Filed Under:  OpEd, Opinion

Watered-down justice

27th December 2016   ·   0 Comments

By Edmund W. Lewis

It hardly seems fair or just that the loved ones of the innocent people slaughtered and wounded by New Orleans police during the Danziger Bridge massacre and the officer-involved murders of Henry Glover and Raymond Robair, and all of the people of this majority-Black city, had to wait 11 years and some change for the City of New Orleans to get around to extending an apology or even attempting to make amends.

In a city where a local cop was caught on tape ordering a hit on a woman as casually as one might order a pizza or some take-out meal, it should surprise no one that the cases highlighted by the City of New Orleans and the NOPD in its scripted and strategically timed apology last week are but the tip of the iceberg.

Mind you, this is the city where cops killed 20-year-old Wendell Allen for the unpardonable crime of standing shirtless and unarmed on the staircase of his Gentilly home, the town where cops gunned down 20-year-old Justin Sipp as he headed to work at a local fast-food restaurant before the sun came up. The mayor later called the cops who sustained injuries in the incident “heroes,” a term that brought to mind the dark day that the “Danziger 7” cops turned themselves in to authorities amid applause, hugs, kisses and signs that read “heroes.”

This is the city where cops killed Adolph Grimes III as he sat in his car in front of his grandmother’s home while waiting for a friend on New Year’s Eve.

The city where cops stood around and watched four white bouncers from Club Razzoo in the French Quarter choke the life out of visiting Georgia Southern University college student Levon Jones on the sidewalk.

Police terror, deadly force and unconstitutional policing are nothing new in these parts, even when the city had a Black mayor and majority-Black city council.

We have to be honest with ourselves: This is not a place where freedom, democracy or justice has flourished over the past three centuries. We are living at the epicenter of white supremacy, where people who look like us sell us out every day to enrich their own families and every facet of human existence is strategically planned and controlled.

Police win in the courts all the time because the white business community controls the courts and police are the first line of defense for white supremacy.

We must never forget that this little kingdom by the sea we call home is older than the United States by nearly six decades and that this city accumulated a great deal of wealth, power and influence while the colonies that eventually became America were still trying to figure things out.

Don’t be fooled into believing that the powers that be in this city don’t flex that power in any dealings with the federal courts or the U.S. Department of Justice.

Although these slights, assaults and brutal acts of police terror were committed against individuals, they sent an unmistakable message to people of color that essentially said that Black, Brown and poor people in this city have no civil, constitutional or human rights that law enforcement officers or the criminal justice system are bound by law, custom or human decency to respect or protect.

For those who think everything will be okay because the mayor and police chief said so, keep in mind that the NOPD found itself under another federally mandated consent decree after a police officer ordered a hit on a woman in the Lower Ninth Ward. Former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial supported the consent decree and brought in NOPD Supt. Richard Pennington to clean house in the troubled police department.

Morial has said often that the consent decree was progressing well but was not supported and pushed forward by his successor, C. Ray Nagin,

As was the case in the Danziger Bridge massacre, Henry Glover murder and many other officer-involved killings, the people of this city, state and nation were shocked and appalled by the cold-blooded murder of an innocent woman but over the course of time people forgot, pressure on the NOPD to implement reforms dwindled and the cops got back to dirty business as usual.

The question that begs to be answered is why it took so long for the City of New Orleans and the NOPD to apologize to the victims of these three heinous incidents and their loved ones and why were the 17 plaintiffs only awarded $13.3 million to distribute among themselves?

That seems like a miserly amount by most standards and hardly the kind of settlement that would make the City of New Orleans or any U.S. city think twice about allowing law enforcement officers to routinely violate innocent civilians’ constitutional lives or murder innocent people because they were having a bad day or were unhappy with their chosen profession.

To add insult to deadly injury, there was the slightest hint of arrogance and smugness in the Landrieu administration and the NOPD’s tone, almost as if the plaintiffs should be happy to get anything out of a city as oppressive and draconian as The Big Uneasy.

After all, John Thompson, was framed for murder, convicted, sentenced to die and forced to wait to be put to death for 14 years. For that miscarriage of justice, a jury awarded him $14 million – $1 million for each year he spent on Death Row – only to have Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro convince the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn that award because the City of New Orleans couldn’t afford to pay it.

I’m curious, has the city government apologized to John Thompson, Curtis Kyles, Shareef Cousin, Jerome Morgan and all of the other Black and Brown people that cops, prosecutor and others have framed for murder and other crimes? Has the entire criminal justice system and the City of New Orleans ever apologized to the masses for the marginalization, exploitation, vilification, criminalization, mass incarceration and extermination of Black, Brown and poor people?

So many egregious acts of terror and tyranny, so little accountability or justice.

This article originally published in the December 26, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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