Ferguson police crackdown violated US and international law, Amnesty says


This music video from the USA says about itself:

Uncle Murda Ft Maino & Jay Watts – Hands Up (Michael Brown/Eric Garner Tribute) 2014 New CDQ

30 August 2014

Uncle Murda teams up with Maino and singer Jay Watts for “Hands Up.” Their anger at the injustice of police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and so many other minorities at the hands of police in America is palpable.

By Andre Damon in the USA:

Amnesty International: Ferguson police crackdown violated US and international law

25 October 2014

The crackdown on peaceful protesters by police in Ferguson, Missouri violated numerous US and international laws, according to a report published Friday by Amnesty International.

The report, “The streets of America: Human rights abuses in Ferguson,” extensively documents systematic acts of police violence against peaceful protestors and the arrest of media and international observers. It details the suppression of rights protected under the US Constitution, international law and international human rights agreements.

The report comes as police are “stocking up on riot gear,” as a report by the Associated Press put it, in preparation for renewed protests next month in the event that a grand jury fails to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown on August 9.

“What Amnesty International witnessed in Missouri on the ground this summer underscored that human rights abuses do not just happen across borders and oceans,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

Hawkins added, “Standing on W. Florissant Avenue with my colleagues, I saw a police force, armed to the teeth, with military-grade weapons. I saw a crowd that included the elderly and young children fighting the effects of tear gas.”

Police confronted protesters while “armed with semi-automatic weapons and leashed police dogs,” the report notes. “Officers moved among the protesters using armored vehicles which are more commonly seen in a conflict zone rather than the streets of a suburban town in the United States.” It adds, “Some of the officers had… no names, badges, other identifying information visible.”

The report concludes, “In all, more than 170 individuals were arrested during the first 12 days of protests since Michael Brown’s death.” More than three quarters of arrests were for the ad-hoc charge of “failure to disperse.”

The report documents the attack on free speech and the media. “Legal and human rights observers as well as members of the media have repeatedly been obstructed” by police, it notes. “From August 13 through October 2, at least 19 journalists and members of the media were arrested by law enforcement, with others subjected to tear gas and the use of rubber bullets… Reporters for CNN, Al Jazeera America and other outlets report being harassed or physically threatened.”

When Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who headed the police response in the area, was asked at a press conference why members of the press were being targeted for arrest, he replied, “It is difficult to tell who is media and who is disguising themselves as such.”

The report documents one particularly shocking event, when Ryan Devereaux of the Intercept and Lukas Hermsmeier of the German Bild-Zeitung were shot with rubber bullets and arrested while fleeing from a barrage of tear gas.

The report recounts, “After coming out [from] behind cover with their hands in the air, shouting, ‘Press!’ and ‘Journalists’ and ‘We’re media!’ [an] officer allowed them to pass. However, as Devereaux and Hermsmeier continued walking with their hands in the air, shouting ‘Press!’ the same officer shot rubber bullets at them, hitting both journalists in the back. Out of fear, they dove behind a car. The officers approached with guns pointed and arrested them.”

On another occasion, Amnesty International observers were threatened by police while they were seeking to leave a protest scene after determining that they were in danger from tear gas and rubber bullets. “One officer directly in front of the delegation pointed his weapon at the delegation and shouted ‘get on the ground!’ A staff member at the front of the delegation knelt on the ground and informed the officer, ‘We are human rights observers.’”

In another incident, “Amnesty International witnessed an officer with the St. Ann Police Department in Missouri point his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle at a group of journalists and threaten to kill them.”

The Amnesty International report notes that the practice of pointing firearms at peaceful protestors violates US law and international conventions. “Under the UN’s Basic Principles for the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials,” the report states, “law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury.” In adds, “An officer pointing a gun at close range at an unarmed individual who is not presenting a threat would also be excessive use of force under US law.”

The report concludes that the police sought to “collectively punish” local residents and peaceful protestors. It notes that the imposition of a curfew “limited not only the rights of those who were demonstrating peacefully, but also the freedom of movement of the general public in Ferguson, who were required to be off of the streets after midnight each night.”

The illegal and unconstitutional character of the police response was summed up by an injunction issued by a federal judge earlier this month against the so-called “five second rule,” an arbitrary directive that police used to abrogate the constitutionally protected right of peaceful assembly. The judge said the order allowed “police officers, if they felt like it, to order peaceful, law-abiding protesters to keep moving rather than standing still.” She concluded, “As it was applied in this case, the practice… violates the Constitution.”

The Amnesty International report, together with the nationwide militarization of the police and the ongoing wave of police killings, exposes the claims of the US government that Washington’s endless wars and international provocations are motivated by a desire to defend “human rights.

Autopsy shows St. Louis teenager Vonderrit Myers was gunned down by police while fleeing: here.

Bahrain, CNN and censorship


This video from the USA says about itself:

1 October 2014

Amber Lyon recounts her time spent covering the Bahrain conflict and how CNN censored her story about the events taking place there.

Bahrain: Free Activists Facing Free-Speech Charges: here.

Michael Brown smeared in United States media


This video from Ferguson, Missori in the USA is about Michael Brown having his hands up when police officer Darren Wilson killed him, as witnesses confirm.

By Andre Damon in the USA:

US media campaign to exonerate cop who killed Michael Brown

23 October 2014

On Wednesday, the Washington Post and St. Louis Post-Dispatch joined the ongoing media campaign to vilify Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager gunned down by a cop in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9.

The media reports are part of a coordinated campaign to prepare the public for the possibility that a grand jury will fail to charge the officer, Darren Wilson. The grand jury is expected to decide whether to charge Wilson early next month.

On Wednesday morning the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published what it claimed to be “the most detailed account of Wilson’s version of the Aug. 9 event to be made public,” in an article entitled: “Source: Darren Wilson says Michael Brown kept charging at him.”

The publication of Wilson’s account was coordinated with the release by the newspaper of the St. Louis medical examiner’s autopsy of Brown, which had been provided to the newspaper by an unnamed source.

The Post-Dispatch sought to present the autopsy report as confirming Wilson’s version of events, claiming that a grazed bullet wound on Brown’s hand indicated that the young man was reaching for Wilson’s gun. It quoted Judy Melinek, a former medical examiner, saying that the autopsy definitively supports claims that Brown was shot at least once at close range and had reached for Wilson’s gun. She told the Post-Dispatch, “If he has his hand near the gun when it goes off, he’s going for the officer’s gun.”

This interpretation is entirely speculative and groundless. Witnesses have said that Wilson attempted to choke Brown through the window of his car, and that he was attempting to get free when Wilson shot him the first time. If the circumstances described by witnesses is true, it is not at all implausible for Brown’s hand to have been near Wilson’s gun when it went off.

Melinek is not an impartial expert. In an August 20 column on CNN.com, months before she saw the official autopsy, Melinek sought to cast doubt on witnesses’ accounts that Brown was surrendering when he was killed. She also sought to discredit the second autopsy performed by former New York City medical examiner Michael Baden, claiming that “releasing preliminary information when the investigation is still ongoing is premature and potentially inflammatory.”

In fact, the report does not even unambiguously indicate that Brown was shot in the hand at close range. The report notes the absence of powder burns around the edge of the gunshot wound, which would be expected if the wound had in fact been inflicted within the car.

The real story revealed in the autopsy is one of a young man who was apparently brutalized and then shot multiple times by a police officer. The autopsy shows two gunshot wounds to the head, including one to the crown of the head in a downward direction and another to the forehead, also aimed downward. That is in addition to multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and arms, as well as abrasions on the face.

The autopsy report should in any case be treated with a high degree of skepticism, as the police had hours to tamper with the scene before the medical examiner even arrived. The medical examiner was only contacted an hour and a half after the shooting, and by the time he arrived “the deceased was cool to the touch,” and “rigor mortis was slightly felt in his extremities,” according to the autopsy.

Brown’s lawyers pointed out that what happened inside Wilson’s police vehicle had no bearing on Wilson’s decision to shoot Brown as he was running away. “We are not surprised by the information leaked last night by the St. Louis Medical Examiner’s office,” said Benjamin Crump, the lead attorney for the family, in an email to the World Socialist Web Site. “Several independent witnesses indicated there was a brief altercation between Michael Brown and Officer Wilson at the patrol car.”

He concluded, “What we want to know is why Officer Wilson shot Michael Brown multiple times and killed him even though he was more than 20 feet away from his patrol car; this is the crux of the matter!”

“Keep in mind there are two separate and distinct events occurring on this day: one at the vehicle, the other one, outside of the vehicle,” said Anthony D. Gray, a lawyer for the family of Michael Brown, also in an email to the WSWS. According to the account allegedly given by Wilson to the grand jury, Brown, after having been shot twice, began to run away from the police car, then turned around and “began running toward” the officer, was shot twice more, then resumed charging at Wilson.

Mr. Gray called this version of events “absurd.” He added, “That version of events is not supported by anyone that witnessed this shooting.” Wilson “can’t concur with what the majority of the witnesses saw outside of the vehicle because if he does, he would be confessing to cold-blooded murder.”

While none of the witnesses who have spoken to the press agreed with Wilson’s claims, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, based on unnamed sources, that unnamed individuals have testified before the grand jury backing up Wilson’s account of the shooting. “Seven or eight African American eyewitnesses have provided testimony consistent with Wilson’s account, but none of them have spoken publicly out of fear for their safety, The Washington Post’s sources said.”

Here, again, nothing can be taken at face value. In all likelihood the Post’s sources for the grand jury proceeding are elements within the state that have a vested interest in seeing Wilson go free. Instead of treating the sources with requisite skepticism, the Post and other newspapers are taking these unnamed sources entirely at their word and passing on their claims to the public as good coin.

The Washington Post and St. Louis Post-Dispatch did not reply to voicemails requesting more information on what level of fact-checking had been conducted on their sources’ claims.

Wednesday’s leaks follow the publication of an article Friday by the New York Times, based on unnamed sources in the federal government, claiming that evidence presented to the grand jury pointed to Wilson’s innocence. The Times also indicated that the federal government is not planning on filing civil rights charges against Wilson.

The coordinated leaks, presented uncritically by major newspapers and used as the basis for sweeping and groundless claims, are made possible by the decision of St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch to present evidence in the shooting before a grand jury.

The decision to even go before a grand jury is entirely voluntary on the part of McCulloch. Those suspected of murder in Missouri usually have a hearing where evidence is reviewed by a judge who decides whether there is a basis to proceed with a prosecution.

McCulloch has a record of using grand jury proceedings. Despite more than a dozen police killings in St. Louis County since he became prosecutor, McCulloch has never filed criminal charges against any of the officers. He did present four such cases to a grand jury, but he obtained no indictments.

Contrary to the usual procedure, McCulloch has not made any recommendation to the grand jury as to whether to indict Wilson. Instead, he is presenting a voluminous amount of evidence to the grand jury, including testimony by Wilson himself, in an unusually long procedure.

By using this method, McCulloch is creating the illusion of a fair procedure, while in fact stacking the deck in favor of Wilson. The entire proceeding is being kept secret. At the same time, this procedure allows state authorities to selectively leak information to the press that will be favorable to Wilson’s case.

In this charade, the press—including the Washington Post, New York Times, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch—is functioning as a pliant tool of the state in order to condition public opinion for what is looking increasingly likely: the failure to bring charges against the killer of Michael Brown.

“Hey, White People”: A Message From Ferguson’s Kids: here.

Afghans demonstrate against NATO occupation and ISIS


Afghans demonstrate against NATO occupation and ISIS

From emptywheel in the USA:

Described Focus of Protest in Kabul Dependent on News Outlet

Published October 13, 2014 | By Jim White

A protest variously described as featuring “over a hundred”, “hundreds” or “over 500″ protesters took place in Kabul on Sunday. The object of the protest, however, was very dependent on whose report (or even whose headline) on the protest is being read.

The Wall Street Journal ran with the headline “Islamic State’s Siege of Kobani, Syria Sparks Protest in Kabul, Afghanistan” while Iran’s PressTV went with “Afghan protesters blast US-led forces, BSA”. Remarkably, Afghanistan’s Khaama Press did not see it necessary to spin the focus of the protest in a particular direction, using the headline “Afghans protest against Islamic State, US and NATO forces in Kabul”.

The Khaama Press article quickly sums up the protest:

Over 500 people participated in a demonstration against the Islamic State and presence of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The protesters were shouting slogans against the presence of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and in support of the Kurdish people who are fighting the Islamic State militants.

Protesters were also carrying signs purporting crimes committed by US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and resistance of the female Kurdish fighters against the Islamic State.

The US and NATO were also accused by protester[s] for supporting the extremist groups in Afghanistan and Kobane.

We learn in the article that the protest was organized by the Solidarity party of Afghanistan, which Khaama described as “a small and left wing political party in the country”. Presumably, since they were allowed to stage the protest, the ban on the party issued in 2012 must have been lifted.

One has to read the Wall Street Journal article very carefully to find any evidence of the US criticism that was in the protest. The article opens:

Residents of Kabul have a war on their own doorstep: The provinces around the Afghan capital have seen an upsurge in violence this year.

But the conflict in Syria was on the minds of demonstrators who marched Sunday in solidarity with the town of Kobani, Syria, currently under siege by Islamic State militants.

Over a hundred Afghans—most of them women—held placards supporting Kurdish fighters defending the city.

Near the end, the article mentions, but dismisses as “conspiracy theory”, the accusations of US involvement in the creation of ISIS:

Conspiracy theories often thrive in Afghanistan, and at Sunday’s protest, many demonstrators expressed the belief that Islamic State was a U.S. creation. Some held placards saying, “Yankee Go Home.”

The article then mentions the BSA without stating that it was also a target of the protest other than citing the “Yankee Go Home” sign.

Pajhwok news agency in Afghanistan reports:

Hundreds attend anti-US/NATO rally in Kabul

KABUL (Pajhwok): Calling the new government as undemocratically elected, hundreds of people on Sunday took to the streets in the central capital Kabul, condemning security accords with the US and NATO.

The protestors, including women, marched from the Cinema Pamir locality to the Maiwand Square in Kabul City.

They called the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with NATO as shackling the nation into chains of slavery.

The protestors claimed permanent US military bases in Afghanistan could be a step towards a third world war.

The protest was organised by the National Solidarity Party. A member of the party, Hafizullah Rasikh told Pajhwok Afghan News the demonstration was aimed at condemning the presence of US/NATO forces in Afghanistan under the BSA and SOFA.

“The new government is not based on people’s votes but a deal brokered by (US president) Obama and (secretary of state) John Kerry,” he added.