Across Black America week of March 3, 2016

California

Three people were reportedly stabbed during a Ku Klux Klan rally in Anaheim last Saturday. One person reportedly ended up in critical condition after being stabbed with the tip of a flagpole. A total of 13 people were arrested after counter protestors clashed with KKK members. According to the Los Angeles Times, the clash began even before the scheduled protest by Klan members at Pearson Park. Counter protestors allegedly beat and kicked Klansmen and at least two were stabbed. Police later released five memebers of the KKK after an investigation revealed the protesters attacked them.


Three White students at California San Jose State University were hit with only misdemeanor battery charges, after putting a bike lock around a Black student’s neck, attempting to lock him in a closet and referring to him as “three-fifths” of a person, among other harassments that a jury ultimately concluded were not hate crimes. On Monday Feb. 22, Joseph “Brett” Bomgardner, 21, was convicted of misdemeanor battery along with his accomplices, Logan Beaschler and Colin Warren, both 20, the Mercury News reported. A jury of six men and six women were deadlocked on hate crime charges. The alleged crimes took place in 2013, when the three assailants forced Donald Williams Jr., a 17-year-old freshman at the time, to wear a U-shaped bike lock around his neck. In another incident, prosecutors said, the three men tried locking Williams in a closet. The bullying only came to light after Williams’ parents visited him and noticed a Confederate flag hanging up in his shared dorm suite, along with racist phrases including “three-fifths” written on a white board there. Attorneys for the defendants said the abuse was nothing more than a “prank war” that was “immature” and went too far. But former Judge LaDoris Cordell, head of San Jose University’s task force on racial discrimination, disagreed. “I am saddened that 12 jurors could not agree that calling a Black male “Three-fifths” or “Fraction,” or forcing a lock around his neck, or creating an environment promoting racism with Confederate memorabilia, or hearing how this young man was humiliated, amounted to a hate crime,” Cordell, who is Black, said. “This verdict demonstrates that we are a long way from living in a post-racist America.”

Florida

TMZ Sports released a video of Dante Fowler, now a member of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, as he allows two ladies to fight over him. The two are allegedly his girlfriend and the mother of his child. The melee reportedly took place on Feb.1 around at an apartment complex in Jacksonville. The police were not reportedly called, but since TMZ ran the story, an investigation has been launched by both the NFL and Jacksonville Jaguars. “These are disturbing images, and we will review the matter,” NFL spokesperson Brian McCartney told ESPN. In addition, ESPN reports that the Jaguars organization is also looking into the matter. The Jaguars claim that Fowler told the team about what happened and that he was “embarrassed and remorseful.”Fowler himself responded to ESPN, saying, “I am embarrassed and have apologized for my actions to everyone involved. As a family, we have been dealing with this moment and the conflict that led to issue since this occurred. The video surfacing is a sad reminder that emotions got the best of all of us. I take 100 percent responsibility for everything that happened.” Fowler, despite being injured in a rookie minicamp, received a contract from the Jaguars in the amount of $23.5 million.

Georgia

A Georgia police chief has been accused of choking a teen during an arrest and also squeezing the teen’s hand so tightly it started to bleed. Lithonia Police Chief Roosevelt Smith has admitted to putting his hands around the neck of 17-year-old Isiah Harvey but insists that Harvey had been kicking and threatening him, which prompted him to act. But Harvey claims that Smith grabbed his chin and then his Adam’s apple for between seven and 10 seconds. He also claims that Smith snapped the handcuffs on so hard that he bled. “He squeezed the handcuffs around my client’s wrists to the point where it immediately drew out blood and caused swelling,” said Harvey’s attorney, Frank Smith. “I would call it police brutality. If I choked someone like that, they would lock me up,” Harvey’s father, Ricky Thomas, said. While Smith and another police captain have both said that Harvey’s threats justified Smith’s actions, another officer, Sgt. Angela Hatchett, says otherwise. “What I observed last night was wrong. Chief Smith and Captain L. Owens assaulted Mr. Harvey … Their actions were unjustifiable and unethical,” Hatchett said in a statement. The incident is currently under internal investigation by the city’s administrator, who was the former chief.

Kansas

Cedric Ford, 38, a painter at Excel Industries, went on a shooting spree Feb. 25 at a lawn mower factory in Hesston. When it was all over, he had killed three, wounded 14 and police killed him. According to news reports, Ford had prior convictions for burglary and possession of a weapon. According to police, Ford drove around in a truck at the factory’s location as well as others and opened fire. One worker who survived the attack said Ford might have been reacting to a hard time other workers were giving him. “He had some mental issues and he was being teased a little bit,” said Jared Trujillo, a co-worker. On Ford’s Facebook page, there were photos of him carrying firearms, as well as photos of him with children. Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said he believes the rampage was sparked by a protection order served to Ford hours before he went on the shooting spree. Later that day, police also arrested Ford’s ex-girlfriend, who they say provided him with the weapons, including an AK47.

Massachusetts

Philip Chism, A Black teen who was 14 when he allegedly raped and stabbed to death 24-year-old Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer, was given life, with the chance of parole in 40 years. Chism’s attorney argued during trial that Chism did, in fact, kill Ritzer, but that he was suffering from a psychotic episode when he attacked her. Chism’s mother, Diane, expressed her condolences to Ritzer’s family. “Words can’t express the amount of pain and sorrow these past two-and-a-half years have been,” she said. “However, there is no one who has suffered more than the Ritzer family. My utmost esteem, prayers and humble respect is with them today as they continue their journey to heal.”

Michigan

Gwen Jimmere, CEO and founder of Naturalicious, has become the first African American woman in history to own a U.S. patent on a product made with all-natural ingredients. Jimmere received a patent for her Moroccan Rhassoul 5-in-1 Clay Treatment, which is reportedly the first hair care product that allows a person to wash, condition, deep condition, leave-in condition and detangle all at once, without sacrificing healthy and safe ingredients. According to Black News, upon hearing about Jimmere’s accomplishment, the Walker Theatre, home to Madam CJ Walker’s historic company headquarters and manufacturing facility, reached out to congratulate her and pass the proverbial torch–reportedly telling her that Madam Walker would be especially proud of her. “Madam CJ Walker has always beena huge inspiration to me. Having defied the odds–at a time when she was expected to be a washerwoman at best—she was always proof to me that impossible is nothing. So for her headquarters to reach out and give me their blessing … that was enormous and I am definitely humbled,” Jimmere said.

Mississippi

The governor–Phil Bryant–has declared April as Confederate Heritage Month. According to the Root, Bryant issued to proclamation in response to a request from the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Bryant, a Republican who has served as governor since 2012, said in the order that “it is important for all Americans to reflect on our nation’s past, to gain insight from our mistakes and successes, and to come to a full understanding that the lessons learned yesterday and today will carry us through tomorrow, if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand and appreciate our heritage and our opportunities which lie before us.” Mississippi is the last state in the country to fly the Confederate battle flag above its capitol.

New York

Prosecutors in New York City have dismissed rape charges against five Black Brooklyn teens accused of gang raping a woman on a playground, according to the New York Daily News. The District Attorney says instead that what the boys claimed is true, that she was having sex with her father. The father had claimed that he was in Osborn Park with his 18-year-old daughter when five young men approached them. One of the young men allegedly had a gun and forced the father to leave while the young men took turns having sexual relations with his daughter. When the young men were arrested later, they claimed that wasn’t that real story, that the father was having sex with his daughter, and that they were invited to join in. To top it off, the woman has also admitted that there was no gun. At a press conference, District Attorney Ken Thompson said, “The complainant has recanted her allegations of forcible sexual assault.”

Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.