Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag:

Trump Jokes About Baltimore Murder Rate At Rally

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Continuing his racist attacks on Baltimore, President Donald Trump tried to get some laughs out of his rally Thursday night by making a joke out of the city’s murder rate.

Trump said the city’s murder rate was higher than a series of countries, and then said with a smirk, “I believe it’s higher than … give me a place that you think is pretty bad, give me a place…”

Someone shouted out “Afghanistan,” a suggestion he gleefully took up.

“I believe, we’ll check the number, and if we’re wrong, they’ll tell us tomorrow. There’ll be headlines! ‘Trump exaggerated!” he said.

The crowd laughed.

“I do believe it’s higher than Afghanistan,” he said.

“The President of the United States is using people’s kids, mothers, fathers, who have died on the streets of Baltimore as a punchline at a campaign rally,” noted New York Times reporter Erica Green.

Watch the clip below:

Baltimore Mayor Fires Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts

By Yvonne Wenger, The Baltimore Sun (TNS)

BALTIMORE — Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday that she has replaced Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, citing “utmost urgency” to stop a recent surge in violence.

“We cannot grow Baltimore without making our city a safer place to live,” Rawlings-Blake said at a news conference at City Hall. “We need a change. This was not an easy decision, but it is one that is in the best interest of the people of Baltimore. The people of Baltimore deserve better.”

Rawlings-Blake named Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis interim commissioner, effective immediately.

Rawlings-Blake’s decision came hours after she lashed out at the city’s police union for its highly critical report of the Police Department leadership during last month’s rioting. She did not respond to a call for Batts’ resignation from faith coalition Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development.

She said the Fraternal Order of Police report did not play a role in her decision and that her motivation was instead the spate of murders that has erupted in the city over the past month.

Rawlings-Blake commended Batts for his service, citing improvements in transparency and accountability.

“Over the past three years, Commissioner Batts has served our city with distinction,” she said.

But she said new leadership was needed to stem a recent surge of violence, including the deaths of three people in a quadruple shooting near the University of Maryland, Baltimore, on Tuesday night.

The city’s homicide rate spiked soon after riots overtook much of West Baltimore on April 27. The city recorded 42 homicides in May, the deadliest month in 25 years. There have been 31 homicides in the past month.

Batts has led the city’s police force since October 2012. He last served as police chief in Long Beach, Calif., and Oakland, Calif. He earned more than $200,000 a year.

Delegate Curt Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat and co-chair of the state’s new working group on public safety, said the move was inevitable.

“I know there was a lot of frustration over what was going on in Baltimore,” Anderson said. “Clearly when the discussion about the police commissioner becomes more important than actual problem, the mayor has to remove that obstacle.”

Davis, who has most recently served as deputy commissioner, has a long history in law enforcement.

He previously served as police chief in Anne Arundel County and assistant police chief in Prince George’s County.

“It’s all about the crime fight, and it’s all about the relationships with our community,” Davis said at the press conference.

(The Baltimore Sun’s Scott Dance and Justin Fenton contributed to this report.)

(c)2015 The Baltimore Sun. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

File photo: Baltimore firefighters battle a three-alarm fire at Gay and Chester Streets on Monday, April 27, 2015, in Baltimore. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

After Freddie Gray Death, U.S. Starts Civil Rights Probe Of Baltimore Police

By Mark Puente, The Baltimore Sun (TNS)

In the wake of Freddie Gray’s death in police custody, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Friday that the Department of Justice will launch a full-scale civil rights investigation into Baltimore’s police.

“This investigation will begin immediately,” Lynch said, adding that investigators will examine whether police violated the constitutional rights of residents.

The decision comes after local officials and community leaders pressed the Justice Department to launch an inquiry similar to investigations into police departments in Ferguson, Mo., and Cleveland that examined whether officers engaged in patterns of excessive force. In both of those cities, unrest erupted after unarmed black people were killed by police.

“Our goal is to work with the community, public officials, and law enforcement alike to create a stronger, better Baltimore,” Lynch said. “The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has conducted dozens of these pattern or practice investigations, and we have seen from our work in jurisdictions across the country that communities that have gone through this process are experiencing improved policing practices and increased trust between the police and the community.”

Lynch visited Baltimore on Tuesday and met the family of Gray, the man who died April 19 of a severed spine and other injuries sustained while in police custody. She also met privately with Baltimore’s mayor and police commissioner as part of a five-hour trip.

The announcement comes seven months after a Baltimore Sun investigation found that the city had paid nearly $6 million since 2011 in court judgments and settlements in lawsuits alleging brutality and other misconduct. The Sun also found that dozens of black residents received battered faces and broken bones during questionable arrests. In nearly all of the cases, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the suspects.

While in Baltimore, Lynch said the Justice Department might need to go beyond the voluntary, collaborative review of use of force by city police that began in October. That review was announced five days after The Sun published its first of two stories into police abuses.

On Friday, Lynch said the collaborative review will not be enough to bring the community and police force together.

She said the collaborative review started by the Justice Department in the fall will continue as technical assistance to help the department. No report of those findings will be released as it will be folded into the civil rights investigation, she added.

The tougher civil rights probes examine whether police departments have a history of discrimination or using force beyond standard guidelines, and can lead to years of court monitoring.

In such investigations, Justice Department officials gather information from community members, interview officers and other local authorities, and observe officers’ work and review documents. But they do not assess individual cases for potential criminal violations.

The Justice Department said the new probe is separate from the agency’s criminal civil rights investigation into Gray’s death.

The federal agency’s civil rights division has launched such broad probes into 20 police departments in the past six years. They examine excessive force, discriminatory harassment, false arrests and unlawful stops, searches or arrests.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski were among those urging Lynch to launch an investigation. Other Democratic lawmakers from Maryland sent a letter to Lynch this week expressing support for a review.

After Lynch’s announcement Friday, Rawlings-Blake issued a statement saying she was “pleased the Department of Justice has agreed to my request.”

“Our city is making progress in repairing the fractured relationship between police and community, but bolder reforms are needed and we will not shy away from taking on these challenges,” Rawlings-Blake said. “The problems we are confronting in Baltimore are not unique to our city. They did not occur overnight and it will take time for Baltimore to heal and move forward.”

Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, clergy and other activists had called for a civil rights probe since October. But Rawlings-Blake and police union leaders dismissed the requests until Wednesday.

Young called the announcement of the federal probe “a watershed moment” for Baltimore.

(c)2015 The Baltimore Sun, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Ted Van Pelt via Flickr

Toya Graham Simply Doing What Mothers Do

A few thoughts about Toya Graham, just in time for Mother’s Day.

You may not know her name, but you probably know what she did. You’ve probably seen the viral video of Graham, during last week’s unrest in Baltimore, using some rather pungent language and some open-handed smacks upside the head to pull her 16-year-old son out of the riot zone. She told CBS News he had gone there in defiance of her orders. When she saw him, dressed for mayhem in a black face mask, rock in hand, “I just lost it.”

In so doing, Graham, a single mother of six, has inadvertently become enmeshed in the ongoing shouting match between left and right. She has become a symbol — though neither side can agree on what she is a symbol of.

On the right, where many observers seem just a little too giddy over the image of a black boy being smacked, Fox “News” contributor Ben Stein called her “Rosa Parks for 2015.” It was an inane observation that minimized the legacy of Rosa Parks, but it was perfectly in line with the conservative view that says our most pressing concern in Baltimore’s unrest is “behavior” — i.e., the need to rein in lawless Negroes smashing windows and setting fires in the city.

Fact is, behavior is, indeed, our most pressing concern: but it’s the behavior of police in dealing with African-American citizens. Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whom police arrested for carrying an illegal knife — a charge that is hotly disputed — somehow wound up with a partially severed spine while in their custody and died. Death seems to come with jarring frequency to unarmed black men who interact with police, something that ought to trouble us all.

The fact that some knuckleheaded black kids used the protest over Gray’s death as a pretext to riot — in other words, to behave as knuckleheaded white kids do after sports victories, sports defeats, and during last year’s pumpkin festival in Keene, NH — makes that no less true.

On the left, meantime, there is a tad too much dewy-eyed hand wringing over Graham’s resorting to violence to drag her son off the street. While conceding that her actions were “understandable and maybe even reasonable” under the circumstances, Eliyahu Federman, a columnist for USA Today, nevertheless wants you to know her parenting style was not “ideal” — whatever that means.

“Shouting and insulting teens just doesn’t work long term,” he writes. “You are more likely to positively modify teen misbehavior by calmly and maturely discussing the consequences of the misbehavior.” One struggles to imagine how a calm and mature discussion with a willful teenager might have played out at ground zero of an urban riot.

Look: that video — the hitting, the cursing — is not a pretty picture. Such tactics would never be endorsed by Parents magazine. On the other hand, the largely white and middle-class readership of that magazine likely does not live where Graham does, nor struggle with the challenges and fears she faces.

Every pundit, yours truly included, has the sometimes-regrettable habit of reducing people in the news to symbols of our own social and political concerns. But if we want to understand what she did, it might help to concede that Graham is nobody’s symbol, but somebody’s mother. As she said, she “lost it” because she feared her son might end up like Freddie Gray, another tragic police “oops.”

For most of us, that is a distant and unimaginable fear. But for some of us, it is a fear all too close and all too imaginable, a night terror that gnaws at sleep. Understand this, and that video becomes less of a mystery. When she saw her son in danger, Toya Graham waded in to save him from it — at all costs and by any means necessary.

Is that not what mothers do?

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.) 

Screenshot: ABC News/YouTube