More Naked Jailings

Chuck0's picture

by Lorenzo Komboa Ervin

The last time I was talking about naked jailings of prisoners, it was about Kalamazoo, a city of 85,000 people in Southwest Michigan. Over 25 cases were discovered by racist cops in this city, and it has caused an outrage that has still not subsided. It has caused the hiring of another police chief, and reshuffling of the political deck in local politics, but little else. The cops sheepishly still claim to have done this as an "accident" or an attempt to "stop a suicide", which makes no sense whatsoever. Nobody has been punished, and although the ex-prisoners have sued in federal court, they have not been compensated.

Lorenzo Komboa Ervin

I suspected, but little did I know, that other cities had such problems. And then I read a Janauary 14th Associated Press article, which stated that the city of New York was settling a multi-million dollar civil rights lawsuit against Mayor Rudolph Guiliani and the City of New York, the Chief of Police, and other defendants for $50 million to atone for the naked jailings of over 60,000 New Yorkers, the majority of whom were Black, Brown or Asian. The incidents happened during a 10-month period (1996-1997), after Guiliani issued a decree for punishment of a number of "quality of life" offenses directed at the poor and homeless.

What is going on here? Why would someone in their right mind want to jail a person naked? First it's class warfare by the rich against the poor and workers. And, it's a form of torture and humiliation of poor people and racial minorities by white racist authorities. Not being content with just locking us up they now have to try to break us with brutual physical and mental torture.

If we look at this like the violation of human rights that it is, we can begin to understand that the *American government* itself is the one violating our rights, not just individual cops. If something like this happened in South Africa [and it has], it would be clear enough because we have been conditioned to believe that another white settler country is capable of racist torture and murder by govenment authorities. But we resist believing that those in the United States government would maliciously do something like this. Well, you best believe it, baby, because it's happening!

But what is disturbing is that civil liberties and human rights organizations like Amnesty International, the ACLU and others are not saying anything about all this, yet if it were Peru, Cuba, or Russia, they would call for boycotts, mass letter-writing campaigns, and other protests against those countries. Why not in these cases?

The cases involve poor people, and even despised racial minorities, and took place inside a nominal western democracy. Thus, the idea of singling out the US for such behavior frightens them, even if they would scream they heads off at Cuba, Colombia, the Congo, or Croatia. "Why the US might even cut off our funding bases or challenge our NGO status at the UN!" This is not to say that they have never critiicized the US, the death penalty in georgia, police brutality in NYPD are two examples, but again they were extremely SLOW to get involved, until it could not be ignored anymore. In my opinion, it's all very hypocritical for them to challenge small countries with questionable humnan rights records, but then those countries are very unpopular in Western human rights circles anyway.

This past October, the midwest region of Amnesty International met for three days in a downtown hotel in Kalamazoo, but said nary a word about the naked jailings by the K'zoo cops, even when the Mayor came down to brag about the city, and the S.W. Michigan Coalition Against Racism and Police Brutality passed out hundreds of brochures about the cases to each AI member in attendance.

Here is the bottom line: there is a coverup by these U.S. based groups in my opinion, and only after *pressure* is put on them will they make a sound about domestic human rights issues. It was a long time before they responded to all the police shootings of civilians in Detroit, and I suspect the naked jailing cases will only become an issue when their members and community groups put pressure on them to speak out. Hey, that's not much different than most politicians! Let's get busy doing that, but just remember we have to keep fighting no matter what they do or don't do. *We* are the leaders we have been looking for!

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