Charleena Lyles, gunned down by Seattle Police – in memory


Charleena Lyles should be alive.

 It’s time for the two Seattle police officers who killed her to be immediately fired and indicted.

TAKE ACTION

 

The system and the police officers that killed my cousin, Charleena Lyles, are guilty. We demand JUSTICE!

Two days after Philando Castile’s killer walked free, my cousin, a pregnant Black mother, was gunned down in Seattle after she called 911 for help. We need to say her name: Charleena Lyles.

On Sunday morning, my cousin Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old pregnant mother of four struggling with mental health, called 911 to report a burglary. Instead of assistance, she was sentenced to her death, as the police gunned her down with very minimal to no de-escalation. She was staying in a transitional housing facility for homeless families in Seattle and someone robbed her home. She needed help. But two officers arrived at Charleena’s home and despite knowing she was advised for mental health counseling due to domestic violence, they reached for guns first when they saw her holding a knife. Instead of de-escalating, they chose to shoot and kill her — right in front of her children.

Seattle police officers are trained on how to de-escalate mental health situations. They chose to kill. Now they’re on paid leave. It’s obvious. These police officers should be fired immediately and indicted on criminal charges. And that’s just a start. We need full transparency in this investigation, the police should release all footage, not just the audio recording. We must demand that Seattle police aren’t allowed to investigate themselves. And we must change the laws that make it nearly impossible to prosecute officers that use deadly force.

Sign the petition: Justice for Charleena Lyles.

At every single turn, the Seattle Police Department failed. First, a couple weeks before her death, they ARRESTED Charleena when she called for help with an abusive boyfriend. She spent 9 days in jail because she was a survivor of domestic violence and struggling with mental health. Seattle police knew she needed help, not guns–they even had it marked in their system. But when she was robbed and called the police again, instead of sending a mental health practitioner to her home they sent more police officers than they normally would. On an audio recording, you can hear the two officers discussing her on their way to Charleena’s home.1 They KNEW she was struggling with mental health. They had other means but after less than 11 minutes they reached for their guns. There was no reason for Charleena to die. Yet the Seattle police officers did not follow any training and policies set forth by the Seattle Police Department.

The Seattle Police Department has a long and dangerous history of mistreatment of people with mental health issues. They were under investigation by the Obama administration and the Department of Justice in 2012 for its ongoing pattern of officers using excessive force– especially on people with mental health and substance abuse issues.2 Right after the investigation, the Seattle Police Department was placed under a federal consent decree — which allows for police departments to be sued for civil rights violations and use of excessive force.

Too often people with mental health issues become vulnerable targets of police, despite police departments being required to have a clear protocol for engaging with them. According to one study in 2015, about 25% of people who were killed by police suffered from mental health issues.3 Just less than two weeks ago, a Black man diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Joshua Barre, was shot and killed by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma4— leaving his family in turmoil with unanswered questions. It is the same unanswered questions our family now has to deal with. To be Black and dealing with mental health means becoming an even deadlier target for police violence, and it has to stop.

Black women and girls remain under high threat of police violence. Demand the Seattle Police Department to fire the two officers.

In such an extreme, violent, and white supremacist climate that goes beyond any White House administration, Black women continue to be viewed as a threat in this country. The vicious stereotypes of Black women being out of control, angry, and aggressive have led to the death of too many. Just like my cousin, women like Sandra Bland, Tanisha Anderson, and Miriam Carey were deemed “threatening” by men who were twice their size and had guns just because they were vocal. Time and time again Black women are either forced into silence and invisibility or put in harm’s way — in the media, politics, and our personal lives. From public leadership, like we’ve seen with Congresswoman Maxine Waters and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, Black women are constantly attacked and vilified for being boisterous and steadfast in their crusade for justice and taking a stand. But even in the mundane, everyday actions of being a mother, protecting one’s family, driving home, going to school, sitting in a living room of a home, Black women and girls are deemed a threat, facing the ultimate consequence — death.

The officers’ actions who killed Charleena Lyles can not be justified. The Seattle Police Department must hold these officers accountable.

All of this is happening just days after the officer who murdered Philando Castile was found not guilty. The reality is all too painful. Our community is forced to deal with it, sit with it, cry about it, while everyone else moves on. We know we have to fight harder. Yes, the whole system is guilty. We know we have to start imagining what real safety and freedom looks like for Black people. And the answer is not in hands of the police.

Sign the petition.

Our family deserves justice,

— Nakeya

P.S. Please support my family by donating to our GoFundMe page today. Thank you.

References:

1. “Seattle police release audio in fatal shooting of 30-year-old mother in Sand Point,” KIRO 7, 06-19-2017 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/8063?t=12&akid=7621.1174326.MrqEED

2. “WHEN POLICE KILL: CHARLEENA LYLES, A BLACK WOMAN, WAS PREGNANT WHEN SHE DIED,” Newsweek, 06-19-2017 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/8064?t=14&akid=7621.1174326.MrqEED

3. “Fatal police shootings in 2015 approaching 400 nationwide,” Washington Post, 05-30-2015 https://act.colorofchange.org/go/8065?t=16&akid=7621.1174326.MrqEED

4. “Shooting of mentally ill man in Oklahoma raises policing questions,” Denver Post, 06-17-2017 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/8066?t=18&akid=7621.1174326.MrqEED

When will Farmers get their $1.25 billion settlement for African Americans … long overdue – Reminder


WASHINGTON, April 22, 2010

(UPI) — Black U.S. farmers UpDATE

are frustrated waiting for Congress to pay a class-action settlement over racial prejudice in farm loans, a farmers group head said.

“We spend a billion dollars on a jet to go bomb somebody. We’re talking about a billion dollars to help feed our country, and I just don’t see why Congress and the president can’t go ahead and find (the money). It is an emergency,” Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association President Gary Grant said.

The class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture established a pattern of racial discrimination in the department’s allocation of farm loans and assistance from 1983-97.

The lawsuit, Pigford vs. Glickman, ended with a settlement in which the Agriculture Department agreed to pay some 80,000 African-American farmers $50,000 each if they had tried to get USDA loans or assistance but failed, despite meeting qualifications.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the farmers could also seek up to $250,000 for actual damages from the bias, CNN reported.

U.S. President Barack Obama asked Congress to provide $1.15 billion to pay the claims but a March 31 deadline to appropriate the money passed and Congress now says it will come up with a plan by the end of May.

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., said Democratic lawmakers had a “total commitment” to ensuring the settlement is paid. But he said they needed to work out how to pay for the settlement under the congressional PAYGO rule, requiring the money be available rather than borrowed.

Another option would be to designate the settlement an emergency, which would make it exempt from PAYGO, Butterfield said.

The farmers have until May 31 to withdraw from the proposed settlement and pursue independent claims against the USDA.

 

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Landmark Settlement … Dan Glickman

Following nearly a decade of litigation, a $1.25 billion agreement has been struck between the USDA and a class consisting of black farmers. Congress is now being asked to provide the needed funds and several prominent farm-state politicians seem keen to do so.

“I am pleased that a settlement has been reached between USDA and African American farmers,” said Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln in a statement. “As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I am committed to ensuring that every farmer in America receives equal access and treatment in the delivery of USDA’s programs and services. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to help provide the compensation owed to African American farmers who have been victims of discrimination.”

The current deal comes after the original 1990s Pigford v. Glickman settlement that cost taxpayers some $1 billion. In the original settlement, roughly 22,000 claims were filed and 16,000 claimants received funds.

Saying they’d been left out of the earlier suit, the current class claims USDA’s widespread discriminatory loan-lending practices harmed tens of thousands of black farmers.

“Today’s announcement moves us an important step closer to a just resolution of the black farmers cases,” said John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association. “President Obama, (USDA) Secretary Vilsack and the administration have shown leadership in getting us to this moment. Next week, another black farmer will lose his farm. Others are at risk of not living to see justice. These farmers have waited for years, and simply cannot wait any longer for final resolution.”

In contrast to Boyd’s muted approval of the agreement, the tone at the Thursday USDA/Department of Justice press conference announcing the deal was buoyant.

“This is a great day for the USDA and the many thousands of African American farmers it serves,” said Thomas Perrelli, DOJ associate attorney general. “This litigation has gone on for many years and has stood in the way of what should be a productive, cooperative relationship. The settlement we’re announcing is possible because Secretary Vilsack was, and is, committed to changing that relationship.”

The second round of Pigford litigation “has lasted through the terms of several previous (USDA secretaries) but Secretary Vilsack was determined from Day One to be the one who turned the page. He’s been personally involved, making sure the deal was done in a way that was right by the farmers and was responsible for the government.”

The $1.25 billion — $100 million of which is accounted for in the 2008 farm bill — was included in President Obama’s latest budget and will “completely resolve the claims that arose out of the original litigation, addressing the claims of late filers,” continued Perrelli.

“Once we have that appropriation, we’ll seek approval from the court where interested parties will have an opportunity to review the settlement and make any comments for the court to consider. If the court approves it … class members will have six months to submit claims.”

Perrelli noted several other settlement criteria:

• The class consists of anyone who, prior to the passage of the 2008 farm bill, submitted a late claim in the original Pigford litigation and hasn’t had his discrimination complaint heard.

• The process for participating will be similar to the one used in the original case.

Acknowledging major complaints from both sides in earlier cases, Perrelli vowed this time would be “a much, much more streamlined process.”

• As in the earlier cases, farmers who submit claims will choose between two tracks.

“Track A provides for a simplified claims process designed to provide quick relief of up to $50,000 plus debt relief. Track B will be a more rigorous process but will permit successful claimants an opportunity to receive actual damages up to $250,000.”

• The actual amount any claimant will receive depends on how many successful claimants there are.

So, Track A awards of $50,000 could end up being much less if there are too many successful claimants?

“I don’t want to put a particular number on it,” said Perrelli. “But, like I said, it could be up to $50,000. It could be lower if there are significantly more plaintiffs.”

The process “will take time. But we feel we’ve learned, over the last decade, how to make it more streamlined and efficient. And we hope the $1.25 billion will be distributed quickly and appropriately.”

• If funds aren’t appropriated by Congress by the end of March, plaintiffs have the opportunity to walk away from the agreement.

One problem: last year, Congress didn’t approve a similar budget request and amount. Why will it approve the $1.25 billion this time?

In refusing the earlier request, “one of the concerns Congress expressed was the lack of signed settlement agreement in which there was an acknowledgement by the plaintiffs that this would be a sufficient amount to resolve the dispute and would be a structure they’d be satisfied with,” said Vilsack. “We now have a signed settlement agreement. … Our hope and belief is Congress will pass this appropriation expeditiously and allow us to begin the process of getting folks paid.”

To ensure the settlement funding, Vilsack pledged to “focus all my time, attention and resources. … I think there’s bipartisan support for this. One of the senators I talked to about this recently … is (Republican) Charles Grassley from Iowa.”

Indeed, in a statement, Grassley said he’d “originally hoped that the Pigford v. Glickman settlement would take care of the injustice that had been left untouched for decades. Unfortunately, many people were shut out of the process. When it became apparent that the USDA would not act, we took further steps and introduced legislation to right the wrongs. We finally got something included in the last farm bill and now, with today’s announcement, African American farmers who were wronged by the USDA are one step closer to a full resolution and well-deserved justice.”

Such statements are unlikely to placate farmers who claim it isn’t only blacks who have had trouble with the USDA through the years. And Vilsack did himself no favors during the press conference when asked for the “most egregious example” of USDA’s racial bias.

“Here’s an example: you had two farmers — one white, one black — go into Farm Service Agency in state ‘X,’” said Vilsack. “The white farmer applied for an operating loan, had it processed rapidly, had it approved and had the resources available so he could put a crop in. The black farmer was either denied the operating loan without due diligence to determine if he could repay the loan or he was strung out for such a long time that he didn’t get the operating loan in a timely (manner). That compromised (the black farmers’) capacity to put a crop in the ground and therefore made it more difficult to make payments and keep their farming operation. The result was either people got deeply in debt or, in some cases, they lost the farm.”

If that is the most “egregious” example Vilsack can find, Congress will surely be reluctant to fund such a settlement. In coming weeks, there will be plenty of people pointing Congress to the fact that for years numerous U.S. farmers, of all racial make-ups, received late operating loans. In fact, lawsuits similar to Pigford have been filed by other ethnicities, including whites. A class made up of Native Americans has already been certified.

In addition, Vilsack dodged questions about potential fraud, the possibility that more than $1.25 billion will be needed, and the number of potential claimants. “I’m not going to get into hypothetical circumstances,” he said. “There are numbers all over the place in terms of this. … I don’t know how many claims there will be. I don’t know if it’ll be 75,000 or 10,000. I don’t know if it’ll be 28,000 or 42,000.”

What about class attorney fees? Fees for “a lengthy list” of class attorneys “are part of the settlement negotiation,” said Perrelli. “It is a relatively complicated set of attorney fee provisions because it includes both prior work and a significant amount of future work with (Track A and Track B cases). There are also provisions that attempt to address both payments to class counsel as well as payments to non-class counsel. That’s because we want to ensure the maximum amount of funds actually reach individual farmers.

“The broad outline is … that the party will put before the court the issue of attorney fees. We’ll litigate between a range of potentially 4.1 percent and 7.4 percent of the total funds made available. That puts (attorney fees between) $49 million and $89 million.”