Police Custody Victim Freddie Gray Mourned In Public Wake

BALTIMORE (AP) — Mourners filed for hours Sunday past the coffin of the man who died after sustaining serious injuries in the custody of Baltimore police, somberly paying respects after a night of violent protests.

All afternoon, a steady stream of people entered the funeral home for a wake for Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died a week after an encounter with police left him with grave spinal injuries.

Mourners passed by Gray's silk-draped, white coffin where he lay dressed in a white shirt, black pants, white sneakers and an all-white Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap.

Above the lid to the coffin was a floral arrangement and inside the lid was a pillow with a screen-printed picture of Gray flanked by doves and the quote, “Peace, Y'all” at the bottom edge.

Mourners also gathered outside the funeral home, Vaughn Green East. Some held up signs that read, “We remember Freddie” and “Our Hearts Are With The Gray Family.”

Melissa McDonald, 36, who said she was Gray's cousin, wore a shirt with “Freddie Forever” printed on the back. She described her cousin as a nonviolent person.

“He didn't deserve to die the way he did,” she said.

Several mourners like Tina Covington, 46, said they didn't know the family but came to express their condolences. Covington said she has a son near Gray's age.

“It hits home. It really does. It's a reality check,” said Covington, whose son is 27.

Covington said that “there is something going on in the police department that needs to change.”

Gray's funeral is planned for Monday.

At a church service earlier Sunday, Pastor Jamal Bryant told churchgoers, including members of Gray's family, at Empowerment Temple AME Church that “somebody is going to have to pay” for Gray's death.

Bryant told churchgoers that if ...read more

Obama Has Fun At The Expense Of Friends, Foes At White House Correspondent’s Dinner [WATCH]

WASHINGTON (AP) — A presidential election just getting into gear provided President Barack Obama plenty of new material to work with on the night he describes as Washington celebrating itself.

“It's amazing how time flies,” Obama told those attending the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents' Association on Saturday night. “Soon, the first presidential contest will take place, and I for one cannot wait to see who the Koch brothers pick. It's exciting.”

Obama added: “Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker … who will finally get that red rose?”

On the Democratic side, Obama observed that Hillary Rodham Clinton kicked things off by going unrecognized to Chipotle. Meanwhile, he said, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley went completely unrecognized at an O'Malley campaign event.

Taking a playful poke at himself and at Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is considering a bid, Obama said: “Apparently, some folks want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House. We could get a third Obama term after all.”

The dinner also gave the president an opportunity to rib some of his loudest critics.

“Just this week Michele Bachmann actually predicted that I would bring about the biblical end of days. Now, that's a legacy,” he said. “That's big. I mean, Lincoln, Washington, they didn't do that.”

The correspondents' dinner brings in some big names from Hollywood. Some of the cast members from the TV series “Black-ish” attended, and Obama said he had to give ABC fair warning about the show. “Being black-ish only makes you popular for so long,” he said. “Trust me, there's a shelf life to that thing.”

Of course, he had to give a shout-out to his health care law.

“Today, thanks to Obamacare, you no longer have to worry about losing your insurance, if you lose your job,” he ...read more

Small Group Of #FreddieGray Protestors Turns Violent; Media Immediately Sensationalizes It [VIDEO]

After hours of peaceful protesting in Baltimore Saturday, where hundreds of people marched through the streets to contest the death of Freddie Gray, a small group of protestors clashed with police, leading reports of “violence” and “chaos” to flood the media.

According to reports, for much of the day, there were no incidents. But around 6 p.m., a small group damaged property, including police cars, and shop windows, and looted stores after a huge confrontation with police in riot gear, who tried to halt the protestors from continuing on.

CNN reported that the moment the march was halted by a line of cops was the exact moment the calm walk erupted into a war zone. Soon confusion and anger took over the streets.

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Texas House Votes To Deregulate Natural Hair Braiders

Ending what has turned out to be a nearly two decade fight, on late Thursday, the Texas House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass a bill that would deregulate natural hair braiding, the latest shot in a culture war that had very real consequences for those who made their living practicing the ancient art of hair braiding.

As it stood before the HB 2717 was passed, braiders had to comply with a variety of regulations including going to barber or cosmetology schools, completing a government-approved 35-hour hair braiding course and obtaining a state license or risk being arrested.

Unfortunately, there was no barber college for hair braiding in the state, and so the Institute for Justice and Isis Brantley posed a constitutional challenge by to Texas' law in 2013, and a federal court struck down the law in January.

Isis Brantley has been at the fore of this fight for nearly 20 years. In 1997, seven government officials raided Brantley's business and hauled her off in handcuffs for braiding hair without a special government license. Brantely, owner of the Institute of Ancestral Braiding and founder of the Naturally Isis Natural Hair Parade and Festival helped change that law in 2007, but Texas officials simply wedged hair braiding into the state's barbering and cosmetology statutes, which made it nearly impossible for her to teach hair braiding for a living, according to The Institute for Justice.

Says The Institute in Their Braiding Freedom Initiative:

Since the advent of hair braiding more than 5,000 years ago, it has been a simple and safe practice that government has no business regulating. African-style hair braiding uses no dyes or chemicals, and it is safe for braiders to perform and safe for the people getting their hair braided. But in most states, if you want to braid hair for ...read more

DNC Picks Minority & LGBT-Owned Businesses As Convention Housing Providers

The Democratic National Committee has selected minority and LGBT-owned companies to serve as housing providers for the 2016 convention in Philadelphia, according to a statement released to NewsOne.

Akintayo Management Group (AMG), run by president and CEO Tina Akintayo, will team up with EventSphere (EVS), which is run by president and CEO Todd Lambert, to provide housing services for the convention, DNC spokesman Michael Tyler says in the release. Both companies are based in Atlanta, Ga.

“Our project management infused housing platform has been beneficial to many clients since our union,” reads the companies' biography that accompanies the statement.

AMG will be responsible for mapping out housing at the 2016 DNC, while EVS will oversee delivery of services, Tyler says. The two companies previously oversaw the convention's housing program in 2008 and 2012, as well as the 2013 presidential inauguration.

The two companies became strategic partners in 2010 after working during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

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Chicago Sued Over Police Department’s Stop & Frisk Tactics

Chicago police routinely violate the constitutional rights of mostly African-Americans who have not committed any crime, according to a federal lawsuit filed this week, reports the Chicago Tribune.

The allegation comes in a suit filed on behalf of six African-American men from the South and West Sides and seeks class-action status against the city, police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and 14 unnamed police officers, the report says.

The suit follows New York City‘s plans to reform public housing stop and frisk procedures; public housing residents filed a class action lawsuit against the city over questionable stops and arrests in housing projects by NYPD officers.

The change in New York City was sparked after a rookie cop accidentally shot and killed Akai Gurley in East New York's Pink Houses late last year. Officer Peter Liang was patrolling a dark stairwell in the area when he claims Gurley startled him coming down.

From the Chicago Tribune:

The 36-page lawsuit alleged that the “suspicionless” street stops have led to constitutional abuses including unlawful searches and seizures as well as excessive force…

The suit referenced a March report by the American Civil Liberties Union that found African-Americans were stopped at a disproportionately higher rate than Hispanics and whites, especially in predominantly white neighborhoods. African-Americans were subjected to 182,048 stops, 72 percent of all stops, yet constituted 32 percent of the city's population…

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Additional Footage Of Freddie Gray’s Arrest Surfaces, Police Call Protests A ‘Lynch Mob’

In the midst of protests and backlash against the Baltimore Police Department after the death of Freddie Gray, another witness video has emerged.

The new video shows the police van stopped just a block from the arrest site, reports CNN. Police stopped to re-restrain Gray after he was heard screaming in pain.

The original video shows Gray with his legs dragging as police officers take him into a police van. An autopsy previously showed that Gray's legs weren't broken, but his spine and voice box were severely crushed.

So far, only five of the six arresting officers have been suspended. On Wednesday, the suspended officers provided statements to investigators and insisted that force was never used in the arrest.

The officers' names were released, including their starting years:

-Lt. Brian Rice, 41, who joined the department in 1997

-Officer Caesar Goodson, 45, who joined in 1999

-Sgt. Alicia White, 30, who joined in 2010

-Officer William Porter, 25, who joined in 2012

-Officer Garrett Miller, 26, who joined in 2012

-Officer Edward Nero, 29, who joined in 2012

Michael Davey, an attorney for one of the officers, defended his client by claiming Gray's actions gave the police probable cause to arrest him.

“There is a Supreme Court case that states that if you are in a high-crime area, and you flee from the police unprovoked, the police have the legal ability to pursue you, and that's what they did,” he said. “In this type of an incident, you do not need probable cause to arrest. You just need a reasonable suspicion to make the stop.”

The new video comes after Kevin Moore, a friend of Gray's who filmed the incident, spoke out about the arrest. Speaking with the Baltimore Sun, the 28-year-old says he pulled out his phone on the day of April 12 to catch the arrest.

“Once I got ...read more

Tulsa Reserve Deputy Who Fired Gun Instead Of Taser Was Probed Over Conduct In 2009

A 73-year-old Tulsa, Oklahoma reserve deputy who killed a man earlier this month when he fired a gun instead of a Taser was the subject of an investigation over questions about his training and conduct, CBS News has learned.

Robert Bates has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter charges in the death of Eric Harris, saying he shot and killed Harris by mistake on April 2 when he inserted himself into a weapons investigation.

Since then, various reports have emerged that call his law enforcement training into question and even allege that the Tulsa Sheriff's Office forged his training records.

Now, CBS News has learned that in 2009, the Tulsa Sheriff's Office launched an internal investigation to find out if Bates received special treatment during training and while working as a reserve deputy. Officials also investigated whether supervisors pressured training officers on Bates' behalf, the report says.

CBS News reports:

The investigation concluded Bates' training was questionable and that he was given preferential treatment.

The investigation found that deputies voiced concerns about Bates' behavior in the field, almost from the very beginning. Bates reportedly used his personal car while on duty and made unauthorized vehicle stops. When confronted Bates said that he could do what he wanted, and that anyone who had a problem with him should go see the sheriff.

...read more

Winning The Battle, Continuing The War by Janaye Ingram

Source: The Washington Post / Getty

In the Senate Gallery, the section above the floor of the United States Senate, there was a raucous, involuntary roar as the vote was read confirming Loretta Lynch as the 83rd Attorney General for the United States and the first Black woman to be named to the post. Forgetting proper chamber decorum, the anxious crowd could not contain their enthusiasm. As the crowds spilled out into the hallways when the vote was over, there was a continued clamor in the halls of the Senate to celebrate Loretta Lynch's confirmation, but also that she surpassed the slim margin that would have made history as the lowest possible confirmation vote for an Attorney General nominee with 51 votes.

The celebrations continued through the halls and onto the steps of the Capitol. Smiles, laughter and joy cut through the cold wind. And while we should be celebrating this moment, we should also be reminded that the battle may be won, but the war is not over.

As I sat in the office of Texas Senator John Cornyn in the days leading up to the vote, I was reminded how far we have to go, not only as a nation as a whole, but also as individual states which make up that nation. A photo of all of the Senators representing the State of Texas showed no racial minorities, apart from Senator Ted Cruz, who, though ethnically is half-Cuban, is racially still considered White. Yet the state struggles with voter laws that have not only been found to be disenfranchising, but down right discriminatory. When the Chief Counsel of the Committee on the Judiciary, a committee overseen by Senator Cornyn, was asked if the Senator would make voting rights a priority and take on the responsibility that the Supreme Court placed ...read more