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NYC Prosecutors Pledge to Dismiss 700,000 Minor Warrants

Four of New York City’s district attorneys say they will file motions in coming weeks to toss out 700,000 old warrants issued for low-level offenses like drinking in public and riding a bicycle on a sidewalk, reports the New York Law Journal. Prosecutors in Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan will move to dismiss warrants that are 10 years old or older that stem from NYPD summonses. The mass clearance will dismiss a significant portion of the city’s roughly 1.5 million outstanding warrants.

When warrants aren’t cleared, those who have them are subject to automatic arrest for years and decades to come, even if they come in contact with police because they were involved in a minor traffic accident or while reporting a crime. Bronx DA Darcel Clark said the motions for clearance should not be viewed as mass amnesty. “We’re not telling everyone it’s OK to get a summons and not show up,” Clark said. But she said many of the cases are unprosecutable because of legal sufficiency issues.

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NYC TO PAY OVER $600,000 FOR EXCESSIVE FORCE, UNLAWFUL ARREST, & FALSE STATEMENTS BY NYPD

NYC will pay $609,000 (in taxpayer money) to settle a case of excessive force, unlawful arrest, and false statements by the NYPD, the plaintiffs and their attorneys announced on Friday (PDF doc).

The settlement stems from a 2012 incident that started when the NYPD illegally stopped-and-frisked Jateik Reed, who was 19-years-old at the time. The officers then severely beat Reed, on video, and pepper-sprayed Reed’s friend, Trevor Nigel, who was filming the incident. Later that day, the NYPD also arrested Reed’s family and friends when they went to the precinct to inquire about his condition. One of those detained by the NYPD was Reed’s brother, who was four-years-old at the time (PDF doc).

The NYPD originally claimed the officers stopped Reed because they saw bags of weed in his hands. However, all possession charges were later dropped, and surveillance video clearly shows nothing Reed’s hands when the police approach and stop him as he walks into his apartment building. Here’s video of the stop from two angles:

Video 1: Reed Stop-and-Frisk

The assault on Reed began when the officers had him against a police van. NYPD originally claimed that Reed punched the arresting officer in the nose and head-butted him in the cheek (PDF doc). According to Reed’s attorneys, the officers maintained this lie, and the DA aggressively prosecuted the case, until the surveillance video surfaced. The videos show that Reed did no such thing. However, both videos, along with Nigel’s cell-phone video, do show the officers beat Reed with batons, elbow him in the head, kick him, and then pepper-spray Nigel for filming the incident:

Video 2: Reed Assault and Pepper-Spray

After the surveillance videos surfaced, the DA quickly dropped the charges against Reed. However, the DA also quickly announced that he would not press any charges against the officers involved. Gideon Oliver, one of Reed’s lawyers, noted that many of the officers’ statements in the criminal complaint were demonstrably false – misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail each – and that it is routine for DAs to aggressively prosecute or even trump-up such misdemeanors against average citizens. “This is a clear example of a double standard in our justice system,” said Gabriel P. Harvis, of Harvis & Fett, another of Reed’s attorneys.

With no criminal charges against the cops, the only measure of justice for the victims is coming from the civil suit, as if often the case in instances of police misconduct. Many police reform advocates argue that taxpayers should not pay for police misconduct, and that forcing officers to pay these settlements themselves would be more likely to bring about meaningful change. In this case, some of the officers involved will, in fact, have to personally contribute to the settlement payments.

As with most employers, the City must indemnify cops who are sued in the scope of their employment. However, the City can try not to pay by arguing an officer’s actions violated that duty. But the officers’ unions, who tend to defend even the most egregious incidents of police misconduct, will typically attack the City for any such attempt. While we may never know the scope of the discussion between the City and the officers’ unions in this case, they apparently agreed that two of the officers acted outside the scope of their duty, and should have to contribute to the settlements themselves.

The first is Robert Jaquez, who pepper-sprayed Nigel. He will be forced to pay $500 of the monetary settlement. (According to public records, Jaquez made $137,678 with the NYPD last year.)

The second is Sergeant Alfousina Delacruz. Much later in the surveillance video, Delacruz can been seen kicking Reed as he lays handcuffed on the ground:

Video 3: Reed Final Kick

For that kick, Delacruz will be forced to pay $5,000 of the monetary settlement. (As a Sergeant for the NYPD, Delacruz’s base pay is $116,418 per year.)

While the personal payments may be a sign of hope for holding individual officers accountable, they are notably small compared both to the officers’ salaries, and to the amount the City will pay. Additionally, none of the other officers involved had to pay anything, and all of the officers involved are still working for the NYPD despite this incident and a history of similar conduct. Officer Jaquez has been sued at least twice before, both times for incidents starting with illegal stop-and-frisks and escalating to false arrest, excessive force, and in at least one other case, pepper-spraying a bystander filming the incident (PDF doc). In 2014, it was reported that the City of New York spent $428 million over 5 years to settle various civil rights lawsuits.

At Friday’s press conference, Reed and his family called for all the officers involved to be fired, and described them as a group of officers terrorizing the neighborhood, routinely harassing young people of color, and even extorting sex from members of the community.

The NYPD has said only that it has disciplined the officers involved. But because the NYPD has recently decided to end its 50 year policy of releasing officers’ discipline records, we may never know what that discipline entailed. “Discipline can be as little as a talking-to from your commanding officer,” said Oliver.

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American Schools Embrace the Tampon

When students at Brown University head to their first class or hit the gym for their first workout this week, they’ll find something new in many campus bathrooms: free tampons and pads. Brown’s student body president, Viet Nguyen, who’s pushed the student-led initiative, will be hand-delivering menstrual products into all nonresidential bathrooms with the help of 20 other students. “There’s been a lot of conversation about why pads and tampons are a necessity, not a luxury, but not a lot of action. We wanted to take it into our own hands,” says Nguyen, a senior studying education policy. “Low-income students struggle with having the necessary funding for food, let alone tampons.”

Nguyen sent a campus-wide email today announcing the initiative, which has made Brown one of the first higher-education institutions to implement such a widespread program. University officials have not yet responded.

By putting menstrual products in women’s, men’s and gender-inclusive bathrooms, Nguyen’s campaign highlights an often-ignored fact: Not all people who menstruate are women. “We wanted to set a tone of trans-inclusivity, and not forget that they’re an important part of the population,” he says. “I’d be naïve to say there won’t be push back. I’ve had questions about why we’re implementing this in male bathrooms as well. It’s an initial confusion, but people generally understand when we explain it.”

Thanks to funding from the student-run undergraduate finance board, Nguyen says he’s ensured menstrual products will be available in approximately 30 to 40 bathrooms across campus for the 2016–2017 school year. “A lot of other student governments might try to go down the university route. We really want to encourage them to take matters into their own hands.”

Related: The Fight to End Period Shaming Is Going Mainstream

Students at Brown aren’t the only ones going back to school this month with unprecedented access to menstrual products.

As of this fall, New York City public school students will provide free tampons and pads in all school buildings with sixth through 12th graders. The move is part of the city’s landmark legislation, passed on July 13, 2016, ensuring free menstrual products in all public schools, shelters and correctional facilities. (In July, New York also became the 11th state to eliminate taxes on menstrual products. The new law went into effect on September 1, yet some stores, including a handful of Duane Reade locations in New York City, initially continued to charge the tax. Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted a link to information about how people can reply for a refund.)

New York City launched a pilot program putting free menstrual products in one school last spring, then gradually expanded it to 25 schools. By the time girls and boys show up for the first day of school on September 8, free menstrual products will be available in many schools, and by mid-November, the rollout will be complete. “Students must feel comfortable during their classes so they can focus on learning, and having free, easy access to menstrual products is essential,” says a Department of Education spokesperson.

“Unlike toilet paper, which is provided for free in school restrooms, students are typically on their own to access menstrual supplies,” says Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, a leading writer and advocate for menstrual equity. “Yet in order to be fully engaged in the classroom, these are as much of necessity as pencils and paper. This is especially true for younger teens who are more likely to be caught off guard by the arrival of their period and without budgets of their own to buy emergency tampons or pads.”

Advocates hope that New York City’s new law will set a new standard for schools around the country. In the meantime, everyday people are making a difference. A decade ago, the Wellington School in Columbus, Ohio, began offering free tampons and pads in school bathrooms when marketing expert Nancy Kramer, a school parent and founder of the Free the Tampons movement, proposed the idea. They continue to offer free menstrual products today.

Last year, Jenn Bajec, a mother of two in Dublin City, Ohio, convinced her local elementary and middle schools to put free tampons and pads in school bathrooms. It all started when her sixth-grade daughter struggled to manage her period because she only had a couple minutes between classes, menstrual products were kept far away at the nurse’s office and there weren’t restrooms on every floor.

“My daughter loved school, but when she got her period, she was so overwhelmed with it, she didn’t want to go to school anymore. I mean, that’s not who she is!” Bajec says.

Jennifer Schwanke, principal of Indian Run Elementary School in Dublin, says that when Bajec approached her about offering menstrual products in restrooms, not just the school clinic, “it seemed a very easy solution.” Schwanke says the school has continued to provide tampons and pads this year. But Bajec points out that schools need more than “one well-intentioned administrator to oversee day by day or week by week.… The only way these items can be provided in an ongoing manner is if budgets are set and detailed procedures are outlined for operations to follow.”

Earlier this year, Inside Higher Ed reported that students at the University of Arizona, Columbia University, Emory College, Reed College, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, the University of California at Los Angeles andGrinnell College, among others, have all advocated for free menstrual products on campus. As Courtney Couillardwrote in the Columbia Spectator, “I can easily find a free condom on Barnard and Columbia’s campuses, but why can’t I find a free tampon in the bathrooms in Hamilton or Milbank? Why does the administration care about my sexual protective rights, but not how I handle my monthly menstrual cycle?”

Discussing periods was once as taboo as admitting you’re voting for Donald Trump, but over the past year, menstruation has become the latest talking point for everyone from Olympians to politicians to YouTube stars and medical marijuana professionals. Last year, musician Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon while free-bleeding and artist Rupi Kaur inadvertently launched a backlash against Instagram when the app “accidentally” removed her period-themed photos, twice. Hashtag campaigns raised awareness about people in need (#TheHomelessPeriodand #FreeTheTampons) while some criticized Trump and his Republican vice presidential nominee, Mike Pence, for their lame-brained comments about women’s health (#PeriodsAreNotAnInsult and #PeriodsForPence).

There were so many pop culture moments that NPR called 2015 “the year of the period” and Cosmopolitan dubbed it “the year the period went public.” This year, however, has been the year of actual period progress.

In January, President Obama likely became the first president to comment on menstruation when YouTube starIngrid Nilsen asked him why tampons and pads are taxed as luxury items in 40 states. His on-point response ricocheted around the internet: “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.” More recently, Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui made headlines for talking about her period at the Olympics. After finishing fourth in the women’s 4×100 meter medley relay, she was doubled over and holding her stomach.  When a reporter asked why, she replied, “ Actually, my period started last night, so I’m feeling pretty weak and really tired. But this isn’t an excuse. At the end of the day, I just didn’t swim very well.” Even Whoopi Goldberg launched amedical marijuana company with an entire line of products aimed at easing menstrual cramps.

Last week, Cora organic tampons and Lunapads reusable menstrual pads landed in select Target stores around the country and Target.com, making it easier for people to access more diverse and potentially safer period products on their way back to school.

Cora, a subscription-based organic cotton tampon company, hit shelves alongside Seventh Generation and Honest Company. Cora tampons come with a BPA-free applicator and, for every monthly supply sold, the company gives period products to girls in India.

Lunapads’s Performa pads are now the first washable, reusable cloth menstrual pad to be carried in Target, according to Madeleine Shaw, co-founder of Lunapads. (Target declined to comment.) They’re made of natural cotton and highly absorbent, leakproof fabrics, and can hold three times the amount of fluid as that of similar disposables. Each pad lasts about five years and replaces around 120 disposable products.

Last year, U.S. consumers spent $3.1 billion on pads, tampons and liners alone, according to Euromonitor. Procter & Gamble, Energizer Holdings and Kimberly Clark control 85 percent of the tampon market, but since the Food and Drug Administration does not require companies to disclose the ingredients in their pads and tampons, many people are turning to niche brands like Cora and Lunapads—as well as Maxim, Conscious Period, Dear Kate andLola—because they offer transparency. After centuries of signaling the start of adulthood, periods are finally coming of age.

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NYC to Move Teens Off Rikers Island Jail Complex

New York City officials say 16- and 17-year-old inmates will be moved off the troubled Rikers Island jail complex and into a Bronx youth facility.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the $300 million, four-year plan Thursday. It’s subject to land use, planning and community approval.

New York and North Carolina are the only two states that automatically prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Legislative efforts to raise the age of criminal responsibility statewide have failed.

Almost all the 188 teens held on Rikers are awaiting trial. That’s down from 337 in 2013.

Federal prosecutors have urged that the teens be moved off Rikers since a 2014 investigation found they were routinely abused.

De Blasio says age-appropriate housing will help teens return to the right path.

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Primary Chaos: NY Elections Face Audit After 126,000 Mysteriously Denied Right to Vote

Claire Bernish
April 19, 2016

 (ANTIMEDIA) Amid further reports of numerous problems with today’s primary election — including reports of some 126,000 voters purged from the rolls — New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer announced on Tuesday he will be auditing the city’s Board of Elections.

“There is nothing more sacred in our nation than the right to vote, yet election after election, reports come in of people who were inexplicably purged from the polls,” the Comptroller stated. “The people of New York City have lost confidence that the Board of Elections can effectively administer elections and we intend to find out why the BOE is so consistently disorganized, chaotic and inefficient.”

Stringer was so alarmed, he penned a letter to NYC BOE Director Michael J. Ryan about the audit, noting his“deep concern over widespread reports of poll site problems and irregularities”— and demanded the BOE provide viable explanations for each.

“Voters across the city have complained about poll workers erroneously redirecting them to different poll sites, poll workers unable to operate voting machines, poll workers unable to produce the correct party ballot for an individual voter, and poll workers giving conflicting information,” he wrote.

“Of particular concern are numerous allegations of widespread removal of eligible voters from voter-registration rolls, as well as instances of incorrect party affiliations on individual registration records. These errors have conspired to bar first time and longtime voters from exercising their fundamental democratic right.”

Stringer’s concerns were echoed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio this afternoon, who issued a statement cited by Politico about the ongoing turmoil and outrage:

“It has been reported to us from voters and voting rights monitors that voting lists in Brooklyn contain numerous errors, including the purging of entire buildings and blocks of voters from the voting lists. I am calling on the Board of Elections to reverse that purge and update the lists again using Central, not Brooklyn borough, Board of Election staff.”

In fact, a spokesman for State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman claimed his office has already received “by far the largest volume of complaints” from any election since 2011, Politico reported.

In concurrence with Stringer’s audit announcement, de Blasio added:

“We will hold the BOE commissioners responsible for ensuring that the Board and its borough officers properly conduct the election process to assure that voters are not disenfranchised. The perception that voters may have been disenfranchised undermines the integrity of the entire electoral process and must be fixed.”

Despite these telling public statements from officials, Ryan told theObserver:

“I bristle at the suggestion that some folks might be making that there are widespread problems. We’re just not seeing it.” He added the snafus occurring Tuesday were “what we typically see during elections.”

Ryan did mention he’d been away from his office most of the day, yet repeatedly rebuffed suggestions the voluminous number of reports were anything out of the ordinary for an election.

“Comptrollers audit agencies, that’s why comptrollers are there,” Ryan told theObserver about Stringer’s intent to audit. “If Comptroller Stringer believes that it is a worthy use of his agency resources to investigate the Board of Elections, we’re no different than any other city agency.”

With voters increasingly irate over inexplicable difficulties in simply casting a primary vote, we may be in for quite the ride in November.


This article (Primary Chaos: NY Elections Face Audit After 126,000 Mysteriously Denied Right to Vote) is a free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Claire Bernishand theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

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“I FEEL LIKE A DESPISED INSECT”: COMING OF AGE UNDER SURVEILLANCE IN NEW YORK

IN THE SPRING of last year, two New York women were arrested on charges of supporting ISIS, following a joint investigation by the New York Police Department along with federal agencies. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Queens residents Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui “plotted to wreak terror by creating explosive devices.” Central to the disruption of this “terror plot,” authorities boasted, was the work of an undercover police detective, although no concrete plan was ever hatched. Indeed, as The Intercept reported, the unsealed criminal complaint reveals the undercover officer’s role in pushing the two women to turn their controversial political sentiments into something more dangerous. In this sense, the arrests were similar to a number of post-9/11 terrorism prosecutions, half of which have involved the use of informants or undercover agents, according to a 2014report co-authored by Human Rights Watch, which raised concerns over “questionable” and “discriminatory” tactics.

At Brooklyn College, where I teach, news of the arrests prompted a chilling realization among students on campus. Years earlier, this same NYPD officer had come to Brooklyn College, “converted” to Islam, and spent the next four years infiltrating student life. In November, Gothamist broke the story: “Malike Ser” was the cop’s alias; she was known by the nickname “Mel.” There were no links between Mel’s years on campus and the investigation and arrest of Velentzas and Siddiqui (neither of whom went to Brooklyn College or any of the city’s public colleges) — a fact the NYPD has since acknowledged. What remains unclear is what, exactly, Mel was looking for on our campus.

Numerous students and graduates have spoken to me about Mel’s time on campus and the impact it has had on them. They remember seeing her beginning in March 2011 and continuing through into the winter of 2015. She befriended many young Muslim women, among them, those who were particularly political or religious. Students also remember her hovering around those who seemed vulnerable. Mel wormed her way into their friendships, their trips to Coney Island, their picnics and jokes. She even became a bridesmaid in one woman’s wedding. She inquired about their politics and mimicked their religious practices. Claiming she’d been raised in a secular Muslim Turkish family but now wanted to embrace Islam, she recited the Shahada, a declaration of Muslim faith, at the first meeting many students remember her attending and later spent dozens of hours “praying” next to them. She participated in clubs on campus, joined numerous listservs, and invited students to go with her to events around the city.

Among the young women Mel befriended at Brooklyn College was Fatima (not her real name). A gifted political science student and a politically active, devout Muslim, Fatima came to my office in early 2012 following the Associated Press revelations of widespread NYPD spying on Muslims in New York — a tactic that included placing informants in local Muslim student associations, among them, one at Brooklyn College. The NYPD’s reasoning was partly laid out in its 2007 report titled “Radicalization in the West,” which deemed increased religiosity and political activism among Muslim young people as a dangerous sign of radicalization. The NYPD created a special force — identified by the AP as the “Demographics Unit” — to monitor Muslims for such signs of radicalization. The AP revelations confirmed what many young Muslims believed to be true, and brought to the surface pressures they had long felt. Fatima wanted to study the effects of this climate of fear and suspicion on her generation of Muslim students in New York.

In 2012, Fatima undertook a one-year independent study, writing her thesis around the topic. In the midst of that year, she told me that she suspected someone on campus was an informant. An informant at John Jay College had recently come forward admitting to having spied on fellow Muslim students, sending chills through student groups across the New York metro area. Fatima was right to be concerned, yet I was at a loss for words. I worried about students regarding one another with such suspicions, and it didn’t seem there was anything we could do. I did not ask whom she suspected. It would take 2 1/2 years to confirm Fatima’s suspicions of Mel. In a chilling irony, as Fatima worked on her thesis critiquing surveillance, Mel was surveilling her and her friends.

muslim-girls-subway-nyc
Young women in the New York City subway system, Nov. 4, 2013, New York, N.Y. Photo: Ken Stein

IN THE 14 YEARS since 9/11 — and particularly since 2008 when I began writing and speaking out about the civil rights violations occurring in a number of federal terrorism prosecutions (including the case of my former student, Syed Fahad Hashmi) — many Muslim students have come to my office in fear and in tears. They describe feeling constantly suspected by many Americans and by law enforcement. Their sense of security — to feel safe on campus or in their mosque, to build community, and to engage in politics — has been compromised. Islam is a welcoming religion, but now, they tell me, they have to view new community members with suspicion. Particularly the more politically engaged students have found themselves holding back in discussions, sometimes in class and especially outside of class. They worry that things they said could be taken out of context and that criticizing the treatment of Muslims in U.S. society could be grounds for more surveillance. After the AP’s investigation, signs went up in the offices of Muslim student groups across the city exhorting members not to discuss any politics whatsoever in these spaces. Many students stopped being active in the Muslim Student Association network out of fear of informants.

In her thesis, Fatima described how such surveillance changes you. Using Foucault’s theory of the panopticon (where social discipline is so pervasive that one internalizes it) and interviews with dozens of Muslim students throughout New York City, she wrote about the ways such state surveillance produces self-surveillance. She revealed how coming of age in the aftermath of 9/11; Muslim American students have grown up in the glare of suspicion and thus constantly feel they have to watch themselves. They watch how they talk in class, socialize, engage in political activities, participate — or don’t — in their mosque and MSA. And perhaps most significantly, surveillance has altered what young people allow themselves to think about or imagine for themselves.

In the months since the discovery of Mel’s time on campus, students and former students describe feeling even more vulnerable. They report repeated panic attacks, pervasive apprehension, and trouble concentrating. “If you let it, it’s enough to make you feel like you are losing your mind,” one former student observed. “There is no one who will call out the predatory targeting of you and your peers because as soon as you say the word ‘terrorist,’ the conversation is over.” Some feel guilty for not confronting Mel years earlier. And after the initial shock, a blanket of sadness has set in; the relentlessness of surveillance, as Fatima put it, means “you will never belong, my children will never belong.”

Students report carrying mental Rolodexes, worrying about which friends, loved ones, or romantic interests might be an informant or a cop. “I created an ever-growing list of possible spies, which included everyone from classmates, professors, neighbors, friends, and even family members,” another former student wrote to me, describing her constant anxiety that it was only a “matter of days” before she too might be imprisoned on false terror charges. “The revelation of ‘Mel,’” another explained, “makes it difficult for me to trust anyone. … How can I meet new people, grow within my community and career, when the only thing I can think about is, Could someone within my close circle of trust be an informant?”

The NYPD refused to comment for Gothamist’s first piece; following the attention the article received, however, the department confirmed it had sent an undercover officer to Brooklyn College but denied charges of blanket surveillance. As Gothamist reported in its follow-up article, the NYPD claimed the “investigation” began in the spring of 2011, lasted “for most of a year,” and was closed in early 2012. No arrests were ever made. But, according to Gothamist, interviews with Brooklyn College students resoundingly contradicted the NYPD’s story, as Mel had continued cultivating friendships, attending events, and being present at meetings on campus throughout 2014. Notably, when students of color sought to form a unity coalition to bring together members from a variety of groups on campus (including black, Hispanic, and Muslim groups, as well as Students for Justice in Palestine), Mel attended their fledgling meetings in the spring and fall of 2014. Indeed, Fatima confided her suspicions to me well into the fall of 2012, long past the point when the NYPD claims to have closed its investigation.

Women whose mouths are taped in protest listen to speakers outside the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Feb. 1, 2011, Santa Ana, Calif. Photo: Jebb Harris/The Orange County Register/Zumapress.com

ON JANUARY 7, 2016, just days after Gothamist published a story contrasting the NYPD’s claims with the experiences of Brooklyn College students, a historic settlement was announced in two cases against the police department: Handschu v. Special Services Division and Raza v. City of New York. The resolution of the lawsuits, which had been filed in the wake of the AP revelations, was conditioned on a number of terms, including the appointment of a civilian lawyer with national security clearance to monitor the NYPD’s counterterrorism unit; the removal of the 2007 “Radicalization” report from the NYPD website; and the requirement that investigations not exceed three years and be based upon an “allegation or information that is articulable and factual” (although “such allegation or information need not have been verified as true or accurate”).

The settlement is an important development, but there is a danger in seeing the problem as resolved. While much of the coverage of widespread NYPD surveillance portrays it as occurring until the AP’s discovery in late 2011, Mel’s four years on campus largely took place in the wake of those revelations. In the settlement, the NYPD admitted no wrongdoing. In fact, speaking to reporters last month, Police Commissioner William Bratton took pains to reassure the public that the lawyer who will oversee the department’s counterterrorism activities “is not a monitor” and will work on a committee “controlled by the police department.” Nothing in the settlement would necessarily prevent what Mel did at Brooklyn College or give students a way to hold the NYPD accountable for abusing their rights or misleading the public about the extent of her activities on campus. Lengthy undercover “investigations” remain institutionalized through the agreement. While race, religion, or ethnicity cannot drive an official investigation, ideology still can — as it has over the past 15 years. Muslim students who become more religious or more political (who hold “Salafi” or “pro-Palestinian” or “radical” views) will likely remain potent targets for covert investigations.

As tempting as it is to focus on Mel herself, these tactics are not renegade actions. They are consistent with the NYPD’s and the FBI’s approach to Muslim communities after 9/11. They reveal how an “investigation” becomes a perch from which to spy on a community for years, how politically active and religiously conservative students become targets, and how efforts to form coalitions between students of color become suspect. Such political targeting has a long history —from attempts to root out “communists” on campus in the 1950s to the surveillance and disruption of Black Power and antiwar organizing on campus in the 1960s and 1970s (including the use of informants to sow distrust within those groups). Each time, we have come to see such tactics as excessive and degrading of civil rights. Yet here we are again.

Today, a deeper accountability is required. This kind of policing toward Muslim Americans exists because the public has countenanced it. Our tax dollars fund it. In many ways, Americans have acquiesced to the idea that “our safety” requires vigilance, which means more monitoring, more investigations, more preemptive prosecution. While many people have decried the indiscriminate surveillance of Muslim communities, there remains a widespread willingness to see certain kinds of ideas as dangerous. Armed with our fears, we allow this aggressive law enforcement, rarely having to look the consequences or these young people in the eye when we do.

For those coming of age under the glare of constant surveillance, the consequences are deeply destructive. “I desperately want to feel that I belong in this society and place that I call ‘home,’” a former student wrote to me, “but instead I feel like a despised insect, an intruder in someone else’s home.” Similar to the fundamental questions the young people of Black Lives Matter have raised before the nation, these young women wonder whose safety and security counts in American society. As Fatima wrote to me after finding out Mel’s true identity: “Whose safety is actually being prioritized when the invasive nature of the NYPD’s surveillance apparatus is criminalizing an entire faith-based community?”

Top photo: Youth board a school bus at the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center in Staten Island, N.Y., May 2007.
Subway photo: “untitled-23” by Ken Stein used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Jeanne Theoharis

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Seeking Justice: A Cop Asks: “An Officer Was Killed Protecting His Community, Where Are The Tears for Him?”

October 21, 2015 (ITLWMC)

I happened to be browsing Facebook as I do from time to time.  Checking in on friends and family.  Laughing and liking mostly and just passing the time.  Like most of us I have some good friends.  People of high character who walk the walk.  Who believe in their families, friends, neighbors, and communities.  Friends who feel for each other and share hopes and dreams, smiles and tears and above all memories.  Friends, like one of the many police officer friends I have that work for justice, work for their neighbors, work for you and me.

This friend of mine wrote something that caught my eye. Made me think about where we are in our society and how our hearts have turned cold and how we tend to be so hypocritical with our “compassion”.  How we compartmentalize what makes us mad and sad and how we disregard the life of good people because we follow rhetoric or see only certain realities.

Like many of us I see what is going on in our country and the world at large.  I report on much of it.  The #seekingjustice is my brain child.  A way to point out injustice and keep asking when will our priorities change.  When will we make them change?  Like many I shine the light on police brutality and misconduct whenever I see it.  Like many I believe that the continued use of lethal force as a first option against unarmed persons is just plain wrong.

With all that in mind though that still does not validate silence when an officer is killed in the line of duty.  Murdered by people who are doing wrong. Committing crime.  Hurting our families and neighbors.  Regardless of the issues we deal with each day that does not validate forgetting about people who truly commit to protecting society and literally give their life to that protection.

That is what police officers do in case you have forgotten.  Day in and day out men and women look death in the eye and not only do not flinch but block death from reaching civilians in the community. This is not something trivial and never has been.  Our pathetic mainstream media wants to keep us nice and polarized the majority of the time, After all that is how they make money.  Not reporting stories but telling us how to think and making sure we only have compassion for what they decide is being reported.

Then, of course, there is us.  My friend asked some very good questions.  From hardworking family men and women to activists, to journalists, to elected officials, the silence is deafening.

So let us take some time. Even if it is just a couple of minutes and have a thought for this officer.  Who paid the ultimate sacrifice protecting society.  Protecting you and I. Let’s try and remember that there are more people doing right in our world than there are doing wrong.  It’s not even close.

My friend’s words reminded me.  I share them hoping they remind you.

So here is what is on my sad, angry, confused mind this morning.  A young, courageous, proud black man is gunned down with a bullet to the forehead and i have yet to see anyone stand up from the communities, the federal government, etc., and march, protest or send representatives.  Here is a hero, walking in the proud footsteps of his father and grandfather who were also police officers, taking action against a criminal, and is tragically killed, yet no on says a peep!!! So here’s my confusion, when exactly do #blacklivesmatter, is it less of a life because it’s a police officer? There lies my confusion and sadness. We as a society, all of us, white, black, hispanic march and protest (there are some that burn buildings and loot and steal), and call it unjust when a criminal is killed.  Everyone comes out of the woodwork to get a piece of the “protest” and represent the families of the criminals with lawyers, the federal government sends representatives to oversee prosecutions. Where are you now? I don’t hear a cry for the perp to be tried Federally. So we got you if you’re and are tragically killed committing a crime, but if you’re a hard worrking citizen and in this case, a police officer trying to keep a community safe from those that wish harm on that community, not a word! The silence breaks my heart…it’s simple America, right or worng, good and evil, justice and no justice, let not another be buried, and tears shed without figuring some of this out.  I wish all of you God’s peace…

My friend never names the officer or tells much about it.  So I decided to find out the name of this officer.  Let the world know as best I can about how this man died at the hands of evil.

Officer Randolph Holder was a five-year veteran of the NYPD the night he died.  His decision to become a police officer apparently came very easy to him.  His father and his grandfather both were police officers in Guyana, the country where Officer Holder was born.  As reported by multiple media outlets in New York City, Holder and his fellow officers reported to what was a gang shootout.  When the officers arrived the criminals involved in the shooting scattered and Holder and at least one more officer gave chase.  The criminal shot at the officers and Holder was hit int he forehead and would perish.  The assailant was wounded by return fire from the police and is now in custody.

Office Randolph Holder was pronounced dead at 10:22 PM.  He was 33 years old. His family by his side. His father consoling Holder’s fellow officers, it was reported.  Bravery and courage obviously were embedded in Officer Holder’s genes.

My friend, I agree with you and perhaps together we can break the silence you spoke so eloquently.  At least you were able to make sure I would not remain silent. For that, I thank you.

 

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Thousands March in New York against Iran Deal

Protesters have poured into New York’s Times Square to denounce the as a threat to and global security, demanding that the US Congress reject the pact. Speakers at Wednesday’s rally, including Republican politicians, called on the US Congress to throw the deal out, whipping up the crowd that included supporters of right-wing… Continue reading Thousands March in New York against Iran Deal