Posts tagged ‘rpd’

Public Forum Set Between Richmond Police and Protesters? REALLY!?!

In the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter protests in and around Richmond, NBC 12 reports that a public forum is scheduled between police and protesters.

donttalktocop

I am not an organizer of these protests although I have participated in several and support the movement as much as I can. And I am white, and it is certainly delicate territory for me to critique organizing being done by folks of color. But in this case, I think it is necessary, as a safety precaution and because this sort of event has the potential to affect activists of all types in Richmond.

I support 110% the concept of Diversity of Tactics. No one has to organize like anyone else, as long as we have points of agreement we are working towards. However, I am highly skeptical of and concerned about a meeting with the Police.

Generally speaking, when organizing protests or events, folks I organize with operate with the idea of having as little interaction as possible with the police. This is coming from a largely anarchist organizing scene, so if these protesters are not anarchists, that might explain their different approach. But anarchist or not, it can be very harmful to a movement to have some folks deal with the police. There are many reasons for that.

Significantly, is that Police can lie. They are trained interrogators, and when involved in a conversation they can lie and manipulate you with ease. While the police can lie, you can not. It is illegal for you to lie to the police. If you want to know your rights, check out this post full of useful info, or get in touch and I or someone else will happily come to your group to do a Know Your Rights or How to Copwatch workshop. Trust me, many cops do not know your rights, and aren’t required to tell you much about them. They aren’t even legally required to give you a verbal Miranda Rights anymore. The news article says “They say they’ll be asking questions like “If an officer asks me to take my hands out of my pockets, do I have to?”” – look, you do not have to go talk to the police to find this information out. Yes, you do need to take your hands out of your pockets or else the police might think you are doing something dangerous and shoot you. When you are detained the police have the right to pat you down to feel for any weapons. They can not go into your pockets for anything other than something which feels like a weapon unless you give consent. Never give them consent to search. Always say, “I do not consent to a search”. But do not physically resist a search, just repeat loudly that you do not consent. See you do not need to go to police to get this information.

Additionally, police operate with a hierarchical system. They assume everyone else does too. I couldn’t count the number of times some cop has asked us to speak to whomever is in charge, just to receive laughter in response. No one is in charge silly cop. Of course, that is after they usually approach the biggest white male first, under the assumption that they are in charge. What this means in terms of talking to the police, is that if one person or group of persons comes to any agreement with the police, the police are liable to hold the entirety of ‘demonstrators’ to those agreements. Even though many who might protest a variety of issues had no say in those agreements.

In certain protest situations, this has resulted in protesters who had agreements with the cops, actually policing other protesters. Sometimes this means protesters trying to detain, assault, or have arrested others involved in the protest. This pretty obviously sucks. Even if things do not get to that point, any agreement with the police by some protesters basically gives the police leverage to try to hold all protesters to that agreement, and places more folks in potential danger.

The location of the forum, is at the Police Training Academy on Northside, hardly neutral ground. There are folks who might want to participate who validly do not feel at all safe in that space. There are tons of folks who do not feel comfortable sharing any space with police. And folks who do feel safe in those spaces need to be careful to not speak for those who do not. This is a highly tricky situation.

The forum is also a fairly transparent means through which the police are trying to get good media coverage. They are being nice, reasonable etc. These are still the police who terrorize men of color, engage in stop and frisk activities in Northside neighborhoods and others too, lock up all kinds of people for non violent offenses, and generally harm our communities. They do not have to be regularly murdering people in a direct manner for their very existence to be oppressive and harmful.

The article also says that questions from demonstrators will be submitted written and read by a third party. I don’t know about yall, but thats not how I imagine a DIALOGUE going. Conceivably questions might be ignored or censored as the police please. It seems that there is no assurance of an opportunity for response or rebuttal. So this might just be a forum to give the police a platform to answer soft questions and look good for the media. Not a win in my mind.

It is unstated as to whether or not ‘demonstrators’ will be allowed to bring in recording devices to capture their own take on the situation.

City Council’s new President Michelle Mosby is quoted talking about “mutual respect” between protesters and police. Nope. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. NOPE! I speak for myself only, but am fairly certain there are plenty of folks in Richmond who do not have respect for the enforcement arm of racism, capitalism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, etc. I mean, the police!

The question of legitimacy and the process of de-legitimization is also present here. Who represents these movements and has the legitimacy to engage with the police. What does this do to others in the movements who do not want to talk to the police or support this tactic. There are certainly people of color who are not supportive of this forum, if my facebook feed is at all representative. Unfortunately, this forum will de-legitimize those protesters in the polices’ eyes.

Movements need leadership, but not necessarily leaders. If folks are perceived as in charge by the police, this also puts them in a tricky situation of being accountable for an entire movement. It can be dangerous to be a police liason. And it can put folks in a position of being pressured by police to force protesters to engage in something they do not want to do.

If you are talking to the police, be very careful. Be considerate of others involved in the movements, and make an effort to avoid speaking for or representing others. Ask tough questions if you are going to ask questions. And remember that people choose to be police, choose to enforce unjust laws, choose to engage in a system of racism and transphobia, and generally choose to be oppressive.

That’s all I’ve got right now. Just make sure this is something you want to do and that the benefits outweigh the risks.
See you in the streets.
Over n Out.

Missing the Mark – Racism and Reporting

This was an article I wrote on Dec. 24, 2014, and submitted to a local paper. Not hearing back from them since the holidays, I figured I might as well get it out here. This is a response to an article written by Mark Holmberg which you can look up if you want to read it, I don’t want to give it the clicks.

Mark Holmberg is a staple of the Richmond journalism scene. I remember being a kid and reading his columns in the Richmond Times Dispatch. As an adult I have been interviewed by Mark for his new gig at WTVR CBS 6, and seen him at numerous protests and events around town. He’s been in my home on several occasions. Mark is a human, you know, like the rest of us, and a perfectly nice guy in person. Sometimes, Mark’s perspective which he infuses his reports with is sympathetic or similar to my position on an issue. But there are other times where Mark’s reporting makes a strong case for the old concept that if you don’t have nuthin nice to say don’t say nuthin at all.

Unfortunately, the views Mark has chosen to broadcast regarding the Eric Garner and Mike Brown protests fall into this category. His December 21st article, starts off badly and doesn’t get any better. He seems to draw ties from the world wide protests against police brutality, murder of people of color, institutional racism and impunity from accountability for the police to the mentally ill man who killed his partner, a woman of color, and then two NYPD officers. There is no connection between #blacklivesmatter protests and Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the man who shot the two cops, and there is no reason to try to delegitimize organizing and protest efforts by people of color and their allies around these issues based on faulty logic.

Mark draws rapid, trite conclusions, about both the Eric Garner and Mike Brown decisions. I have been patient with white people who do not understand or sympathize with the Mike Brown murder and Ferguson situation. I know it is hard for folks to see past their white privilege, especially without video evidence (sigh). But white people need to learn to listen to people of color and believe what is being said. White privilege protects white folks from certain experiences and blinds us to certain realities. (more…)

Transgender Day Of Remembrance Memorial 2013 in RVA – We need more than the government’s pretty words

Richmond celebrated  Transgender Day of Remembrance with our 8th annual  Memorial Service yesterday, November 20th. It was the first year I attended. My friend Tammie and I spent a majority of our day acquiring produce and preparing some food to share at the reception after the memorial service. We were happy to do so and happy to see the 200 or so folks who came out to support each other.

tdor2013

Photo by Kontra RVA of some of the attendees in the church, and the folks lined up to present stories of Transgender people who were murdered

The TDOR memorial was held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church downtown. The committee that organized it did a really great job. The sharing of stories was moving, and it was only through the clenching of teeth that I avoided breaking down. The song performed by My Darling Fury was beautiful. There were a couple of speakers, some sharing personal experiences and some talking more generally about the issue of violence directed at Transgender folks. After the service, the group assembled on the steps of the Church holding candles.

Photo by Kontra RVA of folks gathered on the St. Paul steps after the service

Photo by Kontra RVA of folks gathered on the St. Paul steps after the service

Not to take away from the efforts and successes of the organizers and presenters, but there was one aspect of the event which I found to be uncomfortable. When we were outside holding candles, the Chief of Police Ray J. Tarasovic read a proclamation from City Council and (Dis)Honourable Mayor Dwight C. Jones.  This isn’t the first year Jones has issued such a proclamation (I’ve found news coverage of these proclamations back to at least 2010).

Mayor Dwight Jones is certainly not honorable (Dwight the Blight!), and as much as it might have made some folks feel better to hear the proclamation from him and City Council read by the police chief, there is a strong need to push back and demand more. If the Mayor and City Council and Police Chief want to be allies of trans people it is going to take a hell of a lot more that just showing up to a vigil and a memorial service with some fancy words.

The presence of police is not a welcome one for all attendees of such events. Many folks with histories of drug addiction, sex work, and crimes of survival are likely to have had negative run ins with the police before. The friendly face the police give to law abiding lgbtq folks is much different than the one the reveal to “criminal” lgbtq people.

The Richmond Police Department and City Council can talk solidarity with transgender folks in Richmond, but they fail when it comes to walking the walk.

Photo by Kontra RVA of the Chief of Police talking nice to people while we were outside

Photo by Kontra RVA of the Chief of Police talking nice to people while we were outside

The police and the sheriff’s department are responsible for enforcing a variety of different laws which  are particularly oppressive towards  and/or disproportionately affect transgender people. The Mayor and City Council have the power to change local laws and policies to be more trans friendly. The police and sheriffs have the power to change how they treat transgender people with whom they come into contact.

For those less familiar with the specific issues facing transgender people, I’m going to go into some of them here. I would add that these are also issues affecting other members of our communities struggling to survive. I’m intentionally limiting the discussion of these issues here to focus on the impacts specifically to transgender people.

As long as the Mayor, City Council and Police departments only give us fancy words and handshakes a few times a year, transgender people will suffer. In this case, suffering means being harassed, assaulted, homeless, sick, poor, raped, and murdered. This is a matter of life and death, which is why the proclamation read yesterday was so insulting.

As long as transgender people have no job protection, they will suffer.  Because there are no laws in Virginia to protect transgender people from being unfairly fired, their unemployment, poverty, and homeless rates are higher, and they will do what they need to in order to survive which sometimes means taking risks or breaking the law.

As long as sex work is illegal, and as long as the police enforce laws around sex work, transgender people will suffer.As long as sex work is illegal, the higher rates of violence against transgender sex workers will continue. Sex workers deserve rights and dignity, and keeping sex work illegal hurts transgender folks all the time.

As long as clean needles are illegal, and as long as police enforce laws to prevent needle exchanges, transgender people will suffer. Transgender people need legal access to clean needles to prevent infection and disease, to ensure their ability to take the hormones and medicines they need to survive, and to stay out of the criminal ‘justice’ system.

As long as transgender people are sent to the Richmond City Jail, where the Sheriff Woody prides himself on denying access to HIV medication, transgender people will suffer.  As long as transgender people are sent to jails and prisons with  cisgendered inmates transgender people will continue to suffer high rates of assault, rape, and murder.

As long as transgender people do not have the right to housing under Virginia laws, they will suffer. City Council could work to protect transgender people’s housing rights under local laws.

As long as two members of the police department glad hand at a few LGBTQ events a year but don’t actively disrupt the culture of police brutality that LGBTQ people bear the higher brunt of, transgender people will suffer.

What was offered by the Richmond Police Department and City Council on Tuesday was not enough. If the police and City Council want the benefit of looking good in front of the LGBTQ community and broader Richmond community, let’s make them earn it.

Some links with more information on the issues covered here, please check them out and further educate yourself and those around you!

Gay RVA’s coverage –  http://www.gayrva.com/news-views/richmonds-8th-transgender-day-of-remembrance-marked-with-police-chief-appearance-new-location-and-local-names-being-read/

Transgender women and HIV – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/02/transgender-women-49-times-likely-hiv-study_n_3000094.html (more…)

Suggestion for Councilwoman Mosby

http://m.nbc12.com/autojuice?targetUrl=http%3a%2f%2fwww.nbc12.com%2fstory%2f23201579%2frichmond-councilwoman-creates-suggestion-box-for-crime-fighting-ideasis my response to Councilwoman Mosby as interviewed by NBC 12 here:

Hello,

More police and more jail beds will never solve crime in Richmond. We need jobs, we need dignity, and we need education. Community will solve crime, not laws or encouraging people to call 911 when they see something suspicious. People of color, especially young men of color are already disproportionately targeted by the RPD who engage in unethical stop and frisk tactics. We already spend too much on police. We should be trying alternatives like mediation, counselling, mental healthcare access, etc. And calling on and supporting existing organizations like the Richmond Peace Education Center and ROSMU to help in developing alternatives to 911 and guides for building strong communities.

I would love to meet to discuss further.

Thanks

Mo Karnage

 

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