, nor by taking power away again from the hands of Aboriginal people. That’s what Four Corners did last night, by prioritising the views of non-Aboriginal people and acting as if they are guardians of the solution, it again pushed Aboriginal people to the periphery.

It also let government off the hook for their failure, and it’s failures that will only continue to re-traumatise, and compound the problem.

The only time the journalist put any heat on an interviewee was when she chastised the chair of the local Oombulgurri council for not doing enough to stop child abuse in the town.

And the ending comments again deflected blame back onto the shoulders of Aboriginal people, by repeating the lie that they are not taking responsibility for their own lives.

The journalist ended the piece by opining, “The challenges for remote communities won’t be solved simply by mass closures, nor can they be solved entirely by governments. Some believe it’s time for Aboriginal people to step up.”

The piece then quotes Susan Murphy, CEO of the Winun Ngari Aboriginal Corporation who says, “As an Aboriginal woman I’m of the opinion we can’t keep giving them handouts. That at the end of the day there are some of us out there saying enough is enough, we have to start being responsible for our own actions and decisions… we have to start showing governments… that we can do it.”

The problem is, Aboriginal communities have been waiting for 200 years for government to step up.

And when Aboriginal people do step up and want to have a say in their own future, they are told their solutions are worthless, and then they’re ignored.

An example is the dismantling of the two successful ATSIC programs - Aboriginal devised and run. One is the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP), which provided a form of employment to Aboriginal people in remote areas where there were no jobs. The other is the Community Housing and Infrastructure Program (CHIP), which helped provide finance for infrastructure in remote communities.

As Aboriginal academic Larissa Behrendt has noted: “The psychological impact of withdrawing from these successful programmes has been undeniably negative. It’s only one dynamic among many, but the government’s own data shows escalating levels of unemployment and welfare dependence and continually low school attendance; self-harm and suicide rates have doubled since 2007.”

You don’t see any of this context in this piece of “fishbowl journalism” purporting to be Australia’s premier investigative news program.

While it was a great “investigation” for the Barnett government, it was less so for Aboriginal people, who have a right to live on their country, and determine a future free of another paternalistic, racist government intervention.

Bob Randall: "Brown Skin Baby (They Took Me Away)"

Time to Celebrate Real Heroes, Like the One Just Lost

by John Pilger

If you want to meet the best Australians, meet Indigenous men and women who understand this extraordinary country and have fought for the rights of the world's oldest culture. Theirs is a struggle more selfless, heroic and enduring than any historical adventure non-Indigenous Australians are required incessantly to celebrate.

I know this to be true, because I have been reporting from and filming in Indigenous communities for most of my life. In 1984, I met one of the best Australians, Kwementyaye Randall.

Kwementyaye Randall was, like so many others, stolen from his mother. He was seven when he was taken, and he never saw his mother again. Indeed, he felt the full force of Australian colonial brutality and duplicity most of his life; but he fought it and rose above it, and he never faltered in confronting the injustice imposed on Indigenous people. I mourn the passing of this old friend, a real hero in a nation that has yet to find the moral sense to honour those who courageously stand against oppression within Australia.

When I interviewed Kwementyaye for my film, Utopia, in 2012, in Mutitjulu in the shadow of Uluru, he was white haired and a distinguished elder, but he still had the twinkle of the rebel in his eyes. His ballad "My Brown Skin Baby, They Take 'Im Away," is one of the most moving political songs of our time. He sang it for me when we first met and I can still feel my thrilling response. Yes, it was a sad song; it was also angry and it said there would be a fight until there was justice.

Sitting in the shade outside his house more than 30 years later, he spoke eloquently about the love and respect for this land that he and Indigenous people felt. He was an educator and natural leader who taught people to reclaim the cultural identity that is Australia's singular uniqueness.

But mostly,Kwementyaye Randall was still angry and hurt. He described vividly how the Australian army had invaded his community in 2007 - "they pitched their tents right over there, without asking: can you believe it: the Australian army. We were being invaded."

He was referring to the so-called "intervention" when Prime Minister John Howard sent the army into dozens of communities in the Northern Territory on the basis of a big lie that Indigenous "paedophile gangs" were abusing children in "unthinkable numbers".  Subsequently, the Australian Crime Commission, the Northern Territory Police and the leading body of Central Australian child medical specialists investigated these allegations and found no evidence to support them.

The words "unthinkable numbers" were used by Howard's minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, on Tony Jones's ABC Lateline programme. This was an historic slur on Indigenous Australia, and it led to untold suffering throughout the Northern Territory - as community after community was humiliated and terrorised by a form of bureaucratic malice. Self-harm and suicides quadrupled, according to the government's own monitoring body; people fell into what the report called "widespread despair".

The media played a crucial role in this, notably Lateline, which broadcast an interview with a disguised witness the program called a "youth worker". In fact, he was a senior official in the Department of Indigenous Affairs who reported directly to Brough. His lurid allegations were discredited, yet the ABC never apologised - instead, it conducted an enquiry that wondrously cleared itself. I asked both Tony Jones and reporter Suzanne Smith to account for themselves on camera - as they demand of others - but they failed even to respond. Even an ABC functionary refused to be interviewed.

One of the victims of Lateline was Kwementyaye Randall. The program ambushed him in Melbourne and broadcast the impression that he and other elders in Mutitjulu had failed in their duty of care to their community. It is difficult to describe the degree of hurt this caused - in Kwementyaye, in other elders, in the whole community and right across Indigenous Australia. It was this failure to apologise, to right a wrong, that devastated one of the best Australians.

On the eve of Kwementyaye Randall's death, the ABC's Four Corners broadcast more of the same - this time patronising distortions about communities in Western Australia that the redneck Premier Colin Barnett intends to close down, thus contravening at least three statutes of international law. Amy McQuire demolished this wretched program in New Matilda and I urge you to read her piece - https://newmatilda.com/2015/05/12/four-corners-fishbowl-journalism-does-more-damage-aboriginal-people

I last saw Kwementyaye Randall in January last year, in pride of place among other elders who came from all over Australia to join the 4,000-plus crowd in The Block in Redfern, to watch the premiere of 'Utopia'. We stood arm-in-arm with Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, another Australian hero. Both were delighted by the huge non-Indigenous crowd and its source of hope.

But hope is not enough. Kwementyaye Randall felt deeply that until non-indigenous Australia told the truth about its own rapacious past and stopped covering this with relentless, duplicitous dispossession of Indigenous Australians, along with collusive, craven smears in the media, there would be no justice in this country.

In my film, Utopia, there is a sequence just before the end credits, over which play the haunting words of Glenn Scuthorpe's ballad, "No More Whispering". As Glenn sings the words, "The smile that won't be forgotten; can you never fade away?" there is a fine image of Kwementyaye Randall, whose memory shall never fade away.


Migration Is an Act of Desperation, Not a Crime

By Sonali Kolhatkar

A father from Ivory Coast wanted to reunite his son with the rest of his family living in Spain. But the Spanish government denied him a family reunification visa. Desperate, he paid a Moroccan woman to smuggle his 8-year-old onto Spanish soil. On May 7, 2015, she attempted to do so by placing the boy, tightly folded into a fetal position, inside a carry-on suitcase and traveling to Spain. When airport authorities noticed she was nervous, they X-rayed her bag and were shocked to find the child.

Imagine the boy’s ordeal.

Imagine the father’s desperation.

It is situations like these, multiplied by the millions, that are playing out all over the world, in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and elsewhere. Driven by war and poverty, millions of people are on the move, risking their lives to escape desperate circumstances. Unfortunately, the response from elites is to trap them, by putting them in jail or criminalizing traffickers and militarizing sea routes.

The Norwegian Refugee Council and Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre released a report in early May revealing that there were 38 million internally displaced people last year alone, nearly 5 million more than the year before. The record-breaking number includes 11 million refugees who were newly displaced and clustered in the Middle East and Africa, including Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Council Secretary-General Jan Egeland said, “These are the worst figures for forced displacement in a generation, signaling our complete failure to protect innocent civilians.”

The number of people living outside their home countries is even higher. In 2013, the latest year for which statistics are available, the United Nations found that 232 million people are migrants or refugees, or, in effect, “externally displaced” people.

In the case of the boy smuggled into Spain in a suitcase, authorities simply arrested the father and placed the boy in protective custody, dashing any hopes for reunifying their family. This is a typical response. Instead of exploring what drives the desperation of migrants, authorities lock them up or threaten them with force.

Each week there is news of migrants stranded at sea, dying in large numbers, or locked up in prisons. In recent days, about 2,000 migrants were found off the shores of Indonesia and Malaysia, hailing from Bangladesh and the Rohingya community in Myanmar. They were rescued from several boats. The Rohingya are a community of Muslims from the northern region of Myanmar called Rakhine. They have been persecuted to such an extent that many consider them the victims of attempted genocide. The migrants had apparently been stranded by traffickers and told to swim ashore. In interviews, they said they had been at sea for two months and were extremely hungry and weak. They were headed to Malaysia and Thailand to find work. Thailand has been rocked by the recent discovery of mass graves of migrants, and in fact has been cracking down on immigration over the past several years.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, about 25,000 Bangladeshis and Rohingya from Myanmar attempted to migrate by sea during the first three months of 2015, twice the number from last year. Very little coverage of the persecution of Rohingya people in particular makes it into the U.S. media. President Obama lauded Myanmar as a “success story” during his visit there last year, effectively dismissing concerns over Rohingya persecution.

Not far from Indonesia, Australia offers a particularly macabre example of how migrants are locked up for trying to find a better life. Earlier this year, imprisoned asylum seekers took drastic steps, sewing their lips shut to draw attention to the physical and sexual abuse they face. According to one news report, the Australian government houses migrants in locked facilities on islands like Papua New Guinea, Nauru and Manus “to remove the financial incentive for people smugglers, in the process saving hundreds of lives that might otherwise have been lost at sea in rickety boats.” Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s idea of saving people is apparently to lock them up in abusive conditions. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, singled out Australia for its torture and abuse of children asylum seekers in particular, to which Abbott responded that he was “sick of being lectured to.”

Binoy Kampmark, a senior lecturer at the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, said in an interview on “Uprising” that many of the refugees tend to come “from war zones that also had Australian involvement, namely Afghanistan and Iraq.” The response of the government, said Kampmark, “has been very hard-line” in imprisoning refugees in what he calls a “crude gulag archipelago.”

The situation in the U.S. is only marginally better. Even though there are now fewer deaths on the U.S.-Mexico border than before, the Obama administration has revived the cruel Bush-era practice of locking women and babies up as a “deterrent” to immigration, as I detailed in a previous column. With millions of undocumented immigrants living in the shadows, hundreds of thousands deported each year, and no prospect of a viable congressional solution to the crisis, people’s lives remain in limbo. A right-wing narrative that exhorts undocumented immigrants to simply “go to the back of the line” to legally immigrate ignores the reality that there is no line at all.

Except if you’re extremely wealthy. Foreign investors who pour half a million dollars into a business in the U.S. that they claim creates at least 10 jobs can simply buy their way into the immigration system through a special visa called the EB-5.

Nowhere has the refugee and migration crisis been as dramatic in recent months as in Europe. Since the start of the year, thousands of migrants have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea into European nations like Italy. Migrants from Mali, Eritrea, Syria and Libya are packed onto flimsy boats, risking their lives to escape the brutal war in Syria and the violence and chaos of a post-U.S.-NATO invasion in Libya.

Italy, which is often the first place migrants arrive, ended its yearlong, highly successful search and rescue operation in 2014, after most European governments refused to provide funding. The Mare Nostrum program saved 130,000 lives before being replaced by a program with a third of the funding. But as Behzad Yaghmaian, a professor of political economy at Ramapo College of New Jersey, told me, the European view is that “rescue and save programs are actually a pull factor. They encourage more migration and more death.” The flip side is that allowing migrants to die at sea is what Europe considers an effective deterrent, rather like Australia’s imprisonment of asylum seekers.

In recent weeks, internationally shamed by the humanitarian catastrophe, representatives of dozens of European Union nations met to discuss alternatives to mass death as deterrent. Unbelievably, instead of creating orderly and safe pathways for immigration and naturalization, Europe’s bright idea is to militarily target areas in Libya where boatloads of migrants launch. By criminalizing traffickers and militarizing sea routes, leaders are adopting the false narrative that the tens of thousands of Libyans, Syrians and other migrants are forced onto boats at gunpoint and dumped onto European seas and soil against their will. They are, in effect, trapping desperate people. It seems as though if the deaths are out of European sight, they are wiped clean from European consciences.

Imagine if, upon discovering the routes of the Underground Railroad during the era of U.S. slavery, people of conscience militarily attacked the escape routes instead of creating a safe haven for escaped slaves.

I have been an immigrant all my life. My parents left behind lives of grinding poverty in India before I was born and migrated to the Persian Gulf region like millions of South Asians have done, looking for a better life. As a teenager, I left the United Arab Emirates, heading to the United States for higher education, searching for an escape from the confines of a totalitarian and consumerist state.

Poverty, war, violence and repression are all too common for millions of people the world over, thanks in large part to the neoliberal economic wars and neocolonial military wars of the U.S. and Europe. Even though my family and I were among the lucky migrants who managed to survive displacement, I can relate to the desperate circumstances that drive the migration of those who have few options left to live a decent life. If our response to the human yearning for escape is to add to repression and violence, then we are very much part of the problem.


Mumia’s Life Matters

by Sonali Kolhatkar

I first heard the deep and haunting voice of Mumia Abu-Jamal more than 10 years ago, as he offered cutting analysis of the political issues of the day through his brilliant commentary. The fact that an African-American man convicted of killing a police officer and waiting to be executed was continuing his journalistic work from behind bars, and doing it so powerfully, was profound. I soon learned that he was a political prisoner on death row who had been convicted in a faulty trial of murdering a police officer. I also discovered an entire movement dedicated to freeing him.

Today, despite a successful effort in 2012 to commute his death sentence to life in prison, Abu-Jamal seems to be prematurely dying. A sudden onset of life-threatening diabetes and an inexplicable and dire skin condition have left him weakened, shaking and a shell of the man he once was. His supporters and family are convinced that having failed to officially execute him, the state of Pennsylvania is simply letting him die through medical neglect.

That may sound far-fetched?until one examines the shocking lengths to which authorities have gone over several decades to kill and silence Abu-Jamal. The earliest evidence can be found in the words of Judge Albert Sabo, who presided over Abu-Jamal’s trial in the early 1980s and was overheard by a court stenographer saying that he would “help ’em fry the ni**er.” That set the tone for a trial that by many accounts was deeply flawed and intent on delivering a death sentence.

For decades legal battles ensued during which the notorious Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) did everything it could to intimidate supporters and even news outlets from fairly reporting on his case. Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting lambasted NPR for caving in to political pressure from the FOP and for reneging on an agreement to air Abu-Jamal’s comments.

In its latest apparent attempt to silence him, Pennsylvania passed a bizarre law last year aimed specifically at Abu-Jamal called the Revictimization Relief Act, which claimed that victims of violence relived their mental anguish if the convicted perpetrator of the violence was able to speak in public. Abu-Jamal had just recorded a commencement address for his alma mater, Goddard College. He and others challenged the law and won a victory in late April when a judge rightly ruled it was unconstitutional.

So it should come as no surprise if it appears that Pennsylvania prison authorities might be deliberately dragging their feet in addressing the medical needs of their most controversial prisoner. In response, a coalition of supporters has mobilized to “Rise for Mumia.” In addition to raising thousands of dollars for his medical care, filmmaker Stephen Vittoria, director and producer of “Mumia: Long-Distance Revolutionary,” created a short video that I was humbled to host, in order to generate as much support for Abu-Jamal as possible.

It appears that the campaign may be working. Just this week news emerged that medical staff at the Pennsylvania Corrections Center informed Abu-Jamal that they would proceed with the first of several diagnostic tests recommended by his doctor, and that a skin biopsy was also approved. But concerns about testing delays and inadequate medical care remain.

Given the current political context, Abu-Jamal’s situation is more relevant than ever. Viewed through the lens of the Black Lives Matter movement, his case exemplifies the trajectory of mistreatment of African-Americans at the hands of police, and the miscarriage of justice that so many black men have suffered. In fact, he is a living, breathing reminder that black people have been screwed by police violence and the criminal justice system for decades.

In his January 1982 essay, “Christmas in a Cage,” to be published in his forthcoming book “Writing on the Wall,” Abu-Jamal describes the brutality he faced during his arrest:

"Nowhere have I read an account of how I got shot, how a bullet happened to find its way near my spine, shattering a rib, splitting a kidney and nearly destroying my diaphragm. And people wonder why I have no trust in a “fair trial.” Nowhere have I read that a bullet left a hole in my lung, filling it with blood.

"Nowhere have I read how police found me lying in a pool of my blood, unable to breathe, and then proceeded to punch, kick and stomp me?not question me. I remember being rammed into a pole or a fireplug with police at both arms. I remember kicks to my head, my face, my chest, my belly, my back and other places. But I have read no press accounts of this, and have heard tell of no witnesses.

"Nowhere have I read of how I was handcuffed, thrown into a paddy wagon and beaten, kicked, punched and pummeled. Where are the witnesses to a police captain or inspector entering the wagon and beating me with a police radio, all the while addressing me as a “Black motherfucker”? Where are the witnesses to the beating that left me with a four-inch scar on my forehead? A swollen jaw? Chipped teeth?"

Similar scenarios have surely occurred countless times in encounters between police and African-Americans in the United States. For men like Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and Walter Scott, and for children like Tamir Rice (to name just a tiny fraction), they ended in death.

What has set Abu-Jamal apart from most prisoners and journalists is the sharp analysis of law enforcement he had constructed even prior to his arrest. A former Black Panther, Abu-Jamal was also an accomplished journalist. He won the prestigious Major Armstrong Award from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism for his coverage of police brutality in the black community. After his arrest he effectively employed his masterful expression to eloquently shame the power structure that had trapped him.

Over the years he has filed thousands of commentaries, perfecting his art in the best medium available to him: essays of two to three minutes each delivered verbally by phone and distributed worldwide. He has brilliantly analyzed domestic policies (for example, during the Occupy Wall Street movement he provided critical historical analysis to social movements) and also connected those policies to U.S. foreign policy (in the midst of the Iraq war, he made crucial comparisons between the conditions at Abu Ghraib prison and the prison system in the U.S.).

More than a decade ago, I passed out leaflets with a group of Abu-Jamal’s supporters outside the historic Midnight Special bookstore on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade. During those somewhat naive early years of my activism, I was convinced that if only enough people knew about his case, they would rise up to demand his freedom and it would simply happen because enough of us wanted it. I marched on the streets of San Francisco alongside thousands of others chanting, “Brick by brick, wall by wall, we’re gonna free Mumia Abu-Jamal.”

Sadly, all these years later, leafletting and marching haven’t freed him. But they have lifted his spirit, as Abu-Jamal attests in his latest recording expressing gratitude for the campaign demanding medical care. In “Message to the Movement” he says, ” I am not back to where I was before, but I will be, thanks to you.”

We have imprisoned the body of one of the nation’s most important individuals for over three decades. But we have never imprisoned his mind. While the militancy and optimism of the movement may have faded, it remains imperative for myriad reasons that we demand freedom and health for Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Abu-Jamal’s supporters recommend making calls to the following officials and prison and asking for his freedom and his immediate access to his doctor: John Wetzel, PA Secretary of Corrections: (717) 728-4109; Gov. Tom Wolf: (717) 787-2500; SCI Mahanoy: (570) 773-2158.


Online, Black Writers Confront Racist Backlash

by Juan Thompson
The Intercept

“You’re just the fucking type of animal that is a niger [sic],” a spelling-challenged reader emailed University of Pennsylvania professor and writer Anthea Butler last year.

Butler responded by posting the email on a Tumblr she had set up to expose the racist hate mail she routinely received. She did the same with several racist messages she got from a white man who then contacted her university to demand the removal of his emails from her Tumblr, which is called The Things People Say. Butler described these emails to The Intercept as she was getting her hair done at a beauty shop, which warrants mention because a lot of the insults she receives are directed at her large gray Afro. “Could someone tell Anthea Butler that Don King wants his wig back?” wrote a person using the name Jeannie McBride.

Butler, an associate professor of religious studies, believes her detractors are trying to silence black writers who use new media platforms to express viewpoints that were not heard as much before the Web came along. “You get the hate and vitriol every time you talk about race or you say something that’s unpopular,” Butler said. “It’s a way to get people of color to shut up.”

In three decades, minoritized groups will constitute a majority of the U.S. population. This fact, coupled with the social movement born after the numerous police killings of unarmed black people, such as Michael Brown and Eric Garner, feeds into the anxiety of some white citizens. Historically, individual white rage toward black people was expressed in a variety of ways, many of them physically violent. In today’s digital age, the Internet has made it even easier for bigots to disseminate their hate.

The online racism directed toward Butler and other black writers is similar, in its scope and severity, to the online misogyny exposed by the Gamergate controversy last year. Many people were shocked to read about the torrent of misogynist hate directed at video game developer Zoe Quinn after a jilted ex-boyfriend falsely accused her, in a blog post, of having used sex to advance in the gaming community. The threats got so bad that Quinn eventually fled her home out of fear for her safety. While the episode’s intensity was extraordinary, the problem faced by Quinn was far from unique among women. Women are disproportionately victimized by cyberviolence, according to Amanda Hess, who recently wrote about her own experiences as a female writer; one demented Twitter user even threatened to rape and behead her because of something she had written.

Butler is just one of many black writers to face online threats and harassment.

Every morning, Brittney Cooper, a contributing writer at Salon and a professor at Rutgers University, checks her email, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and every morning, she can count on reading an array of racist insults. “‘Black cuntbag’ is a very recent one and not a particular configuration I had heard,” she said with a laugh. She has also been referred to as a savage, she-gorilla, bitch, and professor in quote marks ? a passive aggressive way of questioning her academic credentials. Cooper believes her critics ? who include a man who threatened to confront her on campus ? are a small yet feverish group that hate-follows her work, waiting for the opportunity to harass her.

“It’s scary,” she said. “They pass around my picture and inquire [for] details about my life.”

The blowback that black writers face can be emotionally taxing. Some of the writers interviewed for this story had a difficult time detailing specific examples of racists threats because they have become so frequent. The threats caused Cooper, for example, to momentarily reconsider her writing. “It does make you wonder,” she said, adding that she continues writing about racial issues because black writers “have to tell the truth even with threats. Because if we succumb … we’re never going to tell the really hard truths.”

Jelani Cobb, a contributor to The New Yorker, shares her sentiments.

“There’s racial retrenchment going on,” Cobb told me. “And we [black writers] are encountering a recalcitrant attitude on matters related to race.”

Cobb tries his best to ignore the malice aimed at him. “I don’t pay that much attention to it,” he said. “I try to keep it exiled to the periphery.” Praise and condemnation are equally dangerous for him. Praise, because it may cause a writer to lose his or her edge, and condemnation because anybody “can say things digitally … they get oxygen from responses.” Cobb, who is a history professor at the University of Connecticut, blocks people on Twitter who seek to debate him. “I realize there is no utility in having a Twitter argument [about American racism] with anybody,” he said.

While Twitter is a democratic space with obvious strengths ? for example, #blacktwitter ? it offers a peek into what Cobb described as the “boiling resentment and bigotry and unfiltered anger [that] is bubbling around out there in the world.” Guardian contributing writer Rebecca Carroll, noting the ease of online anonymity, calls Twitter “the KKK of social media ? because it’s practically custom-built for hooded racists.”

Carroll, who says the term she is called more often than any other is “black bitch,” has zero tolerance for Twitter racists: “It’s just cowardly. But there are moments when I feel emotionally exhausted. But as long as I feel I can change the dialogue about race, I’m going to do that.”

As a black journalist who also writes on the subject of race, the ugly emails, tweets and comments were inevitable for me too. Nigger, thug, jiggaboo, and the slightly inventive “Lincoln’s mistake,” were unsurprising. But one reader succeeded where his cohorts failed.

“The next time I’m in Brooklyn I want you to remember this joke,” a person emailed me in December. “What do apples and black people have in common? They both hang from trees.” This person had probably read my staff bio, which mentions that I reside in Brooklyn. I could not forget this email; lynching is easily one of the most nefarious legacies of American white supremacy. It is not something one can easily jettison.

In middle school, I hit a bigoted bully in the face with a lunch tray after being called an anorexic nigger, but following the lynching email all I could do was shudder. I shuddered at being reminded of the racist terrorism my great-grandpa told me about from his upbringing in apartheid Egypt, Mississippi. I shuddered at being reminded of Emmett Till’s disfigured face splashed on the pages of Jet magazine. And I shuddered at the gruesome image of Laura Nelson, a black woman hanged from an Oklahoma bridge alongside her son in 1911.

America finds itself in a peculiar racial moment right now. There is a black man in the White House, but racism continues to infect society. The Internet, despite its drawbacks, has allowed a group of black writers and journalists ? myself included ? to flourish. This digital space, like none before it, has allowed us to voice our criticisms of culture, politics and economics. But an important question must be asked: Is the barrage of bile directed at black writers the work of a small battalion of trolls and hate-mongers, or are these bigots writing what many white Americans wish to say?

Against the Internet’s white noise, Butler has no plans on backing down.

“Sometimes I double down,” she said.

Cooper evoked feminist icon Audre Lorde, who wrote, “Your silence will not protect you.”


Samples of Horrific Israeli Brutality and War Criminality in Gaza

by Glenn Greenwald
The Intercept

The Israeli group Breaking the Silence issued a report this morning containing testimony from Israeli soldiers about the savagery and criminality committed by the Israeli military during the attack on Gaza last summer. The Independent has a good article describing the report’s findings: “The Israeli military deliberately pounded civilian areas in the Gaza Strip with incessant fire of inaccurate ordinance” and “was at best indifferent about casualties among the Palestinian population.” At best.

This should surprise nobody who paid any attention to the brutal Israeli destruction of Gaza or, for that matter, countless Israeli attacks before that. The U.N. has said that 7 out of 10 people killed by the Israelis were civilians, “including 1,462 civilians, among them 495 children and 253 women”; video of Israelis killing four Gazan boys as they played on a beach sickened anyone decent.

Nonetheless, reading the accounts from these Israeli soldiers is revolting and important in equal parts. It shines considerable light on the reality of what Israeli loyalists have long hailed as “the most moral army in the world,” one unfairly held to a difference standard that ignores their great “restraint.”

The Intercept has chosen some selected, representative excerpts from the report, with the rank of the testifying soldier indicated (each one was granted anonymity by the report’s organizers). This is the savage occupying force known as the Israeli Defense Forces:

“Whoever you see there, you kill”
Staff Sargent, Armored Corps:
[A]fter 48 hours during which no one shoots at you and they’re like ghosts, unseen, their presence unfelt ? except once in a while the sound of one shot fired over the course of an entire day ? you come to realize the situation is under control. And that’s when my difficulty there started, because the formal rules of engagement ? I don’t know if for all soldiers ? were, “Anything still there is as good as dead. Anything you see moving in the neighborhoods you’re in is not supposed to be there. The [Palestinian] civilians know they are not supposed to be there. Therefore whoever you see there, you kill. . . .

The commander [gave that order]. “Anything you see in the neighborhoods you’re in, anything within a reasonable distance, say between zero and 200 meters ? is dead on the spot. No authorization needed.” We asked him: “I see someone walking in the street, do I shoot him?” He said yes.

Did the commander discuss what happens if you run into civilians or uninvolved people?

There are none. The working assumption states ? and I want to stress that this is a quote of sorts: that anyone located in an IDF area, in areas the IDF took over ? is not [considered] a civilian. That is the working assumption. We entered Gaza with that in mind, and with an insane amount of firepower.

Shot a “grandpa” while he lay wounded on the ground:
Staff Sargent, Infantry:
We were in a house with the reconnaissance platoon, and there was some soldier stationed at the guard post. We were instructed [during the briefings] that whoever’s in the area is dangerous, is suspect . . . .

A soldier who was in one of the posts saw an old [Palestinian] man approaching, so he shouted that some old man was getting near. He didn’t shoot at him ? he fired near him. What I know, because I checked this, is that one of the other soldiers shot that grandpa twice. . . .

I went up to a window to see what was going on out there, and I saw there was an old man lying on the ground, he was shot in his leg and he was wounded. It was horrible, the wound was horrible, and he looked either dead or unconscious to me. . . . . And then after that, some guy from the company went out and shot that man again, and that, for me, was the last straw. I don’t think there was a single guy in my platoon who wasn’t shocked by that. It’s not like we’re a bunch of leftists, but ? why? Like, what the hell, why did you have to shoot him again? One of the problems in this story is that there was no inquiry into it, at least none that I know of.

“Any person you run into: shoot to kill”
Staff Sargent, Engineering Corps:
They warned us, they told us that after a ceasefire the population might return . . . . The instructions were to open fire. They said, “No one is supposed to be in the area in which you will be” . . . .

[W]e asked, “Will the civilian population return? What will the situation look like now when we go in [to the Gaza Strip] again?” And they said, “You aren’t supposed to encounter the civilian population, no one is supposed to be in the area in which you’ll be. Which means that anyone you do run into is [to be regarded as] a terrorist.”

The instructions are to shoot right away. Whoever you spot ? be they armed or unarmed, no matter what. The instructions are very clear. Any person you run into, that you see with your eyes ? shoot to kill. It’s an explicit instruction.

No incrimination process is necessary?
Zero. Nothing.

Used tanks to crush Palestinians’ cars purely for “fun”
Staff Sargent, Armored Corps:
During the entire operation the [tank] drivers had this thing of wanting to run over cars ? because the driver, he can’t fire. He doesn’t have any weapon, he doesn’t get to experience the fun in its entirety, he just drives forward, backward, right, left. And they had this sort of crazy urge to run over a car. . . .

I mean, a car that’s in the street, a Palestinian car, obviously. And there was one time that my [tank’s] driver, a slightly hyperactive guy, managed to convince the tank’s officer to run over a car, and it was really not that exciting? you don’t even notice you’re going over a car, you don’t feel anything ? we just said on the two-way radio: “We ran over the car. How was it?” And it was cool, but we really didn’t feel anything. . . .

So he came back in, and right then the officer had just gone out or something, so he sort of whispered to me over the earphones: “I scored some sunglasses from the car.” And after that, he went over and told the officer about it too, that moron, and the officer scolded him: “What, how could you do such a thing? I’m considering punishing you,” but in the end nothing happened, he kept the sunglasses, and he wasn’t too harshly scolded, it was all OK, and it turned out that a few of the other company’s tanks ran over cars, too.

“The citizens of Gaza, I really don’t give a fuck about them”
Staff Sargent, Infantry:
It was during our first Sabbath. Earlier that day one of the companies was hit by a few anti-tank missiles. The unit went to raid the area from which they were fired, so the guys who stayed behind automatically cared less about civilians. I remember telling myself that right now, the citizens of Gaza, I really don’t give a fuck about them. They don’t deserve anything ? and if they deserve something it’s either to be badly wounded or killed. . . .

So this old man came over, and the guy manning the post ? I don’t know what was going through his head ? he saw this civilian, and he fired at him, and he didn’t get a good hit. The civilian was laying there, writhing in pain. We all remembered that story going around, so none of the paramedics wanted to go treat him. It was clear to everyone that one of two things was going to happen: Either we let him die slowly, or we put him out of his misery. Eventually, we put him out of his misery, and a D9 (armored bulldozer) came over and dropped a mound of rubble on him and that was the end of it. In order to avoid having to deal with the question of whether he was booby-trapped or not ? because that really didn’t interest anyone at that moment ? the D9 came over, dropped a pile of rubble on his body and that was it. Everyone knew that under that pile there was the guy’s corpse. . . . .

What came up during the investigation when the company commander asked the soldier, was that the soldier spotted a man in his late 60s, early 70s approaching the house. They were stationed in a tall house, with a good vantage point. The soldier spotted that guy going in his direction, toward his post. So he shot in the direction of his feet at the beginning. And he said the old man kept getting closer to the house so he shot a bullet beneath his left ribs. Kidney, liver, I don’t know what’s in there. A spot you don’t want to be hit by a bullet. That old man took the bullet, lay down on the ground, then a friend of that soldier came over and also shot the man, while he was already down. For the hell of it, he shot two more bullets at his legs. Meanwhile there was a talk with the commander, and because this was happening amidst a battalion offensive, it really didn’t interest anyone. “We have casualties up front, don’t bother us, do what you need to do.”

Shelling and machine-gunning “every house we passed” ? then taking them over and using them
Staff Sargent, Engineering Corps:
I got the impression that every house we passed on our way got hit by a shell ? and houses farther away too. It was methodical. There was no threat. It’s possible we were being shot at, but I truly wouldn’t have heard it if we were because that whole time the tanks’ Raphael OWS (machine guns operated from within the tanks) were being fired constantly. They were spraying every house with machine gun fire the whole time. . . .

[D]uring our walk there was no sign of any face-off or anything. There was a lot of shooting, but only from us.

How is the sweeping of a house conducted, when you enter it?
We would go in ‘wet’ (using live fire). I could hear the shooting, everything was done ‘wet.’ When we entered this house everything inside it was already a mess. Anything that could shatter had been shattered, because everything had been shot at. Anything made of glass ? windows, a glass table, picture frames ? it was all wrecked. All the beds were turned over, the rugs, the mattresses. Soldiers would take a rug to sleep on, a mattress, a pillow. There was no water, so youcouldn’t use the toilet. So we would shit in their bathtub.

“By the time we got out of there, everything was like a sandbox”
Staff Sargent, Mechanized Infantry:
By the time we got out of there, it was all like a sandbox. Every house we left ? and we went through three or four houses ? a D9 (armored bulldozer) came over and flattened it. . . .

First of all, it’s impressive seeing a D9 take down a big two-story house. We were in the area of a fairly rich, rural neighborhood ? very impressive houses. We were in one spot where there was a house with a children’s residence unit next door ? just like in a well-off Moshav (a type of rural town) in Israel. The D9 would simply go in, take down part of the wall and then continue, take down another part of the wall, and leave only the columns intact. At a certain point it would push a pile of sand to create a mound of rubble and bring down other parts, until the house was eventually left stripped, and from that point it would simply hit the house [with its blade] until it collapsed. The D9 was an important working tool. It was working nearly non-stop.

Randomly obliterating homes with no warning, for revenge
Staff Sargent, Armored Corps:
On the day the fellow from our company was killed, the commanders came up to us and told us what happened. Then they decided to fire an ‘honor barrage’ and fire three shells. They said, “This is in memory of ****.” That felt very out of line to me, very problematic. . . .

A barrage of shells. They fired the way it’s done in funerals, but with shellfire and at houses. Not into the air. They just chose [a house] ? the tank commander said, “Just pick the farthest one, so it does the most damage.” Revenge of sorts. So we fired at one of the houses. Really you just see a block of houses in front of you, so the distance doesn’t really matter.

Undue Force: Police Violence in Baltimore

by Mark Puente
The Baltimore Sun

On a cold January afternoon, Jerriel Lyles parked his car in front of the P&J Carry Out on East Monument Street and darted inside to buy some food. After paying for a box of chicken, he noticed a big guy in jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and a baseball cap.

"What's up?" the man said to Lyles. Others, also dressed in jeans and hoodies, blocked the door to the street ? making Lyles fear that he would be robbed. Instead, the man identified himself a police officer, frisked Lyles and demanded he sit on the greasy floor. Lyles objected.

"The officer hit me so hard it felt like his radio was in his hand," Lyles testified about the 2009 incident, after suing Detective David Greene. "The blow was so heavy. My eyes swelled up. Blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye."

The Baltimore detective offered a different version of events in court, saying that Lyles' injuries might have resulted from poking himself in the face. He also couldn't say why officers stopped Lyles, who was not charged with any crime.

But jurors didn't buy the officer's explanation. They ruled in Lyles' favor, and the court ultimately ordered the city to pay him $200,000, the statutory limit in Maryland for most lawsuits against a municipality.

The beating Lyles received from Baltimore police officers ? along with the resulting payout from city funds ? is part of a disturbing pattern, a six-month investigation by The Baltimore Sun has found.

Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.

Those cases detail a frightful human toll. Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones ? jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles ? head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement.

And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims ? if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him ? a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was "shocked."

Such beatings, in which the victims are most often African-Americans, carry a hefty cost. They can poison relationships between police and the community, limiting cooperation in the fight against crime, the mayor and police officials say. They also divert money in the city budget ? the $5.7 million in taxpayer funds paid out since January 2011 would cover the price of a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds. And that doesn't count the $5.8 million spent by the city on legal fees to defend these claims brought against police.

Largest payouts
Baltimore has paid $5.7 million since January 2011 for settlements and court judgments in lawsuits accusing city police officers of false arrests, false imprisonment and excessive force. Virtually all of the people who won large awards were cleared from criminal charges.

 Aubrey Knox, Lena Knox
 Beaten, failed kidney
 Edward Lamont Hunt
 Shot three times, killed
 Jamal Butler
 Wrongfully arrested
 Chris Sharp
 Erased evidence on phone
 Arthur Phillips
 Wrongfully arrested
 Jerriel Lyles
 Fractured nose, bruised eye
 Dondi Johnson
 Injuries leading to death
 Tyrone Brown
 Shot 12 times, killed
 Jacqueline Allen
 Shot, lost kidney
 Daudi Collier
 Faced smashed with radios
 Salahudeen Abdul-Aziz
 Facial fractures
 Williams, Pendelton
 Beaten outside home
 Darren Brown
 Wrongfully imprisoned
 Starr Brown
 Slammed while pregnant
 Calvert, Jones
 Fractured elbow
 Causey, Causey
 Forcibly strip searched
 Lillian Parker
 Wrongfully arrested, jailed
 Lornell Felder
 Church deacon beaten
 Venus Green
 Broken shoulder, thrown
 Donte Harris
 Sexually harassed, tased
 Ira Todd
 Broken arm, stomped
 John Bonkowski
 Broken leg, jaw
 David Harris
 Wrongfully arrested, jailed
 Antwan Bryant
 Hit by cruiser, fractured leg
 McLean, Gibbs
 Stomped, kicked
 Terrell Perkins
 Store clerk beaten
 James Clay
 Broken arm at traffic stop
 Overbey, Kelly
 Beaten in face
 Jonathan Hunt
 Broken leg, collarbone, ribs
 Obe, Adesanya
 Beaten while handcuffed
 Alberto Mojica
 Beaten, surgery required
 Anthony Keyes
 Ury, Washington
 Fractured nose
 Charles Faulkner
 Broken jaw
 Snell, Holmes
 Beaten, kicked in testicles
 Rodney Hueston
 Broken arm
 Deon Johnson
 Hit by unmarked police car
 Alvin Cuffee
 Choked and beaten
 Alex Dickson
 Broken teeth, nose, ribs
 Joseph Forrest
 Shot and killed
 Michael Wright
 Broken wrist, stomped
 Christensen Threatt
 Stomped and kicked
 Barbara Floyd
 Face ground into pavement
 Sources: Charging documents, court records, interviews and Sun archives.

"These officers taint the whole department when they create these kinds of issues for the city," said City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young. "I'm tired of the lawsuits that cost the city millions of dollars by some of these police officers."

City policies help to shield the scope and impact of beatings from the public, even though Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake acknowledges that police brutality was one of the main issues broached by residents in nine recent forums across Baltimore.

The city's settlement agreements contain a clause that prohibits injured residents from making any public statement ? or talking to the news media ? about the incidents. And when settlements are placed on the agenda at public meetings involving the mayor and other top officials, the cases are described using excerpts from police reports, with allegations of brutality routinely omitted. State law also helps to shield the details, by barring city officials from discussing internal disciplinary actions against the officers ? even when a court has found them at fault.

The Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, a local pastor who has railed against police brutality, was surprised to hear that the city has spent millions to settle police misconduct allegations.

"I am absolutely stunned," said Bryant, who leads a Northwest Baltimore mega-church. "I had no idea it was this bad. I had no idea we had this volume in this city."

Among the findings of The Sun's investigation, which included a review of thousands of court records and interviews with victims, along with audio and video recordings of trials:

Since 2011, the city has been involved in 102 court judgments and settlements related to allegations of civil rights and constitutional violations such as assault, false arrest and false imprisonment, making payouts that ranged up to $500,000. (The statutory cap can be exceeded when there are multiple claims in a lawsuit, and if there is malice the cap may not apply.) In 43 of the lawsuits, taxpayers paid $30,000 or more. In such settlements, the city and the officers involved do not acknowledge any wrongdoing.

Many of the lawsuits stemmed from the now-disbanded Violent Crimes Impact Section, which used plainclothes officers to target high-crime areas. Officers frequently wrote in charging documents that they feared for their safety and that residents received the injuries when resisting arrest.

Department officials said some officers were exonerated in internal force investigations, even though jurors and the city awarded thousands of dollars to battered residents in those incidents.

For years, leaders in Baltimore's Police Department, the nation's eighth-largest, didn't track or monitor the number of lawsuits filed against each officer. As a result, city officials were unaware that some officers were the target of as many as five lawsuits.

The Sun's findings include only lawsuits that have been settled or decided in court; dozens of similar cases are still pending. The city has faced 317 lawsuits over police conduct since 2011 ? and recently budgeted an additional $4.2 million for legal fees, judgments and lawsuits, a $2.5 million increase from fiscal 2014.

"This is not something I take lightly," Rawlings-Blake said. "I've worked hard, very hard, to have a dialogue with the community about how do we build trust and send the message that law enforcement that acts outside of the law will not be tolerated."

Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, who took over in late 2012, has publicly vowed to eliminate misconduct among the city's 2,800 officers. Other police officials say the department has begun to track such allegations more closely to punish officers in the wrong.

"I can't speak to what was done before, but I can certainly tell you that's what's being done now, and we won't deviate from that," said Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez, who joined the agency in January 2013 to lead the new Professional Standards and Accountability Bureau.

Rodriguez, who once worked in Internal Affairs at the Los Angeles Police Department, said the mandate is to provide policing in a professional manner that doesn't violate constitutional rights.

"We will not let officers get away with any wrongdoing," Rodriguez said. "It will not be tolerated."

The department would not allow The Sun to interview officers named in the lawsuits, saying that would violate department policy. Annual base salaries for the officers ranged from $61,000 and $67,000.

But Robert F. Cherry, president of the city's Fraternal Order of Police lodge, cautioned that some people file frivolous lawsuits against officers who work to keep the city safe.

"Our officers are not brutal," he said. "The trial attorneys and criminal elements want to take advantage of the courts."

Eighty-seven-year-old Venus Green heard the scream while rocking on her porch on Poplar Grove Street in West Baltimore's Walbrook neighborhood.

"Grandma, call the ambulance. I been shot," she thought she heard her grandson say on that morning in July 2007. As he lumbered closer, she spotted blood from a wound in his leg and called 911.

The retired teacher was used to helping others. Green had moved to Baltimore decades earlier from South Carolina after working at R.J. Reynolds and Westinghouse. Once here, she worked at Fort Meade and earned two degrees at Coppin State University.

The mother of two and grandmother of seven dedicated her career to teaching special-education students, but couldn't sit still in her retirement years. She had two hobbies: going to church and raising foster kids. Dozens of children funneled through her home. They, like her own grandchildren, called her "Grandma Green."

Paramedics and police responded to the emergency call, but the white officer became hostile.

"What happened? Who shot you?" Green recalled the officer saying to her grandson, according to an 11-page letter in which she detailed the incident for her lawyer. Excerpts from the letter were included in her lawsuit. "You're lying. You know you were shot inside that house. We ain't going to help you because you are lying."

"Mister, he isn't lying," replied Green, who had no criminal record. "He came from down that way running, calling me to call the ambulance."

The officer, who is not identified in the lawsuit, wanted to go into the basement, but Green demanded a warrant. Her grandson kept two dogs downstairs and she feared they would attack. The officer unhooked the lock, but Green latched it.

He shoved Green against the wall. She hit the wooden floor.

"Bitch, you ain't no better than any of the other old black bitches I have locked up," Green recalled the officer saying as he stood over her. "He pulled me up, pushed me in the dining room over the couch, put his knees in my back, twisted my arms and wrist and put handcuffs on my hands and threw me face down on the couch."

After pulling Green to her feet, the officer told her she was under arrest. Green complained of pain.

"My neck and shoulder are hurting," Green told him. "Please take these handcuffs off."

An African-American officer then walked in the house, saw her sobbing and asked that the handcuffs be removed since Green wasn't violent.

The cuffs came off, and Green didn't face any charges. But a broken shoulder tormented her for months.

"I am here because of injuries received to my body by a police officer," Green wrote on stationery stamped with "wish on a star" at the bottom of each page. "I am suffering with pain and at night I can hardly sleep since this incident occurred."

In June 2010, she sued the officers; an April 2012 settlement required the city to pay her $95,000.

Green died six weeks later of natural causes

Many Baltimoreans who reached similar settlements declined to be interviewed about the alleged police misconduct ? with good reason.

A clause in the city's agreements prohibits any public statement about the incident that triggered the lawsuit. Limitations on "public statements shall include a prohibition in discussing any facts or allegations … with the news media" except to say the lawsuit has been settled, it states.

The penalty for talking? City lawyers could sue to get back as much as half or more of the settlement.

That amount is negotiated in each case, depending on the severity of the allegations, said David Ralph, deputy city solicitor. The amount of money involved is shielded from the public because the clause might never be triggered, he said, adding that in "99.9 percent of the cases it's never an issue."

Such "non-disparagement" clauses are common in legal settlements, he noted. "We don't want to pay taxpayers' money and then have people saying things that they couldn't say in court. Some facts are hotly disputed."

In such settlements, the city and the officers involved do not acknowledge any wrongdoing.

Starr Brown, an East Baltimore woman who reached a settlement agreement, wanted to talk about her arrest ? an encounter with police that left the pregnant accountant face down, bleeding and bruised, on the sidewalk. (Her baby was unhurt.)

But Brown, a Morgan State University graduate, said the clause prevented her from sharing details, so the events of Sept. 18, 2009, can only be reconstructed from court transcripts.

Returning home with her young daughter as the sun set, Brown was on the front steps of her brick house when she spotted two girls walking along North Luzerne Avenue.

Suddenly, a group of about 20 girls came from the other direction and attacked the two girls.

Brown, who went into her house to avoid the fighting, watched the beating through a window. Other neighbors called 911, but by the time officers Karen Crisafulli and Andrew Galletti arrived, the attackers had fled.

Brown, who was then 26, could hear the officers yelling at the victims and came outside to urge the officers to chase the girls who had fled. An argument started, and Galletti lunged at her, she later testified in court.

She grabbed the iron railing, but Galletti wrapped his arm around her neck. She said she screamed that she was pregnant, but Galletti responded, "[We] hear it all the time."

"He comes and grabs my arms," Brown, who had no criminal record, testified. "He's like, 'You're getting arrested. You're coming with me.'"

"They slammed me down on my face," Brown added, her voice cracking. "The skin was gone on my face. ...

"I was tossed like a rag doll. He had his knee on my back and neck. She had her knee on my back trying to put handcuffs on me."
The officers arrested her for obstruction, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and assault. She fought the charges in District Court in March 2010.

The officers minimized the incident and Brown's injuries, telling the judge that her screams drew a crowd and she refused to go back in her house. Crisafulli said Brown hit the ground after letting go of the railing.

"It was like a sling shot," Crisafulli testified. "The resistance stopped. We all fell off the porch."

Brown then kicked and flailed, Crisafulli added, noting that bystanders told the officers that Brown was pregnant. Crisafulli said Brown scratched her with fingernails; Galletti said Brown bit his arm and knuckle.

But the testimony of two witnesses confirmed Brown's version of events.

"Mrs. Brown was standing up in her doorway," said neighbor Ruby Lee. "They threw her to the ground, and [Galletti] put his knee in her back."

The judge acquitted Brown of all criminal charges. She sued in April 2010 and settled the case in March 2011 for $125,000.

violent crimes impact
Scandals have plagued Baltimore's Police Department in recent years. Sixteen officers were convicted in a kickback scheme with a towing company, and another was convicted of selling heroin from the Northwest District police station's parking lot.

When Rawlings-Blake hired Batts in 2012, the mayor talked about Baltimore becoming "the safest big city in America." Batts earned a reputation of building community engagement during his 30 years of leading departments on the West Coast.

But ridding the Baltimore agency of misconduct may not be easy. The agency's strategic plan, released late last year, said discipline "has not always been a priority for the Baltimore Police Department," and it has been common "for cases in this department to take as many as three years to resolve." A more recent consultant's report on the Internal Affairs Division said detectives lack training and often take shortcuts when investigating officers suspected of misconduct.

Many complaints have focused on the Violent Crimes Impact Section, which had more than 260 officers in 2012. City Council members and community activists said those officers used heavy-handed tactics and had no accountability.

In addition to the allegations of excessive force, officers in the unit were accused by prosecutors of lying on a search warrant and working to protect a drug dealer in order to make arrests. One received six months of home detention; the other went to prison for eight years for protecting the drug dealer.

Three other members were charged in 2010 with kidnapping two city teens and leaving one in a Howard County state park without shoes, socks or his cellphone. A jury acquitted two officers of assault, kidnapping and false imprisonment but convicted them of misconduct.

In September 2012, the unit sparked outrage when a detective threw Anthony Anderson, 46, to the ground during a drug arrest. Anderson's spleen ruptured, and he died a short time later.

The state medical examiner's office said the death was a homicide caused by blunt force trauma. But Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein declined to bring charges, ruling that the officers did not use excessive force and followed police guidelines. The family filed a federal lawsuit, alleging that three detectives kicked Anderson for several minutes; the case is ongoing.

Batts disbanded the Violent Crimes Impact Section in December 2012 in response to complaints and created the Special Enforcement Section to address spikes in serious crimes. The unit has about 130 officers.

The name change brought a new direction, Rodriguez said. New leaders have been appointed and officers are wearing uniforms that identify them as police.

"It's not just a philosophical and name change," he said. "What is acceptable has changed."

Still, misconduct persists.

This year, other officers have been accused of killing a dog while off-duty in February and of an attempted homicide in April. An officer went to jail in April for 45 days for beating a drug suspect who had broken into his girlfriend's home. Another officer was arrested in June and charged with slitting a Shar-Pei's throat while on duty; he has pleaded not guilty.

Exploring the cases
This visualization compares how the most expensive settlements and court judgments since 2011 - all $30,000 or more - are distributed over time and value. The date reflects the day of the incident, and the circle size reflects the amount of money spent relative to the other cases.

The Violent Crimes Impact Section detectives who testified in Lyles' lawsuit ? which accused police of hitting him at the P&J Carry Out in East Baltimore ? appeared confident on the witness stand as Domenic Iamele, Lyles' attorney, pressed for answers on the injuries.

Detective Greene told jurors Lyles became hostile in the carryout and tried walking away. Lyles lifted his hands up as Greene tried to stop him, the officer said.

"Did Mr. Lyles touch his face?" Iamele asked.

"I don't know if Mr. Lyles touched his face," Greene replied, noting that he blinked and could have missed it. He suggested Lyles injured himself. "That's the only thing that could've happened. I don't know how he broke the bridge of his nose."

"You didn't punch him in the nose?"

"No sir."

Sgt. Michael Guzman told jurors he didn't recall being in the store or seeing anything suspicious.

Lyles then told jurors about another incident: Three weeks after his nose was broken, Lt. Christopher Nyberg and Detective Paul Southard stopped him near his apartment on Moravia Park Road.

The officers ordered Lyles to drop his pants and underwear. He did. They told him to squat and cough. He did ? out of fear. Lyles testified that an officer then searched his genitals for drugs and rammed a gloved finger in his rectum.

He told jurors the incident wasn't a "coincidence." He believed the officers were retaliating because he had complained about his broken nose.

Jurors awarded Lyles $500,000 for the incident at the carryout, but the judge reduced it to $200,000 to comply with a state law that caps damages in suits against municipalities.

The city also paid Lyles $24,000 to settle a separate lawsuit related to the street search.

Today, Lyles, who served probation for credit card theft in 1999, is reluctant to talk about the civil trial.

"I'm afraid of the police," he said. "I want to speak out, but it could be dangerous. These people are dangerous. Internal Affairs is not like they say they are. I complained. They said it was unsustained."

Rodney Hill, who took over the Internal Affairs Division in May 2013, confirmed that Lyles' complaint was not sustained ? meaning investigators could not prove it was true. Police said Southard left the force in May 2012, but would not say whether it was related to Lyles' case, noting that state law prohibits the disclosure of personnel matters. Police would not say whether the other officers were disciplined.

Civil rights abuses can tarnish a police department's image in any city, experts say. Strained relationships make it difficult for officers to gain trust on the streets ? from getting tips to solving crimes to winning taxpayer support to hire more officers.

"All of those things are put in jeopardy," said David A. Harris, an expert at the University of Pittsburgh Law School on police misconduct and accountability. "People will tend to view [police] as illegitimate. This is a real problem for police departments."

Good, solid policing requires mutual respect between officers and residents, he added.

Rawlings-Blake acknowledged the importance of that relationship in an interview about the costly settlements. "It is a sacred covenant that each officer makes with members of the community, and when it's broken, it's devastating for not just the victim, but it's devastating for our ability to move forward as a city."

She said the relationship between the community and police has improved since Batts was hired, noting that residents are providing more tips to Crime Stoppers and making fewer complaints about discourteous officers.

But more than a dozen bystanders who were named in court records or who testified in court declined to talk to The Sun about the arrests and altercations that they witnessed ? saying, like Lyles, that they feared retaliation from police.

City Councilman Brandon Scott, vice chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee, said police leaders need to cleanse the force of bad officers.

"We have to expedite the process," Scott said. "We have to fire them. We can't afford to keep paying these settlements. These folks that are beating people have to go."

The Sun's findings come as the nation's attention has been focused on a white officer's shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. ? an incident that triggered days of violent protests. The officer said he acted in self-defense, but many area residents saw the shooting as a symptom of racially biased policing.

The shooting triggered a nationwide debate on the use of force by police, and U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced an investigation of the town's police department. Published reports noted that five current and one former member of the 53-officer agency faced pending federal lawsuits that claimed they used excessive force.

Such broad inquiries by the Department of Justice's civil rights division examine whether officers have a history of discrimination or using force beyond standard guidelines. They typically lead to consent decrees and years of court monitoring. Twenty federal probes have started in the past six years, in cities that include Cleveland, New Orleans and Portland.

Attorney A. Dwight Pettit questions why the Department of Justice hasn't opened an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department.

He has filed scores of lawsuits against officers, and his office gets dozens of calls each week from people alleging police abuse. He says he only takes the cases in which injuries are visible.

"It's absolutely called for," Pettit said, noting the long list of settlements and court judgments involving city police. "Baltimore City is so much out of control, the Police Department, in my opinion, warrants federal intervention and investigation."

Five years after an incident that left her injured, Barbara Floyd still wonders what happened to the officer she said attacked her.

"I believe in justice," Floyd said, recounting a confrontation with undercover officers who were making a drug sweep in her McElderry Park neighborhood. "That's what I believe in. I don't think people should be treated like animals ? even guilty ones. But I was an innocent one."

On a Tuesday afternoon in March 2009, Floyd spotted a crowd of officers and bystanders up the street, her lawsuit stated. She then heard a detective threaten to fire a stun gun at her 20-year-old grandson.

Floyd, who was 58 at the time and without a criminal record, climbed down the four steps of her gray brick rowhouse to usher her grandson away from the drug operation.

After being told to leave, she said she walked home and leaned on a tree. Someone suddenly wrapped an arm around her neck and threw her to the ground.

"I was struggling 'cause I didn't know who it was," Floyd recalled in an interview that mirrored her descriptions in court records. "He was trying to grab my arms. He put his knee on my neck. He put another leg in the small of my back. He was grinding my face to the pavement."

Though she was face down on the sidewalk, she heard Detective Joseph Grossman, a member of the Violent Crimes Impact Section, scream at her to lie down.

Floyd, who is 4-foot-11 and 107 pounds, couldn't breathe with Grossman on her back. A struggle ensued and Floyd tried standing, but Grossman kept her down while handcuffing her.

Her vision faded.

"After that I thought I was gonna die because I had tunnel vision," she said in the interview, fighting back tears. "Everything had gotten dark, dark and black."

When the altercation ended, Floyd had gashes on her forehead, face and knees. Paramedics treated her before she was taken to jail.

But because her blood pressure topped 200, jailers declined to admit her to the Central Booking and Intake Facility, according to court records. Medics rushed her to Mercy Hospital.

After she was released from the hospital, Grossman charged her with resisting arrest and obstruction.

In charging documents, he gave a different account of the incident, accusing Floyd of stepping between officers and her grandson. When officers ordered the grandson to leave, he refused. Floyd then "adopted a hostile and aggressive posture" and tried to pull him away, Grossman wrote. Officers then tried to arrest her, but she tried breaking away and fell face-first to the ground. When officers handcuffed Floyd, she scraped "her forehead on the sidewalk, causing a minor laceration."

Floyd soon received a letter from Internal Affairs stating that Grossman and another officer were being investigated for misconduct.

Still, Floyd was ashamed to go outside after the melee.

"My face was a mess," she recalled, her voice dropping as she stared at the street from a kitchen chair. "My hair was gone on that side. I was bruised up. Not only my face, my arms, my legs. My whole body was sore."

She is still upset that officers ignored her questions that day. "All they do is tell you to shut the hell up."

Floyd, who reached a $30,000 settlement in 2011, initially declined to discuss her case when The Sun contacted her in May. The next day, she changed her mind and agreed to an interview, even though she fears retaliation from police and city lawyers for speaking out, and has moved out of the city.

Hill, the Internal Affairs chief, said her complaint against Grossman was not sustained. Grossman left the force in July 2012, but officials declined to say why, noting the legal restrictions on releasing personnel records to the public. He joined the Baltimore County Police Department the same month; that agency would not make him available for comment.

Although the city's settlements and judgments have totaled $5.7 million since 2011, a state law may have saved Baltimore taxpayers millions of dollars. The Local Government Tort Claims Act caps damages against local governments at $200,000 per claim.

Taxpayers in other cities aren't as lucky. Cleveland and Dallas have paid between $500,000 and more than $1 million to settle individual police misconduct cases.

The Dallas Police Department has paid $6.6 million in 26 settlements and judgments since 2011; the Miami-Dade County department paid $1.8 million over that period in an unspecified number of cases. Both agencies are similar in size to Baltimore's.

In addition to the settlements and jury awards, Baltimore has paid $5.8 million to outside law firms to defend those lawsuits and others since July 2010.

According to city policy, officials are bound to defend officers as long as they follow departmental guidelines when using force to make arrests. An agreement between the city and police union guarantees that taxpayers will pay court damages in such cases.

Although police officials declined to release individual personnel records, they did discuss the issue in broad terms, saying that from 2012 through July, the department received 3,048 misconduct complaints against officers. Of those, officials sustained 1,203 complaints ? 39 percent ? meaning investigators could prove the claims were true.

That led to 61 resignations and discipline for more than 850 officers, measures ranging from written reprimands to suspensions.

But in some cases that resulted in settlements or judgments, officers were not disciplined even after they were found liable in court.

Cherry, the union president, said it would be unfair to discipline officers if they were cleared in internal investigations. He stressed that nobody can predict how a jury will decide cases.

"The [officers] who get the most complaints are the ones who are doing their work," he said. "These may be some of the best officers."

Salahudeen Abdul-Aziz was awarded $170,000 in 2011 by a Baltimore jury as compensation for a beating by police in West Baltimore's Upton area. But he remains haunted by the incident and fears the police.

The nightmare began on a warm day in September 2009 as he walked out of a corner store and headed toward Westwood Street, sipping on a cold soda and munching on potato chips.

Abdul-Aziz, then 24, was hurrying back to his aunt's air-conditioned home. On the way, he joined up with a neighborhood acquaintance.

Officers Robert Stokes and Marvin Gross spotted them leave an alley in a well-known drug area, according to charging documents. As the officers neared, the man with Abdul-Aziz tossed a glass vial with white powder.

Abdul-Aziz was questioned, handcuffed and put in the back of a cruiser as officers quizzed the other man on the curb. As Abdul-Aziz wriggled his hands, trying to adjust his wristwatch, he was yanked out of the car.

The officers slammed him onto the ground and started punching him in the face, two witnesses testified at a 2011 civil trial over police misconduct allegations. One witness said the officers switched positions "probably six times" during the beating, as Gross "hit him five or six times with his fist."

Abdul-Aziz was helpless. "I was unable to do anything. I was handcuffed," he testified.

He described a broken nose and facial fracture, along with severe swelling and a hemorrhage in his right eye ? injuries that took more than three weeks to heal.

"What was your state of mind that day?" his lawyer asked.

Abdul-Aziz replied, "I thought I was gonna die that day."

Gross' account of the incident was different. He said he saw Abdul-Aziz, hands cuffed behind his back, wiggle around in the cruiser. Gross thought Abdul-Aziz was hiding drugs, so he pulled him from the car and told him to open his hands. But Abdul-Aziz tried to head-butt Gross and run, the officer testified.

The officers said they feared for their safety and tackled Abdul-Aziz.

Abdul-Aziz tried getting up, but the officers ordered him to stop. Gross placed a forearm across Abdul-Aziz's chest and Stokes pinned his legs to the ground, Gross said, adding: "He just refused to stay still."

"What was Mr. Abdul-Aziz doing that was illegal?" Abdul-Aziz's lawyer asked.

"He wasn't doing anything," Gross replied. "That's why I conducted a field interview."

Stokes told jurors he didn't hit Abdul-Aziz. "I didn't really do anything except hold his legs down," Stokes said, adding he didn't see Abdul-Aziz do anything illegal before the stop.

Abdul-Aziz was vindicated by the court system. After a two-day civil trial in February 2011, jurors awarded him damages. And a judge dismissed criminal charges of resisting arrest, assault, drug possession and disorderly conduct.

Still, Abdul-Aziz, who was found guilty of carrying a firearm in 2005, is upset that despite his complaint, police officials said the two officers were cleared by an internal investigation.

"If I fight on any other job or beat up anybody, I'm terminated," Abdul-Aziz, 29, said recently in his Baltimore home.

"You beat up a citizen for no reason and had no real probable cause, and you still have your jobs. That's crazy. These cops still have jobs."

Police officials say a host of department reforms are underway to address misconduct.

For example, months after taking over, Batts created the Professional Standards and Accountability Bureau, which oversees training, policies and all internal issues, and pushed to eliminate a backlog of more than 130 disciplinary cases.

He moved to toughen trial boards, which hear disciplinary cases after complaints are investigated internally, by changing their makeup. They now consist of two command staff members and a lieutenant instead of a command staff member, a lieutenant and a person of the same rank as the accused. As a result, the rate at which officers are held responsible has jumped from 57 percent to 88 percent, officials say.

A computer system implemented five months ago tracks lawsuits filed against officers, Rodriguez said.

The information is combined with another tracking system in use since 2010. That system tracks matters such as injuries from arrests, citizen complaints and use-of-force reports. It is designed to enable police leaders to intervene with counseling, better supervision, training and, if appropriate, disciplinary action.

"We're monitoring them where it was not done before," Rodriguez said, adding that "bugs" are being worked out as the department studies the best national standards to measure officers. Other police agencies, including the Maryland State Police, already use the same system.

Still, the tracking system has shortcomings. For example, police officials acknowledge that it does not include lawsuits that concluded before the agency started tracking them this year.

Samuel Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska, isn't surprised that Baltimore lacked a system to track lawsuits. "It has a national reputation of not being a professional and effective department."

Former Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who retired from the department in 2012, declined to be interviewed about the issue, but said through a spokesman that he had worked to eliminate misconduct and improve the agency's relationship with residents.

"Commissioner Bealefeld was committed to making Baltimore a safer city while building a professional, community-focused and accountable police department," said the spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi.

Asked about investigations into allegations of police brutality, Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein said his office has prosecuted 10 officers for assault and 10 others for less serious offenses since 2011. In some high-profile deaths, officers were not prosecuted because they had only seconds to make decisions, Bernstein said. That's very different from cases where officers are more deliberate and assault handcuffed suspects, he added.

He said that improved training and recruitment, a better discipline process, and greater transparency would enhance the Police Department's trust with the community.

"It's a real issue for us in Baltimore," Bernstein said.

Young, the City Council president, says many African-American residents have an uneasy relationship with the police force.

"Every black male or every African-American in this city are not criminals and shouldn't be treated as such," Young said. "I was stopped myself a couple times, and I am the president of City Council."

He wants officers trained to communicate better with residents. He's heard too many complaints about them not allowing people to talk to defend themselves.

"They violate your civil rights and tell you you can't talk," Young said.

He added: "[Residents] fear the police more than they fear the drug dealers on the corner."