Sunday, March 22, 2015

'Hands up, don't shoot' did not happen in Ferguson

The Washington Post Fact Checker

By Michelle Ye Hee Lee

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)


Hands Up. Don’t Shoot!

–Protesters in the aftermath of the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

This phrase became a rallying cry for Ferguson residents, who took to the streets to protest the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. Witness accounts spread after the shooting that Brown had his hands raised in surrender, mouthing the words “Don’t shoot” as his last words before being shot execution-style. The gesture of raised hands became a symbol of outrage over mistreatment of unarmed black youth by police.

That narrative was called into question when a St. Louis County grand jury could not confirm those testimonies. And a recently released Department of Justice investigative report concluded the same.

Yet the gesture continues to be used today. So we wanted to set the record straight on the DOJ’s findings, especially after The Washington Post’s opinion writer Jonathan Capehart wrote that it was “built on a lie.” From time to time, we retroactively check statements as new information becomes available. In this case, the Justice Department has concluded that Wilson acted out of self-defense, and was justified in killing Brown.

Does “Hands up, don’t shoot” capture the facts of Brown’s shooting? What has it come to symbolize now?

The Facts

“Hands up, don’t shoot” links directly to Brown’s death, and it went viral. After the shooting, St. Louis Rams players raised their hands as a symbolic gesture entering the field before a football game. Protesters chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot” during rallies after a grand jury in the state’s case against Wilson decided not to indict Wilson in Brown’s killing. The phrase and gesture were on signs, T-shirts, hashtags, memes and magazine covers. It even has its own Wikipedia page.

In November 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson after finding that witness reports did not match up with evidence. Other witnesses recanted their original accounts or changed them, calling their veracity into question. In particular, the grand jury could not confirm the “Hands up, don’t shoot” narrative the way it was told after the shooting. By then, however, the phrase had taken on a message of its own.

On Dec. 1, 2014, four members of the Congressional Black Caucus repeated the gesture while delivering speeches on the House Floor titled, “Black in America: What Ferguson Says About Where We Are and Where We Need to Go.” Each of the members held up their hands, and the image spread widely online.

Yet the Department of Justice’s March 4, 2015, investigative report on the shooting of Michael Brown found federal investigators could not confirm witness accounts that Brown signaled surrender before being killed execution-style. The department’s descriptions of about 40 witness testimonies show the original claims that Brown had his hands up were not accurate.

Some witnesses who claimed they saw Brown’s hands raised had testimonies that were inconsistent with physical and forensic evidence. Some admitted to federal investigators they felt pressured to retell the narrative that was being spread after Brown’s shooting. Others recanted their initial testimonies saying they had heard it through media reports or via social media. A few witnesses said Brown had his hands out to his side with his palms up, as if saying “What?” Others said Brown’s hands were not raised, as he was charging at Wilson. A few said Brown’s hands were “balled up.”

Investigators narrowed down the “hands up” claim to a witness – Witness 128 – who had told his family and neighbors his inaccurate version of events as crowds gathered minutes and hours after the shooting, the report says. Another witness could not confirm what she saw because of her poor vision, but she heard a man running around the apartments along the street where Wilson shot Brown. The man was saying something to the effect of, “The police shot my friend and his hands were up.” The witness said that “quickly became the narrative on the street, and to her frustration, people used it both as an excuse to riot and to create a ‘block party’ atmosphere.”

A key passage from the report:

Investigators tracked down several individuals who, via the aforementioned media, claimed to have witnessed Wilson shooting Brown as Brown held his hands up in clear surrender. All of these purported witnesses, upon being interviewed by law enforcement, acknowledged that they did not actually witness the shooting, but rather repeated what others told them in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. … Witness accounts suggesting that Brown was standing still with his hands raised in an unambiguous signal of surrender when Wilson shot Brown are inconsistent with the physical evidence, are otherwise not credible because of internal inconsistencies, or are not credible because of inconsistencies with other credible evidence. In contrast, Wilson’s account of Brown’s actions, if true, would establish that the shootings were not objectively unreasonable under the relevant Constitutional standards governing an officer’s use of deadly force.

In August 2014, after Brown’s death, members of the Congressional Black Caucus delivered speeches about law enforcement’s excessive use of force against black youth. In December 2014, members again spoke about Ferguson killing and those of three others killed by police between August and Dec. 1, 2014: Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Akai Gurley in Brooklyn and Eric Garner in Staten Island. Four members of Congress– New York Democrats Hakeem Jeffries and Yvette Clarke, and Texas Democrats Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green — raised their hands during their speeches in solidarity with the “Hands up, don’t shoot” movement. The grand jury had questioned this characterization by then.

We requested an interview with those members and other caucus leaders, to see if the DOJ report changed their responses to the Brown shooting. Jeffries responded to our request. He noted that during the December 2014 hearing, none of the members used “Hands up, don’t shoot” as a factual analysis of Brown’s shooting. A review of their comments while raising their hands confirms this:

  • Clarke: “Hands up, don’t shoot. … I first want to once again offer my condolence to the family of Michael Brown, whose efforts to secure justice on behalf of their son were undermined by the decision of the grand jury. The killing of Michael Brown, and attacks by the Ferguson Police Department on protesters, demonstrate an assumption that young women and men who are African American are inherently suspicious — a false assumption with deadly consequences.”
  • Green: “This has become the new symbol, a new statement — a statement wherein people around the country now are calling to the attention of those who don’t quite understand that this is a movement that will not dissipate. It will not evaporate. It’s a movement that is going to continue because young people — a new generation — has decided that they’re going to engage themselves in the liberation movement.”
  • Jeffries: “‘Hands up, don’t shoot,’ is a rallying cry of people all across America who are fed up with police violence — in community, after community, after community, fed up with police violence in Ferguson, in Brooklyn, in Cleveland, in Oakland, in cities and counties and rural communities all across America.”
  • Lee: “I also admire the young St. Louis Rams players who raised their hands, to be able to share in the dignity of those young, peaceful protesters. If we don’t affirm non-violence, then who will?”

The same day the DOJ released the shooting report, it also published the results of its investigation into the Ferguson Police Department. This report highlighted systemic exploitation and racial profiling of black residents in Ferguson. Jeffries said that report underscored the importance of the message of “Hands up, don’t shoot.” He said: “The issue of dealing with the police use of excessive force, often directed at unarmed African American men, in the absence of subsequent accountability through the criminal justice system, remains just as important today as it was the day before the Department of Justice report was filed.”

Justin Hansford, St. Louis University professor who has been organizing legal and community advocacy after Brown’s death, said the DOJ report on Brown’s shooting did not prove that Brown never had his hands up at any point during his confrontation with Wilson. The DOJ could not find evidence to conclusively say that he did, which is an important legal distinction, he said.

Hansford said his Facebook profile photo remains an image of “Hands up” because the message is consistent regardless of the positioning of Brown’s hands: “I don’t feel any way that I was somehow duped or tricked or that my picture was based on a lie. I think it is a very symbolic gesture that really speaks to the experiences of a lot of us, a lot of youth of color.”

The Pinocchio Test

Catchy phrases like “Hands up, don’t shoot,” “Black lives matter,” “an unarmed black person is killed every 28 hours” (which we have fact checked) have resulted from protests over the deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner. They are emotional messages spread easily, like the “We are 99 percent” mantra of Occupy Wall Street.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Remembering The 50th Anniversary of "Black Sunday"


Pinning the Tail on the Donkey
 by Paul R. Hollrah
March 14, 2015
Two recent outrages following the 50th anniversary "Black Sunday" march in Selma, Alabama, require a pointed response to Democrats.  First, a photograph of Barack Obama leading a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma is minus its most distinguished participant, George W. Bush.  The photo appearing on page one of the March 8 edition of the New York Times, above the fold, has been skillfully cropped to eliminate any photographic evidence that George W. and Laura Bush marched across the bridge with Obama and other black leaders.
Then, a black woman named Diane Nash, identified as a Martin Luther King, Jr. "Lieutenant," proclaimed that she refused to march in the reenactment because George Bush was a participant.  As she explained, the reenactment of the March 7, 1965 march was intended to show support for non-violence, which George W. Bush opposes.  Yet, she and other Democrats appear not to be concerned that Selma's most visible landmark is named after a known white supremacist, a reputed member of the Ku Klux Klan.  Nor do they seem to find any incongruity in joining forces with the Democrat Party, a party that for nearly a century imposed its will on black people with whips, bullets, fire bombs, and the hangman's noose.
Each and every year the American taxpayer spends billions of dollars and countless classroom hours on a curriculum called "black history."  But one wonders exactly what is being taught in those classrooms.  Are the schools and classroom teachers innocently omitting significant truths of black history, or are they purposely lying to black children?  Are black children being taught that it was the Republican Party that was born out of opposition to slavery, and that it was the country's first Republican president who put an end to the institution of slavery?  Are they being taught that hundreds of thousands of the sons of white Republican abolitionists gave their lives in order to free black men and women from the bonds of slavery?  And are they being taught that it was Republicans who gave us the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, outlawing slavery and giving blacks citizenship and the right to vote?
In the years immediately following the Civil War, southern Democrats found that they could no longer control and oppress their former slaves.  However, just because human slavery had been permanently abolished, Democrats didn't immediately join the ranks of abolitionists.  Instead, in 1866, they established a paramilitary auxiliary called the Ku Klux Klan to keep the freed slaves in line and to force them to vote for Democratic candidates.  And once they'd regained control of the southern legislatures they set about enacting Jim Crow laws and the Black Codes, dictating where and for whom blacks could work, where they could live, where they could eat and sleep, which restrooms and drinking fountains they could use, and where they were allowed to sit in movie theaters and on trains and busses.  Such inhumane policies were still in effect as late as the 1950s.  As black historian John Hope Franklin has written, "The personal indignities inflicted upon individual whites and Negroes were so varied and so numerous as to defy classification or enumeration."
Herbert Aptheker, in his book, Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States, Vol. 2, quotes the November 1, 1871 testimony of John Childers, a black resident of Livingston, Alabama, as recorded in Senate Report No. 579 of the 48th Congress.
Childers was questioned about threats made against him and whether or not he was afraid of what might happen to him if he voted Republican.  Childers replied, "I was sir, because… there was a man that told me he had a coffin already made for me.  Yes, sir, I voted it, and don't pretend to deny it before nobody.  When I was going to the polls there was a man standing in the door and (he) says, 'Here comes you, God damn your soul, I have a coffin already made for you.'   I had two tickets in my pocket then; a Democratic ticket and a (Republican) ticket.  I pulled out the Democratic ticket and showed it to him, and he says, 'You are all right, go on.' "
On March 25, 1871, Kentucky blacks sent a letter to the Congress, saying, "The Democratic Party has here a political organization composed only of Democrats - not a single Republican can join them…. We pray that you will take some steps to remedy these evils listed below?"  The letter provided details of 85 murders (hangings and shootings), 18 beatings, 5 fire-bombings, 1 rape, and 10 miscellaneous attacks in Kentucky in the three year period between January 1868 and January 1871.  Although no official records of Klan atrocities, nationwide, are available for the years 1866 to 1882, Tuskegee Institute records indicate that, between the years 1882 and 1951, some 3,437 blacks and 1,293 whites, nearly all Republicans, were lynched by the KKK.
On May 17, 1918, Klansmen committed an atrocity in Valdosta, Georgia that almost defies description.  Mary Turner, a black woman who was nine months pregnant, announced that she would seek the prosecution of the Klansmen who had lynched her husband, Hayes Turner.  A mob dragged her from her home, tortured her, and hanged her.  And while she was still alive, hanging from the rope, they cut open her womb, the child spilled out onto the ground and they crushed the baby's skull under the heel of a boot… proving only that Democrats, in the history of their party, have been just as ruthless and bloodthirsty as the fighters of Islamic State who have a fondness for cutting the heads off their captives and burning others alive.
Are black children instructed on the evils of the KKK and who they were?  If not, they may be interested in the congressional testimony of former Klan member Thomas W. Willeford.  When questioned about his initiation into the organization and what he was told of the objective of the Klan, Willeford replied: "They told me it was to damage the Republican Party as much as they could… burning, stealing, whipping n_ _ _ _ _ s and such things as that." 
Unlike blacks of today, 19th century blacks had a well-informed opinion of Democrats.  Herbert Aptheker has written that, on February 18, 1884, Mrs. Violet Keeling, a black woman, testified before a U.S. Senate committee regarding black voting preferences.  She was asked what she would do if she found that her husband had voted Democratic.  She said: "I think if a colored man votes the Democratic ticket he has already sold himself… I would just pick up my clothes and go to my father's, if I had a father, or would go to work for 25 cents a day."
And finally, what are black children taught about the Democratic Party's longstanding fondness for fraud and political corruption?  After Democrats gained control of the White House and both houses of Congress in 1894, they introduced the Repeal Act of 1894, hoping to repeal all of the major civil rights laws enacted by Republicans since the Civil War, including the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the First Reconstruction Act of 1867, the Enforcement Act of 1870, the Force Act of 1871, the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875 (identical to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which today's Democrats attempt to take credit for).
Just before the final Senate vote on February 7, 1894, Senator George Hoar (R-MA) took Democrats to task on the Senate floor.  He said, in part, "Wherever there is a crevice in our protection of the freedom of the ballot there you will find the Democratic Party trying to break through.  Wherever we have left open an opportunity to get possession of an office contrary to the true and constitutional will of the majority, there you will find that party pressing; there you will find that party exercising an ingenuity before which even the great inventive genius of (the) American People, exerted in other directions, fails and is insignificant in the comparison… …
"If you will produce me a citizen of the United States, a Democrat, who lost his honest vote in consequence of intimidation or impediment, created by these United States marshals, I will find on record here the proof of ten thousand Republicans who have lost their votes by Democratic practices….  Mr. President, the nation must protect its own.  Every citizen whose right is imperiled, if he be but one, when it is a right of national citizenship and a right conferred and enjoyed under the Constitution of the United States, has the right to demand for its protection the entire force of the United States until the Army has spent its last man and the Navy fired its last gun.  Most of us have nothing else than the right to vote….  The urn in which the American cast his ballot ought to be, aye, and it shall be, as sacred as a sacramental vessel." 
And finally, are young blacks taught that, in 1909, four white Republicans issued a call for a meeting to discuss racial justice for African Americans?  The organization created as a result of that meeting was the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)… the once-respected organization whose politics has drifted so far to the left that it has lost all relevance as a force for the social and economic advancement of minorities.
Since the earliest days of the civil rights movement in the 1950s, African Americans have been so thoroughly propagandized by Democrats that most rank-and-file Republicans consider them to be a lost cause.  They won't even attempt to reach out to blacks because they're convinced that, if they do, black leaders will only attempt to draw them into a bidding war for the hearts and minds of black people.  That, Republicans will never do.
Sadly, the spineless men and women Republicans elect to Congress today seem blithely unaware that they are playing an entirely different game than their colleagues across the aisle.  Perhaps one day they will come to understand that Democrats of today are pretty much like Democrats of the 19th and 20th centuries.  The only major difference being that, today, they no longer arrive on horseback in the middle of the night, carrying ropes and torches and dressed in hoods and white sheets.  Today, they fly in private jets and wear Armani suits, silk ties, and Rolex watches.
On March 7th, Ms. Diane Nash refused to participate in the reenactment of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge because she was afraid she might accidentally rub elbows with George W. Bush.  Wouldn't it be fun to sit down with Ms. Nash just to remind her of all the things black children are not being taught in "black history" class?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Drawing the Wrong Lessons From Selma About America Today

Ferguson, Mo., in 2015 is not Alabama in 1965. But liberals have reasons to pretend otherwise.

By Jason L. Riley

When National Public Radio on Sunday asked Selma’s mayor how—not whether, but how—“what happened in Selma 50 years ago fits into the current conversation about race relations in this country,” he rejected the query’s premise.

“I’m not so sure how it fits,” said George Evans, the Alabama city’s second black mayor. “We have a lot more crime going on in 2015 all over this country than we had in 1965. Segregation existed, but we didn’t have the crime. So now, even though we’ve gained so much through voting rights and Bloody Sunday, we’ve stepped backwards when it comes to crime and drugs and the jail system—things like that.”

The interviewer pressed him. “What is life like for the average citizen in Selma,” which is 80% black, she asked. “I mean, your city does have challenges. You’ve got chronic unemployment rates. What are the biggest problems from your vantage point?”

Still, Mr. Evans wouldn’t give her the answer she was fishing for. He wouldn’t play the race card. “Well, from the standpoint of jobs, we have a lot of jobs. It’s just that there are a lot of people who do not have the skill level to man these jobs. And that’s the biggest problem we have. There are industries and businesses here that are searching for people to come to work. But many times they’re not able to get the jobs because they’re not going back to pick up that trade or that technical skill that’s needed in order to take that job.”

The mayor’s comments are noteworthy because so many others have used the anniversary of the historic march to score political points and draw tortured parallels between the challenges facing blacks a half-century ago and those facing blacks today. In remarks last weekend at the foot of the bridge in Selma where police billy-clubbed and tear-gassed peaceful protesters on March 7, 1965, President Obama decried “overcrowded prisons” and “unfair sentencing” without ever mentioning black crime rates. He repeatedly invoked Ferguson and called photo-identification laws “voter suppression.” Maybe someone should send Mr. Obama a link to the NPR interview with Mayor Evans.

Ferguson, Mo., in 2015 is not Selma, Ala., in 1965. Black people in America today are much more likely to experience racial preferences than racial slights. The violent crime that is driving the black incarceration rate spiked after the civil-rights victories of the 1960s, not before. And if voter-ID laws threaten the black franchise, no one seems to have told the black electorate. According to the Census Bureau, the black voter-turnout rate in 2012 exceeded the white turnout rate, even in states with the strictest voter-ID requirements.

The socioeconomic problems that blacks face today have nothing to do with civil-rights barriers and nearly everything to do with a black subculture that rejects certain attitudes and behaviors that are conducive to upward mobility. Yet Mr. Obama has a political interest—and the civil-rights industry has a vested interest—in pretending that the opposite is true.

“Liberalism in the twenty-first century is, for the most part, a moral manipulation that exaggerates inequity and unfairness in American life in order to justify overreaching public policies and programs,” writes the Hoover Institution’s Shelby Steele in “Shame,” his timely new book on political polarization and race relations in the U.S. This liberalism, he adds, is “not much interested in addressing discrimination case by case; rather, it assumes that all minorities and women are systematically discriminated against so that only government-enforced preferential policies for these groups—across the entire society—can bring us close to equity.”

Liberalism, moreover, tends to ignore or play down the black advancement that took place prior to the major civil-rights triumphs of the 1960s and instead credits government interventions that at best continued trends already in place. Black poverty fell 40 percentage points between 1940 and 1960—a drop that no Great Society antipoverty program has ever come close to matching. Blacks were also increasing their years of schooling and entering the white-collar workforce at a faster rate prior to the affirmative-action schemes of the 1970s than they were after those programs were put in place to help them.

The civil-rights battles of the 1960s have been fought and won, thanks in part to the thousands of brave souls who marched 50 years ago from the Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Selma to the Montgomery Statehouse. The racial disparity that persists today is not evidence that too many blacks face the same challenges they did in 1965, that “the march is not yet finished,” as Mr. Obama asserted. Rather, it is evidence that too few blacks—as Selma’s mayor told NPR—have taken advantage of the opportunities now available to them.

Mr. Riley, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and Journal contributor, is the author of “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed” (Encounter Books, 2014).