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The Black Church Is No Longer the Center of the Civil Rights Movement

A bit of “separation anxiety”?

No folks under 40…A problem for the Church

Black Activism, Unchurched

A new generation of young leaders in Baltimore are largely organizing outside of congregations. What does this mean for their movement—and for the church?

Where is the church in the Black Lives Matter movement?

The spirit of the black church has long animated the movements for civil rights and social justice in America. The call and response, the vocabulary of oppression and solidarity: These are the languages of sanctuaries and pews, of Sunday morning worship and Bible-study vigils.

But in the black- and youth-led political activism of the last several years, the church hasn’t been nearly as visible as it was in the civil-rights movement of the 1960s. After many decades in which the most prominent black activists were ministers, religious leaders seem to be playing supporting roles in the most recent wave of activism.

In Baltimore, this is particularly stark. Nearly a year ago, the city saw widespread riots and political outcry after the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who died of spinal injuries while in the custody of police. The long vibrant local activist community caught national attention, including a widely shared moment in the conflict when community leaders stood shoulder-to-shoulder with gang members in a northwest Baltimore church. In an earlier generation, Baltimore’s churches might have been the primary staging grounds for organizing protests and political action. Increasingly, though, the church is more of a backdrop.

In a 1976 interview, Enolia McMillan, the Baltimore NAACP president who would later become the first female head of the organization, observed that its “most dependable support … comes from the churches in Baltimore.”

“The main resources were bodies,” said Derek Musgrove, an associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “The church was the organizational center of the community. You were guaranteed to see a certain number of people every Sunday, and a lot of those people were going to be participating in church activities throughout the week. You could get access to them.”

These days, there are fewer young black bodies in church pews. Although black 18-to-29-year-olds tend to identify as religious more than their white, Hispanic, and Asian peers, slightly less than a third don’t see themselves as part of any particular faith, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. They’re much less affiliated than their older black peers who are under 50, roughly a fifth of whom identify with no particular religion, and significantly less than those over 50, only a tenth of whom don’t have a religion.

Just as young black activists aren’t necessarily in the church, church leaders aren’t necessarily in the streets. During the protests following Freddie Gray’s death while in the custody of city police nearly year ago, pastors led drives to distribute food and water and efforts to open churches as safe spaces. Clergymen spoke at Freddie Gray’s funeral; a local megachurch pastor, Jamal Bryant, declared that police had seen Gray as a threat “simply because he was man enough to look someone in authority in the eye.”

“I don’t think that people give enough credit to the church or the church’s involvement,” said Brion Gill, a 25-year-old who describes herself as a poet, organizer, and cultural curator, who is pictured above. But, she said, “the idea that it’s not abundantly clear how many churches are involved in this work speaks to the lack thereof.” There are probably as many views of the church’s role in activism, and of activism’s relationship to religion, as there are activists in Baltimore. But, as Gill observed, the fact that it’s even a question suggests that something once powerful has changed.

Even Bryant—a fairly prominent figure in national protest movements, who was arrested in Ferguson and briefly mounted a campaign for Congress in September—sees a limit to his leadership in this movement. “The difference between the Black Lives Matter movement and the civil-rights movement is that the civil-rights movement, by and large, was first out of the church. The Black Lives Matter movement, largely speaking, is not,” he said. “The church is having to readjust: How do you become a part of something you don’t lead?”…Read the Rest Here

 

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2016 in BlackLivesMatter

 

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DOJ Newest Civil Rights Strategy – Locking Up Bad Judges

By now it should be obvious to everyone that the problems in Law Enforcement extend to the Judiciary. Further – conservative “No-Tax” freaks on the right have created a system wherein any semblance to a fair an equitable tax system is replaced by a predatory Judicial and draconian laws shifting the tax burden onto the poor. The Ferguson Report was a watershed in exposing such criminal schemes, often which target minorities under The New Jim Crow.

It has been a long time coming, but the DOJ is finally preparing to hold corrupt and predatory Judges at the local level…Accountable.

TITLE 18, U.S.C., SECTION 242

Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

What is interesting about this law, is it goes far beyond just the issue of Debtors, and suggests that even local legislators may be held accountable for willfully creating local laws which violate Civil Rights as defined under the Constitution. Which doesn’t mean that a local law challenged before a higher court and ruled unconstitutional makes local legislators liable – but does mean those legislatures which (as in North Carolina) have ruled the Federal Constitution null and void can be tried and jailed for passing laws violating Civil Rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

I gotta believe that Tea Baggers in jail are going to have a harder time than Jared the child molester.

 

How Locking Up Judges Could End Debtors’ Prisons

Civil rights lawyers want the DOJ to give judges who break the law a taste of their own medicine.

Justice Department officials warned U.S. judges and court administrators this week that practices like incarcerating poor people without determining whether they could afford outstanding fines are illegal and unconstitutional.

But civil rights advocates with clients who’ve had their lives torn apart after being accused of petty crimes, receiving traffic tickets or charged with municipal code violations say the feds have a much more effective method of fixing the widespread problem: locking up judges.

In a nine-page letter sent to all state chief justices and state court administrators on Monday, the DOJ’s Vanita Gupta, who heads the Civil Rights Division, and Lisa Foster, the director of the Office of Access to Justice, urged local officials to “review court rules and procedures within your jurisdiction to ensure that they comply with due process, equal protection, and sound public policy.”

Judges who incarcerate poor people because they missed a payment are breaking the law, the letter said. What many courts consider a “routine administrative matter” of forcing defendants to pre-pay a “bond” or “bail” before they’re allowed to schedule a court date is actually unconstitutional, Gupta and Foster wrote. Locking people in cages for long periods of time solely because they can’t afford to buy their freedom is a violation of the country’s supreme law, the U.S. Constitution.

Civil rights advocates praised the Justice Department for sending the letter. However, they say there’s a much more powerful tool available if the feds really want to deter judicial crime: Federal prosecutors can hold judges accountable for their unlawful conduct by charging them with a federal crime.

Section 242 of Title 18 of the U.S. code — the so-called “color of law” statute — is the same federal civil rights legislation that Justice Department prosecutors use against police officers and prison guards who use excessive force and make false arrests. The law applies to prosecutors and judges, too. But the feds don’t use it against them often.

Hub Harrington, a former circuit judge in Shelby County, Alabama, who in 2012called Harpersville Municipal Court a “debtors prison” and a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket,” suggested prosecuting judges who break the law at a December meeting at the White House. He said he approached the Justice Department and the Alabama Attorney General about the issues in Harpersville and was frustrated that former Municipal Court Judge Larry Ward wasn’t charged over his conduct.

“We’ve been talking about the victims,” Harrington said at the time. “What about the perpetrators? We got the laws in place. We already have the law you can’t put indigent people in jail without a hearing. We don’t need more laws. We need to enforce the ones we’ve got.”

Alec Karakatsanis from Equal Justice Under Law, an organization that has been suing cities engaged in widespread unconstitutional practices, said the DOJ letter was a good start and could help “eradicate any notion that any judge can be ignorant of basic principles of constitutional law.” But he hoped bad judges would be indicted.

“For a long time, our courts have become places where impoverished people and people of colors’ rights are violated with virtual impunity every day as a matter of daily practice,” Karakatsanis said. “You’d like to think that the people who are tasked with applying the law are held to the same standards as everyone else, and when people are blatantly violating the law, there should be consequences for them.”

It would be “a hard argument for any judge to make that they thought it was OK for them to be throwing people in jail for not being able to make payments without making any type of inquiry into their ability to pay,” he added. But the problem is so widespread and commonplace that prosecution could be less likely.

“It’s not just a ‘few bad apples,’ we have a legal system that has lost it’s way, become desensitized towards caging people,” Karakatsanis said. “One of the really difficult and sad things about our legal system is that the more common something is, the more difficult it is to prosecute because there’s this sense that ‘Well, everyone is doing it, so it would break the system.’” …Read The Rest Here

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2016 in The New Jim Crow

 

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That One Senator Who Endorses Donald Drumph

So…Who would be the first US Senator to endorse Drumph?

Sen Sessions (R), Al – Endorses Donald Drumph

The First Senator to Endorse Donald Trump Is a Longtime Opponent of Civil Rights

Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions has a long history of making racist statements and falsely prosecuting black activists for voter fraud.

GOP frontrunner Donald Trump is facing new scrutiny for refusing to disavow an endorsement from KKK leader David Duke. But over the weekend Trump received another endorsement, from Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, that should also be cause for concern.

During a rally in Madison, Alabama, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III became the first US Senator to endorse Trump. Like the Confederate general he is named after, Sessions has long been a leading voice for the Old South and the conservative white backlash vote Trump is courting. Sessions has been the fiercest opponent in the Senate of immigration reform, a centerpiece of Trump’s campaign, and has a long history of opposition to civil rights, dating back to his days as a US Attorney in Alabama in the 1980s. The Senate rejected Sessions for a federal judgeship during the Reagan administration because of racist statements he made and for falsely prosecuting black political activists in Alabama.

Here’s the backstory:

On March 7, 1965, Albert Turner, a tall, sturdy bricklayer from Marion, Alabama, walked directly behind John Lewis during the infamous Bloody Sunday march in Selma. When Lewis fell from the force of police blows, so did Turner. “I fell down and ran,” he said. “Then I fell down again and ran some more.”

After the passage of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), Turner became known as “Mr. Voter Registration,” working as Alabama field secretary for Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. After King’s assassination, Turner led the mule wagon that carried King’s body through the streets of Atlanta.

Because of Turner’s work, African-Americans gained political control of many counties in the Alabama Black Belt, where you could practically count the number of black voters on one hand in 1965. But the flourishing of black political power in the Black Belt didn’t sit well with the old white power structure.

In the Democratic primary of September 1984, FBI agents hid behind the bushes of the Perry County post office, waiting for Turner and fellow activist Spencer Hogue to mail 500 absentee ballots on behalf of elderly black voters. When Turner and Hogue left, the feds seized the envelopes from the mail slots. Twenty elderly black voters from Perry County were bused three hours to Mobile, where they were interrogated by law enforcement officials and forced to testify before a grand jury. Ninety-two-year-old Willie Bright was so frightened of “the law” that he wouldn’t even admit he’d voted.

In January 1985, Sessions, the 39-year-old US Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, charged Turner, his wife Evelyn and Hogue with twenty-nine counts of mail fraud, altering absentee ballots and conspiracy to vote more than once. They faced over one hundred years in jail on criminal charges and felony statutes under the VRA–provisions of the law that had scarcely been used to prosecute the white officials who had disenfranchised blacks for so many years. The Turners and Hogue became known as the Marion Three. (This story is best told in Lani Guinier’s book Lift Every Voice.)

The trial was held in Selma, of all places. The jury of seven blacks and five whites deliberated for less than three hours before returning a not guilty verdict on all counts.

Four months later, the Reagan Administration, to the astonishment of civil rights supporters, nominated Sessions for a federal judgeship on the District Court of Alabama. “Mr. Sessions role in the voting fraud case in Alabama alone should bar him from sitting on the bench,” Ted Kennedy said.

Albert Turner’s brother flew to Washington from Perry County to oppose Sessions. In a highly unusual move, attorneys from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division also testified against him. Gerry Hebert told Congress that Sessions, had called the NAACP and ACLU “Communist-inspired” and “un-American,” and labeled the white civil rights lawyer Jim Blacksher “a disgrace to his race.” Thomas Figures, a black assistant US attorney in Mobile, said that Sessions had repeatedly referred to him as “boy.” Figures said he heard from colleagues that Sessions “used to think [the KKK] were OK” until he learned that were “pot smokers.” Sessions admitted to calling the VRA a “piece of intrusive legislation.”

A bipartisan coalition of senators sunk Sessions’ nomination, making him the first Reagan judicial nominee rejected by the Senate. Democratic Senator Howell Heflin of Alabama, who’d been elected with large black support, cast the decisive swing vote. “My conscience is not clear,” Heflin said, “and I must vote no.”

But Sessions hardly reformed his views after he was elected to the Senate in 1996. He frequently earned an “F” rating from civil rights groups like the NAACP and “consistently opposed the bread-and-butter civil rights agenda,” Hillary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington office, told The New Republic. He voter to reauthorize the VRA in 2006 but praised the Supreme Court’s decision gutting the law in 2013, cluelessly saying, “if you go to Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, people aren’t people denied the vote because of the color of their skin.” (He’s clearly not paying attention to veryrecent examples of voting discrimination in these states.)

 

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Hillary and BLM

Good conversation here on Bill Maher’s show…Michael Eric Dyson does an excellent job of laying out the case here.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2016 in BlackLivesMatter, Democrat Primary

 

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American Girl Melody Ellison

I know from nieces and friends who have girls that American Girl Dolls are the Gold Standard of dolls. So the release of another doll of color is news. This one’s character is based on a girl growing up in the Civil Rights Era. When I had little folks around, as a dad – I had to keep track of these sorts of things!

 

American Girl debuts doll from civil rights era

American Girl is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Since 1986, the business has sold more than 29 million dolls and more than 153 million books.

This summer, it will release a new historical doll. CBS News went where no cameras have been allowed before — inside the design studio to get the first exclusive look at Melody, the company’s third African American doll in its BeForever historical line.

For the last 30 years, American Girl dolls have brought countless smiles to faces of little girls.

“I think it’s that we stayed true to our mission and purpose and while it’s easy to call us a doll company, we’ve always seen ourselves as storytellers,” said Julia Prohaska, vice president of marketing.

Prohaska said their dolls come with books that tap into imaginations, while providing a rich history lesson.

“We put at the center stories and advice for girls that really are intended to help them be their personal best,” Prohaska said.

Those stories include Kaya’s – a Native American doll who wants to become a leader for her people and Addy’s, a child slave who escaped to freedom.

“I think the doll industry has a very heavy responsibility in reflecting what is true about our society,” Prohaska said.

But in 2014, the company was criticized for discontinuing four characters. Two were minorities – African American Cecile Rey and Chinese-American Ivy Ling. In the last 30 years, American Girl has designed over 20 character dolls, but only three of them have been African American, reports CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan.

“When we launched Addy, the universal feeling was that we needed to address the very difficult topic of slavery before we addressed any other experience in black history,” Prohaska explained.

This summer, American Girl is addressing another chapter of black history with the release of Melody Ellison. Melody is a nine-year-old growing up in Detroit during the 1960s civil rights era, a girl who loves to sing and uses her voice to make a difference.

Melody is representative of arguably one of the most important periods for African Americans in U.S. history. Responding to why the character is only being introduced now in 2016, Prohaska said, “We do approach every character very thoughtfully so this isn’t something we rush into. We’re not looking to address critical demand — we’re looking to tell stories in the most authentic and genuine way that we possibly can.”

Clinical psychologist Dr. Sharlene Jackson supports what American Girl is doing, but stresses the importance of seeing more modern stories for African American dolls.

“As we encourage our children to learn about their history, we want also to teach them and show them that who they are right now in 2016 is fabulous as well,” Jackson said.

Mark Speltz is the senior historian who helped develop Melody’s story.

“When we learn about the civil rights movement, we learn about a handful of really important people. But the movement was… driven by average, ordinary Americans, like Melody,” Speltz said.

To ensure her story was authentic, American Girl formed a six-panel advisory board made up of historians and educators, including the late civil rights activist Julian Bond.

Lead designer Heather Northrop and her team worked with the board to bring Melody’s story to life. When it came to choosing her hair, Northrop said she consulted the panel several times to get the texture right. Melody even has her own bed and recording studio that plays music from Motown.

To build and keep interest in a company that has seen annual sales drop over nine percent since 2013, American Girl launched a new campaign last year, encouraging girls to take a pledge to empower each other and American Girl, so it will be around for another 30 years. So far, over 50,000 have signed on.

Melody will be available in stores late this summer. Her price tag is $115, but if you also want the recording studio and all the rest of her accessories, that will set you back nearly $900.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2016 in Black History, The Post-Racial Life

 

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Potential to Roll Back The New Jim Crow at the Supreme Court

Seems BTx3 isn’t the only one who sees Scalia’s death as one of the two best things that could have happened to the Supreme Court.

Sill waiting on the second…Any moment now would be fine.

Law students of color hope to see civil rights ally named to Supreme Court

Tahir Duckett, a student at Georgetown University Law Center, was 2 years old when Antonin Scalia was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986.

Naji Mujahid, who attends the University of the District of Columbia’s law school, was 4. Dominique Moore, a student at Temple University’s law school, and Stephanie Llanes, a law student at the University of California at Berkeley, had not yet been born.

Now, Scalia is gone, dying unexpectedly during a vacation last week. And for the first time in the students’ lives — three of whom are African American and one a Latina — there is a possibility of having a Supreme Court that is no longer dominated by right-wing ideologues who are astoundingly naive about racism in America.

“We mourn the death of Justice Scalia, as a fellow attorney,” said Moore, 29, the Mid-Atlantic regional chair of the National Black Law Students Association. “But we are looking for someone to fill that seat who is not a foe of civil rights and wants to see the country make progress, not take it backward.”

Next month, the 3,600-member national organization convenes in Baltimore for its annual convention. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch is scheduled to deliver the keynote address.

“We support Loretta Lynch’s appointment as the next Supreme Court justice,” Moore said.

For his part, Georgetown’s Duckett, 32, has been chronicling the harms done by the Supreme Court’s 2001 ruling in Sandoval v. Alexander. The court held that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits only “intentional discrimination” and does not prohibit activities that have a “disparate impact on certain races, colors, or nationalities.” Scalia wrote the opinion for the conservative majority, which included Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

“That ruling made it impossible to mount a legal challenge to structural racism and sent a message that it was okay to discriminate against blacks and Hispanics as long as you did it with a wink and a nod,” said Duckett, a member of the D.C. chapter of the legal and policy collective known as Law for Black Lives. “For more than a decade and a half, we’ve watched racial disparities widen in incarceration, in the use of the death penalty, in racial profiling, in the enforcement of drug laws, and it was legally okay just because nobody had come right out and said they were doing it intentionally.”

UDC’s Mujahid, 34, said he began studying Scalia’s thinking in 2009, while following the case of Troy Davis, a black man who had been convicted of murder in Georgia and sentenced to death. When seven of the nine witnesses recanted their testimony against him, Davis appealed to the Supreme Court for a new hearing and got it. But Scalia objected, writing in his dissent that “this court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.”

Scalia’s statement was said to be legally correct but widely regarded as morally weak. Davis was executed two years later.

“When you go into Scalia’s thinking as an ‘originalist,’ meaning someone who interprets the Constitution by divining the intent of the Framers at the time they wrote it, you can see Scalia virtually channeling 18th-century social and political sentiment on race,” said Mujahid, president of the UDC chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. “If you want to go back 200 years and commune with the spirit of slave owners and ask them, ‘What do you think of black people?’ Or, ‘How do you feel about affirmative action?’ what the hell do you think they’re going to say?”

In the wake of Scalia’s death, SCOTUS blog legal expert Lyle Denniston described the 79-year-old Reagan appointee “as path-breaking as Earl Warren” and “as controversial as Roger Taney,” among other things.

But his mentioning Chief Justices Warren and Taney cries out for comparison.

The Warren Court expanded civil rights, most famously in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case that banned racial segregation in public schools. The Taney Court, on the other hand, ruled infamously in the 1857 Dred Scott case that no black person, whether slave or free, would ever become a citizen.

And given Scalia’s originalist approach to the law, some legal scholars have suggested that he would probably have reached conclusions more like Taney’s than Warren’s.

 

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2016 in The New Jim Crow

 

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DOJ Sues Ferguson After City Tries to Waffle on Consent Decree

No surprise here. The City Council was involved in the corruption in the first place.

Meet sme of those responsible for the racist court and legal system in Ferguson, here.

Feds Drag Ferguson To Court And Throw The Constitution At It

Un-indicted murderer Darren Wilson (center – back), with his arm around Mary Ann Twitty, who was fired for racism, corruption, and misconduct as Ferguson’s Top Court Clerk

 

The deal would have brought positive change to the mostly white police force in Michael Brown’s hometown.

The Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday in an effort to end what it described as patterns of constitutional violations by the city’s police department and municipal court.

The decision comes one day after Ferguson rejected a negotiated deal that would have set the St. Louis suburb on a path toward reforming its police department.

The original deal was arranged over 11 months after the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division released a damning report last March chronicling routine patterns of constitutional abuses in the city, where an overwhelmingly white police force preyed on black residents who many officers saw “less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue.”

The report depicted a corrupt local government, in which the police department and municipal court “worked in concert to maximize revenue at every stage of the enforcement process” for several years. The Justice Department also released troubling emails from Ferguson officials that referred to President Barack Obama as a “chimpanzee” and African-Americans as having “no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”

The negotiated deal would have required several progressive changes, including pushing police to practice de-escalation tactics without using force, mandating extensive training for officers and making city officials engage with minority groups that have had negative experiences with the police department.

At a Ferguson City Council meeting on Tuesday night, all six council members voted to accept the deal only under “certain conditions,” meaning they were asking for changes. They wanted different deadlines and fees from those set forth in the original bargain. They also asked to remove a key line that would have mandated higher pay for police officers in the city, which officials have maintained the city cannot afford. The council members also wanted a provision removed that would have made the entire deal void if the city decided to contract with another law enforcement agency for policing services.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Ferguson City Council’s vote “leaves us no further choice” but to sue.

Ferguson officials had hoped to negotiate further, but knew a lawsuit was a possibility.

“We do believe these conditions maintain the spirit and integrity of the consent decree and allow the city to move forward,” Councilman Wesley Bell said at a press conference in Ferguson on Wednesday.

Bell, an attorney who helped negotiate the original deal, proposed the conditions that the council adopted unanimously. He suggested the amendments were necessary for Ferguson to continue to function after the enforcement of the consent decree.

Bell is a seasoned operator in local Missouri politics. He serves as prosecutor in Riverview, judge in Velda City and city attorney in Wellston. He was central to Wellston contracting for police services with the newly formed North County Police Cooperative, which is unaccredited.

 

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in The New Jim Crow

 

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