Back To the Real Issue

This election was going to be about terrorism, or at least the upcoming first presidential debate was going to be about terrorism, because an unhinged lone bomber decided he wanted to do that ISIS thing and set off a few bombs here and there. He may have been motivated by an extremist Islamic ideology, but the FBI and CIA and all the rest are having a hard time connecting him to any of the groups of the bad guys anywhere in the world. He was a fan-boy. He had once stabbed his own brother. His parents had called the cops on him more than once. His wife had left him. He wasn’t good at anything, even terrorism. He did relatively little damage and he represented no one. Still, this was a “terrorist” attack, and Trump and Clinton each said what they’d do about terrorism, and why they were right and the other was dead wrong, as a warmup to what they’d say at the first debate – the same thing, only more dramatically.

Forget that. With Donald Trump being a bit of a white nationalist, this election was always going to be about “the other” – Muslims and Mexicans, or all Hispanics that aren’t Cuban-American Republicans from Miami, and about the Black Lives Matter folks who presumably want to kill all cops, and loathe Donald Trump. There’s no way to “make America great again” with those folks around. One flaky terrorist bomber was a small subset of all that. America understood what Trump was getting at. Get rid of these folks. Many agreed with him.

Terrorism wasn’t what was on people’s minds. It always comes down to race, and now, in Charlotte, it was back to this main issue, as the city just exploded:

A man was shot and critically injured during a second violent night of protests here, after two sharply divergent accounts emerged of the death of a black man at the hands of police.

A march of a few hundred people turned chaotic after protesters attempted to follow police in riot gear into the lobby of an uptown hotel. Officers used tear gas, and then a reporter heard one gunshot and saw a man lying in the street near the hotel entrance.

Medics said he was taken to a local hospital with injuries they said were “life-threatening”; officials used the city of Charlotte’s Twitter account to confirm he had died in what they said was “a civilian on civilian confrontation.”

He hadn’t died – they later corrected that – he was only on “life support, critical condition” – as if that mattered. They had an outraged mob on their hands, perhaps the first of many to come:

Marchers used outdoor seating to break the windows of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, which then barricaded its doors.

In the aftermath of the Tuesday afternoon death of Keith Lamont Scott, anger in the streets turned to looting and arson, and North Carolina’s largest city joined the list of communities across the country that have erupted amid a growing debate on racial bias in policing.

In Tulsa, meanwhile, protesters called for the arrest of the officer involved in a fatal shooting of a black man there on Friday. President Obama called the mayors of both cities to offer his condolences and pledge help, the White House announced.

Forget that incompetent lone bomber, as there are bigger issues:

To date, law enforcement officials have fatally shot 702 people this year, 163 of them black men, according to a Washington Post database tracking fatal police shootings. A growing divide in public rhetoric over that toll has been stoked by a summer of high-profile deaths captured on social media and the deadly assaults on police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. The latest encounters come as the presidential race has tightened, and both candidates have offered different positions and solutions.

At a news conference Wednesday, Charlotte police insisted that Scott had a gun and was posing an “imminent deadly threat” when officers shot him outside an apartment complex near the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Scott’s family, however, said he was unarmed when he was killed and was instead reading a book in his car while waiting to pick up his child from school – a detail that quickly went viral on social media and was seized upon by protesters here.

Officers were searching for another man, a suspect with outstanding warrants, when they spotted Scott emerging from a vehicle and armed with a handgun, police said.

That’s what they say, but now no one trusts anyone in North Carolina. The Republican governor and his Republican legislature changed the voter-ID laws and the time-and-place rules about who gets to vote and when, and were told by the courts this was a laughable attempt to keep black voters from the polls, and that they had to stop that right now, and the state refuses to stop. That raised tensions, and this latest police shooting sent things over the top:

In the first hours after the shooting, a large crowd gathered near the university, some chanting “black lives matter” and “hands up, don’t shoot.” As the protest grew in size and anger, police appeared in riot gear and fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Some protesters began smashing the windows of police cars.

By early Wednesday, demonstrators had shut down traffic on Interstate 85. Some opened the backs of tractor-trailers, took out boxes and set them on fire in the middle of the highway, according to local news reports. A truck driver told news station WSOC that people stole cargo from her trailer.

A few dozen appeared to have broken into a nearby Walmart, then dispersed when authorities arrived.

Among the 16 officers hurt in the violence, one was hit in the face with a rock, authorities said. At least 11 people were taken from the demonstrations and treated for life-threatening injuries, hospital officials said. Police reportedly used flash grenades to break up the crowd, clearing the highway by early morning.

Those elsewhere might have been surprised by all this, but no one in North Carolina should have been surprised:

This city was the scene of another high-profile police shooting in September 2013, when Charlotte-Mecklenburg officers fatally shot Jonathan Ferrell, a 24-year-old black man who had crashed his car in a residential neighborhood several miles from the complex where Scott was killed.

Officer Randall Kerrick fired 12 rounds at Ferrell, who was unarmed, striking him 10 times. Police said Ferrell ignored officers’ instructions.

Last year, the jury deadlocked during Kerrick’s trial. While most jurors voted to acquit the officer, four voted to convict him. After a judge declared a mistrial, the state said it would not seek another trial. Ferrell’s family and the city of Charlotte settled a lawsuit stemming from the shooting for a reported $2.25 million.

It seems that the anger from that shooting never went away. Some things never go away.

And there was Tulsa:

The family of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man whose fatal confrontation with the Tulsa, Okla., police was recorded on video, said Tuesday that Mr. Crutcher had posed no threat and that his hands were in the air when he was shot.

“We watch the video and it’s clear to see that Terence did not have a weapon in his hand,” a lawyer for the family, Damario Solomon-Simmons, said at a news conference Tuesday. “It’s clear to see that Terence was not being belligerent.”

The shooting, the family and its lawyers said, was a clear case of excessive force.

Mr. Crutcher, 40, was killed Friday evening on a Tulsa street by an officer identified as Betty Jo Shelby, a five-year veteran of the city’s Police Department. Officer Shelby, who is white, was responding to reports of a tan SUV abandoned in the middle of the road – its motor running, the driver’s door open and the driver nowhere in sight.

The family’s news conference came as the Tulsa police promised a thorough investigation and as a lawyer for Officer Shelby, Scott Wood, defended her actions.

The defense was that she was an expert in spotting people on drugs and decided he was on PCP – which makes people dangerous – so she shot him dead on the spot, in a preemptive way or something. She knew he was on PCP even if no one else did. She just knew it. Trust her.

Good luck with that:

Adrian Colbert, who is African-American, said the shooting occurred near his house, and he referred to the riots in the 1920s, in which white residents killed up to an estimated 300 African-Americans in the city.

“He had his hands up, and they popped him,” Mr. Colbert said. “But that’s something we’re used to. It goes back to 1921. What happens here usually gets swept under the rug.”

So we’re finally back to the real issue, but Donald Trump says he has the answer:

Donald J. Trump on Wednesday called for the broad use of the contentious stop-and-frisk policing strategy in America’s cities, embracing an aggressive tactic whose legality has been challenged and whose enforcement has been abandoned in New York.

His support for the polarizing crime-fighting policy – which involves officers’ questioning and searching pedestrians – collides with his highly visible courtship of African-Americans, who have been disproportionately singled out by the tactic, data show. It also came as police shootings were once again drawing scrutiny and protest.

It’s hard to see what good that would do, but he loves the idea:

Mr. Trump has long championed stop-and-frisk as a crime-fighting tool in his hometown, New York, but on Wednesday he recommended that it be deployed in cities across the country that are struggling to control violence.

It was the latest twist in Mr. Trump’s awkward, and at times counterproductive, outreach to black voters, who polls suggest remain deeply skeptical of him – and it occurred right after a prominent black supporter, Don King, used a racial epithet as he introduced Mr. Trump at a church in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Well, that was awkward:

As Mr. King, the retired boxing promoter, sought to explain how society unfairly categorizes African-Americans, he referred to a “dancing and sliding and gliding nigger,” before quickly correcting himself. “I mean Negro,” he said as Mr. Trump looked on a few feet behind him, grinning.

He didn’t mind the word:

Mr. Trump described his enthusiasm for stop-and-frisk during a town hall-style discussion, also in Cleveland Heights, after a voter pressed him on how he would reduce violence in black communities. “One of the things I’d do,” he said, “is I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to. We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well and you have to be proactive.”

The largely white audience erupted into applause.

During the event, hosted by Fox News, Mr. Trump suggested that stop-and-frisk would work well in cities like Chicago, which has been convulsed by gun violence, and Cleveland.

“I see what’s going on here, I see what’s going on in Chicago,” Mr. Trump said before praising the technique again as “incredible.”

Some didn’t think that was incredible:

“The idea of creating a national stop-and-frisk policy is the equivalent of advancing martial law and is beyond the constitutional power of the presidency,” Marc H. Morial, president of the National Urban League, said in an email.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has overseen the dismantling of stop-and-frisk as official police policy, said what Mr. Trump was proposing “will simply alienate the very people who we need to be partners in the fight against crime.”

“He does not understand how policing works,” added Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat who is supporting Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump’s Democratic rival for president.

And there’s a history here:

Once credited with significantly reducing murders in urban centers like New York by removing weapons and drugs from the street, it has drawn protests and legal challenges. A federal judge in New York, Shira A. Scheindlin, struck down the tactic as unconstitutional in 2013, saying the way the city was using it violated the rights of minorities.

About 83 percent of the stops in New York from 2004 to 2012 involved blacks and Hispanics, even though those two groups make up just slightly more than 50 percent of the city’s residents.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appealed the judge’s ruling, but after Mr. de Blasio took office the Police Department repudiated the strategy and stopped using it. Mr. de Blasio, who dropped the appeal, has called it a “broken policy.”

Similar complaints dogged the use of stop-and-frisk in Chicago, prompting the Police Department to make an unusual concession: It now allows an independent third party to monitor its use.

The tactic is a bit odd. By fiat, a mayor suspends all the rules about “probable cause” so his cops can stop and search anyone they don’t like the looks of at any time. Any weapon or drugs or whatnot that they find cannot be used as evidence in any court – that’s illegal search and seizure – but the idea is not to charge anyone with any crime. The idea is to harass people so they don’t get any ideas. It’s preventative. If the cops don’t like the look of you, you’ll be frisked. Rudy Giuliani, who now advises Donald Trump, was the one who came up with the idea years ago – and the courts shut that down. It was just a way to harass minorities for no reason at all.

Trump should have known this, but he was having a bad day:

Mr. Trump is drawing historically low support from African-Americans, according to several polls, and he has repeatedly stumbled in his attempts to appeal to them.

He earned ridicule a few weeks ago when he told blacks that “you’re living in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed – what the hell do you have to lose?”

Wednesday was a chance for Mr. Trump to try a different approach, by speaking to black pastors.

But Mr. Trump’s choice of the 85-year-old Mr. King to introduce him was unusual: Mr. King was convicted of manslaughter in 1966, though he was later pardoned; he has been investigated for possible connections to organized crime; and he has no political experience.

Ah, but he is black, isn’t he? Of course he is – but Trump couldn’t catch a break:

The top official in the country’s largest police union tweaked Donald Trump on Wednesday for leaping to blame the police officer who shot an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Trump last week, and that endorsement still stands, said Jim Pasco, the group’s executive director. But of Trump, said Pasco, “he must be mindful of the due process rights and presumption of innocence accorded to all, including police officers.”

Trump did make a mistake: 

Trump has been reaching out to black voters in recent weeks, and on Wednesday, the Republican presidential nominee said he was “very, very troubled” by Tuesday’s shooting of Terence Crutcher by Officer Betty Shelby, and suggested her inexperience was to blame.

“Now, did she get scared? Was she choking? What happened? But maybe people like that, people that choke, people that do that, maybe they can’t be doing what they’re doing, okay? They can’t be doing what they’re doing,” Trump said at a church in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

“I watched the shooting in particular in Tulsa. And that man was hands up,” Trump continued. “That man went to the car, hands up, put his hand on the car. I mean, to me, it looked like he did everything you’re supposed to do, and he looked like a really good man.”

He shouldn’t have said that: 

Trump’s law-and-order message and unequivocal support for police in other recent confrontations between cops and black men have made him popular with law enforcement, so his criticism of Shelby was an unusual departure.

Clinton has sharply criticized the killings of both Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott, whose death in Charlotte, N.C., prompted protests even as police said he was armed.

Clinton said that such killings should “become intolerable” and touted the need for reform on Wednesday, and the day before she spoke about “implicit bias” in the context of the Tulsa incident.

That prompted Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway to attack Clinton Wednesday morning, saying on Fox News, “It’s just unbelievable that she would do that before we even know the facts, the details. I think that’s an over-politicization of a situation where we don’t know the facts.”

Conway’s remarks came before Trump’s own suggestion that the officer choked.

Oops. These things are difficult, and there was that other guy:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a prominent Donald Trump adviser, said on Wednesday that Hillary Clinton’s comments saying we need to “tackle systemic racism,” while discussing the police shooting of Terence Crutcher were “a disgrace.”

“She’s a disgrace. She’s a disgrace and those comments are a disgrace,” the New Jersey governor said on the Laura Ingraham Show on Wednesday. “It’s typical of Hillary Clinton. She knows nothing but the mouth never stops. And, the fact is she has no idea what happened in North Carolina. The same way, as you very aptly pointed out Laura, people jumped to conclusions in Ferguson which caused riot cautions in Ferguson, because of politicians dumping gasoline on a fire.”

“And the fact is that she has no experience in law enforcement except for being interviewed by them,” continued Christie.

Hillary’s sin was this:

“We’ve got to tackle systemic racism – this horrible shooting again,” Clinton said. “How many times do we have to see this in our country? In Tulsa, an unarmed man with his hands in the air? I mean, this is just unbearable, and it needs to be intolerable. And so maybe I can, by speaking directly to white people, say, look, this is not who we are.”

“We’ve got to do everything possible to improve policing, to go right at implicit bias. There are good, honorable, cool-headed police officers,” she continued. “We have seen them in action in New York over the last 48 hours because of the terrorist attacks. We can do better. We have got to rein in what is absolutely inexplicable. And we have got to have law enforcement respect communities and communities respect law enforcement because they have to work together.”

That’s her position. There are good, honorable, cool-headed police officers – support them, and fix the rest. Trump said the same thing, and got slapped down for saying what she said. If the rest of the race is going to be about this issue, race, and not about that sad loser of a bomber, Trump is stuck between common decency and his implicit white nationalism. He may not be able to resolve that conflict.

On the other hand, having law enforcement respect communities and communities respect law enforcement may be out of reach. Ijeoma Oluo addresses that:

When I or any of my black friends discuss issues of police brutality online, we receive a common response: “Well see what happen next time you need the police and they aren’t there to protect you.” But we’ve already seen what happens – it’s our current reality.

Terence Crutcher needed the police when he was killed by them. Veteran Anthony Hill needed the police when he was killed by them. Elliott Williams needed the police but he was instead taunted by them as he slowly died in a jail cell without food and water. Quintonio LeGrier needed the police and had called them three times when he and his neighbor were killed by them. We already live in a world where we can’t call the police when we need them, because we know that there is a good chance that we or our loved ones will be killed for it.

He sees what’s happening:

The police have become even more open in their declarations that they are not here to serve us. They have threatened not to provide police protection to athletes who dare protest police brutality by not standing during the national anthem. They stopped doing their jobs in New York when the mayor dared to question why so many black men have died by their hands. In Seattle, police demanded higher pay and more benefits before they would start implementing measures to stop abusing the public. In West Virginia, they have started firing police officers for not killing black men. The message has been simple: we are not in service for black people, and if you question us, we won’t be in service for you either.

And here we go again:

As grieving black people gathered in the streets to protest yet another killing of a black man by police officers, police in North Carolina made it perfectly clear, once again, that they are not here for us. Charlotte police say Keith Scott was armed when they encountered him while trying to execute a warrant on somebody else. Scott’s family insists that he never carried a gun and was in fact afraid of them. They say that Scott was simply reading a book in his vehicle while waiting for his son’s school bus to arrive. Those who are served by the police may be more likely to believe them over Scott’s family.

But those of us who are not served by the police remember that the gun reportedly found on Che Taylor was traced to a sheriff’s deputy. We remember that officer Michael Slager was caught planting a weapon on the body of Walter Scott after he was shot in the back while running away. We remember that Samuel DuBose was politely interacting with police during a traffic stop when Officer Ray Tensing shot him in the head and then immediately claimed to his superiors that DuBose had tried to run him down. We remember that officers claimed that 19-year-old Laquan McDonald was threatening them with a knife, until video revealed that he was running away from officers when he was shot 16 times.

There’s more, but it comes down to this:

Black Americans know that the police don’t serve us. But who do they serve? And if they serve you, is this really what you asked for?

What kind of country do you want? Now it’s come down to the real issue.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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