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In an age of pervasive racial profiling and militarized policing, impunity is the order of the day in local law enforcement. When summary execution and casual sadism pass for justice at the street cop level, where is the appeal of last resort? Certainly not the Obama Justice Department.
Obama Justice Department Joins the Sean Bell Murder Whitewash
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“Police can organize instant firing squads or shove objects up people's rear ends, with near impunity.”
Twice in the space of a week, in New York City, the criminal justice system has proven incapable of protecting non-white citizens from a predatory police force. This past Monday, an officer was acquitted of shoving a police baton up the rectum of a young man who had been smoking marijuana. Two other officers got off on charges of covering up the sodomy attack – one of them was quoted as telling the victim, “You liked it, you liked it.”
The previous week, federal officials announced that the cops that fired 50 bullets at Sean Bell and two unarmed friends on the morning of Bell’s wedding, in November, 2006, would not face federal charges in the killing. The policemen had already been acquitted, in April of 2008, on charges ranging from manslaughter to reckless endangerment, a verdict that provoked a series of demonstrations resulting in the arrest of 200 people, including Bell’s surviving friends, his parents and fiancée, and Rev. Al Sharpton.
Sean Bell's death reached into the presidential campaign. Barack Obama, visibly ill at ease with the subject, tersely advised that, “The judge has made his ruling, and we're a nation of laws, so we respect the verdict that came down." Obama then counseled that “resorting to violence...is completely unacceptable and counterproductive."
Hillary Clinton's response was more sensitive to deeply felt Black anger. “My thoughts are with Nicole and her children and the rest of Sean's family during this difficult time,” said Clinton. She continued: “The court has given its verdict, and now we await the conclusion of a Department of Justice civil rights investigation.”
“They concluded that unleashing a 50-bullet fusillade against unarmed men, resulting in death, was not a violation of anyone's civil rights.”
That investigation has succeeded only in federalizing the whitewash of Sean Bell's killing. The Obama Justice Department, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York all concluded that unleashing a 50-bullet fusillade against unarmed men, resulting in death, was not a violation of anyone's civil rights.
The Obama administration's refusal to seek justice for Sean Bell through the civil rights statutes should cause us to review the history. The feds began to prosecute killers on denial of civil rights grounds because southern white law enforcement agencies and juries refused to mete out punishment to racist murderers. Federal prosecutors felt compelled to take the civil rights route because entrenched racism made justice an impossibility in the state courts. More than two generations later, in the age of mass Black incarceration, a police state exists on the streets of New York and all our major cities. Police can organize instant firing squads or shove objects up people's rear ends, with near impunity. The circumstances cry out, just as forty-plus years ago, for federal intervention. But even the horrifying facts of the Sean Bell case are not enough to move the Obama administration's Justice Department.
Sean Bell's family will pursue civil damages. The victim of police sodomy has already filed a $440 million lawsuit against the city. There's a chance that both will win significant damages. But there is a lesson, here, for the victims of police abuse: You might eventually get some money, but you'll never get justice.
After 8 years of the first black president, it’s time to take stock of what we’ve won and lost, what’s changed and not. Today we look at the Obama administration’s abysmal record on corporate crime, in which Democrats went far beyond the atrocities of their Republican colleagues to protect and immunize corporate thieves from prosecution or lawsuits from their victims.
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
An utterly cynical and deceptively marketed constitutional amendment is on the ballot in Georgia. It’s called the “Opportunity School District” because it’s about creating business opportunities for the charter school sugar daddies who contribute to the governor. Elite Republicans and Democrats too from the First Black President down to local...
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford
Americans – including, and maybe especially, Black Americans – were upset that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte called President Obama a “son of a whore” at a summit meeting, last week. But, what would Americans call the head of a country that killed a million of their compatriots, colonized their country for half a century, dominated its...
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
Donald Trump might do the right thing and call for opening up the presidential debates to third parties – but mainly for the wrong reasons. Although it appears that Trump would “have a relative net advantage over Clinton if there were a vigorous, four-way presidential contest,” he will only make such a demand if he is certain of a one-on-one...
Whether it’s gentrification, privatization, environmental destruction, threatening the planet with nukes or maintaining global empire, differences between the parties of the one percent are often less important than the bipartisan disasters upon which our masters agree. In the first of several installments, we look at the issues elite Republicans and Democrats agree on....
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford
The Lords of Capital learned a great deal from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. They learned that the Black Misleadership Class was incapable of organizing resistance to even the most public crimes committed against the Black poor. Not only could African Americans be removed en mass from valuable urban property with no push-back from the Black...