Sandra Bland died, Texas police whitewash continues

This video from the USA says about itself:

‘United We Stand!’ – Protest of Sandra Bland death broken up by police in NYC

23 July 2015

Activists took to the streets of New York City to protest police brutality and the death of Sandra Bland.

By Evan Blake in the USA:

Selective release of autopsy findings continues whitewash of Sandra Bland killing

24 July 2015

On Thursday, Waller County Prosecutor Warren Diepraam declared that an official autopsy found that the July 13 prison death of 28-year-old Sandra Bland death was a suicide.

Following a week in which Bland’s unexplained death has been leading the daily news cycle in the US, Diepraam’s claim that Bland committed suicide has been repeated uncritically by almost every mainstream news outlet in America. The selective release of the autopsy findings is part of a deliberate move to sweep the entire case under the rug and shift the focus away from the fact that the string of events that led to Bland’s death were initiated by her unlawful arrest.

Bland was found hanged in her jail cell a mere three days after being beaten and wrongfully arrested during a routine traffic stop. Her friends and family have continually questioned the official account of her death, and assert that Bland would not have committed suicide, particularly as she had just accepted a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M. They have also called for an independent autopsy.

Theresa Dear, a longtime friend of Bland’s, criticized officials for selectively releasing “crumbs and morsels,” without revealing the full story. She told a local news station KTLA, “We, as a family and a community who love Sandra Bland, do not accept…this narrative that the Texas authorities are putting in the media that she had suicidal tendencies.”

Diepraam made clear that the release of details from the autopsy report was aimed at quelling any suspicion of the possibility that police murdered Bland. “We feel compelled to release [this information] because of specific allegations from some individuals about the circumstances that occurred in the Waller County jail and/or on the streets of Prairie View, Texas,” he declared.

Diepraam said that because the mark around Bland’s neck was uniform and consistent, and there was no observable damage to her trachea and esophagus, that she did not experience a violent struggle at the time of her death.

He further asserted that there were “no defensive injuries” on Bland’s hands, and that lacerations found on her wrists were incurred while being handcuffed by officers.

The most significant finding of the autopsy as reported, however, was that Bland was found to have scabs on her back and on the right side of her shoulder blade, consistent with being forced down on the ground during her arrest. Bland’s sister, Sharon Cooper, said that there was “Deep tissue bruising to her back which is consistent with the officer having his knee in her back.”

At the very least, the autopsy report confirms Bland’s audible statements during her arrest that officer Brian Encinia severely brutalized her and slammed her into the ground.

Despite the attempts to bury the story and exonerate the police, her death remains unexplained, and the official story is full of holes and contradictions.

Emerging from a dubious, closed door meeting on Wednesday between dozens of leading figures in the Texas political establishment and the Texas Rangers/FBI team investigating Bland’s death, authorities released two suicide-risk assessment forms allegedly completed during Bland’s processing into prison. The forms contradict each other in critical ways.

The first form, reportedly completed at 5:32 p.m., claims that Bland stated that she tried to commit suicide in 2014 by taking pills, due to a “lost baby.” On this form, she also allegedly checked a box indicating that she had felt “very depressed” at some point in her life, and another asking if she had felt like committing suicide in the past year.

On a second form, completed a mere three hours later, Bland reportedly answered “no” to the same questions regarding depression and thoughts of suicide. The lawyer for Bland’s family, Cannon Lambert, declared, “We take issue with the notion that she was suffering from depression. She was not clinically diagnosed that this family understands.”

Two crucial pieces of the investigation, the video footage showing Bland’s arrest and the prison surveillance footage, are shrouded in mystery and strongly suggest a police cover-up. The former contains numerous gaps and glitches, including cars vanishing and looping sequences, while the latter includes a lengthy gap spanning the hour leading up to Bland’s death, which police attribute to the motion sensors shutting down the camera in the absence of foot traffic.

No credence can be given to the official narrative put forth by the local authorities regarding Bland’s death.

Bland was an outspoken political activist, in particular concerning police violence. Over the past year, she became involved with the protests against police killings that took place across the US, and posted about them frequently on her Facebook page.

At a prayer vigil held in Texas Tuesday night, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, recalled a recent conversation with her daughter: “She said ‘Mom, now I know what my purpose is. My purpose is to go back to Texas, my purpose is to stop all social injustice.’”

United States jazz musician Jeremy Pelt on Eric Garner’s death

This music video says about itself:

1 November 2012

Jeremy Pelt Quintet in “We’ll Be Together Again” (Fischer-Laine), Live al Duc des Lombards – Paris

Jeremy Pelt trumpet, Roxy Coss sax, David Bryant piano, Dwayne Burno bass, Jonathan Barber drums.

By Chris Searle in Britain:

Art, protest and restless humanity, never quelled

Tuesday 21st July 2015

Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt echoes a nation’s grief as US police continue to target, hurt and kill innocent black men, writes CHRIS SEARLE

Tales, Musings and Other Reveries
(High Note HCD 7270)
Jeremy Pelt

IT WAS July 17 2014 on a busy shopping street in Staten Island, New York City. A 43-year-old African-American ex-horticulturalist from the New York Parks and Recreation Department, Eric Garner, was confronted by some police officers, accused of selling “loosies” — single cigarettes from unlicensed and untaxed packs.

An argument ensued, with an officer — one Daniel Pantaleo — putting Garner into a 15-second chokehold and forcing him face down onto the pavement.

Garner spluttered: “I can’t breathe!” 11 times while his head was held down. An ambulance was called, and by the time it arrived at the hospital an hour later, Garner was dead.

After a grand jury decided not to charge Pantaleo for murder, there were nationwide protests and demonstrations at yet another fatal police attack on an African-American, and the mass indignation spread into popular culture too. No more efficaciously than in the new album by the southern Californian-born trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, Tales, Musings and Other Reveries.

In his sleeve notes, Pelt remembers “witnessing Los Angeles go up in flames” after the broadcasting of footage showing police beating black taxi driver Rodney King following a high-speed car chase though the city’s streets in 1991, and the subsequent acquittal of the police officers.

In the track Ruminations on Eric Garner, the twin brutalities against King and Garner are brought together in Pelt’s powerful hornplay and the two sets of pulsating drums of Virginian Billy Drummind and Victor Lewis of Omaha, Nebraska.

Pianist Simona Premazzi and bassist Ben Allison are there in the introduction and fading finale, but all the rest is Pelt, Drummond and Lewis creating an incensed colloquy of brass, skin and cymbal, with the trumpeter’s high-pitched runs and soaring, defiant notes calling out like a clamour for justice, and the two drummers pitched in the earth of wronged and savaged humanity.

I Only Miss Her When I Think of Her, which follows, is very different, with Pelt’s beautifully bent notes and burnished tone singing of love and tenderness. Nephthys is songlike and full of rapture, with the drums and Allison’s throbbing bass dancing below Pelt’s high horn trajectory. Premazzi seems to love the two drummers beside her too, and her keys jump off their sound.

Pelt writes that the blues piece The Old Soul of the Modern Day Wayfarer is about him and “the soujourner in myself” as if the nomadic musical life and the perennial touring has in some way defined his sound. His note-perfect delivery brings into strange unity the form of Art Farmer and the fierce passion of Freddie Hubbard: quite a fusion of excellence and tradition.

The hard bop classic Glass Bead Games, written by the tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan, is transformed into a brass rhapsody by Pelt, flying above Lewis’s and Drummond’s pounding drums. Premazzi’s solo enriches the artistry before the drummers have their own palaver, loving their togetherness, prefacing Pelt’s final flourish as a salute to their union. Then there is Vonetta, written by another great tenorist, the survivor Wayne Shorter, for the 1967 Miles Davis album The Sorcerer. Pelt’s long, anguished notes reveal an unexpected tenderness in the heart of enchantment.

Pelt’s own Harlem Thoroughfare is a quasi-Ellingtonian title for another side of New York, and its village of black achievement. Premazzi’s solo is racked with complexities and Pelt is the griot and historian of his own dwelling place.

Pelt blows with a tender lucidity and Allison’s bass palpitates all through Everything You Can Imagine is Real, a dictum attributed to Picasso, whose Guernica is close to Pelt’s home, there in the New York Museum of Modern Art. The man who painted that would have understood Pelt’s artistry and his Ruminations on Eric Garner, that’s for sure. They come from the same soul of art, protest and restless humanity, never to be quelled or silenced.

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


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.