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Tag: civil rights

Justice Department Shakeup Seeks to Jumpstart Probe into Eric Garner’s Death

Eric Garner with his children, via National Action Network

Eric Garner with his children, via National Action Network

By Steve Neavling

In an unusual shakeup, the Justice Department has dumped a New York team of agents and lawyers investigating the death of Eric Garner, who was killed when a police officer placed him in a chokehold over selling untaxed cigarettes.

The Justice Department is replacing the agents and lawyers after the case has been stymied over a dispute between federal prosecutors and FBI officials about whether to file charges, the New York Times reports.

Prosecutors with the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department have been in favor of filing charges, saying there is sufficient evidence in the case.

Recently FBI agents were replaced with agents outside of New York. Federal prosecutors were taken off the case.

It’s not yet clear whether the civil rights prosecutors will work solo to present evidence to a grand jury.

The Justice Department and FBI declined to comment.

The shakeup was criticized for the attorney of Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who placed Garner, 43, in a chokehold.

“If it is true that the Justice Department is rejecting the recommendations of seasoned F.B.I. agents and assistant United States attorneys, this is a gross miscarriage of justice,” the attorney, Stuart London, said. “In our system of justice, politics should never take the place of the rule of law.”

Ex-Louisiana Cop Admits He Lied about Striking Woman in Civil Rights Case

HomerLouisianaPoliceDept (1)By Steve Neavling

A former Louisiana police officer who used excessive force on a woman in 2012 has pleaded guilty to violating her civil rights and lying to the FBI.

Homer Police Department Officer Willie Fred Knowles was accused of pushing the woman to the floor and striking her face and body, the Guardian reports. 

When questioned by the FBI, the officer falsely claimed the woman pounced on him and that he never struck her.

Authorities said Knowles also used his taser against two people in 2012 “without justification.”

He faces five year in prison when sentenced.

Other Stories of Interest

FBI Director to Speak During Annual Conference on Civil Rights, Law Enforcement

FBI Director James Comey

FBI Director James Comey

By Steve Neavling

FBI Director James B. Comey plans to speak during the annual conference on civil rights and law enforcement in Birmingham.

The Gasden Times reports that Comey will be a special guest speaker during the final day of the conference, which is sponsored by the FBI Birmingham Division and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

“Race and Law Enforcement: It’s More Than Just Black And White” is a two-day conference beginning on Tuesday. Comey will speak Wednesday at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church.

“The response to the conference has been overwhelming,” Priscilla Hancock Cooper, BCRI Vice President of Institutional Programs, said. “In fact, the May 24th training session has been completely sold out. However, there is still plenty of space available for people to register for the May 25th program that features FBI Director James Comey.”

The director’s speech is open to the public.

“The FBI is proud to once again partner with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute for a conference on law enforcement and civil rights,” Roger Stanton, Special Agent in Charge of the Birmingham FBI office said. “Communicating, with a special emphasis on listening, is critical in the ongoing discussion regarding race and criminal justice in America. This conference offers an important avenue towards bringing together law enforcement and the diverse communities we serve and protect.”

CIA Tip Led to Imprisonment of Nelson Mandela in Apartheid-Era South Africa

Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela.

By Steve Neavling

A CIA’s tip to apartheid-era South Africa led to the arrest of Nelson Mandela, according to a deathbed interview with the agent.

The interview with former CIA agent Donald Rickard will be aired as part of British film director John Irvin’s new film, “Mandela’s Gun,” reports Newsweek. 

“He could have incited a war in South Africa, the United States would have to get involved, grudgingly, and things could have gone to hell,” Rickard said, accordingly to The Sunday Times.

“We were teetering on the brink here and it had to be stopped, which meant Mandela had to be stopped. And I put a stop to it.”

Mandela ended up incarcerated for 27 years before the was released in 1990.

Other Stories of Interest

Future FBI Headquarters Likely Won’t Be Named After J. Edgar Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover

By Steve Neavling

When the FBI moves its headquarters, the new building may no longer be graced with J. Edgar Hoover’s name.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, argued that the future headquarters should not be named after Hoover, who has been frequently criticized for targeting civil rights leaders.

In a latter to the Obama administration, Leahy wrote that the former FBI director “routinely violated the law and infringed on the constitutional rights of American citizens by ordering investigations of individuals and groups who were not suspected of any criminal wrongdoing,” according to the Washington Post. 

Leahy wrote that Hoover’s FBI “illegally compiled thousands of dossiers on nonviolent civil rights groups” and “waged a concerted campaign against gay and lesbian Americans working for the Federal government and against gay and lesbian organizations.”

He wrote: “Given the systemic abuses carried out under Director Hoover’s leadership, it would be a mistake to associate his name with the new FBI headquarters. If the new building will be named for anyone, the Federal government must consider individuals who represent our values and who have dedicated their public service careers to upholding the rule of law.”

The FBI did not respond for comment.

Why FBI’s Treatment of Martin Luther King Jr. Should Never Be Forgotten

martin luther kingBy Steve Neavling

Two days after Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech in August 1963, the head of FBI domestic intelligence called the civil rights leader “the most dangerous” American for “national security.”

The FBI believed King was working with foreign communists, and the attorney general approved wiretaps of his home and offices.

Slate reports that “the lessons of the King scandal should weigh heavy on our minds.”

There is a myth in this country that in a world where everyone is watched, everyone is watched equally. It’s as if an old and racist J. Edgar Hoover has been replaced by the race-blind magic of computers, mathematicians, and Big Data. The truth is more uncomfortable. Across our history and to this day, people of color have been the disproportionate victims of unjust surveillance; Hoover was no aberration. And while racism has played its ugly part, the justification for this monitoring was the same we hear today: national security.

Slate wrote that wiretaps and other surveillance, such as encryption, remain a problem following the revelation that the NSA and DEA were logging phone calls of innocent people.

That’s one reason why, Slate argues, the treatment of King must never be forgotten – because the pattern of surveillance continues on innocent people.

FBI Closes 1964 Civil Rights Case with No Charges Against Former Sheriff’s Deputy

fbi-logBy Steve Neavling

For more than 50 years, Frank Andrews’s family never got justice.

He was shot and killed by an Alabama sheriff’s deputy in 1964 outside of a house known for selling illegal alcohol.

Now the FBI has closed the case and decided against charging the former deputy, Quinnie Donald, The Associated Press reports. 

The FBI determined no charges were warranted.

“I’m proud that they closed it, but I don’t like bringing it up,” Donald said quietly during an interview at his home earlier this month. “I regret that it happened.”

Donald said he was using an unfamiliar pistol and that it fired at the slightest touch when he said he saw Andrews reach for his pocket as if he were trying to pull a knife, the AP wrote.

The Justice Department reopened the case in 2008 but federal agents were never able to gather enough evidence.

Ferguson Close to Reaching Deal with Justice Department to Force Changes in Police Department

Ferguson protest.

Ferguson protest.

By Steve Neavling

Officials in Ferguson, Mo., are close to reaching a deal with the Justice Department to overhaul the city’s Police Department and head off civil rights lawsuits, the New York Times reports. 

But there are challenges to closing the deal, which would require a federal police monitor and an influx of money to pay for it.

Since Ferguson is struggling financially, a tax increase may be necessary to afford the oversight and changes, and that would require approval from voters.

The agreement calls for new training for police and better record-keeping.

The pact between the two governments comes after a Justice Department report in March discovered that police often stop and arrest people without cause, and excessive force was almost exclusively against blacks, the New York Times wrote.

“We have made tremendous progress. We’re very close,” Mayor James Knowles III told the Times.

“We’re at a point where we have addressed any necessary issues, and assuming it is not cost prohibitive, we would like to move forward,” Mr. Knowles said.