The Streets of Ferguson, Cleveland, NYC, Minneapolis

A 19 year-old African American walks into the Legal Rights Center (LRC). He insists on seeing the Executive Director.

He’s a large man, his speech is fast, his eyes are angry. He pulls up his shirt to show the swastika he alleges the police carved on his back while he lay on the street in North Minneapolis.

There are witnesses. Three women and a man who saw it happen  during another man’s arrest. “Raymond”, we’ll call him, was objecting to the arrest when two officers took him down to the pavement, face down, while one of the officers used his key to etch the Swastika into his flesh. He was not arrested.

Police abuse of power, racial profiling, the use of unreasonable force, shootings, and prosecutors and grand juries looking the other way always have been the way it is in America.  What’s new is the public outcry, the jarring of consciousness and conscience among those who do not live in places like North Minneapolis, Ferguson, or one of the poorer African-American neighborhoods in Cleveland or New York City.

After several years of the LRC Executive Director referring complainants to the Minneapolis Police Civilian Review Board without satisfaction of remedy, I proposed something out of the ordinary. We went directly to the commanding officer of the 4th Precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department.

The Commander’s attention seemed to wander as I introduced myself and Raymond until Raymond pulled up his shirt. The Commander asked if Raymond got the number of the squad car or remembered the badges of the officers. He didn’t. The Commander then, to my great surprise, named a number of officers, asking if Raymond recognized any of the names. Those officers were well-known for terrorizing the North Minneapolis African-American community.

“This is way beyond Internal Investigation,” he said. “You need to take this to the F.B.I.”

Raymond didn’t trust the F.B.I. any more than he trusted the Minneapolis Police Department. He decided to let it go.

Lots of people like Raymond have decided over the years to let it go. Until Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson and a grand jury decided not to indict him. Until 12-year old Tamir Rice was killed by a police officer in Cleveland. Until Eric Garner died of a police officer’s choke hold saying, “I can’t breath!” The inferno of anger boiling over across the streets of America is new only in the breadth of consciousness and conscience.

It will take time. It will take a change of heart and mind. But, mostly, it will NOT change until America gets it straight that for most African-Americans being black is also an issue of class. Class is about power and powerlessness. Only when what we call “the middle class” understands that its interests lie with African-Americans in Ferguson, Cleveland, NYC, and Minneapolis will thing change in America.

Attorney General Eric Holder just released a Department of Justice Investigation report. Click HERE for the story.

It’s all about the economics: up or down. There really is no middle. “Hands up!” “I can’t breath!”

A Visit to Rockefeller Center

This post is by historian and friend Gary Severson. I asked him to put his reflection in writing not because it says someting nice about you-know-who, but because I thought it should reach a larger audience. Views from the Edge added the photos of Atlas holding up the world to supplement Gary’s commentary.

Rockefeller Center Plaza with sculpture of Atlas

Rockefeller Center Plaza with sculpture of Atlas

“When in NYC this past week I made my way to Rockefeller Center just to see a part  of the city I had never seen.  As it turns out my NYC experience in Rockefeller Center related to Gordon’s sermon this morning, The Estate Sale & 1000 years”. His sermon related to the impermanence of many things in our society including its architecture. Gordon was surprised to see the estate sale he attended taking place at an “art deco’ style house that was totally out-of-place in a neighborhood of Tudor houses.  This is a style that has disappeared compared to more traditional styles.

“As I arrived in Rockefeller Center Plaza I was taken by the immense architecture of places like NBC, News Corp., Time Life, Citibank etc. The tremendous sense of the power represented by these buildings was overwhelming in the sense that they represent a huge influence in terms of their ability to generate propaganda about America.”These buildings are generally of a sterile style described as spires of steel & glass. I stopped to talk to a security guard and by his demeanor it was clear he even took on the arrogance these buildings exuded. I walked into another RC building where I saw a $137,000 necklace in a window display & saw the clerk inside & thought that isn’t a place I would be welcome in either. As I turned around I noticed a sign that said “Onassis Museum”. I went in and could see it was free admission and contained 100 or so priceless sculptures, tiles, metal work etc. from Greece & Rome.

“As I listen to Gordon’s sermon I realize I’d been experiencing what he is describing in terms of permanence and impermanence. These skyscrapers in Rockefeller Center will be imploded while these ancient artworks represent eternal ideas right here in the midst of the impermanence of these modern buildings.  In fact the exhibit in the Aristotle Onassis Museum was about the changes taking place in the artwork of the period in the transition from paganism to Christianity.

“When I left I saw across the street St. Patrick’s Cathedral, built during the Civil War. It rivals the cathedrals of Europe. It stands out in stark contrast to the surrounding modern glass structures with its spires pointing 300 ft. into the air.  I went in and again saw the amazing sanctuary with its 250 ft. ceiling & spectacular stained glass windows.

Saint Patrick Cathedral

“Here we have a building that is already 160 yrs. old and will outlast the surrounding towers of crystalized guilt, a reference to the attempt by modern man to deny his mortality by replacing traditional religious worship with the worship of Earthly money and power.  Today’s sermon was a wonderful example for me of the connections we can make between our seeming separate spiritual & everyday lives to create meanings that allow us to gain a deeper understanding of who we are.”

– Gary Severson, Chaska, MN

Atlas and St. Patrick Cathedral

Atlas and St. Patrick Cathedral