Eric Garner, killed with impunity


Protesters sing Christmas carols at Grand Central Station denouncing the recent decisions by two grand juries not to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men in New York City and Ferguson, Missouri, in New York City December 7, 2014

This photo shows protesters singing Christmas carols at New York City Grand Central Station denouncing the decisions by two grand juries not to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men Eric Garner and Michael Brown in New York City and Ferguson, Missouri; December 7, 2014.

By Fred Mazelis in the USA:

Grand jury witnesses told not to mention police “chokehold” in Eric Garner case

18 June 2015

July 17 will mark exactly one year since a police chokehold in the New York City borough of Staten Island led to the death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father of six. The killing of Garner was caught on video and fueled national and international outrage over police violence and brutality. Following the Garner case, the murders of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott and Freddie Gray, among hundreds of others, have powerfully illustrated the explosive social tensions in US cities, and the war being conducted with special ferocity against the poorest sections of the working class.

Last Sunday the New York Times returned to the death of Eric Garner. A lengthy front-page article, continuing over two full pages inside the newspaper, confirms the essential elements that were already known about this police killing, while adding some important details on the immediate background as well as the aftermath, culminating in the grand jury exoneration of Daniel Pantaleo, the officer whose chokehold led to Garner’s death.

The chokehold, and not Garner’s obesity, asthma, diabetes and hypertension (as was originally suggested by the police), was the cause of his death. The original internal police report omitted mention of the chokehold, which had been banned by the New York Police Department (NYPD) more than 20 years earlier, but continued to be routinely used by the police. If not for the video evidence on the arrest and death of Garner, the truth would not have been known.

Especially important, the latest details show how the grand jury process ending in the decision not to indict Pantaleo was crudely manipulated by the office of the District Attorney for Richmond County (Staten Island).

District Attorney Daniel Donovan has refused to release the testimony before the grand jury. Grand juries almost always follow the lead of the DA’s office, which organizes and shepherds the case towards indictment or, as in this case, a decision not to indict.

Several witnesses talked to the Times, and their stories thoroughly vindicate the conclusion drawn by the WSWS last December, that the grand jury had been used to cover up this police murder.

A beauty store manager, Rodney Lee, was one of the witnesses who said they had heard a police sergeant tell the plainclothes officers, including Pantaleo, to let up as they held Garner on the ground with his neck in a chokehold. A sergeant said, “Let up, you got him already,” but one of the cops apparently ignored this. Another witness, Garner’s friend Ramsey Orta, whose 16-minute video showed that Garner had been the victim of a homicide, also testified that a sergeant said, “Let him go, let him go, he’s done.”

Lee said that he left the grand jury feeling there was no interest in his testimony. “They didn’t ask me nothing,” he told the Times. Orta’s account was also apparently dismissed. In fact, several weeks after the killing of Garner and the circulation of Orta’s video exposing the role of the police, Orta himself was under arrest on dubious gun charges, which he declared were police payback and the result of a set-up.

Most significant is the account of Taisha Allen, another eyewitness. She video-recorded the appearance of emergency medical technicians on the scene and the long delay in providing any assistance to Garner. Allen said that the authorities interfered with her testimony before the grand jury.

The prosecutors urged her to “watch her words,” according to the Times account. “When she said Mr. Garner did not appear to have a pulse, a prosecutor stepped in. ‘Don’t say it like that,’ she recalled the prosecutor saying. ‘You’re only assuming he didn’t have a pulse.’”

“A prosecutor also interjected when she told jurors how Mr. Garner was taken to the ground. ‘I said they put him in a chokehold,’ Ms. Allen recalled saying. ‘Well you can’t say they put him in a chokehold,’ she said a prosecutor responded.”

The latest report also reviews the fact that the five-page internal police report issued in the hours after Garner’s death made no mention of any contact with his neck, and that the video evidence changed the situation. An autopsy was done the next day and the city’s medical examiner cited the video as one element in the determination that the death was caused by the chokehold. The Times refers to “telltale signs of choking: strap muscle hemorrhages in his neck and petechial hemorrhages in his eyes,” with no sign of drugs or alcohol present.

The attack that killed Eric Garner cannot be separated from the social conditions in Staten Island and other working class neighborhoods and communities. The largely African-American neighborhood of Tompkinsville is plagued by unemployment, poverty, inadequate services and all of the social ills that flow from these products of the economic crisis and worsening conditions facing the working class since the financial collapse of nearly 7 years ago.

Garner was one of a number of men who attempted to support themselves and their families by selling loose cigarettes on the street near Tompkinsville Park, a short distance from the Ferry Terminal, with the gleaming skyscrapers of lower Manhattan in the distance.

For the NYPD, however, the sale of untaxed cigarettes falls under the category of “broken windows” policing. This doctrine—heavy-handed crackdowns on minor “quality of life” crimes, which allegedly translates into lower crime rates overall—was first enunciated 20 years ago by William Bratton, who was then police commissioner under mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Bratton left and later held the top police job in Los Angeles, but he returned after Bill de Blasio won the mayoral election in November 2013. De Blasio made opposition to the “stop and frisk” policy that was subjecting hundreds of thousands of youth and workers to harassment and humiliation, especially in minority neighborhoods, a central plank of his campaign. Both de Blasio and Bratton made clear, however, that “broken windows” policing would continue. Tactics have been slightly modified, but the basic approach remains the same.

The spot where Eric Garner was killed had already seen at least 98 arrests that year, along with 100 criminal summonses, according to the Times. A few miles away the billionaire criminals of Wall Street have no worries, but the impoverished sellers of loose cigarettes fall into a different category. Eric Garner had already been arrested twice earlier this year on charges of selling untaxed cigarettes. While it appears that he was not selling on July 17, he was nevertheless in the crosshairs of the local cops.

Earlier that month, after he had stood his ground and told the police to back off, he had not been arrested. This time, perhaps concerned that the earlier incident would give Garner and others the wrong idea, the police meant business. A lieutenant from the 120th Precinct had earlier passed a group on Bay Street. Pantaleo and another officer, both in plainclothes, were sent to the scene. Within a few minutes, Garner was dead.

Eleven months later, it is clear that nothing has changed in relation to police violence. DA Donovan has been rewarded for his work on the Garner case by election to the US Congress representing Staten Island. The NYPD has ended its investigation into Garner’s death but delayed release of the results pending the conclusion of a civil rights inquiry by the federal Justice Department.

Jazz musician Ornette Coleman, RIP


This video from the USA, about music recorded in 1959, is called Ornette ColemanLonely Woman.

From the New York Times in the USA:

Ornette Coleman, Jazz Innovator, Dies at 85

By BEN RATLIFF

JUNE 11, 2015

Ornette Coleman, the alto saxophonist and composer who was one of the most powerful and contentious innovators in the history of jazz, died on Thursday morning in Manhattan. He was 85.

The cause was cardiac arrest, a representative of the family said.

Mr. Coleman widened the options in jazz and helped change its course. Partly through his example in the late 1950s and early ’60s, jazz became less beholden to the rules of harmony and rhythm, and gained more distance from the American songbook repertoire. His own music, then and later, became a new form of highly informed folk song: deceptively simple melodies for small groups with an intuitive, collective language, and a strategy for playing without preconceived chord sequences.

Though his early work— a kind of personal answer to his fellow alto saxophonist and innovator Charlie Parker— lay right within jazz — and generated a handful of standards among jazz musicians of the last half-century — he later challenged assumptions about jazz from top to bottom, bringing in his own ideas about instrumentation, process and technical expertise.

See also here.

World’s oldest deck of cards exhibited in New York


King, queen and knave cards in oldest deck of cards

This photo shows king, queen and knave (court jester) cards in the oldest deck of cards known in the world.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Deck of cards discovered by Dutchman exhibited in New York

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in the coming period a special deck of cards will be on display. It is the oldest complete card game in the world and it has been discovered by an Amsterdam antiques dealer.

Harry Kenter bought the game in 1978 at an auction in Paris. He paid 8,000 guilders. In the catalog it was presented as an incomplete tarot game from the 16th century, but Kenter immediately thought the game was older.

The card game is from Flanders and is called Court Years Hunting Package. Instead of hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs there are hunting pictures on the cards: hunting horns, dog collars, dog lines and snares to catch animals.

The medieval deck of cards

“It took years before we knew that the game must have been made between 1470 and 1480. Museums and institutes helped us with researching the clothes shown on the cards. There were also samples of the paper. That study showed that there were no substances in it younger than 1450.” The watermark in the paper of the game was used between 1466 and 1479 in the Netherlands and South Flanders.

The short jackets and hair cut above the ears was fashionable in dynasties between 1470 and 1480. Like the pointed shoes, which in 1480 went out of fashion.

I was taken under police escort to Sotheby’s – Harry Kenter

The hand-painted cards are in exceptionally good condition and were probably property of a prince who never used them. For what game they were intended is not known. Just like our current decks one can in principle play any card game with it, like a game of poker or bridge, although these games did not exist in the 15th century.

In 1983 Kenter sold the game to the museum for $ 143,000. That happened in London at an auction at Sotheby’s, where he was taken to under police escort.

“In Amsterdam I once cycled around with the deck of cards in my pocket, but the insurance told me to really never do that again. If I wanted to show the deck to friends, I had to take them to a bank, where the vault was. Then I told my wife that it was useless to us and that we should auction the deck.”

Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, murdered by fascists, new documents


This video says about itself:

Federico Garcia Lorca: 5 Poems from Poet in New York

6 November 2010

Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) From Poet in New York

In his prefatory remarks before an audience assembled for a reading of Poet in New York in Buenos Aires in 1933, Garcia Lorca said, “I bring you a bitter and living poetry to lash your eyes open.” [1]

Born June 5, 1898 near Granada, Federico Garcia Lorca’s mother was a pianist [2] and school teacher. [3] His father was a landowner with interests in the sugar trade. [4] Garcia Lorca spent summers in the countryside of Granada. When mature, he wrote, “I love the land. All my emotions tie me to it. The first memories I have are of the earth.” [5] He was first interested in music. He started writing after the death of his piano teacher, [6] and first wrote poetry before he was twenty. [7]

He had been interested in Andalusian folk music and incorporated it into his writing. But he was concerned about becoming “typecast” as a “gypsy poet.” [12]

Garcia Lorca studied law in Madrid. He became interested in surrealist and experimental art and published with other avant garde artists known as Generation of 1927. [10] While in the Madrid, he befriended Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali, with whom he was interested in becoming intimate. Dali declined Garcia Lorca’s advances, and Lorca became dispirited and estranged from Dali. [9] He fell in love with sculptor Emilio Aladren, but became depressed once again, when the affair ended. [11]

Garcia Lorca sailed for New York. He arrived at the time of the stock market crash of 1929. In his introduction to the Grove Press edition of Poet in New York, Angel Del Rio suggests, “if we bear this in mind, it is not difficult to understand how the loneliness that he brought with him found a perfect counterpoint in the disruption and lack of direction… the city forced upon him.” [13] Del Rio says Garcia Lorca walked throughout New York, but only had relationships with other Spanish speakers. [14]

Garcia Lorca had returned to Spain by the time the Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936. Though he had no political affiliations, [15] he was known as a homosexual and a friend of leftist intellectuals. He was taken into custody by Nationalists August 16, 1936 . It is believed he was tortured and shot the next day. He is believed to have been buried in a mass grave, but his body has never been recovered. [16]

======================
Poems Read: (Note: I read from translation by Ben Belitt from Poet in New York, Grove Press, 1955

Back from a Walk (not available on line)

Landscape of the Vomiting Multitudes

Dawn

Cow (not available on line)

Death (not available on line)

======================
Sources and Notes

[1] Alfredo de la Guardia in Garcia Lorca: persona y creación, (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sur, 1941) from Poet in New York, Federico Garcia Lorca, translated by Ben Belitt, Grove Press, New York, 1955. P. 183

[2][9] Wikipedia: Garcia Lorca

[3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [10] [11] [12] [15] [16]BooksFactory: Garcia Lorca, Federico

[13] Angel Del Rio, Introduction: Poet in New York: Twenty-Five Years After, in Poet in New York, Federico Garcia Lorca, translated by Ben Belitt, Grove Press, New York, 1955.p. Xxiii

[14] page xvi

By Alejandro López in Spain:

Documents confirm fascists murdered Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca

30 April 2015

Two police reports published for the first time by Cadena Ser radio station show that one of the greatest poets and playwrights of the twentieth century, Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936), was executed by right-wing fascist forces in the summer of 1936.

The report, written in 1965 by the Regional Brigade of Social Investigation of the Police Headquarters of Granada, directed to the civil governor of the province, is the first official admission that fascist forces murdered Lorca, whose remains have yet to be found. It describes Lorca as a “socialist,” a friend of the Socialist Party leader Fernando de los Rios, and a “freemason belonging to the Alhambra lodge” who engaged in “homosexualist [sic] and abnormal practices.”

The report details how, in late August 1936, four weeks after Franco’s fascist army rebelled against the democratically-elected Popular Front government, the “Glorious National Movement surprised [Lorca] in the capital [of the province] where he had arrived days before from Madrid (where he had his regular residence)”. After his house was registered, “feeling fear, he hid in the house of his friends, the Rosales brothers, Falangist members […] where he stayed until the moment of his arrest”.

“From that moment onwards,” continues the report, “the information that we were able to collect is very confusing and the only thing that we have been able to clarify is that the detainee was taken away from the Civil Government [where he was under arrest] by forces which depended on the latter and was taken by car to Viznar (Granada) […] together with another detainee whose personal circumstances are unknown, executed after having confessed, and buried in that location, in a very shallow grave, in a ravine.” Hours before, his brother-in-law, Manuel Fernández-Montesinos, the Socialist Party mayor of Granada, was shot.

The document was written at the request of the French Hispanist and friend of Lorca, Marcelle Auclair, who addressed the Spanish Embassy in Paris in June 1965 to request information. The embassy then passed it on to the Foreign Minister Fernando María Castiella, in favour of responding to the request. Information and Tourism Minister Manuel Fraga, future founder of the right-wing Popular Party (PP), currently Spain’s ruling party, was also informed of the facts.

Another document released by Cadena Ser is a letter from Castiella to interior chief Camilo Alonso Vega. It states that Fraga had said that it was “extremely advisable to look over the matter and find out whether we can or cannot open our archives about the García Lorca episode”. However, Auclair never herself received any response, probably because the document exposed the false claims made by Franco himself, who said that “The writer died while mixing with the rebels, these are natural accidents of war.”

Ian Gibson—an authoritative biographer of Lorca, who led an unofficial investigation into his death in the 1970s under Franco and has written multiple books on Lorca’s murder—told the daily El País: “It demonstrates that it was not a street killing, that he was taken out by the civil government to be murdered. They themselves say it.”

The police report published by Cadena Ser is a rarity in modern Spain. Historians still do not have full access to documents from the army, the church and the public administration that would help establish the number of victims of fascist murder during the Spanish Civil War, and the identity of those responsible for the killings.

The ruling class is determined to cut workers off from historical knowledge of the working class revolutionary struggles against capitalism in the 20th century. … The fascists received an amnesty and a tacit “pact of forgetting” about their crimes.

The PP, whose origins lie in Franco’s National Movement, cut the budget for the Law of Historical Memory, forcing organizations dedicated to recovering the remains of victims of the Civil War to rely on donations. Together with the Socialist Party (PSOE), the PP has refused to extradite to Argentina former Franco officials responsible for crimes against humanity. They rejected UN recommendations to ensure that families of the disappeared receive official help in locating their relatives’ remains.

At the same time, the Ministry of Defence continues to repatriate the remains of the Spanish volunteers of the Blue Division that fought in the German Army’s war of annihilation against the USSR during the Second World War.

The revelations of Lorca’s murder cut across this reactionary rewriting of history aimed at downplaying the crimes of fascism. The killing of this great artist was part of a systematic terror campaign by the fascists against the organized working class and anyone suspected of opposition.

In May 1936, General Mola, one of the leaders of the coup two months later, gave the following instructions to military bases: “The action must be extremely violent as soon as possible to reduce the enemy, which is strong and well-organised. Of course, we will arrest all the leaders of the political parties, associations or unions that are not affiliated with the [National] movement, applying exemplary punishment to those individuals in order to strangle rebel movements or strikes.”

On July 17, 1936, Franco led a military uprising from Spanish Morocco to overturn the Popular Front government, calling on all military garrisons to rise up against the Republic. Workers responded by forming rank-and-file antifascist militias. In the areas they seized, the fascists enforced a policy of systematic mass murder of political opponents.

Granada, where García Lorca was captured, was one of the first to fall. According to the historians Rafael Gil Bracero and Maribel Brenes, around 4,000 people from Granada alone where executed, including “red intellectuals” whom the fascists hated for “predicating Marxism and democracy”.

José María Bérriz, a lawyer and sympathiser of the fascists, hailed the repression in Granada in a letter to right-wing bankers on holiday in Portugal: “The army wants to extirpate from the root the bad plants that were destroying Spain. I think they will achieve this. The army courts work day and night and the sentences are very severe. The executions of trade unionists, teachers and doctors continue; they fall in the dozens. The city is happy.”

It is estimated that approximately 10,000 bodies are still buried in 57 mass graves around the province.

The author also recommends:

Spain: controversy surrounds opening of Garcia Lorca’s grave
[28 August 2004]

Bald eagle nest in New York City, first in 100 years


This BBC video is called Bald Eagle catches salmon.

From Mother Nature Network in the USA:

Bald eagles starting a family in New York City

The majestic pair have what’s believed to be the first active nest in 100 years

By: Ali Berman

Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 01:19 PM

In Alaska, seeing a bald eagle swooping overhead is magical, if not relatively common. In New York City, it’s a minor miracle.

An elated New York City Audubon announced that a pair of bald eagles has been spotted with what appears to be an active nest on the South Shore of Staten Island, making them the first of the species to incubate eggs in the Big Apple in 100 years.

“The eagles are engaging in brooding behavior typical of nesting birds incubating their eggs,” explained Tod Winston, communications manager and research assistant for NYC Audubon. “Due to the height and location of the nest, it is not possible to actually see into it from the ground.”

The world won’t have to wait too long to see if the birds have successfully started a family. A normal incubation period for the bald eagle is between 34 and 36 days. Both male and female will take turns sitting on the eggs. If the eggs hatch, for the first two weeks of life, at least one parent will stay with the newborns. The one not watching the babies will hunt for prey to feed the family. To see the juveniles fly, we’ll have to wait between 10 and 12 weeks.

Tourists won’t be visiting the nest of this mating pair anytime soon. New York City does not reveal the exact location of bald eagles to help protect them from large crowds and poachers.

The Audubon reports that it is excited about the bald eagles that are establishing roots in the United States’ most populated city, speculating that there are two reasons for the birds’ change of behavior. The local ecosystem is less polluted than it once was, making it a friendlier habitat, and the bald eagle population has rebounded so well that some birds are moving out of more rural areas and into the city.

In 1963, the bald eagle hit its lowest numbers in the U.S. with only 417 documented mating pairs in the lower 48 states, according to NPR. DDT, a pesticide commonly used in the ’40s, contaminated lakes, streams and eventually fish, the eagles’ preferred food. DDT was found to weaken the eggshells. The pesticide, in combination with deforestation and illegal shooting, led to the near extinction of the species.

Due to the low numbers, the bald eagle was declared an endangered species in 1967, even before the Endangered Species Act passed in 1973. In what is considered a great success story, the birds were removed from the endangered species list in 2007, having rebounded to nearly 10,000 mating pairs.

In the wild a bald eagle can live between 15 and 25 years. Many couples mate for life, often returning to the same nest year after year. The birds don’t acquire that telltale white feathered head until they reach 4 or 5 years of age. Before that, the juveniles are mostly brown, and because of their coloring, can be confused with the golden eagle.

Rihanna’s new music video and Eric Garner


This music video from the USA says about itself:

16 April 2015

American Oxygen” from Rihanna’s upcoming eighth studio album.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Is Rihanna’s American Oxygen an anthem for Eric Garner?

With lyrics “breathe out/breathe in”, Rihanna gets serious, while the music video collates the most emotional moments of US history. But does it work?

Eric Garner update: here.