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Category Archives: Police

March 20: The Invisibility of Police Violence Against Women & Girls of Color

Join us on March 20th from 6 to 8 p.m. as we partner with Project NIA to organize a discussion about the invisibility of police violence against women and girls of color. The event will take place at the Pop-Up Just Art Space, 729 West Maxwell Street. RSVP to policeviolence2011@gmail.com

Discussions and considerations of police brutality often focus on men as the primary victims of this violence. We know however that women are also the targets of violence by law enforcement.

Witness the following disturbing scene of a young women being roughly handled by police officers as she protested the killing of Kimani Gray just this Wednesday night.

On March 21, 2012, Rekia Boyd, a young African American woman, was with her friends enjoying an unusually beautiful Chicago March day. The four friends decided to walk to the store up the street. In order to do so they had to cross through an alley. Dante Servin an off-duty detective with the Chicago Police Department had recently moved into this gentrifying neighborhood.

Detective Servin was reportedly upset with late night noise behind his home across from Douglas Park and from his car had told a group of four people to quiet down. There were words, an object raised, and the detective fired his gun repeatedly.

Antonio Cross was hit in the hand. The object he had raised was a cell phone. Boyd was hit in the head and pulled off life support the following day.

Antonio Cross was charged with assaulting a police officer and is presently awaiting trial. The State’s Attorney asked for a continuance this past January because they were “not ready,” the new trial date is set for March 13, 2013 at 9am at 3150 Flournoy. Update: Charges against Antonia Cross were dropped.

Detective Dante Servin has been placed on administrative duty and no charges have been filed against him.

Join several speakers including Mariame Kaba (Project NIA, Chicago Taskforce on Violence against Girls and Young Women)Crista Noel (Women’s All Points Bulletin), and Shira Hassan who will discuss the invisibility of police violence particularly against women and girls of color.

This event is part of a series called Black & Blue that examines policing, violence and resistance.  For information about the other events, click here.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2013 in Events, Police, Racism, Violence

 

Tiawanda Moore is BRAVE…

Cross-posted at Prison Culture

I described my initial sighting of Tiawanda Moore back in June this way:

The first thing that strikes me when I see Tiawanda Moore is that she looks so very young. The second thing is that she reminds me of my cousin Fatime. She has the same fine features and beautiful dark skin. She is slight in build and is wearing glasses. Every black person in the U.S. has a sister, friend, cousin who looks just like Tiawanda Moore.


Yesterday when I saw and spoke with Tiawanda, I observed something more – her courage and dignity. For nearly two years, this young woman has endured so much. First she was sexually molested by a police officer and then when she sought out justice for this offense, she found herself in the clutches of the State’s Attorney charged with two class 1 felonies for eavesdropping facing up to 15 years in prison. Tiawanda Moore is brave.

Yet every single media story that I have read since she was acquitted of all charges yesterday either opens with the words “former stripper” or mentions this somewhere in the article. Radley Balko picks up on this in a blog post published yesterday. He writes:

One other thing. It’s a little odd that most media accounts of this case describe Moore as a “former stripper.” It’s actually the first three words in the Sun Times story. Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s hard to envision the article starting that way if Moore were a former nanny. Or school teacher. Or bus driver. So what’s the point? Even if Moore’s sexual assault allegation was the only newsworthy part of this story, the implication is that her former job is relevant to her allegation. Is the implication that strippers probably act provocatively even when they aren’t working—-indeed, even when they aren’t strippers anymore—and thus should expect unwanted sexual advances from cops? Is it that strippers are inherently untrustworthy? That they’re more likely to make false allegations of sexual assault? (If anything, I would suspect that strippers have built up a fair amount of tolerance for unwanted advances.)

But that of course isn’t why this story is in the news. It’s in the news because Moore became frustrated in her attempt to file a complaint, and so recorded what she thought were Chicago police officers’ attempts to rebuff her, and was consequently facing a felony charge and up to 15 years in prison. The validity of the allegation that set all of that into motion isn’t really at issue. (Indeed, the resolution of Moore’s complaint is apparently “sealed.” Which is a problem in and of itself.) So even if you buy into the fairly offensive notion that Moore’s former occupation calls her harassment allegation into doubt, the “former stripper” label is completely irrelevant to whether or not she should have been arrested and charged for recording the cops.

I would submit that it is not “odd” that Ms. Moore’s employment as a stripper is always foregrounded in the media coverage. Young black women are often portrayed as sexually promiscuous. This has a longstanding history. If you recall the Duke Lacrosse case, the alleged victim was also frequently described in media accounts as a “stripper.” In the Dominique Strauss-Khan case, Nafissatou Diallo was alleged to have been a prostitute. There is an inglorious history in the press of women who bring charges of sexual assault often being painted as sexually “loose” in some way. So Mr. Balko is not wrong to assume that if Ms. Moore had been a former teacher or nanny that this would not have been the opening statement in an article covering this trial.

There is something more to the press’s fixation on the fact that Ms. Moore worked as a stripper. This description of her is offered as a kind of shorthand. As though it suggests something about her character and perhaps should lead us to question her credibility. It’s as if this is the main thing that we ought to know about who Tiawanda Moore is.

Chris Drew, who himself is facing eavesdropping charges, has been a supporter of Ms. Moore. He attended both days of the trial and was present when the jury read its verdict yesterday. He wrote the following about Tiawanda in an e-mail blast that he sent out to his supporters:

Ms. Moore is twenty years old and very much still trying to discover herself in this world. The Tribune calls her a former stripper but she is first a young woman struggling to survive in a depressed economy. She is too young to have established a career out of anything yet. She has every right to expect justice from our system and she is a brave fighter for women’s rights. She stood up to the intimidation of Chicago police to lodge her complaint of sexual abuse. Anyone who listened to the testimony Tuesday and Wednesday at her trial knows that took a very brave spirit. We should expect more from the newspaper of record in reporting behind the scenes. They should examine in depth the way Cook County State’s Attorneys Office shields police misconduct.

She fought against a culture of intimidation other women of any background might face when they try to lodge a complaint against the Chicago Police for sexual misconduct. She won putting the Cook County State’s Attorney on notice that they should not be shielding police who violate citizen’s rights with malicious prosecutions of this type. Her win is a win for all women and all citizens who expect justice from Cook County. Her attorney argued that she was being intimidated out of her right to file a complaint by police who were breaking their own rules in doing so.

I teared up when I read this mainly because it is so TRUE. But also because I felt a sense of hope to read these words coming from a man who is so very different from Tiawanda Moore. Chris Drew is an older white man, an artist. He is someone who has already lived many years and it seems that in this case it has brought him wisdom. Tiawanda Moore is young, black, and very different in many other ways from Chris. Yet he can see through those differences to simply embrace Tiawanda’s humanity. It means that we have hope for transformation. While the media continues its relentless assault on the images of young black women in the U.S., on an individual level many (including Chris Drew) resist these portrayals.

Chris offers something else in his words about Tiawanda Moore. He provides a context within which a young black woman with limited opportunities finds a way to survive. Young women do what they have to do to survive. Chris forces his reader to consider stripping as a rational form of employment and dares us to judge Ms. Moore without having lived in her shoes. He is basically saying to us: she was a stripper, so what? He also frames her as a “fighter for women’s rights.” To me, that is the proper context within which to view Tiawanda Moore. What she did in standing up to the police and the state tells us more about her resilience and character than does her employment. Most of us are not primarily defined by where we work. We define ourselves mostly in relation to who we love. Perhaps we see ourselves first as mothers, sisters, spouses or friends. We define ourselves by the struggles that we join as organizers, citizens, activists. We define ourselves differently depending on the day or the context. These things are complicated rather than being straightforward. The media shies away from the complicated preferring black and white descriptions. So I offer them an easy description of Tiawanda Moore: Ms. Moore is BRAVE. Thanks Chris for giving voice to this!

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2011 in Organizing, Police, Racism, Sexual assault

 

Now that Tiawanda Moore is free, what lessons can we learn?

On August 18, 2010, Tiawanda Moore went to the Office of Internal Affairs to file a complaint, alleging that a police officer had sexually assaulted her.  Getting the runaround from the officers at Internal Affairs, and feeling threatened and intimidated, she pulled out her Blackberry to get proof that they were refusing to help her file her claim.  As many of you know by now, Ms. Moore was charged with “eavesdropping” on the police, a charge that can bring up to 15 years in jail.

Today, I’m so happy to announce, she was acquitted, and her nightmare is over.

But there are lessons to be learned from this, and changes that are needed, and I think it’s important that we take the time to think about what happened here, and what it says about the need for systemic reform.

I was in court today, along with my good friend and colleague Mariame Kaba and a small group of supporters.  The closing arguments we heard spoke volumes about the injustice that this young woman – and I fear, young women in general – experience at the hands of the police and the states’ attorney.

“THEY WERE STALLING, INTIMIDATING HER, BULLYING HER NOT TO MAKE A COMPLAINT.”

Ms. Moore’s attorney, Robert Johnson, spoke eloquently about her experiences of injustice.  His description of what had happened to Ms. Moore, based on the testimony and the tape itself, which had been played for the jury, filled in some of the details on her harrowing experience at Internal Affairs that you may not have heard.

First, he said, when she made the appointment, she was told to bring any witnesses who could support her allegations.  She brought her boyfriend, but he was immediately told to go home or go to McDonald’s to wait for her; no interview was held.  The police urged her not to file a complaint, insisting that the assaulting officer was “a good guy.”  On the tape, there’s a promise that what happened to her will never happen again (proving, as Robert Johnson pointed out, that they believed that she had been assaulted).  There’s the insistence that instead of filing a complaint, she should “go a different route.”  (On cross examination, the officer admitted, correctly, that there is no other route for victims of police sexual harassment in the system.)  And there’s the fact that when she became concerned and wanted to speak with another officer, the police locked the door and told her she could not leave.

Imagine how scary this experience must have been.  Imagine the power dynamics in the room, of this 19-year old young woman trying to plead her case to two police officers, and getting this kind of response.

The only conclusion you can reach is the one Robert Johnson reached:

“The plan was to kill this complaint from the very beginning….  They were stalling, intimidating her, bullying her not to make a complaint.”

HERE WE GO AGAIN, FRAMING THE VICTIM AS THE PERPETRATOR

And what did the State have to say about what happened?  Brace yourself, because here’s their theory.

Tiawanda Moore, they said, was on a “fishing expedition.”  They alleged that this young woman came in all the way from Indiana, not because she had been assaulted by a police officer and wanted to make a complaint.  No, the real reason according to the State was that she “wanted them to say the case was going nowhere.  That’s what she wanted them to say.”

What?  Didn’t she say on the tape itself that she’s concerned about how many other young women have been sexually assaulted by this officer?  Absolutely, said the State, and that is just proof that she was “editorializing,” by which I suppose they meant she was trying to make her case for public consumption.

If this sounds crazy to you, like the world’s gone mad, consider the State’s conclusion as to the power dynamics at play when she went to file her claim.  Is it the police that are in a position of power?  No.

“It is her that is in control…. You can’t push Tiawanda Moore around, she’s not going to let you.”

After all, the State’s Attorney added, “What motive do the police have to protect this officer?”

“JUST ANOTHER DAY IN INTERNAL AFFAIRS”

Now that we can breathe a huge sigh of relief that Tiawanda Moore won’t be facing jail time for this travesty, I am left with a deep fear that what she experienced may in fact be, to quote the State’s Attorney, “just another day in Internal Affairs.”

The concerns raised by groups like the ACLU, and activists like Chris Drew, over the Eavesdropping Law are important and valid.  Our avenue for defense against all types of abuse of power by law enforcement must be protected.  Citizens should be able to record police abuse, and to use recordings to hold the police accountable for such abuse in court.  Period.

Beyond that, though, let’s not lose focus on how the system failed this young woman at every level.  It is important that we remember that Tiawanda Moore’s terrible experience with the system as a young woman survivor of violence was most likely not a fluke.  Instead, her experience points to what young women are up against, and the need for systemic changes.

Young women in Chicago are at risk of sexual assault by the police.  Tiawanda Moore is certainly not the only young woman to allege that she has been sexually assaulted by a police officer.  In Chicago, and in other cities as well, young women have come forward to say that they have been assaulted by their local police officers.  Here in Chicago, there have been rallies in support of survivors of police violence, and groups such as Women’s All Points Bulletin – whose director, Crista Noel, was present in court as well to support Tiawanda Moore today – are working to draw attention to these cases, and to provide crucial support for women.

And can we really believe, as the state alleges, that Internal Affairs is deeply committed to supporting survivors of police violence?  Literature from Chicago Activists Against Police Sexual Assault, a new group that is holding rallies around the issue, quotes these statistics from a 2007 study by the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Chicago.

  • The odds that a Chicago police officer charged with abuse will receive any form of meaningful discipline are 2 out of 1,000. But as the U.S. Dept. of Justice has found, only 1 in 10 citizens ever even report police abuse for fear of reprisal, and distrust of the investigatory process.
  • Between 2002 and 2004, 85% of abuse complaints were dismissed without ever interviewing the officer.
  • 75% of Chicago police officers with multiple charges of abuse never receive any discipline whatsoever
  • Brutality complaints are 94% less likely to be found as having sufficient evidence by the Chicago Police Department (CPD) than in the nation as a whole.

Yes, it does sound like what happened to Ms. Moore was what might be expected on any typical day.

And now we can add the State’s Attorney into the mix.  For months, the Taskforce has called for the State’s Attorney to drop these ridiculous charges against Tiawanda Moore.  They refused.  Today’s closing arguments made it clear that the State’s Attorney cannot be relied upon to protect young women from police violence.  The topsy turvy world view that was presented in court today – a world in which young women supposedly have power over the police – was startling and frankly, frightening.

We all have a lot of work to do if we are going to make Chicago safer for young women.  Systems change at every level is called for.  What are your thoughts about what needs to be done?

 

Petitioning Justice for Tiawanda Moore…


On August 2nd, a small but determined group of us went to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office to drop off petitions signed by over 3,200 people demanding that the unjust charges against Tiawanda Moore be dropped. We walked into the building that houses her office and took the elevator to the 32nd floor. There were two people sitting at desks in the reception area.

We politely asked to speak to Ms. Alvarez and the young man who was seated at the desk told us that she was “unavailable.” We didn’t press our case and asked to speak to another representative of the office. In the meantime, we noticed that the small reception area was getting crowded with large white men who were coming from a door that seemed to lead to offices. There were at least 6 of them standing around. We assume that they were concerned that we might cause a disturbance. A quick perusal of the rag-tag group of us though should quickly have disabused them of the idea that we were there to cause a scene.

The night before the action, we had spent several hours writing the names of each person who signed the petitions on separate index cards. It came out to 3277 index cards.

After a few minutes, a gentleman came out and introduced himself. We explained that we wanted to register our voices in opposition to the unjust prosecution of Tiawanda Moore. We said that we were dropping off petitions signed by thousands of people who agreed that Tiawanda Moore was being wronged. He told us that he would relay our message to the State’s Attorney. Somehow, we doubt this.

Ms. Moore’s trial was supposed to have started with jury selection on August 3rd. We have confirmed that Ms. Moore’s trial is in fact in continuance now until Monday August 8th for motions.

The Chicago Taskforce on Violence against Girls and Young Women would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to sign their names to our petition in support of Ms. Moore. We believe that it is important that those who we elect to ensure that “justice” is done should not abuse the public’s trust. This unjust prosecution of Ms. Moore is a travesty and perversion of the criminal legal system. Thousands of people agree.

 
 

Join Us on Tuesday at 1 p.m. as We Protest Tiawanda Moore’s Upcoming Trial!

Ms. Tiawanda Moore’s trial is currently scheduled to begin on August 3rd. The Chicago Taskforce on Violence against Young Women and Girls launched a petition drive earlier this year urging State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to drop the unjust charges against Ms. Moore. To date, the petition has garnered over 3,200 signatures.

On Tuesday August 2nd, join us as we bring the petition signatures directly to Anita Alvarez and demand that she do the right thing by dropping the charges against Ms. Moore. Tiawanda Moore is a young woman who reported that she had been sexually assaulted by a police officer in July of 2010, and was then herself charged with eavesdropping on police. According to her attorney, Robert Johnson, when she tried to report the assault, internal affairs “gave her the run-around, trying to intimidate and discourage her from making a report. The internal affairs officers told Ms. Moore if it happens again you have our number. Finally, a recording of the officer’s misconduct is made on her cell phone.” She was charged with two counts of eavesdropping – and if found guilty, will face up to fifteen years in prison.

We will meet downtown at 1 p.m. to deliver the petition signatures to Anita Alvarez. Please join us and bring your friends. Rather than being a demonstration, this is a targeted strategic direct action designed to convey the reality that thousands of people demand that the charges against Ms. Moore be dropped. If you are planning to join us, please e-mail us at chitaskforce@gmail.com for more information.

We plan to dramatize the number of signatures that have been collected by presenting index cards with each individual name represented. We need volunteers to help us create the index cards. If you have the time and inclination, please join us on Monday from 3 to 6 p.m. for an index card writing session. We will be meeting at the Rogers Park Community Council, 1530 West Morse Ave. Please stop by and help us write out the cards.

If you have any questions, please contact us at chitaskforce@gmail.com.

ETA: We will be meeting at 1 pm at the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza, and walking together to the state’s attorney’s office to deliver the petitions. 

 

A morning in court in support of Tiawanda Moore

Cross-posted from Prison Culture, by Mariame Kaba

The first thing that strikes me when I see Tiawanda Moore is that she looks so very young. The second thing is that she reminds me of my cousin Fatime. She has the same fine features and beautiful dark skin. She is slight in build and is wearing glasses. Every black person in the U.S. has a sister, friend, cousin who looks just like Tiawanda Moore.

I arrived at Cook County Criminal Court at 9:30 this morning for a scheduled 10 am hearing on Ms. Moore’s case. I sat in the “holding area” reserved for spectator and the accused. Large tinted windows separate me from what’s happening inside where the judge and attorneys hold court. We can hear the proceedings happening past the large windows and glass doors through a horrible sounding speaker system. The sound keeps cutting on and off. I get frustrated so I walk through the doors to alert someone about the technical difficulties. A woman who appears to be waiting for a relative to be called for his case informs me that this is the norm and that when I hear Ms. Moore’s case called I should walk inside and stand by the doors if I want to support her. I thank her for the advice.

Promptly at 10 am, Ms. Moore’s name is called and she walks up to the judge with her attorney, Robert Johnson. I get up and stand inside the doors toward the back so that I can hear what is happening. The judge makes a couple of pronouncements that I as a layperson don’t understand. Then he invites the Assistant State’s Attorney and Mr. Johnson to use his chambers to review some items for discovery. The  item of interest is the internal review report from the Chicago Police Department which has been kept underwraps.

Ms. Moore walks out back toward the “holding area” and I follow her out. She sits on one of the nondescript wood benches that court watchers and the accused share. I walk over to her and introduce myself. I let her know that I am one of the co-founders of the Taskforce and that we have been trying to bring attention to her case. She shakes my hand which feels really small in mine. She is soft-spoken and shy. She thanks me for helping her. We go outside the courtroom and she starts telling me about her case. Shortly, we are joined by her lawyer, Mr. Johnson. He says that he expects to look over the internal review documents today and will make a motion demanding that the case be brought immediately to trial.

Ms. Moore tells me that she is invoking her right to a speedy trial. This ordeal is of course weighing on this 21 year old young woman. I can’t even begin to imagine the stress of these regular trips to criminal court. It was obvious to me today that the State of Illinois is stalling for time. I speculate that they do not want a public hearing of the audio recording that Ms. Moore made of the police when they would not take her complaint seriously. This is of course conjecture on my part but the first hearing in this case was scheduled for February 7th and the expectation was that trial would begin shortly thereafter. Today is June 23rd and still there has been no trial. State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has no case against Tiawanda Moore and she ought to pursue an investigation against the rogue police officer who abused his power by sexually assaulting Ms. Moore in her own home.

The Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women intends to continue to pressure the State’s Attorney to end this unjust prosecution. We will keep you apprised of the developments in this case.

To learn more about the background of this case, you can read the following pieces:

New York Times Article

Radley Balko’s Huffingpost Article

You can help by signing our petition demanding that Anita Alvarez drop the unjust charges against Tiawanda Moore.

 

Press release: No Justice for Victims of Police Sexual Violence

For Immediate Release

No Justice for Victims of Police Sexual Violence

Tiawanda Moore court date set for June 8, activists demand justice

The Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls & Young Women is calling on State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to drop the criminal charges against Tiawanda Moore. Ms. Moore is a young woman who reported that she had been sexually assaulted by a police officer in July of 2010, and was then herself charged with eavesdropping on police.  According to her attorney, Robert Johnson, when she tried to report the assault, internal affairs “gave her the run-around, trying to intimidate and discourage her from making a report. The internal affairs officers told Ms. Moore if it happens again you have our number. Finally, a recording of the officer’s misconduct is made on her cell phone.”  She was charged with two counts of eavesdropping – and if found guilty, will face up to fifteen years in prison.

Ms. Moore has been awaiting trial since her initial scheduled trial date of February 7. The next court date is scheduled for June 8 on which Judge Kevin M. Sheehan will decided what documents from the Independent Police Review Authority’s investigation will be released to the parties.

Describing the injustice facing his client, Mr. Johnson stated, “Ms. Moore reports an attack by a police officer in her bedroom and almost a year later she is facing prison and he is still patrolling our streets. Listening to that recording makes me wonder where future victims will get the courage to report sexual misconduct by a police officer.”

Ms. Moore’s case comes in the wake of local and national headlines, as a series of women have reported that they were sexually assaulted by police officers.  In New York, on May 26, the acquittal of two police officers for alleged rape of a woman drew protests from local organizations, who pointed to the victim-blaming inherent in the defense’s winning argument that the woman had been drinking.  Here in Chicago, officers Paul Clavijo and Juan Vasquez were indicted on June 1 for sexual assault, for an alleged rape of a 22-year old woman in Rogers Park in March.  According to reports, Clavijo was charged with a second count of criminal sexual assault and official misconduct for an unrelated incident involving a 26-year old woman, which also took place in March.

Local activists have urged the State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to drop the criminal charges and expedite the investigation into Ms. Moore’s allegations against the police.  The Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls & Young Women, a citywide coalition founded in 2009, launched an online petition on http://www.change.org that has drawn over 2,100 signatures.  The State’s Attorney has not responded to these demands.

According to Taskforce co-founder Melissa Spatz, “cases like this have a chilling effect on women’s willingness to come forward and report if they have been sexually assaulted by police officers.  It’s crucial that the city send a clear message that sexual assault of young women will not be tolerated.”   Co-founder Mariame Kaba adds, “We at the Taskforce recognize the deep injustice of this case, and we demand immediate accountability from the State’s Attorney.”

Contacts: Melissa Spatz (773)454-0366 chitaskforce@gmail.com

Mariame Kaba (773)392-5165

Robert Johnson (773)485-2267