Two Justice Systems Harshly Revealed In Riot Charges

One of the quickest assessments made of the assault on the Nation’s Capitol on January 6th after then President Donald J. Trump sent white nationalists in a desperate attempt to keep federal lawmakers from certifying the election was how law enforcement treated the rioters. Perhaps it’s not really all that fair to compare the insurrection in Washington D.C. and those who march in defiance to police brutality after the brutal murder of George Floyd. Where the comparisons begin is the interaction with a police line. On January 6th, there was no bloody and cruel response to the people who in some cases were interested in capturing federal congressmen and women to stop lawmakers from performing their congressional duty. In cities across America protesters of police brutality was met with violence by police armed to the teeth in riot gear. Police reacted to the largely white invaders differently and the same were treated differently by those trying to overtake the government. A lot different.

Capitol police were alerted of the probability of huge aggressive gangs of white nationalists and other criminal groups and were seemingly unprepared. In some cases, Capitol police were assisting the insurrectionists and lines of defense were in places abandoned to allow them to storm the Capitol building. The line of defense was thin and could not be stopped. To be fair, many Capitol policemen defended the building with their lives, and many were injured. In those cases, they are to be celebrated for their bravery. But where was justice? Who decided National Guard or more Capitol police were not needed? Will we find out the police were sacrificed for the benefit of a president who could not deal with his election loss and rejection at the polls?

Need more examples? Riley June Williams, a white 22-year-old was part of the invasion of our Capitol and entered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and stole a laptop. She intended to sell it to the Russians but failed. Sound serious? She was charged with theft of government property and obstruction on Tuesday. Attempts to sell American secrets found in Pelosi’s laptop were not part of the present charges. Good thing she was not Kalief Browder who was arrested for stealing a backpack and was 16 at the time. He was quickly sentenced to 3 years in one of the most violent and dangerous prisons in America, Rikers Island. Browder received no trial and spent 400 days in solitary confinement and was abused by guards and inmates. After his traumatic time in prison, he eventually took his own life. Williams is not in solidary confinement and is not in Rikers Island; she was released to her mother. She was not given a budget busting bond or treated like she was less than human. We live in two Americas.

There are thousands of examples of the injustice system people of color are all too familiar with. Sentencing laws punish people of color in far harsher decisions. Jury pools where juries are unfairly mixed resulting in questionable sentences. Drug laws where cocaine found in white neighborhoods has a much shorter sentencing than that of crack cocaine often found in black and brown neighborhoods which carries mandatory long and harsh sentences. These are not new concerns and they have been criticized and debated for years. For reasons of their own, lawmakers have not found the moral strength to correct this racist practice.

There was hope under the administration of President Barack Obama, that the country would see sweeping changes. With two black United States Attorney Generals they implemented a lot of polices that would have helped. Unfortunately, it would have had a much greater effect had there been Federal law to back it up and most reforms were strong suggestions at best. Most prisoners are in State prisons and during the Obama era republicans took control of state government as 1,042 democrats lost their seats. Obama was keen to not make lives worse for the remaining democrats and that meant no overtly controversial measures regarding race were offered. In short, few of the policies that would have reduced the number of African Americans and people of color being pumped through the pipeline of school to prison were signed into law. Obama did not refuse to do more; it would have come at a political cost. Unfortunately, it came at a human cost for all the people of color languishing in prison.

Biden has a razor thin majority in the Senate, a small lead in the House and what capital he has may not be spent on prison and sentencing reform. Accordingly, it is worse than the Obama years. So, it will take some education and advocacy. It is hard to imagine the hardened hearts of some Trump supporters getting behind reform at this point.

It comes at some political risk but sentencing and prison reform is the only thing out there that will stop the horrifically damaging effects of a system that is racist and only guarantees long prison time for our neighbors. It will be worth the risk.

Oklahoma Plans To Increase The Number Of Vaccine Dispensary Sites

Understanding that people of color are most likely infected by Covid. Oklahoma plans to increase the number of sites to receive the vaccine in neighborhoods most prone to have people of color living in them. Oklahoma is not good at racial databases. So, it is good to see the state realize there is a need to up the number of people of color receiving the life-giving vaccine.

The infrastructure is there as well as the medical professionals to make this work. Oklahoma just needs more vaccines and some extra sites. The problem still nagging communities is the lack of trust in vaccines. For any kind of leveling off of Covid, every community has to take advantage of every opportunity to bring the number down by testing, vaccines, masks, social distancing and reducing exposure. Oklahoma has some work to do, but they are on the right track.