Ferguson solidarity women, after marriage, four years in jail?


This video is called Ferguson protest leaders get engaged & apply for marriage license at St. Louis City Hall.

These two women, now married, Alexis Templeton and Brittany Ferrell, have been featured on this blog before.

Alexis Templeton and Brittany Ferrell

From SheWired in the USA:

Love Through Activism: Two Ferguson Protesters Get Engaged

Alexis Templeton and Brittany Ferrell proclaimed their love with a marriage proposal at St. Louis City Hall.

By: Trudy Ring

December 17 2014 6:22 PM

Love has blossomed through protests: Two women active in the protests over the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., are engaged to be married.

Alexis Templeton, 20, and Brittany Ferrell, 25, met in August at demonstrations calling for police accountability after Brown was shot to death by a Ferguson officer. Both are Ferguson residents and students at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, but they didn’t know each other previously. In an interview with The St. Louis American, Ferrell recalled when she first saw Templeton.

“She had on an UMSL shirt,” Ferrell said. “I was like, ‘Oh, hey.’ I embraced her just because she was there. You hug people and you welcome them, especially in a time like that.”

Their attraction to each other grew quickly. Templeton’s sister, Bre, said she learned about the relationship in mid-September. “Alex came up and sat with my son and she fed him,” she told The Huffington Post. “She was like, ‘Dude, I got a crush.’ I was like, ‘OK, that’s cool.’ And she was like, ‘No, I got a crush on a girl.’ I asked her how she felt about it and she said good. I asked her if she wanted to talk about it and she said no.”

Templeton and Ferrell discussed marriage in private Monday night, then made a public declaration Tuesday at St. Louis City Hall. “One hundred and thirty days ago, I fell in love with somebody and her 6-year-old mini me,” Templeton said to Ferrell in her proposal, in front of friends, strangers, and media, the American reports. “I didn’t expect you to want to be with me … other than fight on the front lines with me. You have every single piece of my heart.”

And now, today.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Ferguson protester faces four years’ jail over charges of kicking SUV

Brittany Ferrell accused by St Louis police of causing $5,000 damage to car as driver forced her way through demonstrators at Michael Brown anniversary

Jon Swaine in New York

Thursday 13 August 2015 02.09 BST

A protest leader in Ferguson, Missouri, could face up to four years in prison after being charged with a felony for allegedly kicking a vehicle as it ploughed through a line of peaceful demonstrators who were blocking a highway.

Brittany Ferrell was accused of causing damage worth more than $5,000 to the SUV as its driver forced her way through the group, which had gathered on Interstate 70 near Ferguson during events to mark the anniversary of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by a police officer.

Ferrell, 26, was charged with first-degree property damage, which is a class D felony in Missouri. She was also charged with trespassing and disturbing the peace, according to Bob McCulloch, the prosecuting attorney for St Louis county, who oversaw the grand jury inquiry into Brown’s death. Ferrell was released on a $10,000 bond on Wednesday.

Ferrell’s wife, Alexis Templeton, was charged with misdemeanour assault for allegedly punching the driver through her vehicle’s window, and misdemeanour charges similar to Ferrell’s for alleged trespass and disturbing the peace. Templeton, 21, has also been released.

The charges prompted a furious reaction among the wider Black Lives Matter protest movement. Brittany Packnett, an activist who sat on President Obama’s White House taskforce on police reform, said several demonstrators were struck by the vehicle.

“Feet don’t cause $5K worth of damage to cars,” Packnett said on Twitter. “McCulloch meant ‘drive over’, not past. They were almost hit.”

Soon after being released on Wednesday Templeton was defiant. “I’m not worried & y’all shouldn’t be either,” she said on Twitter. “We gon get free whether they like it or not!” She urged St Louis county police department to “quit lying”.

The two women are the co-founders of Millennial Activists United, an activist group that grew out of the demonstrations in Ferguson last summer. They married in December 2014 after months of protesting against the deaths of Brown and other people killed by police.

They were arrested the day after the rush-hour highway shutdown, which took place on a “Moral Monday” of civil disobedience, when they went to inquire about dozens of other people arrested during the protest action.

From Poynter.org in the USA:

Aug. 12, 2015 2:07 pm

The News Guild this afternoon condemned charges brought against two Washington-area journalists stemming from their brief detention while covering civil unrest in Missouri last year, joining the chorus of news organizations and journalists who have also voiced their concerns.

The charges, brought by St. Louis County against Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post, came nearly a full year after the pair were arrested in a Ferguson, Missouri McDonalds amid protests against the police in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing.

Lowery and Reilly have been charged with trespassing and interfering with a police officer and have been ordered to appear in a St. Louis County court. They could be arrested if they refuse.

In the statement, the News Guild President Bernie Lunzer called the charges “a gross abuse of power” and a “vile assault on the First Amendment.”

Edward Fitzpatrick: From Missouri to Iran, press freedom under attack: here.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain today about Ferguson:

PARAMILITARY vigilantes took to the streets of the US city of Ferguson on Tuesday as protests against police violence began to wind down.

Right-wing libertarian militia the Oath Keepers patrolled the streets of the racially divided city for a second night in a row, even as police outnumbered peaceful protesters.

The group, which purports to protect the US constitution, was first seen in the small hours of Tuesday on West Florissant Avenue, the centre of protests on the anniversary of the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

St Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar criticised the arrival of the militia, whose members openly carried assault rifles and handguns, as “both unnecessary and inflammatory.”

But Missouri Oath Keeper leader John Karriman said that police had approved their presence.

“We checked in with law enforcement when we got here, we told them what we were doing and who we were with,” said Mr Karriman.

“We walked up and they came over and we shook hands and smiled. We said we’re here to protect Info Wars,” referring to far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s website.

“They nodded and said: ‘Good on ya, just, if you would, please don’t walk through us’.”

Rexdale Henry, 53, a Choctaw activist, died on July 14 in unexplained and suspicious circumstances in the Neshoba County Jail in Philadelphia, Miss. He was being held for unpaid traffic fines, a minor misdemeanor charge: here.

United States air force kills five Syrian little girls, other civilians


This grandfather cries at the graves of his five grandchildren killed by international coalition air strikes on Atmeh, Syria

From Middle East Eye:

Five sisters among 8 civilians killed in US-led strike on Syrian village

Turkey denies its airbase was used for strike on an arms depot in the village of Atmeh, killing five sisters between the ages of 4 and 10

Wednesday 12 August 2015 16:34 UTC

At least 18 people, including several children, were reportedly killed by a US-led coalition airstrike in the northern Syrian village of Atmeh on Tuesday.

The target of the strike was a weapons depot belonging to the Jaish al-Sunna group, which is part of a rebel alliance that also includes the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.

The Observatory’s Rami Abdul Rahman initially said that the strikes killed 10 members of Jaish al-Sunna, in addition to a child. He later told AFP that a total of 18 people were killed.

“Eight of them were civilians, including five children and two women,” he said.

Atmeh is close to a large refugee camp and Abdul Rahman said residential buildings were near the target.

Aid workers on the ground took to social media to say that in addition to five children killed by the strike, four more were believed to be buried under rubble.

One aid worker wrote on Facebook that he had helped a man pull his wife and daughter alive out of the rubble.

“I was amazed that people could come out of that wreckage alive. After that, the other two children were already dead. Four more are still under the ground,” he said.

Hadi al-Abdullah, a Syrian journalist on the ground, interviewed Abu Bishr, the technical supervisor of the depot that was targeted who said six missiles hit the location after sunset.

The five children killed in the attack – Noor, Asia, Aminah, Haya and Fatima Omari – are sisters, aged between 4 and 10 years. Their mother has been hospitalised for her injuries. …

[Local] Idlibi said most of the local anger was directed at Ankara, which has started to allow US warplanes targeting the Islamic State militant group to use the Incirlik air base in southeast Turkey.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has denied reports that US military planes took off from Incirlik for the strike on Atmeh.

“No manned and unmanned aircrafts using the Incirlik Air Base participated in yesterday’s [Tuesday] air operation carried out by the coalition forces,” said the ministry.

It rejected as “misleading” and “evil-minded” reports in Turkish media that said aircraft returning from the attack flew towards Turkey.

Ahead of the Atmeh strike, the US had claimed that only two civilians have been killed by US-led coalition airstrikes against IS in Iraq and Syria.

But a report released earlier this month by Airwars, a team of independent journalists, found that more than 450 civilians were killed in the air campaign.

Sandra Bland, other African American women, and Texas police


This 25 July 2015 video from the USA is called Sandra Bland March & Vigil in Houston, Texas.

From the Voice of America:

Anger About Black Texas Woman’s Death in Jail Still Strong

Greg Flakus

August 07, 2015 8:20 PM

PRAIRIE VIEW, TEXAS— A makeshift memorial marks the spot where Sandra Bland was arrested after a traffic stop on July 10.

On July 13, she was found dead in her jail cell. Officials say it was suicide.

Bland’s college classmate Alex McGrew doubts that story.

“She was fun to be around,” he said. “She was a cool person and definitely not a sad, suicidal person at all.”

In video recordings she posted on Facebook, her lively, warm personality is evident. But she also spoke about struggling with depression.

“Do not let the depression hold you down; do not let it keep you in the spot where you are, because depression is nothing but the devil,” Bland says in one of the videos.

Those who believe she did take her life blame the Waller County Jail for being negligent and the state trooper who arrested her for being far too aggressive.

“She should not have died in that jail because, if at all, she should have been given a ticket and she should have been on her way,” U.S. Representative Al Green said at one community gathering.

The charge against Bland, 28, was assault on a police officer, which former Waller County Justice of the Peace Dewayne Charleston says set her up for poor treatment in jail.

“They would have denied her phone privileges; they would have delivered her meals late; they would have made her life miserable,” he said.

Waller County officials have denied any improper treatment of Bland in jail.

Some black people in Texas are willing to give officials the benefit of the doubt and await the result of investigations. But many others see the Bland case in the light of past discrimination.

The student population at nearby Prairie View A&M University, where Bland had gone to school, will swell to 9,000 by the end of the month, and Charleston plans to seek their support.

“When the 9,000 students come back, and all the faculty members come back from vacation, it is going to be a whole different ball game,” he said.

If there has not been a satisfactory resolution of the Bland case in the next few weeks, when students start arriving for the fall semester, activists say there will be many more, and much larger, protests.

Charnesia Corley (photo: Screenshot/ABC13)

From Raw Story in the USA:

Texas cops accused of threatening to break woman’s legs during public strip search

Bethania Palma Markus

07 Aug 2015 at 16:36 ET

A Texas woman says she suffered a nightmare scenario in which Harris County sheriff’s deputies sexually assaulted her in public during a traffic stop last month.

Charnesia Corley, 21, said officers with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department made her pull her pants down and did a body cavity search without her consent while she was lying in a gas station parking lot, according to ABC13.

Corley was driving to a nearby market when she was stopped by deputies. The department told the station she was pulled over for running a stop sign. After stopping her, the deputy ordered Corley out of her car because he said he smelled weed. He cuffed her and placed her in his patrol vehicle parked at a gas station.

After searching Corley’s car and finding nothing, the deputy returned to his car and said he smelled pot there. He called for a female deputy to search Corley, who ordered Corley out of the car and onto the ground.

“Then she tells me to pull my pants down,” Corley told ABC13. “I told her, I said, ‘well ma’am, I don’t have any underwear on.’ She says, ‘well that doesn’t matter. Pull your pants down.’”

While Corley was lying on the ground by her car in the parking lot, the deputy told her, “open your legs.” Corley said she responded that she didn’t want to.

“So she says, ‘well if you don’t open them, I’m going to break them,’” Corley said. “All I could do was just lay there. I felt helpless.”

Corley was charged with resisting arrest and possession of marijuana after deputies allegedly found .02 ounces of marijuana.

However, the department also argued that Corley consented to the search, which seemingly contradicts the allegation that she resisted.

Corley’s attorney, Sam Cammack, said a search in a public place like that is a violation of her civil rights.

“It’s undeniable that the search is unconstitutional,” he told ABC13.

As of now, Corley plans to file an internal affairs complaint.

Corley isn’t the only African-American Texas woman whose treatment by law enforcement has raised concern. Last month, Sandra Bland, 28, was arrested and and found dead in her Waller County jail cell, all because a Texas trooper pulled her over for failing to use her turn signal.

19-Year-Old Unarmed College Student Fatally Shot by Texas Police. Christian Taylor was all set to start his sophomore year at Angelo State University when he was shot dead by police, who claim that he was attempting to rob a car dealership, a claim his family finds hard to believe: here. And here.

Cleveland policeman aims gun at unarmed African American women


Cleveland policeman aims gun at unarmed African American women

From Countercurrent News in the USA:

Cleveland Cop Photographed Aiming Gun At Two Unarmed Black Women At Scene of Car Accident

August 6, 2015 10:35 am·

The Cleveland Police can’t seem to stay out of the news lately. Now, after a “rough year” from the Tamir Rice fall out, and the Officer Brelo trial, the department is catching heat for a photo that went viral over the weekend.

That image clearly showed a Cleveland police officer drawing his weapon and aiming it at two African American women. The women were completely unarmed and non-aggressive. They were at the scene of a hit and run traffic accident, according to a spokesperson for the Cleveland Police Department, who responded to this image on Monday.

The image first hit the Internet on Sunday, when it was posted to Reddit.

The image was shared via a photo from the Imgur service and has now been viewed million of times.

The picture shows the Cleveland officer on a motorcycle, ducking behind the vehicle and aiming his pistol at the two women. Both women seem surprised and shocked that the officer would be aiming a weapon at them, when they clearly had done nothing to warrant such violent aggression.

Knitting against racism in Missouri, USA


Yarn mission

After news about knitting for peace and against nuclear weapons in Britain, now news about knitting against racism and police brutality in Missouri in the USA.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Ferguson’s radical knitters: “If someone asks me what I’m doing, I say, ‘I’m knitting for black liberation”

One year after Ferguson protests sparked renewed focus on policing in the US, the women of The Yarn Mission continue dialogue about race and social justice

Sarah Kendzior in St Louis

Thursday 6 August 2015 17.21 BST

In a coffeehouse on the south side of St Louis, a group of women discuss how to knit, purl and dismantle white supremacy.

They are The Yarn Mission, a collective formed in October 2014 in response to the violence and police brutality in nearby Ferguson, Missouri.

The Yarn Mission seeks to “use yarn to promote action and change to eradicate racism, sexism, and other systems of oppression”. The group, founded by CheyOnna Sewell, a PhD student in criminology, seeks to spark conversation about race and police brutality by engaging with curious passersby as they knit, all while providing a comforting activity for beleaguered activists.

“As a black woman, you’re invisible,” says Taylor Payne, a member of the group. “But knitting makes people stop and have a conversation with you. If someone asks me what I’m doing, I say, ‘I’m knitting for black liberation.’ Sometimes they respond and sometimes I just get ‘Oh, my grandma knits,’ like the person didn’t hear me. But at least it opens the door to talking about my experiences.”

Sewell and Payne are protesters who have been active in the Ferguson movement since it began last summer. According to Sewell, the Yarn Mission forces local citizens to see Ferguson activists in different ways.

“People who would never otherwise talk to you will engage with you about what you’re doing,” she says. “They come to see that the people who are out in the street are very nice, and that we are openly talking about race and racism. The group provides a path into the movement that people aren’t even looking for.”

Though anyone can join the Yarn Mission, the group consists mainly of black St Louis women who meet every other Sunday to knit and chat in parks and coffee shops. The number of knitters present at each session has ranged from a few to more than 20, with women of all ages participating. One of the group’s goals is to encourage community engagement by knitting in public spaces, with the members’ colorful handmade items serving as the impetus to a surprising conversation.

“People consistently underestimate the power of knitting,” says Sewell. “They don’t recognize its radical properties. They’re always surprised when they talk to us about what why we’re knitting, like, ‘Is she talking about racism right now? Did she really just say ‘police brutality?’”

Inside MoKaBe’s, a coffeehouse where the group frequently meets – and where protesters were famously teargassed last November as Ferguson burned – a display of cowls and scarves stands on a back room table. One is labeled a “unity cowl” with a tag declaring: “Look at the cowl’s pattern and you will see the properties of unity. Even when we seem loose and spread out, we are connected.”

According to Sewell, the Yarn Mission not only furthers discussion of racism and sexism, but serves an under-represented group: black knitters.

“When you see images of women knitting on TV, they’re predominantly white,” she says. “When you go into a local yarn store, everyone is white. The concept of having time for leisure is predominantly white. As a black person you might not want to join an all-white knitting group, you might feel like it’s safer to censor yourself in those circumstances. But I always feel that anyone who wants to come here can. If you want to be the Yarn Mission, then you are the Yarn Mission.”

On a warm August day, the group knitting at MoKaBe’s comprised three black women and one white woman. Over brunch they discussed the weather, but soon the conversation turned to Sandra Bland, the black woman who died in a Texas jail.

“That could have been me,” said one woman. “Some people are threatened by us existing,” said another, casting on a loop of pink yarn. “You’re just supposed to say ‘Yes’m, master.”

The women who participate in the Yarn Mission view it as a form of activism, but it is one that helps relieve stress. They cannot escape structural racism, but coming together to knit offers solace in a community exhausted by police brutality.

“It’s scary,” Sewell says, “because the police will come after you, no matter how organized and important the work is that’s being done. Knitting offers a little relaxation and relief. It shows we can come together in other ways too, in places that feel a little safer.”

The group has found support from local yarn shops like Knitorious, which has donated yarn, and in advocates like St Louis Rabbi Susan Talve, who has helped the women expand their business network. The Yarn Mission sells their goods, seeing it as a path to self-sufficiency. They hope to shop their wares in farmers markets and craft expos, and are planning to reach out to the younger generation.

“I have a meeting with the principal of the Ferguson-Florissant elementary school to talk about being involved in their afterschool program,” says Payne. “I want kids to see the possibilities of creativity and entrepreneurship, and to have an artistic outlet. That’s never taught. In school you’re taught how to be an employee and work for someone else.”

The Yarn Mission plans to expand as Sewell relocates to Minneapolis while Payne teaches knitting at the St Louis branch. Sewell hopes The Yarn Mission will one day become a national organization.

“Knitting can help you feel productive,” she adds. “When so much of what we do as activists is pursuing social and racial justice, it’s easy to feel like we’re not accomplishing anything. For me, the feeling that I’m finishing something is really critical.”

With attention still focused on Sandra Bland’s mysterious death in a Texas jail cell, four other deaths involving the police and jail are making their way into the national consciousness: here.

Music’s Role in the Movement for Black Lives: An Interview With Robert Glasper: here.