6 July 2016 - Philando Castile, 32, was shot by police during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. He had a gun, and according to the woman with him, Ms. Diamond Reynolds, a concealed carry permit. She said he told the police that he had a gun. The cop asked him for his license and ID. When he reached for it in his back pocket, the cop opened up on him. Minutes went by while Castile bled out and died. He never received any medical treatment. The police on the scene seemed more interested in stopping Reynolds from live-streaming the incident than in trying to save the life of the man they had just shot.
"This had nothing to do with race. This had everything to do with the presence of a gun,"What are the odds? Lots of people in Minnesota carry weapons, not just Castile. If the officer was merely reacting to the presence of a weapon during a traffic stop, what are the odds that this rare officer involved shooting in the mostly white community of Falcon Heights would result in the death of a black man? Maybe not as steep as we might think. We now know that Castile had been stopped by police 52 times in the Twin Cities area in recent years for minor offenses including speeding, driving without a muffler and not wearing a seat belt. On the fatal night, he had been pulled over for a broken tail light. Family members think he was being racially profiled.
A review of recent and past history makes it clear that we have a problem in this country with the number of black men that are shot and killed by police every year. It also shows that any black man who exercises his Second Amendment right to bear arms runs a special risk of being shot by the police. The attorney is wrong, his client didn't just react to a man with a gun, he reacted to a black man with a gun. What's more, you don't even have to be a black man with a gun to be summarily executed as one.
Tamir Rice, 12, wasn't yet a man and wasn't armed, but he was black. Sometimes that's enough. He was playing with a pellet gun in a Cleveland, Ohio park. Two cops, responding to a report "of a male black sitting on a swing and pointing a gun at people" didn't take time to make another assessment. They shot this child dead two seconds after arriving on the scene.
John Crawford, 22, was shot while handling a toy BB gun on display in a Beavercreek, Ohio Walmart. The Dayton Daily News reported:
Williams [the cop/shooter] said he saw a man with a rifle standing in a store aisle, matching the description dispatchers had given him of a black man waving a weapon at shoppers.So he shot him. Crawford went down, and when he tried to lift up, Williams shot him dead.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America may only be second to the First Amendment in terms of the amount of attention it has received in America, or it may indeed be first. It certainly is receiving a lot of attention this election year in which there have been a number of high profile mass shootings.
Blogging in Real Time
- I can't make this shit up.
After much research, I started writing this post on Sunday morning. By sometime after noon, I had finished the section above and decided to take a break, get a bite to eat and listen to some music on the boardwalk. While I was on this break, I witnessed and filmed this arrest of a violent black man by the LAPD. I don't know what his story was or what set him off in these tense times. He acted deranged and apparently went into the Candle Cafe, right next to the place where I had just eaten, and started attacking people. By the time I became aware of the commotion, he was fighting everybody in the cafe. It seemed like it took forever for the police to arrived. When they did, it was in force and most were sporting green handled pistols I hadn't seen before. They soon had him in custody and were treating his injuries, which were not caused by them. In that regard, he received far better treatment than Alton Sterling or Philando Castile, and I've seen the LAPD do far worst. All this happened within a hundred feet of were Shakespeare was murdered. And now to return to my narrative...
The second amendment was never meant to apply to black people. From the earliest days of American history there have been prohibitions against even free blacks carrying firearms, sometimes allowing summary executions. These once written, and now unwritten, laws continue to be enforced today, that is the truth behind the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
Since the Second Amendment itself is colorblind, and has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to protect the right of individual citizens to bear arms, it should equally protect the right of black Americans to do so, and yet time and again we hear about black people who have been shot by the police, not for pulling a gun on the cop but merely for being armed, and many more incidents where the black person shot was in fact unarmed but the excuse given by the cop was "I thought he had a gun."
It would seem we have a problem and that problem has a history.
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."One thing we can be certain of is that the framers of the constitution never meant for the Second Amendment to protect the rights of black people to bear arms. They wanted the Second Amendment to protect slavery. While today the courts interpret it as giving the individual the right to carry a gun, it was originally written to protect the right of states to organize militias. As Thom Hartmann said in his well worth reading The Second Amendment Was Ratified to Preserve Slavery:
In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the "slave patrols," and they were regulated by the states.Roger Williams School of Law professor Carl T. Bogus documented much of this history in a 1998 UC Law Review article. He noted:
The militia remained the principal means of protecting the social order and preserving white control over an enormous black population, anything that might weaken this system presented the gravest of threats.The amendments that were drafted in 1789 were designed to patch what were seen as deficiencies in the constitution just adopted in 1788. One of the problems with this new constitution, from the point of view of the slave holders, was that while it provided for an armed force to protect the country from foreign invasion, it did not guarantee protection from internal revolt by their "property." Patrick Henry saw the irony of their apartheid situation:
"If the country be invaded, a state may go to war, but cannot suppress [slave] insurrections [under this new Constitution]. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded."He told James Madison, who drafted the amendments,
"In this situation, I see a great deal of the property of the people of Virginia in jeopardy, and their peace and tranquility gone."For this reason, when Virginia did ratify the US constitution, on 25 June 1788, it was with the submission of a number of proposed amendments, one of which,
11th That each state respectively shall have the power to provide for organizing, arming, and discipline its own militia, ...turned into the Second Amendment. Without the Southern slave patrols, I mean "State Militias," the slave autocracy would have collapsed. The Second Amendment was added to the constitution to protect slavery and make the enforcement of white supremacy possible.
It went without saying that those "well regulated militias" were expected to be white. When the United States took over Louisiana in 1803, there was a free black militia of New Orleans that had a history going back decades. By 1801 it had grown to two battalions of 496 men. French Creoles explained how this militia was important to such black power as existed then and why they were allowed to exist under both Spanish and French administrations:
Local militia units commanded by black officers furnished critical support for free blacks and provided them with their most significant political institution. Colonial administrators depended on free blacks to defend their provinces because in Louisiana and other frontier regions able-bodied white men were too few, a situation free men of color used to their advantage.After Thomas Jefferson appointed William C. C. Claiborne [no relation] governor, this black militia pledged loyalty to him and their new country. This presented this representative of the Second Amendment with a dilemma, with the territory now under US control, the planters expected the black militia to be disbanded, even though it had also done slave catching patrols like the others. So Governor Claiborne refused this early offer to integrate the military. In 1804 he wrote to Secretary of War Henry Dearborn:
"it would be prudent not to increase the Corps, but to diminish, if it could be done without giving offense."The US was slow to gain control over its new territory and the free black militia hung in there for at least another decade, even volunteering to defend New Orleans when the British began landing troops outside the city in 1814 in the War of 1812.
"The Georgia statutes required patrols, under the direction of commissioned militia officers, to examine every plantation each month and authorized them to search 'all Negro Houses for offensive Weapons and Ammunition' and to apprehend and give twenty lashes to any slave found outside plantation grounds."After Nat Turner's Rebellion in 1831, Virginia made it illegal for free blacks "to keep or carry any firelock of any kind, any military weapon, or any powder or lead...," existing laws that allowed blacks to carry firearms under certain circumstances were repealed and it was made entirely illegal for blacks possess arms. In 1834, Tennessee added the word "white" to Article XI, 26 of the state constitution it had adopted in 1796, so that it would then read:
That the free white men of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defence.Especially after Nat Turner's Rebellion, prohibitions against blacks arming themselves proliferated both North and South in spite of the fact that in addition to all the other reasons people needed to be armed in those days, free blacks had to protect themselves from slavers. Nevertheless, the pre-Civil War courts where able to stomach the legal contortions used to justify not applying the Second Amendment to free blacks.
In 1843, when faced with a challenge to a North Carolina statute requiring free blacks to obtain a license to "keep and bear arms" that was in violation of both the Second Amendment and a similar guarantee in the state constitution, the North Carolina Supreme Court fell back on what can only be described as racist logic to justify the obvious violation of the two constitutions by saying:
Its only object is to preserve the peace and safety of the community from being disturbed by an indiscriminate use, on ordinary occasions, by free men of color, of fire arms or other arms of an offensive character. Self preservation is the first law of nations, as it is of individuals.So two constitutions got over-ruled by "the first law of nations" in the North Carolina courts. In the Georgia Court decision of Cooper and Worsham v. Savannah (1848), at its heart a question of whether a new Savannah tax could be applied to free blacks, Justice Warner delivered the Court's opinion, which resolved this dispute by declaring that free blacks were not citizens. It also showed that the Court understood Mao Tse Tung's observation that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun long before he was even born:
"Free persons of color have never been recognized here as citizens; they are not entitled to bear arms, vote for members of the legislature, or to hold any civil office."They saw the right to self-arm as one of the three pillars of political power, one of the essential rights of citizenship. After the Civil War had been fought and won, the drafters of the 14th Amendment also "clearly believed that the right of individuals to have guns for self-defense was an essential element of citizenship."
After the Civil War, the various Black Codes adopted throughout the South required blacks to obtain a license before carrying or possessing a firearm or even a Bowie knife. As you can imagine, these licenses were hard to come by, and these self-defense restrictions were put on free blacks just when they were facing the white terror of the Klan. In January 1866, Harper’s Weekly reported that in Mississippi, such groups had “seized every gun and pistol found in the hands of the (so called) freedmen” in parts of the state.
The courts continued to find a way to ignore the Second Amendment when it came to blacks and other minorities in the last century. In 1920, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a Mexican for "concealed carry of a handgun" while asleep in his own bed! In his dissent, Justice Wanamaker spoke bluntly about the supreme court decisions from Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky his own court cited:
The southern states have very largely furnished the precedents. It is only necessary to observe that the race issue there has extremely intensified a decisive purpose to entirely disarm the negro, and this policy is evident upon reading the opinions.Then he added, sarcastically:
If this decision shall stand as the law of Ohio, a very large percentage of the good people of Ohio to-day are criminals, because they are daily committing criminal acts by having these weapons in their own homes for their own defense. The only safe course for them to pursue, instead of having the weapon concealed on or about their person, or under their pillow at night, is to hang the revolver on the wall and put below it a large placard with these words inscribed:
"The Ohio supreme court having decided that it is a crime to carry a concealed weapon on one's person in one's home, even in one's bed or bunk, this weapon is hung upon the wall that you may see it, and before you commit any burglary or assault, please, Mr. Burglar, hand me my gun."In 1941, when the Florida Supreme Court overturned a conviction for carrying a handgun without a permit because the handgun was in the glove compartment of a car in Watson v. Stone, Justice Buford's concurring opinion told us much about the origin and purpose of such laws:
I know something of the history of this legislation. The original Act of 1893 was passed when there was a great influx of negro laborers in this State drawn here for the purpose of working in turpentine and lumber camps. The same condition existed when the Act was amended in 1901 and the Act was passed for the purpose of disarming the negro laborers and to thereby reduce the unlawful homicides that were prevalent in turpentine and saw-mill camps and to give the white citizens in sparsely settled areas a better feeling of security. The statute was never intended to be applied to the white population and in practice has never been so applied.
In 1962 Robert Williams published Negroes with Guns in which he recounts the struggle of a southern black community to arm itself in the face of growing Klan violence. This is why he said armed self defense was essential to combat the racist system:
The existence of violence is at the very heart of a racist system. The Afro-American militant is a 'militant' because he defends himself, his family, his home and his dignity. He does not introduce violence into a racist social system--the violence is already there and has always been there. It is precisely the unchallenged violence that allows a racist social system to perpetuate itself. When people say they are opposed to Negroes "resorting to violence" what they really mean is that they are opposed to Negroes defending themselves and challenging the exclusive monopoly of violence practiced by white racists.The Black Panther Party understood well the relationship between armed self defense and political power and so did the California legislator. In 1967 they repeal a law allowing public carrying of firearms after the Black Panthers started armed copwatch patrols in Oakland. This was a gun control measure supported by the National Rifle Association and signed into law by Ronald Reagan! As black militants continued to assert their right to bear arms, congress passed the Gun Control Act of 1968, the first federal gun-control law in 30 years.
former plantations were turned into state run penal farms, and sometimes it wasn't so obvious.
The criminal justice system, and especially the many bogus arrests for drug use and loitering, has been used to aggressively take away the rights of citizenship, including the right to vote and the right to bear arms, from many black people. See The New Jim Crow for details.
The way to end these police murders is to end the white supremacist system that requires them.
UPDATE 15 July 2016:
@ABC7News dead officer was Black afterall, I mean why would his life matter?— Leonardo Castellano (@MJOutsider) July 15, 2016
UPDATE 15 November 2016
New York Times is reporting:
Officer Who Shot Philando Castile Is Charged With Manslaughter
By Christina Capwcchi and Mitch Smith. 16
16 November 2016
ST. PAUL — The suburban police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile, the black driver whose last moments this summer were streamed live on Facebook, was charged on Wednesday with second-degree manslaughter and accused of escalating a mundane roadside exchange into a needlessly violent episode.
In outlining the case against Officer Jeronimo Yanez, prosecutors described a traffic stop on July 6 that spiraled out of control when Officer Yanez overreacted to the presence of Mr. Castile’s lawfully carried gun and shot him despite pleas that he was not reaching for the weapon.
“No reasonable officer — knowing, seeing and hearing what Officer Yanez did at the time — would have used deadly force under these circumstances,” the Ramsey County attorney, John J. Choi, said. Officer Yanez, who will appear in court on Friday, was also charged with two felony counts of intentional discharge of a dangerous weapon.
Mr. Choi said Officer Yanez spotted Mr. Castile, a 32-year-old school cafeteria worker, driving along a stretch of road near the state fairgrounds with his girlfriend and her young daughter. Officer Yanez believed Mr. Castile matched the description of a suspect in a nearby armed robbery from a few days earlier, radioing a colleague that Mr. Castile’s “wide-set nose” seemed to match the surveillance video from that case, and that his car also had a broken taillight.
Mr. Castile, who had been pulled over dozens of times before, seemed to know the routine: He kept his seatbelt fastened, greeted Officer Yanez and handed over his insurance card, according to prosecutors’ version of events. Then, before his girlfriend said he reached for the wallet that contained his driver’s license and permit to carry a pistol, Mr. Castile said, “Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me.”
Within seconds, Officer Yanez, of the St. Anthony police, had shouted, “Don’t pull it out,” and Mr. Castile and his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, tried to assure him that he was not grabbing the gun. But Officer Yanez quickly fired seven rounds, fatally wounding Mr. Castile just 62 seconds after the traffic stop began. An instant later, Mr. Castile moaned and said, “I wasn’t reaching for it.”
“His dying words were in protest that he wasn’t reaching for his gun,” Mr. Choi said.More...