NYPD Unveils Anti-Terrorism Unit To Deal With Protesters

By Hilary Hanson, the Huffington Post

The New York Police Department is developing a new anti-terrorism unit that will be deployed, in part, to contend with protestors.

The “Strategic Response Group,” a unit of approximately 350 officers, will handle “disorder control and counterterrorism protection capabilities, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced Thursday, according to CBS New York.

The unit will be outfitted with “extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and the machine guns that are unfortunately sometimes necessary in these ­instances,” Bratton said, according to the New York Post.

He also noted that the unit “is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris.”

New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton

New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton

New York’s “recent protests,” include demonstrations in response to a grand jury’s decision to not bring charges in the death of Eric Garner, who died after being placed in a chokehold by an NYPD officer. The same month, thousands of people marched through New York City to honor Garner and others who have lost their lives at the hands of police officers nationwide.

Civil rights activists were outraged by Bratton lumping in these kinds of demonstrations with terrorist attacks.

“Thousands have marched in a massive civil rights movement demanding police reform, and the NYPD has decided to respond to the community instead by arming the police with machine guns,” Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said in a statement.

In a statement by Communities United for Police Reform, organizing director Priscilla Gonzalez said that Bratton’s plan for a “more militarized police force” is “the opposite of progress.”

The NYPD plans for the unit to be up and running by summer.

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Cop Who Fatally Shot Sleeping 7-Year-Old Will No Longer Face Charges

By Kate Abbey-Lambertz, the Huffington Post

The Detroit police officer who fatally shot a sleeping 7-year-old girl will not be retried, officials said Wednesday.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement that her office was moving to dismiss the case against Officer Joseph Weekley. He was originally charged with involuntary manslaughter and careless discharge of a firearm causing death, a misdemeanor, after Aiyana Stanley-Jones was killed in 2010 during a botched police raid at her home.

Weekley’s first trial in 2013 ended in a mistrial. In a second trial last year, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway dismissed the manslaughter charge after a motion by the defense. The jury again deadlocked while deliberating whether to convict Weekley of the lesser charge, causing a second mistrial.

“Today we personally informed the family of Aiyana Stanley–Jones that we have made a decision that we would not be going to trial for a third time in the Joseph Weekley case,” Worthy said, calling Hathaway’s decision to dismiss the manslaughter charge “unfortunate.”

Aiyana Stanley-Jones, killed by Detroit police during a 2010 raid.

Aiyana Stanley-Jones, killed by Detroit police during a 2010 raid.

Shortly after midnight on May 16, 2010, members of the Detroit Police Department’s Special Response Team initiated a raid on the Stanley-Jones home in search of a murder suspect. Weekley was first through the door and allegedly had difficulty seeing when another officer threw a a flash-bang grenade. Weekley fired his gun, killing Aiyana, who had been asleep on the couch with her grandmother.

Weekley maintained that he only shot because the grandmother, Mertilla Jones, struck his gun. She denied touching his weapon, and at trial the prosecution questioned why Weekley had his finger on the trigger.

As activists around the country have widely protested the police killings of unarmed black individuals, Detroit residents have added Aiyana’s name to the list of victims. In October, Roland Lawrence, chairman of the Justice for Aiyana Committee, condemned the judge’s decision to dismiss the manslaughter charge against Weekley.

“Surely, the death of a baby by a well-trained police force must be deemed unacceptable in a civilized society,” Lawrence said in a statement at the time.

The prosecution will move to dismiss the case against Weekley Friday morning. Civil lawsuits filed by the family are still pending trial.

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Fired McDonald’s Employees: We Were Told, ‘Too Many Black People’ Working in the Store

By Breanna Edwards, theRoot.com

Ten former employees at three different Virginia locations of the chain restaurant allege in a lawsuit that they were fired because of their race.

McDonalds_sign

McDonald’s is under intense scrutiny after 10 former employees filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Thursday, claiming that they were fired in May 2014 because of their race. They allege that they were told there were “too many black people working in the store,” according to a press release.

The employees—nine black and one Hispanic, who worked at three different franchise locations in Virginia—claim that supervisors habitually called one of the branches the “ghetto store” and called the black employees “ghetto” and “ratchet.”

“All of a sudden they let me go, for no other reason than I ‘didn’t fit the profile’ they wanted at the store,” Willie Betts, a former cook at one of the restaurants, said in a press release. “I had no idea what they meant by the ‘right profile’ until I saw everyone else that they fired as well.”

The employees say that when 17 minority staffers were fired in May, managers said that the restaurants were “too dark” and they “need to get the ghetto out of the store.” However, Mike Simon, who owns the three franchises is black himself, has denied any discrimination.

“I continually strive to maintain an environment in which everyone feels valued and accepted. To protect the privacy of current and past employees, I’m not at liberty to discuss issues regarding employment or termination,” Simon said in a statement released in May, the Washington Post notes. “However, my organization has a strict policy of prohibiting any form of discrimination or harassment in hiring, termination or any other aspect of employment.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit intend to hold McDonald’s Corporation accountable, even though the company has repeatedly claimed that it is not in control of the franchises.

“We asked McDonald’s corporate to help us get our jobs back, but the company told us to take our concerns to the franchisee—the same franchisee that just fired us,” plaintiff Pamela Marable said in the release. “McDonald’s closely monitors everything we do, from the speed of the drive-through line, to the way we smile and fold customers’ bags—but when we try to tell the company that we’re facing discrimination, they ignore us and say that it’s not their problem.”

In a written statement to the Root, McDonald’s USA said, “We have not seen the lawsuit, and cannot comment on its allegations, but will review the matter carefully. McDonald’s has a long-standing history of embracing the diversity of employees, independent Franchisees, customers and suppliers, and discrimination is completely inconsistent with our values. McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants.”

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Woman Shocked to See Brother’s Mug Shot Used as Police Target Practice

Six mug shots used for target practice by snipers from the North Miami Beach (Fla.) Police Department.

Six mug shots used for target practice by snipers from the North Miami Beach (Fla.) Police Department.

By Stephen A. Crockett Jr., theRoot.com

Florida Army National Guard Sgt. Valerie Deant was reduced to tears Saturday after she arrived at a firing range and found that target photos left behind by a local police sniper team were live mug shots, including a photo of her brother.

The North Miami Beach, Fla., police department is under fire after a woman discovered that not only were police using actual mug shots of African-American men as shooting targets at a firing range, but that one of the men in the photos, bearing bullet holes from a police pistol, was the woman’s brother.

On Saturday, Sgt. Valerie Deant went to a shooting range with other troops from the Florida Army National Guard for “annual weapons qualifications training,” according to NBC Miami.

North Miami Beach police snipers had used the range before them, and once Deant and her fellow guardsmen arrived they were shocked to see that mug shots of African-American men were used as target practice. Deant found that one of the men in the photos was her brother, Woody Deant, whose mug shot was taken 15 years ago. Woody Deant was 18 years old when the photograph was taken

“I was like, ‘Why is my brother being used for target practice?'” Deant told the news station. “There were like gunshots there, and I cried a couple of times.”

According to NBC Miami, the Medley Firearms Training Center leases the shooting range to law-enforcement agencies in the area and is not responsible for supplying targets to visitors.

While North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis admits that the snipers could have used better judgment, he doesn’t believe that the use of an all-African-American photo lineup for target practice is racial profiling, and added that his sniper team has minority officers. Dennis also told the news station, “Pictures are vital for facial-recognition drills.”

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Poll: 50% of Americans Say Race Relations Have Gotten Worse Since Obama Took Office

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele, TheRoot.com

Nearly 50 percent of Americans said that race relations in the U.S. “have gotten worse” since Obama took office and a mere 15 percent said that race relations had improved under Obama’s tenure, results from an Al Jazeera and Monmouth University poll reveal.

People’s opinions about the state of race relations differed along racial lines.

“White respondents were most likely to say things had gotten worse, whereas African-Americans were nearly evenly split on the question,” Al Jazeera explained.

obama_poll

African American and Latino communities seemed to hold very different views on the subject.

“Both African-Americans and Latinos were more likely than whites to say things had not changed since Obama was elected president, though Latinos were more likely than African-Americans to say that things had gotten worse” Al Jazeera’s analysis continued.

Nearly 70 percent of black and Latino respondents said that racial and ethnic discrimination was “a big problem,” while fewer than half of white Americans agreed.

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Jamal Rutledge, Florida Teen, Honored For Saving Cop’s Life After Arrest

By Andres Jaregui, Huffington Post

A Florida teenager under arrest for violating his juvenile probation will be honored as a hero for saving the life of the Fort Lauderdale police officer who was booking him.

Officer Franklin Foulks, 49, was completing booking paperwork on Jamal Rutledge, 17, when he collapsed to the floor clutching at his chest. Rutledge, who was in handcuffs, sprang into action. He kicked at the security door and yelled for help, alerting other officers to the emergency.

Sergeant Todd Bunin arrived within moments, called a rescue crew and radioed for assistance. Officers Robert Norvis and Raymond Ketchmark responded minutes later. Together the officers applied an electric defibrillator and performed CPR on Foulks.

From left to right: Officer Ketchmark, Officer Foulks, Jamal Rutledge, Officer Norvis, Serbeant Bunin

From left to right: Officer Ketchmark, Officer Foulks, Jamal Rutledge, Officer Norvis, Sergeant Bunin

When rescue crews arrived, Foulks was taken to an area hospital. Medical personnel said that he survived in part due to Rutledge’s quick thinking and the officers’ prompt response. Foulks has been on light duty since collapsing, but is expected to return to full duty by the end of the month

Rutledge and the three Fort Lauderdale police officers will be honored in a ceremony on January 21, according to CBS News.

On the day Foulks collapsed, Jamal Rutledge was under arrest for violating probation stemming from earlier charges of burglary and criminal mischief.

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Diversity Targeted in ‘White Genocide’ Billboard Near Birmingham, AL

By Breanna Edwards, theRoot.com

Commuters driving along Interstate Highway 59, located near Birmingham, Ala., are once again being greeted by a billboard bearing a racially charged message steeped in segregationist belief, AL.com reports. It is the second time in less than a year that such a billboard has popped up in the area. This latest one reads, “Diversity means chasing down the last white person,” and includes a #whitegenocide hashtag.

billboard

According to Al.com, the phrase is used by the White Genocide Project, a white supremacist and separatist group. This particular phrase appears to be one of the group’s “repeater phrases,” which the group encourages activists to use often.

Another such phrase, “Anti-racist is code for anti-white,” appeared in June 2013 in a billboard near Leeds, Ala., leading the mayor of that city, David Miller, to condemn the “racist message.”

Al.com reports that Dyar Signs in Trafford, Ala., appears to own the Birmingham billboard but did not respond to requests for comment.

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George Zimmerman Arrested On Aggravated Assault Charge