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Ferguson Area Black Class Action Suits and Others Killed by Police Issues

(It’s a bit long, but I’ve been collecting links for about ten days now.)

(Or you can read the transcript; sorry, but I can’t manage to embed the video no matter now many ways I try.)

Exquisitely relevant to the issue is Bassem Masri’s editorial for HandsUpUnited: ‘The Pine Lawn Police Department is the Worst’, in which he describes the massive corruption and criminality of the force and the city’s mayor, Sylvester Caldwell (an expansion of ‘Negro Farming’ (racist rent extraction), and brings these numbers (and yes, I found the source was the WaPo,):

‘In 2013, Pine Lawn had 23,457 outstanding warrants in a town of 3,275 people. That’s not counting warrants that were paid off. That is a total of 7 warrants per person. While the mayor eats extravagantly, his constituents are being extorted. Not only extorted but the police try and fear monger the population into obedience. A tactic that has angered and frustrated residents has forced many into poverty.’

He describes one woman’s hideous experiences in the jail, and lists non-negotiable demands for Pine Lawn Judge Dean Plocher to put into immediate effect.

And from the LATimes comes this good news in aid of a hideous situation: ‘Missouri cities, including Ferguson, sued over ‘grotesque’ jail conditions’. Wording from the lawsuit:

“They are kept in overcrowded cells; they are denied toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap; they are subjected to the constant stench of excrement and refuse in their congested cells; they are surrounded by walls smeared with mucus and blood; they are kept in the same clothes for days and weeks without access to laundry or clean underwear; they step on top of other inmates, whose bodies cover nearly the entire uncleaned cell floor, in order to access a single shared toilet that the city does not clean; they develop untreated illnesses and infections in open wounds that spread to other inmates; they endure days and weeks without being allowed to use the moldy shower; their filthy bodies huddle in cold temperatures with a single thin blanket even as they beg guards for warm blankets; they are not given adequate hygiene products for menstruation; they are routinely denied vital medical care and prescription medication, even when their families beg to be allowed to bring medication to the jail; they are provided food so insufficient and lacking in nutrition that inmates lose significant amounts of weight; they suffer from dehydration out of fear of drinking foul-smelling water that comes from an apparatus on top of the toilet; and they must listen to the screams of other inmates languishing from unattended medical issues as they sit in their cells without access to books, legal materials, television, or natural light. Perhaps worst of all, they do not know when they will be allowed to leave.”

Some residents spend “three, four, five” weeks in the jails, not to serve a criminal sentence but because they can’t afford to pay a fine to get out, according to Brendan D. Roediger of the St. Louis University School of Law.’

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III denied all of it. Officials in neighboring Jennings didn’t respond to requests to comment.

The two class-action lawsuits were filed by the nonprofit advocacy organizations ArchCity Defenders, Equal Justice Under Law, and by attorneys with the St. Louis University School of Law Legal Clinics. The lawsuits contend that the jail conditions and jailing for failure to pay fines violate numerous constitutional rights.

Describing the typical racist rent extraction to fill city coffers in the area, attorneys cited cases in which inmates ‘negotiate’ their fines, only to be held in jail on other minor infractions. Apparently the Jennings jail serves several nearby municipalities, and even finding out which jurisdiction charges have been filed is hard, and getting documents from city officials is a Herculean (and obscenely expensive to obtain, as we’ve seen before) task.

Plaintiff Tonya Berry said that the jails are ‘only full of black people’. {more}

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