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Here’s How Badly Police Violence Has Divided America These Past Few Years

Mother Jones

In Shots Fired, the buzzworthy police drama premiering March 22 on Fox, federal agents investigate a black cop who has gunned down a young, unarmed white man. By the numbers, police actually kill more white people than they kill black people, but they kill black people at a far higher rate. Using population data from the Census Bureau and police shooting data from the Washington Post‘s 2015 database, we calculated that black men between the ages of 18 and 44 were 3.2 times as likely as white men the same age to be killed by a police officer. And while black men make up only about 6 percent of the US population, last year they accounted for one-third of the unarmed people killed by police.

We’ve obviously got some policing issues, but the Trump administration seems inclined to look the other way. Last month, in his first speech as attorney general, Jeff Sessions made clear that his Justice Department will curtail the monitoring of problem-plagued police departments that the Obama administration used as a tactic to combat civil rights violations by police. (Sessions suggested the monitoring had undermined “respect for our police and made, oftentimes, their job more difficult.”) Lest readers have forgotten just how divisive the racial disparities in law enforcement have been, and continue to be, we put together this brief history of recent police violence and backlash to it.

July 2013
Sickened by the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, labor organizer Alicia Garza writes on Facebook, “I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter.” Her friend Patrisse Cullors turns the last bit into a hashtag.

Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire via AP Photo

March 2014
In a Pew poll, 46 percent of Americans agree that “our country needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites.”
July 2014

Eric Garner is choked to death by an officer on Staten Island, New York. His last words, “I can’t breathe,” become a civil rights slogan.

Bruce Cotler/ Globe Photos/Zuma

Aug. 2014
A white cop in Ferguson, Missouri, kills black teen Michael Brown, sparking weeks of protest. Police deploy riot gear, armored vehicles, and sniper rifles, while demonstrators adopt a “hands up, don’t shoot” posture based on claims that Brown had his hands up when he was shot. On Twitter, #BlackLivesMatter takes off.
Oct. 2014
A Chicago cop shoots Laquan McDonald 16 times. Police officials claim the teen was approaching officers with a knife—a union rep says he “lunged”—but the city won’t release dash-cam footage.
Nov. 22, 2014

Tamir Rice, 12, is killed by a Cleveland officer as he plays with a toy gun in a park.
Nov. 24, 2014
A Ferguson grand jury declines to indict Officer Darren Wilson, Michael Brown‘s killer. More protests. Critics of #BlackLivesMatter respond with #AllLivesMatter.

Darren Wilson St. Louis County Prosecuter’s Office/Reuters

Nov. 30, 2014
Five St. Louis Rams players walk onto the field for a game in the “hands up” position.
Dec. 3, 2014
The NYPD officer who choked Eric Garner escapes indictment. Days later, LeBron James and other NBA players don “I Can’t Breathe” shirts at pregame warmups.

Jonathan Brady/ PA Wire via Zuma Images

Dec. 18, 2014
The White House announces a new task force to “strengthen trust among law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”
Dec. 20, 2014
Two NYPD officers are ambushed. Their killer, a black man, had posted a photo of his gun on Instagram: “I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today.”
Jan. 2015
#BlackLivesMatter tweets average 10,000 a day.

Erik McGregor/Zuma

March 2015
A Department of Justice report says Ferguson police employees sent racist emails and targeted black residents with nuisance citations to generate revenue.
April 2, 2015
A white sheriff’s deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shoots black suspect Eric Harris after a foot chase. “I’m losing my breath,” Harris pleads in a video. “Fuck your breath,” another officer responds.
April 4, 2015

Walter Scott is fatally shot as he attempts to flee from Officer Michael Slager in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Walter Scott in his Coast Guard days Courtesy of the Scott family

April 19, 2015
Freddie Gray dies of his injuries after a “rough ride” in a Baltimore police van.
May 2015
“I have heard your calls for ‘no justice, no peace,'” prosecutor Marilyn Mosby says as she announces charges against six officers in the Gray case. The White House task force releases its report: Police must “embrace a guardian—rather than a warrior—mindset.”

Alex Brandon/AP Photo

June 2015
Rapper Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” video depicts him being shot by police. It garners about 70 million YouTube views and wins two Grammys.

July 2015
BLM activists seize the mic at a Democratic candidate forum to grill Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders on police violence.
Oct. 2015
Rapper Vic Mensa’s video for “16 Shots,” a song about Laquan McDonald, goes viral.

Nov. 19, 2015
A judge orders the release of dash-cam footage that appears to show McDonald walking away from police when he was shot. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fires his police chief the next month.
Nov. 22, 2015
Presidential candidate Donald Trump tweets out a chart of fabricated crime statistics suggesting that black criminals are responsible for the vast majority of homicides against white people. It’s entirely bogus. Here’s Politifact’s summary:

Feb. 7, 2016
Beyoncé’s dancers adopt a Black Panther look for the Super Bowl halftime show. Police unions call for a boycott of the star.

via GIPHY

Feb. 24, 2016
BLM activists disrupt a Hillary Clinton fundraiser, demanding she apologize for her racially charged comments about “super predators” during the 1990s. Clinton appears irritated, but the next day she does just that.
May 2016
The first state “Blue Lives Matter” bill passes in Louisiana. Attacking a cop is now a hate crime.
June 2016
The police-van driver in the Freddie Gray case is acquitted.
July 5, 2016

Alton Sterling is fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while officers have him pinned to the ground.
July 6, 2016
During a traffic stop, a Minnesota cop shoots Philando Castile as he reaches for his wallet—that’s according to Castile’s girlfriend, who livestreamed his demise on Facebook: “You told him to get his ID, sir!”

July 7, 2016
A black gunman kills five cops at a Dallas protest against police violence. He holes up in a parking garage, where police kill him with an explosives-bearing robot.
July 12, 2016
President Barack Obama defends Black Lives Matter at a memorial for the slain officers. “We have all seen this bigotry in our lives at some point,” and “none of us is entirely innocent,” he says. “That includes our police departments.”
July 17, 2016
A black military vet who ranted online about the treatment of black people by police assassinates three officers (one of them black) in Baton Rouge.
July 18, 2016
At the Republican National Convention, Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, who is black, proclaims that “blue lives matter.” In an op-ed the same day, he calls Black Lives Matter the “enemy.”

Mike Segar/Reuters via ZUMA Press

July 18, 2016
A police officer in Florida shoots a black caregiver who was lying in the street with his hands up. A union rep explains that the officer had been aiming at the man’s autistic patient, whose toy truck he mistook for a firearm.
July 27, 2016
After further acquittals in the Freddie Gray case, charges are dropped against the remaining officers.
Aug. 2016
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick starts sitting out the national anthem to protest police violence. A few pros and countless high school and college athletes follow suit.

Kevin Terrell/AP

Sept. 2016
Clinton debates Trump: “I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police,” she says. Critics pounce. “Yes, Hillary Clinton called the nation racist,” writes a Washington Times columnist.
Oct. 2016
Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the DOJ will (finally) start collecting national data on police use of force.
Dec. 2016
A jury of 11 whites and one African American deadlocks in the trial of Michael Slager. A retrial is scheduled for late August 2017. A separate federal trial, to determine whether Slager violated Walter Scott’s civil rights, is slated to begin in May 2017.

Mic Smith, File/AP Photo

Feb. 2017
In his first speech as attorney general, Jeff Sessions suggests that the Justice Department, under his watch, will discontinue its practice of monitoring police departments suspected of violating people’s civil rights.
March 2017
A new drama series, Shots Fired, debuts on Fox. “There were a lot of people who never saw Trayvon Martin as a kid,” one of the show’s co-creators tells Mother Jones. “He was painted as the victimizer, and Zimmerman Martin’s killer got donations from all over the country. So in doing a show that deals with police violence, the question was how do we make those people who sent in the donations see this kid as a human being? One of the things we came up with was to make one victim white.”

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Here’s How Badly Police Violence Has Divided America These Past Few Years

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Here Are the Top Five Takeaways From Yesterday’s Trump Interview

Mother Jones

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ABC’s David Muir has gotten some flak for his performance interviewing President Trump yesterday, but I’m not sure it’s deserved. Maybe he could have done better, but if the guy won’t answer a question, he won’t answer a question. Most of the time, Trump barely let Muir get in a word edgewise. Every time half a question came out, Trump would barrel over it and deliver a rambling, unrelated screed. If Muir had asked him what 2+2 equaled, Trump would have blathered for five minutes about our terrible schools and the Chinese are killing us and nobody knows numbers anymore and we have to get rid of Common Core and blah blah blah. Muir tried four or five times to get a straight answer about Trump’s idiotic claim that 3-5 million noncitizens voted, and Trump just flatly wouldn’t engage.

Still, there were a few interesting tidbits. I count four altogether. First, what’s this business of sending in the feds to deal with Chicago’s crime problem?

DAVID MUIR: You will send in the feds? What do you mean by that?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: It’s carnage….It’s horrible carnage….Now if they want help, I would love to help them. I will send in what we have to send in. Maybe they’re not gonna have to be so politically correct. Maybe they’re being overly political correct. Maybe there’s something going on.

Chart above adapted from CNN chart. Next up: Does Trump endorse torture?

DAVID MUIR: The last president, President Obama, said the U.S. does not torture. Will you say that?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I will say this, I will rely on Pompeo and Mattis and my group. And if they don’t wanna do, that’s fine. If they do wanna do, then I will work for that end….And I’m gonna rely on those two people and others. And if they don’t wanna do it, it’s 100 percent okay with me. Do I think it works? Absolutely.

How about the oil in Iraq? Are we going to go back in and take it?

DAVID MUIR: You brought up Iraq and something you said that could affect American troops in recent days. You said, “We should’ve kept the oil but okay maybe we’ll have another chance.” What did you mean by that?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, we should’ve kept the oil when we got out….

DAVID MUIR: You’ve heard the critics who say that would break all international law, taking the oil.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Wait, wait, can you believe that? Who are the critics who say that? Fools. I don’t call them critics. I call them fools….

DAVID MUIR: What got my attention, Mr. President, was when you said, “Maybe we’ll have another chance.”

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, don’t let it get your attention too much because we’ll see what happens. I mean, we’re gonna see what happens.

Finally, will Trump guarantee that folks currently covered by Obamacare will remain covered under his new plan?

DAVID MUIR: You’ve seen the estimate that 18 million Americans could lose their health insurance if Obamacare is repealed and there is no replacement. Can you assure those Americans watching this right now that they will not lose their health insurance or end up with anything less?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: …. Here’s what I can assure you, we are going to have a better plan, much better health care, much better service treatment, a plan where you can have access to the doctor that you want and the plan that you want. We’re gonna have a much better health care plan at much less money.

And remember Obamacare is ready to explode. And you interviewed me a couple of years ago. I said ’17 — right now, this year, “’17 is going to be a disaster.” I’m very good at this stuff….And why not? Obama’s a smart guy. So let it all come due because that’s what’s happening…..

DAVID MUIR: So, no one who has this health insurance through Obamacare will lose it or end up with anything less?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: You know, when you say no one I think no one. Ideally, in the real world, you’re talking about millions of people. Will no one. And then, you know, knowing ABC, you’ll have this one person on television saying how they were hurt. Okay. We want no one. We want the answer to be no one.

So there you have it:

Two weeks ago, the Justice Department released a “blistering” report about the Chicago Police Department that said “excessive force was rampant, rarely challenged and chiefly aimed at African-Americans and Latinos.” But Trump thinks maybe they’re being too soft and they need someone to come in and toughen them up.
Torture is a war crime, but Trump is explicitly fine with it if any of his guys recommend it.
He still wants to take Iraq’s oil, and refuses to rule out the possibility of going back in and doing it. Trump seems to still not realize that the oil is all in the ground and he can’t just “take it,” nor that taking it would also be a war crime.
He thinks President Obama deliberately designed Obamacare to implode in 2017 when he would no longer be in office.
His health care plan will cover everyone who currently has coverage under Obamacare. No one will end up with something worse. “We want the answer to be no one.”

I would have posted this last night, but I just couldn’t stand any more Trump. It took me all morning to work up the willingness to tackle it.

And we’re only partly through the first week. There are 208 to go.

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Here Are the Top Five Takeaways From Yesterday’s Trump Interview

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2015: The Great Crime Wave That Wasn’t

Mother Jones

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Was there a huge crime wave in 2015? There are two main sources for crime rates in the United States. The FBI produces the Uniform Crime Report (UCR), which is based on reporting from police agencies. The Bureau of Justice Statistics produces the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which conducts surveys of ordinary Americans and asks if they’ve been a crime victim in the past year. Rick Nevin breaks down the numbers:

The 2015 NCVS property crime rate (household burglary, motor vehicle theft, and other theft) was down 6.3% from 2014…2015 UCR burglary rate…down 8.5%…UCR larceny-theft rate…down 2.5%…UCR property crime rate…down 3.4% from 2014….roughly consistent with the NCVS data showing the property crime rate falling 6.3% in 2015 to a record low.

The UCR violent crime rate (murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) should be roughly consistent with the NCVS serious violent crime rate (sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault),1but the UCR violent crime rate increased 3.0% in 2015 as the NCVS serious violent crime rate fell 11.7%….

OK, hold on. Everyone agrees that property crime is down, but the FBI says the reported violent crime rate increased 3 percent while the NCVS survey data says it decreased 11.7 percent? What’s going on? The biggest components of the violent crime index are robbery and aggravated assault. Both the UCR and the NCVS agree closely about the robbery rate, so that means there must be some kind of discrepancy in the aggravated assault rate:

The 2015 UCR aggravated assault rate was up 3.8% from 2014….NCVS total aggravated assaults were down 25.2% in 2015, and NCVS aggravated assaults reported to police were down 20.7%.

Yikes! Long story short, Nevin shows that this divergence between UCR and NCVS has been increasing for the past decade. The culprit, apparently, is exactly the opposite of the frequent allegation that police departments understate serious crime in order to make themselves look better. “The fact that NCVS victims are reporting aggravated assaults far below UCR recorded aggravated assaults suggests that police have become far more expansive than crime victims are when it comes to defining aggravated assault, perhaps to protect against allegations that the police undercount serious violent crime.”

Most likely, then, there’s a longstanding issue of how aggravated assault is reported and categorized. Basically, police departments underreported it in the past and are now overreporting it. Aggravated assault probably decreased or held steady in 2015, which means the overall rate of violent crime was also either down or steady.

There was an increase in the murder rate last year, from 4.44 in 2014 to 4.88 in 2015 (per 100,000). This is a significant jump, and it was apparently fueled by an especially large jump in about a dozen big cities. This is cause for concern, especially since the murder rate usually correlates roughly with the overall violent crime rate. The divergence last year is unusual, and we don’t yet know what explains it. It might just be a random spike, or it could suggest something worse.

But while murder gets the headlines, it’s only one small component of the overall crime rate. Overall property crime was down last year and overall violent crime was probably down too. These are, by far, the crimes that actually affect most people. With the exception of a few pockets of increased homicide, America continues to get safer and safer.

1The NCVS numbers don’t include homicide because you obviously can’t survey murder victims. However, homicide is a tiny part of the overall violent crime rate, so that doesn’t account for the difference between UCR and NCVS figures.

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2015: The Great Crime Wave That Wasn’t

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Bullying in Schools Is Out of Control Since Election Day

Mother Jones

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In the week since Donald Trump’s election, a rash of racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic incidents—from chants of “Build that wall!” to swastika graffiti—have surged inside classrooms, on college campuses, and in communities around the country.

As of Monday, the Southern Poverty Law Center had collected more than 400 allegations of election-related intimidation and harassment nationwide. The SPLC has been sounding the alarm for months about the so-called “Trump effect” in America’s schools—the rise of classroom bullying and harassment driven, at least in part, by the antagonistic rhetoric of the presidential campaign—and more than one-third of the incidents it has tracked took place at K-12 schools or universities.

These reports coincide with the release of the FBI’s annual report on hate crimes in America. The new federal data, out Monday, showed a roughly 6 percent increase in assaults, bombings, threats, and other hate crimes in 2015. Anti-Muslim crimes jumped nearly 67 percent from 2014; the 257 incidents were the most since 2001, when there were 481 such attacks. Black people faced the most race-based attacks, with incidents up 7.6 percent, and anti-Jewish crimes, which remained the highest among religious-based attacks, went up about 9 percent.

Meanwhile, of the 437 alleged incidents compiled by the SPLC in the last week, more than 160 occurred in K-12 schools and universities. Here are five notable examples:

DeWitt Junior High School (DeWitt, Michigan): A day after the election, a teacher saw a couple of students lying on the ground before school started, joking they’d form a wall. The teacher told them to move. Later, students locked arms and prevented other students from passing. Some made comments toward minority students. Corina Gonzalez told the Lansing State Journal that her daughter tried to get to her locker when a group of boys blocked her. “They were chanting things such as, ‘Donald Trump for president. Let’s build the wall. Let’s make America great again. You need to go back to Mexico,'” Gonzalez told the Journal.

John Dieter, superintendent of DeWitt Public Schools, condemned the “reprehensible and completely unacceptable” actions in a letter to parents. He added that it wasn’t a “coincidence” that the events took place after the election. “Our children are still processing everything that they have heard and seen and they are trying to make sense of their world,” Dieter told parents, adding that Trump, President Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton all had called for unity. “We need to share this message with our children and we need to move forward and heal.”

York County School of Technology (York, Pennsylvania): Video surfaced last Wednesday showing two students carrying a Donald Trump/Mike Pence sign through a hallway. One of them shouted, “White power!” After reports of the incident spread, students protested and came forward to discuss harassment they had experienced during the campaign season. Gov. Tom Wolf condemned the acts as “overt racism.” The York Dispatch reported that last Friday, representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the state Human Relations Commission visited the school to evaluate the situation and offer support to students. And on Sunday, the York Daily Record reported that three students had been disciplined, and that York Area Regional Police Department was investigating allegations of harassment.

Victorria Markle and Eibreha Drayden, two freshmen at the school, told the Dispatch that they had noticed episodes of harassment throughout the last month. Markle, who is part black, told the paper that she had been called the N-word and threatened with stabbing and murder. She added she heard shouts from a group of students when she entered school on Wednesday. Drayden, who is part Mexican, told the Dispatch she was whistled at like a dog and had been told she would be sent over the wall.

Council Rock North High School (Newtown, Pennsylvania): Council Rock School District Superintendent Robert Fraser sent a letter last week to parents across the district about acts of vandalism and harassment at Council Rock North High School. Someone wrote “I Love Trump,” drew swastikas, and added a derogatory remark about gay people on a piece of paper in the girls’ bathroom. Another person left graffiti on a toilet paper dispenser in another girls’ bathroom, writing: “If Trump wins, watch out!” Someone drew two swastikas in a boys’ bathroom. And a Latina student uncovered a note in her backpack that told her to return to Mexico. (Other Latinos heard inappropriate remarks.)

“I cannot emphasize strongly enough how inappropriate these actions are and that they simply will not be tolerated,” Fraser told parents. Newtown Township Police and the Council Rock School District were investigating. Parents and educators met to discuss what transpired on Monday.

Royal Oak Middle School (Royal Oak, Michigan): At lunchtime, seventh-grader Josie Ramon sat in the cafeteria when she heard a group of students chanting, “Build a wall!” Ramon, who is Mexican American, pulled out her phone and took video and shared it with her mother, Alicia. “Tears were running down my face,” Ramon told the Detroit News last week. “I was so upset.”

Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin said in a statement that school personnel responded to the incident, adding that “because of the strong emotions and intensity of rhetoric” following the video’s spread on social media, families had expressed concern about school safety. “In responding to this incident—indeed in responding to this election—we need to hear each other’s stories, not slogans, we need to work towards understanding, not scoring points,” Lewis-Lakin said last week. “We need to find a way to move forward that respects and values each and every member of our community.”

North Bend Middle School (North Bend, Oregon): Students shouted “Go back to Mexico!” at an 11-year-old Colombian American student. North Bend School District superintendent Bill Yester told a local newspaper last week that while the election played a part in the bullying, school personnel dealt with it quickly and held an assembly on harassment. “We’re going to be in good shape,” he said. “We will continue to watch it, and parents were called about their students’ behavior, but if those parents are supportive, this will stop.”

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Bullying in Schools Is Out of Control Since Election Day

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Michael B. Jordan, Danny Glover, and Omar from “The Wire” Star in this Haunting Police Brutality Protest Video

Mother Jones

Big names including Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Fruitvale Station), Danny Glover, and Michael K. Williams (The Wire, Boardwalk Empire) are the stars of “Against the Wall,” a new video PSA from singer/social activist Harry Belafonte that highlights the issue of racial bias in police shootings of black men and women. We see each of the stars in turn, their hands pressed against a wall (or a rug made to look like one), looking into the camera with faces that reflect sadness and frustration. The audio consists of police radio and 911 calls—you’ll recognize snippets from the Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, and Terence Crutcher cases—spliced with news reports and demands for justice (notably, from Anderson Cooper and the viral YouTube video of Nakia Jones, an Ohio cop). Also featured: former Obama adviser and CNN regular Van Jones, Sophia Dawson, Marc Lamont Hill, Sydney G. James, and rapper Mysonne.

The PSA opens with Jordan and an audio clip from 89-year-old Belafonte, whose social justice organization, Sankofa, partnered with directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz to create the video. “You cannot just go about, if it’s once or twice you can say it’s an accident or a coincidence, but when you have as large a population of murdered young men in the streets of America and they’re all black or of African American descent, I think there is somebody sending us a message,” Belafonte says. “And we should respond to that message.”

The PSA ends with a shot of Williams, best known for his portrayal of Omar on The Wire, lying on the ground, presumably injured. His eyes close, the screen fades to black, and the takeaway message appears: “BLACK IS NOT A WEAPON.”

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Michael B. Jordan, Danny Glover, and Omar from “The Wire” Star in this Haunting Police Brutality Protest Video

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