Tag: police brutality

The First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards

For the first time ever, this blog will be awarding end-of-the-year awards to several individuals who I consider to be effective at advancing progressive causes during the year, regardless of whether or not one meets the typical criteria of being politically progressive or not. This is the first annual awarding of the Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015. All ProgMid Award winners for this year and years in the future are automatically inducted into the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner.

The award categories for the first ProgMid Awards are as follows:

  • Person of the Year
  • Man of the Year
  • Woman of the Year
  • American of the Year
  • International Person of the Year
  • Group of the Year
  • Athlete of the Year
  • Blogger of the Year
  • Activist of the Year
  • Elected Official of the Year
  • Entertainer of the Year
  • Young Person of the Year

There are two important notes regarding the awards:

  • Many award recipients will receive multiple awards. For example, if the Person of the Year in a given year is a female athlete from Canada, she would win Person of the Year, Woman of the Year, International Person of the Year, and Athlete of the Year.
  • Should multiple people or a group of people win award(s) other than Group of the Year, the plural form of the name(s) of the other award(s) will be used (People, Men, Women, Americans, International People, Athletes, Bloggers, Activists, Elected Officials, Entertainers, and/or Young People).

With that said, I hereby present the First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015!

Person of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Person of the Year is the only open ProgMid Award category.

No person has made a bigger impact on advancing progressive causes in the year 2015 than Bernie Sanders. Bernie, the junior U.S. Senator from Vermont, is currently seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in the 2016 elections, and he has made improving America’s economy a key part of his campaign. Bernie has publicly championed raising the U.S. minimum wage to $15/hour, guaranteeing paid family leave, making college in America truly affordable, breaking up large financial institutions, and many other progressive ideals. Bernie is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2015.

Man of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Men are eligible for the Man of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is male, Bernie is also the ProgMid Man of the Year for 2015.

Woman of the Year – Rachel Notley

Women are eligible for the Woman of the Year Award.

In Alberta, Canada’s most conservative province, Rachel Notley led the Alberta New Democratic Party to a landslide victory in the Alberta legislative general election in May of 2015, and, as a result of the election, Notley became Premier of Alberta. Notley and her party ran on a progressive platform that championed good government, Alberta’s environment, economic justice, and common sense, and they won in a very conservative part of Canada. Notley is the ProgMid Woman of the Year for 2015.

American of the Year – Bernie Sanders

In order for one to be eligible for the American of the Year Award, one must be a United States citizen, United States national, resident of the United States, or some combination thereof.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an American, Bernie is also the ProgMid American of the Year for 2015.

International Person of the Year – Rachel Notley

Those who are not eligible for the American of the Year Award are eligible for the International Person of the Year Award.

Since the Woman of the Year, Rachel Notley, is a Canadian, Notley is also the ProgMid International Person of the Year for 2015.

Group of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

The Group of the Year Award is the only ProgMid Award that is required to be awarded to a group of people.

In response to racism, police brutality, and police shootings of black people in America, the Black Lives Matter movement, a group of progressive activists seeking reform of the criminal justice system and increased accountability of law enforcement in America, has brought the issues of criminal justice reform and law enforcement accountability to the forefront of American politics. Black Lives Matter is the ProgMid Group of the Year for 2015.

Athlete of the Year – Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Professional athletes and individuals primarily known for being amateur athletes (including, but not limited to, collegiate athletes and amateur Olympic athletes) are eligible for the Athlete of the Year Award.

Although one would usually not think of a NASCAR driver as advancing a progressive cause, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. played an important role in building public support for taking down the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When asked about his thoughts about the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. called the Confederate flag “offensive to an entire race” and said that the Confederate flag “belongs in the history books, and that’s about it”. For his condemnation of the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2015.

Blogger of the Year – Kelly Wilz

Those who are an administrator of, editor of, author of, and/or contributor to a blog are eligible for the Blogger of the Year Award.

One of the newest members of the progressive blogosphere is Kelly Wilz, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County. Wilz is also the author of the progressive political blog Dissent and Cookies, which launched in May of 2015. As a blogger, Wilz has primarily focused on ending rape culture in America and supporting tenure protections for college professors, both of which are very important causes. Wilz is the 2015 ProgMid Blogger of the Year.

Activists of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

Those who are largely or primarily known for being a political activist are eligible for the Activist of the Year Award.

Since the Group of the Year, the Black Lives Matter movement, is a group of political activists, members of the Black Lives Matter movement are also the 2015 ProgMid Activists of the Year.

Elected Official of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Those who were a public official elected either directly by the people or elected by a body elected by the people (such as the U.S. Electoral College) at any point in the year in which the award is given are eligible for the Elected Official of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an incumbent elected official, Bernie is also the 2015 ProgMid Elected Official of the Year.

Entertainer of the Year – Jon Stewart

Those who are entertainers (actors/actresses, comedians/comediennes, musicians, sports announcers, radio show hosts, television show hosts, etc.) are eligible for the Entertainer of the Year Award.

While Jon Stewart left the anchor desk of the Comedy Central news satire program The Daily Show in August of this year, Stewart has not abandoned the first responders who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Stewart passionately advocated for, and won, renewal of federally-funded health care for 9/11 first responders. Stewart is the 2015 ProgMid Entertainer of the Year.

Young Person of the Year – Keanan Sargent

In order to be eligible for the Young Person of the Year Award, one must be less than 18 years of age on December 31 of the year in which the award is given.

At an August 2015 LGBT pride parade and rally in Madison, Wisconsin, Keanan Sargent, the then-nine-year-old son of Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent, did something incredibly creative when confronted by homophobia. Keanan used balloons to obscure a sign that anti-LGBT protesters were displaying at the pride parade and rally. For his creativity and progressive values, Keanan Sargent is the 2015 ProgMid Young Person of the Year.

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ENDORSEMENT: Maria Chappelle-Nadal for 1st Congressional District of Missouri

I proudly endorse Maria Chappelle-Nadal in the U.S. House Democratic primary in Missouri’s 1st Congressional District, which includes the city of St. Louis and northern parts of St. Louis County.

Maria isn’t just part of the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s a way of life for her. During the Ferguson protests that were sparked by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson shooting and killing unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, Maria was hit with tear gas that was fired by law enforcement. Make no mistake about it, Maria herself has been a victim of police brutality, and, if she’s elected to Congress, she’ll fight to end police brutality in America. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is more passionate about racial justice issues than Maria.

Maria is running against incumbent Congressman William Lacy Clay, Jr., a backbencher who was virtually silent while chaos erupted in his congressional district.

Former professional tennis player James Blake subjected to police brutality and racial profiling by NYPD

Tennis is my least favorite sport. Unlike many other sports that a lot of people consider boring, such as golf, curling, and baseball (three sports that I actually like, although my favorite sport is automobile racing), there’s virtually no strategy to tennis, and the scoring system used in tennis can be confusing for those not familiar with the sport.

However, that’s all beside the point.

The point of the matter is that police brutality is a serious problem in this country, and even professional athletes are victims of police brutality. The most recent example of this involves former professional tennis player James Blake, who is black, being slammed to the ground by a plainclothes New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer and four other NYPD officers after the officers mistook him for someone allegedly involved in an identity theft ring:

Blake was in New York City for the U.S. Open on Wednesday when, as reported by Wayne Coffey of the New York Daily News, a plainclothes NYPD officer charged at him, picked him up and slammed him to the ground, mistaking him for a suspect in an identity-theft ring that had been operating in the area.

The Connecticut native and former world No. 4, who retired from tennis at the U.S. Open two years ago, initially thought the officer was possibly an old friend “running at me to give me a big hug.”

Four other cops, all white, soon joined the first officer, handcuffing and detaining Blake for 15 minutes, despite the fact that he showed I.D. and cooperated immediately.

[…]

Blake, an African American who names Arthur Ashe as his idol, admits that racial profiling was probably involved, but was more immediately concerned by the brutal nature of the encounter. His left leg was bruised and his right elbow cut in the incident.

If James Blake were white, I’m almost certain that the NYPD would have not targeted him at all, and they certainly wouldn’t have slammed him to the ground and injured him. This is a disturbing example of police brutality and racial profiling, both of which are far too common in this country.

My thoughts about no charges being filed against the police officer who killed Tony Robinson

Earlier today, Dane County, Wisconsin District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced that he would not file any criminal charges against Matt Kenny, a member of the Madison, Wisconsin Police Department, despite the fact that he shot and killed 19-year-old Tony Robinson, who was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

Here’s my thoughts about this:

Right Decision, Bad Law

Given the description that Ozanne of what led to Kenny’s decision to shoot and kill Robinson, I believe that Ozanne made the right decision, given the current Wisconsin state law regarding law enforcement officers using deadly force. However, I believe that the law gives police officers in Wisconsin too broad of authority to use lethal force, and that many other states have similar laws on the books. Because Wisconsin state law allows law enforcement officers to use deadly force if, for whatever reason, the officer reasonably believes that someone is threatening to either kill or cause great bodily harm to the officer, the police shooting of Robinson was justified in the eyes of the law, but not justified in the eyes of my personal opinion. I believe that deadly force should never be used against an unarmed person like Robinson was at the time he was shot and killed by Kenny, and that deadly force should only be used if the suspect(s) is/are armed, the suspect(s) show(s) intent to use the weapon(s) against law enforcement officer(s) and/or others, and the officer(s) have no other option but to use deadly force.

Madison’s Police Taser Policy is Absurd

If you’re wondering why Kenny did not use a taser in order to stop Robinson without killing him, that’s because of an absurd policy in Madison that prohibits law enforcement officers from using a taser except when another officer is present at the scene. Madison’s taser policy should be amended to allow for officers to use tasers to stop suspects without another officer being present, and similar policies in other jurisdictions should be amended as well.

Racial Disparities are Systemic in Madison

Despite being America’s most progressive city, there’s systemic racial disparities between white people and black people in Madison. If you’re a black person in Madison, you’re anywhere from 8 to 11 times more likely to be arrested than a white person in Madison:

The Race to Equity report also found that black adults in Dane County were more than eight times as likely to be arrested as white adults in 2012, which was higher than the black-white arrest disparity in Wisconsin (4-to-1) and the entire nation (2.5-to-1) in 2010. While black men made up only 4.8 percent of the county’s total adult male population in 2012, they comprised more than 43 percent of all new adult prison placements that year.

Updated numbers for only Madison may be even worse: Erica Nelson, who authored the Race to Equity report, told PolitiFact Wisconsin that black adults are 10.9 times as likely as white adults to be arrested in the city, based on a preliminary analysis of the Madison Police Department’s 2013 annual report.

I Strongly Support a Peaceful, Constructive Movement Against Police Brutality and Systemic Racism

So as long as the protests are peaceful and constructive in nature, I strongly support protests against brutality by law enforcement officers and systemic racism in our society. A lot needs to be done to make America a truly equal place. Protests should be non-violent, raise awareness of the problems of police brutality and systemic racism, and raise awareness of various solutions to hold police officers who engage in brutality accountable and end the systemic racism in this country.

The problems of police brutality and systemic racism in this country go beyond Madison, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Baltimore, New York City, and Ferguson. They are nationwide problems that need to be addressed by the people, the media, and public officials. Most importantly, there needs to be a concerted effort in this country to, through non-violent protests, supporting progressive-minded candidates for public office, and implementing new laws and policies, to end police brutality and systemic racism in this country once and for all.

What if Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today?

I don’t usually write “what if” posts, but, since today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I’ll share my thoughts about what I think MLK would be doing nowadays if he were alive today.

MLK would probably be a very vocal critic of voter suppression and, especially in the wake of the recent shootings of unarmed black males at the hands of white police officers, police brutality and police militarization if he were alive today. To a lesser extent, MLK would have been a vocal supporter of worker’s rights and a vocal opponent of public school privatization, as he saw so-called “right-to-work” laws and he probably would have seen the “school choice” agenda as a way of resegregating public schools. Issues where MLK would have probably not been vocal about are women’s rights and LGBT rights issues like abortion and marriage equality.

MLK was not the kind of person to leave the spotlight graciously and was a fearless advocate for the ideals that he believed in, so he probably would still be a very vocal civil rights leader if he were alive today.

Minneapolis (MN) police officer Christopher Guelcher apparently thinks that people who litter or urinate in public should be shot to death

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune published one of the most vile op-eds I’ve ever seen in my entire life. The op-ed was written by Christopher Guelcher, a police officer with the Minneapolis, Minnesota police department.

In his op-ed, which he wrote in response to recent police killings in numerous cities across the country, Guelcher strongly implied that he thinks that people who have committed even minor crimes, such as public urination and littering, should be shot to death by police and that police officers should shoot anybody who they see is committing a crime:

Could this be the future of today’s demands for reform and change? Would people be happy and fully support the federal, state or even local governments if they passed laws restricting the police from proactively enforcing low-level misdemeanor crimes committed in an officer’s presence, such as littering or public urination, because the crime does not warrant the possibility of police use of force and possibly death?

People like Christopher Guelcher are the reason why real reform of the police and criminal justice systems in this country are badly needed. Far too many police officers think that their badge gives them a right to hunt and kill people, especially black people, even for minor offenses like pissing in public and throwing trash on the ground in a public place, when, in reality, their badge doesn’t give them that right.

I found Guelcher’s remarks to be downright vile, and he owes the people of Minneapolis an apology and a resignation from the police force.

Here’s my audio blog about Guelcher’s op-ed. Please note that my attempt at speaking in a Minnesota accent sucked badly.

(READER DISCRETION ADVISED) Why the no indictment decision in the Eric Garner chokehold killing by the NYPD was total hogwash

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article includes a YouTube video that depicts the death of Eric Gardner at the hands of NYPD police officer Daniel Pantaleo. Reader discretion is advised.

A Staten Island grand jury decided not to file any charges against New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer Daniel Pantaleo, despite the fact that Pantaleo killed Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black man who sold untaxed cigarettes, by chokehold, a maneuver that is banned by the NYPD, and that Garner’s death had been ruled a homicide by a medical examiner.

Here’s the video of Pantaleo killing Garner:

Having watched the video once (I can’t stand to watch it multiple times), here’s my take on the no indictment decision (please note that I am not an attorney, and I don’t claim to be one): While Garner was resisting arrest, Pantaleo used excessive force to bring down Pantaleo. While I’m guessing that Pantaleo and the other officers on the scene were not aware that Garner had asthma, putting a chokehold on Gardner was not necessary for police officers to bring Garner to the ground and arrest him. In short, the no indictment decision was, in my opinion, total hogwash.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo used excessive force that led to the death of Eric Garner, and he should have been, at the very least, charged with manslaughter, if not murder. Sadly, a Staten Island grand jury let Pantaleo get away with killing Garner. Those who are protesting the decision in the New York City area and other parts of the country have every right to do so, as long as protesters don’t injure or kill people and don’t vandalize or damage property.

It’s 100% clear to me that there is a War on Blacks in this country.