The Trayvon Martin case, and other recent events, reminds many Black Americans, especially those of us who are older, of our past. Last week I wrote of a Black Pasadenan woman who was arrested for calling the Pasadena Police to stop a potentially brutal fight between her two sons. She was in bed at her home when the fight broke out and called the police. She gave a clear, concise recorded statement to the 911 operator and asked for help and gave a description of the events and her location.
For some reason, the police became so enraged at the mother that they arrested her and charged her with public drunkenness after they had her to come outside of her house and onto the walkway leading to the sidewalk. To add insult to injury, in the report, written by Officer Hamblin and approved by a Sergeant Alainiz, the mother was called a Bitch. Specifically, Hamblin wrote he asked her a question and she “BITCHED UP”.
As a note, public intoxication is a crime created for those who are so drunk, out in public that they can’t care for themselves. Yet, if this were the case, how could she have had the composure to try to stop the fight and to call the police? Nevertheless, last week she was forced to face a jury for public intoxication. When she wouldn’t plead guilty, the city Prosecutor’s office, headed by City Attorney Michele Bagneris, and supervised by Kimery Shelton the acting city prosecutor, carried out by Joom Kim, deputy city prosecutor, retaliated and added another charge on the day her trial was to begin of what is known as Penal Code 148. PC 148 is a catch-all for resisting, obstructing, or delaying a peace officer in the performance of their duty. This PC 148 count was added on the first day of the trial with the jury waiting in the hall to come into court.
To make it even clearer this mother was arrested on March 18, 2013 for the public intoxication at her home. Four months later, on the first day of trial, the city prosecutor’s office added a new charge, giving me, as her defense attorney, no time to prepare. Thanks to the good sense of the judge we were offered an opportunity to continue the trial for a few days. I was so incensed at the lack of ethics that I rejected the continuance and contacted my police tactics expert, at some expense, for a consultation, that night, and I was prepared to proceed. On July 26, 2013 the prosecutor’s office dismissed the case for reasons that are not important at this point.
Remember, the mother is the one who called for help. So why would she try to resist, obstruct or delay? Maybe it’s because “they perceived her as a Bitch” and, since she is Black, I guess that would make her a Bitch worthy and of no respect, according to the historical Dred Scott court decision.
If anyone is wondering why I am so angry, it is because I am a student of Black history and I know the story of mistreated Blacks by the criminal injustice system, first hand. Historically, on May 25, 1911, another Black woman, named Laura Nelson, sought to defend her fourteen year old son, L.W., who the sheriff and a posse of forty white men in Okemah, Oklahoma came to arrest. The mob found both Ms. Nelson and her son in a conveniently, unlocked jail cell and took them out and hung both of them from a bridge crossing the Canadian River. As was the tradition, a crowd gathered to watch the sport of hanging Blacks. Pictures of the hanging as shown in James Allen’s book, “Without Sanctuary”, shows the crowd dressed in fine clothes, suits, ties and big hats for the women, along with their children dressed in regular clothes. It is well known that schools were closed and children were often given a holiday so they could go and watch.
The original crime of L.W. was allegedly for stealing meat. He was also charged with shooting one of the mob participants that was looking for him. Ms. Nelson told them she did the shooting, but the crowd hung them both.
In a book entitled, “Double V”, by Rawn James, Jr., the story of racism in World War II is told. During the war, then President Woodrow Wilson opposed a federal law against lynching African Americans. Often lynchings involved Black soldiers who were lynched by white mobs while wearing their United States Army uniforms. Whites at train stations seeing Blacks get off the train, in uniform, would beat them and tear the uniform off them. Some of them were even lynched in their uniform. The obvious irony was that they were lynched even though they were fighting for American’s freedom against racist policies of Hitler.
One returning veteran named Daniel Mack was arrested when he refused to apologize to a white man when the two accidentally bumped into each other on a Worth County Georgia sidewalk. The southern custom was when a White man and a Black man were on the sidewalk, the Black man was to get off the sidewalk. Mack did not get off and bumped into the White man. He was attacked and beaten before he was arrested. Later, Mack, who was still in his service uniform was charged with assault and disturbing the peace. He pled guilty to disturbing the peace, and not guilty to assault, and made a statement about having served in the army to protect Americans. The judge, who was so incensed by the audacity of Mack to speak up, found him guilty and sentenced him to thirty days hard labor. The judge admonished him that “this was a White man’s country and you shouldn’t forget it.”
The sheriff, conveniently, left the jail open and unguarded that evening and a white mob stormed the jail, took Mack out and beat him to near death. The Sheriff essentially blamed the events on bitter feelings that white Americans had because of the presumed good treatment during the war that Blacks got while in France.
White soldiers who refused to salute the few Black Officers they encountered were often granted a request to be removed from any assignment under a Black Officer. This way, they could avoid having to salute a Black Officer. One Black officer, Emmett Scott, reached the rank of Special Assistant to the Secretary of War. Another Black serviceman, Charles Young, reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. His next assignment would have been in Europe. This assignment would probably have made him the first Black General. In order to prevent him from becoming a General, the Army declared him medically unfit and forcibly retired him.
In the Trayvon Martin case, the profiling was alleged because he wore a Hoodie. However, I note that in the case of the soldier, it was a United States Army uniform. I conclude that profiling is not necessarily about the clothes. It’s all about race – the color of their skin. It’s not about the Hoodie. It’s about a young Black boy walking in the “wrong” neighborhood. It’s about a Black man in a suit hailing a taxi. It’s about students sitting at the lunch counter. It’s about African-Americans exercising their right to vote. It’s about a Black mother calling the police for help!
I won’t make the mistake that the prosecutors made in the Zimmerman case and say that race had nothing to do with the case of the mother calling for help with her sons. I think it had everything to do with it. If she had been a white mother, I believe there would never have been an arrest. She would have had no need to hire a Lawyer, or pay an expert, or suffer the humiliation and pain of the accompanying assault and excessive force in arresting her. This mother’s crime was like Laura Nelson who was trying to protect her son. This mother’s recourse is to try to recover her losses in a civil lawsuit.