Thursday, January 15, 2009

the local and the global...

I was going to write that I don't usually write about politics, but that's not really true. I just think others do it better than I do. Often I prefer to read what they've written and learn something.

But this week I realized there were three issues that people had sent me info about, and I wanted to put them down here, so I can think about them. Or at least give them a moment of silence.


• Proposition 8 Backlash in Northern California
Richmond, California: On December 13th of last year, a twenty-eight year-old Black lesbian was gang-rapped by four Black and Latino young males. She was originally sexually assaulted after getting out of her car. After someone was heard approaching, the 4 males forced the woman back into the car and drove her to a second location and continued to take turns raping her. Finally, they left her beaten, robbed, and naked outside an apartment building, and drove off in her car. The car was later recovered. The woman is an out lesbian and her license plate had a Rainbow Pride sticker.

This story has been circulating via email, online forums, blogs, websites such as GLAAD, and AfterEllen, as well as Facebook. The young males ages 31, 21, 16 and 15 have all been arrested by Richmond police. The 21-year old male, Josue Gonzalez, turned himself in to police after his mother "saw TV coverage of the police announcement, which included the arrests Wednesday of three other suspects in the case, and his family brought him to the police station." The police are considering this a hate crime as a result of the comments the males made during the assault.

This woman's identity is being protected for the time being. It seems that details she remembered from the assault, like the nicknames of the some of her assailants, their physical descriptions, and their use of negative comments about her sexual orientation aided in apprehension of the assailants. The Richmond Police Department's offer of a $10,000 reward for information leading to arrest, probably helped as well. On December 27, there was a candlelight vigil held in support of the woman near the scene of the crime. You can see video of the vigil here. Various sites (Queers United and notably public scholar Melissa Harris-Lacewell on The Kitchen Table) and a Facebook page have listed efforts organized to address the survivor's need for support, both of words and of funds:

The woman will need months to recover physically and years and years to recover psychologically. She needs our emotional and financial support.

If you would like to send a card, please mail it to:

Richmond Police Department
Attn: Sgt. Brian Dickerson
1701 Regatta Blvd.
Richmond, CA 94804

If you can send a financial contribution (even a few dollars) to help her pay her medical bills and other costs associated with her recovery, please mail a check payable to Community Violence Solutions to:

Community Violence Solutions
2101 Van Ness Ave.,
San Pablo, CA 94806
Attn: Mrs. Joanne Douglas

In the memo section of the check please write: Richmond Jane Doe.
For details and to show support join the Facebook group.

In the midst of conflicting reports of this New Years Day tragedy in Oakland, California: 'the suspect was harassing passengers' 'the officer in question mistook his gun for his taser,' one thing does seem clear, the 22-year-old Black male suspect, Oscar Grant III, was "prone, unarmed, and detained" when the White police officer, Johannes Mehserle, discharged a fatal bullet into his body. J's Theater has written about it briefly and thoughtfully here, and supplied a link to what he calls "an engaging, aggregating post" by Tobin Harshaw in last Saturday's New York Times. J's Theater links to video of the murder, as does Harshaw, but please note that by watching it, you will be signing on to watch the extinguishing of the life of another human being--those images can't always just be blinked away.

Or at least they shouldn't be.

• Update January 16, 2009:

Color of is circulating an online petition demanding justice in this case. Oakland has a long history of police brutality and abuses against African American men, history that made it one of the places where the phrase "Driving While Black," or "DWB" for short, came into common usage to describe the police practice of pulling over drivers, particularly males, just for being African American.

On January 14, the initial pressure from local Oakland activists and community members, as well as the national outcry led to the District Attorney to arrest officer Mehserle and charge him with murder. Reportedly District Attorney Tom Orloff admitted that the external pressure led him to take these steps. Mehserle was off-duty at the time of the shooting, apparently, this is the first time in the DAs 14 year tenure that he's charged an off-duty officer in a shooting case.

Color of has gotten more than 20,ooo signatures and is asking that people continue to apply pressure to secure justice in this case. If you want to read and sign the petition go here.


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