To Be Equal: With Tamir Rice Decision, Trump’s Justice Department Once Again Protects the Powerful At the Expense of the Powerless
“Anyone with decent vision can see from the parking-lot video of the shooting that the claim that Loehmann was able to repeatedly warn Tamir warrants incredulity. In less than two seconds, Garmback screeches to a halt in the cold mud, Loehmann pops out of the passenger door, and he fires the shot that eventually killed Tamir. He’d have had to be speaking like one of those speed readers dictating legal disclaimers on radio advertisements. However, despite that common-sense view of things, Fishman and Reddick reportedly encountered tension within the DOJ. You see, they had to write a memo requesting a grand jury to subpoena documents and testimony from witnesses, and that memo needed approval from a deputy assistant attorney general who works alongside Trump political appointees within the DOJ. And no one responded. … Quite simply, the DOJ let the clock run out on accountability for two cops involved in killing an unarmed black child.”
—Jamil Smith, Rolling Stone
The decision not to charge the officers who shot and killed a Black child on sight encapsulates everything that is wrong with the Department of Justice under the current administration. Once again, it has protected the powerful at the expense of the powerless. Once again, it has failed to seek justice for a Black life.
Tamir Rice was a child playing with a toy. It would have taken Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback only a few seconds to ascertain that he posed no threat to anyone. But they didn’t bother to spend even those few seconds because all they needed to see was the color of Tamir’s skin to decide he was a threat.
They didn’t even bother to stop their car completely. As Judge Ronald B. Adrine wrote in his ruling that probable cause existed to charge the officers, “This court is thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly … the Zone Car containing Patrol Officers Loehmann and Garmback is still in the process of stopping when Rice is shot.”
The toy gun wasn’t even in Tamir’s hands when the officers shot him. The video “does not appear to show him making any furtive movement prior to or at the moment he is shot,” Judge Adrine wrote. Tamir’s arms “do not appear to be raised or outstretched.”
A grand jury declined to indict the officers in 2015, calling the killing a “perfect storm of human error, mistakes, and communications by all involved.” However, because grand jury proceedings are shrouded in secrecy it’s unknown what evidence the grand jurors heard or what recommendations the prosecutors made. After a judge granted grand jurors in the Breonna Taylor case permission to speak publicly, the public learned that prosecutors had not given them the opportunity to bring homicide charges against the officers. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron falsely claimed the grand jury “agreed” that the shooting was justified.
The city of Cleveland last year settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Tamir’s family for $6 million.
This brutal year of COVID-19 has seen armed protesters storm state capitols, threatening lawmakers and even menacing police, and not one was harmed. The armed protesters were white.
In Kenosha in August, police nonchalantly allowed accused killer Kyle Rittenhouse, armed with a AR-15 style rifle, to walk by them even as witnesses shouted that he had just shot someone. Rittenhouse is white.
The same week as the Kenosha killings, police in Utah arrested an unharmed Richard Grant Lees after he fired shots at the officers with assault rifle. Lees is white.
Time and again, Black people are considered a threat just for existing, while violent white men are cossetted.
A Justice Department that does not consider Tamir’s death a crime is a Justice Department that has decided that white officers must never be held accountable for taking Black lives, under any circumstances. Among those recently pardoned by President Trump were a white police officer who unlawfully ordered her police dog to attack people of color; a Border Patrol agent who brutalized a Latino man trying to cross the border; an immigration agent who illegally harassed Latino store owners, and a sheriff who defied a court order to stop racial profiling and who once said it was “an honor” to be compared to the Ku Klux Klan.
It may be too late for the incoming Biden Administration to re-examine this case. But we expect the new Attorney General to be committed to police accountability, and to pursue such cases with a sincere motivation to seek justice for the victims rather than to protect their killers.
—December 31, 2020
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Cardin-Portman Praise Establishment of a National Memorial to Fallen Journalists
WASHINGTON (Dec. 23, 2020)—On Wednesday, the president signed into law a companion bill to legislation written by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) that authorizes the development and construction of a national monument to fallen journalists. The new, privately funded memorial will be constructed on federal lands within the District of Columbia and will honor journalists, photographers, and broadcasters killed in the line of duty. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) is an original cosponsor of the Senate bill (S. 1969). Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.-32) and Congressman Tom Cole (R-Okla.-04) introduced the legislation (H.R. 3465) in the House of Representatives.
“The free media, one of the pillars of our nation, is under attack figuratively and literally across America. Too many, including five innocent souls lost in the shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, gave everything they had in defense of democracy, transparency and freedom,” said Senator Cardin. “This new memorial will honor the lives of those who died reporting the news and supporting the media on behalf of the American people. It will be a steadfast symbol of their sacrifice and the fragility of our democracy. Those who personify the First Amendment rights granted to every citizen have made our nation stronger.”
“A free and open press is essential to our democracy, and I applaud President Trump for signing into law our bipartisan legislation to establish the National Memorial to Fallen Journalists,” said Senator Portman. “This memorial will serve as a fitting tribute to the men and women in journalism, including those from the Capital Gazette, who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of the First Amendment.”
The legislation authorizes the Fallen Journalists Memorial (FJM) Foundation to establish a commemorative work (memorial) in the District of Columbia. Eligible federal land would be in “Area I” or “Area II,”, but not in the area designated as “Reserve.” The FJM Foundation must provide the funding necessary for the National Park Service or General Services Administration to maintain the memorial. The Annenberg Foundation and the Ferro Foundation have provided a total of $300,000 in initial funding to launch the FJM Foundation, which will operate under the auspices of the National Press Club Journalism Institute (NPCJI), the non-profit affiliate of the National Press Club.
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ChildWatch: Hope for the New Year
We are beginning the New Year during very perilous times for children and for our nation and world, but in the face of overwhelming challenges and threats to safety and well-being this is also a new chance to fight back against depression, fear, and despair and determine to keep pushing forward. I share again an adapted version of Madeleine L’Engle’s poem “First Coming” (used by permission in my book Guide My Feet as published in Imagining the Word):
God did not wait till the world was ready,
till . . . nations were at peace.
God came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.
God did not wait for the perfect time.
God came when the need was deep and great.
God dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.
God did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy God came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
God came, and God’s Light would not go out.
God came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
God came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!
These words are once again a reminder and encouragement for all we must and will do in the new year. As the holy season comes to a close and the time for new beginnings emerges, let’s commit to moving forward together with purpose, determination, and hope.
—December 22, 2020
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House Armed Services Vice Chair Anthony Brown: “Dr. Kathleen Hicks is Breaking Barriers in the National Security Space and is Committed to Doing the Same for Others”
WASHINGTON (Dec. 30, 2020)—House Armed Services Committee Vice Chair Anthony G. Brown (MD-04), a 30-year Army veteran, released the following statement regarding President-elect Joe Biden’s nomination of Dr. Kathleen Hicks to become Deputy Secretary of Defense:
“In Dr. Kathleen Hicks, President-elect Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense designate Lloyd Austin have chosen an experienced and forward thinking Deputy Defense Secretary. Serving in what is widely viewed as the Chief Operating Officer, her nomination strengthens civilian oversight of the Pentagon and will restore stability to the daily operations of the Department of Defense. Her work in national security policy both inside and outside of government has allowed her to not only understand the inner workings of the Pentagon, but also develop necessary frameworks for reform. She has the necessary depth of policy knowledge to lead uniformed and civilian public servants in countering the most complex set of national security threats our country has ever faced.
“Dr. Kathleen Hicks is breaking barriers in the national security space and is committed to doing the same for others. I’ve personally discussed with Dr. Hicks the importance of building diversity throughout the defense community. She is an advocate for greater inclusion as a means for strengthening our country and making us safer. I look forward to working with Dr. Hicks alongside Gen. Austin to bolster our national security, restore American leadership and ensure Americans from all backgrounds can serve and protect the country they love.”
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