No Justice, Once Again … Another Sad Day …

It should have come as no surprise.  My heart should not have dropped into my shoes.  I should not have had any tears left to cry.  But it did, it did, and I did.

Jeronimo Yanez was just acquitted by a jury in the murder … yes it was murder … of Philandro Castile in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Need I state that Jeronimo Yanez is white, Philandro Castile was black?

Sequence of events:

06 July 2016 – 32-year-old Philandro Castile, cafeteria manager at the local Montessori school, was driving with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds a few minutes after 9:00 p.m., when police officer Jeronimo Yanez, age 29, pulled him over in a ‘routine’ traffic stop allegedly because of a burned-out brake light. Yanez approached the car window and asked Castile for his license and proof of insurance. As Mr. Castile reached for his wallet, presumably to get his driver’s license, Yanez pulled his gun and shot Mr. Castile through the window … not once, not twice, but seven times.  While Ms. Reynolds sat in the passenger seat of the car and her 4-year-old daughter, Dae’Anna, was in the backseat!  Yanez claimed that he thought Mr. Castile matched the description of a suspect in a recent robbery.  He also said that he thought Castile was going for his gun, which was disputed by Ms. Reynolds. The County Medical Examiner’s office ruled Castile’s death a homicide and said he had sustained multiple gunshot wounds.

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Diamond Reynolds and Dae’Anna in the aftermath

Ms. Reynolds began video on her phone just as the shooting ended, and livestreamed to Facebook … video that went viral within a short time and that was also presented as evidence at trial.

16 November 2016 – Prosecutors charged Yanez with second-degree manslaughter for the fatal shooting, saying that “no reasonable officer” would have used deadly force in the same situation. Yanez was also charged with two felony counts for intentionally discharging the gun.

30 May 2017 – The trial of Jeronimo Yanez begins with jury selection.

12 June 2017 – Closing arguments complete, the jury of 10 white and 2 black people begins deliberations

16 June 2017 – The jury returns a ‘not guilty’ verdict


The trial:

During the trial, Yanez testified that he had been parked in his squad car when he saw Castile drive by, and they ‘made eye contact’.  “He gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look. It’s a trigger.” (Of course he did … just the day before, another black man, Alton Sterling, had been brutally murdered by white police officers!  Black males in this country know what they can expect at the hands of white police officers!)

Yanez said that gave him “strong suspicions” about Castile, whom he believed could be one of the robbery suspects from a robbery that had taken place four days prior.  Yanez said Castile had a nonworking brake light, which gave him legal grounds to conduct a “pretext” traffic stop that’s then used to investigate other crimes.

Yanez claimed at trial that he saw Castile begin pulling a gun out of his pocket, although immediately after the shooting, he told his supervisor that he had not seen a gun and did not know where it was. Ms. Reynolds testified that Castile was reaching into his pocket for his driver’s license.

Yanez also claimed that he smelled marijuana in the car.  Marijuana was, in fact, later found in the car, however … Yanez’ lawyer, Earl Gray, claimed that Mr. Castile had been under the influence of marijuana and delayed in his reactions at the time of the shooting. “We’re not saying that Philando Castile was going to shoot Officer Yanez,” Mr. Gray said. “What we’re saying is that he did not follow orders. He was stoned.” But video from Yanez dash-cam proves otherwise, showing that Mr. Castile was driving normally, pulled over quickly and was alert and courteous when talking to Officer Yanez.

Earlier in the week, the jury was divided 10-2 … I can guess which jurors argued for a conviction and which for an acquittal.  But somehow by Friday they decided to absolve Yanez of all charges.  I will not speculate on those deliberations, but instead leave it to your own imaginings.

Officials in the St. Anthony, Minnesota, police department said, they have decided “the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city.”

The murders of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile resulted in the nations of the Bahamas, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain issuing travel advisories for citizens who might be considering travel to the U.S.

The murders of both Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile are a wart on the nose of the United States.  The absolution of their murderers proves that justice in this nation is prejudiced, that justice here is anything but just if you are an African-American.  Just like the cases of Freddie Gray, Keith Lamont Scott, Michael Brown, Paul O’Neal, Christian Taylor, Tamir Rice, and so many more, once again, justice was not served. As long as we are content to have a proven racist in the position of Attorney General, it never will be.  As long as we turn our backs and wear our blinders, it never will be.  Until we ALL stand up and speak out against racism, against white supremacy, against mistreatment of our fellow human beings, it never will be. Today was another sad day for the United States of America … one of many such days.

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Fellow Countrymen … CEASE AND DESIST!

I am known for being an ardent defender of the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press.  I am also known, however, for being against bigotry in all its many forms.  Today, I am torn between those two.  In life, my friends, everything is not black-and-white, but there are many grey areas … and today’s post is about one of those grey areas.

Freedom of speech, as it has many times been interpreted by the Supreme Court, the highest law of the land, includes the right to protest.  That is as it should be.  But yesterday, Americans in 30 cities across the nation shamed themselves and all of the United States by abusing that right, for they were not protesting bad government, they were not protesting the rise in price of celery.  No, they were protesting against all members of one of the world’s major religions, Islam.  To anyone who joined in, supports or applauds these protests:  WHAT IN THE SAM HELL ARE YOU THINKING????

The protests were not large, and in some cities, the counter-protests organized by Civil Rights groups were actually better-attended. However, the principle remains the same.  Islam is a religion of peace and love.  There are some terrorist groups that commit horrific crimes in the name of Islam.  Christianity teaches peace and love.  There are some groups of Christians who commit horrific crimes in the name of Christianity.  What is the difference?  There is none, but can you imagine the reaction of the masses if anti-Christian groups staged protests against Christians?

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Brigitte Gabriel, founder of Act for America – a hate group

The rallies were organized by Act for America, which claims to be protesting about human rights violations but has been deemed an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Act for America calls itself “the NRA of national security”.  Need I say more? The founder of the organization is one Brigitte Gabriel who claims to be “one of the leading terrorism experts in the world”, yet the sum total of her educational background seems to be a one-year business administration degree from the YWCA. Seriously????? I must, then, be a real expert, for I have taken two semester-long courses in terrorism as a part of my (unfinished) quest for a Ph.D. in International Relations!

Gabriel has said that “the Arab world was characterized by ‘evil’ and ‘barbarism’”, and a snippet from the group’s website reads …

“Throughout its existence, ACT has stayed true to its mission by working to advance anti-Muslim legislation at the local and federal level while flooding the American public with wild hate speech demonizing Muslims … The difference, my friends, between Israel and the Arabic world, is a difference between civilization and barbarism. It’s a difference between goodness and evil. And this is what we’re witnessing in the Arabic world — they have no soul, they are dead-set on killing and destruction.”

Remember last July, during Trump’s phobic election campaign, when he belittled Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a slain Muslim soldier who had strongly denounced Mr. Trump during the Democratic National Convention?  Well, Ms. Gabriel had this to say about it …

“A practicing Muslim cannot, with good conscience, hold the Constitution and say that he abides by the Constitution and lives by the Constitution, because according to Sharia law — which every devout Muslim follows — the Constitution is a man-made law and it cannot be followed.”

An ignorant statement by an ignorant woman.

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March AGAINST Human Rights

Act for America counts among its supporters a number of high-profile political figures. New York Congressman Peter King, in particular, has taken part in the “Act for America Show” on YouTube, and Senator Ted Cruz has spoken at their annual Legislative Briefing in Washington D.C. Former national security adviser Mike Flynn has been a member of the group’s Board of Advisors, and Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson is scheduled to speak at AfA’s annual conference in October 2017. In March 2017, Gabriel was invited to the White House for a meeting with a member of the Trump administration’s “legislative staff.” Why am I not surprised?

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Counter-Protesters

People … we do NOT need this. These types of rallies do nothing but promote fear and hatred under the guise of free speech. If we wish to keep our nearly unlimited right to free speech, arguably the most important right we have in this country, then we must protect and cherish it, we must use if for good rather than evil, and we must not use it to propagate fear and hatred, to personify evil.  We must use it wisely and responsibly, and that is not what those involved with yesterday’s rallies did.  They shamed themselves, though they are too stupid to realize it, and they shamed our nation.

I do not want the government, nor the police, to take away our right to speak freely, nor do I want them to take away our right to protest, to hold rallies and marches.  But that is what will happen if we do not police ourselves.  We must unite against hate and bigotry, for both are dividing this nation, causing splits that may take decades to heal. If citizens of this country continue to act as wild boar hogs, then eventually we will all be treated as such.   Think about it.

Little Noted, Below-the-Fold Items

I need a short break from my series on Trump pulling out of the Paris Accords, in fact I need a short break from Trump altogether. So I go in search of some non-political news about which to opine.  And I come across this:  A weekend of racial violence in Trump’s America.  Sigh.  I ask myself:  Where does it end?  Does it ever end?  And the voice that replies to me says, “no, it never ends … the names and faces change, but it is always there … always has been, always will be.” And I take a deep breath … let it out in a sigh … feel the tears welling in my failing eyes, and then I open a blank document and begin writing, for that is the only way I know to deal with it all.

The story began, of course, with the man on a train in Portland who murdered two and wounded a third after shouting racial epithets and threatening a young Muslim woman and her friend, of which I already wrote.

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Jimmy Kramer

About eight hours after the Portland attack and 150 miles north, Jimmy Kramer, a member of the Quinault Indian Nation, was celebrating his 20th birthday with a group of roughly 10 friends by a river in Washington state. The gathering of teens and young adults, many of them Native American, was interrupted after they sang happy birthday to him and were gathered by a campfire. A white man in his 30s drove his pickup truck toward the group and eventually, intentionally ran over Kramer, who later died from his injuries. The Quinault Nation said in a statement that the driver was “screaming racial slurs”. The driver also reportedly made “war whoops” meant to mock Native Americans and that he told them: “You guys don’t belong here.” WHOA WHOA WHOA there … hold on just a damn minute!  If anybody in this scenario doesn’t “belong”, isn’t it the white dude and the man and two women who were with him, of European ancestry whose ancestors came here centuries after the Native Americans??? Hasn’t this guy ever read a history book?  Was he a 2nd grade dropout??? His name has not yet been released, so I cannot find any information on him just yet.

The next day came the racially motivated stabbing of an unidentified young African-American man in Clearlake, California by one Anthony Hammond, which led to an hours-long standoff with police.  Thankfully the young victim is expected to recover from his wounds, and Hammond is being held on $1 million bond.

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Anthony Hammond, racist

But that wasn’t the end … not by a long shot.  A day later, violent threats and physical confrontations broke out at the Texas state capitol after a Republican lawmaker, Matt Rinaldi, said he called federal immigration authorities on undocumented protesters. A shoving match with Democratic lawmakers reportedly followed, and Rinaldi was later accused of telling one of them he would “put a bullet in your head”.

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Matt Rinaldi

And then there were the nooses.  This past Wednesday, someone with no apparent love in his heart for African-Americans, left a noose in the segregation galleries of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.  It was the second noose that was found within the past week, the first having been found hanging from a tree near the Hirshhorn Museum, only a mile away from where the second was found.  In mid-May, two 19-year-old men were arrested and charged in connection with a noose found hanging in front of a middle school in Crofton, Maryland.  And in early May, nooses were found at the Port of Oakland in California.  Ryan Lenz, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said, “We’ve never had reports like this ever.”  He went on to say that hate incidents — including bomb threats to religious institutions, racist graffiti and white nationalist flyers — have spiked in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. Nooses, for those readers in other countries who may not be aware, represent the days not so long ago, when black people were often lynched for such simple crimes as not saying “sir” when addressing a white man.  It is a symbol of pure hate, of pure evil.

Some say it is hard to separate the latest racial violence from the rhetoric of Trump who has bragged about sexual assault, joked about attacking his opponents and protesters and made racially prejudiced remarks about Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans, indigenous people and other minorities. I cannot agree.  Though I have often blamed Trump and his rhetoric for the rise of hate crimes, after much thought, I blame people.  Look, I heard Trump’s rhetoric also, as did most every adult in this country.  But it did not make me hate people based on any superficial criteria.  It did not make me think this country should be “whites-only” or revert to the days of segregation.  It did not turn me into a hater.  It did not make me arrogant or give me a sense of entitlement.  And the majority of the people in this country would not dream of committing any acts of atrocity against a person because of their race, ethnicity, skin colour or religion.  So … if we all heard the same bullshit come out of Trump’s mouth, and most of us did not feel the need to emulate his hate, then does it not stand to reason that the people who are committing these atrocities had that hate in their heart all along?

Now granted, what Trump’s rhetoric DID do was to enable those haters, to give them the sense that it is now acceptable because, “hey, the prez himself has done it”, but one cannot wholly blame Trump, for each of us has a mind.  Some work better than others, and Hugh would argue that not everybody has a conscience, but I believe in the cases I have just written about, every person understands that it is wrong.  It is wrong to hate, but if you do hate, if you feel that your race, your religion, or your gender is superior to others, you can still control your actions.  It is wrong to hate, but what is more wrong is to act on that hate and hurt another human being.  The people of this nation need to learn that and quickly. And yet … and yet, some won’t.