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After Nipsey Hussle’s killing, gang members call for an end to violence

What you’ll read today

  • Spotlight: After Nipsey Hussle’s killing, gang members call for an end to violence

  • In Louisiana, a messenger of change disregards his message

  • California cops said a man wielded a deadly weapon when they shot him. But records reveal he waved a tent pole.

  • ‘Nothing sanitary’ and ‘not safe’

  • Move 9 member released on parole after 41 years

  • No difference between prison and probation for violence prevention

In the Spotlight

After Nipsey Hussle’s killing, gang members call for an end to violence

After the rapper Nipsey Hussle was killed on March 31, there was an outpouring of grief in Los Angeles and across the country. Hussle has been applauded as the rare star who remained rooted in his community and committed to it through his art, entrepreneurship, and activism. (Hussle was posthumously honored with the 2019 Humanitarian Award at the BET awards yesterday.) As Lanaisha Edwards, a South LA organizer, told The Guardian in April, “He didn’t take his money and run. He stayed in the community.”

Hussle’s business ventures were estimated to have employed tens of thousands of people, many of them formerly incarcerated. When he was killed he had been engaged in planning to build low-income housing and was scheduled to meet with the Los Angeles Police Department about anti-violence measures.

Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, had been a member of the Rollin’ 60s, a Crips group, but in death he was mourned across gangs. And in the shared grief, many have seen an opportunity for peace.

Since April, gang members in LA, the Bronx, and Newark, New Jersey, have called for an end to violence. A month after Hussle’s death, Sam Levin of The Guardian reported on efforts, then four weeks old, to end aggression between rival gangs. Levin spoke with LaTanya Ward, an activist and organizer affiliated with a Bloods gang. It was Ward and Shamond Bennett, a friend of Hussle, who made calls after his death and brought people together in the days after he was killed. As Ward told Levin, “We all share the same struggles … the systemic racism, all of that s**t that we victims to,” she said. “Nipsey is from Los Angeles … he one of our own, even if he is, amongst us, one of our enemies.”

The first meeting had 15 people. The second had over 100, representing more than 30 gangs. Later that week hundreds of members of rival gangs attended a vigil for Hussle. Edward Scott, one former gang member, told Levin, “This is history, because they got to stand on the same square, not incarcerated, but on the streets, coming together.”

Skipp Townsend, a 55-year-old former Bloods member who now works in gang intervention, told Levin: “There are so many people who want peace, but they did not want to be the first to say it. So many people were living in fear.”

In yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, Nicole Santa Cruz and Cindy Chang provided a close look at the peacemaking efforts between gangs that have continued since then. It is too early to say what the outcome of these talks will be. Summer, when violence often escalates, has just set in. But as they write, “Not since the landmark truces of 1992, which followed the devastation of the L.A. riots, has such a concerted wave of peacemaking swept through the area’s hundreds of black gangs.”

There are concerns, of course. The older gang members, who have been spearheading the talks, have talked about the need to get buy-in from younger members, in their teens and 20s. As one put it at one of the talks: “I see one or two youngsters. There ain’t no shooters in here. How are we going to get to the shooters? How are we going to get to the vast majority of the shooters, the dudes that ain’t listening?”

A detective who spoke to the LA Times expressed skepticism, saying, “I just don’t have any faith. You didn’t talk to this clique or that dude—how are you going to bring anybody together?”

But the efforts have, Santa Cruz and Chang write, “already yielded tangible results.” Ceasefire talks are underway between the Hussle’s former gang, the Rollin’ 60s, and their rivals, the Rollin’ 40s. One gang recently held a family day, with bouncy castles for kids.

“We’re going to still be Bloods. They’re going to still be Crips,” Melinda Lockhart, 49, one of the organizers of the family day told the Los Angeles Times. “But put the guns down and let’s live.”

Over on the East Coast, in New York, weeks after Hussle’s death, a #KingsStopKillingKings march took place in the Bronx. Hundreds of current and former gang members came together in April with anti-violence activists in the South Bronx. Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, also marched, carrying a Kings Stop Killing Kings flag. Anti-violence groups and violence interrupters, often former gang members themselves, played a major role.

This month, Newark had its own #KingsStopKillingKings march. In a meeting before the march, gang members sat down and agreed on a truce. NJ Advance Media reported that a draft of the agreement stated that certain public places would be “designated buffer or neutral zones against violence.” This included schools, places of worship, recreation centers, and funeral homes. The agreement included expectations for gang members regarding the use of social media, saying members would not “dispute, call for, glorify or insinuate the killing of a member of another organization.”

The hopes and pain people have brought to these efforts—captured in the Los Angeles Times and Guardian reporting—are a reminder that gang members, often painted by the media exclusively as perpetrators of violence, live with life-altering violence and in dread of it. Their efforts toward peace are a reminder that they are some of the people best placed to end the violence and that those efforts are worth supporting.

At a Compton gang summit last month, Santa Cruz and Chang reported, one attendee called the situation “an emergency.”

“We can’t be nonchalant about our lives, our kids’ lives, our sons’ lives,” he said. “Why are we here? Are we here to stop the killing, or are we here just to holler at each other, network a little bit, powwow? I’m here because I’m tired of going to funerals.”

Stories From The Appeal

District Attorney James Stewart of Caddo Parish, Louisiana
[Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brown. Photo from Facebook]

In Louisiana, a Messenger of Change Disregards His Message. James Stewart, Caddo Parish’s DA, continues to defend controversial death sentences that originated with his predecessors. [Joshua Vaughn]

Fremont Police Said a Man Wielded a Deadly Weapon When They Shot Him. But Records Reveal He Waved a Ten Pole. The police union’s newly elected vice president led the investigation into the shooting that cleared Officer William Gourley of any wrongdoing. [Darwin BondGraham]

Stories From Around the Country

‘Nothing sanitary’ and ‘not safe’: Warren Binford, one of the lawyers who interviewed children held at the Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, spoke with Isaac Chotiner of the New Yorker for a piece published on Saturday. The lawyers were interviewing children last week to determine compliance with the Flores agreement, which lays out the standard of care for children in federal custody. “There is nothing sanitary about the conditions they are in,” Binford said, referencing the standard that the federal government must meet under Flores. “They are not safe, because they are getting sick.” “Things have always been horrendous in Border Patrol facilities, especially for children,” she said. “What we’re concerned about now is the number of children who are there, the young ages of the children there, and the length of time that they’re being left there.” [Isaac Chotiner / New Yorker]

Move 9 member released on parole after 41 years: Eddie Goodman Africa, 69, of the Move 9 was released on parole on Friday from state prison in Pennsylvania. His release came 41 years after members of the radical Black liberation group were arrested in 1978 following a siege of their home. One police officer was killed in the gunfight that ensued and all nine members were found guilty of third-degree murder. Two of the nine died in prison and four had previously been released. Two remain in prison. Africa first became eligible for parole release 10 years ago but was repeatedly denied until his most recent appearance. His last disciplinary infraction in prison—for refusing to cut his locks—was in 2004. He served a total of 41 years in prison. [Ed Pilkington / The Guardian]

No difference between prison and probation for violence prevention: A recent study published in the journal Nature looked at data on all individuals sent to prison in Michigan between 2003 and 2006 and then followed those individuals through 2015. The study focused on people convicted of violent crimes who were eligible for either probation or a prison sentence. One of the study’s authors writes in the Scientific American: “Sentencing someone to prison had no effect on their chances of being convicted of a violent crime within five years of being released from prison. This means that prison has no preventative effect on violence in the long term among people who might have been sentenced to probation.” [David J. Harding / Scientific American]

Thanks for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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