In This Episode
DeRay, Kaya, De’Ara, and Sam dive into recent overlooked news including Iowa’s voter suppression, national standards for police training, curfew laws, and Chadwick Boseman’s thoughts on the pain of being young, gifted, and Black. Johnetta Elzie joins again to update us about developments around the current protests. Then, DeRay chats with human rights attorney and activist Kimberley Motley about police violence and the latest tragedy in Wisconsin.
DeRay [00:00:57] One of the reasons why people get so absorbed in TV shows is like it’s a different world. In the past week, I traveled to see some friends and, you know, socially distanced and did it right. And that was a great change of scenery. But also I’ve been trying to read some more fiction and like, I just forgot the beauty of being lost in another world in a book.
DeRay [00:01:19] So if you can think about a change of scenery. Let’s go.
Kaya [00:01:24] Welcome, welcome, welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I am Kaya Henderson @HendersonKaya on Twitter.
Sam [00:01:32] And I’m Sam Sinyangwe @samswey on Twitter.
DeRay [00:01:35] And this is DeRay @deray on Twitter.
DeRay [00:01:37] So obviously the only thing to talk about is the loss of the one and only, Chadwick Boseman, who we all know from Black Panther, but also from the range of other movies that he, he was in while we now know he was fighting cancer.
DeRay [00:01:58] And the last time that I was a Chadwick, we were at a big party and I’ll never forget he was so gracious and so kind. And the movie had just come out. There was somebody from Google, there was a high ranking person from Google. And I remember the meeting and the first thing this guy says to Chadwick.
DeRay [00:02:14] He’s like, “it’s so great to meet you. I haven’t had a chance to see the movie yet.” You’re like, why? That’s weird. And Chadwick just looks at him and he goes, “It’s a lot of things going on in the world. Thank you for thinking about the movie.” It was just so sweet, he was just such a kind of guy, you know. And such a loss. He’s so young. So young. I’m happy that we’re recording on Sunday night. ABC is showing Black Panther for free so people can seeit. And I think that Disney+ has it for free as well. But such an incredible loss.
Sam [00:02:44] Yeah. I mean, it was so unexpected, you know, just to open up the news and see that Chadwick Boseman. So young as you said, DeRay. So unexpected. And so, you know, 2020 has been relentless.
Sam [00:02:58] It has been, so many people have died in 2020 from Coronavirus, what’s going on politically. Black Panther is just one of many examples of Chadwick Boseman.
Sam [00:03:10] But I think this was only two years ago. We sort of think it sort of seems a lifetime ago.
Sam [00:03:15] It seems a really long time ago, just 2018. But Black Panther was so iconic, so huge, sort of, for the culture for black people in the United States and all across the world. I mean, he will be missed. And, you know, again, I’m ready for 2021. I’m like ready for, to get out of this year. It has been really tough for so many people. And I’m hopeful that we can just get past 2020 and turn the curve.
Kaya [00:03:43] This Chadwick Boseman news has really just been a kick in the stomach. I think before, if you had said, “Kaya, are you were Chadwick Boseman fan?” I would have said “not exactly.” I mean, I think he’s cool and I like his work. I think what I’ve come to realize as I’ve cried all weekend is that he’s had a much more significant impact on me, both in life and death than I originally thought. I mean, Chadwick Boseman was one of the good guys. He took on really important roles representing us and our people and our community. He, in every interview, I went down the rabbit hole this weekend just watching interview after interview. I saw him on my Jimmy Fallon and Willie Geist. And I saw him just doing a bunch of television things. And in every interview he was kind. He was gracious. He held a standard of excellence. He just represented us so well. In fact, one clip that I watched, he was talking about being offered a number of stereotypical roles and he thought, “sure, I’d love to work with that director. I’d love to work on this film, but I’d like to do it if there was a different role” because he was choosy about how he wanted to use his gift. And I think this death is affecting ua all across lots of different communities, not just the African-American community, but across the Marvel community and across kid communities and across like just the universal human family. I’ve watched photos of kids arranging their Avengers to have a funeral for Black Panther. And, you know, seeing all the kids in their Black Panther costumes has been really, really amazing. And I got a puppy last week and I named her “Shuri.”
Kaya [00:05:30] And now that feels even more important to me because it is commemorating not just a film and not just a character, but I feel like it connects to Chadwicks legacy. Sam, I’m with you. I’m ready for a 2020 to get out of here.
DeRay [00:05:47] You know, the other thing is that It brought up a conversation about colon cancer. So Chadwick died from colon cancer. It’s a reminder that colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and rates are rising among young people. And what was interesting is, you know, one of the conversations that I saw happening that I didn’t even know about was a conversation about when do you get screened for colon cancer? So everybody’s recommended to get screened at 45. But as we see, there are a lot of people who die before 45. So what happens when the screening isn’t even offered or suggested as a recommend? And if you don’t know that your family had a history of it? You know, I think about my family. I know some people who aren’t too far removed from my life who we don’t really know how they die. Like there wasn’t like a you know, I think about one of my aunts who passed away. It’s like we never got a good medical examination about why that happened. Right? So like this, I think, has renewed a conversation about like how do you prepare for some of these things, given that younger people are dying of colon cancer in ways that screening for 45 might be too late? And as you can imagine, racial disparities do show up. They quote an expert in saying that African-Americans are 40 percent more likely to die from colorectal cancer. And it’s because of later stage diagnosis.
DeRay [00:07:07] It’s because of systemic racism and all that this population has been dealing with for hundreds of years. So Chadwick’s death reminds us about the disparities in the health system, about the need to make sure the health system actually responds to those disparities by changing things like recommendations, testing opportunities and the like.
Kaya [00:07:27] My news this week is about Representative Val Demings appearance on AM Joy on MSNBC with Zerlina Maxwell. Representative Demings was talking a lot about police and she on the one hand talked about something that I think is really important, and that is when you are creating solutions, co creating solutions with the people who are most affected by the problem is often important. She talked a lot about not talking about police, but starting to talk to police to explore what’s going on in our streets, to talk about the department’s need to reflect the diversity of the community that we serve. To talk about hiring standards. And she talked a lot about training standards. She, in fact, mentioned that in the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, which was introduced in the House, that it includes a requirement for a national minimum standards for training for police officers. And she went on to explain that there are 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States. They range in size from departments of 10 people to departments of 36,000 people. And because each state sets their own standards and each locality sets its own budget, there are wide disparities in terms of how much training is required, how much training happens with the police. In fact, when I looked into police training, which I know has been talked about on the pod before, and so I’m new to the party, I found some interesting statistics from the Institute for Criminal Justice Training Reform where they effectively share that there are three main issues with police training in the United States. One is that in many places there is no training required. And I’ll talk about that with a little more specificity in a second. The second is that there is not enough training and the third is that it’s the wrong training. And so when you think about no training, in fact, there are 37 states that allow new officers to begin work without basic training. In some cases, for up to two years. In Hawaii, training is never actually required for new officers. And in other places, you can defer training from anywhere from six to 24 months. In fact, even when there is basic training, the Institute for Criminal Justice Training Reform asserts that there is not enough training, in fact, on average. Most police officers receive less than six months of basic training. And this is actually important to note relative to the rest of the world, because the United States has the lowest police training requirements in the world, with the exception of Iraq and Afghanistan. And finally, they assert that lots of times our officers receive the wrong training. They receive a lot of training in firearms deployment and tactical issues, and not enough in de-escalation and in resolution of actual crimes. Right? In fact, crimes don’t get resolved at the rate that they should. And so it was interesting that Val Demings decided to take on this training thing and to assert it into the conversation that we’re currently having about reimagining policing. We’ll see if it will be helpful or if it won’t. But I think it’s interesting that she’s championing this as part of the conversation.
Sam [00:11:13] So, you know, this is really interesting for a couple of reasons. I think, you know, one, first and foremost, we’ve heard many different voices talking about police training over the past six years since the Ferguson uprising as a potential area that needs to be addressed within the broader conversation around policing and police violence. And, you know, while there’s been a host of research that’s been conducted on various trainings, very little of that research has shown the efficacy of particular training programs and actually addressing police violence. So there have been a host of studies that have looked into implicit bias training, for example, and it found that implicit bias training may change officer attitudes and beliefs in how they respond to basic surveys, but doesn’t actually change the behavior of officers in the field and the likelihood that they’ll use force. There was a recent study that was done by professors at Columbia University which looked at mental health training and found that there was no evidence that mental health training for law enforcement reduced the likelihood that police would use force or particularly deadly force, including deadly force against folks who have mental health issues. There was a study that looked into procedural justice training, which is essentially a training that teaches police to treat civilians like human beings and explain their actions as they’re doing it and not sort of adopt is very aggressive, “I don’t need to explain myself to you” posture that training. There was some evidence that that training may have reduced use of force by about six percent in Chicago, although that study itself, there are a number of intervening variables you can imagine because that study was actually conducted during the time period that the police murdered Laquan McDonald, and the video came out. So that was a huge intervening factor that may complicate the results of that research. So I think the bottom line is there’s very little that we actually know about whether training can actually move the needle on reducing police force in the first place. And if so, which trainings in particular could actually be effective? What we do know is that, you know, nationwide, according to the Police Executive Research Forum, the average police recruit gets about 58 hours of firearms training. So learning how to shoot. And, of course, you’re learning how to shoot at people. And only eight hours of training in de-escalation or mental health and crisis intervention. So I think when you look at that picture, clearly the resources that are being spent on police training are not being spent in the right places. But where to spend those resources instead is sort of an open question in terms of whether training of any sort can actually be effective or whether all of that money just needs to be reinvested in something completely different. Completely outside of policing in the first place.
DeRay [00:14:03] The only thing I’ll say is that what is unfortunate about Representative Demings comments is that the conversation has not really shifted at all since 2014 in the way that she has talked about solutions. That that was something people said in 2014. And, you know, we didn’t have high hopes for it, but we thought that it might actually turn into something.
DeRay [00:14:22] And like, like Sam said, didn’t really turn into much. In every other problem that we attack in public life, there’s an acknowledgment that if the structures don’t change, the outcomes won’t.
DeRay [00:14:34] So when we think about having amazing teachers, we’re not like, “you know what, let’s just train them better.” Training can be a part of it. But we need to make sure that, like the kids have breakfast, lunch and dinner, the buildings have to be right. Parents have to have the resources they need. The textbooks have to be good. There has to be accountability for teacher. Like it’s the whole gambit. Right? Hospitals. It’s not like just make sure the doctors have better training. It’s like accountability is conditions for people in hospitals. You know, when we talk about the rate at which black mothers are dying in hospitals. It isn’t just a matter of training them better. We we even on the pod talked about like what it means to structurally set up hospitals so they experience different doctors, that there’s accountability when the outcomes are bad. Like in every other part of public life, It is clear that the structure has to change at the root.
DeRay [00:15:23] And it’s really odd that with the police people in power, even on our side, we’ll talk about everything but the structure they’re like, “You know what? We need to make sure that the police are nicer.” Well, ok. And then they’re like “we need to make sure the police go to more workshops” and you’re like, “okay.” Now what about fireing police? “I don’t know.” What about suing police? “What is that?” What about, you know, convicting police of crimes up? “Can’t do it.” Like, every time you talk about a structural thing with the police. People veer you off into some community policing thing or try and convince you about training. And it’s really odd to me. And I just want a name that, like, it is only the police that people refuse to engage, even engage the tough conversation about the structure. So when we think about Kenosha. Kenosha matters to us because in Kenosha, where, you know, the latest shooting happened, Mr. Blake, the Kenosha Police Union has a police officer Bill of Rights. The contract has a police officer Bill of Rights. Who told the press that he had a gun in the car? It was the Kenosha Police Union is leaking stuff. It is not the police department. It is not the official investigators. Who is leading a smear campaign against Mr. Blake and his family? It is the Kenosha Police Union. Right? So when we think about Kenosha we think about structure issues and Kenosha, there is a 5 person board of police and fire commissioners that can terminate the police chief tomorrow. They are who people should be calling. These are structural issues. That board is 100 percent appointed by the mayor. And so as the police chief, that does not sound like oversight to me. So, like, when we think about the police, it has to be structural. Training is not proven to be something to change the outcomes. And even if it did, it would never be the biggest lever.
Sam [00:17:12] So my news is about Iowa, where after historic turnout in the primary election all the way back in June, in large part by absentee voting, people were able to vote by mail. The Republicans passed a law that actually makes it harder for people to vote absentee. And in response, many folks at the county level, the county election supervisors or election commissioners in Iowa, particularly Democratic areas, have been trying to make it easier for people to vote absentee despite the law. And so what that means is that currently in Iowa, in order to vote absentee, you have to fill out this long form where you put in all of your identifying information, its an application. You also have to put in your voter identification number, which is a number that like nobody knows offhand. And then you have to send that application in. That then gets approved. And then that request means that you then get an absentee ballot in the mail that you can then vote with. Now, at the county level, what some election commissioners have been doing in Iowa to make it a little bit easier is to send people a pre filled out form that they just have to sign and send back. So they prefill out your voter ID number, they prefill out your name, and date of birth, other information. They send you that in the mail. You just sign it, send it back. Then you’ve received your absentee ballot once that’s approved. So fast forward to this past week where the courts have issued an initial ruling in Iowa, putting in, a preliminary injunction on that method of sending out absentee ballots to make it easier for people. And what that means is for about 50,000 people who’ve already received and sent back their pre filled out absentee ballot requests, that those are now considered null and void as per this decision. And now people have to receive another form in the mail to sort of correct for the error that was made in the first one in order to be able to then vote absentee and get their ballot in the mail. So this is sort of an ongoing litigation fight in Iowa. Iowa, as you know, is a battleground state. And it is just one example of many, many, many different ways in which Republicans and and the courts have stepped in, in many cases, to actually make it harder for people to vote, to strike down or limit the effectiveness of efforts at the local level to make it easier and lift some of those restrictions. This is an ongoing legal battle, though. And so we’re hopeful that that this decision will ultimately get overturned and that this process will be able to be easier for people to vote in Iowa come November.
Kaya [00:19:51] My real worry about all of this absentee ballot conversation is that people are confused about when and whether or not and how and why and all of those kinds of questions around absentee ballots, I think that people don’t know whether absentee ballots will arrive in time or be returned in time to count, whether they can fill it out and take it in some place. There’s just a lot of confusion. And I think these kinds of rulings just make people even more confused about what to do and what not to do about absentee ballots. We’ve also just seen shenanigans. And I think that what somebody needs to do, a public relations campaign that helps people answer the question, like “when should I use an absentee ballot? What’s the process? How do I ensure that it gets in effectively?” Because I think that, in fact, there is a disinformation campaign and a misinformation campaign and these activist courts that are doing all kinds of things. And and at the end of the day, I think people need clarity on the absentee ballots so that they don’t have to imperil themselves by going out to vote if they are worried about it Covid concerns. And that is real. We saw that in Wisconsin earlier and in a number of places. And so my hope is that with all of this conversation about absentee ballots, that we can get to some clarity for people. So that it’s quick and easy and people understand what and how to use absentee ballots best.
DeRay [00:21:25] One of the things that I think is really fascinating about this, and, Sam, thanks for bringing this, is that I didn’t know what was happening with absentee ballots until I was sort of thinking through this. I didn’t realize that in Ohio, that Ohio’s primary had more discarded ballots and a higher percentage of discarded ballots in any statewide election in at least the past four years. So more than 21,000 votes that were cast in the April primary didn’t count because of things like late mail delivery, mistakes on them. And when you think about what might happen in the rest of the pandemic, Ohio threw out about one in every 100 absentee ballots, which is sort of wild, right, because Ohio is a state that really matters in the grand scheme of the Electoral College. Ohio is a state where 21,000 votes could actually be pretty big. You know, we think about the landscape is that in 2016, Trump won Wisconsin by 27,000 votes, in Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes. So like twenty one thousand votes being not counted in this year’s April primary in a place like Ohio is pretty wild. The other thing is that you probably didn’t know, I didn’t know that in North Carolina, the Republican Party is actually sending out absentee ballot request forms to voters that have Trump’s face on them. And it literally in big font says, “are you going to let the Democrats silence you?” Followed by “act now to stand with President Trump” like they are at, that has to be illegal, wrong, everything. And especially for a person who said he doesn’t believe in mail-in voting, they’re sending absentee ballots, essentially trying to persuade people to, if you vote absentee, vote for the Repub…Vote for him. Like that is wild. And I didn’t really, I thought that this might have been a hoax until I googled it and saw it myself and I’m like, they really are sending out these ads to people attached with the absentee request forms. So I want to bring that here. That is wild. You know, we do not have this election in the bag. We need to fight like H. E Double hockey sticks every day to make sure we get over, as I do not know if we’ll survive another four years. So my news is about the history of curfews. So I was really interested in it. I’ve always been interested in curfews because Baltimore has historically had a youth curfew law. And I’ve just thought that was interesting. Like, I didn’t you know, I’ve always been curious about where these laws around curfews originated and the curfew conversation reemerge because of the protests. So you think about cities like Portland. You know, I definitely remember from Ferguson in St. Louis City when we were out on the street, they put in these curfews. The first time I ever got teargassed in 2014 was actually because of a curfew, was a midnight curfew. And then they said that it really was eight o’clock and then we got tear gassed. And there’s this fascinating article in The Washington Post by Chris Petrella, who is great, and he works at the Center for Anti-Racism.
DeRay [00:24:19] And he’s a great thinker. I came across this because he charts the history back to slavery. As you can imagine, almost everything that is an institution in this country is in some way rooted in the exploitation of black people or indigenous communities. And I didn’t know about curfews. So what we learn and what he is, as some people start the race-based use of curfews with the Watts Riots like that is where, sort of, they place this. And he’s like, no, no. When you do more research, you realize it goes much further. So he highlights in this book “New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America, that Wendy Warren, she cites in 1690, the colony of Connecticut, passed the first curfew law forbidding Negroes from being away from, quote, the place to which they do belong end, quote, without a written pass from their owner. And that law authorized any English inhabitant to apprehend the black person, like to take them in their custody, which deputized every single white person to reinforce the racial hierarchy. 1690. He also notes in 1703 that Rhode Island’s General Assembly passed a similar law that restricted the movement of black people and Native Americans. And its stated, and I quote, If any Negroes or Indians, either free men, servants or slaves do walk in the streets of the town of Newport or any other town in this colony after nine of the clock of night, without certificate from their masters or some English person of said family with or some lawful excuse for the same, that it shall be lawful for any person to take them up and deliver them to a constables. And I’m like, wow, all right. I just I really did not know the racial history of these practices. Now I am slow to participate in this idea that, like, you know, things that started out bad will always be bad. I think that logic sometimes, you know, we we quickly see that logic extended to people. And when that’s extended to people, it normally harms black and brown and poor people, because he will use that logic to say, well, they grew up poor, will always be, grew up in the hood, will always be. So like, that, I don’t like that logic. What’s interesting to me about this is that it is a reminder that instead of actually doing the work of justice and doing the work of equity, we want to force people to stay in their houses instead of actually like, you know, fixing public safety so that people don’t need to come out in the street instead of ending poverty, instead of fixing health care. You want to force people in this moment to go home to, like, stay at home and to use a police force to make sure they stay at home instead of doing what’s right in the first place. And when we think about the racial history of this, it is like, you know, we obviously understand sundown towns, but thinking about in sixteen and the sixteen hundred and seventeen hundreds. This idea of restricting black people from being able to move freely was also a political move to ensure that you always knew where they were. That means that they couldn’t organize. That means that they couldn’t build community. That means they couldn’t build families and keep familial relationships. Curfews have always been a political project. That the act of putting in a curfew is rooted in controlling who gets to build community and for what ends.
Kaya [00:27:46] This curfew issue is really interesting. The history of curfews. I came to like you, DeRay, the issue of curfews through my living in Washington, D.C., where there have been a number of curfews, youth curfews in place. And I thought this article was interesting in sharing the history because, you know, I wonder if the judges who are meeting out these punishments or who are instituting these curfews know the history. And I wonder if they did know the history, would it actually make a difference? They strike me as wildly un-American. You know, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Kaya [00:28:27] I’m not exactly sure how the liberty and pursuit of happiness things play out when you are restricting people’s movements. But, oh, of course, this traces back to control of and restrictions over black people, indigenous people, young people, et cetera.
Kaya [00:28:44] I mean, we’re in a situation right now where we can’t make people stay at home. In fact, there are people all over this country standing up to say it’s their right to not wear a mask, or it’s their right to go out and be amongst people in crowds and whatnot. And they are standing on patriotism and, and they’re standing on, you know, their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And so I don’t understand why curfews for some people are okay and not for all people. We’re seeing this play out, I think, on the streets every night with protests. And I think folks are going to have to try to come up with other ways to manage this.
Kaya [00:29:27] And I think that I mean, I know for sure that curfews aren’t effective and I’m not particularly sure that we need to keep moving with these things.
Sam [00:29:36] Um, so one of the things.
Sam [00:29:36] That’s interesting about curfew arrests in particular is that they are highly variable year over year. So in 2018, for example, there were about 17,000 arrests made, reported nationwide for what they call curfew and loitering violations. These tend to be enforced almost exlusively against kids. So youth in particular tend to be arrested for curfew violations, especially black youth. And so one of the other things, it’s also increasing when you dove into the numbers is that there are particular places that arrest people for curfew violations much more often than other places. And that Philadelphia Philadelphia Police Department is actually responsible for one in every four curfew arrests nationwide, which is like a random fact. But when you look at the data, you can start to see sort of where the problem is most acute. And when you do a deeper dove into the data for Philadelphia Police Department. And this is actually an analysis that was done by ABC News in June. What they found was that during the three year period from 2016 through 2018, 2018 being the latest year that we have nationwide data, that every single one of those curfew arrests in Philadelphia was somebody who was under the age of 18. So a child. And 85 percent of those curfew arrests were black youth in particular. This is obviously a problem nationwide. It’s particularly a problem in the context of protests where so in the first few weeks of the most recent sort of wave of protests after the police murder George Floyd, about 10000 arrests made nationwide that were reported in the context of the protests. A lot of those were for curfew and loitering violations, which puts the police allege. And what that means is that could that could easily increase the number of curfew arrests nationwide by about 50 percent just given the circumstances of those arrests. Which is interesting in 2014 and 15. By contrast, there were between 30 and 45000 curfew arrests each year. So curfew arrests overall have gone down. They tend to spike in the context of protests in the police, making arrests for no reason other than a curfew that they’ve decided to impose and that those arrests target black and brown people, especially black youth, almost exclusively.
De’Ara [00:32:02] Y’all, my news for this week is a Vulture piece. It’s titled “A New Book Shows Why Black Artists Drive the Culture, Visually.” And I chose this piece of news to share because I really was inspired by an acceptance speech that Chadwick Boseman gave during some of, you know, one of the numerous awards that Black Panther won. And he talked about being young, gifted and black. And what he said was “to be young, gifted and black, we all know what it’s like to be told that there is not a place for you to be featured yet, you are young, gifted and black. We know what it’s like to be told that there’s not a screen for you to be featured on a stage for you to be featured on. We know what it’s like to be the tail and not the head. We know what it’s like to be beneath and not above.” And I just thought his take on this quote and his experience in this montre of being young, gifted black was so compelling to me. I think it also is just so interesting and also so moving that this was also a quote of the Lorraine Hansberry, who is a famous, famous, brilliant black playwright who actually died of pancreatic cancer at 34. So just to lose these incredibly talented people, losing them, but also understanding their artistry and the beauty of black artistry and the importance of both historical and present black artistry is just so important. And so that’s why I chose this Vulture piece, because it covers a new book that’s coming out, an art book, essentially, and it’s called “Young, Gifted and Black” is edited by Antwaun Sargent, who’s this incredible writer and critic. If you don’t follow him, you should. The book is based upon the collection of Bernard Lumpkin, who’s an art collector and has his own fascinating story about why he collects and what his participation in the art world actually means. And so within the book, there’s actually a conversation between Antwaun and Bernard, and some of that conversation is highlighted in this Vulture piece. And I just think it’s particularly interesting because I think art is such an important vehicle in terms of us understanding who we are. And so I think in moments like this and moments of great loss in moments of, you know, political and social uprising, our artists are so important. And so I think this book will do an incredible job, I suspect, but also inspire us to do some of this research and understanding and supporting a black artists on our own. But this book will highlight essays from curators, collectors, writers, artists like Rashid Johnson, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas. I think the other interesting thing is something Bernard Lumpkin pointed to and really explains his his purpose as a collector quoting him. “My purpose with the collection has always been to sort of tell a story, these voices that helped me answer questions, that I’ve always had about race, about family, about what it means to be American and about what it means to be black. And then take that story to a wider audience.” And so I think it’s we’re thinking about black artistry as we’re in using it as a tool and a resource to understand who we are, to understand what these moments mean, to find inspiration as difficult as it may be in these moments. And so just wanted to share that with you all. I hope you check out the piece. Also, check out the book that is to come in September.
DeRay [00:35:29] Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save The People’s coming.
DeRay [00:35:32] Are you interested in the story of an incredibly close presidential election where the result continues to echo throughout our country today? I mean, who been here recently? Too soon. But you should check out “60/20,” which tells a story of the election of 1960. And JFK’s razor thin victory by just two tenths of one percent in the popular vote.
Kaya [00:35:53] The series will cover the 1960 campaign from the primaries through election night, highlighting key moments and lesser known stories in the race leading up to the final vote, “60/20” takes a look at how the threat from Russia and other foreign powers has changed, or in some cases remained constant over the last 60 years.
DeRay [00:36:13] “60/20” also gives listeners a sense of what was happening in America during this pivotal time, as sit ins and other demonstrations against racial segregation swept through the country. And as the arms race and fear of the Soviet Union shaped how many Americans viewed the world around them.
Kaya [00:36:26] Sounds familiar. “60/20” is a special podcast series from the JFK Library Foundation, and you can find it on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
DeRay [00:36:36] Pod Save The People is brought to you by Sun Basket. And let me tell you, I can’t cook. So I’m always looking for solutions to help me figure out how to eat something other than fast food and pizza. And this is great because Sun Basket has balanced meals. That also tastes really great and I am smart enough to cook them.
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DeRay [00:38:43] Netta, Netta, Netta, Netta. Let us know what’s going on with the current state of the protests and what’s happening around policing.
Netta [00:38:49] Hey, what’s up, everybody? It’s me, Netta. Thanks for tuning back in this week. Let’s get into it.
Netta [00:38:54] So I’ve actually been on the go all weekend. I went to Baltimore to go spend time with some family and some friends. So shout out to all of them. Spent some time with my good friend Portia and her son Emerson and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wood. I saw my good friend Akia and her husband Jason and my little buddy Asher, who I haven’t seen since he was two.
Netta [00:39:19] Also got to connect with my friend Ryan, who I’ve mentioned on the show before, is one of the organizers from Louisville who found his way to St. Louis during Ferguson October in 2014. And since we all met, we all just really clicked. And the synergy was there. And our work has been connected. Our cities have been connected via protest ever since. So it was really good to see people that I love and who I know love me.
Netta [00:39:45] This week in the news, so much went down. So let’s discuss.
Netta [00:39:50] A New Jersey teen says she received a twenty five hundred dollar bill from her local police for overtime. According to the Associated Press, 18 year old Emily Gill received a letter from her mayor requesting the money for, quote, “the police overtime caused by your protest.”
Netta [00:40:07] Emily’s protest, which took place on July 25th in Inglewood Cliffs, called out the city for not taking action on affordable housing. The city’s mayor said Emily was wrong to link affordable housing to her protests and said “an invoice was sent to the organizer for police overtime. Since it would be unfair to require our residents to financially support a private event. Four Democratic members of the city council said the mayor owed Emily an apology and sought to cancel the bill. Ya’ll, this is rarely used, but not new, and it’s not a new tactic to silence dissent. We’ve seen protesters arrested and hit with trumped up charges and now protesting a fundamental constitutional right comes at a premium in certain states. As disturbing as this is, it’s definitely a sign that the other side is getting desperate. No matter what defenders of the status quo throw at us, we’re not stopping. Also, the mayor is just simply wrong. Black lives cannot matter if affordable housing is not available to black people. So kudos to Emily for seeing the big picture. And the best part just two days after this story saught national attention, the mayor rescinded the ridiculous invoice. This is also why it’s important to bear witness. When we let them brutalize and mistreat us in the dark, they win. When we raise our voices, sometimes they can be shamed into backing down. As the saying goes. Sunlight is the best disinfectant and we’ve got a lot of cleaning to do.
Netta [00:41:39] Like I’ve said on this show before, the Elzie household is a voting household and the importance of local elections was sadly on display in my home state of Missouri last week. Let me set the stage because this is almost too obsurd for words. The state’s governor, Mike Parson, brought lawmakers back to the capital for a special session on crime. The goal was legislation that penalized individuals who illegally use firearms and pass them to children to avoid detection. That sounds sensible, right? Parson, a member of the Republican Party, got the exact opposite from the GOP controlled House. According to the Associated Press, the state House voted to scrap the law, only making it a felony if someone gives a fire arm to a minor to avoid arrest.
Netta [00:42:26] And the rationale for this change? So grandparents or other family members can take the children shooting. What? State House Democrats say this makes it easier, not harder, for children to play with guns and removes parental consent. The bill still needs another vote before heading to the Senate. And that wasn’t all the political foolishness that came from Missouri this week.
Netta [00:42:50] Another bill moving through the state house would allow police and first responders to live outside of city limits. Supporters of the measure say it will help with recruiters. Opponents say it should be left to individual cities to decide. Without getting too into the weeds, not mandating that police live in communities they police is a terrible idea. There’s much to be said about community policing, but not having to live in the community that you’re sworn to protect and serve helps breed an us versus them environment. It also allows those dollars for salaries to leave the city. In other words, St. Louis would be subsidizing the suburbs. With all that’s been going on in the news and the videos of people’s traumatic or even final moments readily available on social media or television, I’ve been thinking a lot about death.
Netta [00:43:42] I made my peace with death six years ago, long before I became a protester. My mother’s passing when I was just 24, changed my entire life. And I wanted to go be with my mother so badly.
Netta [00:43:54] And sometimes I really do still feel that way. My sister, who was 13 at the time, was the only reason I was okay with living.
Netta [00:44:03] When the protests began, I remember not feeling fear when it came to possibly dying. Once I finally told a reporter my full name and not my Twitter name, which was a different name at the time.
Netta [00:44:14] And what’s in a name? Giving the press my full name meant that murder minded white races could fuck with me. It meant opening the door for police to follow me home from protest across municipalities to the county where I lived in St. Louis. It’s an intimidation tactic, but it’s also an opportunity to affirm my own personal beliefs about death. I’ve spoken before about the conversation I have with the universe the night I saw Mike’s blood on Canfield Drive, with the blood illuminated by the streetlight. That conversation with God, that quiet conversation with my mother and with the universe was a total acceptance of what my fate might be if I continue on the streets everyday.
Netta [00:44:55] Why and in what world should a 25 year old young woman have a conversation with herself like that? I was ready for it, because having experienced so much loss, losing my life in service of something that I believed in felt like a logical next step. The tragedy in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the murder of two comrades and the injury of another at the hands of a teenage vigilante, bring all these early conversations crashing back to the forefront of my mind. What does it mean when people are leaving their homes with expectations of expressing their First Amendment rights and a white supremacist 17 year old murders them and then walks towards police with their hands up weapon in plain view and they drive right past him? It is another affirmation of the police long, detailed and documented entanglement with racism and white supremacy. The protection of property and the suppression of dissent, particularly that in service of black liberation, simply cannot be separated from police and policing. They continue to show us whose side they’re on and we should believe them.
Netta [00:46:06] In closing, I’m going to close with one more final thought.
Netta [00:46:09] If anything ever does happen to me, don’t make me a hashtag. Do not have a convention in my name.
Netta [00:46:16] Keep the same energy of those early days of the Ferguson uprisings for me. Thanks so much. See you all next week. Bye.
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Kaya [00:48:04] This matching offer as good for as long as funds last. Get your first donation matched up to one hundred dollars when you go to GiveWell.org/people and select “podcast” and Pod Save the People at checkout. In the podcast nice White Parents reporter Chana Jaffe Walt, you may know her from This American Life, started looking into this one school in her neighborhood after her kids became school aged in New York City. Chana examines this public middle school traditionally filled with black and brown students after a number of white families arrive and then, not satisfied that she fully understood what she was seeing, she went all the way back to the founding of the school in the 1960s and then up to the present day again. Eventually Chana realized that she could put a name to what was getting in the way of making the school better all these years; white parents.
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DeRay [00:50:34] And the carceral state in Wisconsin and all over. Here’s our conversation. Kimberley, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People.
Kimberley [00:50:41] Yes. Thank you for having me, DeRay. I’m really happy to be here.
DeRay [00:50:44] Now, we’ve met in a couple different spaces over the years, and I’ve always been interested in the way you started to practice law and your work abroad. Can you talk about why you became a lawyer and then the types of cases that you did, and I know we’ll end around your work on policing, but can you explain some of the work that you’ve done internationally and how you got there?
Kimberley [00:51:04] Well, basically, I’m a Milwaukee, Wisconsin native.
Kimberley [00:51:08] I’ve been an attorney since 2003. And I started as a criminal defense attorney in the public defender’s office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I did that for about five years, mainly representing people for criminal defense issues, felonies, misdemeanors, juveniles and things like that. A lot of trial experience. In 2008, I was hired to go to Afghanistan to be one of a handful of attorneys to help build and support the Afghan legal system and build the essentially the criminal defense bar there. Criminal defense work is relatively a new concept. And in 2007, there was a law in Afghanistan that was an act called the advocate’s law, which is essentially the law that governs criminal defense attorneys. And so I was sent there to train attorneys, to mentor attorneys and also to work within the Afghanistan Ministry of Justice to serve create the foundational structure for building a legal aid program. And it was really interesting for me because at the time I’d only really been practicing when I went to Afghanistan for a little over five years. I had never traveled outside the United States. That was my first time traveling abroad, which is really interesting. And I was pushed into this new international world of legal assistance, essentially. So that program was actually funded by the U.S. Department of State. And so I did that for about a year. And I found that the program really wasn’t helping Afghan attorneys to become better attorneys or to better represent people. And so as a means of me trying to understand legal system there, what I decided to do for my own self education is I traveled around the country and I visited prisons all around Afghanistan. And I just started talking to people that were locked up and listening to their stories, what their experience was in court, how they didn’t have an attorney representing them, how they were tortured into writing confessions, how they just were tortured within the system, how they weren’t allowed to speak in court. Just basic [00:53:15]you rot [0.2s] due process rights being violated, due process rights that people are entitled to in Afghanistan. And that sort of got me thinking, well, how can I better help the system and also visiting the different prisons, I was surprised to meet a lot of foreigners that were locked up, people from the US, the UK, Australia, all around the world who were English speaking foreigners who were locked away in Afghan prisons, who didn’t have a lawyer, who often their embassies weren’t doing anything to help them. The companies that they were working for weren’t really involved in their cases. And many of them had been locked up for years and didn’t even know what happened in court because everything in court was in a different language. So based on me missing, going to court myself, based on the fact that I didn’t really believe in the program that I was working in, in training and mentoring Afghan defense attorneys and also recognizing the real need that people had for an attorney to represent them properly or better within the Afghan court. I decided to quit my job. And so I, in 2009, I started representing people within the Afghan legal system, litigating in the courts. And I became the first, and I believe still only foreigner to litigate within the Afghan legal system.
Kimberley [00:54:33] A lot of my work has been representing companies, you know, that were in Afghanistan. It was a real big learning curve. When we go to a country like Afghanistan, essentially we’re building a city. So with that city, if you think about everything that comes along with that. So there’se roads, there’s telecommunications, there’s building structures, where all those tangible things need to be built by somebody or some entity. And usually it’s an international company. Well, what we’re finding is a lot of these international companies, they wanted an attorney in Afghanistan, but they didn’t have an attorney and they didn’t trust the attorneys that were there. So, me practicing there provided them with the opportunity to have a lawyer within Afghanistan to represent them on whatever their business interests were. So I started representing international companies and then the embassies that were there, they were coming into legal trouble for a wide variety of things. Some employment things and other sort of high, intense, confidential matters that diplomats and diplomatic missions run into. And they didn’t have a local lawyer and they wanted one. And so they felt comfortable with me representing them. And so I then started representing ambassadors and embassies. Anything from, I represent U.K., French, German, Italian and UAE, E.U., all these embassies and ambassadors for whatever legal issues they had in Afghanistan. And then another set of clients were essentially foreigners that were locked up for criminal matters as well as local. Anything from theft to murder, started representing them in court, which was a huge population of people as well. And then based on all the different types of representation of a wide variety of clients, you know, people that couldn’t afford an attorney would contact me, mostly women for essentially human rights issues. You Know, women going to prison that were raped. They were being charged with adultery. And I felt like I had or responsability to represent them. So I started representing women for what they term as “moral crimes cases.” You know, women that are being imprisoned for being rape victims and they charged with adultery, women who were in prison for leaving their home without their husbands permission and they were being charged with running away, which was completely illegal, representing, you know, men and women for religious persecution cases, you know, people that weren’t Muslim that were being persecuted for being of a different faith. Which isn’t illegal in Afghanistan. That type of work with the human rights cases, that seemed to resonate the most with the media. And so that type of work received a lot of attention from different media outlets, from the CNN, BBC, New York Times, wherever, those advocates were, the most cases that were reported on and based on the results, which I was getting really good results from my clients being in a lot of prison, you know, helping them with navigating the legal system. Other people in other countries started seeing this and they started reaching out to me to represent them on a wide variety of matters. So, you know, I had for instance Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister of.
Kimberley [00:57:45] Malaysia reached out for me to represent. So I represented him. I had people in Bolivia, reached out, a doctor wanted me to represent her for allegedly giving a false statement while she was trying to protect a child who was sexually assaulted. Representing LGBTQ clients in Uganda, representing Eritrean footballers, even representing clients also in America for a wide variety of things on immigration matters where their rights were being violated. And so that’s sort of how my practice sort of has blown up. And now what I do is I represent people all around the world in local courts, and I like to litigate within those courts. And that, for me, is my way of furthering rule of law. It’s my way of fighting systems from the inside out. And I believe that’s the most impactful way for me to essentially protect people’s rights and to change systems so that they are protecting everyone, especially the most disenfranchized and vulnerable populations.
DeRay [00:58:51] That’s fascinating. You know, I didn’t, I knew nothing about the Afghan legal system until we met and talked. How did you get to the police case right now? How did you even get to this?
Kimberley [00:59:00] Well, it’s interesting because the police case that I’m involved in, in Milwakee, the clients that I’m representing are Alvin Cole’s family. And Alvin Cole’s a 17 year old black kid who was at a mall in Milwaukee and essentially was shot and killed outside the mall by a police officer. And so in February of this year, the family reached out to me and wanted me to represent them with regard to his case. They had read about my work internationally. You know, I still do work in the U.S. I pick and choose. But I had done some criminal cases in Milwakee. So they reached out and wanted me to represent them.
Kimberley [00:59:39] And for me, I feel like my main sort of focus legally is representing people for human rights violations.
Kimberley [00:59:47] And I do strongly feel that a lot of cases involving police brutality and police shootings, excessively, especially, are human rights issues that need to be addressed and should be addressed more widely and should be addressed in the same vein that I’m addressing, for instance, representing the woman that’s been raped, that’s charged with adultery. And so based on my experience and based on my affinity to my home town of Milwakee.
Kimberley [01:00:13] I decided that I would represent the clients. And so that’s how I got involved in the police shooting case.
DeRay [01:00:19] What are either you asking for as the lawyer representing the family? What are the protesters asking for? Like, what should we know about this case? And why did you take it?
Kimberley [01:00:27] Essentially, what the public needs to know about this case is I actually represent three families. I represent the families of Alvin Cole, who is 17 years old. The families of Jay anderson, who was 25 years old. And the family of Antonio Gonzalez, who was twenty nine years old when he was killed. And these three males of color were all killed by the same police officer within a five year time period. That officer’s Officer Joseph Mensah. This officer, has only been a police officer with Waowatosa police department, which is essentially a suburb of Milwaukee. And basically, within the last five years, this officer has fired 19 shots, killed three males of color. And he’s never been prosecuted. He’s never been reprimanded. He’s never had any accountability for his excessive use of force. And so that, I think, is an important point to highlight with the public that despite this officer’s propensity to shoot and kill males of color under the guise “of this is in my objectively reasonable standard. I believe that my life was in danger,” that this police department continues to protect him. He is the only officer that has killed anybody within the last seven years in the Waowatosa Tulsa Police Department. Every time this officer kills somebody who is placed on administrative leave while they do investigations, essentially also Joseph Mensah has only been on the streets for four years, and in that period, he’s killed three males of color. You know, I didn’t know that when I took the case with Alvin Cole in February of this year. It’s something that we learned two months ago. Once the district attorney’s office released his name. And so the whole investigation is still pending. We have conduct their own independent investigation. I have personally talked to witnesses. I personally looked at reports, looked at all the reports, looked at all the video footage. And I think there’s a lot of questionable behavior by officer Mensah. And I do strongly believe that he should be charged with some level homicide with regards to Alvin Cole, Jay Anderson and Antonio Gonzalez.
DeRay [01:02:46] Is there anything that you’ve learned in the process of representing these families has been surprising to you?
Kimberley [01:02:52] There definitely has been quite a bit that I’ve learned in representing these families. And I’ll say one thing that has been really interesting to me based on my experience in Afghanistan and coming back home to see how police really police the community. What I saw in Afghanistan where military soldiers. They’re Fighting in a war zone, they’re fighting in conflict. So it is interesting that I see some of the behaviors of police, particularly observe Mensah within the Wauwatosa community, the way that they’re armed, the way that they behave. Every incident that he has been involved in. With Antonio Gonzales he fired 8 shots. Jay Anderson, he fired five shots and Alvin Cole, he fired six shots. In my opinion, with all three of those situations, he never renders aid. He never provides any type of medical assistance. The three men, three males of color, Alvin was a kid. And that is what I see in [01:03:50]a capital [0.2s] in Afghanistan. They never provide any medical aid to the enemy. I believe that he very much views people as targets. At least these three males as targets as opposed to looking at them as members of the community. This is similar to what I’ve seen in Afghanistan. And so I think that has been really interesting and a big learning experience for me. In addition to that, I’m so surprised at how the police departments are protecting him, even at their own risk, their own reputation. It’s really interesting how different statements by police officers have changed throughout this investigation. His statement has changed throughout this investigation. For instance, with Alvin Cole, all five shots to him, Alvin was on the ground. The first two shots, he was on his hands and knees, the last three shots to Alvin Cole face down on the ground. So therefore, there is no threat at that point in time. I find it very interesting that DA’s had been able to use the argument that the weapon shoots very fast in so many cases, because obviously with these cases that taking a deep dive in looking at other similarly situated cases, and that’s how I see soldiers behave in a war zone where they just fire their weapon without thinking how many times they’re allowed to shoot their weapon. But I believe that officers, no matter how fast their weapons fire and why they get the benefit of, frankly, qualified immunity is how they should behave in situations, is they’re supposed to shoot, access, shoot, access. Not unload your weapon to the back of somebody or to defend somebody. Or what have you. That’s why you’re supposed go through, all this training and experience that officers routinely tout as, you know, what gives them the benefit of qualified immunity. And we know about how very dangerous their job was, which their jobs have a certain level of danger. But I think that has been really, really interesting to learn. And in addition to that, it’s been interesting to learn how much of an outlier also Joseph Mensah is by firing 19 shots within a five year time period. I mean, the vast majority of law enforcement officers in this country never fire their weapon in a line of duty. And they certainly never kill one person, let alone three people. So I think that has been really interesting, learning the steps of law enforcement officers in the United States and also seeing how very militarized the law enforcement department within Wauwatosa which is a community of only forty nine thousand people. That’s twenty one square miles long that is by and large a, it’s not a poor community, how very militarized this community has become in their policing standards.
DeRay [01:06:43] Now, when you say you are shocked at how much the police are protecting this officer, is that the contract that’s protecting him? Is that like how is he being protected structurally?
Kimberley [01:06:55] Well, there’s a couple of things, I think, in order to understand sort of how the police are protected.
Kimberley [01:07:00] It’s important for the audience to understand how Milwaukee is, which is where I’m from. Now, these three meals of color, all from Milwaukee. Milwaukee is the number one most segregated city in America. It’s also been said to be most segregated city and also the most polarized place in America. In addition to that, 53206, which is a zip code in Milwaukee, incarcerate more black men than any other zip code in the United States. Wisconsin is the state in large, largely because Milwaukee is a state that incarcerates more black men than any other state. And even though Milwaukee is the most segregated city, it’s also, frankly, one of the most diversified cities, me. It’s very diverse, ethnically diverse city, which I think is really interesting, but it super segregated. So this is a community that I grew up in, the city that I’m very familiar with. Now, what makes me surprised about the police and how they are structurally protecting this officer with regards to these cases is, in my opinion, the police and what they’ve always been biased. They’ve always targeted black people. That’s been my experience of myself or my clients, of family members, friends, etcettera. But what’s interesting is seeing how much they’ve been targeting the protests in terms of illegally surveying them while they’ve been protesting on behalf of my client. It’s been interesting, for instance, how we’ve put in open record, requests to ask for things like officer documents of personnel files. We found out how well the police department officers, how they would have these Martin Luther King parties, which were very racially derogatory parties back in the late 80s, early 90s, and how these were hosted by Waoswatosa police officers. And they would just be super racest at these parties and how we’ve asked for those documents because they’ve suspended 13 officers back in the day on these parties. But they’re not willing to give that information because some of those officers that were posting the parties or were participants in those parties are the same police officers that trained officers, Joseph Mensah. So we put in quite a bit of overworks requests and we’ve received a bill of five thousand four hundred dollars that needs to be paid in advance. And that getting those records would take at least four months for them to give it to us. And they put that in writing, which I’m basically like, you just open yourself up to another lawsuit, because, frankly, for many of the records that we have requested, other people have requested in the past, and they’ve received those records for free. And it’s actually ridiculous. You know, it’s interesting how, for instance, this past weekend there was an incident at Officer Joseph Mensah’s home, here protesters were protesting outside his house. And that’s clearly under investigation. Officer Mensah, he put out a statement saying that he was shot at in his house several times by a weapon, how he was somewhat passive and just giving up his narrative of how he’s a complete victim in all this. And he doesn’t really understand what happened. But there’s a lot of video footage out there. There’s a lot of eyewitness accounts that are out there. One of the eyewitnesses who came out was a state representative, David Bowen, who is an African-American state representative of Wisconsin. He put out a written statement about what he witnessed, including the fact that there were not multiple rounds fired at Officer Joseph Mensah’s house, and that Officer Mesah actually grabbed one of the weapons of the protesters. And he is the one that pulled the trigger. Officer Mensah. Not the protester. And once his statement was out, Wauwatosa police department decided while they have an ongoing investigation to write a written statement themselves, saying essentially this state representative is lying. That’s what they actually put that out into the public view. They’ve never contacted state representative. They’ve never tried to understand what his account is on what he viewed as an eyewitness. By them doing that, they essentially, in my opinion, are trying to intimidate him as a witness and frankly, any other witnesses that may potentially come forward. It’s disgusting, in my opinion, that we’re seeing all of this structural and frankly, it’s like an implicit racism anymore. It’s just outright racism in plain sight and bias in how they’re handling this police investigation and frankly, how they handle investigations involving law enforcement officers.
DeRay [01:11:38] Now, what do we know about the police and fire commission? Because they seem like the supervising body, right, or no?
Kimberley [01:11:44] They are. So basically, we have two things going on with all three of these cases. So we filed a complaint with the Fire and Police Commission asking that, we have three goals with our case. The first goal Is that also Joseph Mensah should be prosecuted. He should be charged with some level homicide. The second goals, that officer Joseph Mensah should be fired from his job and should never be a police officer for Waowatosa or, frankly, any other police district. And the third demand, is that all Wauwatosa police officers, of which they have ninety two police officers, should be required to wear body cameras, which is something that their chief, chief Weber, has always, in my opinion, sought against. And that resolution very recently was approved. And hopefully, as they said, within the next six months, all Wauwatosa police officers will have to wear body cameras. Now, with regard to the Fire and Police Commission, we have filed a citizen complaint against Officer Mensah so that he can be fired. That’s something that’s open is pending. And we’re supposed to have a hearing on it at some point. But based on the responses we’ve received back with regards are open records.
Kimberley [01:12:53] Who knows when that’s going to be. The president of the Police and Fire Commission was a former Wauwatosa police officer and he was a police officer during the time of the Martin Luther King parties. I don’t know if he was involved in those parties. I don’t know if he hosted those parties. But I do think that there are some concerns as to his objectivity with regards to being the president of Fire and Police Commission who is ultimately going to be the presiding body over whether or not Officer Joseph Mensah should be fired. So I think that’s very concerning. Also, the Police and Fire Commission, it’s an all white body. And Wauwatosa as a city is known to be extremely conservative. It’s a city where over eighty six percent of the residents are white and less than eight percent of the residents are black. However, with the most recent data that we have uncovered, we know that, for instance, in 2017 that 71 percent of the traffic stops in Walwa, Tulsa were black people.
Kimberley [01:14:01] And so that’s sort of concerning to us in that I don’t believe that.
Kimberley [01:14:07] Wauwatosa values black and brown people, their lives as much as they may value those that aren’t black and brown.
Kimberley [01:14:15] So I think that’s concerning. And I think that could trickle down with the Police and Fire Commission. And so because they don’t necessarily want to completely deal with this, what they have done is they’ve hired a third party investigator who was a former U.S. attorney, former prosecutor. And so he’s the one that’s handling the investigation on their behalf, which is unprecedented when dealing with these types of situations for Wauwatosa.
DeRay [01:14:42] It’s also now there’s been a conversation about federal troops coming into town. What’s your take on that?
Kimberley [01:14:48] Well, my take is, you know, obviously that’s a horrible idea. You know, you will just simply add gasoline to the fire based on what happened at Officer Mensah’s home this past Saturday. It’s been a very toxic environment. The police have doubled down to say that essentially they support Officer Mensah, who, by the way, a few weeks ago was suspended by the Fire and Police Commissioner. But he’s suspended with pay. So he’s essentially living at home. They’ve double down and protecting him. The police chief has been doing multiple media interviews, basically saying that, again, the state representative is not being truthful. In my opinion, he’s tarnishing the investigation that they really shouldn’t have anything to do with their targeting, protesting. They arrested two people late yesterday. And it’s really, really concerning that. On top of that, they want to possibly bring in federal troops and that there is an elected official who is pushing for that to happen.
DeRay [01:15:51] It is wild that he is the only officer who has killed and still he has not been disciplined in a substantive way and being put on suspension with pay is just so nuts. Can you go over the circumstances of these three incidents to just so everybody’s really clear about what happened?
Kimberley [01:16:06] And I do think it’s important, too, that the audience know in full disclosure that he he’s black himself, this officer.
Kimberley [01:16:13] He’s one of the few black officers on this police force. With regards to Antonio Gonzales.
Kimberley [01:16:20] Antonio was killed on July 15th, 2015. This is after Joseph Mensah was on the force for only seven months. Antonio Gonzalez is part of the LGBTQ community. He’s a Latinx young man. And according to reports, when the officers came to the scene at his house, he mentally ill, and he had a decorative sword that he was holding. The officers claim that he was coming after them. There were two officers there, Officer Mensah and Officer Jeffrey Newman, who is now deceased. And both officers claim that he did come after them with the sword.
Kimberley [01:17:00] Officer Newman fired his weapon one time. Officer Mensah fired his weapon eight times. Officer Newman provided medical aid to Antonio Gonzalez, officer Mensah did not. On August 22nd, 2016, Officer Mensah was given a medal of valor for killing Antonio Gonzalez. So the second person is Jay Anderson. Jay Anderson occurred on June 23rd, 2016. It was about three a.m. Jay Anderson was in his car asleep. Officer Mensah woke him up. He came on the passenger side of Jay Anderson’s car.
Kimberley [01:17:40] And when he came on that side, you see in the video that Jay anderson had his hands up, although the video isn’t super great, in the video you see that Jay Anderson’s kind of nodding off and his hands are like slowly coming down to times and on the third time Officer Mensah fires his weapon into the car six times. Now he claims that there was a gun on Jay Anderson’s passenger seat.
Kimberley [01:18:07] What’s important to know is that the only reason we have any footage is because Officer Mensah turned on his squad camera after he killed Jay Anderson. So what happens is, is that when you turn to your squad cam, it goes back the previous 30 seconds with that first 30 seconds. There’s no audio. So you don’t know what’s being said. You see both of them talking to each other. And frankly, Jay Anderson has complied with officer menso commands. You know, when he came to the car. He asked him to pull down his window, but Jay Anderson had to turn on the car. He had to push the button to roll down his window. Obviously, Officer Mensah told Jay Anderson to raise his hands up, which he did. But you don’t really know what’s said because in that first 30 seconds, there’s no audio. So the only reports of what said is based on what Officer Mensah is saying, what the conversation was about. Within that whole interchange with each other, Officer Mensah then fired his weapon six times into the car, never rendered any aid, never gave any assisatnce. And again, excessive use of force, in my opinion. Two months after he killed Jay Anderson and while he was currently under investigation for killing Jay Anderson, he gives an award for killing Antonio Gonzalez, the year prior. Now, Alvin Cole is a 17 year old kid who on February 2nd this year went to the mall, Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, it’s the mall that sort of connects essentially Milwaukee and Wauwatosa. A lot of people frequent. Within the mall, there was a verbal argument. ALvin was with a bunch of his teenage friends. He leaves the mall when he leaves the mall. The police come to the back of the mall and then they start chasing him. Alvin Cole, now with teenage friends, are running from the police. And at one point, they’ve run about a third of a mile. Alvin called, you know, he has cops saying, “Throw your weapons, You throw your gun. Get down.” So, Alvin Cole, we believe and the district attorney agrees with us that he was trying to get rid of his weapon. While he’s doing that, his weapon discharges and he shoots himself. Officer Mensah never sees the weapon. He never sees the gun. He has no idea what the first shot was fired. There is no clip in the weapon, which means there’s only about one round that’s in the gun. And Alvin Cole falls to his knees. He is closer to two other cops. He’s facing these two other cops. Mensah is in his rear while Alvin Cole is on his hands and knees officer Mensah.
Kimberley [01:20:45] Ten seconds after the first shot comes running from behind Alvin and he shoots him two times in the back, two times in the side. The first two shots, Alvin Cole is on his hands and knees, the last three shots he’s faced down on the ground. Officer Mensah claims that Alvin Cole, while he’s on his hands and knees, was pointing his weapon from behind him at Officer Mensah. But keep in mind, who points an empty gun. His gun was empty and he was on his hands and knees. It’s an absurd story, but that’s what he’s saying happened.
Kimberley [01:21:26] And so that case is currently being investigated by the D.A. and we are pushing for him be charged with some type of homicide.
Kimberley [01:21:34] And I say, if you look at these three situations and look at the totality of the situation and look at the experience of this particular officer in shooting his weapon, those are things that have to be taken in consideration with each of these cases in determining charging decisions. And homicide has no statute limitations. So right now, we are currently pushing for prosecution on Alvin Cole’s Case. We have just officially asked and told the D.A. that we want him to reopen Jay Anderson’s file so that he can be criminally charged. And we will probably reopen Antonio Gonzalez’s file as well. Well, that’s with regards to criminal liability.
Kimberley [01:22:17] And with regard to trying to get Officer Mensah fired, we have filed a policing complaint to get him fired on the basis of Jay Anderson’s case, ALvin Cole’s case, and Antonio Gonzaez case.
Kimberley [01:22:29] But we’re focused first on Jay Anderson’s case only because Alvin Cole’s cas is currently still open, but we’re trying to get him fired based on that and we’re requesting to get different documents to us on the basis of those cases. I know it’s a lot of moving parts.
DeRay [01:22:46] Thanks so much for joining us on Pod Save the People and we can’t wait to have you back.
Kimberley [01:22:49] Thank you, DeRay. Thank you for everything that you guys are doing. I really appreciate it.
DeRay [01:22:56] Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure to rate it wherever you get your podcasts, whether it’s Apple podcasts or somewhere else and we’ll see you next week.