GPAX Chair Responds To Lansing Police Violence

(LANSING – June 18th,2019) Lansing, Michigan is crying out for social justice following a brutal arrest of a sixteen year old black female by the Lansing Police Department.

Lansing police officer strikes teen runaway over a dozen times while in handcuffs.

Officers were dispatched to apprehend two teens, a 15 year old male and 16 year old female. The pair were wanted for violating probation and sought as runaways. The sixteen year old was not cooperating with officers. Once cuffed and strapped into the back of a police cruiser, the 16 year old female wedged a foot into the cruiser’s door hinge. Subsequently, a female Lansing police officer struck the cuffed and strapped subject more than a dozen times. 

The incident was witnessed by multiple area residents. Raw cell-phone video was shot by neighborhood residents, which is available on Facebook.

In a statement, Lansing Police Chief Yankowski remarked that the strikes to the teen were department protocol. On Saturday, more than 100 area residents gathered in front of the Lansing Police Department to peacefully protest the incident, including members of Black Lives Matter and other organizations.

Over the weekend, the cell phone video went viral, quickly surpassing one million views. Bodycam videos of the incident were released on Saturday and are available on the Lansing Police Department YouTube channel:

Officer Ueberrorth Bodycam footage

Officer Howley Bodycam footage

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor has been the target of recent criticism for his administration’s handling of a case where a couple was arrested for assisting homeless individuals being sent into sub-zero temperatures. The homeless residents were waiting at a bus terminal when police ejected them and arrested the aid providers. 

According to local CBS affiliate WLNS, Schor offered a lukewarm, boilerplate response to the beating incident, stating “I am aware of the incident this morning regarding one of our police officers and the two youths who were resisting arrest. Allegations and complaints against our police officers are taken very seriously and we have launched an investigation into this incident. We hold our police officers to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity.”

Rita Jacobs is Co-chairperson of the Peace Action Committee of the Green Party of the United States. Secretary of the Capitol Area Greens, a Green Party of Michigan local that includes Lansing, MI, Jacobs offers her take on the incident as follows —

GP-MI: Rita, please tell us about the incident involving Lansing police officers and their treatment of a young black female?

GPAX: From what I understand of the reports on this the police were arresting a 16-year-old on a probation violation for “escaping” from a juvenile detention center. The girl was upset and uncooperative. She told the police she would not go voluntarily; they would need to drag her, which they did. Although not shown on the videos that were posted, there was one report that said they dragged her face down while she was handcuffed to the police car. They placed her in the police car, and she left one leg outside the car and refused to put it inside the car. The female police officer assisting with the arrest then started yelling and repeatedly punching the girl’s leg, and then closed the car door with the girl’s foot in between the door where the hinge is located and the car, and applied bodily pressure to it while the girl was screaming. 

GP-MI: You are the Secretary of the Green Party local that includes Lansing, Capitol Area Greens. What has been the response from the community to this incident?

GPAX: The community – especially the black community – is outraged, and held a rally on Saturday outside the city hall where the mayor and police station are both located. There are a group of organizations in Lansing that are seeking Restorative Justice as a peaceful conflict resolution tool that brings together people who have had a conflict to find a way to heal the harm. Members of these organizations are addressing a special meeting by the Police Commission.

GP-MI: Which organizations have mobilized in the community to speak out about the incident?

GPAX: Black Lives Matter and DSA have mobilized. I’m not sure what other organizations have mobilized to speak out.

GP-MI: You are one of the co-chairs from the GPAX, the Peace Action Committee. What’s your response to this incident and the way it was handled by police?

GPAX: Of course, as a co-chair of the Peace Action Committee, and supporting our pillar of nonviolence, the goal should always be to handle these matters in a peaceful and respectful manner. I do know that the Lansing police have some crisis intervention teams trained to deal with difficult situations, but not all police receive training in crisis intervention.

I also belong to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which works with police departments to promote crisis intervention training. Mental illness can be one cause of disruptive behavior by youth. And mental illness generally first manifests itself between ages 14 and 22. Unfortunately, our education system overlooks the importance of teaching the population about mental illness. Regardless of the cause of the behavior of this 16-year-old, punching her repeatedly and trying to close her foot in the car door are not the appropriate methods of dealing with this behavior. The police woman appeared to be very angry, and police officers who are prone to responding violently to their own anger should not be on the police force. 

GP-MI: How can police form better relationships in the community to prevent this type of problem from happening in the future?

GPAX: Ideally, all police should be carefully screened for psychological tendencies to over-react to their own anger before being hired. And police should be carefully trained about how to deal with difficult situations – especially when they involve children. I encourage all members of the community to recognize the institutionalized racism that continues to exist in our communities, and the effects that is has on the minority population – particularly persons of color – and become engaged in opportunities to improve the way in which our minority populations are treated in society. They need to work with police departments to create oversight committees by citizens, and truly become the protectors of the community they represent.

To learn more about the GPUS Peace Action Committee and its mission, visit the organization’s official website or like their Facebook page.


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Greens Must Re-think Election Cycles

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One of the simplest ways to improve Green Party campaigns is to re-think conventional election cycles and instead, wage campaigns that are better-planned, well-timed and that create legitimate grassroots political movements in our local communities.

Currently, our election cycles are driven by the media. For example, the race for President of the United States is generally considered to start when the media begins announcing candidates for the office. What are we up against when we allow the media to dictate the length of the election cycle? Unfortunately, the media begins announcing Republican and Democratic Party candidates after it’s already too late for a third party candidate to begin mounting an effective run.

What type of competition do we face? Bernie Sanders announced his primary run against Democratic Party favorite Hillary Clinton in April 2015 and did not initiate campaign operations until late May of that year. This gave Sanders, a relatively unknown politician outside the radar of armchair politicos, just a bit more than a year to attempt to defeat Clinton, a former First Lady, US Senator and the preferred candidate of the party. Sanders came close to mounting the support needed to win the primary. However, he did this campaigning within the structure of the Democratic Party. Many opine Sanders was a sheepdog to herd progressives and socialists the entire time. If he was not, Sanders still realized the benefit of running as a Democrat as opposed to running as an Independent, the primary benefit being earned media exposure, of which Sanders received very little until the first Presidential debate. It must also be noted that as a career politician, Sanders had plenty of fundraising experience and a deep base of support to draw from. He used the templates from his former campaign operations, including messaging, tone and day-to-day campaign schedules. His experience enabled him to wage a much stronger contest than he would have had he been wet behind the ears in terms of campaigning. Even with all of these advantages, Sanders held over Green candidates, being a good candidate with positive messaging that voters were receptive to simply wasn’t enough for him to achieve victory, (all discussion of primary election rigging aside.)

Therefore, it is appropriate to postulate that Green candidates are at a major disadvantage when facing a duopoly candidate on several levels – fundraising capacity, fundraising ability, earned media, existing base of support, existing campaign structures or “Political Machines,” campaign experience, and general recognition by the public.

Because of such disadvantages, Green candidates must be innovative in addressing discrepancies in capacity and capability. One of the best ways we can do this is by planning effectively and managing our time wisely. When candidates are proactive and begin planning their campaigns sooner rather than later, there exists an opportunity for a qualified, charismatic candidate to conduct an insurgent activist campaign. Green candidates must become avatars for local political movements. Because of our approach toward campaign financing, the primary factor that drives the success of modern political campaigns, our next best hope is to earn political victories by understanding the amount of time needed to build a political movement and developing affordable strategies for executing campaigns within a larger time frame.

In other words, if Greens want to win races, we need to get a head start on the competition and manage our time better than our opponents.

We need to be realistic about electoral politics. A third-party candidate for office must build a name for themselves within their district, whether their constituency is a 710,000 U.S. House district or a 77,000 voter state house district. With all the disadvantages Greens face in running for office, it is foolhardy to think that we can run candidates for U.S. Congress with no machine, limited local structure, and no money and achieve victory in a mere seven months. There is simply not enough time to build the kind of political movement behind a campaign that is necessary to win such a complicated race. Devoting party resources to these types of races serves neither the interests of the Green Party nor the interests of voters.

What’s at stake? When Green Party candidates ask for support for races that are futile and they fail to deliver an election victory, our base of support will diminish. When we ask supporters to donate or spend their valuable time volunteering for Green campaigns, we should be asking them to support campaigns that are either winnable, give the party ballot access, or help the party to secure matching funds. Few political contributors or volunteers are willing to invest their money and time in a losing battle, even if they agree with our values. This is a hurdle the Green Party must overcome if it is to be competitive in substantial races.

The fact of the matter is that our party generally runs little-known candidates with few resources. We must understand that there is a substantial amount of networking and team building that needs to be done in order to win elections. We must stop playing on the clock of the duopoly parties, media, and institutions and instead, craft our own calendar for winning successful elections.

Community organizers know that two years is a reasonable amount of time to build a movement in their community that has hope for success. So why are we running six or eight-month campaigns?

Instead, let’s begin to think outside the box about what it takes to build viable local movements. Let’s make a commitment to planning campaigns early, applying tried-and-true methods of community organization to our political organization and start creating healthy movements that will support successful political campaigns. Let’s stop being herded into a calendar that doesn’t allow enough time to create movements, build networks and get the word out about our candidates.

As a political party, our ultimate mission is to elect candidates to public office that share our values. If voters are to have any faith in our candidates, we must put forth campaigns that are appropriately planned to deliver the expected result, election victories. Getting our message out there just isn’t enough. Time is the most valuable resource for any Green campaign. Let’s start using it wisely. Start planning your 2020 campaign now and start campaigning tomorrow, not a few months before elections. If we successfully manage our time, we will see stronger organizational capacity, a larger base of support and most importantly, more successful Green campaigns.

That’s an outcome that any Green Party member is bound to appreciate.

Erin Fox is a delegate to the National Committee of the Green Party of the United States and serves on the Coordinated Campaign Committee of the Green Party of the United States, representing the Green Party of Michigan.

Base-Building for a stronger Green Party of Michigan

 

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Currently, the Green Party of Michigan has the foremost, best-developed political ideas of any party in the entire state. Our party has a comprehensive platform to stand upon; our values uniquely identified through the Four Pillars and Ten Key Values; our shared vision providing a firm footing for our policy positions and unifying us, both in principle and in political spirit. Without a doubt, the GP-MI has made great advancements in the past year and there are positive signals that this trend of progress will continue.

Despite our successes, we still have much work to do. In order for an organization to become effective and competitive in serious campaigns, it must have power behind its actions. The clear reality is that we do not have an appropriate amount of power behind our actions at this time. Until we build such power, we are unlikely to experience substantial changes in the results of our elections. Continue reading