Because He Was A Black Man

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Screenshot from Arbery's murder

If we needed more harrowing proof of the deep-seated racism still befouling America and its so-called criminal justice system, look no further than this week's news on the separate but equally horrific murders of three young black men and the travesties of justice they continue to face long after the fact. On Monday in Aurora, Colorado, an independent investigation commisioned by the city released a scathing report finding that police in August 2019 had no reason legal or otherwise to stop, frisk, tackle, twice choke and ultimately render brain dead Elijah McClain, a "sweet," "childlike" 23-year-old massage therapist and violinist walking home from the store who repeatedly cried to his attackers, "I'm sorry, I'm just different." The use of force by Jason Rosenblatt, Randy Roedema and Nathan Woodyard "did not appear to relent even after Mr. McClain was in handcuffs, becoming progressively more ill and less responsive, and surrounded by a large group of officers,” the report said, nor did paramedics properly evaluate or even speak to McClain before injecting him with a “grossly" excessive dose of ketamine. Then detectives charged with investigating the murder instead asked questions "designed to elicit specific exonerating ‘magic language’ found in court rulings” to cover it up. The report "said exactly what Aurora residents and McClain's family have said and known over the past year-and-a half" about a police department with a long history of racist brutality, charged a community organizer. McClain’s mother Sheneen said she was happy her son "is no longer labeled a suspect (but) a victim”; she has filed a lawsuit against the city and called for the cops to be fired and charged. Instead, Roedema and Woodyard remain on the force. Rosenblatt was later fired for texting “haha” to a photo of other Aurora cops re-enacting the murder of McClain at his memorial site.mclain took a year, petition, uproar

On Tuesday, a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against seven Rochester, New York police officers who last March killed Daniel Prude, who was experiencing a mental health crisis, by handcuffing him, putting a hood over his head, and pressing his naked body onto the snow-covered pavement for several minutes even after he had vomited, pleaded he couldn't breathe, lost consciousness and finally stopped breathing. Prude, 41, was from Chicago but was visiting his brother; he was taken off life support a week later. His death, of cardiac arrest, was ruled a homicide due to “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” with PCP a contributing factor. Police initially claimed his death was a drug overdose; it went largely unnoticed for six months until body camera video was released following pressure from his family. The seven cops remain on leave amidst an ongoing internal investigation. The failure to charge them, despite evidence of a police cover-up - "Make him the suspect," it was suggested - was blasted at an emotional news conference by New York A.G. Letitia James, who took over the investigation. She decried "the influences of race" - slave codes, Jim Crow, lynching, the war on crime, the overincarceration of people of color - that bind so many criminal justice failures from Eric Garner to, now, Daniel Prude. That evening, protesters turned out with signs proclaiming "Stop Killing Black People" and "My Skin Is Not A Crime." Still, many said they expected nothing more. “White supremacy protects white supremacists,” charged organizer Stanley Martin. “(The system) is not meant to protect us. The system did exactly what it was meant to do.”

Also on Tuesday, the mother of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, murdered by three yahoos for jogging while black in Glynn County, Georgia, filed a multimillion-dollar civil lawuit against both the killers and the officials who covered for them. Wanda Cooper-Jones’ suit, which she filed one year to the day after her son’s murder, charges that Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan "willfully and maliciously conspired to follow, threaten, detain and kill Ahmaud Arbery" after they chased him, ambushed him in a truck and killed him with three blasts from a 12-gauge shotgun. "They were motivated to deprive Ahmaud Arbery of equal protection of the law and his rights by racial bias, animus, discrimination," the suit goes on. In short, they killed him because "he was a black man." The suit also accuses Glynn County police officers and two former prosecutors of 14 actions, from failure to prevent harm to wanton misconduct, that constitute conspiring "to hide the circumstances surrounding Ahmaud’s death and to protect the men who murdered him.” All three of Arbery's killers face felony murder charges, but - again - only months after his death when, thanks to family and community pressure, police released damning video footage. For runners, Arbery's murder prompted both support - many held "I Run With Ahmaud" events - and painful safety precautions; a childhood friend said he now runs for therapy, "as if I am chasing some sort of freedom." To Arbery's mother, his death represents a sacred duty. “I will get answers - that was my promise,” she says. “That’s the last thing I told him, on the day of his funeral: that Mama will get to the bottom of it.” To many others, it is one more grievous sign of failures - of America's "ravenous" criminal justice system, of too many deaths and too many cover-ups, of history repeating itself - that must cease.

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