National Crisis: Rep. Johnson Condemns “Open Season” On African Americans By Police


Rep. Hank Johnson’s

[Comment: Speaking Truth To Power]

Rep. Hank Johnson’s (D-Ga) assessment that the spate of violence against African-Americans, by police, make it feel like there is “open season” against Black America, and that this represents a “crisis,” is a justified sentiment—given the recurrent stories we’re faced with showing police brutalizing, and, killing of Black people.

Will Congress finally be forced to face this serious scourge that does daily damage to the lives of African-Americans?

On Monday, Rep. Johnson, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, spoke out on the floor of the House of Representatives on the issue of police crimes against the backdrop of the recent killings of  Walter Scott in South Carolina by Michael Slager; and of Eric Harris in Oklahoma by Robert Bates.

Harris, a Black male, was shot in the back, during an undercover operation involving guns and drugs, by 73-year-old volunteer reserve Deputy Bates —a wealthy insurance executive, who apparently donates money to the same police department where he moonlights as a cop.

Police claim Bates “inadvertently” shot Harris with his gun, instead of with a Taser.

Since video of this police killing shows Harris was thrown to the ground by several officers, we must ask: why did “Officer” Bates feel the need to use a Taser in the first place at that point? Inadvertent is not the first word that comes to mind; more like cold-blooded killing.

It feels like open season on Black men in America and I’m outraged,” Rep. Johnson said. “In fact, all Americans are at risk when bad actors in law enforcement use their guns instead of their heads. Despite bipartisan nationwide calls for action; and despite my bills to reform the broken grand jury process, hold police accountable and end militarization; and despite my colleagues’ bills to encourage body cameras, this Congress does nothing. No hearings, no blue-ribbon commissions, no nothing.”

Why is Congress so silent on this issue? Are police crimes against Black Americans such a low priority for these supposedly upstanding politicians? The nation’s lawmakers; for all Americans?

Isn’’t Washington’s silence indicative of their endorsement of these heavy-handed tactics of criminalizing African-Americans through the phony mantra of maintaining “law and order?”

Do the majority of law makers believe the killings of unarmed innocent Black males are acceptable “collateral damage”?

It would be too easy to call out the Republicans—and the reactionary racists that are deeply embedded in the base of the GOP. Republicans have long used African-Americans as the piñatas for many things wrong in America; especially, as it relates to “criminality.” That’s why the drug epidemic in White America is ignored even though it’s devastating some White communities. Indiana recently declared a State of Health Emergency in Scott County, as a drug epidemic was accelerating the spread of Hiv/Aids in some White communities. Gov. Mike Pence permitted needle exchanges.

The so-called “war on drugs,” including during the Reagan years, demonized Black America.

However, while we should expect inaction from Republicans on the issue of police brutality, what is the problem with Democrats? Where are the White “progressive” Democrats on this issue—who should be championing the fight against racism in the neighborhoods where they reside?

If many White “progressives” find it hard to speak against White American racism, why does that tell us? It was good to see a multi-ethnic, multi-racial turnout for the campaigns anchored by “Black Lives Matter” in the wake of the non-indictment of the men who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, protected by police badges, in Ferguson, MO., and Staten Island, New York, respectively.

Former secretary of state, senator, First Lady, and now presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said the murder of Walter Scott by Michael Slager was “heartbreaking and too familiar.”

Mrs. Clinton also said “We can do better—rebuild trust, reform justice, respect all lives.”

These words sound good—but Black America must demand action from every politician that we support with our votes. Unfortunately, Democrats have not fought hard for the issues that affect African-Americans. In fact, some of these Democrats have betrayed our confidence.

We need to hear specifics about restructuring—not “reforming”— America’s police.

In Ferguson, a city 67% Black, the police force of 53 has three Black officers and 50 White ones.

Charleston, S. Carolina, a city of 104,000 has a population that’s 47% Black, and 37% White; the police force is 80% White.

We need to see real killer cops, like Michael Slager and pretend-cop Bates, punished for their murderous actions. But, most importantly, Black America must demand maximum input in crafting police and criminal justice policy in communities where African-Americans are the majority.

In Ferguson, the community elected two more Blacks to the local government council; so there are now three African-Americans in a council of six. Unfortunately, that is not nearly enough. Black people need to apply maximum political pressure and take every opportunity to elect as many Black politicians as possible. We need to take an accounting of those who’ve been failing and selling us out—and punish them accordingly when we vote.

Part of the political pressure we must exert is to crucify Democrats who betrayed us on this issue of police crimes against Blacks— people like Missouri politicians Senator Claire McCaskill and Governor Jay Nixon.

Senator McCaskill’s validation of Bob McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor—apparently, her friend—as a fair and impartial prosecutor should be remembered when its election time.

McCulloch attacked Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon for removing the Ferguson Police from monitoring the protests—after the police’s draconian tactics were broadcast around the world. So, why did Senator McCaskill—and Gov. Nixon—think McCulloch could be trusted as an impartial prosecutor in the case against Darren Wilson the man who murdered Michael Brown?

This speaks volumes about the insensitive nature most White politicians have regarding the crimes against Black people by police. The barbaric treatment we’ve witnessed repeatedly since last summer would spark more outrage from White America if the victims of these abuses and killings were animals.

Remember how many people wanted to skin Michael Vick alive because of his dog fighting involvement?

Yet, many of these same people who run commercials on television for the ASPCA and the “Humane Society” say absolutely nothing about the abuse and murder of African-Americans. The message is clear: the lives of animals is worth much more in the eyes of many than that of Black Americans. How else can it be interpreted?

Certainly it would not be tolerated if the victims were unarmed White males and the officers Black males.

Now, in the Harris killing, we will, no doubt, hear that because Mr. Harris was caught on tape in a gun and drug transaction that pretend-cop Bates, who’s been charged with manslaughter, shouldn’t be held responsible for this killing. But we should not accept this reasoning—since Harris was face down on the street with several officers tackling him when he was shot.

What is going on here is that far too many cops think their badges give them the right to inflict brutality whenever they feel like it—which is always the case when Black people are their targets.

We also know that the police department is a place where some assorted scoundrels and racists can put their pathological proclivities to use while pretending to be helping to “uphold the law.” The best place for many who hate African-Americans to vent their hatred is on the police force; protected by the power of the political machinery. The cold-blooded video-taped killing of Walter Scott by Slager is one of the best examples of this kind of behavior. Slager had concocted a tale about firing in “self defense” that the police department had accepted at face value, before the video emerged.

Slager and pretend-cop Bates are enabled by those politicians who decide to do basically nothing to rein in killer cops. Presently, we’ve recently had several people entering the fray to be the next president. Yet, we hear very little about tackling the problems plaguing African-Americans—including police violence and murder.

The irresponsible inaction in Congress will only create a more volatile situation that, if not addressed, will eventually lead to more dangerous situations in the streets of America and retaliation against officers if those victimized conclude the system won’t protect their right to life.

The press has reported to us about the attacks on two police officers in Ferguson who were shot and wounded—and and the killing of two NYPD officers. Some have maliciously tried to blame those attacks on the actions of peaceful protesters.

Will we see serious prosecutions of people like Slager and pretend-cop Bates?

Or, will we see more farcical episodes like the grand juries which found it feasible to say they saw absolutely no guilt in the life-depriving actions of Darren Wilson when he killed Michael Brown; or  Daniel Pantaleo whose lynch-hold ended the life of Eric Garner?


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