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Civil Rights Cold Case Victim Elbert Williams to be Honored on 75th Anniversary of His Murder

Posted by Admin On May - 27 - 2015 Comments Off on Civil Rights Cold Case Victim Elbert Williams to be Honored on 75th Anniversary of His Murder

Elbert Williams

Nationwide (BlackNews.com) – Elbert Williams, the first known NAACP official killed for his civil rights activities, will be honored on the 75th anniversary of his death at a special memorial service on June 20, 2015. The service will be held at 9:00 am at the Haywood County High School gymnasium in Brownsville, Tennessee, featuring NAACP President Cornell William Brooks as principal speaker. The memorial service will include video remarks by the renowned Reverend Clay Evans, co-founder of Operation Push, and by legendary civil rights leader, Congressman John Lewis (D Georgia).

The activities honoring Mr. Williams will include the unveiling of a state historical marker at 11:00 am in downtown Brownsville. The concluding event will be a brief 1:00 pm service at Taylor Cemetery, where he is buried. All events are free, and the public is invited.

Mr. Williams was murdered in Brownsville, Tennessee on June 20, 1940. Local authorities ordered an immediate burial without a post mortem or a determination of the cause of death. There was neither a funeral nor the presence of his family at his burial.

Elbert Williams and his wife, Annie, became charter members of the Brownsville NAACP Branch, formed in 1939, to regain the vote which had been denied to African Americans for decades. In 1940 a white terror campaign to destroy the Branch by kidnapping its leaders and expelling them from the county was led by local police. On June 20, 1940, Mr. Williams was overheard planning an NAACP Branch meeting to be held in his home. This plan was reported to police who that night kidnapped him from his home. His corpse was found three days later in the nearby Hatchie River. His widow identified his body and saw what looked like two bullet holes in his chest.

The US Department of Justice initially ordered the case presented to a federal grand jury, but mysteriously reversed itself and closed the case in early 1942. Thurgood Marshall, then special counsel to the NAACP, gathered evidence in Brownsville and became a lifelong critic of the Justice Departments failure to prosecute Mr. Williams assailants. In December of 1942, the United States entered World War II, and the memory of Elbert Williams was lost to time. The memorial service will restore the historical memory of one of the many unsung heroes of the quest for human and civil rights.

For further information regarding memorial events go to www.elbertwilliamsmemorial.com, Facebook Page: Elbert Williams Memorial Commemoration, email: info@elbertwilliamsmemorial.com or contact John Ashworth 731-277-9352.

Photo: Elbert Williams

Utility Disconnections Leave Thousands Around the Nation “Out in the Cold” or Left in the Dark

Posted by Admin On April - 3 - 2017 Comments Off on Utility Disconnections Leave Thousands Around the Nation “Out in the Cold” or Left in the Dark

NAACP report outlines disproportionate impact of utility shut-offs on poor and African American communities

BALTIMORE, MD –According to a new report from the NAACP, utility company shut off policies disproportionately impact low-income and African American communities, literally leaving thousands in the dark, stranded in the cold during winter or severely impacted by sweltering summer temperatures.

With 2016 on record as the hottest year to date, and January of this year documented as the 3rdhottest January on record, many are looking at the coming summer and winter months with fear and dread regarding the potential for utility shut-offs, that leave a disproportionate number of African American and poor communities in the dark and out in the cold.

““The life-threatening fact that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000, means climate change and global warming are painful household realities for those whose heat, air-conditioning and power are shut off. Dangerous and unnecessary shut offs in the sweltering heat and frigid cold disproportionately impact the poor, the elderly and communities of color,” said NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks. “The measure of our great nation is not unreasoned and unrestrained profitability but rather reasoned solutions and unrestrained compassion for vulnerable populations. This report is inspired by such compassion and offers such solutions,” emphasized NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks.

The report issued by the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program (ECJP) shows lower income communities spend a greater portion of income on electricity and heating costs than high-income communities. African Americans are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-African Americans and spend a significantly higher fraction of their household income on electricity and heating as non-African Americans, who spend more on energy used in the production and consumption of goods.

Since African Americans make up a higher percentage of low-income households, their vulnerability to high energy prices and in turn utility disconnections is exacerbated at levels disproportionate to other groups due to rate hikes or swings in weather.

The NAACP’s ECJP in analyzing state policies concerning utility shut-offs, showed:

• customers with limited income bear a disproportionate burden of energy bills;
• disconnections have a disparate impact on low-income communities and communities of color;
• customers may be reliant on utility services for medical devices and life-supporting systems;
• vulnerable customers’ use of hazardous heating, cooling, and lighting measures can have harmful and even fatal results.

NAACP ECJP also highlights the inconsistencies in state shut-off polices, which makes it tougher to implement national utility reforms. States and the District of Columbia are uniform only in the fact that all are required to send out disconnection notices, yet:

• 7 states offer no payment plans to cure delinquency;
• 8 states have no medical protection policies on affecting disconnection of services;
• 11 states have no disconnection limitation polices;
• 14 states have no date-based protection policies. Date based – set specific dates of when customers cannot without due diligence be disconnected from a utility service;
• 28 states have no temperature-based policies: Meaning regardless of how cold it becomes, utilities can be shut-off;
• 11 states have no disconnection limitations; and
• 36 states have reconnection fees.

These inconsistencies in consumer protections result in thousands of individuals and families each year ending up with no heat or power in their homes during the worst of times.

Unfortunately, these numbers are slated to expand tremendously due to President Donald Trump’s proposed elimination of the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The elimination of LIHEAP would disparately impact over a million African Americans, and nearly 7 million Americans who utilize LIHEAP. 



Iowa – 85,777 households

Michigan – 623,549 households

Ohio – 454,520 households

Pennsylvania – 391,461 households

Wisconsin – 214,531 households

*Climate Nexus

“Caught between a rock and a hard place, low-income families across the country are often faced with tough choices between putting food on the table, paying for medicine and lighting and/or heating their homes.” said Jacqueline Patterson, Director of the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program. “In researching this report, we’ve seen too many cases where poverty ends up being a death sentence when circumstances result in fatally perilous choices.

For Arizona native Amy Mays whose struggles with utility shut-off and path to energy independence are profiled in the report, new policies are needed immediately.

“We need these solutions sooner rather than later, because climate change is going to make these issues worse. Extreme weather events, like dangerously hot and cold days, are projected to increase as a result of climate change – stretching ratepayer’s pockets and putting them at even greater risk if their power is shut off. ”

The amount owed by low-income customers for unpaid utilities often has a minimal impact on company finances.

Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (First Energy) 2015-2016

Executive Base Salary    Total Compensation     Pay Increase

1  $ 1,118,558.00     $ 4,238,701.00         $ 3,120,143.00 

2 $ 636,154.00       $ 2,339,431.00          $ 1,703,277.00 

3 $ 510,231.00        $ 7,054,125.00          $ 6,543,894.00 

4 $ 752,789.00        $ 3,004,793.00         $ 2,252,004.00 

5 $ 599,176.00         $ 2,135,552.00          $ 1,536,376.00 

6 $ 552,404.00        $ 2,017,272.00          $ 1,464,868.00 

Total $ 4,169,312.00   $ 20,789,874.00   $  16,620,562.00 

A study of utility costs and spending in Cleveland, OH found that while customers with Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company who were facing disconnection owed nearly $12.3 million in unpaid bills between 2014 and 2015, the top executives for the same company were paid more than $16.6 million in performance bonuses.

Total Service Disconnections for Nonpayment

Jun 2014 – May 2015

Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company  14,594

Columbia Gas of Ohio  92,313

Dominion East Ohio  62,398

Orwell Natural Gas  $216

Total  169,521


According to the NAACP, there are several solutions that can implemented by states and utilities to begin to decrease the impact of shut-offs among poor and communities of color. The solution strategy begins with the establishment of a universal right to uninterrupted energy service, which would ensure that provisions are in place to prevent utility disconnection due to non-payment and arrearages.

The NAACP ECJP also calls for a moratorium on utility shut-offs and calls for utility companies to incorporate a basic set of principles into their policies including:

• Secure ACCESS to utility services for all households;
• INCLUSION of all customers in the development of utility policies and regulations;
• TRANSPARENCY of the actions of and information held by utility companies, regulating bodies; legislatures, and utility affiliated organizations;
• PROTECTION of the human and civil rights of all customers; and
• Advance programs that help ELIMINATE POVERTY, so that all customers can pay utility bills.

“We can create more humane policies but it will involve a greater number of activists and individuals from communities disparately affected by cut-off policies,” said Jacqui Patterson.

“Through directly engaging elected officials, utility companies and local legislators, we can get the type of solutions listed in the report passed into law and in doing so change this nation for the better” she added.

Copies of the “Lights Out in the Cold” report can be found on our website at naacp.org

Click here or email mrussell@naacpnet.org

President Obama’s Remarks at the Dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Posted by Admin On September - 28 - 2016 Comments Off on President Obama’s Remarks at the Dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Mall

Washington, D.C.  

President Barack Obama:  James Baldwin once wrote, “For while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard.”  For while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard.Today, as so many generations have before, we gather on our National Mall to tell an essential part of our American story — one that has at times been overlooked — we come not just for today, but for all time.


President and Mrs. Bush; President Clinton; Vice President and Dr. Biden; Chief Justice Roberts; Secretary Skorton; Reverend Butts; distinguished guests:  Thank you.  Thank you for your leadership in making sure this tale is told.  We’re here in part because of you and because of all those Americans — the Civil War vets, the Civil Rights foot soldiers, the champions of this effort on Capitol Hill — who, for more than a century, kept the dream of this museum alive.

That includes our leaders in Congress — Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi.  It includes one of my heroes, John Lewis, who, as he has so often, took the torch from those who came before him and brought us past the finish line.  It includes the philanthropists and benefactors and advisory members who have so generously given not only their money but their time.  It includes the Americans who offered up all the family keepsakes tucked away in Grandma’s attic.  And of course, it includes a man without whose vision and passion and persistence we would not be here today — Mr. Lonnie Bunch.

What we can see of this building — the towering glass, the artistry of the metalwork — is surely a sight to behold.  But beyond the majesty of the building, what makes this occasion so special is the larger story it contains.  Below us, this building reaches down 70 feet, its roots spreading far wider and deeper than any tree on this Mall.  And on its lowest level, after you walk past remnants of a slave ship, after you reflect on the immortal declaration that “all men are created equal,” you can see a block of stone.  On top of this stone sits a historical marker, weathered by the ages.  That marker reads:  “General Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay spoke from this slave block…during the year 1830.”

I want you to think about this.  Consider what this artifact tells us about history, about how it’s told, and about what can be cast aside.  On a stone where day after day, for years, men and women were torn from their spouse or their child, shackled and bound, and bought and sold, and bid like cattle; on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over a thousand bare feet — for a long time, the only thing we considered important, the singular thing we once chose to commemorate as “history” with a plaque were the unmemorable speeches of two powerful men.

And that block I think explains why this museum is so necessary.  Because that same object, reframed, put in context, tells us so much more.  As Americans, we rightfully passed on the tales of the giants who built this country; who led armies into battle and waged seminal debates in the halls of Congress and the corridors of power.  But too often, we ignored or forgot the stories of millions upon millions of others, who built this nation just as surely, whose humble eloquence, whose calloused hands, whose steady drive helped to create cities, erect industries, build the arsenals of democracy.

And so this national museum helps to tell a richer and fuller story of who we are.  It helps us better understand the lives, yes, of the President, but also the slave; the industrialist, but also the porter; the keeper of the status quo, but also of the activist seeking to overthrow that status quo; the teacher or the cook, alongside the statesman.  And by knowing this other story, we better understand ourselves and each other. It binds us together.  It reaffirms that all of us are America — that African-American history is not somehow separate from our larger American story, it’s not the underside of the American story, it is central to the American story.  That our glory derives not just from our most obvious triumphs, but how we’ve wrested triumph from tragedy, and how we’ve been able to remake ourselves, again and again and again, in accordance with our highest ideals.

I, too, am America.

The great historian John Hope Franklin, who helped to get this museum started, once said, “Good history is a good foundation for a better present and future.”  He understood the best history doesn’t just sit behind a glass case; it helps us to understand what’s outside the case.  The best history helps us recognize the mistakes that we’ve made and the dark corners of the human spirit that we need to guard against.  And, yes, a clear-eyed view of history can make us uncomfortable, and shake us out of familiar narratives.  But it is precisely because of that discomfort that we learn and grow and harness our collective power to make this nation more perfect.

That’s the American story that this museum tells — one of suffering and delight; one of fear but also of hope; of wandering in the wilderness and then seeing out on the horizon a glimmer of the Promised Land.

It is in this embrace of truth, as best as we can know it, in the celebration of the entire American experience, where real patriotism lies.  As President Bush just said, a great nation doesn’t shy from the truth.  It strengthens us.  It emboldens us. It should fortify us.  It is an act of patriotism to understand where we’ve been.  And this museum tells the story of so many patriots.

Yes, African Americans have felt the cold weight of shackles and the stinging lash of the field whip.  But we’ve also dared to run north, and sing songs from Harriet Tubman’s hymnal.  We’ve buttoned up our Union Blues to join the fight for our freedom. We’ve railed against injustice for decade upon decade — a lifetime of struggle, and progress, and enlightenment that we see etched in Frederick Douglass’s mighty, leonine gaze.


Yes, this museum tells a story of people who felt the indignity, the small and large humiliations of a “whites only” sign, or wept at the side of Emmett Till’s coffin, or fell to their knees on shards of stained glass outside a church where four little girls died.  But it also tells the story of the black youth and white youth sitting alongside each other, straight-backed, so full of dignity on those lunch counter stools; the story of a six-year-old Ruby Bridges, pigtails, fresh-pressed dress, walking that gauntlet to get to school; Tuskegee airmen soaring the skies not just to beat a dictator, but to reaffirm the promise of our democracy — but remind us that all of us are created equal.

This is the place to understand how protest and love of country don’t merely coexist but inform each other; how men can proudly win the gold for their country but still insist on raising a black-gloved fist; how we can wear “I Can’t Breathe”

T-shirt and still grieve for fallen police officers.  Here’s the America where the razor-sharp uniform of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff belongs alongside the cape of the Godfather of Soul. We have shown the world that we can float like butterflies and sting like bees; that we can rocket into space like Mae Jemison, steal home like Jackie, rock like Jimi, stir the pot like Richard Pryor; or we can be sick and tired of being sick and tired, like Fannie Lou Hamer, and still Rock Steady like Aretha Franklin.

We are large, Walt Whitman told us, containing multitudes.  We are large, containing multitudes.  Full of contradictions.  That’s America.  That’s what makes us grow.  That’s what makes us extraordinary.  And as is true for America, so is true for African American experience.  We’re not a burden on America, or a stain on America, or an object of pity or charity for America.  We’re America.

And that’s what this museum explains — the fact that our stories have shaped every corner of our culture.  The struggles for freedom that took place made our Constitution a real and living document, tested and shaped and deepened and made more profound its meaning for all people.  The story told here doesn’t just belong to black Americans; it belongs to all Americans — for the African-American experience has been shaped just as much by Europeans and Asians and Native Americans and Latinos.  We have informed each other.  We are polyglot, a stew.

Scripture promised that if we lift up the oppressed, then our light will rise in the darkness, and our night will become like the noonday.  And the story contained in this museum makes those words prophecy.  And that’s what this day is about.  That’s what this museum is about.  I, too, am America.  It is a glorious story, the one that’s told here.  It is complicated and it is messy and it is full of contradictions, as all great stories are, as Shakespeare is, as Scripture is.  And it’s a story that perhaps needs to be told now more than ever.

A museum alone will not alleviate poverty in every inner city or every rural hamlet.  It won’t eliminate gun violence from all our neighborhoods, or immediately ensure that justice is always colorblind.  It won’t wipe away every instance of discrimination in a job interview or a sentencing hearing or folks trying to rent an apartment.  Those things are up to us, the decisions and choices we make.  It requires speaking out, and organizing, and voting, until our values are fully reflected in our laws and our policies and our communities.

But what this museum does show us is that in even the face of oppression, even in the face of unimaginable difficulty, America has moved forward.  And so this museum provides context for the debates of our times.  It illuminates them and gives us some sense of how they evolved, and perhaps keeps them in proportion.  Perhaps it can help a white visitor understand the pain and anger of demonstrators in places like Tulsa and Charlotte.  But it can also help black visitors appreciate the fact that not only is this younger generation carrying on traditions of the past but, within the white communities across this nation we see the sincerity of law enforcement officers and officials who, in fits and starts, are struggling to understand, and are trying to do the right thing.

It reminds us that routine discrimination and Jim Crow aren’t ancient history, it’s just a blink in the eye of history. It was just yesterday.  And so we should not be surprised that not all the healing is done.  We shouldn’t despair that it’s not all solved.  And knowing the larger story should instead remind us of just how remarkable the changes that have taken place truly are — just in my lifetime — and thereby inspire us to further progress.

And so hopefully this museum can help us talk to each other. And more importantly, listen to each other.  And most importantly, see each other.  Black and white and Latino and Native American and Asian American — see how our stories are bound together.  And bound together with women in America, and workers in America, and entrepreneurs in America, and LGBT Americans.  And for young people who didn’t live through the struggles represented here, I hope you draw strength from the changes that have taken place.  Come here and see the power of your own agency.  See how young John Lewis was.  These were children who transformed a nation in a blink of an eye.  Young people, come here and see your ability to make your mark.

The very fact of this day does not prove that America is perfect, but it does validate the ideas of our founding, that this country born of change, this country born of revolution, this country of we, the people, this country can get better.

And that’s why we celebrate, mindful that our work is not yet done; mindful that we are but on a waystation on this common journey towards freedom.  And how glorious it is that we enshrine it here, on some of our nation’s most hallowed ground — the same place where lives were once traded but also where hundreds of thousands of Americans, of all colors and creeds, once marched.  How joyful it is that this story take its rightful place — alongside Jefferson who declared our independence, and Washington who made it real, and alongside Lincoln who saved our union, and the GIs who defended it; alongside a new monument to a King, gazing outward, summoning us toward that mountaintop.  How righteous it is that with  tell this story here.

For almost eight years, I have been blessed with the extraordinary honor of serving you in this office.  (Applause.)  Time and again, I’ve flown low over this mall on Marine One, often with Michelle and our daughters.  And President Clinton, President Bush, they’ll tell you it is incredible sight.  We pass right across the Washington Monument — it feels like you can reach out and touch it.  And at night, if you turn the other way, you don’t just see the Lincoln Memorial, Old Abe is lit up and you can see him, his spirit glowing from that building.  And we don’t have many trips left.  But over the years, I’ve always been comforted as I’ve watched this museum rise from this earth into this remarkable tribute.  Because I know that years from now, like all of you, Michelle and I will be able to come here to this museum, and not just bring our kids but hopefully our grandkids. I imagine holding a little hand of somebody and tell them the stories that are enshrined here.

And in the years that follow, they’ll be able to do the same.  And then we’ll go to the Lincoln Memorial and we’ll take in the view atop the Washington Monument.  And together, we’ll learn about ourselves, as Americans — our sufferings, our delights, and our triumphs.  And we’ll walk away better for it, better because the better grasp of history.  We’ll walk away that much more in love with this country, the only place on Earth where this story could have unfolded.

It is a monument, no less than the others on this Mall, to the deep and abiding love for this country, and the ideals upon which it is founded.  For we, too, are America.

So enough talk.  President Bush is timing me. He had the over/under at 25.  Let us now open this museum to the world.  Today, we have with us a family that reflects the arc of our progress:  the Bonner family — four generations in all, starting with gorgeous seven-year-old Christine and going up to gorgeous 99-year-old Ruth.

Now, Ruth’s father, Elijah Odom, was born into servitude in Mississippi.  He was born a slave.  As a young boy, he ran, though, to his freedom.  He lived through Reconstruction and he lived through Jim Crow.  But he went on to farm, and graduate from medical school, and gave life to the beautiful family that we see today — with a spirit reflected in beautiful Christine, free and equal in the laws of her country and in the eyes of God.

So in a brief moment, their family will join us in ringing a bell from the First Baptist Church in Virginia — one of the oldest black churches in America, founded under a grove of trees in 1776.  And the sound of this bell will be echoed by others in houses of worship and town squares all across this country — an echo of the ringing bells that signaled Emancipation more than a century and a half ago; the sound, and the anthem, of American freedom.

God bless you all.  God bless the United States of America.

At Issue: Policy Vs. Practice, Paul O’Neal and Tracking IPRA

Posted by Admin On August - 10 - 2016 Comments Off on At Issue: Policy Vs. Practice, Paul O’Neal and Tracking IPRA
At Issue: Policy vs. Practice

by Curtis Black

Video of the police killing of 18-year-old Paul O’Neal – released by the Independent Police Review Authority on Friday, a week after the incident – left Police Supt. Eddie Johnson with “more questions than answers.”

That wasn’t true for everyone.  An attorney for O’Neal’s family said the video showed “cold-blooded murder” and a “coverup.” And protestors took the incident as evidence that despite increased attention on the issue, young black men are still being targeted by police.

1) A group of young women raise their hands in solidarity with fellow marchers protesting the killing of Paul O’Neal. Videos taken from policemens body camera’s showing the events unfold that led to the killing were released on Friday. 2) Eva Lewis, organiser of the march to protest the killing of Paul O’Neal speaks to the protestors assembled for the March. (Photos by Vidura Jang Bahadur)

As Johnson noted – and the Chicago Tribune has detailed – the record of the incident reveals multiple violations of department policy by officers, including restrictions on shooting at vehicles, shooting fleeing suspects, and firing at suspects when others are in the line of fire.

Johnson said he didn’t know what training was given officers involved in the incident on a 2015 update to the department’s use of force policy regarding shooting into vehicles.

IPRA released the videos within one week of the incident – far in advance of the 60-day deadline under a new video release policy adopted early this year. First Amendment advocates had criticized the 60-day delay as too long.

And the as yet unnamed officer who killed O’Neal also failed to activate his body camera.

Police Video. Last week the Leadership Council for Civil and Human Right released a bodycam scorecard rating the policies (or lack of policies) of police departments across the country, and the Chicago Police Department had the fewest negative marks of any department.

Chicago got high marks for making its bodycam policy easily available on its website, clearly describing when officers must record, protecting categories of vulnerable individuals (such as sex crime victims), limiting retention of footage and protecting footage from tampering and misuse, and making footage available to individuals filing complaints.  Putting all of those policies into practice remains a challenge.

Chicago fell short in two areas: failing to require officers to file reports on incidents before viewing footage, and failing to sharply limit the use of biometric techniques like facial recognition.

Procedural justice. Another gap between policy and practice was highlighted by a discussion in the New York Times of CPD’s procedural justice curriculum, now being used by six cities in a federal pilot program. It’s based on the theory that people are more likely to consider legal authority as legitimate when they are treated respectfully by police officers – and, some studies indicate, that can reduce crime rates.

But in Chicago, the training was not reflected in the department’s policies, according to the retired police lieutenant who designed it.  Instead of integrating the training into its practices, the department continued (until a recent legal settlement) emphasizing “stop-and-frisk,” said Lt. Bruce Lipman, who’s since retired.  That approach is one of the most “harmful” to police-community relations, according to author Tina Rosenberg.  While embracing the rhetoric of procedural justice, CPD leadership employed “hyperaggressive” policing strategies on the ground.

(Rosenberg is incorrect that former Supt. Garry McCarthy supported the Ceasefire violence reduction program; James O’Shea gives the history in a call for sustained support for such programs.)

Rosenberg’s conclusion: “Procedural justice is an important tool, but it works slowly.” But she also quotes Jamie Kalven of the Invisible Institute: “The procedural justice stuff is fine in itself, but accountability should have priority.”

In April, the Marshall Project took a long look at the contrast between Chicago’s national “reputation as a laboratory of police science” and the local reality of its failure to hold abusive officers accountable.

IPRA workers speak out. A Chicago Tonight report, “IPRA Workers Fight to Keep Agency Intact,” mischaracterized the position of the union representing investigators at the Independent Police Review Authority, a representative told View From the Ground.

The story “does not accurately report our position,” said Jo Patton of AFSCME Council 31, which represents about 60 IPRA investigators and other staff.

“We are not trying to maintain IPRA as it is currently configured,” she said. “We are saying that whatever new oversight framework is created, police accountability in the city of Chicago will benefit from having experienced civilian investigators.”She said the mayor’s Police Accountability Task Force report presented “no evidence of bias or poor performance” by IPRA investigators but rather identified “systemic” problems, including legal constraints on investigations and management problems such as inadequate staffing, mandates from the chief administrator to alter findings, and the use of “mediation” to reduce disciplinary recommendations.

Wholesale replacement of IPRA’s “trained, educated workforce” would be unfair and inefficient, Patton said.

Communities step up. Following the FOP’s call to its members to decline voluntary overtime over Labor Day weekend, a coalition of community groups is organizing a Community Peace Surge in ten high-crime areas. The effort will include a range of community events as well as resident crime watches.

“The signal that the FOP sent with that flier and those remarks are reverberating through communities across Chicago,” said Phillip Jackson of the Black Star Project.  “The intention, the spirit of those words were, ‘Until You respect us, we are not going to serve you,’ and that is what we are rejecting.”

Bigger picture. With protests continuing in Chicago against a proposed ordinance adding attacks on police to the list of hate crimes, Pew Charitable Trusts looks at similar efforts nationwide.  A proponent of the original hate crimes legislation, the Anti-Defamation League opposes so-called Blue Lives Matter laws, arguing that all 50 states already have laws increasing penalties for attacks on police, and hate crimes should be restricted to “people’s most precious identity categories.” Supporters argue such measures serve as deterrents and “send a message.”

While the city’s law department has come under fire for failing to disclose records of police misconduct in civil rights lawsuits, the Associated Press found similar patterns in cities across the country, where municipal attorneys “deliberately hid important facts, delayed their disclosure or otherwise sought to subvert evidence in civil cases.”

Writing in USA Today, former Madison police chief David C. Couper says, “I struggled with my union in Madison for eight years over my efforts to change police use of force policy and to hire more female and minority officers….The unions have exerted and will continue to exert a lot of muscle to prevent almost every effort that’s on the table to reform police policy.”

Tracking IPRA. Of five community meetings scheduled around the upcoming reform of Chicago’s police investigatory organization, four remain throughout the month of August. On Monday, Invisible Institute director Jamie Kalven appeared on Chicago Tonight to discuss pending changes at the Independent Police Review Authority with Carol Marin and IPRA chief Sharon Fairley.

A new public tool aimed at providing context around police accountability—the IPRA Tracker—goes live today from the Invisible Institute and City Bureau. City Bureau, the Chicago-based journalism lab, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a public South Side newsroom where community members and journalists can learn skills and share ideas.

President Obama Addresses the Illinois General Assembly

Posted by Admin On February - 11 - 2016 Comments Off on President Obama Addresses the Illinois General Assembly

House Chamber
Illinois State Capitol
Springfield, Illinois


President Barack Obama:


Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of the General Assembly, my fellow Illinoisans:  It’s actually kind of fun to start a speech like that twice in one month.  (Laughter.)

What an incredible privilege it is to address this chamber. And to Governor Rauner, Senator Durbin, members of Congress, Speaker Madigan, Former Governor Pat Quinn, Mayor Langfelder and the people of Springfield — thank you for such a warm welcome as I come back home.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  It’s good to be home. Thank you, guys. Thank you.  Thank you. It is great to see so many old friends like John Cullerton and Emil Jones.  I miss you guys.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Miss you!  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT:  It’s great to be in the State Capitol.  Being here today calls to mind the first time I spoke on the Senate floor, almost 20 years ago.  And I was passionate, idealistic, ready to make a difference.  Just to stand in that magnificent chamber was enough to fill me up with a heightened sense of purpose.

And I probably needed a little dose of reality when I first arrived.  So one day, I rose to speak about a bill.  And I thought I’d made some compelling points, with irrefutable logic. And I was about to sit down, feeling pretty good about myself, when Pate Philip sauntered over to my desk.  Now, there are some young people here, so for those of you who don’t remember, Pate Philip was the Senate Majority Leader at the time. He was a Marine, and big shock of white hair, chomped on a cigar; was so politically incorrect that you don’t even know how to describe it. But he always treated me well.  And he came by and he slapped me on the back, he said, “Kid, that was a pretty good speech.  In fact, I think you changed a lot of minds. But you didn’t change any votes.” Then he singled, and they gaveled, and we got blown out.

So that was my first lesson in humility.  The next came when I presented my own first bill.  It was a simple piece of legislation that would make it a lot easier for Illinois manufacturers to hire graduating community college students.  I didn’t know any serious opposition, so I asked for a vote.  And what I got was a good hazing.  I assume that this custom still exists.

So a senior colleague put the vote on hold to ask, “Could you correctly pronounce your name for me?  I’m having a little trouble with it.”  “Obama,” I said.  “Is that Irish?” he asked.  And being in my early 30s at the time, I was a little cocky — I said, “It will be when I run countywide.”

“That was a good joke,” he said, but he wasn’t amused.  “This bill is still going to die.”

And he went on to complain that my predecessor’s name was easier to pronounce than mine, that I didn’t have cookies at my desk like she did, how would I ever expect to get any votes without having cookies on my desk.  “I definitely urge a no vote,” he said, “whatever your name is.”

And for the next several minutes, the Senate debated on whether I should add an apostrophe to my name for the Irish, or whether the fact that “Obama” ends in a vowel meant I actually belonged to the Italians —  and just how many trees had had to die to print this terrible, miserable bill, anyway.

And I was chastened.  And I said, “If I survive this event, I will be eternally grateful and consider this a highlight of my legal and legislative career.”  And I asked for a vote.  And initially the tote board showed that it was going down, but at the last minute it flipped and my bill passed.  But I was duly reminded that I was a freshman in the minority.  And I want to thank all my former colleagues in both chambers for not letting me forget it.

To be a rookie in the minority party, as I was, is not much fun in any legislature.  We were called “mushrooms” — because we were kept in the dark and fed a lot of manure. But one benefit of being in such a position — not being invited into the meetings where the big deals were being made — is that I had a lot of time to get to know my colleagues.  And many of us were away from our families, and so we became friends.

We went to fish fries together.  We’d go to union halls.  We’d play in golf scrambles.  We had a great bipartisan poker game at the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association.  Boro Relijie would host, and folks like Dave Luechtefeld and Terry Link, others would join in.  We’d eat downstairs — and I can’t say I miss the horseshoes.  But away from the glare of TV, or the tweets, or the GIFs of today’s media, what we discovered was that despite our surface differences — Democrats and Republicans, downstate hog farmers, inner-city African Americans, suburban businesspeople, Latinos from Pilsen or Little Village — despite those differences, we actually had a lot in common.  We cared about our communities.  We cared about our families.  We cared about America.

We fought hard for our positions.  I don’t want to be nostalgic here — we voted against each other all the time.  And party lines held most of the time.  But those relationships, that trust we’d built meant that we came at each debate assuming the best in one another and not the worst.

I was reminiscing with Christine Radogno — we came in in the same class.  And we were on opposite sides of most issues, but I always trusted her and believed that she was a good person. And if we had a bill that we might be able to work together on, it was a pleasure to work with her on.  Or Dave Syverson, who — we worked together on the Public Health and Welfare Committee, and we got some important work done that made a difference in people’s lives.

And we didn’t call each other idiots or fascists who were trying to destroy America.  Because then we’d have to explain why we were playing poker or having a drink with an idiot or a fascist who was trying to destroy America.

And that respect gave us room for progress.  And after I’d served here for six years, my party finally gained the majority. Emil Jones became the President of the Senate.  And by then, I had made some friends across the aisle — like Kirk Dillard, who I believe is here today, and we were able to pass the first serious ethics reform in 25 years.  And working closely with law enforcement, who knew by then that we cared about cops and sheriffs and prosecutors.  And working with folks like John Cullerton, we passed Illinois’ first racial profiling law, which was good for police officers and minority communities.

And because someone like my friend, John Bouman, who worked at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, helped us build coalitions across the state, including with business, and was able to then reach out to Republicans, we were able to increase tax credits for the working poor and expand health insurance to children in need.

And we wouldn’t bend on our most deeply held principles, but we were willing to forge compromises in pursuit of a larger goal. We were practical when we needed to be.  We could fight like heck on one issue and then shake hands on the next.  Somebody like Jesse White was able to travel around the state and people didn’t even know what party he was necessarily from because he brought so much joy with the tumblers and the work that they were doing.

So I want you to know that this is why I’ve always believed so deeply in a better kind of politics, in part because of what I learned here in this legislature.  Because of what I learned traveling across the state, visiting some of your districts, before I was running statewide, before I was a U.S. senator; learning all the corners of this state — this most-representative of states.  A state of small towns and rich farmland, and the world’s greatest city.  A microcosm of America, where Democrats and Republicans and independents, and good people of every ethnicity and every faith shared certain bedrock values.

I just saw a story the other day showing that if you rank all 50 states across categories like education levels and household incomes, and race and religion, the one state that most closely mirrors America as a whole is Illinois, this state.

And I learned by talking to your constituents that if you were willing to listen, it was possible to bridge a lot of differences.  I learned that most Americans aren’t following the ins and outs of the legislature carefully, but they instinctively know that issues are more complicated than rehearsed sound bites; that they play differently in different parts of the state and in the country.  They understand the difference between realism and idealism; the difference between responsibility and recklessness. They had the maturity to know what can and cannot be compromised, and to admit the possibility that the other side just might have a point.

And it convinced me that if we just approached our national politics the same way the American people approach their daily lives –- at the workplace, at the Little League game; at church or the synagogue — with common sense, and a commitment to fair play and basic courtesy, that there is no problem that we couldn’t solve together.

And that was the vision that guided me when I first ran for the United States Senate.  That’s the vision I shared when I said we are more than just a collection of red states and blue states, but we are the United States of America.  And that vision is why, nine years ago today, on the steps of the Old State Capitol just a few blocks from here, I announced my candidacy for President.

Now, over these nine years, I want you to know my faith in the generosity and the fundamental goodness of the American people has been rewarded and affirmed over and over and over again.  I’ve seen it in the determination of autoworkers who had been laid off but were sure that they could once again be part of a great, iconic Americans industry.  I’ve seen it in the single mom who goes back to school even as she’s working and looking after her kids because she wants a better life for that next generation.  I’ve seen it the vision and risk-taking of small businessmen.  I’ve seen it time and time again in the courage of our troops.

But it’s been noted often by pundits that the tone of our politics hasn’t gotten better since I was inaugurated, in fact it’s gotten worse; that there’s still this yawning gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics.  Which is why, in my final State of the Union address, and in the one before that, I had to acknowledge that one of my few regrets is my inability to reduce the polarization and meanness in our politics.  I was able to be part of that here and yet couldn’t translate it the way I wanted to into our politics in Washington.

And people ask me why I’ve devoted so much time to this topic.  And I tell them it’s not just because I’m President, and the polarization and the gridlock are frustrating to me.  The fact is we’ve gotten a heck of a lot done these past seven years, despite the gridlock.  We saved the economy from a depression.  We brought back an auto industry from the brink of collapse.  We helped our businesses create 14 million new jobs over the past six years.  We cut the unemployment rate from 10 percent to 4.9 percent.  We covered nearly 18 million more Americans with health insurance.  We ignited a clean energy revolution.  We got bin Laden.  We brought the vast majority of our troops home to their families. We got a lot done.  We’re still getting a lot done.

And our political system helped make these things possible, and the list could go on.  There’s no doubt America is better off today than when I took office. I didn’t want this to be a State of Union speech where we have the standing up and the sitting down. Come on, guys, you know better than that.  No, no, no, I’ve got a serious point to make here.  I’ve got a serious point to make here because this is part of the issue, right?  We have an importation of our politics nationally, and on cable and talk radio, and it seeps into everything.

The point I’m trying to make is I care about fixing our politics not only because I’m the President today, or because some of my initiatives have been blocked by Congress — that happens to every President, happens to every governor, happens to everybody who participates — anybody who participates in a democracy.  You’re not going to get 100 percent of what you want all the time.

The reason this is important to me is, next year I’ll still hold the most important title of all, and that’s the title of citizen.  And as an American citizen, I understand that our progress is not inevitable — our progress has never been inevitable.  It must be fought for, and won by all of us, with the kind of patriotism that our fellow Illinoisan, Adlai Stevenson, once described not as a “short, frenzied outburst of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”  It requires citizenship and a sense that we are one.

And today that kind of citizenship is threatened by a poisonous political climate that pushes people away from participating in our public life.  It turns folks off.  It discourages them, makes them cynical.  And when that happens, more powerful and extreme voices fill the void.  When that happens, progress stalls.  And that’s how we end up with only a handful of lobbyists setting the agenda.  That’s how we end up with policies that are detached from what working families face every day.  That’s how we end up with the well-connected who publicly demand that government stay out of their business but then whisper in its ear for special treatment.

That’s how our political system gets consumed by small things when we are a people that are called to do great things — to give everybody a shot in a changing economy; to keep America safe and strong in an uncertain world; to repair our climate before it threatens everything we leave for our kids.

So that’s what’s on my mind as I come back to Illinois today.  This is what will be a focus of mine over the course of this year and beyond:  What can we do, all of us, together, to try to make our politics better?  And I speak to both sides on this.  As all of you know, it could be better, and all of you would feel prouder of the work you do if it was better.

So, first, let’s put to rest a couple of myths about our politics.  One is the myth that the problems with our politics are new.  They are not.  American politics has never been particularly gentle or high-minded — especially not during times of great change.

As I mentioned when I visited a mosque in Maryland last week, Thomas Jefferson’s opponent tried to stir things up by suggesting he was a Muslim.  So I’m in good company. But that’s nothing compared to the newspaper which warned that if Jefferson were elected, “murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced.” His Vice President, Aaron Burr, literally killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.  I don’t even want to tell you what Andrew Jackson’s opponents said about his mamma. Lincoln, himself, was routinely called “weak, wishy-washy,” a “yahoo,” “an unshapely man,” “the obscene ape of Illinois,” and, my favorite — a “facetious pettifogger.”  I don’t know what that means  –but it sounds insulting.

So, comparatively speaking, today is not that bad — as long as you’ve got a thick skin.  As Harold Washington once said:  “Politics ain’t beanbag.”  It’s tough.  And that’s okay.

There’s also the notion sometimes that our politics are broken because politicians are significantly more corrupt or beholden to big money than they used to be.  There’s no doubt that lobbyists still have easier access to the halls of power than the average American.  There’s a lot of work that we need to do to make sure that the system works for ordinary people and not just the well-connected.  That’s true at the federal level; that’s true at the state level.  Folks aren’t entirely wrong when they feel as if the system too often is rigged and does not address their interests.

But, relative to the past, listen, I’m confident we’ve got enough rules and checks to prevent anyone in my Cabinet from siphoning whiskey tax revenue into their own pockets like President Grant’s administration did.  Until FDR went after the ward bosses of Tammany Hall, they controlled judges and politicians as they pleased — patronage, bribery, and money laundering.  It’s not as easy as it was to whip up tens of thousands of phantom votes, whether in Chicago or South Texas.

From the Teapot Dome to Watergate, history tells us we should always be vigilant and demand that our public servants follow the highest ethical standards.  But the truth is that the kind of corruption that is blatant, of the sort that we saw in the past, is much less likely in today’s politics.  And the Justice Department and the media work hard to keep it that way.  And that’s a very good thing.  So we don’t want to romanticize the past and think somehow it’s a difference in the people being elected.

And it also isn’t true that today’s issues are inherently more polarizing than the past.  I remember, we endured four years of Civil War that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dead Americans.  This country was divided on a fundamental question.

Before Pearl Harbor, entering into World War II was a highly charged debate.  The fault lines of Vietnam, the culture wars of the ‘60s — they still echo into our politics a half-century later.

We’ve been arguing since our founding over the proper size and role of government; the meaning of individual freedom and equality; over war and peace, and the best way to give all of our citizens opportunity.  And these are important debates that everybody should join, with all the rigor that a free people require.

My point is, the problem is not that politicians are worse, the problem is not that the issues are tougher.  And so it’s important for us to understand that the situation we find ourselves in today is not somehow unique or hopeless.  We’ve always gone through periods when our democracy seems stuck.  And when that happens, we have to find a new way of doing business.

We’re in one of those moments.  We’ve got to build a better politics — one that’s less of a spectacle and more of a battle of ideas; one that’s less of a business and more of a mission; one that understands the success of the American experiment rests on our willingness to engage all our citizens in this work.

And that starts by acknowledging that we do have a problem. And we all know it.  What’s different today is the nature and the extent of the polarization.  How ideologically divided the parties are is brought about by some of the same long-term trends in our politics and our culture.  The parties themselves have become more homogenous than ever.  A great sorting has taken place that drove Southern conservatives out of the Democratic Party, Northern moderates out of the Republican Party, so you don’t have within each party as much diversity of views.

And you’ve got a fractured media.  Some folks watch FOX News; some folks read the Huffington Post.  And very often, what’s profitable is the most sensational conflict and the most incendiary sound bites.  And we can choose our own facts.  We don’t have a common basis for what’s true and what’s not.  I mean, if I listened to some of these conservative pundits, I wouldn’t vote for me either.  I sound like a scary guy.

You’ve got advocacy groups that, frankly, sometimes benefit from keeping their members agitated as much as possible, assured of the righteousness of their cause.  Unlimited dark money — money that nobody knows where it’s coming from, who’s paying — drowns out ordinary voices.  And far too many of us surrender our voices entirely by choosing not to vote.  And this polarization is pervasive and it seeps into our society to the point where surveys even suggest that many Americans wouldn’t want their kids to date someone from another political party.  Now, some of us don’t want our kids dating, period.  But that’s a losing battle.

But this isn’t just an abstract problem for political scientists.  This has real impact on whether or not we can get things done together.  This has a real impact on whether families are able to support themselves, or whether the homeless are getting shelter on a cold day.  It makes a difference as to the quality of the education that kids are getting.  This is not an abstraction.

But so often, these debates, particularly in Washington but increasingly in state legislatures, become abstractions.  It’s as if there are no people involved, it’s just cardboard cutouts and caricatures of positions.  It encourages the kind of ideological fealty that rejects any compromise as a form of weakness.  And in a big, complicated democracy like ours, if we can’t compromise, by definition, we can’t govern ourselves.

Look, I am a progressive Democrat.  I am proud of that.  I make no bones about it.   I’m going to make another point here.  I believe that people should have access to health care.  I believe they should have access to a good public education.  I believe that workers deserve a higher minimum wage. I believe that collective bargaining is critical to the prospects of the middle class, and that pensions are vital to retirement, as long as they’re funded responsibly.

Hold on a second.  Hold on a second. Sit down, Democrats.  Sit down.  Sit down — just for a second.  I appreciate that, but I want to make this larger point.

I believe we’re judged by how we care for the poor and the vulnerable.  I believe that in order to live up to our ideals, we have to continually fight discrimination in all its forms.  I believe in science, and the science behind things like climate change, and that a transition to cleaner sources of energy will help preserve the planet for future generations.

I believe in a tough, smart foreign policy that says America will never hesitate to protect our people and our allies, but that we should use every element of our power and never rush to war.

Those are the things I believe.  But here’s the point I want to make.  I believe that there are a lot of Republicans who share many of these same values, even though they may disagree with me on the means to achieve them.  I think sometimes my Republican colleagues make constructive points about outdated regulations that may need to be changed, or programs that even though well-intended, didn’t always work the way they were supposed to.

And where I’ve got an opportunity to find some common ground, that doesn’t make me a sellout to my own party.  That applied — well, we’ll talk later, Duncan. This is what happens, everybody starts cherry-picking.  One thing I’ve learned is folks don’t change.

So trying to find common ground doesn’t make me less of a Democrat or less of a progressive.  It means I’m trying to get stuff done.

And the same applies to a Republican who, heaven forbid, might agree with me on a particular issue — or if I said America is great, decided to stand during a State of Union.  It’s not a controversial proposition.  You’re not going to get in trouble.

But the fact that that’s hard to do is a testament to how difficult our politics has become.  Because folks are worried, well, I’m going to get yelled at by you, or this blogger is going to write that, or this talk show host is going to talk about me, and suddenly I’ve got to challenger, and calling me a RINO or a not a real progressive.

So when I hear voices in either party boast of their refusal to compromise as an accomplishment in and of itself, I’m not impressed.  All that does is prevent what most Americans would consider actual accomplishments — like fixing roads, educating kids, passing budgets, cleaning our environment, making our streets safe.

It cuts both ways, guys.  See, suddenly everybody is standing.  This is fascinating to watch. The point is, it cuts both ways.

Our Founders trusted us with the keys to this system of self-government.  Our politics is the place where we try to make this incredible machinery work; where we come together to settle our differences and solve big problems, do big things together that we could not possibly do alone.  And our Founders anchored all this in a visionary Constitution that separates power and demands compromise, precisely to prevent one party, or one wing of a party, or one faction, or some powerful interests from getting 100 percent of its way.

So when either side makes blanket promises to their base that it can’t possibly meet — tax cuts without cuts to services — “everything will be fine, but we won’t spend any money” — war without shared sacrifice — “we’re going to be tough, but don’t worry, it will be fine” — union bashing or corporate bashing without acknowledging that both workers and businesses make our economy run — that kind of politics means that the supporters will be perennially disappointed.  It only adds to folks’ sense that the system is rigged.  It’s one of the reasons why we see these big electoral swings every few years.  It’s why people are so cynical.

Now, I don’t pretend to have all the answers to this.  These trends will not change overnight.  If I did, I would have already done them through an executive action. That was just a joke, guys.  Relax.  A sense of humor is also helpful.

But I do want to offer some steps that we can take that I believe would help reform our institutions and move our system in a way that helps reflect our better selves.  And these aren’t particularly original, but I just want to go ahead and mention them.

First is to take, or at least reduce, some of the corrosive influence of money in our politics.

Now, this year, just over 150 families — 150 families — have spent as much on the presidential race as the rest of America combined.  Today, a couple of billionaires in one state can push their agenda, dump dark money into every state — nobody knows where it’s coming from — mostly used on these dark ads, everybody is kind of dark and the worst picture possible. And there’s some ominous voice talking about how they’re destroying the country.

And they spend this money based on some ideological preference that really is disconnected to the realities of how people live.  They’re not that concerned about the particulars of what’s happening in a union hall in Galesburg, and what folks are going through trying to find a job.  They’re not particularly familiar with what’s happening at a VFW post.  (Phone rings.)  Somebody’s phone is on.   In Carbondale.  They haven’t heard personally from farmers outside of the Quads and what they’re going through.  Those are the voices that should be outweighing a handful of folks with a lot of money.  I’m not saying the folks with a lot of money should have no voice; I’m saying they shouldn’t be able to drown out everybody else’s.

And that’s why I disagree with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.  I don’t believe that money is speech, or that political spending should have no limits, or that it shouldn’t be disclosed.  I still support a constitutional amendment to set reasonable limits on financial influence in America’s elections.

But amending the Constitution is an extremely challenging and time-consuming process — as it should be.  So we’re going to have to come up with more immediate ways to reduce the influence of money in politics.  There are a lot of good proposals out there, and we have to work to find ones that can gain some bipartisan support — because a handful of families and hidden interests shouldn’t be able to bankroll elections in the greatest democracy on Earth.

The second step towards a better politics is rethinking the way that we draw our congressional districts.  Now, let me point this out — I want to point this out, because this is another case of cherry-picking here.  This tends to be popular in states where Democrats have been drawing the lines among Republicans, and less popular among Republicans where they control drawing the lines. So let’s be very clear here — nobody has got clean hands on this thing.  Nobody has got clean hands on this thing.

The fact is, today technology allows parties in power to precision-draw constituencies so that the opposition’s supporters are packed into as few districts as possible.  That’s why our districts are shaped like earmuffs or spaghetti. It’s also how one party can get more seats even when it gets fewer votes.

And while this gerrymandering may insulate some incumbents from a serious challenge from the other party, it also means that the main thing those incumbents are worried about are challengers from the most extreme voices in their own party.  That’s what’s happened in Congress.  You wonder why Congress doesn’t work?  The House of Representatives there, there may be a handful — less than 10 percent — of districts that are even competitive at this point.  So if you’re a Republican, all you’re worried about is what somebody to your right is saying about you, because you know you’re not going to lose a general election.  Same is true for a lot of Democrats.  So our debates move away from the middle, where most Americans are, towards the far ends of the spectrum.  And that polarizes us further.

Now, this is something we have the power to fix.  And once the next census rolls around and we have the most up-to-date picture of America’s population, we should change the way our districts are drawn.  In America, politicians should not pick their voters; voters should pick their politicians. And this needs to be done across the nation, not just in a select few states.  It should be done everywhere.

Now, the more Americans use their voice and participate, the less captive our politics will be to narrow constituencies.  No matter how much undisclosed money is spent, no matter how many negative ads are run, no matter how unrepresentative a district is drawn, if everybody voted, if a far larger number of people voted, that would overcome in many ways some of these other institutional barriers.  It would make our politics better.

And that’s why a third step towards a better politics is making voting easier, not harder; and modernizing it for the way that we live now.

Now, this shouldn’t be controversial, guys.  You liked the redistricting thing, but not letting people vote.  I should get some applause on that, too.

Listen, three years ago, I set up a bipartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America.  It had the election lawyers from my campaign and from Mitt Romney’s campaign.  They got together outside of the context of immediate politics.  And I actually want to thank this assembly for moving to adopt some of its recommendations.  Thanks to the good work of my dear friend, Senator Don Harmon, and many of you, there’s a new law going into effect this year that will allow Illinoisans to register and vote at the polls on Election Day.  It expands early voting — something that makes it a lot easier for working folks and busy parents to go vote.

Think about it.  If you’re a single mom, and you’ve got to take public transportation to punch a clock, work round the clock, get home, cook dinner on a Tuesday in bad weather — that’s tough.  Why would we want to make it so that she couldn’t do it on a Saturday or a Sunday? How is that advancing our democracy?

So this law will make a difference.  I’m proud of my home state for helping to lead the way.

And we know this works.  In 2012 and 2014, the states with the highest voter turnout all had same-day registration.  So today, I ask every state in America to join us — reduce these barriers to voting.  Make it easier for your constituents to get out and vote.

And I’d encourage this assembly to take the next step.  Senator Manar and Representative Gabel have bills that would automatically register every eligible citizen to vote when they apply for a driver’s license.  That will protect the fundamental right of everybody.  Democrats, Republicans, independents, seniors, folks with disabilities, the men and women of our military — it would make sure that it was easier for them to vote and have their vote counted.

And as one of your constituents, I think you should pass that legislation right away.  I think the Governor should sign it without delay.  Let’s make the Land of Lincoln a leader in voter participation.  That’s something we should be proud to do. Let’s set the pace — encourage other states across the country to follow our lead, making automatic voter registration the new norm across America.

Now, just during the course of this talk, it’s been interesting to watch the dynamics, obviously. In part because so much of our politics now is just designed for short-term, tactical gain.  If you think that having more voters will hurt you on Election Day, then suddenly you’re not interested in participation.  And if you think that the gerrymandering is helping you instead of hurting you, then you’re not for those proposals.

We get trapped in these things.  We know better.  If we were setting up a set of rules ahead of time, and you didn’t know where you stood, which party you were going to be in, if you didn’t have all the data and the poll numbers to tell you what’s going to give you an edge or not, you’d set up a system that was fair.  You’d encourage everybody to be part of it.  That’s what we learned in our civics books.  That’s how it should work.

The fact that we can’t do that, that brings me to my last point, which is, even as we change the way system works, we also have a responsibility to change the way that we, as elected officials and as citizens, work together.  Because this democracy only works when we get both right — when the system is fair, but also when we build a culture that is trying to make it work.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about something a friend of mine, Deval Patrick, once said to his constituents when he was governor of Massachusetts.  He said, “Insist from us and from each other a modicum of civility as the condition for serving you.”  This is what he told voters.  “Insist on us having a modicum of civility.”

I think that’s something that all of us, as Americans, have to insist from each other.  Our children are watching what we do. They don’t just learn it in school, they learn it by watching us — the way we conduct ourselves, the way we treat each other.  If we lie about each other, they learn it’s okay to lie.  If we make up facts and ignore science, then they just think it’s just their opinion that matters.  If they see us insulting each other like school kids, then they think, well, I guess that’s how people are supposed to behave.  The way we respect — or don’t — each other as citizens will determine whether or not the hard, frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government continues.

I’ve got daughters that are getting older now, and one of the most important things about being a parent I think is them just seeing what you do not when you’re out in public, not when you’re dealing with somebody important, but just how do you do — how do you treat people generally.  And it makes me much more mindful.  I want to live up to their expectations.

And in that same way, I want this democracy to live up to the people’s expectations.  We can’t move forward if all we do is tear each other down.  And the political incentives, as they are today, too often rewards that kind of behavior.  That’s what gets attention.  So it will require some courage just to act the way our parents taught us to act.  It shouldn’t, but in this political environment apparently it does.  We’ve got to insist to do better from each other, for each other.

Rather than reward those who’d disenfranchise any segment of America, we’ve got to insist that everybody arm themselves with information, and facts, and that they vote.  If 99 percent of us voted, it wouldn’t matter how much the 1 percent spends on our elections.

Rather than reward the most extreme voices, or the most divisive language, or who is best at launching schoolyard taunts, we should insist on a higher form of discourse in our common life, one based on empathy and respect, — which does not mean you abandon principle.  It doesn’t mean you’re not tough.

Rather than paint those who disagree with us as motivated by malice, to suggest that any of us lack patriotism — we can insist, as Lincoln did, that we are not enemies, but friends; that our fellow Americans are not only entitled to a different point of view, but that they love this country as much as we do.

Rather than reward a 24/7 media that so often thrives on sensationalism and conflict, we have to stand up and insist, no, reason matters, facts matter; issues are complicated.  When folks just make stuff up, they can’t go unchallenged.  And that’s true for Democrats if you hear a Democratic make something up, and that’s true for a Republican if you see a Republican cross that line.

Rather than accept the notion that compromise is a sellout to one side, we’ve got to insist on the opposite — that it can be a genuine victory that means progress for all sides.  And rather than preventing our kids from dating people in other parties — well, I may have issues about dating, generally –(laughter) — but we can trust that we’ve raised our kids to do the right thing, and to look at the qualities of people’s character, not some label attached to them.

And maybe, most of all, whenever someone begins to grow cynical about our politics, or believes that their actions can’t make a difference or it’s not worth participating in, we’ve got to insist, even against all evidence to the contrary, that in fact they can make a difference.  And in this job of being a citizen of the United States of America, that’s a big deal.  It’s something we should revere and take seriously.

Abraham Lincoln wasn’t always the giant that we think of today.  He lacked formal schooling.  His businesses and his law practices often struggled.  After just one term in Congress, his opposition to the Mexican-American War damaged his reputation so badly he did not run for reelection.  He was denounced as a traitor, a demagogue, an enemy sympathizer.  He returned to his law practice and admitted he was losing interest in politics entirely.

And then something happened that shook his conscience.  Congress effectively overturned the Missouri Compromise, that flawed and fragile law that had prohibited slavery in the North and legalized it in the South, but left the question ultimately unsettled.  And stunned by this news, Lincoln said he’d been roused “as he had never been before” over what it meant for America’s future.

And so, here in Springfield, at the state fair, he got back in the game and he delivered the first of his great anti-slavery speeches to a crowd of thousands.  And over the next six years, even as he lost two more political races, his arguments with Douglas and others shaped the national debate.  That’s when he uttered those brilliant words on the steps of the Old State Capitol that “A house divided against itself cannot stand;” that “this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.”

He became the first Republican President, and I believe our greatest President.  And through his will and his words and, most of all, his character, he held a nation together and he helped free a people.

And those victories did not solve all of our problems.  He would be attacked at times for the compromises he was prepared to make by abolitionists and folks from his own side.  It would be 100 years more until the law guaranteed African Americans the equal rights that they had been promised.  Even 50 years after that, our march is not yet finished.  But because Lincoln made that decision not to give up, and not to let other voices speak for him, and because he held in his mind the strength of principle but the vision, the ability to understand those who disagreed with him, and showed them respect even as he fought them — because of what he set in motion, generations of free men and women of all races and walks of life have had the chance to choose this country’s course.  What a great gift.  What a great legacy he has bestowed up.

And that’s the thing about America.  We are a constant work of progress.  And our success has never been certain, none of our journey has been preordained.  And there’s always been a gap between our highest ideals and the reality that we witness every single day.  But what makes us exceptional — what makes us Americans — is that we have fought wars, and passed laws, and reformed systems, and organized unions, and staged protests, and launched mighty movements to close that gap, and to bring the promise and the practice of America into closer alignment.  We’ve made the effort to form that “more perfect union.”

Nine years to the day that I first announced for this office, I still believe in that politics of hope.  And for all the challenges of a rapidly changing world, and for all the imperfections of our democracy, the capacity to reach across our differences and choose that kind of politics — not a cynical politics, not a politics of fear, but that kind of politics — sustained over the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime, that’s something that remains entirely up to us.

Thank you, Illinois.  God bless you.  God bless America. It’s good to see all you.  I miss you guys.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Keynote Address on Counterterrorism and International Cooperation

Posted by Admin On December - 9 - 2015 Comments Off on Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Keynote Address on Counterterrorism and International Cooperation

United Kingdom

Thank you, Dr. [Robin] Niblett, for that kind introduction; for your leadership here at the Royal Institute of International Affairs; and for your lifetime of dedicated work in the service of international cooperation and global security.  I also want to thank Prime Minister [David] Cameron and the members of Her Majesty’s government for their hospitality during my visit to the United Kingdom.  And I’d like to thank this group of distinguished colleagues, inspiring leaders and devoted public servants for participating in this important conversation.  It’s a privilege to join you here today as we honor the unique bond between our nations; as we reaffirm the cherished values and ideals that we share; and as we rededicate ourselves to building the stronger, safer, and more united world for which we have fought together in the past, and toward which we continue to strive today.

The United Kingdom and the United States have long been close partners and staunch allies and the connection between us – which Winston Churchill referred to as our “special relationship” – is one with deep roots and a rich history.  Almost all of America’s founders proudly considered themselves Englishmen and many were hesitant to shed that honorable title, even after the start of the American Revolution.  And the revolution itself – though it pitted us against one another in armed conflict – was inspired by the ideals of the British Enlightenment: responsive government, robust rights and liberties, and the fundamental equality of all people.

Those ideals have been a source of mutual understanding and shared strength ever since – and while they have been threatened by injustice within our nations and hostility from beyond our shores, they have continued not only to endure, but to expand.  Through the courageous struggles of prominent leaders and humble citizens; of freed slaves and former colonial subjects; of suffragists, ethnic minorities, religious dissenters and gay and lesbian advocates – we have extended the rights of liberty, equality and justice.  Through the tremendous courage and sacrifice of our countrymen –in two World Wars, in battlefields of Korea and today in the skies over Syria and Iraq– we have defended our beliefs against tyranny and oppression.  And together, we have come to the aid of others inspired by the principles that we share.

Today, the values that have guided and defined us for centuries are facing a persistent threat: the rise of global terrorism and extremism – a scourge that has inflicted its pain on both of our nations in the recent past.  Ten years ago, this great city endured devastating attacks on its public transportation system, and you suffered another attack in the Underground only this week.  In the United States, as you know, we have also suffered terrorist attacks and we are currently investigating last week’s tragic shootings in California as an act of terror.  And as recent events in Paris, Beirut, and Mali remind us, we are far from alone in being targeted by these agents of violence.  These attacks are carried out with a single, repugnant purpose: to harm, frighten and intimidate anyone who believes in open and tolerant societies; in free and democratic governments; and in the right of every human being to live in peace, security and freedom.  As two nations who serve as beacons of those ideals to people around the world, we have a special responsibility to take on this terrorist threat, and to prevent it from causing the destruction it is so desperate to inflict.

As Attorney General of the United States, my highest priorities are the security of our country and the safety of the American people.  At the Department of Justice, we are working tirelessly to uncover and disrupt plots that take aim not only at the United States, but at nations around the world.  We are acting aggressively to defuse threats as they emerge.  And we are vigorously investigating and prosecuting individuals who seek to harm innocent people.  To stop plots before they can be brought to fruition, we are going after individuals engaged in preparatory activities like fundraising, recruitment, planning and training.  Our approach has yielded important results: since 2013, we have charged more than 70 individuals for conduct related to foreign terrorist fighter interests and homegrown violent extremism and we continue to take action designed to monitor and thwart potential extremist activity.

But no nation can fight terrorism alone.  As our world continues to grow more interconnected and interdependent, cooperation and joint action are more essential than ever to combating cross-border threats like terrorism, cybercrime, corruption and human trafficking.  And while modern technology has helped to widen the circle of opportunity for so many citizens around the globe, it has also provided new channels that criminals can exploit for their own ends.  Online, violent ideologies can rapidly proliferate and spread and threats can leap borders and oceans in an instant.  No nation can exist in a bubble of isolation; no country can imagine themselves immune from world events; and the security of each state increasingly depends on the security of all states.  The words of four centuries past ring ever true today, “no man is an island entire of itself.”  In this environment, our strategic understanding and our common humanity demand that we supplement nationwide vigilance with international cooperation.

That is why the United States is working with organizations like INTERPOL and EUROPOL to share information on foreign fighters.  It’s why we have provided resources, including FBI agents, to support INTERPOL’s Fusion Cell, which investigates the training, financing, methods and motives of terrorist groups around the world.  And it is why we have crafted information-sharing agreements with more than 45 international partners to identify and track suspected terrorists – a partnership that has now provided INTERPOL with approximately 4,000 profiles on foreign terrorist fighters.  From efforts to degrade terrorist capabilities, to building cooperative networks that help to preserve and share information and evidence after an attack, we are demonstrating our deep commitment to collaboration worldwide.

Let me give one example of how critical it is that we work together.  Terrorists, like other criminals, count on the difficulties that law enforcement agencies have in sharing information across borders – difficulties that are magnified now that electronic information may be stored in many different countries and may quickly disappear.  But starting some years ago, criminal justice experts from the U.S., the UK, France and the other G7 countries created the 24/7 cyber network – a rapid reaction system that now links approximately 70 countries.  Thanks to that system, after the recent horrific attacks in Paris, French investigators were able to work immediately with the U.S. Department of Justice and with U.S. Internet Service Providers, to preserve data from social media accounts and webpages identified as connected to the attacks, and to seek emergency disclosures to protect lives.  It is this kind of innovative thinking about international information sharing that we need to increase.

Of course, it is also important to emphasize that our efforts to fight terrorism must always be compatible with safeguarding privacy and civil liberties – exactly as the 24/7 cyber system is designed to be.  Often, in conversations like this one, there is an implicit assumption that our safety must be balanced against our rights and our values; that there is a necessary trade-off between the hopeful optimism of our ideals and the cold reality of our national security.  But the view that we must abdicate our values to maintain our security presents a false choice.  Rather, our security exists to protect our values, because they are the wellspring of all that we are.  Progress within our nations has always been driven by our desire to live up to our ideals – of inclusiveness and opportunity, of equal rights and equal justice – and if we curb those rights in a misguided bid for short-term security, we betray not only our ancestors; not only ourselves; and not only our children – but all those for whom the United States and the United Kingdom represent the possibility of a better, freer future.

In this regard, I am proud to say that the Obama Administration, with the support of Congress, has made the protection of civil liberties and privacy a priority in the fight against terrorism.  The record is a remarkable one: President Obama has created unprecedented transparency regarding our guidelines for collection and use of signals intelligence, including signals intelligence collected in bulk.  The President nominated and the senate has confirmed, an independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, as envisioned by Congress.  And just last week, independent public advocates were appointed to advise the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as called for by the USA Freedom Act.

Moreover, in all of these efforts, as President Obama has made clear, our goal is to extend privacy protections not only to U.S. citizens, but to foreign nationals as well.  That is why, after years of negotiation, I am very happy to say that we were able to initial in September the U.S./EU “Umbrella” Data Privacy and Protection Agreement regarding law enforcement information.  And it is why – in a truly unprecedented step – the Administration has supported legislation to extend judicial redress rights to foreign nationals for privacy breaches regarding law enforcement information – legislation that, thanks to strong Congressional support, already has passed our House of Representatives, and is now pending in the Senate.

These actions are not only unprecedented, but reflective of the United States’ deep commitment to the principles they protect, as well as the importance of our relationship with our European partners in this struggle.  That is why it is particularly disappointing that the European Court of Justice – in a case based on inaccurate and outdated media reports – recently struck down the Safe Harbor Agreement in the Schrems decision.  And it is highly concerning to us that data privacy legislation advancing in the European Parliament might further restrict transatlantic information sharing – a step that not only ignores the critical need for that information sharing to fight terrorism and transnational crime, but also overlooks the enormous steps forward that the Obama Administration and Congress have taken to protect privacy.  It is important that all of us – on both sides of the Atlantic – work to set the record straight regarding our commitment to protect not only the safety of our citizens, but also their civil liberties and privacy.

But one thing I am confident of in our work on these issues and in the larger fight against terrorism – we will not lose ourselves to fear.  We will respond to this and other threats the way we know best – by reaffirming the very ideals that distinguish us from those who wish us harm: freedom of speech; religious tolerance; the open exchange of ideas; and government that represents the will of its people.  These are the principles of Runnymede and Philadelphia, of the Glorious Revolution and the American Revolution – the principles that we have risen to defend time and again and emerged victorious.  For centuries, these ideals have inspired countless men and women around the world to seek the better life that is the promise of humanity and to demand that the elemental dignity of all mankind be recognized and respected.  And we must keep their promise alive.

There is no doubt that we come together at a time of uncertainty, facing dangerous threats and determined adversaries.  But in this moment of global challenge, we remain dedicated to the task that remains before us and to the work that so many have given their last full measure of devotion to fulfill.  Our nations may have been bloodied, but we will remain unbowed – in defense of our citizens, in solidarity with our allies and in allegiance to the values that make us who we are.

The road ahead will not always be easy.  We will encounter more times of uncertainty and setbacks.  But as we move forward in the work that will secure our homelands and prove our principles once more, we are fortified with the strength of our time-tested traditions, by the partnership of our longstanding allies and by the legacies of the brave men and women who fought to make our nations everything they are today.  I am confident about the road ahead.  I know that our promise will endure.  And if we can lean on our faith in our enduring values – and hold fast to our unshakeable belief in the cause of justice and the rule of law – then I have no doubt that out of a long and difficult night of challenge, a brighter day will come.

Thank you.

Source: Department of Justice

National Black Church Initiative Calls the US Justice Department Impotent as Black Churches Burn and the Black Community is Systematically Attacked by White Racist and the Police at Will

Posted by Admin On October - 23 - 2015 Comments Off on National Black Church Initiative Calls the US Justice Department Impotent as Black Churches Burn and the Black Community is Systematically Attacked by White Racist and the Police at Will
If whites’ churches and Jewish were being attacked, a faster response would occur
Washington, DC – The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans is saddened to see a lackluster approach in addressing the plethora of church burnings and the systematically attack against African American in general and our youth in particular. Simply put, does the Obama Administration care about black people? Their actions or, rather inactions, seem to be in hurry or demonstrative of an imperative when it comes to black people. Their actions or, rather inactions, seems to suggest that we should just take it (injustice) and wait on the impotent justice department to act. But we cannot and we will not wait. The urgency of now is upon us and we demand action to protect all us from these racist attacks. By the way, we are Americans too.
A message to the Justice Department —Now is the Time!
There have been approximately 20 black churches burned down since the tragargy in Charleston. What is the Justice Department doing? Why have they not sounded the alarm? President Obama and his liberal advisers are scared to let the administration deal with the real issues and root causes of white supremacy. The President himself has repeatedly blamed the victims of this society and not the racists who perpetuate hate. The Justice Department has not charged any white police officers to date of violating the civil rights of any of the black victims….and in some cases they had two years to investigate. Shall we do a roll call on the number of race-centered cases facing the black community:
  • George Zimmerman was not charged for violating the civil rights of Tryvon Martin. (Impotent)
  • Dylann Roof was not charged as a domestic terrorist of killing 9 African American in cold blood. (Impotent)
  • Daniel Pantaleo was never charged for the choking to death and nor charges for violating the civil rights of Eric Garner. (Impotent)
  • Darren Wilson who shot and killed Michael Brown was neither charged for murder or for violating his civil rights (Impotent)
  • Ten of hundreds of other blacks…. etc. (Impotent)
The Rev. Anthony Evans, president of the National Black Church Initiative issues the following statement, “We are baffled as to the approach of the administration and their hesitancy related to the pursuit of these crimes. It seems to us their approach is not working to stop the church burning. It seems to us their approach is not working to solve these recurring and rendered meaningless crimes. Our own federal government seems impotent in the face of these racial fontal attacks against both the black church and our entire community. Simply put, we do not feel safe!”
In addition the Justice Department has completely ignore a letter sent to them on June 22, 2015 signed on by 500 blacks churches. What remains is an imperative need for the government to be responsive to our concerns in the black community for the sake of the American society. Following below are the components of the comprehensive faith-based safety program of church parishioners again, for which the National Black Church Initiative and 15 religious denominations proposes to address these issues in a strategic, yet relevant manner:

Technical Assistance and Training

We plan to immediately train 25 of our congregants, mainly males in basic safety, security techniques and strategies to vanguard against any immediate threat. We have a draft protocol of training and measures to be put in place to safeguard our member congregations. One of the critical elements of this technical assistance and training is that we are asking congregations to reach out to their local law enforcement agencies and to create a safety plan for their faith community. There remains a need to understand those elements needed to implement this type of collaborative task. We have adopted an initiative, “No Activities Without Security.” A minimum of three (3) security persons is to be present at all faith-based activities while children and women’s activities are to be assigned six (6) security persons. This is a part of our 90-day plan before we are able to formally incorporate the core elements, which we are now setting forth.
Educational Seminars

Educational seminars around the country and within each of the regions are particularly important toward ensuring, as many people are aware of this important plan to educate individuals about safety for parishioners. We will need the support of the aforementioned agencies (i.e. Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) along with the Department of Justice to help us create a seminar that covers all of the necessary safety elements on how to safeguard a group of people during the worship experience and other related church activities such as Bible study on a weekday night. This particular seminar will need to be completed at least twelve times in every region of the country within the next six months. This particular seminar will need to be taken within the next six weeks.


Safety Manual

Having a safety manual is important toward providing guidelines for how people are to conduct themselves in times of crisis. Unfortunately, many of our congregations are unable to secure a paid security apparatus to safeguard them. The manual has to speak directly to the short-term and long-term needs of what congregations need to do toward enhancing overall security of the church and parishioners. The manual needs to also be inclusive of key community-based organizations and related personnel, emergency phone numbers and websites. The uniqueness of this manual is its transferability as it can be adapted to every city or geographic area or any other religious affiliations in the country so that the information is relevant to that particular entity. The safety manuals will be placed on a website for the public to view. Thus, we are seeking assistance in generating a “how to” safety manual for faith-based parishioners.


Companion Website
We need to create a website to serve as a “one stop safety net.” This website will consist of written, video, graphics and other elements. The website will contain information on technical assistance and training, education, the safety manuals, and other key resources being offered by city, county, state and federal law enforcement authorities. The website will be updated on a daily basis and will send out emergency alerts and other relevant information pertaining to the faith-based community. Thus, we seek support from you toward ensuring the viability of this website in serving as an important tool for ensuring the safety of our parishioners.
Paid Security Apparatus

As we know, some churches will have sufficient resources to hire their own security guards. The vast majority of our churches, however, will not be able to afford them. Depending upon the size of the respective church, there are also unique issues regarding the preparedness and capacity of the security personnel to be responsive to the needs at hand. Thus, we need technical assistance for effectively hiring security personnel for faith communities and the necessary criteria. Issues regarding liability and whether or not the church should hire armed or unarmed guards become critically important points for consideration. Since we are trying to minimize guns in our faith community, we presently have a policy banning any form of firearms in our congregations from parishioners or security personnel. Yet, with the resurgence of violence throughout the country and more recently with the Charleston tragedy, this is an issue that we must revisit. Along with the input from our coalition membership, we will need adequate consultation from federal or state officials and support in developing alternative or modifying current plans.


Innovative Safety Technologies
Technology is important toward delivery messages in an efficient, effective manner. Up-to-date technology offers more innovative features to ensure safety is achieved at the highest level. We need support from you in identifying the proper and doable safety technologies that churches should consider in safeguarding its environment. There is also a need to understand the pros and cons of the use of technology and subsequent issues around privacy as well as legal and liability issue concerning the proper use of technology in faith based communities. The level of expertise that you might be able to provide for us and the constituents we serve would be paramount.
Grant Assistance Program
Grant assisted programs offer access to earmarked resources for improving the outcomes of targeted issues. Because of the urgency of putting safety measures in place, many congregations will not be able to meet the escalating expense. Many security experts have concluded this new expenditure could constitute over 20% of the church budget. Therefore, we are requesting that a grant program be established for faith-based communities to enhance the safety of not only the church and its members, but also for the community in which that church is located. For instance, the church may ask for a grant to expand its video surveillance capabilities from all geographic points, thus covering that particular community from every angle. This in turn will enhance the entire community capability of mitigating criminal activities and promoting prevention. The range of the grants is proposed to be $10,000 to $25,000. Having a grant assistance program made available to our 34,000 constituents would be significant. With your support, this would allow those congregations to assume their own responsible in ensuring the safety of their churches.
About NBCI
The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) is a coalition of 34,000 African American and Latino churches working to eradicate racial disparities in healthcare, technology, education, housing, and the environment. NBCI’s mission is to provide critical wellness information to all of its members, congregants, churches and the public. Our methodology is utilizing faith and sound health science.
NBCI’s purpose is to partner with major organizations and officials whose main mission is to reduce racial disparities in the variety of areas cited above. NBCI offers faith-based, out-of-the-box and cutting edge solutions to stubborn economic and social issues. NBCI’s programs are governed by credible statistical analysis, science based strategies and techniques, and methods that work. Visit our website at www.naltblackchurch.com.
Photo: Rev. Anthony Evans, President of the National Black Church Initiative

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus 45th Annual Legislative Conference Judiciary Brain Trust Panel

Posted by Admin On September - 21 - 2015 Comments Off on Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus 45th Annual Legislative Conference Judiciary Brain Trust Panel
Washington, DC

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch:

Well, thank you all so much.  Thank you so much for that warm welcome.  Thank you for your patience.  I’m not usually running this late, but I understand that you have had some excellent presentations before me.  I see a number of old friends and hopefully new friends on this panel. Great voices all in our common struggle and so I think you have had excellent presentations and I’m just sorry I had to miss so many of them – I’m so looking forward to reading a recap of this because there’s so many important issues here.   Dr.[Philip] Goff, such a pleasure to meet you.  Your leadership at UCLA on the Center for Policing Equity is something that is not only vital in terms of what we need today; it really is the key to a lot of issues that we’ve faced.

When I’m looking at the agenda for the entire CBC Foundation events, I see so many different panels of so many different issues but they all come together in regards to the central issue of our community’s relationships with law enforcement and with our government at large.  So many of the issues that you all are tackling all this week come back to that essential issue.  And so I thank you so much for giving me a few minutes to talk to you this afternoon about what the Department of Justice is doing in this important area because I will tell you that I view it as one of my main priorities as Attorney General of the United States.

I know that Congressman [John] Conyers had to go and vote, he is also pulled in many different directions but I want to thank him and his staff for their invitation to this event as well as for setting up this particular panel and of course, the Congressman’s lifetime of service to these issues.  He has been in this fight for a long time, a long time.

As have many of you, not just here on the panel, on the podium next to me, but out here in the audience.  I see a lot of fighters.  I see a lot of people who have walked a lot of lines and walked across a lot of bridges.  And so I thank you for that as well.

Whether you have been in the struggle for years or whether you are new to it and part of the new and exciting and dynamic young voices that we need to tell us the truth – I commend you and I am so, so glad to hear from you.  Your commitment is important, your ideas are important, your energy and your passion.  And now is the time that we have to all come together around these important issues.  Because while we have made just extraordinary progress since the CBC was founded over 40 years ago, it is clear that we have so much more work to do. In the recent weeks and months we’ve seen these reminders.  You know it’s not just the overall philosophy that we always say; there’s more work to do we have to keep marching.  We’ve seen it.  We’ve seen it played out in a very stark and very painful reality captured for the world to see.

We’ve experienced tragedies that make it clear that this fight for our common welfare goes on.  And I will tell you that what hurts me so much in my current role, is that we have seen the mistrust between our law enforcement officers and our communities also deepened.  At a time when, not that it always hasn’t been the case; but at a time when our communities need perhaps more than any other time, the protection and the resources that law enforcement is committed and sworn to bring to bear.  It has always been my view that the essential role, not just of government, but of law enforcement in particular, is the protection of people who don’t have anyone else to call on.  You know those times in the middle of the night when people are cold and afraid and they know that someone is out there who means them harm; we have someone on whom to call.  And we have to be able to trust and rely upon those individuals, to come when we call and to also look out for us when they do arrive.

Now this is an issue that I know you’re talking about today, not just on this panel but so many others, but in this panel in particular you’ve got the voices to do it.  You’ve got the experience and you’ve got the people who will also provide you the perspective of what it feels like to be left out of that dynamic of protection, to be left out of that umbrella in that circle of guardianship that every American is entitled to.  It is such an important voice today.

Now, it’s also not a new issue although it is an issue that is very deep and very personal for me.  As some of you may know, I am fortunate enough to have my father here with me this week.  This issue is generations old and when I was a young girl I remembered one of the things my father was telling me about.  You all talk about your grandparents and aunts and uncles and the family lore.  That’s what makes you who you are.  That’s how you know what the Lynches are like, what the Harrises are like – and they are both stubborn, just so you know.  But I remember my father telling me about his father, about my grandfather; a minister, third grade education, no money, eight children, dirt poor, living in rural North Carolina in the 1930s – when my father was born.  And even with all of those things stacked against him, he built his own church beside his house, called it Lynch’s Chapel- that’s what you can do when you build a church yourself.

One of the things my father remembers is that there were times when he was a young boy in the ‘30s when people in the community, black people in the community,  were in trouble, as my grandfather used to say, “caught up in the clutches of the law” and didn’t have a place where they could go. They would come to my grandfather and he would help hide them – until they could leave the community. Sometimes the sheriff would come by the house and ask my grandfather, “Have you seen so-and-so?”  My grandfather would say, “Well not lately.”  So-and-so is hiding in a closet or hiding under the floorboards.  Because in those days, 1930’s North Carolina, there was no justice in the dark of night on a rural road.  No Miranda warnings. No procedural protections.  None of the things that we take for granted today.  And so despite what happened with these individuals, my grandfather knew that sometimes in order to preserve the fight for justice into the future you had to take action in the moment – you had to take action in the moment.

Now of course things are much better now and we all get reminded of that, whenever we bring up these issues you notice when you talk about these issues, whether they are of race in general or police issues in particular, when you talk about the current pain that the minority community is feeling and we are feeling it very, very deeply, people always say, “Well you know, things are much better now,” and they are.  In addition to giving you my apologies for being late today I can tell you that I was late today because I had a meeting with the President that ran over. I would never have been able to say that, even five years ago.  And the fact that my grandfather who fought so hard for justice in his own way would never have conceived that his granddaughter, the little girl he used to take out in the fields and show what tobacco looked like, would actually be sitting in a meeting with the President of the United States.  We have come so far but we still have so far to go.  And these issues of fundamental fairness and the relationship that the minority community has with the government at large and those of us in law enforcement in particular, are still with us.  They are still important today.

Now we all understand, on a personal level, the frustration that comes up when we are treated unfairly because of race.  But this is really about more than just that.  This is really about being treated unfairly because of race by those who are sworn to protect you, by those who wear the uniform of protection.  This is really a deeper issue than just the individual discrimination many of us have seen in whether or not we didn’t get the job or we didn’t get an opportunity, or if someone didn’t speak to us.  We are talking about the pain that comes up when these deeply rooted injustices get shrugged off and they get ignored.  We are in a different time and things are much better. Even if it they may not seem that way – even if it seems like this is a very painful time because we are seeing these issues so much more clearly.  I have to tell you that this takes me back to the early days of the Civil Rights Movement – you all remember those days – when people were marching and protesting and talking about conditions.  You couldn’t vote, you couldn’t get a job, you couldn’t sit into a store and take a break and have a cup of coffee.  No one wanted to believe that was the case, until the advent of television. Remember, the televised marches and the protests  and when the world saw what was happening, that police dogs were put on little children, that fire hoses were used against young men and women – that galvanized the conscious of the world and gave the movement a momentum to make changes.  To give us a Civil Rights Act, to give us a Voting Rights Act, to give us desegregation, to help us craft those strategies that our lawyers use before the Supreme Court.

And now, we are in a similar moment – so many of the images we see are so painful, but they are being used to show the world what people in the minority community have known for years.  About the different levels of interaction and the different levels of both respect and participation in the system that African-Americans have and that African-Americans feel.  And as painful as it is to watch someone suffering or possibly even dying, the result has been an opening of the discussion in ways that we have not had in significant years.  And so the onus is on us to seize this moment; the onus is on us to continue this discussion – to continue this debate.  Because now the world knows what we always knew.  That people in Ferguson were being taxed for walking down the street and being the wrong color.  The world knows what we always knew – that young men of color interactions with police are fundamentally different than other children.  And that as parents and as siblings and as family members, that we have the responsibility to point this out and to talk about it as well as to educate our children.

But we also have to acknowledge more than just the actions because there is something that goes on as well, there’s something that’s deeper when we have these situations, we have to acknowledge the anger and the despair; the feelings that develop.  People always talk about wanting us to handle things in a certain way and that’s true and this country was built on peaceful protests and it is a fundamental right of ours and it has achieved a great deal of change.     But we also have to acknowledge the anger and the despair that develops when these concerns that we now see on tape are still pushed aside by so many people as if they don’t exist.  You have to acknowledge the kind of pain that develops.  You have to acknowledge that feeling – and you know people say “I don’t think it was that bad,”  “Well I don’t think they meant it that way,” or even “That just didn’t happen – that just didn’t even happen”. And so when that happens to people – to a people, to our people – time and time again, you have within our community a sense of disconnection and despair that is a dangerous as any bullet or any billy club, it absolutely is.  But of course, I’m not the first to note that and honestly I would refer you back to that work of art by Ralph Ellison – Invisible Man –` and you will see all of that there and you will see the consequences of it as well.

And of course the reason why we have to face this and deal with these issues is of course because, as always, as it was with the movement 50 years ago and the issues now, is our children who are bearing the brunt of these issues.  It’s our children who are growing up without the sense of connection, without the sense of protection and security that they are entitled to have and that we want them to have.

One of the things I’m doing is a six city community policing tour.  And I’m going to different jurisdictions that have had very, very troubled and very challenging relationships between the police and the community between five and ten years ago.  Either a lawsuit, a shooting incident, a consent decree – where the Department of Justice had to come in and exert a considerable amount of either actual persuasion or actual litigation in order to manage unconstitutional policing practices.  But there are jurisdictions that have turned that corner.  When I’m talking to different people about how and why that is the case and of course things are still not perfect.  There still are people who feel on the fringes of what we are trying to achieve for them and those are the voices that I want to hear the most because those are the voices that I have to address.

When I was in Pittsburgh, I was talking to the young people, high schools students because they will tell you what is happening in their daily lives and they will tell you what they see and they will tell you more importantly how it makes them feel.  I was talking to a young man who told me he was afraid to walk in his particular Pittsburgh neighborhood.  He described it as a fairly rough neighborhood and so he felt threatened by forces around him who had other agendas – who were trying to draw him into gang life and draw him into violence or possibly put him in the way of being accidentally caught in crossfire.  But what he told me that was the  most painful thing was that it wasn’t just the other residents who frighten him, who clearly were not on the path he was on – he was excelling in school and moving ahead with a bright future; he was also afraid to call the police when he felt that way.  Because he didn’t know if they could tell the difference between him and the people trying to do him harm.  And what I say is we have to acknowledge is that no one should feel that way, not in America, not today, not our children.  For those of us who spent a career in law enforcement and the people that I know on this panel and also in this room, anyone in law enforcement who hears that should say, “I do not want that feeling in a child of mine,” because they are all our children. They all have to be and this has to be the starting point for our work.

Do our children feel safe and if they do not, what are we doing to change that dynamic for them?   What are we doing, not only to make them feel safe but to make them feel that there are people and forces that look out for them in, that are supporting them and that are coming into the community to protect them.  Now, not only does the Department of Justice recognize this issue, we are determined to do our part to prevent the unequal application of the law and to try to end violence and conflict and to try to heal the divisions in our neighborhood that have resulted in stolen lives and broken communities. I very much view our role as working to amplify the voices that are here in this room. Community, resident, law enforcement, activists – all alike. We’re also working to deliver essential solutions and to cultivate the opportunities to let people come together, not to just have these conversations but to do the real work, the hard work that results in safer communities and a more just society.

But we know our work is not done and we have to do more.  One of the things that I mentioned that we are working on – one of my top priorities as Attorney General – is dealing with the breakdown in trust between law enforcement and the communities we are sworn to serve. I spent a lot of time talking to both sides of the debate and I spent time talking to people who had these experiences with law enforcement.  And they share it with me.  It really is a gift when someone shares their pain with you, you really have to understand that it is a gift.  They are giving you the ability to understand what happened to them and understand what they need.  I’ve also talked to law enforcement officers who say to me, what I want to do is help people and I became a cop because someone helped me.  Or I became a cop because I saw people in my community going the wrong way and I want to prevent that.  And increasingly I became a cop because I see the way that things are going and I want to make it better.  So, bringing those voices together and letting them find a place in which to talk and interact is a very, very key part of what the Department of Justice is looking to do.  At the end of the day we are all part of the community and it is from the community that our responsibility to it grows and should, of course, blossom.

Now, there are a number of things that we’re doing by way of initiative.  Now I’ll take a few minutes and talk about that.  Just last year, we launched the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice.  This is a comprehensive approach to training, to policy and to research intended to advance procedural justice and to  promote racial reconciliation and eliminate implicit biases.  Trying to go to the roots of some of the problems we are seeing.

Our Civil Rights Division continues to work with police departments across the country to ensure constitutional policing in their jurisdictions.  And I have been so heartened by the fact that a number of police departments have told us that they are making the Ferguson Report required reading for their entire department.  Required reading for their entire departments because they know that in order to prevent the problems of Ferguson – or so many of our communities – you have to not only acknowledge them, but look at the root causes of them and move away from those root causes.

Our Office of Justice Programs is partnering with law enforcement agencies at the state and local levels and through them, we providing grants, training and technical assistance.  Through our Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and Ron Davis, my outstanding director of that office is here – we’re helping to hire officers, to train officers, to promote safety and wellness and to support the state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies as they implement the recommendations of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing; which carries within it many of the maxims of community policing that we’ve seen be effective over the years.

Those of us who are from New York know about NOBLE and its organizations – our president is here as well – but also the impact of a cadre of devoted and dedicated African-American officers.  Lloyd Sealy, who pioneered the concept of knowing the people whom you are sworn to protect; becoming a part of the community.  It is your obligation to serve and thereby providing real service and real protection.  Through this Task Force, we’re seeking to extend these principles across the country and we’ve been hearing from extraordinary individuals and exceptional organizations like the ones that are represented on this panel.

But the key and I will say the biggest lesson certainly that I’ve seen on my own community policing tour and that I think, I don’t know, but I think that this panel will tell you and I think people in this room know – is that the  real solutions come from the places that are seeing the problems.  This is not a problem that will be solved by Washington imposing some policy from on high.  It will be solved by us empowering people who are living in these areas where these problems are occurring to work through these issues by providing resources and assistance for people to come to the solutions that lead to better days.

I was talking with my father this morning as we were driving in.  I was asking him how the conference was going, how the panels were going and what was the best part was. What he said to me did not a surprise me.  The best part in every panel he has seen – and I am sure it is true for today’s, people are talking about their real lives and real issues – not just a study being brought to bear.  They are talking about the real problems and finding real resolutions for them.  That is why our community policing roundtables are so important.  I’ve been to a number of cities already and am looking forward to going out to the west coast next week and also extending this tour to look at the best practices; the ways in which people have found a way out of these challenging situations.  Not to a perfect solution but to a working solution and we are looking forward to being able to share these with all communities.

Now of course we do more than that at the Justice Department, we also have to bolster trust in institutions that make up our criminal justice systems and we are doing that in part with the Smart on Crime Initiative.  This is an initiative that was launched two years ago by my predecessor and your great friend; Attorney General Eric Holder.  Who took a visionary approach across the criminal justice system and looked at ways in which we may have had a well-meaning program 20 years ago but looked at the consequences of the actions that we took then on our communities now.  Of course we talk about the over incarceration of young men of color for the non-violent drug offenses that have so decimated our communities.  Not just problems of the drugs themselves but the removal of these young men from communities and families –has been a hole that has been created.  And so the issue for the Department of Justice under Eric Holder and under myself, is how can we use our power and authority?  What can we do to go about filling that hole?  And frankly we feel that we can do that in a way that protects public safety but also takes into account these important issues.

The Smart on Crime initiative has been one of those rare points of bipartisan accord, as we talk about the over incarceration rates in this country – whether it is from a financial perspective or from a human capital and cost perspective.  Federal prosecutors are now using their resources to still bring the most serious wrongdoers to justice, but using their discretion to find more effective ways. Drug courts focusing on alternatives to incarceration, for those for whom other methods will still provide personal accountability without the devastating consequences that we’ve seen in the past.  And of course the benefit has been that the overall crime rate has declined for the first time in four decades.  This policy continues strong and will continue.
We are also focusing on reentry because as we work out ways for these young people to return home, some of them will not be so young when they get out.  And so as we work out ways for them to return home, we have to also work out ways for them to rebuild a home.  We have to work out ways for them to return, to not just their families and communities – but to society.   That is through education programs in prison; when just a month ago I stood  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as he announced a pilot program to allow colleges to utilize Pell Grants for those who are currently incarcerated because we know that we’ve seen one of the greatest prevention of recidivism or someone being pulled back into that life is to provide them an education while they are incarcerated and opportunities once they are released.

But of course it’s not just participating in your family, not just participating in your community and not just participating in your society.  The ultimate participation in the American experiment called Democracy is of course the right to vote.  That is why the Department of Justice continues to call for all states to revisit the issue of felon disenfranchisement – let them vote.  Let them vote.  We are talking about our country’s most sacred right and the protection of voting right calls for our most sacred engagement; and voting rights cases in particular I’m proud to say the Justice Department has participated in more than 100 voting cases over the course of the Obama Administration.

Now, we are all aware of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County that took away a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.  An  Act that has stood for 50 years and that worked and a provision that allowed the department to look at  statutes before they were enacted and determine their impact on the minority communities voting rights, whether there would be a dilution or diminution thereof. And with that we were able to prevent the rollback of this important right.  Well alright, the Supreme Court has spoken and we’ve lost part, but only part of the Voting Rights Act and we’ve kept up the charge and we have not been idle.

Just recently we successfully challenged Texas strict photo I.D. Law.  In a separate action we sued to block two of Texas’ statewide redistricting plans  And in my home state of North Carolina, we are challenging several provisions of the state law that curbs early voting and restrict same-day registration.  As the president has said why do we want to restrict the right to vote, the right that makes us free and independent, the right that gives us frankly the envy of other countries.  When they talk about the benefits and the values of America, one of the things you will hear when you travel outside this country is frankly their awe at the fact we can have a peaceful transition of power that we have every four or eight years.  And that is because we invest in this democracy.  So why do we want to do anything to curtail anyone’s participation in what has been an example to the world and has to be the beacon that we use to ensure freedom in this country?

But the message from the Department of Justice is clear; we will not stop in these efforts. We will not be deterred and we will not rest until we have secured the right to vote for every eligible American.

And of course that extends beyond the courtroom and the actions that we bring working with many members who sponsoring this wonderful weekend and other members of Congress as well.  We have promoted legislative proposals to restore the Voting Rights Act to its full and proper and intended trail.  We’ve also proposed legislation that would expand access to polling places for those living on Indian reservations and Alaska native villages and other tribal lands. We cannot have a situation in this country were the original Americans are kept out of the participation in the bounties of this land.  We cannot have that.

We do this also through our monitoring program, we monitor federal elections and we have actively enforced the National Vote of Registration Act to protect who registering to vote as well as rights of our uniformed American members of military and overseas citizens who seek to vote as well; keeping onto to what makes them quintessentially American.  We will always protect their rights as well.

And of course the right to vote follows from one of our nation’s most fundamental promises that no one should have to endure discrimination or unfair treatment based on who they are, where they live, or what they look like.

The Justice Department is proud to stand on the front lines of the fight against hatred and intolerance and we are working aggressively to combat biased motivated violence.  We have some tools that have been very affective, the Matthew Sheppard and James Bryd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by our president, President Obama in 2009.  With this law, we have enhanced our ability to hold accountable for those who victimize their fellow Americans because of who they are and we’ve worked with our state and local partners to make sure that hate crimes are identified and investigated and we have continued to bring and will continue to bring federal hate crime charges; including our current prosecutions of Dylann Roof, the murderer of nine people of faith, nine people of God, at  Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, just a few months ago.

Now for many of us as we sat and watched the event, we watch the aftermath and it took us back to a time we thought was over.  This is a new day.  Look who is in the White House, look who is at the Department of Justice.  We thought that we have moved past those stark reminders that there are people there who live in a world of hate and will seek to act on it.  We thought that we have moved past the history of bigotry and brutality. We thought that we left behind the pure intimidation and cruelty of the Night Riders; those who come into the night and trying to beat you. We thought we had move past that.

For many of us it took us back to another time that thought we had erased away forever. A time when just 52 years ago this week four little girls went to church one morning.  They went to Sunday school one weekend and they were there attending a sermon entitled the Love That Forgives and they didn’t come home that day.  They didn’t come home to those four families who live on with the loss of their children, who suffer the bomb at the 15th  Street at the church in Birmingham.

Now just the days after the bombing, 52 years ago, I was four years old and my father, like all parents, looked at me and my two brothers and wondered, “How do I protect my children? How do I keep them safe?”  Not just from the enemy next door but the world that wants to tell them they are they are less than.  A world that wants to tell them that they are different.  A world that tells them they don’t matter and that they are simply cannon fire.  And he, like all parents, who were committed to the cause, decided what he had to do was keep working, keep marching, keep pushing, keep advancing.  And there were no guarantees 52 years ago before four little bodies didn’t come home.
People did not know if we were going to get a Voting Rights Act, didn’t know if we were going to get a Civil Rights Act.  Nothing was guaranteed but with a deep faith and commitment, people push forward, and we are at that same point again.  And in the days just after that bombing, more than 8,000 people, people of all colors, people of all creeds, people of all backgrounds, races and religions attended a memorial service for those young victims and one of the individuals who gave one of the many stirring eulogies of the day was the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  And of course he was familiar not just with the town, the church, but with the families and not just the families, but the four little girls.

In his address, at a time of great tragedy and great challenge, he urged his fellow citizens to channel their grief, to harness their energy and he said we have to work passionately and unrelenting for the realization of the American dream

Now the people sitting in the pews on that dark day, 52 years ago, as my father looked at his children and wondered how could he keep us safe?  Could hardly have imagined the progress we’ve made thanks to their efforts and the work that would follow.  They could hardly have imagined this group, the Congressional Black Caucus itself, its size and strength.  They could’ve imagined this weekend, of over 40 years, of comments and thought and philosophy of teaching.  They couldn’t see who would be sitting in the White House today and sitting in a meeting with the Attorney General who was that little girl whose father looked at her 52 years ago and said I have to protect.

But they knew there were better days coming.  They knew that if they pushed forward they could move past the pain of a bomb that tore apart a church and they knew that their work wasn’t over, just as ours is not also.

And we have more work to do and we are here today to get started.  By that I mean people who are here will continue.  Those people who are younger and new to the cause will join in and we will keep pushing ahead because every American has the right to grow up in a community in a world that offers not just responsibilities to uphold, but also opportunities to succeed.  Because every American has the right to live in a country that will support them and will protect them, no matter where they live, what they look like or who they are.  And every American, every American, has the right to a justice system that gives them a fair opportunity to grow, to learn, to improve and to contribute. And every American has the right to make his or her voice heard

This isn’t just what I believe or what you believe, it is what this country believes.  It is what this country means, it is what this society believes and it is what America has always promised to every man, woman and child in every community across this nation.  And I’m here to pledge to you today that neither I, nor the department that I am so proud to lead will ever abandon our work to make that promise real.  But we need your help and your partnership.

Just as we have in decades past to bring our country closer to its highest ideals.  And if we do look out and see dark days and times, as people did 52 years ago.  But just as they did then, they looked around and they saw strength, they saw support, they saw fellowship, they saw commitment; they saw what I see when I look out over this extraordinary gathering today.  And they saw what I see today, which is a people that won’t be stopped.   A people that will not be silenced.  A people that will not be held back and a people who will always, always reach back and lend a hand and pull someone along with them because that is what we do.  That is how we have made America great today.  That is how we make America live up to its promises to all of us.  And that is how we will go forward with all of the challenges that we have to face.

Thank you for your time.  Thank you for your attention.  Thank you for your commitment to this important event.

Source: Office of Attorney General

Fired Police Cmdr. Calls for U.S. Justice Dept. Probe on Demands to Fix Police Abuse Reports

Posted by Admin On July - 24 - 2015 Comments Off on Fired Police Cmdr. Calls for U.S. Justice Dept. Probe on Demands to Fix Police Abuse Reports

By Chinta Strausberg

Allegedly fired for refusing to change the conclusion of his police brutality cases that did not support officers, former Cmdr. Lorenzo Davis Wednesday said he is calling for a U.S. Justice Department probe of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) which out of 400 police shootings only one officer was found guilty.

“I believe it is a crime to change reports when the evidence points to wrongdoing and you are told to change it to something else,” the 23-year veteran told this reporter. When Davis was ordered to change his conclusion, he said, “I told him (his superior) that would be falsifying a report and that is obstruction of justice.”

Davis said he will not be a part of a “cover up,” and believes the U.S. Justice Department is best suited to investigate the IPRA rather than an internal investigation or even the city’s Inspector General who like the police superintendent is appointed by the mayor.  “The U.S. Justice Department is neutral. In Chicago almost everyone owes their job to the mayor or some politician,” said Davis including the man who fired him, Scott Ando, IPRA’s chief administrator, who could not be reached for comment at deadline.

Referring to Ando, Davis said, “He wanted me to change my report to justify the shootings and other acts of brutality (excessive force). He wanted me to justify or exonerate the police officers or find that the allegations against them were unfounded. He wanted me to say the acts did not happen or the officers used the proper acts of force.

“He told me in person,” said Davis. “He pulled out a policy, and he began to change the policy of IPRA that said everything had to come through him…that I could not investigate a shooting.” Davis said his superior allegedly told him that he could not turn in a report that stated police officers “fired their guns improperly” without Ando’s approval.
“I told him I cannot change my findings because that is what the evidence showed,” Davis said. “I refused to change my findings or conclusions; so I was fired.”

Davis said he was given a performance rating that was marginal when his last rating was excellent. When Davis wrote a rebuttal to his poor performance rating, on July 9th he said Ando called him into his office and told him, “That I was always trying to show I was more experienced, more intelligent and better than everybody else. He then said to me, ‘You’re done.” Davis said Ando had told him before that he was an “at-will” employee and that he could fire me at any time. He told me if I did not change my findings, that I would be fired.”

Davis said this is the first time he has ever been fired and feels sad leaving behind a lot of friends and especially his team. Saying he has had a lot of jobs with the city, Davis said he was never bothered about losing that job. “I was doing my best. I was trying to improve the Chicago Police Department and at the same time to make sure citizens who were victims of abuse had some redress for their grievances.”

“There are other things I can do and have other plans to stay involved in police oversight. Now, I will be working outside of the system,” Davis said.

Davis, a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago where he majored in American history, took education courses at Chicago State University and graduated from the John Marshall School of Law, once taught school for more than six-years including at Dunbar. He was transferred to Hubbard High School which then was all white. “We were trailblazers to integrate the schools,” he said referring to the influx of black students.

Davis was then transferred to Roberto Clemente, an Hispanic High School and then was sent to Amundsen High School, but it was during a time when there were annual school strikes and one year the school said there wasn’t enough money to pay me. At that time, I had five kids and it was Christmas. That was the last straw.” He became a policeman in January of 1981 having passed the exam long before he became a teacher.

“I went to 1111 South State Street and asked where was my application, and an officer went to a file cabinet marked ‘returned mail.” Davis said he started working with the police department in January of 1981.

He has been a tactical officer, a detective, a sergeant, a commander of hundreds of policemen in the 15th District, taught law at the police academy, former commander of Area one (formerly called Area Central), was commander of Miscellaneous Detective Division that included cold cases, fugitive apprehension and financial crimes and was commander of public housing among other titles. He retired in 2004.

An over achiever, Davis went back to school and earned his Master’s science Criminal Justice degree at Chicago State University and in 2008, applied for an investigator position with IPRA. In 2010 he was promoted to supervising investigator but fired on July 9, 2015 for allegedly refusing to change his police abuse report in favor of accused officers.

Davis said his being fired for doing his job and refusing to change his reports that would have exonerated officers accused of  police abuse “violates my civil rights which is why I want the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the IPRA,” he told this reporter.

Contacted late last night, Larry Merritt, a spokesperson for IPRA, had this to say: “This is a personnel matter, and it would be inappropriate to address it through the media. IPRA is committed to conducting fair, unbiased, objective, thorough and timely investigations of allegations of police misconduct and officer-involved shootings.

“Chicago is fairly unique among major cities in that there is an independent civilian investigative agency, separate from the police department, which independently investigates serious allegations of police misconduct as well as officer-involved shootings, and we take our important role extremely seriously. IPRA objectively investigates a complaint, determines the facts, reaches a finding and makes a recommendation for discipline when a complaint is sustained.

“All IPRA officer-involved shooting investigations, and investigations of misconduct for which a sustained finding is recommended, are reviewed by a Supervising Investigator, a Deputy Chief and the 1st Deputy Chief before the report containing the recommendations is given to the Chief Administrator, who, pursuant to the IPRA ordinance, makes a disciplinary recommendations to the Police Superintendent. The review process includes internal discussions at all levels of review to ensure the findings reached are accurate and meet the burden of proof, which is a preponderance of the evidence,” the statement concluded.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.

President Obama’s Statement on Cuba Policy Changes

Posted by Admin On December - 18 - 2014 Comments Off on President Obama’s Statement on Cuba Policy Changes

Cabinet Room

12:01 P.M. EST

“Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born…” – President Barack Obama

The President’s Statement: Good afternoon.  Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.

In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.  Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.

There’s a complicated history between the United States and Cuba.  I was born in 1961 –- just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime. Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the Cold War, and America’s steadfast opposition to communism.  We are separated by just over 90 miles. But year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries.

Meanwhile, the Cuban exile community in the United States made enormous contributions to our country –- in politics and business, culture and sports.  Like immigrants before, Cubans helped remake America, even as they felt a painful yearning for the land and families they left behind.  All of this bound America and Cuba in a unique relationship, at once family and foe.

Proudly, the United States has supported democracy and human rights in Cuba through these five decades. We have done so primarily through policies that aimed to isolate the island, preventing the most basic travel and commerce that Americans can enjoy anyplace else.  And though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions, and it has had little effect beyond providing the Cuban government with a rationale for restrictions on its people.  Today, Cuba is still governed by the Castros and the Communist Party that came to power half a century ago.

Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.  Consider that for more than 35 years, we’ve had relations with China –- a far larger country also governed by a Communist Party.  Nearly two decades ago, we reestablished relations with Vietnam, where we fought a war that claimed more Americans than any Cold War confrontation.

That’s why -– when I came into office -– I promised to re-examine our Cuba policy.  As a start, we lifted restrictions for Cuban Americans to travel and send remittances to their families in Cuba.  These changes, once controversial, now seem obvious. Cuban Americans have been reunited with their families, and are the best possible ambassadors for our values.  And through these exchanges, a younger generation of Cuban Americans has increasingly questioned an approach that does more to keep Cuba closed off from an interconnected world.

While I have been prepared to take additional steps for some time, a major obstacle stood in our way –- the wrongful imprisonment, in Cuba, of a U.S. citizen and USAID sub-contractor Alan Gross for five years.  Over many months, my administration has held discussions with the Cuban government about Alan’s case, and other aspects of our relationship.  His Holiness Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to me, and to Cuba’s President Raul Castro, urging us to resolve Alan’s case, and to address Cuba’s interest in the release of three Cuban agents who have been jailed in the United States for over 15 years.

Today, Alan returned home –- reunited with his family at long last.  Alan was released by the Cuban government on humanitarian grounds.  Separately, in exchange for the three Cuban agents, Cuba today released one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba, and who has been imprisoned for nearly two decades.  This man, whose sacrifice has been known to only a few, provided America with the information that allowed us to arrest the network of Cuban agents that included the men transferred to Cuba today, as well as other spies in the United States.  This man is now safely on our shores.

Having recovered these two men who sacrificed for our country, I’m now taking steps to place the interests of the people of both countries at the heart of our policy.

First, I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to reestablish diplomatic relations that have been severed since January of 1961.  Going forward, the United States will reestablish an embassy in Havana, and high-ranking officials will visit Cuba.

Where we can advance shared interests, we will -– on issues like health, migration, counterterrorism, drug trafficking and disaster response.  Indeed, we’ve seen the benefits of cooperation between our countries before.  It was a Cuban, Carlos Finlay, who discovered that mosquitoes carry yellow fever; his work helped Walter Reed fight it.  Cuba has sent hundreds of health care workers to Africa to fight Ebola, and I believe American and Cuban health care workers should work side by side to stop the spread of this deadly disease.

Now, where we disagree, we will raise those differences directly -– as we will continue to do on issues related to democracy and human rights in Cuba.  But I believe that we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement.  After all, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked.  It’s time for a new approach.

Second, I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.  This review will be guided by the facts and the law.  Terrorism has changed in the last several decades.  At a time when we are focused on threats from al Qaeda to ISIL, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces the use of terrorism should not face this sanction.

Third, we are taking steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba.  This is fundamentally about freedom and openness, and also expresses my belief in the power of people-to-people engagement.  With the changes I’m announcing today, it will be easier for Americans to travel to Cuba, and Americans will be able to use American credit and debit cards on the island.  Nobody represents America’s values better than the American people, and I believe this contact will ultimately do more to empower the Cuban people.

I also believe that more resources should be able to reach the Cuban people.  So we’re significantly increasing the amount of money that can be sent to Cuba, and removing limits on remittances that support humanitarian projects, the Cuban people, and the emerging Cuban private sector.

I believe that American businesses should not be put at a disadvantage, and that increased commerce is good for Americans and for Cubans.  So we will facilitate authorized transactions between the United States and Cuba.  U.S. financial institutions will be allowed to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions.  And it will be easier for U.S. exporters to sell goods in Cuba.

I believe in the free flow of information.  Unfortunately, our sanctions on Cuba have denied Cubans access to technology that has empowered individuals around the globe.  So I’ve authorized increased telecommunications connections between the United States and Cuba.  Businesses will be able to sell goods that enable Cubans to communicate with the United States and other countries.

These are the steps that I can take as President to change this policy.  The embargo that’s been imposed for decades is now codified in legislation.  As these changes unfold, I look forward to engaging Congress in an honest and serious debate about lifting the embargo.

Yesterday, I spoke with Raul Castro to finalize Alan Gross’s release and the exchange of prisoners, and to describe how we will move forward.  I made clear my strong belief that Cuban society is constrained by restrictions on its citizens.  In addition to the return of Alan Gross and the release of our intelligence agent, we welcome Cuba’s decision to release a substantial number of prisoners whose cases were directly raised with the Cuban government by my team.  We welcome Cuba’s decision to provide more access to the Internet for its citizens, and to continue increasing engagement with international institutions like the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross that promote universal values.

But I’m under no illusion about the continued barriers to freedom that remain for ordinary Cubans.  The United States believes that no Cubans should face harassment or arrest or beatings simply because they’re exercising a universal right to have their voices heard, and we will continue to support civil society there.  While Cuba has made reforms to gradually open up its economy, we continue to believe that Cuban workers should be free to form unions, just as their citizens should be free to participate in the political process.

Moreover, given Cuba’s history, I expect it will continue to pursue foreign policies that will at times be sharply at odds with American interests.  I do not expect the changes I am announcing today to bring about a transformation of Cuban society overnight.  But I am convinced that through a policy of engagement, we can more effectively stand up for our values and help the Cuban people help themselves as they move into the 21st century.

To those who oppose the steps I’m announcing today, let me say that I respect your passion and share your commitment to liberty and democracy.  The question is how we uphold that commitment.  I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.  Moreover, it does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse.  Even if that worked -– and it hasn’t for 50 years –- we know from hard-earned experience that countries are more likely to enjoy lasting transformation if their people are not subjected to chaos.  We are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities.  In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens that we seek to help.

To the Cuban people, America extends a hand of friendship.  Some of you have looked to us as a source of hope, and we will continue to shine a light of freedom.  Others have seen us as a former colonizer intent on controlling your future.  José Martí once said, “Liberty is the right of every man to be honest.”  Today, I am being honest with you.  We can never erase the history between us, but we believe that you should be empowered to live with dignity and self-determination.  Cubans have a saying about daily life:  “No es facil” –- it’s not easy.  Today, the United States wants to be a partner in making the lives of ordinary Cubans a little bit easier, more free, more prosperous.

To those who have supported these measures, I thank you for being partners in our efforts.  In particular, I want to thank His Holiness Pope Francis, whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is; the government of Canada, which hosted our discussions with the Cuban government; and a bipartisan group of congressmen who have worked tirelessly for Alan Gross’s release, and for a new approach to advancing our interests and values in Cuba.

Finally, our shift in policy towards Cuba comes at a moment of renewed leadership in the Americas.  This April, we are prepared to have Cuba join the other nations of the hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas.  But we will insist that civil society join us so that citizens, not just leaders, are shaping our future.  And I call on all of my fellow leaders to give meaning to the commitment to democracy and human rights at the heart of the Inter-American Charter.  Let us leave behind the legacy of both colonization and communism, the tyranny of drug cartels, dictators and sham elections.  A future of greater peace, security and democratic development is possible if we work together — not to maintain power, not to secure vested interest, but instead to advance the dreams of our citizens.

My fellow Americans, the city of Miami is only 200 miles or so from Havana.  Countless thousands of Cubans have come to Miami — on planes and makeshift rafts; some with little but the shirt on their back and hope in their hearts.  Today, Miami is often referred to as the capital of Latin America.  But it is also a profoundly American city -– a place that reminds us that ideals matter more than the color of our skin, or the circumstances of our birth; a demonstration of what the Cuban people can achieve, and the openness of the United States to our family to the South.  Todos somos Americanos.

Change is hard –- in our own lives, and in the lives of nations.  And change is even harder when we carry the heavy weight of history on our shoulders.  But today we are making these changes because it is the right thing to do.  Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future –- for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world.

Thank you.  God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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