Sep 11, 2018

What you’ll read today

  • Spotlight: In Chicago, organizers say #ByeRahm and chart a course for the future

  • Queens prosecutor: Kalief Browder’s suicide wasn’t about Rikers

  • A grand jury indicted an Alabama police officer for murder. Then a mayor came to his defense

  • Prisons turn to solitary confinement to punish participants in the national prison strike

  • Thousands of marijuana arrests later, Miami police will implement a year-old civil citation agreement

  • An exoneration that began with finding the family dog 

  • Compensation for the wrongly convicted is uneven and insufficient 

In the Spotlight

In Chicago, organizers say #ByeRahm and chart a course for the future

Last Tuesday, Rahm Emanuel announced that he will not seek a third term as mayor of Chicago. Emanuel made his announcement the day before jury selection was set to begin in the murder trial of Jason Van Dyke, the police officer who killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014. The police department and Emanuel’s administration withheld the video from Van Dyke’s dashboard camera for more than a year, until a court order forced the release. The video  showed the officer shooting Laquan 16 times, including after the teen fell and lay crumpled on the ground. Laquan’s killing ultimately led to a Department of Justice investigation that found widespread civil rights violations by the Chicago Police Department. [Suzannah Gonzales and Karen Pierog / Reuters]

“16 shots and a cover up” became the chant denouncing the actions of the police and City Hall. [Aaron Cynic / Third Coast Review] The city’s refusal to release the tape of Laquan’s killing stretched for 400 days. The outrage and organizing that resulted led to the firing of police superintendent Gary McCarthy, whom Emanuel had brought in as a reformer, and coalesced into a “meticulously-led community campaign,” #ByeAnita, that saw State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez voted out of office. [Benji Hart / In These Times]

Activists and organizers greeted Emanuel’s announcement with jubilation. In These Times, the Chicago-based magazine, described the “instant celebration from the activists who have spent nearly eight years fighting—and trying to survive—his brutal policies.” In an interview, Mariame Kaba, the veteran organizer, teacher, and writer who lived in Chicago for many years, discussed how Emanuel’s decision was, in part, the product of the many social movements that have battled him for years. “These seven years have actually been a great demonstration of the amount of pushback that can happen across multiple sectors with lots and lots of different groups fighting all the time. It’s a great illustration of movement work.” [Sarah Lazare / In These Times] From protesting racist police practices and killings to challenging mental health policies to labor strikes that sparked nationwide teacher strikes, Emanuel’s time in office was met by fierce resistance. [Micah Uetricht / Jacobin]

In the wake of Emanuel’s announcement there was also a grim accounting of the damage wrought during his tenure as mayor. He shut down half of the city’s mental health clinics and ordered the closure of 50 schools, 44 of which were in predominantly Black and Latinx neighborhoods. [Alex Kotlowitz / New Yorker] Chicago was documented to have the worst stop-and-frisk program in the country from 2011 to 2015. Emanuel also exploited racialized fears to push the passage of a carjacking bill to increase the incarceration of young people, and pushed passage of an expanded surveillance bill empowering police to fly drones over protest crowds. During his second term, he proposed the construction of a $95 million police training academy and has pushed the plan through the city’s Board of Aldermen—all in a city that was already spending more on policing than on public health, family, transportation, and affordable housing services combined. [Kelly Hayes / The Appeal] Despite strong opposition to the plan from residents of the proposed site in West Garfield Park and the launch of a forceful #NoCopAcademy campaign, the city continued to push forward with the plan. [Alan Pyke / ThinkProgress]

Advocates, activists, and community members hope and plan that the change in leadership and the campaigns leading up to the mayoral election will be a moment to press for the urgent criminal justice and social justice policy changes they demand—in policing, social services, and mental health care. [Aaron Cynic / Third Coast Review]. Activists are under no illusion that an election itself will bring about the necessary changes, but as Kaba has said: “We have a window and we can try to get somebody in power who can be pushed to deliver our organized demands.” Activists also know that focusing simply on the mayor’s race is not enough and they are looking more broadly at the other elected officials who have, for too long, simply rubber stamped mayoral decisions.  [Sarah Lazare / In These Times]

Stories From The Appeal

Protesters at a rally for Kalief Browder. [Flickr/Felton Davis (CC by 2.0)]

Queens Prosecutor: Kalief Browder’s Suicide Wasn’t About Rikers. City Council Member Rory Lancman, who was debating Assistant District Attorney James Quinn over the future of Rikers Island, blasted Quinn’s comments on Browder, who spent three years incarcerated without a trial. [George Joseph]

A Grand Jury Indicted an Alabama Police Officer for Murder. Then a Mayor Came to His Defense. Jeffery Parker was shot to death by a police officer in his Huntsville home. A grand jury handed up an indictment for murder, but the mayor and City Council appear to be throwing their support behind the officer. [Lauren Gill]

Stories From Around the Country

Prisons turn to solitary confinement to punish participants in the national prison strike: Sunday marked the 47th anniversary of the Attica uprising and the last day of the national prison strike that began Aug. 21. Participants in the strike, which reached federal and state prisons, immigration detention facilities, and local jails in at least 14 states, joined at enormous personal risk and faced intense repression. Writing in Solitary Watch, Valerie Kiebala and Jean Casella observe that “prison administrators and staff have been swift to employ their primary tool of control to repress incarcerated voices, retaliate against incarcerated organizers, and preemptively quell the strike: solitary confinement.” Lockdowns and retaliation against organizers were ordered even before the strike began. “Both the strikers’ original demands and the harsh repression they faced serve as a grim reminder that in many ways, the U.S. criminal justice system has actually regressed in the intervening 47 years—a period in which the prison population grew by nearly 700 percent.” [Valerie Kiebala and Jean Casella / Solitary Watch]

Thousands of marijuana arrests later, Miami police will implement last year’s civil citation agreement: In February 2017, the city of Miami signed an agreement allowing police officers to issue civil citations in lieu of making arrests for minor offenses including low-level possession of marijuana. Seventeen months later, Miami police have made 2,800 arrests for the five offenses that were covered by the civil citation agreement. Eighty-four percent of those arrests were for small amounts of marijuana. Now the police chief, who took over from his predecessor in January, has announced that officers will begin implementing that policy change at the end of the month. A city commissioner who had pushed for the city to adopt the citations program told the Miami New-Times that he had assumed the program was being implemented and “[i]t was very surprising to hear that it had not been.” [Meg O’Connor / Miami New-Times]

An exoneration that began with finding the family dog: In 2017, a nonunanimous jury (permitted under Oregon’s law allowing for split verdicts) found Josh Horner guilty of child sex abuse. Horner was sentenced to 50 years in prison. The Oregon Innocence Project (OIP) worked with Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel to re-examine the conviction in an investigation that led to Horner’s exoneration. OIP’s investigation had unearthed discrepancies, including one related to the family dog. Horner’s daughter, who had made the allegations against him, had testified that Horner had shot and killed the dog in front of her but Horner’s lawyers tracked down the dog, alive and living with new owners. Hummel thanked OIP for helping him “get it right,” saying, “A prosecutor’s job is to seek justice, not convictions.” [Elise Herron / Willamette Week]

Compensation for the wrongly convicted is uneven and insufficient: Radley Balko of the Washington Post looks at a forthcoming study of the National Registry of Exonerations database and accompanying law review article on compensation for the wrongly convicted. While compensation payments total $2.2 billion to date, more than half of the exonerees in the database have received no compensation. Payments also vary significantly between states and are far higher for those who bring successful lawsuits. Variations also hinge on race: Black people are more likely to be wrongly convicted, spend longer on average in prison before being exonerated, and receive less compensation once they are released. Moreover, because these payments come out of public treasuries or from municipal insurers, the public officials responsible are unlikely to be deterred. Balko writes, “For real deterrence, we’d need consistent accountability for police and prosecutors whose misconduct sends innocent people to prison.” [Radley Balko / Washington Post]

Thanks for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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