Civil Rights

They plan to put ‘our bodies and/or privilege on the line in visible, public solidarity’

Eric Garner’s dying words are comparable to Jesus Christ’s greetings to his disciples, according to a group of Catholic theologians calling for “a serious examination of both policing and racial injustice in the US.”

More than 430 theologians from Catholic universities as diverse as Marquette, DePaul, Santa Clara and Boston College; secular schools including Duke and Yale; and priests, high school teachers and other workers for religious organizations have signed the statement as of Sunday night.

It was written by Tobias Winright, a professor at Saint Louis University and former law enforcement officer, and published three weeks ago at Catholic Moral Theology, a hub for North American theologians who “want to avoid the standard ‘liberal /conservative’ divide that often characterizes contemporary conversation.”

“[T]his Advent, hope for a just peace must face the flagrant failures of a nation still bound by sin, our bondage to and complicity in racial injustice,” the statement opens.

The document criticizes “the failures of the grand jury process to indict some of the police officers involved” in the shootings of not only Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Garner in Staten Island, but also 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones in Detroit four years ago and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland last month.

“As Eric Garner’s dying words ‘I can’t breathe’ are chanted in the streets, and as people of faith, we hear the echo of Jesus’ breathing on his disciples, telling them, ‘Peace be with you,’” the statement reads.

Citing Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” the statement says the “cup of endurance runs over” again for African Americans: “Our streets are filled with those exhausted by the need to explain yet again ‘why we can’t wait.’”

Just as King challenged “white moderate” Christians on civil rights , the statement reads, the “challenge to the White Christian community is as relevant today as it was over 50 years ago.”

“The time demands that we leave some mark that US Catholic theologians did not ignore what is happening in our midst – as the vast majority sadly did during the 1960s Civil Rights movement.”

The signatories pledged to take several actions, including fasting from meat on Fridays through “the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany” next month; “placing our bodies and/or privilege on the line in visible, public solidarity” with those protesting “deep-seated racism”; and pressuring their bishops to bring anti-racist teaching “to the forefront” of Catholic action.

Beyond calling for common police reforms, the signatories call for the establishment of “publicly accountable review boards” to act as a check on grand juries and local prosecutors when it comes to police misconduct. They also want a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine race in America,” based on a similar 2004 effort in North Carolina. (Other activists are making the same demand.)

“As part of this commitment, we pledge to continue listening to, praying for, and even joining in our streets with those struggling for justice through nonviolent protests and peaceful acts of civil disobedience,” the statement said.

College Fix reporter Nathan Rubbelke is a student at Saint Louis University.

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Two University of New Mexico football players and another student plan to sue the school for how it investigated sexual-assault allegations against them.

At a press conference last week, the students said the sex with their accuser was consensual, the Albuquerque Journal reported. Their lawyer, George Bleus, said the suit would focus on the university police’s “alarming level of investigation – or lack thereof.”

It’s a double whammy for the university: The Justice Department said Dec. 5 it was investigating how the University of New Mexico handles reported sexual assaults and harassment, in response to “multiple complaints.”

In April, SaQwan Edwards, Crusoe Gongbay and Central New Mexico Community College student Ryan Ruff were accused of kidnapping a female student, identified in legal papers as “CS,” from an off-campus party and sexually assaulting her.

The affidavit for Ruff’s arrest gives the accuser’s account of what occurred that night – that Edwards, Gongbay and Ruff abducted CS and coerced her into performing multiple sexual acts with them.

The district attorney’s office dismissed criminal charges in June without entirely dropping the case, KQRE News 13 reported. The players were allowed to rejoin the team in August, the Journal reported.

The lawsuit against the school concerns the initial stages of the investigation, conducted by the University of New Mexico Police Department, which led to criminal charges.

Lawyer Bleus told The College Fix in a phone interview the university police investigation was “shoddy and deficient.”

In a case that revolves around kidnapping and “criminal sexual penetration” in a vehicle, Bleus said university police made no effort to secure the vehicle and search it for physical evidence. “A total lack of forensic evidence in the vehicle,” said Bleus, “would have cleared my clients.”

The alleged victim also claims Ruff threatened her with a gun while she was in the vehicle. According to Bleus, university police made no effort to find this gun.

On these and other issues where factual disputes would have arisen, Bleus said, university police “just took the victim’s word for it.”

“Civil rights violations” will be among the claims the accused students bring against the university and its police, Bleus said, but couldn’t state exactly what claims they will file.

The university released a statement last week saying it has “received no notice” of the forthcoming lawsuit, but that it “stands by the investigation” by its police. Its police department declined to comment on its handling of the investigation.

Bleus and the accuser’s lawyer, Brad Hall, began publicly squabbling in June after Bleus showed videos to the media that he said exonerated Ruff, whom he represented at the time. Edwards and Gongbay had separate legal representation during the criminal proceedings.

“Publicly branding the victim a ‘liar’ and releasing videos of unconsented sexual activity while the investigation is still ongoing sends a strong message to other rape victims, and deter them from coming forward,” Hall wrote in a statement that called Bleus’ action “unprofessional and morally reprehensible.”

“The video clips apparently shown to the media by a criminal defense attorney are proof of drugged behavior, not consent,” Hall wrote.

Bleus shot back that Hall alleged the use of a “date rape drug” months after the accuser made her initial allegations, as listed in Ruff’s arrest warrant. The defense lawyer suggested that the accuser was only belatedly claiming memory loss when her version of events “was put to the test.”

Bleus told The Fix that he intentionally “tried his case in the media” in June. He decided to “put all his cards on the table” by releasing videos of the incident and allowing the public to come to their own conclusions.

College Fix reporter Stephen Edwards is a student at Furman University.

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Faculty and students from Hood College, as well as local residents, took part in a “March on Frederick (Maryland)” early yesterday.

Supposedly evoking “the same spirit” as the famous 1963 March on Washington, more than 1,200 trekked roughly two miles through the Maryland town.

There was just one … “minor” issue: Attendance at the march for some students was mandatory. The Frederick News-Post reports (emphasis added):

Helena Hammond-DoDoo, a senior at Hood, called the march a great concept that needed better execution. Participation was mandatory for some student groups whether people were truly interested or not, she said.

“If we have absent-minded people sitting here not really listening, what have we really done?” she said.

Many students, like freshman Katie Hippert, said they view civil rights as “freedom for everyone.”

Emilie had a more clear-cut definition: “the right for anyone to go and do whatever they please, as long as it’s lawful.”

Hammond-DoDoo said she believes equality is so broad now that it is difficult to achieve. People should drop preconceived notions and adhere to the basic principle of “treat others the way you want to be treated,” she said.

Walter Olson at Free State Notes offers:

Expecting people to join a cause march whether they are inclined to or not. Expecting them to join a flag salute and pledge of allegiance whether they are inclined to or not. Similarities/differences?

Read the full Frederick News-Post article here.

h/t to Instapundit.

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(Note: This post has been UPDATED. See below.) reports that Sunil Dutta, a professor of homeland security and criminal justice at Colorado Technical University, has faced a great deal of criticism for his recent Washington Post column titled “I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me.”

“Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you,” he wrote.

Dutta cautions against arguing, insulting, or screaming at officers, “and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?”

If you believe an officer is violating your rights or bullying you, Dutta says, don’t challenge him then — save that for lodging a complaint later. “Do what the officer tells you to and it will end safely for both of you.”

Dutta notes that he doesn’t defend all police, and sides with the ACLU regarding police misconduct. He also makes some popular recommendations, such as cops wearing body cameras.

But some critics are still shaking their heads:

While Dutta comes off as “reasonable,” he is demanding “unresisting submission to police without argument or even legal protest,” J.D. Tuccille writes at “Just how do you ‘refuse consent to search your car or home’ without running afoul of the no-nos Dutta warns may get you ‘shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground?'”

UPDATE: After publication of this article, Colorado Technical University contacted The College Fix to point out that the Washington Post had added an update to the byline of Dutta’s original article:

Sunil Dutta, a professor of homeland security at Colorado Tech University, has been an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department for 17 years. The views presented here are his own and do not represent the LAPD or CTU.

Read the full article here.

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Update on this story from two weeks ago: The Arizona State University professor whose videotaped arrest drew national attention and claims of racial profiling has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of resisting arrest.

Reuters reports that English professor Ersula Ore accepted a plea deal in Maricopa County Superior Court in which her aggravated-assault charge was dropped. The county attorney’s spokesman said she’ll probably get probation when she’s sentenced Aug. 1.

Some Ore supporters claimed she was targeted for jaywalking on a street where everyone had to cross to avoid construction, and that she defended herself from the arresting officer’s “grabbing” while her dress was up.

The FBI will continue its civil-rights investigation into the incident, requested by the school, despite Ore’s plea deal, Reuters said.

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Campus Reform reports on former Vice President Al Gore’s controversial remarks at Princeton University:

Former Vice President Al Gore compared the fight against climate change to the civil rights movement, and called on Princeton graduates to help to do their part at the university’s annual Class Day.

Gore said that American society must agree that there is a problem before it can move to make a change. He recalled a childhood memory in the South about a friend who made a racist remark; his other friends were quick to tell the student to “shut up,” and informed him that such thinking was no longer acceptable.

In the same way, Gore suggested progress can be made for climate change through changing the discussion…

Full story here.

(Image: JDLasica.Flickr)

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