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On Non-Indictment for Killing of Eric Garner As for Mike Brown, UN Echoes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 3 -- Nine days after Missouri police officer was not indicted for killing Michael Brown in Ferguson, in New York City on December 3 a Staten Island grand jury declined to return any indictment for the killing of Eric Garner, which was caught on video, here.

   New York Congresspeople spoke out immediately, with Bronx Rep. Jose Serrano say that Garner's death "was not an accident, it was homicide," for all to see.

    Brooklyn Representative Nydia Velazquez linked the Garner non-indictment to 12-year old Tamir Rice being killed in Cleveland. Representative Hakeem Jeffries recalled peaceful protests after the killing, in The Bronx, of Amadou Diallo.

  Later Mayor Bill De Blasio spoke but unlike the Congresspeople took no questions, as his Commissioner for International Affairs Penny Abeywardena recently came to the UN without openly taking questions, either, here.

 The UN in Geneva for days refused to release to US-based media without paid correspondents in Switzerland the UN Committee on Torture's concluding remarks on the US.

  When they went online on November 28, on police brutality they discussed Chicago but not Ferguson, Missouri, from which the family and supporters of Michael Brown, killed by police officer Darren Wilson, even traveled to Geneva. The report as belatedly put online says:

Excessive use of force and police brutality

26. The Committee is concerned about numerous reports of police brutality and
excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, in particular against persons belonging to certain racial and ethnic groups, immigrants and LGBTI individuals, racial profiling by police and immigration offices and growing militarization of policing activities. The Committee is particularly concerned at the reported current police violence in Chicago, especially against African-American and Latino young people who are allegedly being consistently profiled, harassed and subjected to excessive force by Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers. It also expresses its deep concern at the frequent and recurrent
police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals. In this regard, the
Committee notes the alleged difficulties to hold police officers and their employers
accountable for abuses. While noting the information provided by the delegation that over
the past five years 20 investigations were opened into allegations of systematic police
department violations, and over 330 police officers were criminally prosecuted, the
Committee regrets the lack of statistical data available on allegations of police brutality and
the lack of information on the result of the investigations undertaken in respect of those
allegations. With regard to the acts of torture committed by CPD Commander Jon Burge
and others under his command between 1972 and 1991, the Committee notes the
information provided by the State party that a federal rights investigation did not develop
sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that prosecutable constitutional
violations occurred, However, it remains concerned that, despite the fact that Jon Burge
was convicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, no Chicago police officer has been
convicted for these acts of torture for reasons including the statute of limitations expiring.
While noting that several victims were ultimately exonerated of the underlying crimes, the
vast majority of those tortured –most of them African Americans–, have received no
compensation for the extensive injuries suffered (arts. 11, 12, 13, 14 and 16).
The State party should:
(a) Ensure that all instances of police brutality and excessive use of force by
law enforcement officers are investigated promptly, effectively and impartially by an
independent mechanism with no institutional or hierarchical connection between the
investigators and the alleged perpetrators;
(b) Prosecute persons suspected of torture or ill-treatment and, if found
guilty, ensure that they are punished in accordance with the gravity of their acts;
(c) Provide effective remedies and rehabilitation to the victims;
(d) Provide redress for CPD torture survivors by supporting the passage of
the Ordinance entitled Reparations for the Chicago Police Torture Survivors.

 The words Ferguson, Missouri and Brown appear nowhere in the report. In a Geneva press conference which was not on UN webcast or even the Treaty Bodies website, one UNCAT member was quoted by CNN. So it goes with the UN. We'll have more on this.

   The day after St. Louis Country prosecutor Bob McCulloch blandly read out a justification of the non-indictment of Police Officer Darren Wilson for killing Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on November 25 in New York a protest march came by the United Nations, taking over First Avenue with non-violent chants of "Hands up, don't shoot!"

  The UN locked its gates, and New York City sent Corrections Department busses to park in front of the UN compound. Inner City Press joined the march, headed to Times Square, video here and see below.

  On November 28 at the UN in Geneva reports including one on Torture and police brutality in the United States will be released. On November 24 the UN said it was restricting embargoed copies of this report to its "UNOG-based press corps" - that is, media that can afford to have a correspondent in Switzerland.

  How many of the media that have consistently covered the murder of Mike Brown can afford that?

  Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access immediately challenged this restricted distribution. First Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman in New York, and now the UN in Geneva have refused to lift the restriction, without substantive explanation. On November 27, Inner City Press and FUNCA asked:

"Now on the eve of the press conference, reiterating the request below, that embargoed copies not be needlessly restricted only to "UNOG-based" press -
there is as much or more interest by US-based media in the report on US torture and police brutality as by media based in Geneva.  But US-based media that have reporters based in UNOG are larger, more corporate media. So that particular embargoed report should be released to all UN system accredited media, not only those with reporters based at UNOG. The Free UN Coalition for Access says that should go the other way, too -- embargoed UN reports should not be restricted to NY / UNHQ based media either."

On November 27, the UN in Geneva via Liz Throssell Media Officer for the UN Treaty Bodies, replied:

"Dear Matthew, The six-hour time difference is very much in your favour, and unlike the journalists here you will have an entire working day to report on the Committee against Torture's "Concluding Observations" on the eight countries they have been reviewing this session. These will be posted online at around 8:00 a.m. New York Time -- you will be able to find whichever ones that interest you by scrolling down through the countries listed here."

 But this is not responsive. As Inner City Press and FUNCA have replied, "the request is that you not arbitrarily limit embargoed copies only to “UNOG-based journalists.” They will be able to publish stories at the embargo time, while despite your message, others will not."

  Why limited pre-distribution of this report to the media which can afford to have a Switzerland-based correspondent? What is wrong with the UN? Click here for Inner City Press and FUNCA's coverage of the opaque race to head the UN Department of Public Information, here. The UN must do better.

  Back on November 25 in Times Square, amid the neon glitz, there were chants of "we do this for Mike Brown" and light-up signs for Justice. Seventh Avenue was shut down, peacefully. "All Lives Matter" -- video here. But where is it headed?

   Back on November 24, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric if the UN or Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have any comment (not this evening) and about limitations on the distribution of the UN's report on US torture and police brutality.

  Mike Brown's parents went to Geneva to testify at the UN review of the US' record on torture and police brutality. The results of the review are due on November 28, but will only be given in advance to media accredited at the UN in Geneva, UNOG. As noted, the Free UN Coalition for Access opposes that limitation on non-corporate media, and requested comment on the non-indictment from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

  Inner City Press asked:

"This is a request for comment on the non-indictment for the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Separately but relatedly, this is request on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access that the planned restriction of the embargoed release of the UN's review of the US' record on torture and police brutality to media at UN Geneva. Media accredited here at the UN Headquarters should have the same rights, unless the UN is choosing to favor corporate / multinational media. The request for comment should be responded to asap; the request for equal treatment on embargoed copy should be addressed before November 27, given the November 28 public release."

  Dujarric to his credit replied quickly; he declined comment for the evening, and argued:

"Dear Matthew,  On your first question, I will not have a comment this evening.  On your second, this is the purview of my colleagues in Geneva. To your point about corporate media, I think you misjudge the press corps in Geneva which is as diverse as the press corps in NY. In fact, there are probably more freelancers in Geneva than in New York."

  Inner City Press, for FUNCA, has clarified:

"The point is, there is as much or more interest by US-based media in the report on US torture and police brutality as by media based in Geneva. But US-based media that have reporters based in UNOG are larger, more corporate media. So that particular embargoed report should be released to all UN system accredited media, not only those with reporters based at UNOG. (FUNCA says that should go the other way, too -- embargoed UN reports should not be restricted to NY / UNHQ based media either.) Will appreciate a decision on this asap, given the November 28 release and, for example, tonight's Mike Brown killing non-indictment, on which comment is still sought."

  Dujarric did not responded to that, but on November 25 he said " for the Secretary-General, his thoughts right now are with Michael Brown's family and with the Ferguson community.  I think he appeals to all of those in Ferguson and throughout the United States who felt disappointment at the grand jury's decision to make their voices heard peacefully and to refrain from any violence.  He also calls on the US authorities, on law enforcement authorities, whether at the federal, state or at the local level, to protect the rights of people to demonstrate peacefully and to express their opinions peacefully.  And he echoes the appeals made by Michael Brown's parents to turn this difficult time into a positive moment for change."

   FUNCA has spoken up to Turkish media, for example, on an attack on Turkish media in Ferguson. Back on August 13,  Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the killing and crackdown. Video here.

  Dujarric began by saying that Ban and the UN have "no particular comment," then added that "as in all cases, the right to demonstrate peacefully needs to be respected, and investigations need to be conducted." Okay, then.

  There have been reports mentioned the financial institutions in the area, including nationwide lenders Bank of America, US Bank and Fifth Third.

  Inner City Press and Fair Finance Watch reviewed the demographics of mortgage lending by these three in the area in the most recent year for which data is publicly available, 2012.

   In the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area in 2012, Bank of America denied the conventional home purchase mortgage applications of African Americans 1.81 times more frequently then those of whites.
  Fair Finance Watch has previously objected to US Bank's stealth branch closings, including in Chicago, here and here. The US Community Reinvestment Act requires banks to lend fairly in all of their communities, but is not sufficiently enforced, FFW has shown.

For US Bank, the disparities was 1.6 to 1; for Fifth Third Mortgage, that company's lender, it was a whopping 4.95 to 1: African American applicants were denied 4.95 times more frequently than whites, worse that the aggregate (all lenders).

  Troublingly, for all lenders Latinos were denied 3.1 times more frequently than than whites. So where is the US headed? And why has the UN had nothing to say so far? Watch this site.


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