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Ahmaud Arbery's mother wants her son's killers to get the death penalty, a departure from the reactions we've seen from other families of unarmed Black men killed by white folks.
One response that’s become familiar following the shooting of unarmed Black people has been decidedly absent in the conversation about the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery. While victims’ family members have many times readily forgiven their relatives’ killers, this time around there is no mention of any kind of forgiveness from Abery’s family, let alone a nation of outraged Black folks who continue to see people who look like them be slaughtered with impunity by police and civilians alike.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite from Arbery’s mother, who has openly called for the death penalty for Gregory and Travis McMichael, the father and son who profiled the 25-year-old jogger, armed themselves and hunted him down with the sole objective of killing him.
“Coming from my point of view, my son died, so they should die as well,” Wanda Cooper-Jones told TMZ on Tuesday.
That sentiment seemed to be echoed across social media and in sharply worded opinion pieces that followed.
To be sure, it seems like we haven’t seen this much anger following the shooting of an unarmed Black man since former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger broke into the home of Botham Jean and killed the 26-year-old as he sat on his sofa eating ice cream in 2018.
BY STEVE VOCKRODT AND MICHAEL WILNER – KCSTAR
MAY 12, 2020 03:54 PM
The director of the Kansas City Health Department on Tuesday expressed frustration that federal data about the coronavirus pandemic that was apparently leaked to a news network this week is not being shared with local health departments.
Rex Archer said documents obtained by NBC News and published Monday evening, which identified Kansas City as a “location to watch” because of increasing coronavirus cases, should be readily available to local health departments.
“I think the reason this is suppressed is it shows how bad things are and we need more resources and we’re not getting them,” Archer told The Star on Tuesday.
During a press briefing on Monday in the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump said coronavirus cases were “way down” when asked about the emergence of about 20,000 new cases every day across the country.
“I mean, the numbers are really coming down, and very substantially,” Trump said. “And this weekend was one of the lowest we’ve had. This is — you know, the numbers are coming down very rapidly all throughout the country, by the way. There may be one exception. But all throughout the country, the numbers are coming down rapidly.“
During Tuesday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany confirmed the authenticity of the document, adding that it did not originate from the White House but rather the Federal Emergency Management Agency. She said the document showed “isolated outbreaks” in the Midwest in prisons or meatpacking facilities that, once officials become aware of it, then “we’re able to contact trace and pretty quickly resolve the situation.”
“I have to just say that this is proof that the system is working, that we’re able to identify what the president said are embers and put them out,” McEnany said. “It’s the system at work.”
FEMA’s national office did not immediately respond to a request for the documents or a comment about them. A local FEMA spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said he learned of the document from the NBC News story.
“Unfortunately, we have not heard from federal health officials and certainly not the White House,” Lucas told The Star in a Tuesday morning text message. “We always appreciate their support and perspective, so would welcome it here.”
Documents that NBC News described as originating from a White House pandemic task force listed the Kansas City core-based statistical area (CBSA) as having a 220% increase, or 1,217 new coronavirus cases during a seven-day period.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Kansas City’s CBSA includes the following counties: Johnson, Leavenworth, Linn, Miami and Wyandotte in Kansas; Bates, Caldwell, Cass, Clay, Clinton, Jackson, Lafayette, Platte and Ray in Missouri.
Listed among other “locations to watch” were Charlotte, North Carolina; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska; Montgomery, Alabama; Columbus, Ohio, and Phoenix, Arizona.
Locations identified as those with increasing cases included St. Joseph, Missouri, where an outbreak at the Triumph Foods processing plant has resulted in hundreds of new cases. About 70 cases from the Triumph Foods outbreak are people who live in Kansas City.
Leavenworth County also accounts for a spike of coronavirus cases due to the outbreak in the Lansing State Prison.
While the document does not list a time frame for its comparison, NBC News said the document is dated May 7.
Archer said “there’s no question we had the highest number of reported cases last week since this thing started.”
It’s likely that more cases are being reported as testing, which had been scarce across the United States at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, ramps up in the Kansas City area.
Archer said testing doesn’t tell public experts too much information in the absence of contact tracing, which is the process of investigating the whereabouts of people who test positive to see who else may have been exposed.
“Until you’re doing both, enough testing and checking on possible cases to see who else has been exposed, you don’t actually know what your community prevalence is,” Archer said.
Archer said there should be 30 contact tracing investigators for every 100,000 residents, which for Kansas City would mean 150. Archer said Kansas City currently has seven full-time equivalent positions for contact tracing, which is being spread across 19 health department employees who have other responsibilities.
“You can see we’re a long ways from that,” Archer said.
Additional funding would help, he said.
Archer said Kansas City so far has received no funding from the federal government to assist with payment on coronavirus expenses, the same federal government that has identified the Kansas City region as a location to watch because of increasing infection rates.
Federal CARES Act aid to pay for unexpected coronavirus response costs has filtered to Clay, Jackson, Platte and Cass counties, but so far there’s been disagreement about if and how much money those counties can pass along to Kansas City. Kansas City does not get direct federal aid because it has slightly fewer than 500,000 residents, leaving the city to attempt to work with its constituent counties.
Archer said federal health agencies are typically transparent and will share information during disease outbreaks. The documents obtained by NBC News carried a notation: “For Official Use Only.”
“They (CDC) are being muzzled and not allowed to say what needs to be said,” Archer said. “It is just unbelievable what’s going on right now. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Written By NEWSONE.COM Staff
While death is inevitably a part of life, that truth doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to those who have died. This running file commemorating some of the notable Black folks who have died in 2020 is meant to pay homage to their contributions in life that will live on well after their deaths.
Memphis civil rights activist, city councilmember and businessman Fred L. Davis, who marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a historic labor strike, died on Tuesday following an illness. Davis made history when he was elected the Memphis City Council in 1967, joining two other newly elected Black people as the city’s first African American council members. The next year, when the city’s sanitation workers protested their working conditions and low pay, Davis and King were among those marching in the workers’ support. Davis also opened one of the first Black-owned insurance companies in the south. In addition, he and his wife worked to desegregate the city’s schools.
We mourn the passing of former Councilman Fred L. Davis. His legacy is marked by his contributions to Memphis civil rights movements as he remains to be a pillar of justice for our community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/M5TwP7r3vh— mem_council (@MEM_Council) May 12, 2020
Davis’ death followed a brutal spate of devastating losses from the music world.
Betty Wright, the award-winning R&B soul singer whose signature song went on to become a sampling standard in hip-hop music, died Sunday morning. She was 66 years old. Wright, whose cause of death was not immediately reported, had a career that spanned decades and evolved from its gospel roots to rhythm and blues to pop, the latter of which won her a pair of Grammy Awards.
As Bossip noted, Wright’s hit song from 1971, “Clean Up Woman,” has been sampled in music by contemporary artists ranging from Mary J Blige to Beyonce and still stands the test of time as a classic song in its own right.
The show of force came as there have been calls for more Black people to arm themselves.
By Bruce C.T. Wright – NEWSONE.COM
The protests in Georgia sparked by the killing of Ahmaud Arbery bore a number of similarities to the others we’ve seen following what seems like a neverending string of controversial shootings of unarmed Black men by white people. But in the rural town of Brunswick — where father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael racially profiled Arbery before getting their guns, hopping in a truck, hunting him down and killing him in the middle of a road in broad daylight — there is one key difference the separates the protests there from others: demonstrators were armed.
And not only were they armed, but they were also legally armed Black citizens who came out to protest in the town’s Satilla Shores neighborhood where the McMicheals are accused of murdering Arbery in February. It’s a neighborhood that is very white and conservative, as seen in images from the protests that show Trump-Pence 2020 signs on homes’ lawns.
Likely sensing that the neighborhood’s residents didn’t want the protesters there — especially the armed ones — one of the Black men who were carrying machine guns seemed to almost dare someone to say something about them being there.
“You think they would have shot me if I was running through they goddamn neighborhood?” the man who, like the other armed protesters, was wearing a camouflage bulletproof vest and a mask to conceal most of his face, asked rhetorically. “Well I’mma give them an opportunity,” he added while walking toward the protest.
One local news outlet identified the men as being members of the Black Panther Party.
Georgia gun laws allow for legally licensed individuals to openly bear arms in public even if there is no apparent cause for self-defense.
The armed citizens legally protesting Arbery’s death came as there have been calls for more Black people to arm themselves because of continued consequences from the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected Black people well beyond the health spectrum. As Nylah Burton, a Black woman, wrote for ESSENCE, the combination of the way law enforcement tried to sweep Arbery’s death under the rug; the recent series of police brutality over nonviolent social distancing violations; and the armed militias storming statehouses across the country have left her reluctantly considering getting a gun.
“I believe that for many Black people, especially those living in predominantly white areas, firearms might prove necessary,” Burton wrote in part. “And not just for defense, but for food sustainability, which will become more important as the climate crisis worsens.”
These groups of legally armed Black citizens could begin popping up more and more if this country’s uncertain and divided racial trajectory is any indication. It happened in Michigan when a group of legally armed citizens escorted State Rep. Sarah Anthony into the State Capitol building as the aforementioned militia swarmed in protest of not re-opening the state after months of being in lockdown.
Black people have been against the premature reopening of states because Black folks are the ones who are disproportionately dying from and contracting the coronavirus and prefer to be more prudent for the sake of public health. On the contrary, the lion share of the anti-lockdown protesters has appeared to be white and very eager to re-open the country despite health concerns from experts and evidence that the second wave of COVID-19 is looming.
The Black Panther Party figures prominently into this conversation because of its history rallying at the California Statehouse in the 1960s. At the time, the police reacted with force. It was a stark contrast to the peaceful reaction shown by cops in Michigan when armed protesters yelled in their faces and openly threatened them.
Alas, this is America.
The coronavirus has brought hardship, but it's also given parents of color a chance to teach their children counter-narratives not written from a white perspective.
By Monisha Bajaj – NEWSONE.COM
My 6-year-old hates the British. To be more specific, the British Empire that ruled over up to a quarter of the world’s land by the early 1900s. Hates that one of the biggest diamonds in the world, found in India over 1,000 years ago, now sits in the queen’s set of crown jewels. Hates that they drew up borders quickly and exited South Asia in the 1940s, resulting in the death of millions, and making his grandfather and great-grandparents refugees in the newly formed nation of India.
How does my 6-year-old know all about this? Well, because we talk about it and have a lot of books at home. We have always read books about South Asian culture and history. And now that we have more flexible schedules since we have to work at home – and the kiddo has to do school at home – we have even more time together. He naturally gravitates to the books with characters that look like him.
As a scholar of multicultural education, I know that children are able to understand complex issues, like racism, if they are broken down and explained in a way that they can grasp. So, when books talk about subjects like segregation, slavery, colonialism or sexism, my partner and I explain those terms as best we can.
A different worldview
Conversations about world history in our home go a little like this:
Parent: “People from Europe really liked the spices and cloth from South Asia, so they wanted to go there to buy stuff.”
Kiddo: “Even Christopher Columbus was lost and trying to find India, right?”
Parent: “Right! Europeans went to South Asia, first to trade and buy things. But then they wanted more power, and the British decided to take over and bully people around.”
Kiddo: “How did they bully them?”
Parent: “They made people give them money (land-taxes), didn’t let them make their own clothes to wear, and didn’t even let them make salt out of the water in the sea next to where they lived!”
In a podcast interview, the lawyer compares the two cases.
By Royce Dunmore – NEWSONE.COM
The fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery has once again brought to light racist vigilantism in the United States and how killers can use the argument of “self-defense” as a way to hide behind the law.
Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) for the killing of Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, back in February. They assumed he was a neighborhood burglar and they hopped inside a truck, armed with a .357 magnum revolver and a shotgun, to chase down a jogging Arbery. A confrontation in the middle of the road led to Arbery getting shot twice in the chest with a third bullet grazing his right wrist, according to an autopsy. A video of the incident was released last week sparking outrage, and now leaders are vying for a grand jury to convene so that Travis and Gregory can be indicted.
The attorney for Arbery’s family, Benjamin Crump, noted that there are chilling similarities between Arbery’s case and the case of another unarmed pedestrian killed by a vigilante.
Trayvon Martin was shot and killed on Feb. 26, 2012, by George Zimmerman, a then-neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida. Martin was only 17 years old when he died and he would have been 26 in February of this year. Crump also backed Martin’s family during the tumultuous early 2010s period that inspired a Movement fo Black Lives. This makes Crump an expert in outlining the uncanny, yet sad similarities between Martin and Arbery in an interview with Jonathan Capehart on The Washington Post‘s Cape Up podcast.
“When you think about the fact that both of them were killed in the month of February—Trayvon on February 26, 2012, and Ahmaud on February 23, 2020. The fact that both of them would have been 26 years old this year had they still been living. The fact that both of them were accused of burglary, even though there was no evidence to support anything of the sort. The fact that both of their killers had guns, yet they were unarmed, and both of their killers are advancing some type of self-defense ‘stand your ground’ argument.”
Before recusing himself from the case, prosecutor George Barnhill tried to argue that Gregory and his son Travis were protected under Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute. In a letter to the Glynn County Police Department, Barnhill argued that Gregory and Travis had been legally carrying their weapons under Georgia law and because Arbery was a “burglary suspect,” they had “solid firsthand probable cause” to chase Arbery under the state’s citizen’s arrest law. When Travis and Arbery struggled with his shotgun, which can be seen in the video, Barnhill argued that Travis and Gregory acted in self defense when gunshots went off.
With support from Barnhill’s argument — along with the fact that a grand jury wasn’t in session to indict the McMichael’s because of coronavirus lockdowns — Travis and Gregory spent over two months not being arrested. Similarly, George Zimmerman was released from police custody the day of Martin’s death because police said there was no evidence to refute Zimmerman’s claim that he acting in self defense when he pursued and shot Martin — a kid he suspected to be a burglar.
Crump noted the similarities: “The fact that both of their killers, Trayvon Martin killer got to go home and sleep in his bed at night, after he shot and killed him in that gated community, in Sanford, Florida, alleging some type of burglary allegation, and then in Ahmaud Arbery, his killer shot and killed him and they got to go home and sleep in their beds at night, after advancing some kind of allegation about burglary in the Satilla Shores community in Brunswick, Georgia.”
Crump continued with his seventh similarity: “The fact that both the prosecutors in the cases—in Sanford, Florida, the local prosecutor recused himself because some alleged conflict of interest, then, in Brunswick, Georgia, the local prosecutor recused herself because of some alleged conflict of interest.”
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper, fought for prosecutor Barnhill to recuse himself from the case after she discovered that his son works in the Brunswick district attorney’s office, which had previously employed Gregory McMichael. Another Brunswick district attorney, Jackie Johnson, also recused herself because McMichael had worked in her office.
The case eventually went to Tom Durden of Hinesville, Georgia, who failed to move the case forward until the viral video spark national outcry and action. Durden then got the GBI involved, which led to the arrests of Gregory and Travis McMichael along with further investigations. Now, a special prosecutor has replaced Durden — Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes.
Another huge WIN for #JusticeForAhmaud! At the family’s demand— a special prosecutor will replace Tom Durden the S. GA prosecutor that sat on the case until video of Ahmaud’s murder was leaked. Joyette Holmes is out of @cobbcountygovt. Her office is being reviewed for conflicts. pic.twitter.com/rcuQ7UPOfE— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw) May 11, 2020
In his comparison of Arbery’s case and Martin’s case, Crump ended by saying that both involved a pursuit, however, one could be witnessed by the world via an audio recording and the other could be witnessed via a video recording.
“You have evidence of a pursuit—objective evidence of a pursuit in both cases,” Crump explained. “With Trayvon, you have audio evidence; we hear the chase, and you hear the shot that kills Trayvon. Well, the big difference in Ahmaud Arbery, we get to physically see the pursuit with our eyes in that horrific video, where they chase him and then they kill him, with that shotgun being pumped. And so that is the big difference in these cases.”
In a Monday statement, Holmes said that her office seeks to present Arbery’s case to a grand jury for an indictment while acknowledging that the courts are closed through June 12. However, according to USA Today, she said her team “will work as expeditiously as possible to move the case forward.”
KC INFO RAIL
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Mayors from two of the nation’s biggest cities on Sunday called out racial health disparities that have been starkly highlighted by the ongoing coronavirus crisis as early data suggest the virus disproportionately affects black and brown Americans.
Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., on Sunday said the coronavirus pandemic is casting a “spotlight” on health disparities among African Americans that draw their roots in “slavery, racism [and] Jim Crow roles and laws.”
We know, and this virus has put a stoplight, on the disproportionate number of African Americans who suffer from chronic disease and it’s also put a spotlight on the health disparities that have plagued African Americans for generations,” Bowser said on “Fox News Sunday.”
While preliminary data show the coronavirus is hitting minority communities especially hard, spotty government data collection and publication could prevent resources from flowing to the communities most ravaged by the pandemic. Congressional Democrats, led by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are pushing for provisions to address racial and ethnic disparities in a potential “phase four” coronavirus relief package.
Bowser, whose city is among major metropolitan areas including New Orleans and Detroit thought to be impending Covid-19 hot spots, called for “national and local actions” to address health disparities Sunday.
“While this is not new in the Covid-19 response, it certainly calls for national and local actions that are going to change the trajectory for African American health outcomes in our nation,” Bowser said.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also addressed the stark racial gap in coronavirus death rates. Roughly 68 percent of the city’s coronavirus-related deaths have been among African Americans, who make up only about 30 percent of Chicago’s population.
“We’re seeing similar kinds of numbers reported across the country in large urban centers. And the answer that we believe is right is because of the underlying conditions that people of color and particularly black folks suffer from, whether it’s diabetes, heart disease, upper respiratory illnesses,” Lightfoot said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “The kind of things that we’ve been talking about for a long time that plague black Chicago, that lead to life expectancy gaps. This virus attacks those underlying conditions with a vengeance.”
In response, Lightfoot said her administration put together a “racial equity rapid response team” made up of “health care providers, public health clinicians, as well as stakeholders in community — faith community, block clubs.”