Police State U.S.A: Can it be prevented?By Ashahed M. Muhammad -Asst. Editor- | Last updated: Jun 6, 2012 - 9:23:58 AM
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Increased militarization of police and targeting of street organizations appears imminent. Can the Black community do anything to halt crime?
CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) - Just a few days after displaying a massive police presence to prevent those protesting against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Summit from getting out of hand, the Chicago Police Department appears poised to implement a severe crackdown after an embarrassing failure to maintain law and order among its residents.
Ten people were killed in shootings over the Memorial Day holiday weekend with another 40 people wounded. With those deaths, Chicago’s 2012 homicide number reached 200, representing a nearly 50 percent increase over the same period a year ago.
At a May 29 press conference, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy announced a new Gang Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS). Supt. McCarthy, who has been at the helm a little over a year, called it a “comprehensive, top to bottom interlinking strategy” implemented within the nation’s second largest police force.
The bloody Memorial Day weekend was the deadliest weekend since St. Patrick’s Day weekend in which a wave of shootings left 10 dead, at least 49 wounded. Supt. McCarthy said the department is looking at management of resources related to holiday schedules to see what role it may have played.
“Police officers are just like everybody else, they want to go to barbecues and spend time with their families. The problem is if you are a police officer, you don’t have that option sometimes, so we have to ensure that we are managing our resources properly and quite frankly in the past we haven’t done that sometimes and ultimately, I’m accountable for making that happen,” said Supt. McCarthy.
In a report titled “Street Gangs: The New Urban Insurgency,” Dr. Max G. Manwaring, a professor of Military Strategy in the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) of the U.S. Army War College, drew parallels between “contemporary criminal street gangs” and the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The violent, intimidating, and corrupting activities of illegal internal and trans-national nonstate actors―such as urban gangs―can abridge sovereign state powers and negate national and regional security,” Dr. Manwaring wrote.
Supt. McCarthy said gangs splintering into smaller factions are the primary cause of increased gang conflicts. Chicago now has over 600 gang factions, he said. The new program would involve increased intelligence gathering, updated gang membership audits, monitoring of social media to obtain data regarding violent incidents between gang members that could lead to possible retaliation.
According to a February 2011 report from the American Civil Liberties Union, Chicago’s video surveillance camera program was considered a “pervasive and unregulated threat” to privacy. Security analysts say Chicago has one of the nation’s most “extensive and integrated” networks of government video surveillance programs perhaps only rivaled by the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.
Whenever there is an outbreak of shootings, numerous factors are cited and immediately, the blame game begins. Politicians blame the police, the police say they are outmanned, ill equipped and in turn, blame the Black community accusing them of allegedly adhering to a ‘no snitching’ law. One thing politicians, law enforcement officials, and residents seem to all agree on is they consider it almost an incontrovertible and irreversible fact that the onset of warm weather in the city will bring escalating levels of crime.
The increased militarization of police departments across the U.S. has been taking place for the past five years and does not appear to be slowing down.
“Get ready for martial law,” said Pat Hill, executive director of the African American Police League and a human rights activist. “They’re not trying to find a solution, they want to dictate,” she added.
A retired officer after over two decades of service, Ms. Hill said community members, politicians and law enforcement officials fail to get to the root of the issue, which is the problem of violence has not been solved. The street level crimes being witnessed in Chicago and many cities across America are products of the “trickle-down theory” because globally, America solves its problems using violence, through its weapons of war, she argued.
“This is a violent culture,” said Ms. Hill. “Now you have very graphic examples of the philosophy, goals, and objectives of this country. It’s international, it’s national, and it’s local policies.”
Ms. Hill said the police lockdown during the NATO Summit protests May 20 in Chicago was a dry run to see how much people would put up with, and after the carefully managed media campaign, the community is participating in ushering in a police state.
According to the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment report from the National Gang Intelligence Center in Washington, D.C., there are over 1.4 million gang members nationwide representing 33,278 gangs. The highest concentration being in the upper-Midwest area and south-central Los Angeles. Among the chief concerns of law enforcement are the threats posed by street organizations obtaining powerful weapons, and juveniles starting early in the commission of serious crimes.
“Gang members are acquiring high-powered, military-style weapons and equipment which poses a significant threat because of the potential to engage in lethal encounters with law enforcement officers and civilians,” said the report. “Juvenile gang members in some communities are hosting parties and organizing special events which develop into opportunities for recruiting, drugs, sexual exploitation, and criminal activity. Gangster rap gangs, often comprised of juveniles, are forming and are being used to launder drug money through seemingly legitimate businesses,” according to NGIC reporting.
While a heavy-handed crackdown appears to be on the horizon, and with politicians and religious leaders at their wits’ end, the question must be asked: Do residents really want their neighborhoods locked down by more police and national guardsmen?
In the summer of 2010, Illinois State Representative LaShawn Ford, was one of the leading voices calling upon Governor Pat Quinn to bring in National Guard troops to bolster the presence of law enforcement in areas of the city hit hardest by crime. Rep. Ford’s 8th District encompasses parts of Chicago’s West Side, specifically, a notoriously violent neighborhood called Austin where gangs activity is high. He was not alone in his call. Other state representatives and community leaders joined the heated discussion, however, Gov. Quinn rejected the request.
Another troubling factor that greatly complicates matters is the high level of police mistrust within Black and Latino communities nationwide. The Washington, D.C.-based CATO Institute’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project (NPMRP) aims to “determine the extent of police misconduct in the United States, identify trends affecting police misconduct, and report on issues about police misconduct in order to enhance public awareness on issues regarding police misconduct in the U.S.”
Despite the fact that watchdog groups and community activists are daily witnessing and documenting instances of police misconduct, law enforcement officials are receiving more lethal weapons, sweeping powers to conduct “no knock warrants” and racial profiling appears at its highest levels.
Police function in a crime world and have no ability to create solutions that might involve community activism, economic issues and social problems, so more police, stricter enforcement and greater power is not the answer, said Ms. Hill.
It is always narrowly labeled as a “gang problem” when in fact, the situation is more complex. She compared it to the circumstances producing child soldiers in Africa, in which subcultures are set up in order to control their own economic systems, and to survive. The same factors—poverty, homelessness, and lack of adult supervision are present in Africa, as well as in the inner city, and youth are alienated from society, even within their own Black communities.
“They’re surviving,” said Ms. Hill. “We’re in denial about the different tiers that exist in terms of society in this country.”
“I’m looking at this every day,” Ms. Hill continued. “These children are trying to get in where they fit in and creating their own methods of survival, and their standard is so different from what we think the standard should be in a so-called civilized society, but wait a minute—they aren’t a part of that society!”
For his part, Mayor Emanuel is taking aim at area businesses, such as liquor stores, which in some cases become “magnets for gun violence and narcotics dealing.” Seventy to 80 percent of the city’s shootings and homicides are due to gang violence, he noted.
“I do not want kids in the city of Chicago walking by liquor stores or walking in liquor stores as if it is a convenience store,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Businesses serve as anchors in their communities, but some serve as conduits for criminal activity, and those are the businesses that we are targeting,” said Mayor Emanuel.
Mayor Emanuel said while the May 29 press conference was mainly to discuss the law enforcement solutions to the gang violence problem, he acknowledged that there are other issues that need to be addressed.
“There’s a set of economic issues that we’re not talking about, there’s a set of cultural issues that we are not talking about,” said Mayor Emanuel flanked by prominent Chicago area Black religious leaders and aldermen. “We have more jobs than there are people to fill them, why? Because we have a skills deficit.”
Despite those announcements, critics say Mayor Emanuel and Supt. McCarthy’s press conferences and press releases are not going to solve the problem that exists.
“They are carrying out the agenda for their belief systems. They are doing the job of the power structure. They are the establishment,” said Ms. Hill. “Emanuel is a Zionist. McCarthy is a White male Irish Catholic, and none of that has anything to do with us, and as the Zionist who is in charge of this city, he is going to wield the kind of power that he needs to wield to carry out the agenda of Zionists.”
She added that White male Irish Catholics dominate the major police forces of America, and they are going to continue to function in the enforcement role they have historically held.
“These senseless killings and shootings,” said community activist Wallace “Gator” Bradley, “Rahm Emanuel is responsible for the proliferation of the killings and shootings in this city, and I say this because it is on his watch. If (shootings) were going down, he would take the credit. Well, own up to the responsibility.”
Mr. Bradley said he has repeatedly offered solutions by writing and emailing Mayor Emanuel since he assumed the office. Two prominent and legendary street organization guides—El Rukn leader Jeff Fort, and Gangster Disciple leader Larry Hoover—are the keys to stopping the killing, he said. Both are currently imprisoned at the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado probably for the rest of their lives, but if allowed to speak publicly through the media to those that are in communication with those out in the streets, they could make a difference, he said.
“I’m an ex-felon with a pardon. There’s no better resume and I have a solution and a plan that can work,” he said. Mr. Bradley makes no secret about his past as a high-ranking member of the Gangers Disciples giving him credibility in that realm. Now, he has a long record spanning decades within the community working amongst political, community and street organization leaders to establish peace. Mr. Bradley says there are many street organization leaders who abide by a code and are against senseless killing and shootings. He says Supt. McCarthy and Mayor Emanuel issuing blanket condemnations of “gangs” make things worse because they are “giving cover to the renegades that are doing the shooting and killing.”
“The (street organization) leaders that are against senseless shootings and killings are voices have to be heard so that you can see that there are a bunch of renegades and we are all in the community and even though we don’t speak for each other our voices are coming together to eradicate those bad seeds,” said Mr. Bradley.
Mr. Bradley said he would gather community leaders, along with the children of Mr. Fort and Mr. Hoover to appeal to the streets to establish peace by demanding an end to shootings, raping of women, abuse of children, disrespect, and robbing of elders.
On the East Coast, Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, New York representative of the Nation of Islam, led a rally June 2 in Mount Vernon, New York, as a call to action. In his thoughts were three young men killed in Mount Vernon some months ago in retaliation for previous killings. There are also innocent people being killed and wounded in turf wars as rival cliques battle to gain control of the narcotics trade. The dangerous yet lucrative illegal activities are “cause agents” for conflict.
While the community should be outraged and diligent in identifying injustice and misdeeds by law enforcement like in the case of Trayvon Martin in Florida, Ramarley Graham and Sean Bell, both in New York, and Oscar Grant III in the Bay Area, Black on Black killing must end and the community and its leaders must speak out, he said.
“We’ve become so desensitized that even when we do speak up, it’s very little, and the leaders who do try to do something—it’s like a cat meowing at a lion,” said Mr. Muhammad.
“This rally is about how we are killing each other with gunshot wounds, how we are stabbing one another,” said Mr. Muhammad adding that present for the rally were a group of mothers who lost children to gun violence. Mr. Muhammad said during a previous visit to Muhammad Mosque No. 7, many of the mothers told him they had been threatened by some of the street organizations, or cliques in the area.
“We are going to stem the tide, get the blood off of our hands, and offer our program and position,” said Mr. Muhammad. “They can’t say that they haven’t been warned. They can’t say that they haven’t been given a way out, and they can’t say that we have not tried to come in and do something about it.”
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