Mendocino County Today: Thursday, May 11, 2017
by AVA News Service, May 11, 2017
UKIAH, Wed., May 10. -- Defendant Charles Wallace Reynolds, Jr., age 32, of Willits, was sentenced to 72 months in state prison this morning before a full courtroom gallery of onlookers that included family members and friends of the victim, Kenneith Wayne Fisher.
When called, the late morning sentencing hearing was presided over by the Honorable John Behnke, the presiding judge of the Mendocino County Superior Court.
Following arguments from the prosecutor and defense counsel, the matter was finally submitted for decision. Judge Behnke, having also considered the Adult Probation Department's background study and sentencing recommendation, denied Reynolds' application for probation. Instead, the Court sentenced the defendant to 36 months in state prison for the battery with serious bodily injury conviction. An additional 36 months was imposed to run consecutive to the original 36 months for the jury's true finding that the defendant personally inflicted great bodily injury on Kenneth Wayne Fisher, said injury causing Mr. Fisher's death on August 28, 2016 outside the bar in Laytonville. The total sentence imposed is 72 months in state prison.
Reynolds was ordered remanded into custody to await his transfer by the Sheriff's Office to San Quentin. These convictions constitute a Strike under the Three Strikes Law, and may limit the credits the defendant may earn in prison against his overall sentence to 15%. However, it is also likely that the Department of Corrections will award the defendant greater credits than the 15% limit mandated in the Penal Code. This is a result of Proposition 57, the initiative that passed statewide last November 8th, as approved in Mendocino County by almost 70% of those who voted in the general election.
The prosecutor who handled the trial and argued at today's sentencing hearing is Deputy District Attorney Luke Oakley.
The primary investigating law enforcement agency was the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office was supported in their investigation by the California Highway Patrol, the California Department of Justice forensic laboratory in Eureka, local forensic pathologist, Dr. Jacqueline Benjamin, M.D., and the District Attorney's own investigators.
(DA Press Release)
ED NOTE: We gather from AVA Court Reporter Bruce McEwen that the Reynolds sentencing was quite an emotional scene punctuated toward the end with Reynolds’ lawyer’s solemn promise that the verdict would be appealed. More details to come.
WINDSPIRIT AUM NAMED NEW ALBION MUSD TRUSTEE
A new Albion MUSD trustee was sworn in Monday night at the special MUSD meeting on the future of the Albion School. He replaces Kathy Wylie who recently resigned for reasons never disclosed. The new trustee is longtime coast resident Windspirit Aum.
It was Aum's motion to keep the Albion School "open as is" that carried the day in a 3-2 vote after nearly 3.5 hours of discussion. Trustees Aum (Albion), Acker (Elk) & chairman Shaeffer (Comptche) voted to keep the school open - Trustees Grinberg (Mendocino) & Morton (Caspar) were opposed.
The vote was against Superintendent Morse's recommendation to shut down the school for one year until enrollment increased during the 2018-19 school year.
The vote does not come without cost to the district - the price tag could range from $100,000 to $120,000-plus to hire a teacher and aide to instruct just FOUR students - three third graders & one in kindergarten.
We'll be posting more on this meeting later, we are being called away from the computer right now.
ED NOTE: Of all the people in the whole wide world, would you guess that this guy's name is Windspirit Aum?
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Everyone's still on my case about the gd chicken. I'm tired of defending myself. The bird was trespassing, I did what ten thousand years of little dogs were bred to do. Get over it, Two Legs!”
ARRAIGNED IN SUPERIOR COURT this morning one Matthew Stephen Williams of Oakland was charged with 13 counts of interstate gun-running, illegal assault weapons with outlawed banana clips in exchange for Mendocino County’s renowned marijuana. The case also involved one Christian Alfredo Alcantar, who drove an imported British vehicle, a Jaguar, which was allegedly intended for payment on a cocaine shipment the Mendo growers were supposed to provide… However, it was the Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force – not growers — and the two men from Oakland/Reno were taken into custody. Judge Ann Moorman had set bail at $710,000 for Mr. Williams, and Jonathan Opet of the Office of the Public Defender thought this was excessive. He asked Judge John Behnke to reduce it down to $240,000 – which his client could more readily afford – so the young scholar of 20 could get back to his studies at a Nevada College and maintain his 3.0 grade average. Mr. Opet implied that DA David Eyster had “stacked” the bail, and wasn’t being “fair” to his client.
“Your honor, the court has the discretion to depart from the bail schedule, and $240,000 is more than enough.”
DA Eyster, having pointed out that Mr. Williams was on bail in Reno for a cocaine peddling charge, countered that the safety of our community against the incursions of interstate gun-runners was worth more than that, and Judge John Behnke agreed. His Honor reduced the bail to $500,000 and added a search and seizure clause.
Attorney Phillip DeJong, for Mr. Alcantar, asked to have his client released on his own recognizance, arguing that he was Mr. William’s “patsy,” But this was not granted; mainly because Eyster pointed out that he, the supposed patsy, had an AR-15 assault rifle and a Glock in the car with him and knew exactly what was going down, his role in it, and the payment he could expect. Alcantar’s bail was reduced to $100,000 and a prelim was set for May 18th at 9:30.
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT published this omni-outrageous front pager this morning, kicking it off with a weasel-lipped, but revealing aside that explains, at least partly, why the kid did it. First off, this 14-year-old had clearly been permitted (indulged) to spend unhealthy amounts of time with neurotic, sex-obsessed adults who encouraged her "gender fluidity." Young people get way too much third rail sexual input before they can rationally handle it. Given the givens of this lunatic society, the last thing a kid needs is a sinister movie romanticizing youth suicide, and the second to last thing a kid needs is parents who don't let a kid be a kid.
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Press Democrat Editor’s note: In identifying Sage Schmitt, the Press Democrat has chosen to use feminine pronouns after discussions with Sage’s parents, who used both "they" and feminine pronouns to describe the gender-fluid teen, and to avoid confusion while referring to Sage.
By all appearances, Anna “Sage” Schmitt was a happy and outgoing teenager.
The 14-year-old honor student was class vice president at Sebastopol’s Hillcrest Middle School, played in two bands and was the lead in the school’s recent winter musical.
Anna 'Sage' Schmitt
But beneath it all, the high-achieving eighth-grader with the rainbow-colored hair was deeply depressed. Sage was receiving family support when she announced last year she was gender fluid, but she struggled with unknown mental health issues and was in regular therapy sessions.
And then sometime in the early morning of May 1, Sage decided to end her life.
She left behind her grieving and bewildered parents, Curtis and Rebekah Schmitt, along with her 8-year-old brother, Zach.
“We are shocked,” her distraught mother said.
It was a sentiment shared by many Hillcrest students, teachers and parents over the past week as they tried to make sense of the death of one of the school’s most popular students.
Many expressed disbelief that the confident and outwardly cheerful girl would kill herself. Social media posts show a beaming kid hanging out with friends or performing on stage.
“It’s unimaginable,” said family friend Julie Stites, who has been trying to come to grips with the tragic death. “What exactly caused everything, I don’t know. I don’t know that anybody knows.”
Others wondered if Sage was inspired by “13 Reasons Why,” the controversial TV series that’s been criticized as romanticizing teen suicide and was filmed in part at Analy High School — where Sage was planning to go this fall.
Sage and her mother watched the Netflix drama after its release in March, but her mother doesn’t believe it had any influence, saying her daughter’s depression predated the show.
A suicide note did not explain why she did it, her parents said.
“There just was not a reason for this,” her mother said. “There never is. Sage made an incredibly regrettable choice.”
In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death among ages 15 to 34 nationwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Sonoma County, 1 in 10 self-inflicted deaths from 2013 to 2015 were among people 10 to 24 years old, Department of Health Services statistics show.
Depression was a leading cause, said Mike Kennedy, the county’s mental health director.
Other high-risk groups include Native Americans and people identifying as gay, lesbian or transgender, Kennedy said.
The county offers a suicide hotline, 855-587-6373, and has conducted training at the high schools and Santa Rosa Junior College to identify warning signs that could help prevent people from taking their own lives.
The training does not extend to middle schools, but Kennedy said his office sent grief counselors to Hillcrest to help in the aftermath.
Sonoma County Office of Education officials also visited the campus with therapy dogs, he said.
“This was unique in the sense of how young this person was,” Kennedy said.
TINA FALLS THE SECOND TIME
UKIAH, Wed., May 10. -- A Mendocino County Superior Court jury returned from its deliberations around the noon hour with a guilty verdict against Tina Carrillo, age 49, of Hopland.
Carrillo was found guilty by jury of transporting methamphetamine for the purpose of sales, a felony.
This is the second trial for this defendant on these facts. During the first trial, the prior jury was hung 9 to 3 for guilt on whether the defendant had committed the methamphetamine crime. However, that prior jury was able to unanimously agree that, while driving with the methamphetamine, the defendant was also driving on a suspended driving license and she did not have an ignition interlock device installed on the vehicle she was driving. After the prior jury was excused, the Court found true that the defendant had also suffered a prior conviction within the last five years for driving on a suspended license. The defendant was also on probation at the time of all the aforementioned offenses. The trial judge found true that Carrillo was in violation of the terms of her probation.
All of crimes for which the defendant now stands convicted were referred to the Adult Probation Department for a background study and sentencing recommendation. Sentence will be imposed on June 7, 2017 at 9 o'clock in the morning in Department B of the Ukiah courthouse. Any person interested in this case or this defendant is welcome to attend that hearing.
The prosecutor who presented the People's evidence and argued the circumstances and law to this week's jury was Deputy District Attorney Caitlin Keane. The investigating law enforcement agencies were the Ukiah Police Department and the California Department of Justice crime lab in Eureka. The judge who presided over the three-day trial was Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman.
(District Attorney Press Release)
FORMER SUPERVISOR NORMAN DEVALL hit the Coast List Serve with this message yesterday:
"The County is going to bring back the infraction ordinance, hire a “hearing officer” (an attorney or judge), and attempt to bring compliance for all building and zoning violations. This was initiated with the passage of Prop. 64 enabling the County to see an opportunity to clear out hundreds of violations. The Amnesty Program is now over and the County will not consider Clean Slate II.
Who else cares?
This is all going on and will be implemented sometime later in May or June when they hire the Hearing Officer. KZYX news is not paying any attention.
Full compliance means that non-compliant dwellings will be red-tagged and cause a most likely increase in homelessness.
I/We need to bring this to the public’s attention, but thus far, the 4th estate has totally missed the most critical issue of the year in Mendocino County."
ACTUALLY, NORMAN, as you know, the mighty AVA not only cares we asked Supervisor John McCowen to clarify:
"Several things are running together here.
1) The County has adopted a cannabis cultivation ordinance.
2) The County has approved an amnesty program for building code violations so that those who built without permits may come forward, apply, and be approved, without paying the usual penalty of double the normal application fee.
3) Cannabis growers who apply for cultivation permits will be required to address any other code violations, such as structures built without permits, but will be eligible for amnesty and will be able to get a permit to cultivate as long as they are diligently working to resolve the code compliance issues.
4) The County has said it will make enforcement of cannabis regulations a high priority and has adopted new ordinances, hired a consultant experienced in code enforcement and dedicated a deputy county counsel to work on code enforcement full time.
5) The new ordinances provide for an expedited administrative process, utilizing Hearing Officers (attorneys hired on contract, not judges) to make a decision.
6) Violations could be misdemeanors, but that is not new.
7) This has nothing to do with the passage of Prop. 64.
I believe the concern is that there are many non-permitted structures, but also, in many cases they exceed density — that is, only one or two dwelling units may be allowed in certain zoning but there may be four or more hippie shacks and trailers tucked away in the brush. They provide low income housing but also may be health and safety hazards. But no one is going out to hunt these places down. The real issue may be that dope growers who are slumlords will be discouraged from applying for cultivation permits if it also means an end to renting out unpermitted structures. I think what he is getting at is that Clean Slate II would be a way to gain approval for all the currently unpermitted structures that exceed density and could not be otherwise legalized. The amnesty program runs through June 30."
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COUNT THE AVA among the many applauding the Governor's appointment of Mrs. Croskey to the Third District Supervisor seat. What made John Pinches such a standout supervisor was his sole focus on the welfare of Mendocino County. He also opposed crazy spending and was generally a voice for commonsense. Given Mrs. Croskey's varied background, reinforced by an undoubtedly bracing military tour, we get a supervisor outside of, but not necessarily unreasonably hostile to, the flabby, big think, cash and carry, neo-hippie "liberalism" dominant in much of the Mendo population. We're already thinking of her as Pinches squared, the new improved model.
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WE STAY AWAY from Trump because millions, literally, are better at blasting him, but this latest thing, the Comey firing, is one more example of how stupid, how pathetically incompetent the Trump administration is. They can't even tell a plausible lie. Duh, if you think Comey screwed up the Russians and Hillary, why not fire him back in January when you took office? Firing him now is obviously to derail the investigation into the Trump Gang's ties with Russia, aka Putin. Clearly, the Trump Gang is in way over its head with Putin. You'd have to go back to Napoleon to find a more cunning dictator, although Castro comes close, but he only ruled an island.
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STARTLED LAST WEEK to see the log deck at the Cloverdale mill completely barren. Logger pal Dan Kuny explained that the prices for redwood and even fir are so high right now (after Trump’s new restrictions on fir imports from Canada) that the mills can't get enough logs fast enough to keep the mill going full time. Today, however, there was a modest pile of redwood at Cloverdale, and the worker parking lot was full.
COMING SOON TO A NEIGHBORHOOD NEAR YOU: HOP HOPPNER!
On May 5th, 2017 Jonathan Michael Hoppner, a 24 year old white male from Santa Rosa, arrived at the Mendocino County Sheriff's office to register as a sex offender pursuant to section 290 of the California Penal Code. Hoppner, who is on parole through the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation advised he was moving to an address in Willits. Hoppner was registered as a sex offender on that date. The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office was not notified prior to Hoppner relocating to Mendocino County. Over the days following his initial registration, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office has learned more about Hoppner and his past convictions. Hoppner is determined to be a "High Risk" sexual offender and the Sheriff's Office wishes to notify the public as a public service announcement. Hoppner's physical address is not releasable based on the crimes he is convicted of, thus only city and zip code is released.
According to on-line reports, Hoppner, described as “developmentally disabled,” was sentenced to two years in prison last December for falsely imprisoning and groping two of his mental health monitors in a Santa Rosa motel in April of 2016. Hoppner was involved in an altercation with the victims who were monitoring his release as a high-risk sex offender on parole in Sonoma County. The altercation occurred at America’s Best Value Inn on Santa Rosa Avenue on April 27, according to prosecutors. Hoppner had been incarcerated for annoying or molesting a child under age 18 and sexual battery, and his past victims included girls and women between 15 and 50. Hoppner initially was located to Petaluma after his release from prison on March 1, 2016. Petaluma police objected to his presence in Petaluma and notified the public of his release. Court records show his sexual offenses date back to 2013. A misdemeanor count of battery related to the motel incident was dismissed in Sonoma County Superior Court in May of 2016.
NOT A PRESIDENTIAL SUITE
To the Editor:
In the Tuesday, May 9 edition of The Ukiah Daily Journal, a cover story titled, “Presidential Suite Proposed” appeared based on what appears to be a single source that inaccurately describes a comprehensive and thorough process to allocate much needed space to numerous student centered initiatives that will enhance services to our students.
In order to meet the growing space needs of the college, Interim Dean Ulises Velasco, Facilities Director Mac Lojowsky, and others, prepared a very thoughtful, logical, and feasible proposal that considers many interests of the College staff, faculty, and most importantly, students. With these proposed changes, no student space is being negatively impacted, instead additional student space will be added with the most minimal financial impact possible.
In one of the proposed options, recently provided to all staff and faculty at the College, the President is being displaced from his office so it can be utilized for an alternative purpose that will serve over 100 students, as proposed in one of our recently awarded grants. In the process of researching the available spaces on campus for this new grant program to be hosted, the President’s current office was an excellent fit, requiring minimal construction, located near other student services, and maximized use of space. The proposed President’s office area is neither a new space or in the areas currently accessible to students or the public. Most of the area, which is 100 square feet smaller than his current office area, is unused work space and underutilized storage space.
The Ad Hoc committee who worked on this project reviewed many alternatives and concluded that the changes they have presented are the best fit for the College as a whole. There are a multitude of changes being reviewed, the potential move of the President’s office is just one of more than ten moves to take place should this proposal be implemented by the College.
Additionally, the space that was referred to as the ‘Presidential Suite’ is currently being used primarily by one staff member. With the proposed changes, four staff members would share this pre-existing, underutilized, space and the current staff will have an excellent office adjacent to the space in question.
With the addition of staff, programs, and in order to meet student needs, looking at pre-existing, underutilized space was essential to meeting the needs of Mendocino College going forward. With student success, institutional effectiveness, and open communication at the forefront of all work being done by the College, this proposal is just one necessary step forward in ensuring the needs of the institution are fully met.
If this space is reallocated as planned, the general public and students will have now have full access to areas of the Library building that are currently inaccessible to the public and highly underutilized. I suspect taxpayers will be pleased that the college is making sound decisions to accommodate growth with existing resources in a practical and prudent manner.
Jessica Silva, Director of Community Relations & Communication, Mendocino College
QUIZ NITE THURSDAY:
A MATTER OF GRAY MATTER.
Obviously I am referring to the General Knowledge and Trivia Quiz that returns to Lauren’s Restaurant tomorrow, May 11th, at 7pm prompt… It’s the second Thursday of the month as we continue to present this traditional evening of fine food, delicious refreshments, stimulating banter, and mildly rigorous brain exercises on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month. Hope to see you there,
Steve Sparks/The Quiz Master...
ELLIS LAW GROUP — DISQUALIFIED
Yesterday, Judge Brown granted the National Grange's motion to disqualify the Ellis Law Group as counsel for the California Guild and Robert McFarland in the state court litigation.
Ed Komski, Fort Bragg
CATCH OF THE DAY, May 10, 2017
Boone-Denheim, Buselli, Davey
MEREDITH BOONE-DENHEIM, Potter Valley. Failure to appear, probation revocaiton.
RACHEL BUSELLI, Beverly Hills/Fort Bragg. Loitering, interfering with business.
COREY DAVEY, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
Feola, Johnson, Lincoln
ALICIA FEOLA, Lakeport/Ukiah. Smuggling controlled substances or liquor into jail, paraphernalia.
DEVIN JOHNSON, Redwood Valley. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun.
LOREN LINCOLN, Covelo. Failure to appear.
McCormick, Parry, Perez, Powers
RICHARD MCCORMICK JR., Talmage. Domestic battery.
NICHOLAS PARRY, Rohnert Park/Ukiah. Burglary, controlled substance.
NOE PEREZ, Ukiah. Domestic battery, disobeying a court order.
LOUIS POWERS, Lakeport. Vehicle theft, failure to appear.
Reynolds, Ritter, Tickner
CHARLES REYNOLDS JR., Willits. Assault with deadly weapon with great bodily injury. (Post sentencing booking.)
GEOFFREY RITTER, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
ANTONIO TICKNER, Covelo/Willits. Driving on DUI-suspended license, failure to appear.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Donald Trump Jr.
Why does 45 have so many connections with Russia? He was warned several times about hiring Flynn because Flynn could be blackmailed. Then when Trump decided to fire Flynn, why did it take Trump 18 days to finally say “you’re fired”? So much incompetence. Don’t hire a business man golf player to run a government.
COLIN KAEPERNICK: ‘KNOW YOUR RIGHTS’
by David Zirin
It starts with Colin Kaepernick. The free-agent NFL quarterback came to the South Side of Chicago last Saturday to hold one of his Know Your Rights Camps: full-day youth seminars that Kaepernick organizes, funds, and emcees. Already staged in New York City and the Bay Area, with more cities to come, these are not open events for sports fans, the press, or random people. Their aim is to speak directly to black, brown, and economically disadvantaged youth, invited through local community organizations, about history, nutrition, legal rights, and financial literacy. As Kaepernick said to me, “Every city has grassroots resources. Our goal is to raise awareness about those resources and help young people access them to empower themselves and the people around them.”
It might start with Colin Kaepernick, but it doesn’t end with him. There is a young multi-racial network of roughly fifty Know Your Rights volunteers. They have flown in from all over country to handle logistics at the event’s site, the DuSable Museum of African American History in Hyde Park. These are people like Kerem from Orange County who said, “This message is about equal rights. Often people in underserved communities don’t understand that they have these rights and they need to claim them…. Colin has sacrificed a lot to get to this point. It shows he is passionate about this and we all feed from that.”
Another volunteer, someone just hanging out in a Know Your Rights t-shirt, was Kaepernick’s San Francisco 49ers teammate Eric Reid. “I came here to support Colin,” he said to me. “I want to show these kids that there are people who want them to succeed despite how they may feel when they go to school. But I also came here to learn.”
Reid also spoke about the last season of anthem protests, where he kneeled alongside Kaepernick. He explained in a quiet but proud voice, “All we wanted to do was expand the discussion. People were being killed by police and we wanted that recognized and discussed. And I think we accomplished that.”
The day started with breakfast: eggs, yogurt, biscuits, and fruit for the 200 young people who were at the door by 9:00 AM. A 12-year-old named Daymien gave up the opening game of his baseball season to attend. “I wanted to play today but I think this is more important,” he said. “I wanted to come here for knowledge and learn my history.” In addition to the breakfasts and lunches provided, young people were given t-shirts that read “Know Your Rights” on the front. On the back, the shirts listed the following ten points:
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE FREE.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE HEALTHY.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE BRILLIANT.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE SAFE.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE LOVED.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE COURAGEOUS.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE ALIVE.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE TRUSTED.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE EDUCATED.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW YOUR RIGHTS.
The free breakfasts and the Ten Points both derive, intentionally, from the political legacy of the Black Panthers. I spoke with Ameer Loggins, a young writer and PhD candidate at Cal-Berkeley, who helped develop the Know Your Rights curriculum as well as the Ten Point plan. “This is an extension of the Freedom Schools of the Civil Rights Movement, the Panther schools, and all non-institutional educational programs that go out into the communities. The only difference is that we are mobile and we are associated with Colin and that puts it on a different kind of platform.” Being in Chicago, the particulars of the city’s history and policing were central to the agenda.
After breakfast Kaepernick introduced the day, saying, “We are here to uplift each other. We also have great speakers and guests who are here for no other reason than that they love you and they want to support you.”
He then brought out “one of the great men of Chicago,” hip-hop icon Common who flew in just for the camp and stayed the entire six-hour day. Common said,
I’m honored to be here. I’m here because last September I saw Colin Kaepernick standing up for us as a people. I thought, ‘Man that’s one of the most courageous acts I’ve seen by someone in the spotlight since Muhammad Ali.’ I’ve always said that Muhammad Ali was one of my heroes so now I have to say that Colin Kaepernick is one of my heroes. But it’s not just Colin now. He has a team. We have a team: The Know Your Rights team speaking about how we can exist not only to fight but to elevate and reach our goals and dreams…to go out there and be the kings and queens we were created to be. I want each and every one of you to know that we care and I want you to listen, ask questions and take notes today, and as then go out onto our city and spread the message for people who aren’t here.
The first speaker was the aforementioned Ameer Loggins, who gave a college-level seminar on Chicago history, segregation, and structural racism. Loggins said, “Chicago is the most segregated city in the United States and no one talks about the effects of that in 2017. We talk about Selma and Jim Crow and the harm of segregation in the past but not the present. It’s not just segregation of space. It’s a segregation of resources and economics, food access and property ownership…. Even if you say, ‘We had a black mayor, and Barack lives in Chicago,’ it doesn’t trickle down. People say we made it, but if our community doesn’t collectively benefit with resources, what the hell did we make it for?”
After going through the effects of 21st Century segregation – how it puts a person in a penned-in environment where they can be policed, subjected to violence, and denied resources — he made the argument that “young people just like you” made the Civil Rights movement by “contesting segregated space” and said, “You have the same power. Turn your segregated space into contested space. Don’t just sit there and take it. You don’t need to break windows. Arm yourself with enough knowledge and you can whip ass with your brain.”
It was rousing and by my informal polling, a highlight for the students in attendance. One young woman said to me, “I wish my social studies teacher was here taking notes.”
After Ameer Loggins, Kaepernick returned to the stage to underline the message, saying, “We are trying to show you what you are dealing with so you can combat it.” Then he introduced the next speakers. “We are now bringing out the legal defense team so you can protect yourselves, protect your family, protect your communities.”
Out came Guillermo Gutierrez and Charles Jones from First Defense Legal Aid, with the message that “Chicago is the false confession capital of world.” To drive the point home, these “street attorneys” educated the students about Jon Burge, the south side police officer and now convicted felon who tortured confessions out of more than 200 suspects between 1972 and 1991.
They said that the future of some people in the room could depend on knowing their rights when approached by law enforcement and hammered home what to say if stopped by police. “First and foremost, you always have the right to ask, ‘Am I free to go?’ That is your constitutional right. If they say ‘no’, you have the right to say, ‘I do not consent to be searched.’ If you don’t say those words, they can and will search you.”
Then they exclaimed, “Always remain silent. Call us. Have an attorney present. That is your right.”
Gutierrez and Jones made the students repeat their hotline number – 1-800-Law-Rep4 – as well as promise to distribute cards with the number to family and friends.
Students asked about retaliation from police if they invoked these rights, concerned that they would be pegged as uncooperative. The First Defense Legal Aid performed skits to show not only how to resist any police coercion but how to articulate their rights to minimize conflict.
Kaepernick came out and reinforced the point, saying, “So if an officer stops you, what do you say?” The students all said as one, ‘Am I free to go?’”
Then Kaepernick became an organizer—or the world’s chillest public school administrator—dividing the students into breakout sessions that would cover “holistic health” and “financial literacy” directing them into what rooms to go to by colored wrist-bands they received upon registration. He also said, “Remember, we have snacks that you can grab between sessions. But please, no eating in the auditorium.”
Yareli Quintana, a food consultant and spirited speaker then took the stage to speak about making intelligent eating choices and how to take “baby steps” for healthier living. She made the case that food is self-determination and to integrate fruits and vegetables into their diets to better develop their minds. She even did a powerpoint presentation about how different foods affect the brain. Kaepernick came up afterward and said, “we will have a resource map for you so you can find community gardens that grow their own healthy foods.”
The emphasis on healthy choices was evident throughout the day. One of the more harrowing moments came when radio host Ebro Darden asked the students, “How many of you have eaten fast food three times this week?” Almost the entire room raised their hands. Then he asked, “How many of you have members of your family with cancer or diabetes?” Again, almost the entire room raised their hands.
The talk of community gardens and, in the financial literacy section, the importance of dressing and speaking in a professional manner, also produced a robust debate about whether it was realistic for these students to even find healthy food, save money, or dress a certain way, and whether those kinds of personal choices could beat back oppression. It was the century old debate about what is known as “respectability politics”—whether racism needs to be fought systemically or by changing individual habits. Different speakers articulated different sides of this, with the students chiming in as well.
The substance of this discussion was perhaps less important than the fact that the dialogue was open, intense, but also friendly: a display for the young people in the audience what debate looks like and adults can disagree without being disagreeable. The students shaped this debate by speaking about their own experiences, what was realistic for them and what was not.Kaepernick ended the day by speaking to the students about his own journey. He talked about growing up as the adopted son in an all-white home. He said, “I love my family to death. They’re the most amazing people I know. But when I looked in the mirror, I knew I was different. Learning what it meant to be an African man in America, not a black man but an African man,, was critical for me. Through this knowledge, I was able to identify myself and my community differently… I thought I was from Milwaukee. I thought my ancestry started at slavery and I was taught in school that we were all supposed to be grateful just because we aren’t slaves. But what I was able to do was trace my ancestry and DNA lineage back to Ghana, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and saw my existence was more than just being a slave. It was as an African man. We had our own civilizations and I want you to know how high the ceiling is for our people. I want you to know that our existence now is not normal. It’s oppressive. For me, identifying with Africa gave me a higher sense of who I was, knowing that we have a proud history and are all in this together.”
Then he took a deep breath and said, “This was so important for me and I want to share it with you. So when you leave, you are all getting backpacks and inside of them are Ancestry DNA kits so you can trace your ancestry and connect with your lost relatives who may have taken this test as well.”
The students exploded with joy upon hearing this. I was told there was a similar reaction in Oakland and New York.
Then he said, “I love you guys. I appreciate you. Build with each other Because you will be this community moving forward.”
Afterwards, I spoke to Kaepernick at some length. He is training every day for the 2017 season and believes that he will find an NFL home with an optimism that his hard work and stellar 2016 season will be rewarded. But we kept the conversation focused on the camp.
I thought it was amazing. Every time we do an event, leading up to it, I’m always a little bit nervous. ‘Do we have everything in line? Are the Ts crossed and the Is dotted?’ But once the program starts running, you see the kids having fun and and absorbing what we are saying. That’s the win for us… to see them get the tools to navigate an oppressive society.
He compared the Know Your Rights team to a football squad:
It’s the same sense of camaraderie. Building toward a common goal. And in this space we are trying to help communities that are oppressed. That’s what we want. We want to show that we can build with each other and love each other because in oppressed communities no one is going to help them but themselves. It’s so exciting to see it come together.” He then smiled so wide and looked so relaxed, I thought he would float to the ceiling. “It’s a very liberating thing to feel. It’s hard to explain.
One thing we did not talk about was whether he was being politically blackballed by the league for his political ideas and activism. There was no need. After spending the day with Colin Kaepernick all I could think about was a quote from Bill Russell in 1967 when he was asked about how Muhammad Ali was coping with being stripped of the heavyweight title. Russell said, “I’m not worried about Muhammad Ali. I’m worried about the rest of us.”
I’m not worried about Colin Kaepernick. As for ‘the rest of us,” we’ve got work to do.
(Dave Zirin can be reached at email@example.com)
MENDOCINO COAST BOTANICAL GARDENS - BLOOMS, EVENTS, AND WORKSHOPS
ONE MAN’S AVOCADO
We now live in a world where avocado toast (mush on bread; rather Dickensian) is a thing on which relatively sane humans will spend fourteen dollars. This is, of course, the least of our problems. Yet life in the Age of Avocado seems to be a preoccupation of cartoonists. And I get it. I had a roommate who ran marathons and ate only avocados and quinoa—so many goddam quinoa beads underfoot. It made you think.
Anyway, I was recently talking to members of The Federalist, a humor rag at Columbia University, whose roots stretch back to renowned wisecracker Neil Gorsuch. He co-founded it as an “alt” (read: non-liberal) newspaper; the publication has since been taken over by mostly lefty punsters. And these self-selecting funny Columbians claimed not to understand this cartoon
If you have owned or operated an avocado, you understand this cartoon. Avocados: you purchase the lizard-skinned rocks, they “ripen” (laugh), and, for a moment, are edible. Then, without leaving so much as a final will and testament or, you know, a nice bowl of guacamole, they are garbage. For first-time avocadoers who remain confused, I direct you to this wonderful piece of instructional humor by Sarah Hutto.
So why, you ask, on week two, am I using this platform to opine about nature’s most maddening healthy fat? Well, for one, the avocado lobby is paying me handsomely. Your mouth is watering; your fourteen hard-earned dollars are flying out of your wallet—can’t wait for my cut. But I also write to say that, on top of the desert islands and beached whales and quippy Rapunzels, there are countless mini-tropes dipping their toes into the pool of cartoon cliché. How long until we move on to teff gags (Google it, if you dare), that’s anybody’s bookie’s game.
In the meantime, I present you with a few choice examples from the quickly ripening canon, free of charge, before tossing you over to Colin, and his avocado coda—mash those words up at your leisure.
For me, avocado has always been a fraught ingredient—it tastes very good, but I also have a weird allergy to some raw fruits and vegetables (avocado being one), which gives me an itchy throat when I eat them. If you see me eating guacamole (my dad makes it very well), avocado toast, or any avocado-related thing, it’s because I’ve made the decision that the taste will be good enough to justify the mild discomfort. Perhaps the best way to enjoy avocado, for me, is in a cartoon, because I don’t have to decide if I want to eat it, unless someone spreads avocado onto the avocado cartoon.
(The New Yorker)