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December 05, 2014 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, December 5, 2014 - 5A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Friday, December 5, 2014 - 5A

Let's talk about Ferguson

Police cases across nation
inspire host of protests

ts now been a week and a half
since the Ferguson ruling.
The issue has been dis-
cussed by a
variety of peo-
ple from mul-
tiple angles,
but I want us to
have one final'
discussion. We
won't turn this
into a heated
debate or a hos-
tile environ- MCHE
ment. Instead, SCHRAMM
I want every-
one to have one
calm, cool and collected opportu-
nity to hear why so many believe
the case is racially driven and
.speaks volumes about racism in
America. If you can't fathom why
the case is racist, just keep an
open mind in thinking through
some of the points I want to make.
First, let's talk about Ferguson
itself. It's a predominantly Black
citywithtwo-thirds of the town's
population being African Ameri-
can. While that's 66 percent of
the population, only one member
out of six on the city council is
Black. Three Black police officers
serve on'a 53-person staff, and
Blacks account for 86 percent of
vehicle stops in the town.
Now, let's talk about police
officer Darren Wilson's recount-
ing of the story. He starts by say-
ing he heard about a robbery of
cigarillos from a store. Later, he
sees Michael Brown and a friend
walking in the road, asks him to
walk on the sidewalk, and Brown
replies "fuck what you have to
say." Wilson proceeds to stop the
car, asks Brown to come over, and
Brown heads to the car. But he
doesn't simply head to the car -
Brown then slams the door shut
on Wilson and begins punching
him through the open driver's
window. Then, mid-fight, Brown
proceeds to stop punching Wil-
son to hand over the stolen ciga-
rillos that Wilson heard were
previously stolen. Using this
time to recover, Wilson grabs
his gun, points it at Brown, and
Brown replies "You're too much
of a fucking pussy to shoot me;"
After fighting for control over
the gun, Wilson fires a shbt that
sends Brown running. After this,
Brown comes charging back to
Wilson, puts his right hand into
his waistband (implying Wil-
son believes Brown had a gun),
and refuses to get on the ground
per Wilson's instructions. This
causes Wilson to fire six shots
into Brown.
Doesn't this story sound a little
strange to you?
I'll highlight some commen-
tary made in a Vox article. Why
would Brown, someone who
recently stole cigarillos from a
store, act so aggressively non-
compliant with a police officer
wanting him to simply walk on
the sidewalk? Why does Brown
- mid-fight - decide that it's a

wise decision to stop fighting to
hand his friend the stolen ciga-
rillos in front of a police officer?
Why would Brown antagonize an
intimidated officer to shoot him?
Why would Brown reach into his
waistband to pull out a gun when
evidence indicated that Brown
never had a gun? It almost seems
that Wilson is trying to connect
Brown with the theft and frame
him as particularly dangerous in
an attempt to justify his actions.
Furthermore, numerous eye-
witness accounts contradict Wil-
son's claims - including whether
Brown charged Wilson when the
gun was fired.
Let's also not forget that
there's evidence directly con-
tradicting Wilson's statements.
Brown was shot 150 feet from the
car as opposed to the 10-foot dis-
tance Wilson claimed separated
them. Brown's DNA was also dis-
covered in Wilson's car, contra-
dictingthe testimony thatWilson
and Brown's altercation occurred
with Brown outside the car.
Does any of this definitively
prove that Wilson shot Brown
due to race? No. But let's think
things through. This is a town
where a few whites rule a major-
ity of Blacks. Wilson is a man
who previously belonged to a
police force disbanded for racial
tension. His recounting of events
is bizarre at best, and evidence
directly contradicts his claims.
Given the facts, it certainly
seems likely that race played
a factor.
Notice how I'm not saying rac-
ism was the sole factor. I'm not
asserting Wilson thought "I'm
going to shoot this man because
he's Black." However, lying
somewhere between Brown's
conscious and subconscious lays
our society's purported notion
that Blacks are more threaten-
ing than whites. I believe that
if we could repeat the situation
with 50 Michael Browns and 50
white counterparts, more of the
Black men would be dead than
the whites.
I'm not unsupported in believ-
ing this. In America, young Black
men are 21 times more likely to be
shot dead by police officers than
youngwhite men.
That's an indicator of institu-
tionalized racism - subtle racism
that's facilitated by policies and
practices that are particularly
harmful to minorities. Institu-
tional racism happens all around
us. The same applies to the Fer-
guson case. The police system
isn't intended to harm African
Americans more, but statistically,
it does.
We also see evidence of insti-
tutional racism in the judicial
proceedings of this case. Despite
evidence contradicting Wil-
son's statement, he wasn't even
tried because the court failed
to indict him - something that
happened in only 11 cases out of
162,000 in 2010. Wilson didn't

need to be poven guilty beyond
a reasonable doubt for an indict-
ment. All that's needed to be
indicted is a legal threshold of
probable cause. Given this, in a
public statement, the National
Bar Association couldn't under-
stand how a jury couldn't indict
Wilson. The details behind the
case don't match the indictment
decision - something that could
be explained by the rejection that
institutional racism exists.
Let's just assume Wilson was
indicted and the case did go to
court. Does evidence exist to
declare Wilson as guilty beyond
a reasonable doubt? Honestly, I
don't know, and I could very well
see there not being evidence to
prove murder. "
Institutional racism is one of
the hardest things to prove, but
does that make the situation any
better? Enough evidence exists
to believe Brown's death was
influenced by race. It speaks to
how easily racism can occur in
our society with almost no reper-
cussions, and that in itself is dis-
But let's take this further. Let's
assume the evidence indicating
this case as racist isn't actually
pertinent. What if Wilson wasn't
being racist?
It doesn't matter.
Because this case didn't occur
in a vacuum. It fits under the
enormous umbrella of cases
where race could have been a
factor in a shooting. Remember
Trayvon Martin? Cases where
death is potentially race-driven
happen frequently (remember
that Black men are 21 times more
likely to be shot dead than white
men?) It doesn't matter whether
Wilson definitively shot Brown
due to racism; it just matters that
there's a reasonable possibility.
If it didn't happen in this case,
there are hundreds of others,
and it is happening in some of
them. What's worse is that this
form of injustice is designed to
go unpunished.
This case speaks to the larger
societal problem that Blacks
encounter more frequent and
horrific police encounters, which
speaks to the even larger problem
that racist undertones exist in
our society.
That's why this case is so
important: not only does it reveal
fundamental flaws on a micro
level, but it's a huge problem on
a macro level revealing the exis-
tence of institutional racism.
I make absolutely no claims
that I can understand the hard-
ships that Blacks are experienc-
ingwhile mourningthe Ferguson
case. However, from observ-
ing the pain, riots and injustice
felt in the community, I feel the
responsibility lies on more than
just African Americans to speak
on this case.
- Michael Schramm can be
reached at mschramm@umich.edu.

Police brutality,
racial profiling
topics of concern
NEW YORK (AP) - From the
White House to the streets of
some of America's biggest cities,
the New York chokehold case
converged with the Ferguson
shooting and investigations out
of South Carolina and Cleveland
to stir a national conversation
Thursday about racial justice and
police use of force.
A day after a grand jury
cleared a white New York City
officer in the death of a black
man, civil rights leaders pinned
their hopes on a promised fed-
eral investigation. Demonstra-
tors protested for a second night
in New York, carrying replicas
of coffins across the Brooklyn
Bridge, and turned out in such
cities as Denver, Detroit and
Minneapolis. And politicians and
others talked about the need for
better police training, body cam-
eras and changes in the grand
jury process to restore faith in the
legal system.
"A whole generation of officers
will be trained in a new way,"
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio
vowed as he and his police com-
missioner outlined previously
announced plans to teach officers
how to communicate better with
people on the street.
President Barack Obama
weighed in, saying one of the
chief issues at stake is "making
sure that people have confidence
that police and law enforcement
and prosecutors are serving
everybody equally."
Even before the decision in
the Eric Garner case came down,
racial tensionswere runninghigh
because of last week's grand jury
decision not to charge a white
officer in the shooting death of
black 18-year-old Michael Brown
in Ferguson, Missouri.

Other cases were added to the
mix on Thursday:
- In the tiny South Carolina
town of Eutawville, a white for-
mer police chief was charged
with murder in the 2011 shoot-
ing of an unarmed black man.
Richards Combs' lawyer accused
prosecutors of taking advantage
of national outrage toward police
to obtain the indictment more
than three years after the killing.
- InCleveland,theU.S.Justice
Department and the city reached
an agreement to overhaul the
police department after federal
investigators found that officers
use excessive force far too often,
causing deep mistrust, especially
among blacks. The investigation
was prompted chiefly by a 2012
police ar chase that ended in the
deaths of two unarmed people in
alhail of137bullets.
Just last week, protesters took
to the streets of Cleveland after a
white police officer shot and killed
a black 12-year-old boy carrying
what turned out to be pellet gun.
At a news conference in New
York after a night of protests led
to 83 arrests, the Rev. Al Sharp-
ton called the state-level grand
jury system "broken" when it
comes to police brutality cases
and urged federal authorities to
fix it. %
"The federal government must
do in the 21st century what it did
in the mid-20th century," he said.
"Federal intervention must come
now and protect people from
state grand juries."
Still, federal civil rights
cases against police officers are
exceedingly rare.
In the past two decades, only
a few such cases have reached
trial in New York - most notably
the one involving Abner Loui-
ma, who was sodomized with a
broom handle in a police station
in 1997. Several other high-profile
cases didn't come together.
That's largely because federal
prosecutors must meet a high

standard of proof in showing that
police deliberately deprived vic-
tims of their civil rights through
excessive force, said Alan Vine-
grad, who as a federal prosecutor
handled the Louima case.
Federal intervention "doesn't
happen often and it shouldn't
happen often," said James
Jacobs, a constitutional law pro-
fessor at New York University
Law School. "They should only
step in when the local prosecu-
tion was a sham."
Activists have claimed that the
grand jury investigation of Gar-
ner's death was indeed a sham.
An amateur video showed Officer
Daniel Pantaleo putting Garner
in an apparent chokehold, and the
medical examinersaidthe maneu-
ver contributed to the death.
But Pantaleo's attorney, Stuart
London, expressed confidence
Thursday that his client won't
face federal prosecution.
"There's very specific guide-
lines that are not met in this
case," London said. "This is a reg-
ular street encounter. It doesn't
fall into the parameters."
Acting at the Staten Island dis-
trict attorney's request, a judge
released a few details Thursday
from the grand jury proceedings
- among other things, it watched
four videos and heard from 50 wit-
Attorney DanielDonovandidn't ask
for testimony, transcripts or exhib-
its to be madepublic.
But London offered some
details, saying the officer's tes-
timony focused on "his remorse
and the fact that he never meant
to harm Mr. Garner that day."
Pantaleo admitted he heard
Garner say, "I can't breathe," but
believed that once he got him'
down on the ground and put him
on his side, he would be revived
by paramedics, London said. The
officer also testified that he "used
atakedown moveand anycontact
to the neck was incidental," the
lawyer added.

, The Team, the Team and a Victim

When it comes to athletics,
there's no denying that the Uni-
versity of Michigan - a school
known for the eardrum-shatter-
ingscreams of its students during
football games and the torrential
sea of maize and blue that adorns
our campus on a daily basis - is
encompassed by a level of spirit
that exceeds no bounds. Indeed,
one hardly has to flutter an eyelid
to find themselves surrounded by
a highly pervasive and inclusive
passion for the Big House and the
Victors who proudly call it home.
One only has to look around to
see that at the University, athlet-
ics are more than a form of relax-
ation and entertainment. Here at
the University, athletics - partic-
ularly football - are worshipped,
revered and glorified.
And while I will be the first to
admit that this level of passion
marks one of the many allur-
ing features of our university -
because let's be honest, what's
a college without its students
- I cannot help but feel that
our faithfulness to our athletic
department and the individuals
who compose it has the malig-
nant potential to render us apa-
thetic towards those who fall
outside it or in some way chal-
lenge it.
On Nov. 16, newspapers and
media companies all over the
country entered a state of insa-

tiable frenzy upon learning of
the arrest of former defensive
end player Frank Clark, who had
been charged with domestic vio-
lence and assault after report-
edly beating his girlfriend in an
Ohio hotel. Police reports indi-
cate that Clark, a senior, spent
the night behind bars until being
arraigned on the morning of Nov.
17. Clark was suspended from the
team that same day.
Rightfully so.
But despite the degree to
which the legal reports cen-
ter around the victim - who
through her altercation with
Clark was rendered unconscious
and sustained several bruises on
her face - the media coverage of
the event has been overwhelm-
ingly limited to the football team.
As far as local newspapers are
concerned, Clark's actions have
affected nobody but his team-
mates. As far as local newspapers
are concerned, the victim of this
altercation - who because of
Clark will bear the rusty chains
of self-blame and psychologi-
cal trauma - represents nothing
less than an additional obstacle
for The Team to overcome. This
news coverage indirectly and
directly diminishes the sever-
ity of Clark's crime, and propels
the message that we, as students,
should be concerned more about
the team than our peers.

The lessons taken away from
domestic violence cases do not
stpp being absorbed with the
prosecution of the perpetrator.
It's through the victim's experi-
ences that we as a society can
recognize the epidemic that is
relationship violence, and it's
through an analysis of our own
values that we can propel for-
ward and thus promote an envi-
ronment that's intolerant of
such hostilities. Clark's crime
deserves attention not because of
his status as a football player, but
because of the pain it has trig-
gered throughout our campus.
Our actions are hardly justified
by our position in society, and
thus we must view Clark not as a
god to be revered, but as a male
figure who surrendered his mas-
culinity by committing the worst
of crimes. Football players - and
all athletes for that matter - are
not representative of our stu-
dent body. This is not to say that
we should boycott the sport or
refuse to attend games because of
this incident - this maneuver is
both immature and deprecating
to the entire university as a whole
- but rather consider the degree
to which we glorify the game and
its players. It's important to rec-
ognize that there's more to our
campus than The Team.
Neel Swamy is ans LSA freshman.

1e 1Midii n Oi jSF1-El I 4

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