Kalamazoo, MI –PACCT, a local grassroots organization in Kalamazoo, MI calling for defunding police and reinvesting monies that are productive, supportive and healing for students in Kalamazoo Public Schools. A PACCT organizer shared, “Long overdue relief and liberation for our most vulnerable youth in our education system, BIPOC and LGBTQI+ youth.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), along with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Congressman Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), and Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), unveiled the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act, much needed legislation that would help disrupt the school-to-confinement pathway (school to prison pipeline), invest in safe and nurturing school climates that support all students and bring an end to the over-policing of our nation’s K-12 schools.
The legislation is informed by Rep. Pressley’s People’s Justice Guarantee, her visionary resolution to transform the American criminal legal system that calls for schools to create safe and nurturing environments that provide all students with the opportunity to heal, thrive and reach their highest potential.
“Every student deserves to learn in a setting free from fear, but when our education system is intertwined with the criminal legal system, students of color, LGBTQ+ students, and students with disabilities are disproportionately criminalized for normal childhood behavior and are put on a pathway to confinement,” said Rep. Pressley. “Our bill would address this by shifting federal resources away from school police and investing in culturally responsive nurses, mental health professionals, and other trauma-informed staff that are proven to help our youth grow and reach their full potential. We must root out systemic oppression everywhere it exists—including in our schools—and I thank my colleagues for their partnership in this effort.”
“Right now, too many students, and often kids of color or with disabilities, are arrested by police in schools. The classroom should be a safe place to learn, and the data shows that having counselors and other licensed professionals on staff actually leads to better educational outcomes,” said Sen. Murphy. “I’m re-introducing legislation that would give school districts new resources to increase the presence of support personnel in schools so kids are arrested less and have qualified professionals around to address disciplinary issues in a way that makes students feel supported. It’s just one way we can start to chip away at the racial inequities in our educational system and make sure all kids have a safe place to learn and grow.”
The data shows that counselors, social workers, psychologists and other trained professionals actually improve social and educational outcomes for kids in schools—whereas the involvement of police in schools leads to the criminalization of students, particularly students of color and students with disabilities. The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act would prohibit the use of federal funds to increase police presence in schools and instead provide $5 billion in new grant funding to help schools hire more counselors social workers, and other behavioral health personnel and implement services in schools that create positive and safe climates for all students.
The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act:
Prohibits the use of federal funds for maintaining police in schools: Since 1999, the federal government has spent more than $1 billion to support the increased presence of police in schools. However, evidence does not show that this investment has improved student outcomes and school safety. This legislation would prohibit federal funds to support the hiring, maintaining, or training of police officers in K-12 schools and instead divert that funding toward the many other uses related to school safety within applicable grant programs.
Invests billions to help schools hire counselors, social workers, and other trauma-informed support personnel necessary to create safe and inclusive learning environments: The legislation helps districts build safe and inclusive schools by establishing a $5 billion grant program to support the hiring of counselors, social workers, nurses, school psychologists, and other personnel. Further, the grant program helps districts implement strategies to improve school climate, such as school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports, and invest in trauma-informed services and professional development. As more school districts choose to move away from policies that criminalize students and push them out of school, this historic investment will ensure districts have the necessary resources to provide students with the supports they need to feel safe in school and thrive.
Incentivizes states and districts to bring an end to the criminalization of young people, particularly Black, Native American and Latino students, immigrant students, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students and other historically marginalized students and instead invest in safe and nurturing environments where all students can thrive.
“Counselors, nurses, social workers, and educators belong in schools. Police do not,” said Senator Warren. “Our bill will bring us one step closer to ending the militarization of our public schools that disproportionately hurts Black and Brown students, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and ensuring we give every child the resources they need to feel safe and thrive.”
“Every single student deserves a quality education, and the support to make that possible. But in districts across America, educational outcomes are radically unequal, particularly for children of color and kids with disabilities. In my hometown of Minneapolis, black students are 41% of the student population, but make up three quarters of all suspensions. At one middle school in my district, African American students are 338% more likely to be suspended than their white peers, according to the most recent data. Kids need support, not punishment. I am proud to join this bicameral effort to invest in social workers, counselors and personnel in schools to make sure our most vulnerable kids have the support they need,” said Rep. Omar.
“Stationing police officers in places of learning creates an environment of criminalization from an early age — making it more challenging for our children to focus on their learning, growth, and unlocking their full potential,” said Rep. Bowman. “When we put an officer in a school, we’re sending a message that our children require surveillance. When we put a counselor in a school, we’re sending a message that our children deserve nurturing and support. The emotional, mental, and social trauma of the past year and beyond makes the Counseling Not Criminalization Act even more urgent. Our Black and brown students have shouldered a disproportionate burden during the pandemic, and we know they face a disproportionate amount of policing and criminalization in school. Let’s act now to decrease police presence and provide our schools with resources for counseling and mental health support students deserve.”
“We need to root out systemic oppression in schools. This challenge might seem insurmountable, but there are clear next steps on the path forward,” said Senator Smith. “We should start by removing police from schools and hiring more school counselors, social workers, and other behavioral health personnel to improve school culture and outcomes for students. By transforming the way that schools approach discipline, we can decrease the criminalization of all students, especially students of color and students with disabilities.”
This week, Congresswoman Pressley submitted testimony to the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights, and Inclusion in which she urged lawmakers to prioritize legislation that will dismantle the school-to-confinement pathway by reallocating funding from school-based law enforcement and investing that money in culturally responsive nurses, mental health professionals, and other trauma-informed staff.
The legislation has the support of a broad coalition of advocacy groups, including, at the national level:
A Black Education Network; A Little Piece of Life; Advancement Project National Office; Advocating for Kids, Inc; American Association for People with Disabilities; Alliance for Educational Justice; American Civil Liberties Union; Anti Police-Terror Project; Autistic Self Advocacy Network; Aztlan Media – Launch 2024; Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law; BiNet USA; Black Parallel School Board; Blacks in Law Enforcement of America; Blue Future; Blue Hills Civic Association; Breaking the Chains of Your Mind; CASA; Center for Disability Rights; Center for Learning Equity; Children’s Haven: A Place of Healing and Hope, Inc.; Children’s Defense Fund; Children’s Law Center, Inc.; Chispa; Church World Service; CLASP A New Deal for Youth Changemakers; Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues; Coalition of Labor Union Women, AFL-CIO; Committee for Children; Communities for Just Schools Fund; Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice; Critical Exposure; Deep Center; Defending Rights & Dissent; Dignity in Schools; Disability Rights Advocates; Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund; Drug Policy Alliance; Education Justica Alliance; Ella Baker Center for Human Rights; EveryBlackGirl, Inc.; Feminist Majority Foundation; First Focus Campaign for Children; Girls Inc.; GLSEN; Health in Justice Action Lab; Hispanic Federation; Hour Children; Human Rights Campaign; Intercultural Development Research Association; Justice for Families; Justice Strategies; Justice Teams Network; Juvenile Law Center; LatinoJustice PRLDEF; Los Angeles United School District; Leaders Igniting Transformation; League of Women Voters of the United States; Legal Aid Justice Center; Mommieactivist and Sons; MomsRising; NAACP; NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc.; NAMINYS Criminal Justice Committee; National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity; National Black Justice Coalition; National Center for Learning Disabilities; National Center for Youth Law; National Council of Churches; National Crittenton; National Disability Rights Network (NDRN); National Down Syndrome Congress; National Education Association; National Equality Action Team; National Immigration Law Center; National Juvenile Justice Network; National Women’s Law Center; New Athens Creative, Inc.; Next Level Vision, Inc.; Open Society Policy Center; Parents Organized for Public Education; Polemics: Journal of the Workingclass Struggle and National Writers Union; Policing and Social Justice Project; Poverty & Race Research Action Council; Project KnuckleHead; Public Advocacy for Kids; Public Justice; RACCE; Rebuilding Independence My Style; Sociedad Latina; Southern Coalition for Justice; Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund; SPACEs In Action; Stand for Children; Strategies for Youth; Students for Sensible Drug Policy; The Advocacy Institute; The Black Police Experience; The Center for Law and Social Policy; The Center for Popular Democracy; The Choice Program at UMBC; The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates; The Daniel Initiative; The Education Trust; The Gathering for Justice; The Institute for Compassion in Justice; The Justice Roundtable; The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; The National Black Child Development Institute; The National Parents Union; The School Social Work Association of America; The Sentencing Project; United Methodist Women; Urban Youth Collaborative; Vday; Who Speaks For Me; Women’s Leadership Project; Working Narratives; Young Voices; Youth Over Guns; YWCA USA;
It also has the support of a coalition of local organizations, including Arkansas Community Organizations; Baltimore People’s Climate Movement; Baltimore Police Free Schools Coalition; Brighton Park Neighborhood Council; Black & Pink Massachusetts; California Children’s Trust; Center for Children’s Advocacy (CT); Center for Youth & Community Leadership in Education; Clevelanders Against Federal Policing; Collierville Community Justice; CT Students for a Dream; DC Prep PrepNext and ANC 1A07; DeCarcerate Memphis; Disability Rights Oregon; Education Law Center (PA); End Mass Incarceration Georgia Network; Equality California; Faith in New Jersey; Faith in Texas; Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children; Family Law Practice Clinic (CUNY School of Law); Florida Student Power Network; Gwinnett Parent Coalition to Dismantle the School to Prison Pipeline; Hilton Head for Peace; Institute for Compassion in Justice (KY); Just City Memphis; Kentucky Student Voice Team; Lehigh Valley Stands Up; LAUSD; Living United for Change in Arizona; Make the Road Nevada; Make the Road New York; March for Our Lives DC; Next Level Vision DC; Nollie Jenkins Family Center, Inc.; One Pennsylvania – Education Rights Network; Our Revolution Ohio; Pa’lante Restorative Justice; Reclaim Our Schools LA; Rights & Democracy VT and NH; Silver State Equality – Nevada; Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, New York; Southern Maine Showing Up for Racial Justice; Special Education Equity for Kids (CT); SURJ Ohio; Tenants and Workers United; Uplift MN LLC.
“Students, especially youth with disabilities and Black and Brown youth, continue to be overpoliced in our nation’s schools. The federal government must stop funding this school-to-prison pipeline. We must divest from school policing and reinvest in counselors, social workers, and nurses who support our students and communities,” said West Resendes of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“For years we have seen troubling patterns in our public schools: students with disabilities, students of color, and other marginalized students are more harshly disciplined, referred to law enforcement, and arrested. It is time that schools truly become a safe place for every child to learn and grow. The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act is a step toward helping every school can invest in what works: the use of evidence-based and trauma-informed services and increasing access to counselors, social workers and mental health professionals. Schools must have these building blocks to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students,” said Meghan Whittaker, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
“I grew up in a predominantly Black and brown neighborhood where I have watched the impact that policing has had in our schools,” said Mariet Leana, youth leader at Make the Road New York and Urban Youth Collaborative. “I have witnessed young people lose their hope and feel that schools are no longer safe places for them because of an overwhelming number of police officers and so few counselors, therapists and other support services that students need to thrive. The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act will invest desperately needed resources into the support that students need: counseling — not criminalization.”
“LGBTQ+ young people, especially those who are BIPOC and students with disabilities, are entering the school-to-prison pipeline at higher rates than their non-LGBTQ+ peers. Discriminatory policies and practices—especially the routine reliance on school-based law enforcement—is at the root of this inequity,” said GLSEN Interim Executive Director Melanie Willingham-Jaggers (she/they). “GLSEN is proud to endorse the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act as a crucial step towards decriminalizing youth by investing instead in counseling and health services that foster positive, LGBTQ+ inclusive school climates and promote students’ wellbeing and academic success.”
“The cops in our schools are the same cops that control, terrorize, and criminalize Black, Brown and poor people on our streets,” said Katherine Dunn, Director of Advancement Project National Office’s Opportunity to Learn program. “It’s past time that we listen to young people who are demanding Police Free Schools and an end to the system that disproportionately harms and oppresses youth of color. Advancement Project National Office is proud to support this effort to shift federal resources away from school policing and towards the supportive, restorative resources that our kids need to learn, grow, and thrive.”
“The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act invests in students’ mental health and wellbeing and divests from racist and harmful disciplinary actions which impact young peoples’ health and livelihoods. The bill is an important first step to bringing about needed change in school climate, as all young people deserve to feel safe and supported,” said Olivia Golden, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).
“The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act will mean that our nation has begun to invest in what actually works to keep our kids safe and in school – counselors, social workers, restorative justice staff, and other behavioral support personnel – and will also mean the nation is stepping away from what doesn’t work: harmful and punitive police in schools. We look forward to helping the bill’s sponsors to ensure this important legislation advances to enactment,” said the National Center for Youth Law.
In March 2021, Rep. Pressley re-introduced her Ending PUSHOUT Act, her bold legislation to end the punitive pushout of girls of color from schools and disrupt the school-to-confinement pathway. The bill, which she initially introduced in December 2019, is also informed by Rep. Pressley’s People’s Justice Guarantee and is a continuation of her longstanding history of working to address issues of criminalization during her tenure on the Boston City Council.
Kalamazoo, MI- Emergent Justice Organizers, created a virtual statewide space for Black and Brown community members to collectively reflect and next steps for systemic change, starting in our own backyards.
Additional information about Emergent Justice or how to get involved! visit their website at www.emjustice.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, April 1, 2021 Contact: Dina Sutton, email@example.com
Kalamazoo County seeks residents to serve on Reparations Task Force Task force will examine historical discriminatory practices throughout the community, recommend next steps
KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners Vice Chair and head of the Kalamazoo County Reparations Task Force Tami Rey announced the county is accepting applications from residents to serve on the Reparations Task Force. The task force was created earlier this year following the adoption of a resolution brought forward by the Kalamazoo County Board.
“It is vital for the Reparations Task Force to have input from residents from all walks of life and professions that run the gamut, from the community organizers to doctors and attorneys, which is why I am encouraging residents to apply to be a member of the task force,” Rey said. “This task force will take a critical look at the historical practices of racial discrimination throughout the community and have frank and open conversations to determine how to remedy the discriminatory practices that have led to disparities in wealth, housing, employment, education and health.”
The task force is seeking residents from professional fields including, but not limited to:
Community organizers or activists
BIPOC community organizations
Elected officials and county leaders have also been invited to join the task force, including Administrator Tracie Moored, Treasurer Thomas Whitener and county commissioners.
“I applaud Vice Chair Rey for taking the initiative to create this task force and reach out to community members so we can start having the important conversation about reparations in Kalamazoo County,” Board Chair Tracy Hall said. “The goal of this task force aligns with our vision of ensuring Kalamazoo County is actively working toward racial equity and to become a welcoming place for everyone to live, work and raise a family.”
Once the task force completes its examination, it will be charged with recommending appropriate remedies to the county board
Kalamazoo, MI- Last night, youth and community organizers gathered to show solidarity and to continue to memorialize the short lived life of George Floyd who was killed by police last summer. Organized by Corianna McDowell and Quintin Bryant according to the Facebook post.
George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Derek Chauvin, a white police officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, knelt on Floyd’s neck for approximately 9 minutes and 30 seconds after he was handcuffed and lying face down in the street.
Floyd complained about being unable to breathe prior to being on the ground, but after being restrained he became more distressed, and continued to complain about breathing difficulties. Officer Chauvin placed his neck on the neck of Floyd until medics told him to.
Today is the first day trial began for the officer, Derek Chauvin, accused of who killed George Floyd. “I feel that we can not allow our voices to be silent”. Organizers met at 8:00pm with signs, and solidarity to show our community & the world we stand together. In addition to the program, there was a moment of silence for 8:46 that same length of time that George laid on the ground pleading for his life as the officer left his knees pressed against his neck until he passed away.
LIVE COVERAGE OF Derek Chauvin case https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=744978849344129&ref=search
Kalamazoo, MI- Jackie Mitchell, resident of Kalamazoo and entrepreneur, is in the process of developing a corner of the Southside neighborhood into a hub for health through community gardening and connection. The space will have an indoor garden facility and feature education about sustainable gardening practices and food from local growers.
Jackie has been involved in multiple local efforts to address racial inequities on health, wealth and education in Kalamazoo. She has used her own money and know how and shared her knowledge and opportunities with family and community members. Jackie also has plans to provide space for local artists and makers to sell their crafts in this space.
Mitchell has completed a course in urban gardening through KVCC as well as multiple courses and consultation on small business development. She has developed a thorough business plan and has secured a business loan and multiple small grants to rehab the building and purchase necessary equipment. Extensive electrical, plumbing and construction work is still needed to get this business up and running.
Mitchell recently presented her project to Urban Democracy FEAST on March 20 and was awarded 100% of the FEAST crowd-fund which included, presenter for Fuel After the Economy, Alex Sanchez, graciously donated their awarded funds from the events presentations. To find out more about Urban Democracy FEAST and the next opportunities to present your social justice projects, visit www.urbandemocracyfeast.org
Making a virtual appearance in Wayne County’s 36th District Court bright and early on Friday, the man on the screen in a dapper grey suit and striped tie, salt and pepper hair and a gentle demeanor, hardly cast the figure of a gun-toting outlaw. Sitting upright and attentive from his homey living room, Otis Goree took his turn in front of Judge Kenneth King for a preliminary hearing stemming from his February arrest for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.
Otis’ case was one many like it being heard that morning in courtroom 438. Though access to the public was limited (several were abandoned in the Zoom waiting room after attempting to log on using the public link), our from Majyck Radio was able to watch over an hour of the proceedings, during which dozens of individuals came before the court for concealed carry charges.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, gun sales across the country have been on the rise, and gun violence has risen alarmingly in many major metropolitan areas. In response, Detroit police are cracking down – focusing their efforts on identifying, stopping and questioning individuals they believe to be carrying weapons and making arrests when those individuals are unable to furnish a concealed carry permit – which, unlike the guns themselves, have become difficult to obtain. Getting a license requires a gun owner to successfully complete an approved training course – in person. While the pandemic rages on, many providers of the training have limited or entirely suspended their offerings due to public health concerns and social distancing requirements. Amidst an uptick in violence within their neighborhoods, citizens like Otis feel at risk, but unable to legally protect themselves.
Otis, 59, is a lifelong resident of Detroit. A hardworking family man and grandfather of 2, he enjoys working with his hands. Since heart attacks in 2018 forced him into early retirement from his job in building maintenance, Otis spends most of his time gardening, woodworking, and relaxing at home.
Prior to 2020, Otis had never owned or fired a gun in his life, and didn’t feel like his lifestyle necessitated a firearm. That changed with the onset of Covid-19 in early 2020, and the massive social unrest, racially motivated and politically sanctioned violence, and an increasing sense of fear and desperation among many of his neighbors that led to increased violent crime in his community. Otis no longer felt safe, and for the first time looked to equipping himself with a firearm for personal protection.
Otis is not alone. It is estimated that first time gun owners account for over 40% of gun sales in the country since early 2020 – more than double the average in previous years.
Otis purchased his small pistol from an authorized dealer and made sure to have it registered immediately. He didn’t know when he made his purchase that he would not be able to take a class locally to obtain his Concealed Carry Permit – information the seller didn’t share with him until after Otis had purchased and registered the weapon. So, while the gun would afford him some peace of mind at home, it would have to stay there. And it did, until one snowy day in February.
Normally, Otis relies on friends and family to drive him when he has errands to run. On February 17th, however, there was no one available to take him. Instead, he would have to walk to the stop on 7 Mile and take the bus. “I needed my vegetables”, Otis says, so he set out with his reusable grocery bags, his walking cane and, for the first time, his pistol. “Things had gotten pretty bad,” he explained, referring to violence in his neighborhood off 7 mile in Detroit. Indeed, homicides in Detroit rose 19% in 2020, and non-fatal shootings were up 53%. So when he left on what would have otherwise been a routine trip to the market, he tucked the gun securely into the waistband of his pants, underneath his heavy winter coat. Otis explains that he didn’t make the decision lightly, but that he felt the need to bring a weapon with him because he feared for his safety in the neighborhood and at the bus stops.
The shopping itself was uneventful, but while he waited, loaded down with bags of groceries, at the stop for the bus that would take him back home, suddenly two officers pulled up in a black stealth police SUV, got out, approached him (and only him) directly and immediately asked him if he had a weapon. Otis replied honestly that he did, and when asked if he had a CCW permit, told the officers he did not. Otis was relieved when after a few minutes, the officers then told him to go ahead and get on his bus and go home. Unfortunately by the time he gathered his bags from the sidewalk, the bus had already moved on. Not wanting to stick around, he decided to walk to the next stop and catch his ride from there. He made it less than a block down the road before another stealth police vehicle pulled aside him and two more officers questioned him – exactly as they had at the bus stop moments before. Otis replied as he had at the bus stop, and once again the officers told him to be on his way and pulled off.
Increasingly nervous and just wanting to get home, Otis walked on for another half a block or so before a third police vehicle pulled in front of him at the next intersection and blocked his path. He was bewildered. The exchange started out much the same – Otis shared when asked that he had a weapon, told them where it was, and explained he did not have a permit. This time, he was arrested.
Sitting in the back of the police car that day, Otis recalls that his arresting officers claimed to not know about his having been stopped previously, which surprised him. Surely it was more than coincidence that led to his being stopped by three separate police vehicles on such a short journey. And how did they all seem to know he had a gun? Were the police using some kind of detector tools on patrol? He asked his arresting officers, who laughed. “We’re just really good at our jobs” one said. The coy denial didn’t convince Otis. What would have otherwise prompted them to approach a greying older gentleman with a cane and bags of groceries at a bus stop? If they didn’t already know he had a gun, why was that the first question they asked at each stop?
Others agree with Otis’ suspicions – and the idea isn’t far fetched. For years, the department of defense and policing agencies in the united states have been developing and piloting technologies that can detect weapons from as many as 80 feet away, raising fourth amendment concerns about whether or not scanning a person’s body of personal effects absent a warrant constitutes an illegal search. Though public information on the use of these technologies in Detroit is difficult to find, we know they have been implemented elsewhere in recent years, including in New York, where after public outcry the city voted to require the police department to publicly disclose their use of surveillance technology – something they had been actively trying to keep quiet. Meanwhile, the Detroit Police Department has increased its surveillance on citizens in recent years, with the installation of cameras on city streets and audio gunshot detector software that uses cell phone audio to pick up gunfire and triangulate its location. And given the department’s partnership with federal agencies over the summer with Operation Legend – and the millions of dollars that came attached – it’s easy to imagine they may have gained access to even more tools like these.
Farooq Azizuddin says that even if Detroit Police haven’t acquired new technology, for over fifteen years they have employed a scanning device that can be aimed at individuals from a distance to pick up “unusual amounts’ ‘ of metals on a person. Azizuddin, a security expert and former Black Panther, says these devices were developed during the Iraq war to keep troops safe from armed insurgents overseas and eventually, as commonly happens with military tools, they became available to law enforcement agencies stateside.
When Otis was booked at the county jail after his arrest in February, he shared a cell with several others, at least 11, who were also awaiting arraignment on weapons possession charges. All had similar stories about their arrests. Over the course of his 3 day stay, the trend continued; those that bonded out were quickly replaced with others newly arrested under similar circumstances. The numbers aren’t surprising; DPD’s Chief James Craig calls his department’s efforts to crack down on guns “aggressive”.
There is no question that gun violence is a huge problem in our communities, one that has grown considerably in the last year. But rather than address the root causes of crime and violence in a community historically marginalized and poverty stricken, currently experiencing the worst effects of the current pandemic, the city is focusing instead on increasing surveillance of its citizens and casting a wide net to grab as many guns as they can. But who is getting caught up in it? Chief Craig has been a longtime advocate for an armed citizenry, stating his belief that “good guys”, law abiding citizens with guns create safer communities, reduce crime, and even deter terrorism. Thanks to the pandemic’s limiting effect on the registration and licensing process for firearms in addition to an increased need for personal safety, people like Otis, who has no prior criminal history, are finding themselves targeted – seemingly by virtue of being Black. The stealth units appearing in Black neighborhoods conducting these sweeps seem to be absent from more affluent white areas of the city. Maybe that’s where Craig believes the “good guys” are?
Now Otis, who has been looking forward to finally being able to spend time with his children and grandchildren once the threat of Covid-19 subsides, is instead staring directly at a felony charge of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit – punishable by up to five years in prison. The process is slow, but Otis has a lot of questions about his case, and he intends to use this time to get answers. His preliminary hearing today was adjourned until June 30th on account of his attorney having only this morning received the discovery packet – containing documents and evidence necessary to develop his defense. In addition to working with a public defender, Otis has also partnered with Emergent Justice’s Participatory Defense Hub – a cooperative of individuals who come together regularly to review cases, strategize, and dismantle roadblocks to achieving just outcomes. The team will be working diligently in the coming months to support him and his attorney on this case in the coming months.
In the meantime, while the specter of “justice” hangs over his head, Otis plans to go about his business more or less as usual. He’ll ready his gardens for spring, do a little woodworking, practice the harmonica, and maybe even get around to restoring the old Corvette in his garage. And while his own fate is uncertain, he wants more than anything for the community to be aware of the tools and tactics of the police that patrol his city. “Everybody is safer when everybody else knows what’s going on”.
Majyck Radio reached out to the Detroit Police Department to inquire about their use of surveillance technology, and hopes to learn more about the circumstances that led to Mr. Goree’s arrest. We will continue to follow his case. More information about Participatory Defense can be found online at Emergent Justice’s Website: emergentjustice.org.
Detroit, Michigan- Elisheva Johnson serves as the Executive Director of EMERGENT JUSTICE, an organization dedicated to ending mass incarceration in our community country, and eventually world.
The foundation of the work this organization serves to fulfill is participatory defense. We essentially become an effective part of the defense team for a person moving through the system, supporting their defense attorneys as researchers, story tellers and sometimes investigators supporting families and loved ones of those in trouble with the Criminal legal system.
Since there is no such thing as, “My loved one went to jail school”, we help people to navigate the challenges of the injustice system, and to show community support for someone returning home. We do this as a community of returning citizens and directly impacted people. We take and transform these stories into campaigns for policy reforms, and campaigns to replace bad actors in the system like prosecutors, judges, police chiefs, and others. We know that supporting families in writing biographical materials to help humanize clients and tell their stories, can be impactful in changing the trajectory of a case, in fact we have won cases in this very fashion!
“In Michigan, it is legal for a person to carry a firearm in public as long as the person is carrying the firearm with lawful intent and the firearm is not concealed. … It is legal because there is no Michigan law that prohibits it; however, Michigan law limits the premises on which a person may carry a firearm.”
To Otis this all seems to be very unfair on top of the fact that this is all happening during a Pandemic.
“Right now we need help for Otis Goree!” :
MJR: Can you give us a briefing on what is currently going on with Mr. Goree?
EJ: “Sure, no problem”.The story is: Otis was sad that he had recently lost his dog, Martin. Martin was a Japanese Akita, that Otis loved and cared for for a long time. He had just left the vet and was preparing to bury his beloved pet, when he tried to dig a hole the ground was frozen, he broken down from frustration in a furry of tears, Otis was completely heart broken. He couldn’t bear thinking about having to bury his dog sitting in the box in his living room, so he decided he would take a break and walk to a local store. On his way back, his mind started to clear, he felt a little better, as he stood at the bus stop on 7 mile and Outer Drive. Then out of nowhere, the police pulled up and asked Otis what kind of gun he had. Otis was stunned, and scared that the police stopped and wanted to search him. There was no cause to search or ask him anything, but Otis fully cooperated with the police. Otis worried he was going to jail and mentioned that he has pre-existing conditions that made it unsafe to locked up right now. He is a triple by-pass survivor and still has heart conditions that he takes medicine for today. He missed out on medication for over two days while he was being detained in a Detroit Detention center on Mound Road, where he was held in a cell with about ten other inmates that where not social distanced. How could this happen when Otis doesn’t even have a felony record. (The usual argument used by police.)
MJR: “Thank you for sharing his story. Social media has helped show the world that many instances when a BIPOC person is dealing with police have been non-violent”.
ET: “Most definitely!” Social media has helped with sharing of traumas and similarly shared interactions with police and black men that are minor or over embellished bringing harm or even death”. Over the past year, we have heard of the rising COVID-19 cases in MI jails and prisons. Again, looking at the circumstances of Mr. Goree’s arrest, we know, WE are targeted even more as Black people”.
EJ:So there’s been a scramble in states to release non-violent detainees. Nina Ginsberg, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers says it’s a critical step that needs to occur. “This is ground zero,” she says. “Once coronavirus gets into a jail, there’s no way to stop it from spreading. You cannot do social distancing in a jail. You cannot.”
MJR: For the folks that are reading this or will hear about Mr. Goree, what can they do to support him and the work of Emergent Justice?
EJ: Thank you for asking! First, folks can call Representative Rashida Tlaib and tell her that gun profiling has to stop! At Emergent Justice, our work is led by directly impacted folks. We are always recruiting and open to like minded individuals that want to transform the criminal justice and end mass incarceration”
Kalamazoo, MI- UDF Organizers openly welcomes the community to attend the next spring virtual FEAST. Individuals and organizations that would like to present for the next FEAST, download the application and submit completed application to the People’s Food Co-Op by February 22, 2021. The People’s Food CO-OP is located at 507 Harrison Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49007.
Kalamazoo, MI- A message from organizers that are asking for members of BIPOC communities to taken in consideration as you plan your daily activities leading up the 2021 Presidential Inauguration.
BIPOC/ALLY Community Safety Suggestions for Jan. 17-20, 2021
Greeting you with Power.
These times are jarring and for many of us, unprecedented in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities. The multiple emotions we will feel leading up to the inauguration and beyond are valid and normal. We make space to hold these feelings in radical love and commitment to our wellness
During the dates of January 17-20th, we are aware that many white supremacist groups plan to protest the state capitols of all of our US states. This is known through online information shared and the advice from secure sources.
Our advice to our BIPOC/Ally communities is to stay close to community and away from any actions taking place anywhere near where the white supremacist groups will be. “Stay Safe, Stay Home” takes on an even deeper meaning for these days.
During these days, we strongly advise BIPOC to:
Take this weekend off of work.
We implore employers to refrain from penalizing employees of color for taking off to ensure their safety is not compromised going to and from their homes.
Take this week to stock your home with enough food, water, and needed medications for up to 2 weeks in the event that going out safely will be harder to do because of actions we cannot predict leading up to the inauguration.
Allies can be charged to help transport these items to vulnerable folks
Check on your loved ones, bring the Elders up to speed, and offer comfort and assurance. Now is the time to practice radical care for one another.
Keep all devices charged and limit use when unplugged to conserve battery
Secure a battery-powered radio in case of cell phone disruption to use to hear emergency radio broadcasts
Write down important phone numbers in the event of phone service disruption
Identify the closest landline to you and a safe route to use for emergencies. Do not travel alone.
In case of fire, have an extinguisher and smoke detector batteries on hand.
Stock up on blankets and warming packs in the event of power failure. Fiberglass blankets, flashlights or lanterns, are suggested
Identify the safest place in your home, away from windows and visible lights, even a closet if needed to conceal yourself.
If leaving home is not avoidable, avoid traveling anywhere far from your home and going out by yourself.