Sunday, May 03, 2015

State Repression Continues in Baltimore; More Arrests Made
By Ray Sanchez, Ralph Ellis and Faith Karimi , CNN
Updated 11:10 PM ET, Sat May 2, 2015

Thousands of Baltimore residents rallied Saturday following the arrest a day earlier of six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray.

A smaller number remained in the streets when the city curfew went into effect at 10 p.m., CNN reporters in Baltimore said. Some protesters were arrested a brief time later, CNN's Nick Valencia said.

Community members had urged the curfew, which has started Tuesday night, be ended.

"For five days now people have been under curfew," said Jay Morrison of the YMC Community Coalition. "I think we need to put trust in the people. This curfew should be lifted."

Brandon Scott, a Baltimore City Council member, predicted people would defy the curfew as they have in past nights. Police detained 53 people late Friday, including 15 who violated curfew.

Scott said he opposed the curfew extension, partly because of its economic impact.

"We could have seen some businesses recoup some money with the fight parties," he said, referring to Saturday night's boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.

The announcement about the curfew was made less than three hours before the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. measure went into effect.

"We have had several good days, peaceful days," Maryland State Police Commissioner William Pallozzi said at a press conference. "We just ask for patience as we move forward."

Maryland National Guard Gen. Linda Singh said she's eager to send troops under her command back home.

"I want to make sure we can close out tonight in a safe, peaceful ... manner," she said. "My focus is ensuring we keep everything in a safe manner ... and we the military will pull out in the same manner we pulled in ... very calm."

Earlier Saturday, marchers converged on Baltimore City Hall after trekking from the Gilmore Homes housing project, where Gray was arrested, as similar gatherings were set for various cities from Boston to Beverly Hills.

Marchers -- some carrying signs with messages such "Justice for Freddie Gray" and "It is right to rebel" -- moved peacefully through the streets of Baltimore to War Memorial Plaza outside City Hall, where hundreds of others gathered for the block-party-like rally.

Daisy Villalobos, wearing a T-shirt with the words "Black Lives Matter," traveled from New York, where she said she was hurt earlier this week during an arrest at a Freddie Gray protest in Union Square. The march was about more than police brutality, she said, adding that people were also rallying in support of "neglected communities" throughout the country.

Outside City Hall, a biracial couple -- Devan Sutherland and Joe Savage -- attended the rally with their 7-year-old son Liam.

"It means everything to me and my family," Sutherland said about being at the rally. "I was born and raised here. I care a lot about my city. I love my city ... I decided to stay and raise my family here. And to have a little boy, it's even more important for me to be here."

The Rev. Alvin Gwynn, pastor of Leadenhall Baptist Church, noted the importance of voter registration drives at the massive gathering.

"Those are the people in the jury box," he said.

The rally, staged by the Washington-based Black Lawyers for Justice, came after a week of demonstrations, some of them marred by incidents of arson and looting.

"It's sad it had to come to this -- burning down places that people are going to need," said Baltimore resident Aaron Cook, standing outside a CVS drugstore that was looted and burned this week. "Hopefully we get results from this -- start treating us like we matter."

National Guard troops and police stood in place near the plaza but the scene was starkly different from violent clashes between officers and protesters earlier this week.

"What really touched me was hearing the youth speak and telling America that they are not thugs," demonstrator Daudi Henderson said. "We can't demonize the victim."

One rally speaker was an uncle of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old African-American who was unarmed when he was fatally shot by a police officer on a train station platform in Oakland, California. Protests erupted in the city after a white transit police officer was convicted in 2010 of involuntary manslaughter, not murder.

Another speaker, Tanaira Cullens, 24, said she is working on a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University.

"It's important that we stand together not just as black people, but black people and their allies to do great ... and positive things in our community," she told CNN.

Cullens, who was raised in the same neighborhood as Freddie Gray, said it's "essential for children to be able to rise above their circumstances."

"I was blessed because my parents are educated people," she said. "My father works with people who are having a change of life. They are coming from negative backgrounds and he brings them around to do positive things in their community. My mother is a professor. So I was raised to value my education. And so many people don't have that opportunity."

After the rally, hundreds of people marched from City Hall to the boarded-up CVS store near the corner of Pennsylvania and North avenues.

Gov. Larry Hogan urged protesters to remain peaceful and nonviolent.

"The right to demonstrate is a fundamental part of our society, but damaging property or putting innocent bystanders in danger will not be tolerated," he said.

In response to the unrest earlier in the week, Logan said 3,000 National Guard troops, 578 state troopers and 432 law enforcement officers from Pennsylvania and New Jersey were deployed throughout the city.

Early Saturday, protesters cleared the streets to observe a curfew. A few demonstrators scuffled with police after 10 p.m. Friday, when the curfew went into effect.

Authorities used a megaphone from a helicopter to warn protesters to go home or get arrested.

By midnight, the streets were deserted as a hush washed over Baltimore's streets, a far cry from the boisterous honking, weeping and cheers earlier when the city's top prosecutor announced charges.

City prosecutor identifies six officers

Six police officers were charged in the death of Gray, Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Friday, describing what she believes happened April 12, when Gray was arrested.

The 25-year-old died after suffering "a severe and critical neck injury" while being transported "handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained" inside a police van, she said. It is against police policy to transport a prisoner without proper restraints such as a seat belt.

The police union called for an independent prosecutor, saying Mosby has conflicts of interests. They also criticized her for not waiting until police were done with their inquiry.

"Let me begin by stating how appalled and frustrated we are at this morning's events. .... We are disappointed in the apparent rush to judgment given the fact that the investigation into this matter has not been concluded," said Gene Ryan, president of the police union. "Our officers, like every other American, are entitled to due process."

The Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police said the officers did nothing wrong.

"No officer injured Mr. Gray, caused harm to Mr. Gray, and they are truly saddened by his death," said Michael Davey, an attorney for the union.

The accused

The officers face various charges that could lead to decades in prison.

• Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., 45, faces one count of second-degree depraved-heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence), manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence) and misconduct in office.

• Lt. Brian W. Rice, 41, faces one count of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and one count of false imprisonment.

• Sgt. Alicia D. White, 30, faces one count of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

• Officer William G. Porter, 25, faces one count of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

• Officer Garrett E. Miller, 26, faces two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and one count of false imprisonment.

• Officer Edward M. Nero, 29, faces two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and one count of false imprisonment.

Second-degree depraved-heart murder is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Gray's relatives said they are satisfied with the charges announced.

"These charges are an important step in getting justice for Freddie," said his stepfather, Richard Shipley.

Out on bail

Court records show the officers have paid bail, which for Goodson, White, Porter and Rice had been set at $350,000 each; for Nero and Miller it was $250,000 apiece.

The six have a preliminary hearing on May 27.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called for the immediate suspension of all the officers facing charges.

'Grossly negligent'

Police officers arrested Gray on April 12. He slipped into a coma after suffering a series of injuries and died a week later.

Mosby said the incident began when two police officers on bike patrol "made eye contact" with Gray, who then ran.

When officers caught up to him, he surrendered and was placed on the ground, arms handcuffed behind his back. He said he couldn't breathe and asked for an inhaler, but he did not get it, according to Mosby.

Although police found a knife in Gray's pants, it was a variety allowed by Maryland law, and police had no reason to detain him, the prosecutor said.

Still, they called for a police transport van and loaded Gray, in handcuffs, into the van. They did not put a seat belt on him, Mosby said.

Van stops

Goodson stopped the vehicle four times over the course of the approximately 40-minute ride to the police station. At the first stop, officers took Gray out, put shackles on his ankles and placed him -- still handcuffed -- headfirst and on his stomach in the back.

At the last stop, Goodson picked up another man who was put in the back of the van on the other side of the partition that keeps prisoners separated.

Mosby said the officers were "grossly negligent" for failing to get Gray medical help, despite his requests, until arrival at the Western District Police Station.

By then, he was no longer breathing, she said.

Gray was rushed to a hospital, where he underwent surgery.

He died a week later.
A History of Violence: Baltimore’s ‘Broken Relationship’ Years in Making
by Gregg Levine   @GreggJLevine
Aljazeera America

For the past 80 weeks, Tawanda Jones has spent Wednesday nights on Baltimore streets, often in front of City Hall, holding vigil for her brother, Tyrone West.

Long before the killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer or the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of a New York Police Department detective, before the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by a Cleveland patrolmen or the death of Eric Harris after he was shot by a reserve deputy with the Tulsa, Okla., County Sheriffs, and well before the death of Freddie Gray from injuries sustained while in the back of a Baltimore police van, there was West, a 44-year-old African American beaten by plainclothes Baltimore officers after a traffic stop.

The official cause of death was ruled to be a heart attack, but an independent inquiry said police had made “several errors” that led to the beating sustained by West in July 2013.

And ever since, Jones has been holding “West Wednesdays” to honor her brother and shine a light on a police department that has a history of violence that is as long as it is brutal.

Even before the violent confrontations and vandalism that marked Monday’s standoffs between area residents and law enforcement, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake acknowledged a “broken relationship” between the city’s majority African American population and its police.

“This is part of a decades-long, growing frustration over the extent to which police in Baltimore have adopted a highly militarized approach to policing residents of our city,” said Sonia Kumar, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, in an interview with the New York Times. The Maryland ACLU brought a 2006 lawsuit against Baltimore’s aggressive police tactics.

Suits against Baltimore policing date back to at least 1980, according to the NAACP, but many media accounts, including an in-depth 2014 investigation by the Baltimore Sun, point to a program called “zero-tolerance policing” instituted by Martin O’Malley when he was mayor of Baltimore between 1999 and 2007. O’Malley later served two terms as Maryland’s governor and is openly eyeing a run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016.

O’Malley and his supporters tout the zero-tolerance approach as necessary to address violent crime rates plaguing the city at the time, but mass arrests and aggressive enforcement of even minor infractions (tactics that resemble often-criticized “stop and frisk” and “broken windows” policing) caused “countless innocent people” to get caught up in the “dragnet,” which bread “community frustration,” according to Kumar in the Times.

After the ACLU and NAACP sued in 2006, alleging a broad pattern of abuse, Baltimore settled for $870,000 and publicly stated, in 2010, that zero-tolerance policing would end. But local reports say that tensions persist, and, to read the Sun investigation, so does the pattern of abuse.

In the two decades leading up to 2012, 127 citizens were killed by police in Baltimore — significantly more than other cities of similar size. Las Vegas saw 100 deaths at the hands of law enforcement, while in other like-sized cities, such as Memphis, Oklahoma City and Seattle, police killings were less than half Baltimore’s number, according to the Justice Department’s voluntary survey of such incidents (there is no federal reporting requirement, and statistics on deaths at the hands of law enforcement are notoriously hard to compile).

The beatings and killings, where the victims are most often African American, according to the Sun, “poison relationships between police and community,” and also tax city coffers. From 2011 to 2014, Baltimore paid out $5.7 million to settle some 102 civil suits over police brutality — and that number does not include the $5.8 million in legal fees spent by the city in defense of the police.

And those are just the cases that were settled. The Sun said that during that same period, Baltimore faced a total of 317 lawsuits over police conduct.

The victims, many detailed in the Sun story, include “a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.” Beatings, which resulted in broken jaws, noses, arms and legs, and “head trauma, organ failure and even death,” often came “during questionable arrests,” according to the Sun.

And, again, this was after the city settled a lawsuit over zero tolerance and said it had abandoned its aggressive tactics.

These stories do not include the “rough ride” that is indicated in the severe spinal injury that cost Freddie Gray his life. Rough rides, where a suspect in custody is handcuffed and sometimes shackled, but not buckled in when they are placed in the back of a police van, are apparently a time-honored tradition in Baltimore. Police then bring the vehicle to an abrupt stop, throwing the bound prisoner across the holding pen with extreme force.

The Times cites the cases of Jeffrey Alston and Dondi Johnson, both African American, both paralyzed from the neck down after being injured during rough rides in Baltimore police vans. Both cases resulted in multi-million-dollar settlements for the victims, paid out of the Baltimore budget.

In recent years, a new mayor, police chief, and a state’s attorney visibly prosecuting police misconduct have attempted to change the perception, and, according to the city, the practices of the Baltimore Police. There is a new accountability body trying to push through a backlog of disciplinary cases; there are tougher command structures that have resulted in more cases where officers are held to account; and the city has a new computer system to track legal actions against law enforcement.

The federal Department of Justice, too, has gotten involved. In January, the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing began an 18-month review of Baltimore’s police brutality cases.

But community leaders say the time for reviews is over. At a town hall meeting earlier this month held by the Justice Department at Baltimore’s Coppin State University, more than 300 area residents gathered to tell their stories of police corruption, misconduct and excessive force. Among them was Tawanda Jones, Tyrone West’s sister. Jones says she has repeatedly called the DOJ asking for intervention in her bother’s case, but says they were not responsive.

Jones labeled the current review “phony,” according a Baltimore Sun reporter present at the meeting. “We are in a state of emergency here and you all are here with Band-Aids," Jones said.
Eyewitnesses: The Baltimore Rebellion Was a Response to Police Provocation
Baltimore teachers and parents tell a different story from the one you've been reading in the media

By Sam Brodey and Jenna McLaughlin
Tue Apr. 28, 2015 6:00 PM EDT

After Baltimore police and a crowd of teens clashed near the Mondawmin Mall in northwest Baltimore on Monday afternoon, news reports described the violence as a riot triggered by kids who had been itching for a fight all day. But in interviews with Mother Jones and other media outlets, teachers and parents maintain that police actions inflamed a tense-but-stable situation.

The funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody this month, had ended hours earlier at a nearby church. According to the [10]Baltimore Sun [10], a call to "purge"—a reference to the 2013 dystopian film [11] in which all crime is made legal for one night—circulated on social media among school-aged Baltimoreans that morning. The rumored plan—which was not traced to any specific person or group—was to assemble at the Mondawmin Mall at 3 p.m. and proceed down Pennsylvania Avenue toward downtown Baltimore. The Baltimore Police Department, which was aware of the "purge" call, prepared for the worst. Shortly before noon, the department issued a statement saying it had "received credible information that members of various gangs…have entered into a partnership to 'take-out' law enforcement officers."

When school let out that afternoon, police were in the area equipped with full riot gear. According to eyewitnesses in the Mondawmin neighborhood, the police were stopping buses and forcing riders, including many students who were trying to get home, to disembark. Cops shut down the local subway stop. They also blockaded roads near the Mondawmin Mall and Frederick Douglass High School, which is across the street from the mall, and essentially corralled young people in the area. That is, they did not allow the after-school crowd to disperse.

Meghann Harris, a teacher at a nearby school, described on Facebook what happened:

Police were forcing buses to stop and unload all their passengers. Then, [Frederick Douglass High School] students, in huge herds, were trying to leave on various buses but couldn't catch any because they were all shut down. No kids were yet around except about 20, who looked like they were waiting for police to do something. The cops, on the other hand, were in full riot gear, marching toward any small social clique of students…It looked as if there were hundreds of cops.

The kids were "standing around in groups of 3-4," Harris said in a Facebook message to Mother Jones. "They weren't doing anything. No rock throwing, nothing…The cops started marching toward groups of kids who were just milling about."

A teacher at Douglass High School, who asked not to be identified, tells a similar story: "When school was winding down, many students were leaving early with their parents or of their own accord." Those who didn't depart early, she says, were stranded. Many of the students still at school at that point, she notes, wanted to get out of the area and avoid any Purge-like violence. Some were requesting rides home from teachers. But by now, it was difficult to leave the neighborhood. "I rode with another teacher home," this teacher recalls, "and we had to route our travel around the police in riot gear blocking the road…The majority of my students thought what was going to happen was stupid or were frightened at the idea. Very few seemed to want to participate in 'the purge.'"

A parent who picked up his children from a nearby elementary school, says via Twitter, "The kids stood across from the police and looked like they were asking them 'why can't we get on the buses' but the police were just gazing…Majority of those kids aren't from around that neighborhood. They NEED those buses and trains in order to get home." He continued: "If they would've let them children go home, yesterday wouldn't have even turned out like that."

Meg Gibson, another Baltimore teacher, described a similar scene to Gawker [12]: "The riot police were already at the bus stop on the other side of the mall, turning buses that transport the students away, not allowing students to board. They were waiting for the kids…Those kids were set up, they were treated like criminals before the first brick was thrown." With police unloading busses, and with the nearby metro station shut down, there were few ways for students to clear out.

Several eyewitnesses in the area that afternoon say that police seemed to arrive at Mondawmin anticipating mobs and violence—prior to any looting. At 3:01 p.m., the Baltimore Police Department posted on its Facebook page: "There is a group of juveniles in the area of Mondawmin Mall. Expect traffic delays in the area." But many of the kids, according to eyewitnesses, were stuck there because of police actions.

The Baltimore Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Around 3:30, the police reported that juveniles had begun to throw bottles and bricks. Fifteen minutes later, the police department noted that one of its officers had been injured. After that the violence escalated, and rioters started looting the Mondawmin Mall, and Baltimore was in for a long night of trouble and violence. But as the event is reviewed and investigated, an important question warrants attention: What might have happened had the police not prevented students from leaving the area? Did the department's own actions increase the chances of conflict?

As Meghann Harris put it, "if I were a Douglas student that just got trapped in the middle of a minefield BY cops without any way to get home and completely in harm's way, I'd be ready to pop off, too."

On social media, eyewitnesses chronicled the dramatic police presence before the rioting began.
Legal Volunteers Arrested After Defying Baltimore Curfew
--Around 50 people arrested on Saturday night
--Anger at different treatment of late-night restrictions across the city
--Activist Joseph Kent held for the second time
 --A man is detained after being pepper sprayed by police in Baltimore on Saturday night.

Guardian

Legal observers and medical volunteers were among the roughly 50 people arrested in Baltimore on Saturday night, as another evening of protests ended in yet more clashes as protesters attempted to defy curfew restrictions.

Two volunteers, who identified themselves as belonging to the National Lawyers Guild, were seen by the Guardian being arrested alongside four street medics outside the Baltimore City Correctional Center.

One of the legal observers was wearing a bright green cap, emblazoned with her organisation’s name – caps which have proven useful for protesters seeking legal advice during this past week.

As police were seen handcuffing the volunteers, a seventh man walked past and was apprehended after one officer with a handheld stun gun asked the man where he was going. The man had said he lived in the neighborhood and was on his way home.

The arrests outside the building on Greenmount Avenue stand in contrast to the police’s treatment of curfew-defiers in Hampden, a predominantly white neighborhood in northern Baltimore.

Earlier in the day, a group of activists had called for a “silent curfew protest” which they said was intended to highlight the police’s differing treatment of protesters based on race, and to expose the police’s “anti-Black racism, an institutionalized practice of the police force and government”. The were mostly white.

A video tweeted out by activist Deray McKesson – a Baltimore resident himself who was a prominent figure and organiser at the Ferguson protests last August following the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown – showed police officers trying to reason with the assembled crowd at Hampden.

“The last thing I want to do is put someone in handcuffs,” a white police officer told the crowd, before issuing a last warning and asking them to “please leave”. According to several accounts on social media, this had been the officer’s third warning to the group.

Also among those arrested on Saturday night, was Joseph Kent, the 21-year-old activist who was seen last week getting “kidnapped” live on television.

Kent’s lawyer Steve Beatty confirmed on Twitter that his client had arrived at Baltimore central booking station. This is the second arrest for the Morgan State University student in connection with the Freddie Gray protests.

Thirty people were reportedly arrested at the intersection of Pennsylvania and North avenues. A protester wearing a Fuck the Police T-shirt appeared to be pulled to the ground by police and tear-gassed.

Jospeh Kent had been in a large group of protesters at the intersection between Pennsylvania and W North avenues, the focal point for much of the week’s demonstrations. Kent, wearing a T-shirt with a photograph of himself at the scene of his previous arrest, chanted with a group of roughly 200 people, and gave out the phone number for a legal advice helpline. Kent then led some of the protesters away from the intersection, blocking traffic as they went along.

Earlier on Saturday, two thousand people participated in a rally at City Hall. Under the spring sunshine and to the sound of Public Enemy’s Fight the Power, protesters listened to speakers ranging from young organisers to politicians.

Many of the demonstrators later moved back towards the Pennsylvania & North intersection, where they were greeted with a “Party for Peace”. Protesters danced, grilled some burgers and chatted with local police officers about the state of policing in their communities.

The seemingly arbitrary nature of the curfew’s enforcement has led activists to voice their concern that the curfew was targeting poor black communities unevenly.

The curfew also forced local businesses to close at 10pm since it came into effect last Tuesday.

Kirby Fowler, the president of the Downtown Baltimore local business association, said that the number of people affected by the drop in business in the area could reasonably be in the thousands.

“It’s not just business owners who are being impacted,” Fowler said. “It’s waiters and waitresses and dishwashers who depend on tips to support their families.”
After Thousands Rally in Baltimore, Police Make Some Arrests as Curfew Takes Hold
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
New York Times
MAY 2, 2015

BALTIMORE — This beleaguered city took on a festive, almost celebratory feel Saturday as thousands of people of all ages and races rallied peacefully in front of City Hall to call for an end to police mistreatment of black men, but also an end to the curfew imposed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake amid riots set off by the death of Freddie Gray, who sustained a fatal spinal cord injury in police custody.

The gathering, bookended by marches through city streets, felt at times like a street carnival, with a dash of black power militancy. It came a day after six police officers were charged in the death of Mr. Gray, 25. The rally stood in stark contrast to the looting and arson that took place here Monday night, and the scattered violence after a similar demonstration on April 25.

A freshly painted memorial to Freddie Gray on Saturday morning at the Gilmor Homes, where he was arrested.Baltimore Prosecutor Faces National History of Police AcquittalsMAY 2, 2015
As one speaker after another addressed the crowd on a grassy plaza in front of City Hall, Julian Burke, 23, a painter, handed out balloons, saying, “We’re spreading good vibes.” A group called Food Not Bombs served free vegan meals.

“The public got an answer yesterday,” Ms. Adams said, explaining the change in mood. “I just hope that the changes stick. I’m really hopeful that it doesn’t turn.”

The presence of thousands of camouflage-clad National Guard troops and armored vehicles was a sign that the city was not quite back to normal. While many protesters called for an end to the citywide curfew that Ms. Rawlings-Blake put in place Tuesday night — and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland said it had “outlived its usefulness” — Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said it would remain in effect Saturday night “for everyone’s safety.”

The mood changed again at night. Not long after the 10 p.m. curfew began, someone threw a water bottle at a passing truck carrying National Guard troops, and a lone, shouting pedestrian would not leave the intersection of West North and Pennsylvania Avenues. The police used pepper spray to subdue the man, who was then thrown down and dragged by his hair. A small group of other people began throwing rocks and bottles across the intersection toward police officers, who made several arrests.

In his first public comments since Marilyn J. Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore City, announced she would prosecute six officers for charges including murder and manslaughter, Mr. Batts defended his department, but said he would not “tolerate any misconduct.” He refused to comment on specifics of the case, but said, “Now we will have the confidence that the truth will come out.”

As Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland called for a statewide “day of prayer and peace” on Sunday, a spokesman for Ms. Rawlings-Blake, Kevin Harris, said in an interview that the mayor was re-evaluating the curfew on a daily basis and was “very encouraged the demonstrations over the last few days have been peaceful.” He added, “We know that the curfew is having an economic impact on the city.”

Many people here, especially those who work night shifts, say the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew has been difficult for them. In West Baltimore on Saturday, J. R. White, 36, who owns a car detailing business, said the restrictions were forcing him to cut back his hours. “They need to end that now,” Mr. White said after taking a selfie photo in front of a makeshift graffiti memorial to Mr. Gray at the spot where he had been arrested. “People can’t pay the bills if they can’t work.”

Even though the scene outside City Hall was calm, Governor Hogan’s office announced in an email sent during the demonstration that the National Guard had increased its presence in the city. Mr. Hogan’s office said 3,000 soldiers and airmen had been deployed, up from 2,500 on Friday.

Saturday’s protest and rally had been called by Black Lawyers for Justice, a Washington-based group whose leader, Malik Shabazz, clearly makes Baltimore’s mainstream black leadership nervous. Mr. Shabazz, a former chairman of the New Black Panther Party, has been labeled an extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which calls him a “racist black nationalist” who is “particularly skilled at orchestrating provocative protests.”

A protest he led on April 25 turned briefly violent after he told demonstrators at City Hall to go out into the streets of Baltimore and “shut it down!” But on Saturday, it was Mr. Shabazz himself who was shut down, by members of the crowd who shouted, “It’s not about you!” and implored him to “let the youth speak!” when his own speech went on at length.

When the rally ended, a boisterous but peaceful crowd marched back toward West Baltimore, pooling at West North and Pennsylvania, where a CVS drugstore was looted and burned on Monday night. The intersection had been blocked earlier in the week by officers in full riot gear; now the crowd broke into a happy call-and-response chant: “Take back! Baltimore! Take back! Baltimore!”

Someone turned on a loudspeaker, and the crowd began to dance.

Earlier in the day, volunteers handed out bags of supplies and food at the Simmons Memorial Baptist Church, a block from the intersection, where the sign on the church proclaimed, “Praying for the Freddie Gray Family.” Joyous Jones, a church lay leader wearing an “I Bleed Baltimore” T-shirt, said that the food giveaway was a regular event but that more people turned out to help Saturday, and more companies, including the grocery chains Trader Joe’s, Safeway and Giant, donated food.

“It makes me feel warm, to see so many people helping,” she said.

City officials had been bracing for Saturday’s demonstration, but the day got off to an almost sleepy start. Just past noon, a small crowd, including a group of New Yorkers, started gathering near the intersection of Mount and Presbury Streets, in Gilmor Homes, at the spot where Mr. Gray had been arrested.

A few blocks away, children played with a toy car on a stoop, and church members emerged from the Mt. Pisgah C.M.E. Church after attending the funeral of their bus driver.

“It’s gonna be peaceful. Yes, it is,” said Delphie Horne, 86, who sat in a wheelchair with her granddaughter, Michelle Lennon, 12, at her side. Ms. Lennon shook her head shyly when asked if she expected to attend the protest and rally at City Hall.

Across the street, the Guard troops stood ready. Another church member, Sharon Ann Hargrove, 62, who works as a tax preparer here, stopped to thank them. “I know y’all give up your life every day for us,” she told them. Turning to a reporter, she added, “They’re not our enemies.”

But on the minds and lips of many was Ms. Mosby’s announcement. “I think they charged the officers just to calm the city down,” said Tajhi Cooper, 22, a lifelong resident of the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. “But I don’t think they’re going to get convicted.”

The protests, he said, were “showing that we want change, that we want something different.”

Many people came with a sense that they were watching history unfold, with origins in the civil rights era but an ultimate path still unknown. Several hundred marched from the Gilmor Homes to meet the much larger group that had massed at City Hall.

Crystal Miller, 47, marched down Pennsylvania Avenue with the youngest of her eight children, 18-month-old Noah, on her hip. “It could have been my children,” said Ms. Miller, who has four sons and four daughters.

Ms. Miller, who is in a training program to get a certificate for nursing home care, said Friday’s charges had spurred her to march. She said she had feared that the officers would not be charged and that the city would be ablaze in anger.

“I was scared. I was praying on it,” she said, adding that she hoped Mr. Gray’s death would inspire lawmakers to expand the use of police cameras from cars and bodies to the interior of transport vans. “They need video cameras in these vans,” she said. “That would stop some of this.”

Amid the celebration, there was an undercurrent of anger, not only over police treatment of black men, but over the lack of jobs and recreation centers, as well as dilapidated housing for Baltimore’s poor.

“Eye Contact is NOT a Crime,” one sign said — a reference to police admissions that Mr. Gray had been arrested after a lieutenant made eye contact with him, which contributed to Ms. Mosby’s assertion that the officers had made an illegal arrest.

Salesmen hawked T-shirts with the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” There was also a thread of the 1960s; black power advocates raised their fists, and communists distributed Marxist literature.

Rashaan Brave, a division chief in the Baltimore Parks and Recreation Department; Rashad Vance, who teaches in a middle school and at Morgan State University; and Travis Vance, a civil engineer, all of whom live in Baltimore, made their way on bicycles to City Hall. Each was trying to understand the aftermath of Mr. Gray’s death, the anger of youths and ways to help them.

“This is history. I just wanted to be involved,” said Rashad Vance, 32. “I’ve been telling my students, ‘Protest, but nonviolently.’ ”
Police Officer Is Shot and Critically Wounded in Queens
By J. DAVID GOODMAN and AL BAKER
New York Times
MAY 2, 2015

A New York City police officer in plain clothes was shot in the face and critically wounded on Saturday in Queens after driving up in an unmarked car to question a man on the street, officials said.

The officer, Brian Moore, 25, was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where he was listed in critical but stable condition, the police commissioner, William J. Bratton, said at a news conference at the hospital late Saturday as Officer Moore remained in surgery.

Mayor Bill de Blasio called the shooting an “unconscionable act of violence” and “a reminder of the dangers that all of our officers face every single day.”

Officer Moore was shot around 6:15 p.m. on 212th Street in Queens Village, said the police. He and Erik Jansen, both anti-crime officers, were in a car with Officer Moore at the wheel near 104th Avenue when they approached a man who was “walking and adjusting an object in his waistband” and began speaking with him, Mr. Bratton said.

Almost immediately, officials said, the suspect fired at the plainclothes officers before they could step from the car or return fire. Witnesses described hearing at least two shots, according to the chief of detectives, Robert K. Boyce. The wounded officer was rushed to the hospital by other officers.

By late Saturday, Demetrius Blackwell, 35, had been taken into custody at a house near the shooting after an intensive 90-minute search, Mr. Bratton said. “He resides on that block,” Mr. Bratton said, but was located in a home that was not his own.

Mr. Bratton described Mr. Blackwell as a man with a history of arrests — including robbery and criminal possession of a weapon — and said that he had served time in prison.

Mr. Bratton said that officers had been seeking Mr. Blackwell, who lives a block away from the site of the shooting, on 104th Avenue, to speak with him in connection with a crime, though whether he was a suspect or a witness was not immediately clear..

But it was “activity he engaged in” that drew the attention of the officers on Saturday, Mr. Bratton said, specifically the object in the waistband.

Officer Moore appeared to have been shot in the left cheek and the bullet went out the right side of his head, toward the back of the head, a law enforcement official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the fast-moving events. The wound, then, could be what is known as an “in-and-out,” the official said, meaning it might have missed critical organs, his survival a matter of inches.

Dr. Eli Kleinman, the supervising chief surgeon of the Police Department, said at the news conference that quick work by the first responding patrol car and a team of neurosurgeons had helped them confront a “life-threatening situation.”

After the shooting, officers could be seen going through the garbage outside the white-paneled home with red steps where Mr. Blackwell lives. As of late Saturday, the gun used in the shooting had not been found.

A cousin of Mr. Blackwell’s who lives near him but who declined to give her name said in a brief telephone interview late Saturday that she was just learning about the shooting: “I am just finding all this stuff out myself. I don’t know anything. All I can do is pray right now.”

For officers across the city, word of the Queens shooting spread rapidly, with many fearing the worst had again occurred. The shooting immediately evoked the December killing of two officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who had been targeted for their uniforms and shot dead as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn. The gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, posted on social media of his desire to kill police officers before coming to New York from Maryland; he killed himself shortly after.

Saturday’s shooting also came at a moment of nationwide tension between police officers and minority communities as protesters again took to the streets over the killing of Freddie Gray, an unarmed black man in Baltimore who died in police custody.

Demonstrations erupted anew across the country, including in New York City, as Mr. Gray’s name was added to the litany of names — Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice — that were shouted at demonstrations over police killings in recent months. But the account of Saturday’s shooting suggested that the officer had been wounded in the course of doing police work, not the result of a gunman bent on shooting officers, as Mr. Brinsley had been. Anti-crime officers, who address more serious crime conditions in a police precinct than ordinary 911 calls, wear plain clothes and patrol in unmarked cars.

Through Saturday evening, officers across the city traded text messages by cellphones from their foot posts and squad cars. The shooting — a burst of gunfire; officers in their car — had elements of the ambush killing in December.

But the circumstances were more similar to those in the Bronx in January, when two plainclothes officers were shot by a suspect they had been pursuing in connection with an armed robbery. Both officers survived.

Around the scene of the shooting, helicopters circled at sunset. After dark, roads remained closed. “Right now everything’s just blocked off,” said Frank Caffey, who lives on Hollis Avenue in Queens and said he heard gunshots earlier in the evening. The neighborhood of unattached houses and fenced-in yards where Saturday’s shooting took place had struggled with crime, residents said. “This area is kind of bad dealing with that,” said Mr. Caffey.

Angela Macropoulos, Benjamin Mueller and Liam Stack contributed reporting. Alain Delaquérière contributed research.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Baltimore Rebellion Prompts Nationwide Protests
Militarized police state fails to halt mass demonstrations

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Note: Six police officers were indicted by the Baltimore State's Attorney on May 1 in connection with the violent death of Freddie Grey. Nonetheless, the beatings and arrests continue.
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Reports say that 7,000 police and Maryland National Guard troops are occupying the city of Baltimore. A curfew has been imposed for two nights while dozens have been arrested for violating the ban on being on the street during the hours of 10:00pm to 5:00am.

So far over 300 people have been detained in Baltimore. Police jailed children as young as 11 and 12 years old for three days without charges. Over 100 people were released on April 29 because there was no evidence to continue to hold them in custody.

On the first night of the imposition of the curfew April 28, police fired teargas canisters and rubber bullets at unarmed nonviolent protesters. All during that same day, the corporate media and governmental officials described the demonstrations as “peaceful and lawful.” Yet these same peaceful protesters were gassed and fired on just minutes after the 10:00pm curfew.

Humvees, armored vehicles and columns of cop cars patrolled the commercial and residential sections of West and East Baltimore. Helicopters flying above told people that they must be off the streets or they would be arrested.

Corporate media outlets such as CNN featured commentators who decried the rebellion as violent criminal activity, drawing the distinction between peaceful protest as opposed to attacks on police and private property.  Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said that April 27, the day of the most intense fighting, was one of the darkest days in the history of Baltimore.

These news agencies described the police response as “methodical” and “restrained.” It was the youth and workers who broke store windows, set fires and damaged police property that were the real culprits, not the law-enforcement agents responsible for the death of Freddie Grey and hundreds of other African Americans in Baltimore and across the United States over the last year.

National Response to the Rebellion

Despite the efforts by public officials and corporate media houses to put a negative slant on the rebellion, people across the U.S. went into the streets to demonstrate in solidarity with Baltimore. In New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver and other cities, actions were held calling for justice in the Freddie Grey killing as well as raising issues related to police brutality in their own cities.

In Ferguson, Missouri, the suburb outside of St. Louis and home to 18-year-old Michael Brown who was gunned down by white patrolman Darren Wilson, where a rebellion sparked anti-racist protests nationwide last Aug., people took to the streets once again. The response to the Baltimore rebellion in Ferguson was one of the most militant so far.

According to a report published by KSDK-TV in St. Louis, “Shortly before 10 p.m. local time, officers were called to West Florissant Avenue for a shooting outside a restaurant. That person sustained minor injuries. A city spokesperson said protesters were throwing rocks at patrol vehicles while officers tried to help the victims of the shooting.”

This same dispatch went on to say that “Protesters started lighting dumpsters on fire, and standing in the street, prompting officers to don riot gear and close the street while they regained control of the situation. The streets of Ferguson have been relatively calm since two officers were shot March 11 outside the police department during protests. Those officers are recovering from their injuries. A 20-year-old protester was charged with shooting the officers — one was shot in the face, the other in the shoulder.”

Perhaps the largest demonstrations took place in Manhattan where thousands marched through the streets from Union Square to Times Square and beyond. Police were ordered to keep people out of the streets resulting in ongoing clashes and the arrest of over 100 people.

Late last year tens of thousands had marched through New York City in the aftermath of the grand jury exoneration of a police officer in the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island. Activists blocked tunnels, highways, transit centers chanting “We Can’t Breath”, evoking the last words of Eric Garner whose killing was captured on a cellphone video.

Many more demonstrations were planned for May Day on Friday and throughout the weekend.

Standing Between the State and the Masses

The most decisive factor in the clearing of the streets of Baltimore after 10:00pm was the large-scale presence of the police and National Guard. Surrounding crowds in helmets, flak jackets, holding shields and armed with numerous weapons including firearms and so-called non-lethal devices, i.e. tasers, guns that fire pepper and rubber bullets, which can kill as easily as metal rounds, the armed agents of the state are carrying out their traditional role of protecting private property and the government.

Nonetheless, another factor has entered the fray in Baltimore where a section of the elected officials, religious figures, community activists  and even street organizations have been mobilized to serve as a buffer between the restless youth and workers and the police who are protecting private property and the state. These individuals and groups are interestingly enough facing the demonstrators with their backs turned to the police and National Guard troops.

These politicians, religious leaders and street organizations are telling the masses that they must honor the curfew, to refrain from breaking windows and remain peaceful in light of the full-scale militarization of their communities. Even representatives of street organizations were portrayed repeatedly telling CNN that they had nothing to do with the rebellion and that reports indicating they were linking arms to attack the police were untrue.

Former Baltimore Raven football player Ray Lewis is shown on television yelling that youth must stop rebelling and get off the streets. He is brought in to speak to young high school students, who sparked the unrest on April 27, telling them that they must be more concerned about ending violence among the people than overturning the social violence of the state, which is the real cause of street crimes and instability.

A mother worried that her son would be killed by the police in the rebellion is shown every hour striking the young man in a manner that would normally prompt an investigation by child protective services. Yet this incident is upheld by the corporate media and the politicians as a heroic act to be emulated by other parents in Baltimore.

It turns out that this mother is unemployed. She has several children and is facing a perilous situation socially and financially. Rather than focus on the dilemma of such families in the city, the media and politicians divert the discussion to the supposed need to discipline youth.

When interviewed the youth said that he had joined the demonstrations because his friends were there seeking to avenge the deaths of their colleagues at the hands of the police. This too was routinely ignored where reporters asked questions such as: why did you join the rebellion; do you regret having set out to protest the police killing of Freddie Grey and so many other young people in Baltimore?

What the ruling class is really interested in is whether there is a growing mood of defiance among African American youth. On April 27, when the rebellion erupted on a broad level in several areas of Baltimore, corporate media commentators repeatedly referred to the mass hostility towards the police, private property and those perceived as representatives of the oppressive state apparatus.

Of course this narrative was turned on its head by April 28, where those standing between the cops and the masses were highlighted emphasizing the need to end the rebellion and to demonstrate peacefully until 10:00pm and then go home. One aspect of the reversal in messaging was that the protests must remain focused on holding several police officers up to scrutiny in the death of Grey.

Yet there is the underlying national and class oppression that is the source of discontent in Baltimore and African American communities throughout the U.S. Notions of personal responsibility for the youth took precedent over ending police brutality and state repression.

The New York Times drawing a distinction between the rebellions in Ferguson and Baltimore noted that “In Ferguson, Mo., community leaders seemed unable to come together to stem the violence after the police killing of Michael Brown in August. But in Baltimore, an array of pastors, politicians, community leaders and even gang members have repeatedly taken to the streets to calm crowds, effectively helping the police impose a curfew so far.” (April 30)

Continuing to report on this phenomenon, the same article goes on to say “Many local politicians, notably Representative Elijah E. Cummings, a Democrat whose district includes West Baltimore, have also spent hours walking the city’s blighted neighborhoods to discourage any repeat of Monday’s disorder. When schools were closed on Tuesday, some teachers came to churches to help feed children who rely on meals they get at school. Ordinary citizens, by the hundreds, have swept up the mess and repeatedly formed lines to create a buffer between police officers in riot gear and angry demonstrators.”

Any objective observer or participant in the Baltimore rebellion and mass demonstrations would have to ask where these religious, community and street organizations were while thousands of families facing foreclosures by the banks were being evicted from their homes. All throughout African American communities in Baltimore there are blocks and blocks of abandoned row houses slated for demolition.

Are these people prepared to stand in between the city employees seeking to terminate water services and the households of the victims who will be faced with the denial of this essential resource to maintain a decent life? In other words it is not the ruling class that should define what criminality is but the people who are victims of state-sanctioned violence everyday of their lives.

Ideological Clarity and the Character of the Racist State

The mass anger in Baltimore is by no means subsided. On April 29, thousands took the streets in defiance of the militarized police state and marched from several areas of the city including John Hopkins University to City Hall.

The police in a press conference on April 30 announced that they had completed their investigative report on the death of Grey one day early and would turn over their findings to the State Attorney’s office for review. Apparently the report is concealed only releasing what they said was new information about a second stop of the police vehicle which contained Grey. People are highly suspicious that another cover-up is in the works.

Local politicians and media pundits had begun to announce on April 29 that the law-enforcement and prosecutorial investigation into the death of Grey would not be complete by the end of the week. This was coupled with two lead stories, one by the Washington Post saying that another detainee heard Grey slamming his own head against the wall of the vehicle.

The second story revolved around an interview aired over CNN with a person said to be a relative of an officer targeted in the investigation, saying that this cop was not responsible for Grey’s death. These developments continue a similar pattern that was advanced in the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and countless others.

Michael Brown was portrayed as a dangerous criminal who attempted to seize Officer Wilson’s weapon. Eric Garner was said to have been selling loose cigarettes on the street and was obese, therefore resulting in his death despite the police chokehold and medical neglect.

These rationalizations and outright lies by the state and capitalist class must be rejected by the African American community and its allies in Baltimore as well as throughout the U.S. The capitalist system in the U.S. has nothing to offer the African American masses other than more police terror, mass incarceration, joblessness, poverty and social degradation.

A speech delivered by Democratic Party presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton supposedly questioning the policy of mass incarceration of African Americans, can only be regarded as campaign posturing. This same Democratic Party twenty years ago engineered the passage of the dreaded crime bill, the effective death penalty act and the intensification of anti-immigration laws, which have resulted in more deaths, imprisonment and deportations of oppressed peoples.

Objectively the socio-economic conditions of African Americans have worsened since the Clinton, Bush and current Obama administrations. The gap between income and wealth among African Americans and whites has widened.

African Americans were disproportionately impacted by the bank-led predatory lending that brought about the loss of millions of homes throughout the U.S. The federal government, the courts and Congress have facilitated the enhanced disempowerment and exploitation of the workers and oppressed by the capitalist ruling class.

In essence there are only two paths to take in the struggle for the total liberation of the African American people and all oppressed and working people. Either the movement will turn in the direction of an uncompromising opposition to capitalism and imperialism or remain subjected to the manipulations and constraints imposed by the bipolar two-party political system.

African Americans, the oppressed in general and working people as a whole need their own political party that speaks in the interests of the majority. From 1968, after the mass rebellions following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., thousands of African Americans have been elected to political office.  Nonetheless, the people have not been liberated. It will take a protracted revolutionary struggle to overturn the system of oppression. 
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Speaks Over Press TV: 'Saudi Arabia Violating International Law by Blocking Aid to Yemen: Analyst'
Thu Apr 30, 2015 6:0AM
presstv.ir

To watch this Press TV Top Five interview with Abayomi Azikiwe on Yemen just click on the website below:
http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2015/04/30/408764/Saudi-Arabia-Yemen

Press TV has conducted an interview with Abayomi Azikiwe, an editor at the Pan-African News Wire, in Detroit, to get his idea on the ongoing Saudi aggression against Yemen.

The following is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: How do you feel about this continuing Saudi aggression on Yemen? The humanitarian catastrophe continues. The Saudis do not allow the humanitarian aid such as the Iranian plane that was blocked. How do you feel about the situation there?

Azikiwe: It is clearly a violation of international law, of world peace. Of ethics, of political ethics to the highest degree. Here we have a monarchy that is carrying out these types of humanitarian violations, which in fact have nothing to do with the stated objectives. Their goal is to block any type of independence from Saudi Arabia, from the United States and from Israel in that region and that is the real objective of this war.

And the United States is not covering this war because they are behind it. They are refueling the Saudi aircraft which was supplied by the United States. They are providing intelligence to the Saudi- GCC coalition which is carrying out these aerial bombardments against the people of that area, bombing residential areas, bombing internally displaced persons’ camps. And this is clearly a violation of all any sense of decency in the international community.

Press TV: And even on the stated objectives of the Saudis, Mr. Azikiwe, how do you feel, they are doing in that regard? Because many people say they have certainly failed in their first phase and they are now in the second phase.

Azikiwe: They announced a week ago that they were suspending these airstrikes and the same day they made this announcement, the airstrikes resumed. They are blocking humanitarian relief from getting into Yemen, in the south of the country in port city of Aden. They are carrying out all types of violations of human rights in that city. They have in fact prevented people from getting to hospitals, from getting food, from getting the necessary supplies that they need in order to survive.

And this has been covered up here in the United States by the corporate media which is providing cover for the Obama administration, which is carrying out and facilitating these horrendous actions that are going on right now in Yemen.

And it has nothing to do with an effort to bring back this ousted President Hadi who is extremely unpopular inside the country. They are using these Takfiri al-Qaeda groups to come in and fight against the Ansarullah movement and fight against other allies who are opposed to this Saudi and GCC intervention.

So, this is a hidden war here in the United States and it is good that Press TV is giving the detailed coverage of what is going on, so the world will see the true face of Saudi Arabia and this [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council backed up by the United States and the state of Israel.
Detroit Supporters March in Solidarity for Baltimore on May Day
May 01, 2015 5:19 PM EDT
Detroit Fox 2
By Ingrid Kelley

Watch this report aired over Channel 2 in Detroit by clicking on the website below:
http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/28956071/detroit-supporters-march-in-solidarity-for-baltimore-on-may-day

In a show of solidarity for victims like Freddie Gray who have in the hands of police, Detroiters rallied on May Day to demonstrate against violence.

Typically, May Day in Detroit is meant to honor the working men and women. This year, Abayomi Azikiwe said they're also standing up for the people of Baltimore.

"We're here today to express solidarity with people of Baltimore who fight against police brutality and racism." Azikiwe is with the Moratorium Now Coalition.

The show of support comes after Freddie Gray, a black man, died from an injury while in custody of the Baltimore Police Department

Detroit Police says they hear what the participants have to say but they want citizens to respect the process.

"Let the investigations conclude before you jump to a conclusion. Some people who we thought were guilty were innocent and some people we thought were guilty, weren't," Assistant Police Chief Steve Dolunt said.

But participants like William Davis say they if they don't take a stand on these type issues then the violence seen in Baltimore could one day take place here

"Detroit is just one second away from from a major incident and we don't want that." Davis said.

Organizers say they're calling for change and making their demands known without the violence that has scarred the city of Baltimore this week.

"We are opposed to tax foreclosures that are pending right now, we're opposed to the water shutoffs that are pending as well, we are upset about the fact that this 'new Detroit' that's being constructed excludes people who have lived here and have lived here for decades," Azikiwe said.

The marchers say May Day is the perfect time to get the ball rolling for change

"Its all of us together standing up to the world and saying it's time the human race advances to the next step and May Day is a good day to do it," Sharon Feldman said.
ZUMA PRAISES COSATU, ANC FOR WORKERS' RIGHTS
Jacob Zuma says the ANC & Cosatu have worked hand in hand to improve and protect the rights of workers

Govan Whittles
South Africa Eye Witness News

JOHANNESBURG – President Jacob Zuma says the African National Congress (ANC) and the Congress South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) have worked hand in hand for 30 years to improve and protect the rights of workers.

Zuma earlier spoke at a May Day Cosatu rally in Curries Fountain Stadium in Durban.

He says it's thanks to the partnership between the federation and the ANC that the current labour legislation is intact.

“We come from a proud tradition of unity and struggle forged in the trenches of our struggle for liberation.”

He says the trade union federation has been the main driving force in fighting for the rights of workers and has brought workers the right to fair labour practices and strikes.

“There are laws which have been made to protect workers.”

‘MAY DAY NOT FOR COSATU ONLY’

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has told thousands of workers at its May Day rally in Johannesburg that today does not belong to Cosatu exclusively and a new home for workers must be built outside of the ANC.

Numsa has been joined by members from eight other Cosatu unions at its rally in the Johannesburg CBD which is being held separately from a Cosatu rally in Mohlakeng.

There are about 5,000 people at the Standard Bank arena, many of them wearing t-shirts with the slogan ‘Don’t mourn – organise’.

This is a reference to Cosatu's decision to expel Numsa and Zwelinzima Vavi who the eight tarde union federation’s affiliates continue to support.

Numsa's president Andrew Chirwa says the current Cosatu leaders insist on pledging their unconditional support to the ANC while the ruling party continues to fail them.

He says workers must fight harder than ever before for an independent federation.

Chirwa says workers need a movement that is not compromised by business relationships between bosses and union leaders.

(Edited by Refilwe Pitjeng)


Zuma urges unity in Cosatu

Saturday 2 May 2015 07:15
Tshepo Ikaneng

He was addressing the Cosatu's May Day rally in Durban.

Factional battles within the labour federation have led to the expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the sacking of the Congress South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

Earlier, Numsa led a march in the central city - a move widely seen as a ploy to test Cosatu's strength and popularity among the workers.

President Jacob Zuma has called for unity within Cosatu.

He was speaking at a Workers’ Day rally in Durban on Friday.

Zuma says the ANC government has also enacted legislation to further protect workers’ rights in the past years.

“We wish to remind the workers that the interest of workers are best served when organised under a strong and united Cosatu. If Cosatu is divided you are weakening the struggle of the working class. Let us know that our task is to lead the society,” adds the President.

He adds that Cosatu and the ANC remain united in efforts to bring a better life for all.
Burundi Arrests 600 in Protests Against Ruling Party
Police in Burundi say three people killed in grenade attacks on police during protests and clashes sparked by the president's bid to stay in power

By Reuters5:23AM BST
02 May 2015

Three people were killed on Friday in grenade attacks on police in Burundi where nearly 600 people have been arrested during protests and clashes sparked by the president's bid to stay in power.

The director general of police, General Andre Ndayambaje said two officers were killed and one was wounded in the attack in Kamenge district of the capital Bujumbura, while a local resident said a civilian also lost his life and two others were wounded.

A similar attack in the centre of the capital of the small central African nation wounded three policemen, the general said.

A senior police officer, who requested anonymity, said "It is clear that the demonstrators launched the simultaneous attacks".

"If they want war, they will get war," he said.

A Burundian analyst was more cautious, saying the attacks could have been the work of protesters but could also be being manipulated to "give credit to the official theory of an armed demonstration".

The political unrest erupted after the ruling CNDD-FDD party last weekend designated President Pierre Nkurunziza as its candidate in the next presidential election, which is due to be held on June 26.

Opposition figures and rights groups say Nkurunziza's attempt to stand for a third consecutive term violates the constitution as well as a peace deal that ended a civil war in 2006.

The United Nations voiced alarm over the political crisis, saying Nkurunziza's government was engaged in a brutal crackdown but "will not succeed in quashing dissent".

Social media has been blocked and radio stations have been shut down.

The protesters announced a two-day truce but warned they would return to the streets on Monday unless Nkurunziza backs down.

Sporadic clashes continued in parts of Bujumbura on Friday, witnesses said, while hundreds of university students - whose student lodgings have been closed by the government - have been camping outside the US embassy, saying they want protection.

According to the Burundian Red Cross, at least seven people have died and 66 others have been wounded in nearly a week of clashes between police and protesters in the capital. Medical sources say many have suffered gunshot wounds since Sunday.

Police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye told AFP that 577 arrests have been made, with nearly 250 cases sent for prosecution and 150 undergoing questioning. The remainder have been released.

A spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office, Agnes Bangiricenge, said those charged would be tried for "taking part in an uprising" and risked between five years and life behind bars.

A civil society leader on Friday called on protesters to stop demonstrating for two days and urged the president to "take advantage of these 48 hours to think about the consequences of his project and to give up by Monday".

"If not, we will return to the streets on Monday with much more vigour and we will not leave until he gives up his project," warned Pacifique Nininahazwe, who heads one of Burundi's main civil society groups.

Speaking in Geneva, Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN human rights office, told reporters that Burundian authorities were engaging in a brutal crackdown.

"According to one credible report, over 400 individuals are being held in extremely overcrowded conditions, with detainees having to sleep standing up," he said.

"Detainees have also been beaten, particularly on their feet and buttocks, with some of those released having trouble walking due to the beating," he added.

On Thursday a US envoy warned the situation was "very dangerous", and said Washington could impose targeted sanctions over the crisis.

"The current situation is very, very dangerous, and that some of the measures that have been taken, including in recent days, to shut down social media, to suspend radio stations not only are wrong as a matter of principle but very counter-productive," said Tom Malinowski, the US assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour.

The government was forced to move its scheduled May 1 parade from the city centre - to where demonstrators have been trying to march all week - to another part of the capital "so that protesters don't try to disrupt the event", Bujumbura's mayor Saidi Juma told AFP.

Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian from the Hutu majority, has been in power for two terms since 2005.

His supporters say he is eligible to run again, since his first term in office followed his election by parliament - not directly by the people as the constitution specifies.
Tunisia Agrees Public Sector Wage Hike After Union Talks
TVC News

Tunisia's government has agreed to increase the wages of 800,000 public sector workers after negotiations with the main labour union, according to a government official.

Tunisia is under pressure from international lenders to reduce public spending and cut the deficit to help economic growth. The union source said the deal for a 50 Tunisian dinar a month ($26) increase was expected to be signed on Thursday.

The increase will add about 540 million dinars ($280 million) more public spending to the budget.

It increases the minimum wage in the public sector by 15.6 percent to 370 dinars, the second such hike in less than two years in the North African state.

Tunisia has been praised as an example of compromise politics and democratic transition since overthrowing autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in a 2011 uprising, holding free elections and drafting a new constitution.

But many Tunisians still worry about the rising cost of living, unemployment and the continued marginalization of rural towns, some of the factors that helped fuel the 2011 uprising.

The government expects the budget deficit to narrow to 5 percent of gross domestic product in 2015 from 5.8 percent last year.

But it faces pressure from creditors to cut high public spending, including subsidies on basic foods and fuel.

An Islamist militant attack on the national museum in Tunis last month, which killed 21 foreign tourists, also risks hitting the tourism sector, a main source of revenue in a country with little of the major oil and gas resources of its neighbours.
Nine Soldiers Killed in Mali Rebel Attack
TVC News

Mali's defence ministry said nine soldiers were killed in an attack by Tuareg separatist rebels on a town near the border with Mauritania.

Wednesday's attack on the town of Lere, southwest of Timbuktu, was the latest in a series of clashes between the rebels, the Malian army, and a militia allied to the government.

Six more soldiers were wounded and another six were taken hostage, the ministry statement said. Ten rebels were killed and 16 wounded in the clashes, it added. The information could not immediately be independently verified.

"They attacked with at least 10 vehicles, six of them equipped with machine guns," a military source said, asking to remain anonymous.

The United Nations has warned that the growing tensions have endangered a peace deal due to receive preliminary approval from the government and armed groups in the capital Bamako on May 15.

The northern half of Mali has witnessed several days of violence. Pro-government militia seized Menaka, near the Niger border, on Monday, while two soldiers and a civilian were killed on Wednesday when separatist rebels attacked Goundam, which lies between Timbuktu and Lere.

A militant with the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), an umbrella organisation of Tuareg and Arab separatist groups, said that fresh fighting erupted outside Menaka on Thursday.

Olivier Salgado, spokesman for the U.N.'s Mali mission, known as MINUSMA, told Reuters that it had received reports of clashes both northeast and southeast of the town, seriously wounding at least one person.

He said CMA fighters also entered the town of Bintagoungou, 80 km (50 miles) west of Timbuktu, before leaving without a confrontation. A Malian military source said the rebels looted Bintagoungou and the nearby town of Mbouna before withdrawing.

The head of MINUSMA, Mongi Hamdi, called for the rival factions to respect previously agreed ceasefire deals.

"I appeal to the reason and responsibility of all the engaged actors. The stakes are too great," he said. "All parties, whoever they may be, must respect their engagements and return to their initial positions."

In another sign of mounting insecurity in the West African nation despite the presence of 10,000 U.N peacekeepers, two women were killed when a car they were travelling in hit a land mine near the northern town of Gossi on Thursday.
Jonathan to Workers: Get Ready for Hard Times, Be Realistic With Your Demands
May 02, 2015
By Emmanuel Elebeke
Nigerian Vanguard

President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday urged Nigerians to brace up for the harsh economic realities in the country occasioned by the recent fall in the price of oil at the international market, saying that industrial relationship can only be more cordial, if democracy was nurtured to grow.

The President, represented by the Minister of labour, Sen. Joel Danlamilkenya, spoke while addressing workers during yesterday’s May Day celebrations.

Jonathan pointed out that the present harsh economic realities were so glaring that the workers cannot afford to ignore them in their engagements with government and advised them to be realistic with their demands.

“It is in this circumstance that the theme of this year’s Workers’ Day becomes more germane for positive engagement between government and labour. It is therefore proper to celebrate workers because of the critical role they play in the society. May Day confers us the opportunity to reflect on the inherent reality we are being confronted with due to scarce resources.

“The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and Trade Union Congress, TUC, have a duty to play, charting a way forward for continued development and growth of Nigeria.’’

Jonathan then commended both the NLC and the TUC, for their various contributions in the sustenance of the nation’s development and democracy, describing them as the gateway to the nation development.

“The workers, apart from their immense contributions, have in no small ways, made contributions towards the achievement of democracy through the enhancement of the processes and participation. Over these years, the workers have deepened their voice and government had attended to them. There is a new initiative being championed by the Ministry of Labour and Productivity aimed at broadening industrial and labour harmony and trade unionism. This development will no doubt engender the spirit of patriotism, national consciousness, occasioned by natural justice and reasoning.

“For us, the labour movement is central to national productivity and development, and as such have a critical role to play in chatting a way forward for continued development and productivity and in settling labour disputes.

“I have set a mechanism in place to further deepen government and labour relations. Let us use this opportunity to make a commitment for national development and rebirth. Attainment of national vision will not be possible without the commitment, work and participation of Nigerian workers. It is a joint effort. I look forward to seeing a strong and vibrant federation under the new leadership of labour. I urge them to ensure workers welfare and also, working constructively for the transformation of Nigeria.”

FCT allocates over 300 plots of land to workers – FCT Minister

In his valedictory address, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Sen. Bala Mohammed, said that in keeping with the obligation of the commitment FCT to workers, the authority had in the course of his tenure allocated over 300 plots of land to long service award and deserving officers in the FCT and had gone ahead to institutionalise the award as overall incentive to deserving officers who have served the nation meritoriously.

According to him, the gesture was also in acknowledgment of the commitment of the President Jonathan’s administration for workers welfare under the transformation agenda.

In addition to that, he said several policies had been approved to improve workers welfare and economy in general, noting that the nationwide housing scheme, which had commenced in Lugbe and various part of the country remained the flagship of the present administration’s commitment to workers welfare.

The scheme, he said, was aimed at ensuring adequate housing for workers, not only in the FCT but across the federation.

According to him, the scheme is a collaborative venture between the Federal government, NLC and TUC, and designed for workers to become eventual owners of the houses through their rents.

On job creation, Mohammed said the present administration had in various way opened job creation avenues through incentives such as the SURE-P and various infrastructural projects, which he said had generated employment for teaming youths.

As a worker friendly administration, he stated that his administration had constituted a workers welfare committee charged with the mandate of assuaging the pains and sufferings of workers engaged in hazardous activities.

His words: “Every nation that strives for greatness must give pride and dignity to workers. As we gather here today, I will like to commend the contribution of NLC, TUC in the stability of our nation by steering the leadership of the nation.’’

While promising to leave behind an arrears free administration, he assured that the administration would ensure the opening of alternative corridors like Abuja-Nyanya and Karishi-Apo roads to ease the suffering of residents before the end the current administration.

RATAWOA demands improved welfare

Earlier, the Deputy National President of Radio and Television Workers Association, RATAWOA, Comrade Sunday Olujetro, had lamented the poor salary and welfare package for media workers across the country, describing it as injustice.

Olujetro said RATAWOA was determined to fight for the rights and interest of its members until the injustice being meted to them were addressed.

He wondered why the media workers would be paid so poorly compared to their counterparts in most of the public institutions like CBN, FIRS and NNPC, a trend he said was in the opposite in the 1970s.

“We feel very bad that we are so poorly paid today because we were told that before the Udoji’s report in 1975 that workers in CBN resigned their appointments and joined the media because the media paid higher than the CBN workers but today, the reverse is the case.

“You will see workers in CBN, NNPC, FIRS earning more than our people but we have put our case in place with those in charge of salaries and wages in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Information.

Our salaries can’t take us home, and we can’t do anything with it.   A lot of workers are on personal loans; as a result of this situation every pay day is a sad day for workers.

“ The incoming President can’t talk about cutting salaries. We believe he was talking about political office holders not about the workers because right now, what the workers are taking cannot take them home. So, he can’t do that, if he ventures do that, then we will be in separate lanes,” he said.

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Labor in Loud Nationwide Outcry: Lamentations in Benue, Plateau, Enugu, Bauchi, Kogi
May 02, 2015
By Our Reporters
Nigerian Vanguard

Workers yesterday grumbled in some parts of the country over the inability of their out-going governors to pay arrears of salaries owed them, lamenting that the situation had compounded their problems.

In Benue and Plateau States, the workers who celebrated the May Day said that Governors Gabriel Suswam and David Jang respectively owed them six months arrears of salaries while their counterparts in Enugu regretted that Sullivan Chime failed to pay retired teachers gratuities throughout his eight years in office. The Enugu workers said that, altogether, primary school teachers were being owed 13 years arrears of gratuities from 2003.

They also said that apart from teachers, Chime was owing the staff of Water Corporation, Daily Star newspapers as well as ENTRACO workers among others several months of unpaid salaries and pensions. In Bauchi, the TUC and the Association of Seniour Civil Servants also decried non-payment teachers salaries and asked the government to address issues of promotion of other civil servants which was overdue.

In Kogi, the civil servants lamented over what they described as ‘’cut’’ in their salaries and asked Governor Idris Wada to review the oppressive system.

However, in all these states, only Governor, Suswam of Benue promised to pay all the arrears of salaries before handing over power to his successor, Dr Samuel Ortom on May 29.

Plateau workers lament non-payment of six months salaries:

The May Day was celebrated in low key in the state due to non-payment of six months salaries even as workers lamented over their plight saying that there was nothing to celebrate. Despite the situation, the Plateau State government, however, felicitated with workers on the occasion.

The Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Jubrin Bancir lamented that their future had been “destroyed by a few people who saw the workers as enemies that should be left to survive under harsh conditions of service.”

Bancir appealed to the incoming administration of Simon Lalong to look into their plight and alleviate their sufferings by ensuring regular payment of salaries and emoluments as well as the outstanding arrears of minimum wage and promotion of staff.

“Our members have remained unshaken even in the face of deprivation by government; we endured poverty in the midst of plenty; we did not allow the pains to translate into violence as the government suppressed our reactions.

“We kept faith with democracy over the years for the unity of our great country Nigeria, unfortunately the Jang administration took advantage of this humility to punish us.

“Today we are supposed to be very happy but because of the numerous things on the ground like non payment of staff salaries, lack of promotions; the workers in Plateau are denied this opportunity.”

Gov. Suswam promises to pay backlog of workers’ salaries before May 29

Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State has promised to pay all outstanding salaries owed workers in the state before the May 29, terminal date of his administration.

Suswam made the pledge yesterday while addressing workers at the May Day Workers’ rally held in Makurdi the state capital, which was poorly attended.

Represented by the state Head of Service, Mr. Terna Ahua, Suswam acknowledged the patience of the state’s its workforce over the delay in the payment of their salaries, adding that efforts were in top gear to ensure that the backlog was cleared.

“The government is making concerted efforts to ensure that outstanding salaries owed all categories of workers are paid.” Suswam said, noting that under his administration, workers in the state enjoyed series of salary increments. He blamed the current turn of events on the current global economic downturn which he said had created an impediment to the timely payment of salaries which his administration was known for.

Kogi NLC appeals to Wada over 40% salary cut

Civil Servants in Kogi State yesterday appealed to Governor Idris Wada to reconsider his stand over 40 percent salary pay cut to ensure industrial peace.

The state Chairman of the NLC, Comrade Johnson Edoka Onu who spoke in Lokoja while addressing the workers at the May Day rally said the salary cut if continued would spell doom for the state government.

The state government had earlier in the week announced its decision to slash workers salary by 40 percent giving the dwindling nature of the federal allocations to the state as reason for the action.

Onu said the labour union decided to ignore the normal march past activities to protest government’s decision to slash salaries of other workers from Grade Level Seven and above, adding that the development had “demoralised” them.

He also urged the state government to as matter of urgency, overhaul the state Pensions Board. “There are many unresolved issues which includes, but not limited to harmonisation and payment of pensions and gratuity.

“While we commend the government for the prompt payment of monthly pension to our retired colleagues, delay in payment of gratuities have remained worrisome. To this effect, we wish to inform the government that the monthly cash release to the state Pension Board is not properly utilised, as gratuities are paid to retirees on who you know basis. Many of our colleagues who retired over four years ago have not received one Naira from the state government.”

Gov Dickson slashes Bayelsa workers’ PAYE tax by 20%

GOVERNOR Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, yesterday in Yenagoa announced the reduction of the Pay As You Earn, PAYE, tax by civil servants in the state by 20 percent.

Dickson, who spoke during this year’s Workers Day celebrations at the Peace Park in Yenagoa, said the reduction which will be effective from June, would be implemented across board.

He also donated two official cars to TUC and NLC chairmen in the state and N10 million to affiliate unions who took part in the event, said the slash in PAYE was in appreciation of workers support to the present administration.

He maintained that at a time when most state were finding it difficult pay salaries, the state government had been meeting its obligations in terms of prompt payment of salaries and other welfare packages, and urged civil servants in the state not to allow themselves to be used by opposition politicians against the government.

“Labour movement is a not an opposition to government. Those who want to play opposition politics or want to advance any political agenda, which is legitimate, should do it on the platform of the opposition parties and not through labour or civil servants because they are part of government.

“Even within this short difficult period in terms of our finances in this country we have not failed to honour our workers with prompt payment of salaries.

“This is a people’s government, for the first time our parents who are 70 years and above get allowance of N5,000 every month. We pay NECO, JAMB and WAEC fees for all children who enroll in Bayelsa state every year,” Dickson said.

The Vice Chairman of the NLC in the state, Williams Oweimo, who spoke on behalf of the organized labour, enumerated the challenges of civil servants in the state to include, non-payment of arrears of minimum wage, non-promotion since 2014, non-implementation of promotion arrears, shortage of man power in the state civil service, high deduction under the Personal Income Tax Act, PITA, and non-payment of gratuities to retirees, among others.

I’ll set up anti-graft agency in Ebonyi— Umahi

EBONYI State Deputy Governor and governor- elect, Mr Dave Umahi yesterday said that his administration would set up anti-graft agencies to fight corruption and boost the economy of the state.

According to him, when corrupt practices are eliminated from governance, the state would have sufficient funds to provide essential services for the people.

Umahi who stated this during May Day Celebration at the Abakaliki Township stadium insisted that some toes would be stepped on as the incoming administration worked towards achieving a corruption-free and stable economy for the betterment of the people.

Umahi who represented the state Governor, Chief Martin Elechi assured the workers that the era of victimization and intimidation would be a thing of the past as he would sit with labour leaders after assumption of office to work out how the state would be governed with them, noting that his target was to boost the economic fortunes of the state with special focus on agriculture.

May-Day:Gov Ahmed urges NLC to shun divisive tendencies

The governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed in his May Day message yesterday urged workers to shun divisive tendencies in order to move the nation forward.

Ahmed therefore urged the losers of the NLC March election to emulate President Goodluck Jonathan’s sportsmanship spirit in congratulating the President-elect, Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) ahead of his declaration as the winner of the March 28 Presidential elections.

Represented by the Head of Service, Alhaji Dabarako Mohammed, Ahmed, however, complained that the dwindling monthly allocations from the federation account had put states in the country in a tight financial corner.

May Day: Fashola urges labour unions to end dispute

..As unions demand end to LASU crisis

The Lagos State chapters of both the NLC and Trade Union Congress, TUC raised concern over the continued closure of the Lagos State University, LASU, as a result of the acrimony between the staff and institution’s management, urging the state governor to resolve the issue before May 29, 2015 hand over date.

They spoke at the Worker’s Day celebration held at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos which was also attended by the representatives of the NLC including Solomon Adenekan, the state Head of Service, Mrs. Folashade Jaji among others.

The Chairman of the Lagos State Chapter of NLC, Mr. Idowu Adelakun and his TUC counterpart, Mr. Akeem Kazeem, had earlier, lamented that the issue rocking Lagos State University, LASU was worrisome and already affecting its development.

However, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, urged members of the NLC to resolve the dispute which has brought factionalism into the union through a new and concerted approach to labour relations in the country.

Fashola, while urging labour unions to refrain from internal fighting and forge one united force, lamented that the division in the union would affect their chances of resolving the challenges facing the labour in the country even “though, the problem facing labour is not peculiar to Nigeria alone.”

He said that what differentiated “each country is the progress made by the government.”

According to him, “We have all seen the All Progressives Congress, APC but what happened in the APC was that the leaders of the party sacrificed and they all put the nation before their personal interest and their previous parties- ACN, CPC, ANPP, APGA.

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