Friday, March 21, 2014

New York City Government Kills Man For Sleeping In Stairwell

A mentally ill, homeless U.S. Marine Corp veteran, Jerome Murdough, was arrested for trespassing when he was found sleeping in a stairwell in a housing project. Bail of $2,800 was imposed. Then he was put in a cell in the city's massive prison complex on Rikers Island. The temperature in his cell exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit, (38 degrees Celsius), killing him. He was 56 years old.

Sounds like a story out of some Third World hellhole. No, this is the U.S. Welcome to the real America.

There's so much wrong here- where to begin?

Let's start with arresting someone for the “crime” of being homeless. You would think the police could have told him to move on. Or taken him to a homeless shelter, or arranged that. Or, if he didn't respond in a way they considered rational, take him to a city hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

No, they arrest him. Now, a question that isn't answered- or even asked- is why set bail for trespassing? And an exorbitant amount that a destitute homeless man obviously doesn't have? His “case” wouldn't have been resolved for months. So in effect some vicious judge sentenced him, pretrial, to months in jail for allegedly sleeping in a stairwell. No information on this in the local media, except a passing mention of the bail amount. [1]

Next,- Why would the prison “authorities” allow there to be life-threatening conditions in a cell? How long was it like that? Surely some inmate would have complained. But you can guess the indifference and contempt with which prisoner complaints are met by their jailers. (If you've been in jail, you don't have to guess.) I suspect this was a “punishment” cell deliberately overheated (other punishment cells are freezing cold, a torture technique used by the CIA, U.S. military, and by the Border Patrol). What, you thought merely being imprisoned was punishment enough? You must be one of those bleeding heart soft-on-crime liberals!

The “authorities” have rushed to claim that the “condition” has been “fixed”- they claim a defect in the heating system. (!) Initially they cast blame on their victim, saying he failed to open a vent in the cell. (Yeah, I'm sure that would have helped a LOT. A cool sea breeze would've magically found its way into the bowels of the prison and wafted into the cell, reducing the temperature to a comfortable 70 degrees F, right?)

The only thing the local media is focused on is the “question” of why the guards didn't check on him more often in the sweatbox cell! This is to be “investigated” by the prison bosses. The establishment is keeping the focus microscopically on this one issue.

Oh by the way, the victim was black. Sort of predictable, that one. Not that “white” people are never killed by the system- if they're poor. It's just a lot more dangerous to be “black.” But this tawdry killing will soon be forgotten. So far, the new mayor, the “progressive” Bill deBlasio, has been silent. He has jumped into the media spotlight whenever it's snowed, however- important stuff like that. [2]

The propaganda system and those wielding government power probably won't draw any useful conclusions from this case of their criminally negligent homicide. (They already have a rule that the guards were supposed to monitor mentally ill prisoners. Maybe they could enact a new rule saying prisoners can't be cooked above 98 degrees, say.) But we can draw useful conclusions. They of course see it as a temporary public relations problem, to be smoothed over. It will be forgotten in days. The family will sue, and get some taxpayer money. Allowing this avenue of “redress” in such matters ensures there won't be a militant response of resistance- they don't want another Black Panther Party arising, after all. And they can keep people faith in “the system.” [3] Other than buying off the family, at most, a guard might be reprimanded for inattention. The police, the judge, the prosecutor's office- they aren't even mentioned so far by the media.

We should see three obvious conclusions here. First, U.S. society is cruel. No, one incident doesn't prove that. But this is one of millions of examples of gratuitous cruelty, piled up over the years. Many, like this one, end up in death. The specific cruelties here are indifference to providing care for the mentally ill, who if they don't have financial means or families who can provide for care, are left to their own devices, and draconian punishment for any poor person who gets out of line to even the slightest degree. (His slumbering body was where it wasn't allowed to be.)

Second, there's a generalized hostility to the poor. The mentality of those in power, and of their muscle that enforces their will, the police, is to see the poor as enemies, a source of potential resistance, rebellion, trouble. The U.S. has gotten increasingly oppressive since 1980, and one way this is manifested is in more and more repressive laws, the brunt of which fall on the poor. And the power of the police and prosecutors has been increased at the same time.

Third, this was a veteran. Once his usefulness as cannon fodder for the empire was over, he was discarded by the system like so much human waste. Once again the foolishness of joining (or submitting to being conscripted into) the U.S. armed forces is underlined. Loyalty is a one-way street with those in power. Exhibits for this thesis include: the abuse suffered by the Gulf War Syndrome vets, who were called malingers and fakers and gold diggers; the long battle Vietnam vets suffering from the effects of Agent Orange had to wage to get a bit of recognition that they actually were sick, and it was from Agent Orange (of course their offspring have to live with birth defects too, don't forget- and don't even ask about the Vietnamese!); the contempt and abuse heaped on soldiers mentally damaged by combat; and the fate of the World War I “bonus marchers,” who in the midst of the Great Depression, marched on Washington to demand payment of a promised war bonus, which they really needed at that time, but instead of paying up, the government sent in the Army to forcibly disperse them. This task was carried out by a new crop of soldiers, commanded by Douglas MacArthur and his aide, Dwight Eisenhower. (This based on the principle enunciated by one of the most notorious of the robber barons, Jay Gould, who quipped, “I can always hire half the working class to kill the other half.”)

After all this, and more, you'd think people would be wised up about the U.S. military. This is the great advantage to the rulers of never teaching people true history- there are new suckers born daily who can be duped. (By the way, they often cheat their dupes out of promised benefits, such as college tuition, and discharge the wounded on spurious grounds to deny them medical care. They've got a thousand tricks to evade their responsibilities and double-cross the credulous cannon fodder. Even the establishment media has run stories on such mistreatment of veterans- some of the propagandists are smart enough to know that this mistreatment is potentially a dangerous practice. Eventually they may not be able to dupe enough suckers into fighting their wars for them. People might actually stop volunteering for “service” if word gets around. Hence the media applies a bit of pressure on the government with infrequent reporting.) The only valid reason for joining the U.S. military is get obtain military training and steal weapons.

The utter hypocrisy and cynicism of all the “honor our vets” hoopla is exposed again as a cynical sham. The nationalism card is played to induce fools to fight for the power elite and enforce U.S. diktat around the world, in the name of “defending our country,” a ludicrously absurd claim on its face when set against the facts. U.S. power is as far from defensive as one can get, except in the sense that American imperialists are “defending” their global dominance. But they are actually doing even more than that. They are constantly driving for global hegemony, as their brazen grab for the Ukraine throws into stark relief. (Did they actually believe the Russians would just passively let themselves be pushed out of their key strategic naval base on the Black Sea, located in Crimea? Truly they are drunk on power.)

Just one more thing about the homeless man killed for trespassing. Last Sunday a teenager was arrested for trespassing in the replacement tower on the site of destroyed World Trade Center. He made it upstairs to take pictures. This put “the authorities” in a tizzy because of the sensitivity of the site. The episode made headlines in media across the U.S. and even abroad (such as the Guardian UK). Charged with two misdemeanors, he was released on his own recognizance- no bail.

1] Some local judges have been demonized by the NYC media when they were considered insufficiently punitive or released people on bail. No such high dudgeon about this- the judge hasn't been named or even mentioned. As for the cops, who were no doubt trying to make their monthly arrest quotas, they could have released him from the precinct after arresting him with a Desk Appearance Ticket, which orders the “perp” (cop talk for perpetrator, embedding the assumption that you “did it,” whatever they accused you of), to appear in court on a certain date. This is an option for minor “crimes,” at the discretion of the police in NYC. Instead he was “put into the system,” held, taken to court, where the prosecutor could have dropped the charges then and there, and the judge could have freed him “on his own recognizance” (without bail) and a return court date set.

Some people have been imprisoned for a year or more on Rikers awaiting trial. This is one way the local District Attorney's office (the criminal prosecutors) pressure people to plead guilty.

Housing projects are groups of multiple large apartment buildings where poor people are concentrated. New York City has a number of these projects. Increasingly they are run like quasi-prisons. The NYPD (NYC police department) has had a policy under the 12 year reign of Mayor Michael Bloomberg Billionaire of arresting visitors and even residents of these projects for “trespassing,” even when they had IDs proving they lived there. Finally, after numerous such bogus arrests over a period of years, a class action lawsuit was brought against the police and city government.

2] DeBlasio replaced Michael Bloomberg Billionaire in January, following the November 2013 local elections. Bloomberg, bored with the job, declined to grab a fourth term, which would have necessitated gutting yet again the city term limit law, passed twice by popular referendum, as he had to do when he ran for a third term.

3] There is a “New Black Panther Party,” apparently a project of the Nation of Islam, but they don't confront police or carry guns, and don't seem to be drawing members. It acts more like a theatrical project than a political one. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale were inspired to create the first BPP to stop the rampant police brutality against blacks. It's original name was the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Notorious racist J. Edgar Hoover recognized the “threat” it posed, and using his command of the national political police, the FBI, moved to violently destroy it.

Nowadays the police are still free to kill blacks, as long as they don't kill too many, or too often. That includes “liberal” New York City too, where city police on “narcotics” duty recently followed a young black man, Ramarley Graham, on the street, broke into his apartment building, smashed down the door into his family home, and shot him dead on the floor of his bathroom, apparently to stop him from flushing marijuana down the toilet. He was unarmed. No, they don't need a warrant to do that- they did it, didn't they? So obviously they don't need no stinking warrant. But the resulting outburst of public anger, and coverage by “alternative” (non-establishment) media, eventually forced the system to indict the killer cop for manslaughter. Of course the police union is solidly behind the killer. The outcome is pending, while the system kicks the can down the road. They have an unenviable choice of alienating their hired muscle that protects their power structure, or reinflaming that part of the public that identifies with the victim (“blacks”) or that has a sense of justice (people with a normal moral sense), and eroding a bit more of the legitimacy of their system. Legitimacy meaning people's acceptance of their system and willingness to submit to it and obey its rules.

Calibrating the correct level of oppression is delicate for them. Too much, and they risk resistance, even rebellion. Too little, and they risk having their captive populace escape their control.

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