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The Fourth Founding – Civil Rights

One of my favorite, and person I consider one brightest media people is Sherrilyn Ifill. In this article she discusses the evolution of Civil Rights in terms of  America, from the “First Founding”, the emergence of the country, the Second Founding, the 13h, 14th, and 15th Amendments promising freedom and equality under the law, and the Third Founding being the post WWII period mid-Century Civil Rights Movement eliminating post Reconstruction JIm Crow.

I disagree with her belief that the current Civil Rights movement, coalesced around organizations like Black Lives Matter and Color of Change is part of the Third Founding, and would say that is is part of a Fourth. Just as the murder of Emmett Till galvanized the post-war Civil Rights Movement by laying bare the videotaped murders of black people by the Police, and the murders in Charleston have stripped away the coating of yet another teflon coated racist belief system, laying bare systemic, if not always supported by legislative protection, racism in America.

Systemic racism in America has it’s own TV, it’s own publications, and indeed political party built upon the remnants and cultural vein of the Dixiecrats of the late 40’s, and George Wallace of 1968. The Fourth Foundation in my view, not only won’t be televised, it will will be fought across the Internet. Whether in the deconstruction of the New Jim Crow of the carceral state and Voting Suppression – or the denouement of white privilege. Why? Because unlike when King marched across that bridge in Selma, there is no specific geography of systemic racism. And the “black community” is now less descriptive of a location than a shared history, culture, and values.

Freedom Still Awaits

A century and a half after Reconstruction, fights over voter suppression and police brutality reveal that it remains an unfinished project.

The Civil War and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the Constitution that were ratified in its wake created a new America as imaginative and fraught with controversy as the country founded after the Revolutionary War. It is no exaggeration, therefore, to describe this period as America’s “Second Founding.” But neither the enduring power of the Second Founding nor its limitations can be fully understood without an examination of the Third Founding—the civil-rights movement of the mid-20th century.

The extraordinary courage, vision, and commitment of civil-rights lawyers and activists in the period between 1954 and 1968 rooted an America as new and bold as the one forged from the battles of the 18th-century Revolutionary War and 19th-century Civil War. But that the battles of the civil-rights movement continued nearly 100 years after the passage of the Civil War amendments demonstrates the limitations of the rights articulated in the Reconstruction amendments, which proved to be the least self-executing of all of the Constitution’s rights-expanding amendments.

This was not lost on the framers of the Reconstruction amendments. They understood from the outset that the rights of suffrage, equal protection, due process, and freedom from slavery would need to be protected from the actions of the state and enforced by the federal government. This is, in no small measure, the essence of the Second Founding—a fundamental reordering of the relationship between the states and federal government. “States’ rights” were to be tempered and cabined where they undermined black citizenship. The powerful enforcement clauses and unequivocal “no state shall” language of the Reconstruction Amendments is the textual evidence of the framers and the clear intention to recalibrate state power in relationship to blacks.

To protect black citizenship, the Reconstruction Amendments opened a new front in the unfinished battles of the Civil War. The federal courts would do the hard work of securing the victory for newly freed slaves. As the historian Eric Foner notes in his seminal treatment of the Reconstruction period, the protections of the Civil War amendments “placed an unprecedented—and unrealistic—burden of enforcement on the federal courts.” Certainly until the Warren Court in the mid-20th century, the Supreme Court showed itself to be both unprepared and unwilling to take up the full measure of that responsibility. Indeed, the Supreme Court’s devastating 1876 decision in U.S. v. Cruikshank (in which the Court vacated the conviction of three white men who participated in the massacre of 300 blacks protecting the federal courthouse in Louisiana), the widespread white-supremacist violence in the South, and the removal of federal troops from Louisiana and Mississippi are among the leading factors that ended Reconstruction.

A decade later, when in the Civil Rights Cases the Supreme Court exhibited what the scholar Darren Hutchinson calls “racial exhaustion,” it was clear that it was simply not up to the exercise of robust enforcement power contemplated by the architecture of the Reconstruction Amendments.* Just 20 years after the end of slavery and during a period of intense white-supremacist violence, the court declared in the Civil Rights Cases that there must be a time when former slaves “cease to be the special favorite of the laws” and instead “take the rank of mere citizens.”

Ironically, the centerpiece of the Third Founding was also a Supreme Court decision—Brown v. Board of Education. The Court’s decision to strike down racial segregation in public education (and soon in all aspects of public life) began the deconstruction of Jim Crow—the system of legal apartheid that had become the principal means of enforcing 20th-century white supremacy. Brown and the civil-rights movement that followed it, ushered in the promise of a new America—one that included unprecedented opportunities for many African Americans and other racial minorities, a lexicon of equality and racial justice that endured, and black political power not seen since the early days of Reconstruction.

Yet Brown, like the Civil War amendments, faced its own opposition—a concerted movement named “Massive Resistance” by integration opponents. The resistance to Brown from Congress to towns and hamlets in the South was so rabid that counties were willing to close public schools rather than have black children attend school with white children. Black children were spat upon, cursed, and assaulted on the way to school by white teenagers and housewives. The homes of civil-rights lawyers and activists were fire-bombed.  Resistance toBrown became yet another front in the battle over black citizenship. In the courts, the battle became a war of attrition, with the Supreme Court at first robust and then increasingly cautious and timid, and ultimately hostile to the project of integration. By the time the Court decided in Milliken v. Bradley that desegregation plans could not cross city lines into suburban counties to stem the effects of white flight on integration, the project of integrated schools in urban centers was dealt a crushing blow. For good measure, the Supreme Court scuttled even voluntary integration efforts in 2006 in Parents Involved In Community Schools v. Seattle School District, with Chief Justice Roberts’ tautological and tone-deaf instruction that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

The decades-long resistance by whites to school integration doomed the full promise of the civil-rights movement. Massive resistance spawned even more deeply entrenched housing segregation, the abandonment of support for public institutions, white flight from U.S. cities, and a renewed hostility to the federal government. The hope held by the most visionary civil-rights leaders and activists for a unified country of racial equality has been put off for future generations, even as the vision articulated by those men and women has become central to America’s public self-narrative….Read the Rest Here

 

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Freedom Summer

For folks too young to be fully aware of what happened in the Civil Rights Movement, and grew up after the violent pernicious legalized Jim Crow racism of the 50’s and 60’s – this documentary chronicles Mississippi in 1964, through a period called Freedom Summer. One of the interesting aspects some young folks are unaware of, of this is what the segregationists did to their neighborhood white folks who in any way showed support for any of the Civil Rights groups, or even aiding people caught in the crossfire at the 1 hour mark.

The modern Republican Party in the South are the descendants of these very segregationist whites who bombed home, churches – beat and murdered Civil Rights proponents both black and white. And while their public vitriol is hidden now – they really have not changed. These are the folks who have assumed control of a large segment of the Party, and are the reason for the racial dog-whistle politics.

 

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Black Protest Music …Then and Now

SO…Has the music died, or is there just another chapter? The author of this piece argues it’s come in a circle…

Sounds of Black Protest Then and Now

By William C. Anderson

The sounds Black people make are the brick and mortar of the United States. Literally. The enslaved African’s singing was a driving force for the free labor that built a young nation and put it at the forefront of empires. Historically, Black Americans have been amongst the primary influencers of music culture. The genres that were born of Black misery, triumph, endurance, protest, and expression have changed the way the entire world sounds. But it’s undeniable that many of these songs were and still are shaped by the fatigue of the constant protest that comes with Black existence.

As the son of a Black Southern Pentecostal minister, I’ve had the privilege of sitting among the serene sounds of praise that birthed a nation of noir notes. Just about every genre that has risen to popularity is from the offspring of the Black church. If you listen closely enough, you can hear Black American beginnings on this continent in our cultural songs: one part culture, one part community, one part family, one part fear of fire and brimstone. The tears that beg to line my face when I hear Mary Pickney’s “Down on Me”, Janie Hunters’ “Jonah”, or Mahalia Jackson’s “How I Got Over” retrace Fredrick Douglass’ words:

“I have sometimes thought that the mere hearing of those songs would do more to impress some minds with the horrible character of slavery, than the reading of whole volumes of philosophy on the subject could do….The mere recurrence to those songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek. To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery.”

It’s important to note that the act of this singing was more than entertainment for plantation overseers or solely expressions of sadness. In its purest form, the slave’s singing was an act of protest. Its beauty and expression transcends the pervasive hell that was the environment that allowed them to be enslaved.

Black existence is an act of rebellion in and of itself, most especially in art. Black people have sung songs amid the persistent onslaught of struggle in the United States, though not exclusively. Enslaved Africans pioneered music like Cumbia, tango, and rumba across the Americas and integrated self-defense and music in Brazil with capoeira. Here in North America, all of the elements of our African diasporic kin’s musical instincts are present in our musical traditions, too.

Since the days of chattel slavery, we’ve heard as our songs have taken different shapes, changed. Jazz’s earliest beginnings in the Congo Square of New Orleans were moments of sanctification, through the allowance of Whites for them to congregate there, to evoke their traditions and make music. Jazz has been consistent in this way over decades. Artists like Nina Simone and Charles Mingus made outspokenness a part of their reputation over the years with songs like “Mississippi Goddam” and “Fables of Faubus”. Miles Davis became the embodiment of Black protest to many through his unwillingness to bend to White standards, insistence that Black women grace his album covers, and even making a tribute to “Black Jack Johnson”. Other imaginative artists like Sun Ra created other, better worlds for Black people through their music. Some artists like Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln infused what they could into Black protests through their art. In the song “Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace”, from the classic Black resistance jazz album We Insist, you can hear the waves of emotion Lincoln pours into her vocals. At one point in the song, she arguably sets a shrieking standard for punk rock before the genre officially existed, but not before evoking the symbolic moans of gospel and the blues. The revolutionary nature of Black music always comes back to that starting point.

The blues are Black survival music. While many songs deal with the everyday issues, others from blues’ earliest beginnings up to contemporary times are blatantly political. Three songs about my infamous home state of Alabama come to mind: J.B. Lenoir’s “Alabama”, Lead Belly’s “Scottsboro Boys”, and John Lee Hooker’s “Birmingham Blues”. You can find countless songs about Alabama because it was one of the starting points of the “great migration” Blacks made when they left the South fleeing oppressive violence. Furthermore, it was once the cradle of the civil rights movement and Black activism itself.

Much of the music that defines what most know as Black protest songs are civil rights era protest music. Songs like “We Shall Overcome”, “A Change Is Going to Come”, “We Shall Not Be Moved”, and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round” set the stage for what many millennials like myself would come to know as the movement songs. Documentaries like Eyes on the Prize were filled with these songs as soundtrack to the brutality of White supremacist violence against Black people.

I must admit that seeing these images of Black people singing while being beaten ruthlessly felt self-defeating and depressing as a child. The eternal words of Malcolm X, “stop singing and start swinging,” come to mind. Though there should not be any diminishing of the importance of any particular type of protest music, the current Black generation has moved toward a more confrontational approach….Read the rest of this outstanding piece here

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now

 

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Black Couple Threatened And Harassed by Neighbor …Sues

Family moves into house. Neighbor subjects them to slurs and racist threats. Neighbor threatens them with a gun…

Neighbor resists arrest by Police, and is charged with a Misdemeanor…

Special laws for “special” people?

Gregory and Sophia Bonds

Black couple uses housing law to sue over slurs, threats

Citing a sliver of civil rights-era legislation more commonly used as protection against discriminatory landlords, a black couple is suing their former neighbor and a north Georgia city they say failed to stop him from harassing them.

Gregory and Sophia Bonds say the slurs and threats began the day they moved into the brick ranch rental home in a well-kept neighborhood in Gainesville, northeast of Atlanta, back in February 2012.

Roy Turner Jr., the white neighbor who worked for the city’s solid waste department, verbally assaulted them whenever he saw them outside, including sometimes while he was working, the couple contends. He also sometimes walked and made sounds like an ape when he saw them, the Bonds family asserts in a lawsuit filed last month against Turner and the city.

Turner told The Associated Press he wasn’t aware of the lawsuit but that he never threatened anyone.

“I said ‘porch monkey,'” he said with a chuckle. “That’s just a joking-around term.”

Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit details more than a dozen specific instances of alleged harassment. Gregory Bonds said the final straw came in May: The family had company and Turner came out into his yard with a baseball bat and began hitting a tree aggressively and yelling more slurs. The family moved the next month.

They cite a provision of the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 and a nearly identical section of Georgia law that says it’s illegal to coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with someone who is exercising or enjoying any right guaranteed by that law. Conceived to protect against violent actions such as cross burnings, bombs or other physical attacks, it also applies to verbal attacks, said Robert Schwemm, a law professor at the University of Kentucky who has decades of experience with the Fair Housing Act.

“It’s specifically a separate section of the statute that was designed to apply to people who were not housing providers — neighbors and others,” Schwemm said.

That provision isn’t used very often against neighbors in the modern era, Schwemm said. He’s aware of one or two cases a year but said there are likely others he doesn’t hear about.

Schwemm said he’s never heard of a case that sought to hold a municipality accountable for a neighbor’s actions.

Gregory and Sophia Bonds had saved money to move out of an apartment into a house so their three teenage children would have a yard for the first time and would have more space to invite their friends over, their lawyer Ashley Bell said. Turner’s behavior violated fair housing statutes that bar discrimination on the basis of a variety of factors when people are renting, buying or seeking financing for housing, the lawsuit says.

The city’s knowledge of Turner’s actions, many of which occurred while he was a city employee, and its failure to curb them make it liable for them, the family argues. Roy Turner Mug Shot

City records show some steps were taken against Turner, but the Bonds family says it wasn’t enough.

Sophia Bonds first called police in March 2012, about a month after they moved in, and told an officer Turner regularly hurled racial slurs at them. She said she was afraid of him, according to a police report. Turner told the officer he wouldn’t use words like that because he was a city employee, the report says.

A month later, on April 19, 2012, Turner and Gregory Bonds exchanged words outside before Turner went into his house and reappeared at his back door with a loaded rifle that he pointed at Gregory Bonds, the couple told police.

After a standoff lasting several hours, officers entered the home and forcibly removed Turner, using a stun gun on him when he refused to obey their commands, police reports say.

Turner pleaded guilty a month later to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge. The judge ordered him to pay a $200 fine and to serve 12 months on probation with extra conditions: no violence or insults toward the Bonds family, no weapons on his property and no drinking or possessing hard liquor.

The Bonds family was frustrated that Turner only faced a misdemeanor charge, said Bell, their lawyer. Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard, whose office prosecuted Turner, said she understood that frustration.

“I was greatly outraged at the behavior that Roy Turner exhibited and at the behavior that this family and their children endured,” she said, adding that her office can only prosecute misdemeanors and the district attorney had declined to bring felony charges.

Turner was in a car crash in the 1970s that left him with a traumatic brain injury that caused mental impairment and altered his behavior, said Dunagan, the mayor, who grew up with Turner and said he never knew him to be violent. A group of friends watches out for Turner and helps him live as independently as possible, two of them told Woodard before Turner’s sentencing.

Woodard detected some cognitive disconnect when speaking to Turner, but she said she still believed Turner was capable of controlling himself.

Woodard said she believes the city’s police handled him properly, sending in a SWAT team and using force to arrest him.

Turner landed back in court for probation violations several times. After his probation officer said Turner continued to insult the Bonds family, the judge ordered him not to drink or possess any alcohol, to submit to random alcohol testing, to allow police to enter his home randomly to make sure there were no guns and to have no contact with the Bonds family, court records show.

Turner had worked for the city’s solid waste department since October 1992. In recent years, he worked as a garbage collector and had a string of run-ins with customers and co-workers, according to city personnel records. There’s a record in his personnel file of a call from Sophia Bonds a few days after his arrest asking that Turner not work the route that included her house.

The city suspended him following his arrest in April 2012. After he was sentenced to probation, he was allowed to return to work but was warned not to have arguments or to use derogatory language.

After numerous confrontations with co-workers and the public, Turner was fired Oct. 23.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2015 in Domestic terrorism

 

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Passing the Torch…Amelia Boynton

The folks who led the Civil Rights Marches of the 50’s and 60’s are slowly dying out. Just a week after the death of Julian Bond, another has passed the torch to the next generation…

Amelia Boynton Robinson, third from right.

Civil Rights Legend Amelia Boynton Robinson Dead at 104

Amelia Boynton Robinson, a civil rights activist who helped lead the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” voting rights march and was the first black woman to run for Congress in Alabama, died early Wednesday at age 104, her son Bruce Boynton said.

Boynton Robinson was among those beaten during the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in March 1965 that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” State troopers teargased and clubbed marchers as they tried crossing the bridge. A newspaper photo featuring an unconscious Boynton Robinson drew wide attention to the movement.

“The truth of it is that was her entire life. That’s what she was completely taken with,” Bruce Boynton said of his mother’s role in shaping the civil rights movement. “She was a loving person, very supportive — but civil rights was her life.”

Amelia Boynton Robinson on Bloody Sunday in Selma after being knocked unconscious

Fifty years after “Bloody Sunday,” Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States, held her hand as she was pushed across the bridge in a wheelchair during a commemoration.

“She was as strong, as hopeful, and as indomitable of spirit — as quintessentially American — as I’m sure she was that day 50 years ago,” Obama said Wednesday in a written statement. “To honor the legacy of an American hero like Amelia Boynton requires only that we follow her example — that all of us fight to protect everyone’s right to vote.”

Boynton Robinson, hospitalized in July after a stroke, turned 104 on Aug. 18. Her family said in a written statement that she was surrounded by loved ones when she died around 2:20 a.m. at a Montgomery, Alabama hospital.

In January, Boynton Robinson attended the State of the Union address as a special guest of Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, who said Boynton Robinson’s 1964 run for Congress paved the way for her as Alabama’s first elected black congresswoman. Boynton was the first black woman to run for Congress in the state and the first Alabama woman to run as a Democrat, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama.

Sewell said in January that Boynton refused to be intimidated and ultimately saw the impact of her work when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law. Boynton Robinson was invited as a guest of honor to attend the signing by President Lyndon B. Johnson…

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Giant Negros

 

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Obama’s Civil Rights Moves

Conservatwits love to criticize Obama for “having some nothing for black folks”, knowing full well that in the one or two cases he has said something, they can whine full throttle about our “racist President”.

Obama’s approach from the beginning has been low key. Despite all the caterwauling, whimpering, and hysterics of the Republicans – he gets it done. Sometimes his hand moves in ways which the Public never really recognizes until way too late. This one is a masterstroke!

Case in point – The Justice Department working for Civil Rights in local courts around the country. Of course in some places, specifically those with right wing justices, they know they can’t win – but they can put a point on the case which will may change things in higher court. This started a long time ago under former Attorney General Eric Holder. Good to see Loretta Lynch is continuing the struggle.

Justice Dept. Presses Civil Rights Agenda in Local Courts

Burlington, Wash., was a small city fighting what seemed like a local lawsuit. Three poor people said that their public lawyers were too overworked to adequately represent them in municipal court cases. The dispute went mostly unnoticed for two years, until the Obama administration became involved.

Unannounced, the Justice Department filed documents in the case and told the judge that he had broad authority to demand changes in Burlington and nearby Mount Vernon. The judge quickly agreed and ordered the cities to hire a new public defense supervisor. He also said he would monitor their legal aid program for three years.

That 2013 decision was a significant victory for the Justice Department in a novel legal campaign that began early in the Obama administration and has expanded in recent years. In dozens of lawsuits around the country involving local disputes, the federal government has filed so-called statements of interest, throwing its weight behind private lawsuits and, in many cases, pushing the boundaries of civil rights law.

The federal government has typically waded into local court cases only when the outcome directly affected a federal interest, such as national security or diplomacy. Recently, however, the Justice Department has filed statements of interest in cases involving legal aid in New York, transgender students in Michigan, juvenile prisoners in solitary detention in California, and people who take videos of police officers in Baltimore. The government has weighed in on employment discrimination claims brought by transgender plaintiffs and a lawsuit over the right of blind people to be able to use Uber, a car-sharing service.

“The Justice Department is sending a clear message: that we will not accept criminal justice procedures that have discriminatory effects,” former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in February after filing documents in a case involving high court bonds in Alabama. “We will not hesitate to fight institutionalized injustice wherever it is found.”

Loretta E. Lynch, who became attorney general in April, has continued the initiative unabated.

Civil rights groups have applauded the move — and in turn flooded the Justice Department with requests for government intervention in their cases. But to lawyers on the other side, it can feel as if the government is using private court cases to make political points.

US DOJ Chief Prosecutor of Civil Rights Enforcement, Vanita Gupta. “We want to do as much federal civil rights work as possible, and statements of interest are effective, efficient tools,” Vanita Gupta, the Justice Department’s top civil rights prosecutor, said in an interview.

“From the community’s perspective, it was an ongoing nightmare,” said Scott G. Thomas, the lawyer for Burlington in the lawsuit over legal aid. The Obama administration’s involvement turned the city of about 8,000 people into a national symbol. “Why is the Department of Justice interested in a little case involving two little communities in northwest Washington?” Mr. Thomas said…

By using such court filings in civil rights cases, the Obama administration is saying it has an interest in preserving constitutional rights in the same way it has an interest in foreign policy. There are examples of past administrations using statements of interest to coax public policy — such as in 2005 when the Bush administration intervened in the case over whether to keep Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman with severe brain damage, on life support. But neither career Justice Department officials nor longtime advocates can recall such a concerted effort to insert the federal government into local civil rights cases…

When the Justice Department intervened last year in a lawsuit over legal aid in New York, for example, officials said it took no position on whether the state was violating the constitutional rights of indigent defendants. But government lawyers adopted the same core legal arguments as the plaintiffs and encouraged the judge to scrutinize the legal aid system broadly.

“It was a game changer,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which was involved in that court fight. The state settled the lawsuit soon after the Justice Department became involved. Ms. Lieberman said the agency’s intervention was “a powerful way to help support a fundamental right.”…More

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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New Police Shooting Stirs Unrest in St. Louis

Another one which we will never probably know the details of what really happened. A dark alley, 2 suspects fleeing, Police in hot pursuit – one of the suspects purportedly pulls a gun…

Seems to be a repetitive story, sometimes true…Sometimes not.

Think it is a better idea to wait and see what the story really is.

Fresh racial unrest in St. Louis after police shoot black suspect

Police shot and killed a black man in St. Louis on Wednesday in a killing that drew angry crowds 10 days after protesters marked the anniversary of the police shooting of an unarmed teen in nearby Ferguson.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said the shooting took place as officers were attempting to execute a search warrant in a crime-ridden neighborhood, when two young black men ran out the back door of the targeted house.

Police officers confronted the suspects in the alley behind the house and one suspect pointed a gun at officers who then fired approximately four times, killing him, Dotson said.

Despite the police explanation of events, dozens of people gathered near the scene protesting the police use of deadly force, according to local media.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2015 in Domestic terrorism

 

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