Category Archives: Community News

Ft Bend County More Interested In Criminalizing Innocent Black Teen Than Charging A Violent Asst Police Chief

Alec Hunter is a 15 year old black male who is a sophomore, attending Elkins High School located in Missouri City, a suburb in southwest Houston. Alec has been noted to be a good student, respectful young man, a normal outgoing teenager and very well liked by many of his teachers.  On November 4, 2015, Alec found a $10 bill on campus grounds. At lunch he attempted to use the $10 bill to purchase his lunch. The cafeteria employee tested the bill and the bill by sight, didn’t seem to look counterfeit. The cafeteria employee utilized her counterfeit pen detector and the bill didn’t pass inspection. The cafeteria worker gave the $10 bill to Ft Bend ISD police who then wanted to question Alec without his parents being present. Alec’s mother expressed that the police did not have permission to run any inquiries through her son without her being there, this including a formal statement that the police wanted from Alec. Ft. Bend is now trying to use this against Alec and his family as if there was intent to hide information. Alec is now facing felony forgery charges before he’s even old enough to get a job and make his own money. Alec is now facing accusations that he “engaged in delinquent conduct” and could formally be charged with forgery and the “intent to defraud” violating the Texas Penal Code.

15 Year old Alec Hunter is facing a felony forgery charge by the Ft Bend Co DA's office (Images may be subjected to copyright)
15 Year old Alec Hunter is facing a felony forgery charge by the Ft Bend Co DA’s office (Images may be subjected to copyright)

Attorney Deron Harrington researched the counterfeit issues taking place in Ft Bend County and linked the following which is quite disturbing.

  • Over a one-year period – the total money in question was only $152 leading to approximately six incidents.
  • Each circumstance led to individuals denying that they knew the bill was counterfeit, Each time, FBISD Police forwarded the matter to the Ft. Bend District Attorney’s office to charge the individual.  

Here is the more disturbing information concerning these cases:

  • In every single incident – the suspect was African American.

Louis Hunter who is the father to Alex stated that court officials encouraged his son to take a “deferred prosecution” deal that very much resembles a guilty plea. Typically this is very common among the DA’s office – to criminalize the innocent just so they can have a “win” on their books and appear to be pushing fair and unbiased justice however when counterfeit cases that all target black individuals in Ft Bend County, that’s hardly fair to those children who are truly innocent. It is dangerous to think that our own justice system cares more about their own record than the records of black youth who’ve not even begun to start their lives. How many young teens would actually know a bill was counterfeit? It was obvious that the cafeteria employee didn’t know the bill was counterfeit until she used her detection pen. I’m guessing that it would be safer to purchase counterfeit detection pens and put them in the hands of ALL black youth to test each bill used before giving money to school employees so that they won’t be facing charges. This is the message Ft Bend ISD Police and the Ft Bend DA’s office is sending to black families. It is also unnerving because this is a clear case of wasteful tax dollars being used on a very weak case with no evidence.

Ft Bend DA Drops Charges Against Rosenberg Asst Police Chief 

The Ft Bend DA’s office, the very same office looking to criminalize 15 year old Alec Hunter with no evidence, cites charges have been dropped against Rosenberg Asst Police Chief Tracie Dunn after a grand jury indicted Dunn back in November 2015. Dunn was accused of kicking a handcuffed suspect while at the police station. Ft Bend Prosecutor Scott Carpenter claimed that charges were dropped after the victim refused to move forward in filing charges against Dunn. Of course it is not surprising that the victim didn’t want to press charges against the Asst Chief of Police in fear of retaliation. Fort Bend District Attorney John Healey confirmed that after the victim was located, she claimed in a recorded statement that she remembers nothing that took place after the arrest, and wants nothing more to do with the matter. What is more disturbing is that there was plenty of evidence which to charges and prosecute Dunn. In cases of domestic violence, an individual can file charges on their partner for physical abuse. If the victim chooses to change their mind at a later date and attempt to drop charges, the State will continue to move forward with those charges whether the victim drops the charges or not. Interestingly enough, the Ft Bend DA’s office didn’t deem it necessary to go after a top cop for physical violence although there is enough evidence to prosecute Tracie Dunn. Biased much?

Tracie Dunn, Asst Chief of Police Rosenberg, TX - Charges were dropped by the Ft Bend Co DA's office earlier this month after Dunn was indicted by a grand jury for kicking an inmate who was handcuffed. (Images may be subjected to copyright)
Tracie Dunn, Asst Chief of Police Rosenberg, TX – Charges were dropped by the Ft Bend Co DA’s office earlier this month after Dunn was indicted by a grand jury for kicking an inmate who was handcuffed. (Images may be subjected to copyright)

These two cases is a clear indication of the hypocrisy by the Ft Bend DA’s office. How the DA will carry favor with the Asst Chief of Police who was allowed to get away with violently acting towards a handcuffed inmate. Nonetheless, a black teen who had no idea that he was using a counterfeit bill for his lunch that one day in November, is facing felony charges resulting in a case so weak due to lack of evidence. What we’re seeing is corruption, profiling, and now what seems to be a plan of school to prison pipeline initiated by an individual planting these counterfeit bills in Ft Bend County schools. Instead of the DA and Ft Bend police investigating where these bills are coming from and who is planting these bills, they worry about freeing a violent and oppressive cop who in her position, knows better than to act in that manner. The fact that the police and DA are not interested in finding the responsible parties concerning the fake money, is raising some eyebrows. When you have at least 6 incidents in Ft Bend County which is targeting black youth, that should be a red flag that something is going on and rather than to victimize another black male or female, police should be doing their job to find the responsible party. Or could it be that this is an operation led by police intended to further criminalize black lives? Anything is possible when there is great money to be made by mass incarceration, especially when blacks make up the largest population in the jail and prison system. Obviously this is a weigh in of opinion but when we begin to see black youth targeted over 6 times, each leading to Ft Bend police sending files to the Ft Bend DA’s office to charge these black youths, there is something very wrong here. As silly as my given opinion sounds, the entire case against Alec Hunter is even more silly. It should infuriate tax payers that money is being wasted on a child in this magnitude when the money could be well spent elsewhere.

On May 23rd, 1:30 p.m. we are joining the family of Alec Hunter at the Ft Bend County Courthouse at 1422 Eugene Heimann Circle, Richmond, TX. We want to lend our support to Alec and his family while raising awareness that wrongly criminalizing our black youth will not be tolerated. The DA’s office should be focusing their efforts on others who are true criminals like Tracie Dunn. If the DA can drop charges against an officer who acted violently against a handcuffed female, an incident that’s surely to be repeated in time to come, then the DA could drop the charges against a black teen who has his whole future ahead of him. This young man doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment and the DA along with police only seem to take interest in the charges because he’s black. The Ft Bend County counterfeit statistics to date do not lie. If you’re interested in attending the rally for the Hunter family, please see below:

Alec Hunter meme spread on social media, raising awareness of this frivolous case by the Ft Bend Co DA's office. (Images may be subjected to copyright)
Alec Hunter meme spread on social media, raising awareness of this frivolous case by the Ft Bend Co DA’s office. (Images may be subjected to copyright)

***UPDATE AS OF 10:30 P.M. 5/16/2016: According the ABC13 Houston News, Monday night, board trustees asked if there is space to interject discretion by school administrators before police are called.

Fort Bend Superintendent Charles Dupre previously shot that idea down suggesting police are the experts not school staff.

Police Chief Rider on Monday told school board trustees, “We do not enjoy referring students to the district attorney when they break the law. Arrest is a last resort.”

Tuesday’s meeting was called according to Superintendent Dupre, because “the story has not been told completely.”

Rider claimed abc13’s investigation was inaccurate. We stand by our reporting.

Rider told the board, his department invested 30 cases of forgery since 2013. Of those, seven were forwarded to the district attorney. In some, a suspect is never identified. However whenever a suspect is, police reports identify the suspects as African American or Hispanic. Fort Bend ISD is not unique in that. No white students were identified as suspects in the police reports turned over to abc13 by three Houston-area school police departments (Fort Bend, Houston and Cy-Fair). Demanding a racial breakdown on the forgery suspects Fort Bend ISD School Trustee Addie Heyliger asked Chief Rider, “How or when do we engage the police? Is there an opportunity to stop it before the (police) get involved?”

Chief Rider responded, “From our end of it, the skin color has nothing to do with it.”

Rider acknowledged all seven of the suspects were students of color, but said policy matters are not his decision, “Just as police officers do not get involved in (educational issues), educators do not get involved in police matters.”

Houston Launches Their Own #ByeDevon Campaign Against Harris County D.A.

Houston is one of the largest cities in the county, certainly the largest deemed in the South. It’s said that Houston is known for its diversity, civil manners, but also known for having one of the highest incarceration rates of the county in the country and State.  District Attorney Devon Anderson succeeded her late husband, Mike Anderson, and became Harris County’s District Attorney in September 26, 2013.

#BYEANITA – CHICAGO – REKIA BOYD & LAQUAN MCDONALD HISTORY

Anita Alvarez was elected as Cook County’s District Attorney in 2008. Chicago has been known for many years, to hold a high death rate due to gang violence. However, there are is also a large problem taking place in Cook County: Corruption of the DA’s office and the Chicago Police Dept. In 2012, a young black woman named Rekia Boyd https://twitter.com/hashtag/rekiaboyd?lang=en was murdered by off duty police officer Dante Servin on March 21, 2012. Servin called 911 at 11:49 pm to report a loud party in Douglas Park. Soon after, he approached a group of four people who were walking down an alley and harassed them for talking too loudly. He never identified himself as a police officer. The group turned to leave and Servin fired multiple shots from a 9mm firearm from his car, into the group. One bullet hit Boyd in the back of the head and killed her. DA Alvarez UNDERCHARGED Servin with involuntary manslaughter rather than the much deserved first degree murder. Because the officer was undercharged, Judge Porter had to throw out the case because Judge Porter felt the murder was intentional, which isn’t carried in an involuntary manslaughter charge. Alvarez wanted to carry favor with the Chicago Police Dept and she felt by assisting Servin in this matter, would gain her more friends than foes.

Rekia Boyd murdered March 21, 2012 by Chicago police officer Dante Servin who has yet to be charged adequately in her murder. (Photo may be subjected to copyright)
Rekia Boyd murdered March 21, 2012 by Chicago police officer Dante Servin who has yet to be charged adequately in her murder. (Photo may be subjected to copyright)

Laquan McDonald was a 17 year old black male who was also murdered by Chicago Police, under Anita Alvarez. October 20, 2014 McDonald was reported to have a 3 inch knife and was shot by Chicago officer Jason Van Dyke 16 times in 13 seconds as McDonald was running. Meaning McDonald’s back was facing the officer at a great distance, a distance that couldn’t use the excuse that the officer feared for his life. DA Alvarez ignored pleas to charge the officer accordingly. In fact, it took 13 months for the dash video to be released which clearly shows cold blooded murder by the hands of a police officer whose job it is to protect and serve.

17 Year old Laquan McDonald is murdered by Chicago Officer Jason Van Dyke, shooting McDonald 16 times in 13 seconds from 10 feet away. (Photo may be subjected to copyright)
17 Year old Laquan McDonald is murdered by Chicago Officer Jason Van Dyke, shooting McDonald 16 times in 13 seconds from 10 feet away. (Photo may be subjected to copyright)
17 Year old Laquan McDonald is murdered by Chicago Officer Jason Van Dyke, shooting McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014. (Photo may be subjected to copyright)
17 Year old Laquan McDonald is murdered by Chicago Officer Jason Van Dyke, shooting McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014. (Photo may be subjected to copyright)

By now, among many other issues that transpired in the DA’s office that were left unturned and/or many cases or intentional cover ups, corruption, refusal to go after violent police officers, the black men and women along with activist group,  Assata’s Daughters felt it was time to oust Cook County DA Anita Alvarez in which #ByeAnita was born. Alvarez was initially winning at the polls however after the #ByeAnita campaign launched, months later Anita Alvarez was ousted as DA after serving from 2008 through 2016, replaced by DA Kim Foxx after black lives successfully engaged the public, showing that Alvarez was crooked, filthy, a dirty politician, and most of all, she could no longer be trusted. The same individuals who’ve campaigned Alvarez out of office have echoed their sentiments to the new DA, Kim Foxx, that they will be watching her as well. To date, there are still no charges filed against Officer Dante Servin in the murder of Rekia Boyd.

#BYEDEVON – HOUSTON – JAIL

Harris County is the largest county in the state of Texas. Its also made up of many diversities. However, Blacks, who make up 18 percent of Harris County’s population, account for 48 percent of the jail population, according to charts distributed by the county. Is the county simply saying that Blacks are more prone to act criminally or is there a larger picture here that Houstonian’s are refusing to face. A Houston Chronicle investigation last year found that at any given time, as many as 75 percent of the jail’s 9,000 inmates have not been convicted of any crime but remain behind bars awaiting trial because they can’t afford to get out. (Source: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Jail-reform-tackles-racial-disparities-7247268.php) This is where systematic racism plays a role. Most men who are targeted are those who are non-white, living in poor neighborhoods and are frequently profiled by Houston Police officers. If officers target minorities, using their own discretion to arrest each individual, then most likely that individual coming from the these communities will not be able to afford their own attorney or get bailed out of jail which leaves them in jail until their trial date. So much for innocent until proven guilty. See below statistics:

Harris County Jail Pre Trial Population: 5,655 (66%)

» Number of Pretrial Defendants with Misdemeanor Charges: 380

» Number of Pretrial Defendants with State Jail Charges: 648

» Number of Pretrial Defendants with Felony Charges: 4,627

Average Cost to Harris County Taxpayers to Incarcerate the Entire Harris County Jail Pretrial Population, PER DAY: $333,645

This means we are footing the bill every day in cases of individuals who simply cannot afford to get out of Harris County Jail. Many of those cases are non-violent offenses, also many of them being traffic/driving offenses. However Harris County citizens are forced to pay because we have a District Attorney who refuses to release those who are truly not a threat to society. End result: Devon Anderson is costing us over a quarter of a million dollars daily. This means that we’re paying $121,780,425 annually.

DARREN GOFORTH MURDER – ANDERSON/HICKMAN’S ANTI BLACKLIVESMATTER RHETORIC

The rising of the Black Lives Matter movement, Houston begins taking action, peacefully. (Photo Credit: Burnell McCray - Photo's are subjected to copyright laws)
The rising of the Black Lives Matter movement, Houston begins taking action, peacefully. (Photo Credit: Burnell McCray – Photo’s are subjected to copyright laws)

On August 28, 2015 Harris County Officer Darren Goforth was murdered while pumping gas at a gas station located off of Telge, far Northwest Houston. Goforth was in uniform and was driving his patrol car. Speculations grew however nothing would shock us more than our local city officials hours after Goforth was murdered. Devon Anderson and Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman was out for blood and they did not care who they took down to get it. County officials, especially a top cop and a district attorney, should always study evidence and make sure anything they portray to the public is carefully worded. This didn’t happen the night of August 28th. Anderson and Hickman angrily greeted a room full of media asking questions to what happened in the murder of Goforth. Literally hours after his death, without gaining any substantial proof, Hickman and Anderson began pointing fingers in the direction of #BlackLivesMatter activists/movement. Houston had been hosting their own BLM actions over 12 months by that time. Shortly after they held their press conference, angry citizens who literally assumed BLM activists targeted Officer Goforth in an ambush, took to social media to echo their distaste for those involved in the movement. The majority of individuals who were angered used social media to air their issues with the movement, tossing insults and inaccuracies. Unfortunately, there were a few others who made it their life’s mission to not only target but to share private and personal information of those known in the Houston area for protesting against police violence, literally putting lives in danger due to reckless and harmful rhetoric. To date, Anderson has refused several times, to apologize to BLM activists in the Houston area.

Harris County Devon Anderson, Houston, TX (Images may be subjected to copyright)
Harris County Devon Anderson, Houston, TX (Images may be subjected to copyright)

SOUTHLAWN GANG INJUNCTION & JORDAN BAKER

Jordan Baker was a 26 year old black male, wearing a hoodie, on his bicycle the night he was murdered by Houston Police Officer Juventino Castro in January 2014. Baker did not have a weapon when he was murdered. Instead, Castro cited that Baker reached for his waistband and Castro shot Baker. “Reaching for the waistband” is a code largely used by police officers all over the country so the murdering cops could easily cite that they “feared for their life”. In fact, several former or retired officers have come out, confirming this code, making us aware that this is a taught effort to police officers. Nearly a year after Baker’s murder, a Harris County Grand Jury refused to charge the officer in the murder of Jordan Baker. Many are not aware how the system works when dealing with a grand jury. Grand juries have been known to be made up by former police, city department heads, and other closed door officials. It’s also the job of the prosecutor to give all information to these grand juries so that they may review all the evidence and charge or not charge without prejudice.  All too often, we’ve seen many DA’s and ADA’s not put forth enough evidence when it comes to police, done intentionally so that the officer doesn’t get a grand jury ruling that goes against them. Cops, ADA’s, and judges all work hand in hand. There’s a lot of favors given, a lot of cover-ups, a lot of oversights and purposely turned heads to cater to those who are misusing the system. The same was said in the case against Castro. This is why it’s rare we see an officer receive rightfully deserved charges when acting violent and oppressive. The prosecutor for the county simply doesn’t want to make enemies with the very same people that help them keep their jobs and no one wants the entire police department to turn against them, especially when you’re up for re-election. In Harris County, the last time an HPD officer was charged for a shooting was in March 2004, when Arthur Carbonneau was indicted in the death of 14-year-old Eli Escobar Jr. Carbonneau was convicted of negligent homicide in that case. Houston police officers have been cleared by Harris County grand juries 288+ times for shootings. Most judges in Harris County use a system to impanel grand juries that is discarded by nearly all other states because it can result in grand juries that are not diverse. More than a quarter of the 121 civilians HPD officers have shot in the last five years were unarmed. Most using the excuse that the “suspect” reached for their waistband leaving the officer to fear for their life. This means that under Devon Anderson and under her late husband’s watch when he was DA, that each of them have done nothing to protect citizens against murdering police. In fact it’s largely known that Anderson is a cop apologist no matter the circumstance. How safe should we feel with a DA who caters to oppressive police officers rather than the public she’s to serve?

26 Year old Jordan Baker was profiled and murdered by HPD officer Castro January 2014 (Harris County Devon Anderson, Houston, TX (Images may be subjected to copyright)
26 Year old Jordan Baker was profiled and murdered by HPD officer Castro January 2014 (Harris County Devon Anderson, Houston, TX (Images may be subjected to copyright)

The Southlawn Gang Injunction was implemented by Harris Co DA Devon Anderson and County Attorney Vince Ryan attempting to banish 42 black men from the community of Southlawn that sits south of downtown Houston. First off, it amazes me that two powerful attorney’s are rejecting the Texas Constitution which prohibits banishment of any kind in this state. (Texas Constitution: Article 1, Sec. 20) Anderson and Ryan backdoored the Southlawn community by initiating this case. Each never communicated with the Southlawn community themselves, and each have refused to attend community meetings over this matter after Anderson and Ryan were personally invited so the community could get an explanation. What’s worse is that many Southlawn businesses were listed on the case in favor of the gang injunction however, business owners who were interviewed by community activists were appalled when learning that the DA listed their name without consent. The businesses even claimed that no one from the DA’s office had ever come by to interview and/or confirm their stance. Why would DA Anderson and County Atty Ryan do this to the residents and business owners of the area? There are already laws in place for criminal activity should a specific individual perpetuate violence in that area. What this comes down to is money. If Mike is banished from his home then Mike cannot be home during special holiday’s, birthday’s, not even to take his mother to go vote. Mom will not continue to reside in an area where Mike is no longer allowed. When mom moves, then business is essentially affected. This isn’t something that will take place overnight and the city is aware that this takes time. In the coming years, it will force the area to be largely abandoned, giving free space to greedy land developers who’ve had their eyes on several of Houston’s Wards and other communities surrounding the downtown area. This is called gentrification. This takes place when a community is bullied/profiled by police and city officials so much so that they give up and move out. Soon you see these townhome structures built so tightly together, each costing $300k and more, turning these once own black communities into a largely unaffordable white upscale community, shredding any and all black history in the area as gentrification has been done in Third Ward.

Anderson and Ryan couldn’t care less about the Southlawn community, much less any poor community in Houston, and definitely do not care about black or brown individuals. If Anderson is so worried about crime, then maybe she should focus on those who are currently sitting in county jail on non-violent charges, release those individuals then focus on real criminals in Houston, INCLUDING MURDERING COPS! Harris Co Jail has been overcrowded so much that outsourcing inmates has been initiated to wing off the overflow rather than releasing the non-violent offenders. Anderson has proven herself to be a tool, arrogant, and definitely not a friend to the black and brown communities. There’s a reason why she’ll charge an individual with a felony drug charge if they have TRACE EVIDENCE of crack on them, however if you have trace evidence of cocaine, you’ll only be charged with a misdemeanor. We all know that crack is prevalent in black communities while cocaine is prevalent in white communities.

#ByeDevon Campaign (Images may be subjected to copyright))
#ByeDevon Campaign (Images may be subjected to copyright))

These are many of the reasons we want to say #ByeDevon. We will continue to push for Anderson to be ousted come November. What has been presented to you is only a fraction of what Anderson has done to serve her own agenda or the agenda of those who have funded/elected her in the past, while failing the public over and over again, especially the black community. 48 percent of blacks making up the jail population is not good and here we have a DA who claims to be fair and impartial. If we are successful in the #ByeDevon campaign, we also want to make aware to the new DA that we will be watching just as closely. It’s time to turn the page in Harris County. You can link to us here:

https://www.facebook.com/ByeDevon-127127871023178/

Stay tuned for more actions to come.

(The #ByeDevon campaign is not initiated by Black Lives Matter alone, but represents groups of all origins, cultures, diversities, etc, in the Houston area.)

Houston Protests Heat Up As Activists Align For Police Accountability

 

Houston is known as one of the most diverse cities above being the energy capital of the world. However as diverse as the city is, there is an ugly truth that has been lingering for over 10-years in Harris County. Houston’s Harris County has not indicted a police officer for murder since 2004. This includes the numerous unarmed murders that have proceeded by Houston Police Officers and Harris County Constables. Most recently the Jordan Baker case is being reviewed by a Houston Grand Jury as a decision has not been made. The Grand Jury will reconvene on Thursday at 9 a.m. Baker was a 26-year-old unarmed black man who was gunned down by a Houston Police Officer in January 2014. The Grand Jury review comes at the heels of a global outbreak of protests against police brutality and police who abuse their power yet are rarely held responsible for their illegal actions. Houston has been hosting police brutality protests for years now however recently, the Galleria area has been a hotspot for activists and participants to focus their energies.

Houston protesters gather in the Galleria area urging for change in the lack of police accountability across the nation (Photo Credit: Burnell McCray)
Houston protesters gather in the Galleria area urging for change in the lack of police accountability across the nation (Photo Credit: Burnell McCray)

How Many Is Too Many In Death?

On August 9, 2014, unarmed Michael Brown was gunned down by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. On November 24, 2014 a Grand Jury no-billed officer Wilson. On August 5, 2014, John Crawford was in a Dayton, Ohio Walmart where he was shot to death by police officers due to a call made to 911 indicating that a black man was inside the Walmart branding a gun. That gun turned out to be a BB gun sold by that particular Walmart and Crawford was never a threat. The officers involved in that shooting were later cleared of any charges. Weeks later it was determined that the 911 caller lied about Crawford and has yet to be held liable for his role in Crawford’s death. On November 22, 2014, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was playing at a local park in Cleveland, Ohio when he was murdered by police in less than 2-seconds. Rice was playing with his toy BB gun when officers quickly pulled up and in less than 2-seconds, shot Rice to death. Video footage of the incident went viral and fueled further outrage of this nonsense killing of a child who was at a park, doing what children do. The individual who called 911 had strongly indicated that the gun that Rice was playing with was most likely a toy gun. Even with that information, cops still murdered a child which was recently ruled a homicide. There have been no charges filed against the officers responsible for Rice’s death. On July 17, 2014 Eric Garner of Staten Island, NY was murdered by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo who was later no-billed in Garner’s murder even though the murder was caught on video and the death was ruled a homicide. A twist to the incident is that the individual who filmed the footage of Garner’s death was recently indicted on a weapons charge. It is strongly suggested that the amateur video host was targeted by the NYPD. On November 20, 2014 unarmed Akai Gurley was murdered by an NYPD rookie Peter Liang after claiming to be “spooked” by Gurley in an unlit stairway. He called it an “accidental shooting”. As of December 6, 2014, a Grand Jury began their hearing on the case and to date there has not been a decision made. In November 2013, Alfred Wright turned up missing in Jasper, Texas, a city that is known for KKK activities and host several KKK cells. Wrights body was found with his eyes gouged, his tongue ripped out and his body tortured in ways that cannot be imagined. It is believed that Wright was a victim of a hate crime which isn’t surprising when we’re talking about East Texas. Since his body was found, authorities have not been compliant in resolving this murder, refusing to run a proper investigation from State Rangers to County authorities which have doing all they can to protect the true murder(s) of Wright. Protests led by the New Black Panther Party were staged in Jasper as they called for an investigation to Wrights death which continues to fall on deaf ears. As of August 2014, the New Black Panther Party demanded the release of Shane Hadnot, calling him a “scapegoat” according to Beaumont Enterprise dot com after being federally indicted. Seeing how little to no effort Texas authorities have given and knowing the dark history of the FBI, most likely Hadnot is the fall guy for Wrights murder and the true party responsible will most likely never be held liable for his death. Then we cross over to Trayvon Martin who was murdered by George Zimmerman who was working security detail the night that Martin was killed. Zimmerman had been found “not guilty” but has since arrogantly paraded around the country toting a weapon and acting aggressively towards individuals including his ex-wife which he pulled a gun to her head and threatened to kill her.

When you begin to combine the murders in recent months, it is heart wrenching to learn that in all cases, each individual involved in the murder have had zero accountability. Each walk away knowing they have killed a man with little concern of how others are impacted, especially the families. When you look at the big picture, you begin to look at statistics to see an even bigger problem we face in America: every 28-hours a black man is killed by a cop. Nationally, African Americans are arrested three times more frequently than their white counterparts. USA Today reports: According to University of South Carolina criminologist Geoff Alpert, to this day, there exists no national record of the number of civilians killed by the police — and of course, no complete racial breakdown of this information.

Said Alpert to USA Today:

“We’ve been trying [to get this information] for years, but nobody wanted to fund it and the (police) departments didn’t want it. They were concerned with their  image and liability.They don’t want to bother with it.”

Why do police agencies across the nation not want a national database that would keep up with real-time statistics? Maybe because these statistics would act as record keeping that would prove that we truly have police agencies that act in racial profiling including police who kill based on race alone. There are tons of reports and stories of minorities who have been victims of police harassment due to racial profiling at least once in their life. While we call on cops to protect and serve, many cops are out violating rights of citizens just because they know they can get away with it. Police departments are usually backed by police unions that are even more corrupt than your typical rogue cop. We’ve seen several unions come forward in defense of cops who kill, rape, violate, harass, set up and wrongly incarcerate individuals and more.

Houston has hosted several protests since the murder of Mike Brown from the Galleria area to 3rd Ward. Each protest continues to grow in great numbers. People are fed up with the biased justice system, lack of accountability, but most of all, because people are being murdered and the justice system continues to send a message to the world that in the United States if you have a badge and a gun, you are free to do whatever you’d like, which includes taking a life without consequences. Houston activists have been working feverishly to ensure that participants have a platform to voice their outrage of the obvious racist and biased system. In the background there have been strategy meetings, full on confrontations with local police and Houston City Council, engaging communities with the hopes of obtaining applications for grand jury participants and shutting down many stores in the Galleria Mall on December 6, 2014. Since then, Simon Properties (who is a publicly traded company) who are the property managers of the Galleria Mall, the 6th largest mall in the nation, have tossed out legal threats to Galleria protest organizers and subsequently spend quite bit of money on having professional signs made that indicated that if any protester enter the Galleria Mall itself or their parking lot, that each would be arrested and prosecuted for trespassing. These signs were posted everywhere outside the Galleria Mall. A few entrances to the mall were gated and locked as the 2nd week of protests ensued on December 13, 2014. Although protesters never entered the mall, they did manage to tie up traffic in several parts of the Galleria area. Several arrests were made on December 13th after Houston Police Officers refused individuals from crossing the street at a cross walk. Two people got tangled in the confrontation between protesters and cops which led to a wrongful arrest. Not that any arrests were valid. We’re talking about peaceful protesters and a very aggressive police force which the Houston Police Dept is known for. One woman who was arrested was seen lifted by her long hair by a officer on a horse then dragged her to the sidewalk with force. Two male protesters were choked each by a Houston Police Officer in that same confrontation. One photo showed where an officers hand is gripping the throat of a protester with force. Moments before this took place, several individuals overheard officers saying “I’m gonna get me one of them today,” “If they don’t like us then maybe they shouldn’t mess with us”.

Several Houston activists are arrested by Houston Police Officers on December 13, 2014 (Photo Credit: Burnell McCray)
Several Houston activists are arrested by Houston Police Officers on December 13, 2014 (Photo Credit: Burnell McCray)

Which brings me back to a time where a Ferguson Solidarity protest was held in 3rd Ward back in August 2014 where protest participants overheard an officer on his horse recite, “Why don’t we just use the horses on them” as the other officer laughed off the statement. Moments later, three female Houston activists were assaulted by the very same horses participating in the action that day, led by Houston Police Officers. Another concerning and aggressive Houston officer who has been leading officers at the recent anti-police brutality protests is an officer we call Officer Peach Skull. You can usually see him toting a bullhorn, yelling and threatening protesters. He offers no peace in these protests and definitely isn’t looking to bridge the gap between the common people and the police force. He, along with police officers across the nation do not seem to understand that there needs to be a level of trust initiated. Houston protests have been nothing but peaceful all along however Officer Peach Skull and a number of his fellow officers treat peaceful protesters as if they are criminals or hold criminal intent. I myself have been a victim to Officer Peach Skull’s threats. The December 13th protest held at the corner of Westheimer and Post Oak led to hundreds of protesters stuck on one corner. As protesters attempted to cross the street to gain more visibility, I noticed that when the cross walk became available for individuals to cross the street legally, Peach Skull and a few officers prevented protesters from crossing the street for at least 5-seconds then would allow individuals to walk through. Of course participants would find themselves still trying to cross the street when the time ran out on the crosswalk when Officer Peach Skull would get on his blow horn and begin yelling and threatening protesters for being in the street illegally. I quickly confronted him on his actions which led to threats led by Peach Skull and his clique. I was more than willing to go to jail if it meant calling him on his tactic. Once I made it clear to all surrounding officers, local news media, and protesters held at the corner of his tactic, the officers began to allow the protesters to walk the crosswalk the moment it was deemed legal to walk.

If the Houston Police Department wants to earn the trust of the many, they might want to start with local activists who come in peace and while the majority might be passionately vocal concerning police abuse, not one protester has acted in violence nor have any protesters acted criminally. There is no reason for Houston officers to get their kicks on antagonizing participants of these anti-police brutality protests. These peaceful protesters are fighting for a better community in the hopes that these murders led by police officers will be held accountable. That officer will not be allowed to abuse their power. That officers cannot simply use horses against activists, or pull/drag women by their hair or choke activists just because they can. That officers cannot use tactics which can essentially get good people arrested because an officer isn’t playing fair.

Houston Galleria - Black Lives Matter - Protesters gather in the Galleria area spreading social awareness  (Photo Credit: Burnell McCray)
Houston Galleria – Black Lives Matter – Protesters gather in the Galleria area spreading social awareness (Photo Credit: Burnell McCray)

The Galleria protests will continue Saturday, December 20, 2014 at Hines Park, Wall of Water as a meeting place at noon. The key is to continue to spread social awareness by any means necessary. Those who’ve been participating in local protests have no intention of backing down and are looking to keep the momentum as the movement continues to sweep America. If you’re interested in participating in Saturday’s action, you can link the Facebook event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1509678505972362

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mayor Parker’s Real War on the Homeless

Roughly 100 - 200 individuals have participated with a food sharing group located in downtown Houston.
Roughly 100 – 200 individuals have participated with a food sharing group located in downtown Houston.

 

July 2014 will mark two years since the City of Houston implemented one of the most unpopular city ordinances in Houston’s history: the Anti-Food Sharing Ordinance. In this ordinance, groups and individuals are not allowed to feed 5 or more people in a public space without special permission from Mayor Annise Parker’s office. Failure to follow the ordinance can land a person with a $2,000 fine and/or jail time. This ordinance was petitioned by 33,000 Houston voters and followed by hundreds of homeless advocates, volunteers and individuals who pleaded with Mayor Parker and City Council to throw out this inhumane ordinance. My personal dealings with Mayor Parker was usually followed by the rolling of her eyes at me and sarcastic statements she’d offer as a rebuttal to my plea. It always amazed me that a person of her profession and a person who was supposed to be for the people, would never answer me directly. Her manners were very high school like. Fast forward to 2014 where the anti-food sharing ordinance is still a hot topic and a discussion which Mayor Parker cannot escape. Mayor Parker was interviewed on NPR Houston Matters on 3/31/2014 which questions were asked of the Mayor concerning the feeding ordinance. Below is a rundown of her responses and rebuttals about the ordinance. I will insert my feedback in parenthesis so that we can stay on course.

Mayor Parker was interviewed on NPR (Houston Matters – 3/31/14)

1) She claims that sharing food with the homeless keeps them homeless and “encourages” homelessness…  At the same time that she claims to want to improve options for nourishment for homeless in the city.

(Let’s look at improving the nourishment for the homeless in the city. Is this why Star of Hope Women and Children’s Shelter was known to serve inadequate foods which included undercooked rice, undercooked chicken, expired canned goods, day old bread and milk that was on the verge of expiring. Certainly not milk with an expiration date weeks away like you’d get at your local grocery store. Here you have the Director of Star of Hope whose salary is over a quarter of a million dollars annually but we cannot provide healthy and well-cooked food to those who are in need? Not to mention the MILLIONS IN FEDERAL FUNDING that is offered to homeless initiatives. Mayor Parker has not produced one document that would indicate that food sharing among volunteer groups and/or individuals had gotten any homeless individual sick or hospitalized. In fact the issue was brought up directly to the Mayor by myself and a few volunteers requesting the city’s data that would back up the Mayor’s claim. To date, Mayor Parker has yet to produce evidence that there is a nourishment concern when it comes to volunteer food sharing groups or individuals. I strongly recommend that if Mayor Parker is truly concerned about nourishment of the homeless, then she might want to start with city shelters. She’s been made aware of the conditions at Star of Hope. She’s yet to check on those conditions at that shelter to date. Is Mayor Parker truly concerned about nourishment of the homeless?)

2) She continues to claim that food sharing groups (she identified churches and FNB (Food Not Bombs) — specifically FNB, the only group identified by name) are being redundant, and wasting resources and overlapping efforts while others go hungry because we do not submit to City coordination – the mechanism for which she never specified.

(Interesting take Mayor Parker. Many homeless that I encounter tell me that they don’t usually get to eat until food sharing groups or individuals come out and donate food to those in need. The homeless would rather starve than to go to city shelters and eat. I think that is a huge red flag for the city. I’ve also asked Mayor Parker for data to back up her statement about the wasted resources brought on by volunteer groups like Food Not Bombs and she has none. Go figure!)

3) She completely sidesteps First Amendment issues of freedom of assembly and religion.

(I think this statement should stand alone. It’s obvious and evident.)
4) She claims to have reduced homelessness in Houston by 25%. Details not specified.

(Now this is something that really boils my blood. First off, the city implements “Homeless Counts” annually in collaboration with the Homeless Coalition. In 2013, myself and a rather decently sized group wanted to see for ourselves whether this homeless count was truly taking place or was it an effort by the Mayor’s Office and the Homeless Coalition to alter some numbers on paper for the sake of millions of dollars in federal funding. Well, myself and two others went to the locations downtown and found no evidence of a count taking place. Other chimed in later in the night from Southwest Houston to South Houston to North Houston that at those locations that the Homeless Coalition provided, homeless counts were not proceeding there either. I was also made aware by a volunteer worker of the Salvation Army that a lot of data obtained is data these shelters have in place already. Information that can be old and/or altered. I never once saw one person initiating a homeless count and neither did my comrades. The Mayor concludes that she was able to bring homelessness down by 25%. When I learned of this “new information” last year, I consistently asked Mayor Parker’s office for evidence of the decrease. To date, Mayor Annise Parker’s office had NOT been able to provide me with the data… again. I also asked for the data via the Homeless Coalition which I was not given the data as well.)

 

What we have here is a politician (Mayor Parker) dancing around the questions as she famously tends to do when she cannot answer the question honestly. We have a Mayor who likes to recite a lot of assumed “knowledge” of issues concerning the homeless and volunteers/volunteer groups but does not have any hard data to back up her claims. This isn’t a case of a circumstance that became an issue yesterday. This has been an issue for over two years now yet the Mayor cannot submit any actual proof behind what she says. If people pay close attention to politics, then it is easy to see that the bottom line here is money. Big oil companies and builders are located in the downtown area which the city calls the “downtown district”. Face it, no one wants to deal with the pesky homeless person begging passerby’s for money hence now the city has made it illegal to panhandle. No one wants to see a bunch of poor people lining up to eat food made by volunteers hence the reason the city made it illegal to feed the homeless. People don’t want to see homeless people resting on public property hence the reason why the Houston Police Department’s harassment, citations and arrests of the homeless is now at an all-time high. Homeless Advocates like myself and others have become targets of the Houston Police Dept’s harassment and then there are infiltrators who’ve inserted themselves in the lives of well known activists only to issue report backs to the Mayor’s office. This is what we are faced with in Houston today. How great would it be to completely remove the homeless from the downtown region and satisfy “stakeholders” altogether? How can the city make this happen? Easy. Throw a bunch of money into campaigns and add some kickbacks…  In return, the Mayor initiates ludicrous ordinances such as this. Recall I said that this is about money. Profit before people. Making money off the poor. All the above specifies the obvious and through today, Mayor Annise Parker still cannot issue honest feedback on why she is attacking the homeless.

Information gathered by an interview on Houston Matters 3/31/2014

http://www.houstonmatters.org/segments/segment-a/2014/03/31/mayor-parker-answers-your-questions

SW Houston Apartment Tenant: Can I please have my front door back?

(Photo Credit: Johnny Hanson / Houston Chronicle )
Jacqueline Greene and her three children were forced to live in their home where in Southwest Houston, management of Villa de Cancun removed her front door for late payment on rent. The single mother and three children were without a front door for three days, putting the family in danger of criminal acts and endurance of Houston’s recent frigid temperatures.

December 13, 2013 – Houston, TX: Single mother, Jacqueline Greene and her three children who reside at Villa de Cancun Apartments, 9400 block of Woodfair in Southwest Houston, risked criminal dangers and endure the cold temps for three days, this because Greene was late on her rent payment. Management at Villa de Cancun removed her front door due to the late payment of rent. The Houston Chronicle first broke the story last week and the story has since, been gaining traction.

To give a legal insight of Renters Rights per the Texas Attorney General Website concerning landlord/tenant relationships which include late/non-payment of rent and security, under Texas law, a dwelling must be equipped with security devices such as window latches, keyed dead bolts on exterior doors, sliding door pin locks and sliding door handle latches or sliding door security bars, and door viewers.

The Texas Property Code, Title 8 Ch. 92 Sec. 92.0081 also recites: a) A landlord may not remove a door, window, or attic hatchway cover or a lock, latch, hinge, hinge pin, doorknob, or other mechanism connected to a door, window, or attic hatchway cover from premises leased to a tenant or remove furniture, fixtures, or appliances furnished by the landlord from premises leased to a tenant unless the landlord removes the item for a bona fide repair or replacement.

While the management is quickly removing front doors of tenants who have been late on rental payments, it seems that the owner of Villa de Cancun, Jaikishin Bhagia, is in a bit of legal trouble himself concerning the very same property. In July, the Greater Sharpstown Management District sued Woodfair for five years of back taxes and penalties, from 2007 to 2012, amounting to more than $19,000, Harris County District Court records show. To date, the suit has not been settled. According to Houston Chronicle analysis, Villa de Cancun generated the second-highest number of calls to Houston’s apartment complaint line this year of the first 15 months of records.

The rundown complex of 329 apartment units was the subject of a city “habitability investigation” last year. In May, the owners received a notice of administrative violations with a $63,000 fine. An attempt was made to reach out to Bhagia, but was unavailable for comment. Meanwhile, as Bhagia sits on $19,000 in unpaid taxes and $63,000 in fines, we were able to obtain a satellite image of Bhagia’s 6,921 square-foot home located in West Houston.

(Google Maps)
Jaikishin Bhagia, property owner of Villa de Cancun, owns this lavish West Houston home who is behind 5-years on property taxes in excess of $19,000. Bhagia is accused of removing the front doors of tenants who are late in paying rent, violating the Texas Property Code.

Joshua Baker of Alief Homeless Outreach Project and a Houston activist first reached out via social media concerning this story.

“She owed money, I understand this, but there are legal avenues you can take to evict the tenant. Taking the front door is not it. They left three young kids in harms way,” says Baker.

This has local activists outraged. Several whom made calls to Villa de Cancun where a young woman answered the calls and expressed that the accusations were utterly untrue. The same woman declined further information and later refused to answer calls made to the complex later in the day. On social media, discussions of this case have left an upward of 200-comments entirely over the situation. Not everyone is supportive of Greene or other tenants who have been victims of these illegal management practices.

“I also think that its not a bad idea to remove doors from tenants who abuse the system, who enjoy the fact that it takes months to evict, and they thrive how smart they are and that they can get away with it.” – Igor Khaykin, Facebook

(Photo Credit: Johnny Hanson, Houston Chronicle)
Greene’s front door completely removed for late payment on rent at SW Houston’s Villa de Cancun Apartments located in the Sharpstown area.

At least three tenants have come forward citing that the management of Villa de Cancun have removed their front doors when they were late in paying rent.

Houston activists will be meeting on Sunday to discuss further action against Villa de Cancun and Jaikishin Bhagia. Residents are welcomed and strongly encouraged to participate. Activists want to send a message to Villa de Cancun and Bhagia that you cannot just go removing front doors due to late or lack of rental payments. Villa de Cancun and Bhagia have a right to utilize the courts to exercise use of the law when a tenant does not pay rent. These laws are outlined by the Texas Property Codes. According to these Codes, Bhagia is in violation of at least two of the Codes and in the least, putting a family in danger as well as their legal troubles with the City of Houston and the Harris County Tax Office. This is why it is imperative that residents get involved and most of all, understand their Renters Rights.

Note from the Writer:

When I first heard this story the night of December 12th, I immediately got upset as I thought to myself, “here’s another act of property management taking things too far and not being held legally responsible for their illegal actions.” Understanding that non-payment of rent does not give the tenant rights to their unit however after further research, I concluded that Villa de Cancun did not take the legal steps needed to evict the young mother of three children. You simply cannot remove the front door to the unit, leaving the family in danger. The Sharpstown area is not the safest of area’s in Houston. In the month of September, 81 calls were made to the Houston Police Department concerning crimes taking place in the vicinity where Greene and her children reside. Bhagia clearly had no concern for the safety of Greene’s family. What is more disturbing, Greene attempted to pay partial rent however the management demanded the balance in full. Greene was eventually given her front door but there is still concern that the management will return and remove the door at any time, for any tenant who is late in paying rent.

**If you or someone you know is having trouble with their apartment management and would like to know about the Texas Property Codes and/or their Renters Rights, please share this information:

http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/PR/htm/PR.92.htm

Credit:
Remington A – Research & Public Record findings
Houston Chronicle, Cindy George & Johnny Hanson
Google Maps
Texas Attorney General
Texas Statutes & Property Codes
http://www.houstontx.gov/police/cs/stats2013