How does it feel to get a taste of martial law? Reno did last weekend. Czar Donaldov is threatening a military takeover in the name of quashing them their uppity black folk. Don’t they know how good they’ve got it here?
Not really. The son and grandson of Italian immigrant farm workers, I grew up on the mixed race west side of Fresno, Calif. I remain in touch with a few buds from the old ‘hood.
One thing I have learned is that black people truly see the world quite differently than the rest of us even though we might say “I feel your pain.”
No. We. Don’t. That lethal Coronavirus target on your back is as close as you will come to learning how blacks and browns live every day.
I worked ‘round the clock last weekend putting out the news of the Reno riot, proof positive that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Trying to make lemonade out of lemons on a sour Saturday night, the Reno-Sparks NAACP called for calm and took the opportunity to highlight a Sparks PD killing.
On January 5, 2020, Sparks Police officers shot and killed Miciah Lee, an African-American teen. His mother, in desperation, had called police, begging them to save her 18-year-old mentally ill son who had threatened suicide.
“Lee had committed no crime but wanted to die,” Reno-Sparks NAACP President Lonnie Feemster said. “He suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder all his life. His distraught mother contacted police for help. She told them he was mentally ill and threatening to kill himself.
“The officers came and killed him,” stated Feemster, a lifelong Nevadan and Sparks resident.
“Those involved wore body cams and videos exist of the incident. The videos have not been released to the family or the attorney representing the mother, Terri Keyser-Cooper.
“Because Sparks officers killed Lee, another law enforcement agency was required to investigate the death. The case was given to the Reno Police Department. The investigation took five months. In early May, it was referred to the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office for review and determination as to whether any of the officers involved should be criminally charged,” Feemster said.
The videos and incident reports still have not been released. The DA’s office says that police investigations take longer than others. The results will go to Reno PD first, then Sparks. So call me in 2024, perhaps?
“Especially in light of this weekend’s events, Washoe County DA Christopher Hicks needs to expedite the review of the case so that the investigation and videos of the shooting can be released to the family. Such frustration with law enforcement is institutional and understandable,” Feemster said.
“We have long criticized local civil service exams as discriminating against minorities trying to enter the police academy. (Barbwire, Reno Gazette-Journal, 7-17-2016). We have been heard but it has not been enough.
“The City of Reno established a human rights commission, something which the City of Sparks refused to do when approached by Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve four years ago,” Feemster said.
“At our behest, the Sparks City Council unanimously voted to establish a diversity commission on January 22, 2007, then never implemented it. Sparks’ record of minority hiring has been weaker than Reno’s for a long time,” he noted. Sparks PD Chief Peter Krall has missed appointments with Mr. Feemster.
“Both cities have arrested African-American young people for the crime of walking while black downtown,” he added.
DA Hicks is light years better than his two-decade predecessor, Napolean Gammick who refused to meet with the NAACP at all. Mr. Hicks’ extensive response about the Miciah Lee investigation will be linked in its entirety to the expanded web edition of this column at NevadaLabor.com/
So where do we go from here? The Reno Riot has generated constructive suggestions.
“Remember the Four C’s,” my friend Lonnie advises: “COVID-19, Civil rights, Census and Civic engagement.”
We need greatly expanded Coronavirus testing, Feemster logically notes. Infection danger was the primary reason the NAACP did not participate in the Reno demonstration, although some members risked it. During the 1918 pandemic, large gatherings in Philadelphia and Detroit caused major outbreaks days later, killing tens of thousands.
The NAACP has received many generous offers of help and a lot of new members. Make it count. First, mail in your vote for the June 9 Nevada primary and the November general election. Then send that US Census form you’ve been procrastinating about. (You can even call it in.) Just those two acts build political power, which is the name of this deadly game.
Civic engagement? A full plate starting with an OIS (officer-involved shooting) meeting of all concerned parties. Next, establishment of citizen police review boards. Us liberal civic engagement types have been pushing that for decades, defeated every time by police and political opposition. Gomorrah South got one years ago after — you guessed it — a rash of police killing innocent civilians.
Add a fifth “C” for Comprehensive legislation. Congress and/or the Nevada Legislature need to pass laws mandating quick release of police shooting video and reports. The chief of Louisville, Kentucky was just fired because his cops turned off their body cams before killing some unfortunate soul over the weekend.
PARTING SHOTS. Kudos to KOLO TV-8 for a sparkling eight hours of live coverage with its young journalists enduring tear gas, pepper spray and a fat-assed white kid mooning the cops…Congrats to PBS and TV-5 for broadcasting travel guru Rick Steves’ special on how dictatorship arose in Europe in the 1930s and has erupted again in Hungary, Turkey, the Philippines and elsewhere. History teacher Steves notes that Hitler, Mussolini and their current descendants all started out as democratically elected leaders, then slowly strangled democracy. Sound familiar? Look for Trump to replay Nixon’s infamous Southern Strategy touting racist code words “law and order.” The Confederacy has indeed risen again…Sure am glad I moved the annual César Chávez celebration from last Saturday night to Oct. 23 …Kudos to Genessee County, Michigan, Sheriff Chris Swanson (who is white) for bravely removing his body armor, then leading the local protest march. His jurisdiction includes Flint, one of the most racially oppressed cities in the country…
RAY OF HOPE. As I was talking with Lonnie Feemster on the phone while writing about all this mayhem, an e-mail arrived from my number one grand-daughter, Nicole. Down in the wildes of Arizona, my grand-daughter Ryann Marie had made me a great-grand for the third time.
Aria Ryann Mitchell weighed in at 6.15 pounds and 19 inches high.
Great Grandma Betty would have been so proud. Adopted Uncle Lonnie and I will try to leave a better world for you.
¡Sí se puede!
Stay safe, take care of each other and be careful out there.
Be well. Raise hell. Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Barbano is a 51-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and First Vice-President of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.