'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Satruday, December 13th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: December 13, 2014
Guest: Shawn Torres, Benjamin Perry, Carmen Perez, Barbara Smith, Vince
Warren, Frances Fox Piven, Earl Catagnus, Sandeep Jauhar, Mark Greenblatt,
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question. What
difference does it make if torture is effective? Plus, how military rules
are shielding a whole class of offenders who might be in your neighborhood.
And how LeBron James is rewriting the rules, again. But first, it`s
beginning to look a lot like a movement.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Right now protesters are
gathering in Washington, D.C., where just two hours from now a march is
expected to draw thousands of people, all calling on Congress to take
action in response to police brutality. The march led by a coalition of
civil rights group, including MSNBC host Reverend Al Sharpton`s National
Action Network, is motivated by the lack of grand jury indictments for the
police who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed African-
American men. This strategy of using nonviolent action to expose injustice
and pressure policymakers takes a page from the activism of Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. The man whose likeness is wrought in stone just miles from
where the march will arrive, at the U.S. Capitol. The Martin Luther King
Junior memorial renders King emerging alone from a block of granite, a
single transformative leader who changed everything.
But in fact, history tells a more complicated story. King did not emerge
from a stone. He emerged from a movement, a movement that included lesser
known champions for civil rights who stood beside and behind King, who were
both advisers and adversaries, whose names and faces get obscured in a
history that remembers King as a monolith towering over the movement.
And this week a new film that offers a corrective to that history was
singled out for one of Hollywood`s highest honors. "Selma," which tells
the story of the struggle and the success of the civil rights movement`s
campaign for voting rights in 1965, received Golden Globe nominations for
best motion picture, actor and director. The film juxtaposes King`s
grassroots work in Selma against his often contentious White House meetings
to pressure President Lyndon Johnson for federal legislation to protect and
secure voting rights.
But this is not a film that is looking to make a myth out of a man. After
all, it is called "Selma," not "King." The story told in the movie also
includes those who stood with King on the Selma battleground. People like
Josaiah Williams (ph), who King recruited to the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference, and who was arrested on 124 occasions while working
on the freedom summer voter registration campaign. Women, like Amelia
Boyton (ph), a highly respected community leader in Selma, who became the
first African-American woman in Alabama to run for Congress.
These people were key players, along with King, in the true story of this
small but terribly significant slice of civil rights history. As was the
city of Selma itself. By the beginning of 1965, King and members of the
SCLC were looking for an ideal stage on which to shine a national spotlight
on the injustice of disenfranchisement. You see, a previous anti-
segregation campaign in Albany, Georgia, had received little press because
the local white authorities could not be provoked into confrontation with
the movement`s nonviolent protests. The movement was looking to stage its
action someplace where nonviolence would likely be met with violence, and
therefore with national media attention.
In Selma, they found the perfect place. It also had the perfect villain in
Sheriff Jim Clark. Clark was a volatile man and an avowed segregationist
who was dedicated to maintaining the status quo under Jim Crowe. On March
7th, 1965, he did exactly what the movement organizers thought he would do.
That day, civil rights demonstrators organized a march through Alabama,
from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. They were promoting voter
registration and protesting the killing of a young African-American man
named Jimmy Lee Jackson, who was shot at point-blank range by an Alabama
When 525 protesters reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the road out of
Selma, they encountered a posse of Sheriff Clark`s men, accompanied by
Alabama state troopers under orders from Governor George Wallace to stop
the march. What happened next would etch the day in history as Bloody
Sunday. The police rushed them, knocking some protesters to the ground.
They charged them on horseback and fired tear gas at the crowd.
By the time it was all over, more than 50 of the demonstrators had been
injured. The "New York Times" described the scene at a makeshift hospital
to treat the wounded, writing "Negroes lay on the floors and chairs, many
weeping and moaning. A girl in red slacks was carried from the house
screaming. From the hospital came a report that the victims had suffered
fractures of ribs, heads, arms and legs, in addition to cuts and bruises."
Though the movement paid a high price to play out its strategy that day, it
also won a victory. Bloody Sunday was covered in newspapers across the
country, and broadcast on national news, provoking many Americans to
respond with horror and outrage at what they were witnessing. And eight
days after watching the violence, President Johnson presented a bill to
Congress that would ultimately become the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
That past proved to be prologue in Ferguson in the week that followed the
killing of Michael Brown. When instead of showing up to protect and serve,
protesters, speaking out against police violence and the police riding
armored vehicles, armed with tear gas and stun grenades, showed up and
proved the protesters` point. It was as much the police response to the
protest as the protesters themselves that helped galvanize the movement
that sprang from those first fraught days, and nearly four months later,
bolstered by grand juries in St. Louis and New York declining to indict
officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, that movement is still
Today`s march in Washington knits together into a single national display
of activisim the mostly peaceful protests that have been going on in cities
across the country. Just this week, that movement made its way to the
steps of the U.S. Capitol when dozens of African American congressional
staffers walked out, displaying the "hands up, don`t shoot" pose in a show
And on Wednesday, the movement arrived at the front door of city hall, in
New York, after activists brought a list of demands to a meeting with the
state attorney general. But at least two activists in New York, the
political became personnel when they experienced what they believed were
racialized responses from the police during the protests. Shawn Torres and
Benjamin Perry, both graduate students at Union Theological Seminary,
joined the New York protests with the expectation of being arrested. What
they did not expect was for the police during their arrest to treat Torres,
who is African-American, very differently from Perry, who is white. Shawn
Torres and Benjamin Perry are joining me here today. So nice to have you
BENJAMIN PERRY, STUDENT, UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Thanks for having me.
SHAWN TORRES, STUDENT, UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So talk to me about the fact, both of you are Union
Theological Seminary students.
TORRES: Yes, ma`am.
HARRIS-PERRY: Why did you go out there? Why were you engaged in these
TORRES: We were engaged in the protest. For me at least, I believe it`s a
call from God. As ministers of the gospel, because we`re both ministers,
we have a duty to not just be in the pulpit, but make our voices and show
our congregants that we are actively engaged in these things, these racial
issues that are going on in the world. We can`t just be comfortable in our
churches and in our pulpits. We have to make our voices and our presence
known in the streets, along with our congregants, who are out there without
us. So we have to join them in the streets.
HARRIS-PERRY: So when you all made this decision to join in the streets,
you went knowing that there was likely to be an arrest, potentially even
this kind of police reaction that we`ve been seeing around the country.
But you wrote a piece in Huffington Post that the two of you were treated
quite differently in the context of your interaction with police. Tell me
about that story.
PERRY: Yeah, Melissa. So basically when the police showed up on FDR Drive
to arrest us, we were all linked up in arms. We had been doing the same
actions the entire evening. We had marched together. We chanted together.
We had die-ins together. Doing the exact same actions the entire night.
But when the police came, I watched as they ripped Shawn away. Two of
them. And then I offered myself up to be arrested as well. The police
officer who tackled me, he took me down. I put my hands behind my back to
indicate I`m ready to be arrested, and he just leaned forward and whispered
in my ear, "just get out of here."
HARRIS-PERRY: And no such offer to just get out of there was made for you?
TORRES: No option for me.
HARRIS-PERRY: I also understand in the context of your arrest, you then
had several encounters when you felt police were making you less safe as
opposed to more safe.
TORRES: Yes. So when we were in the jail, there was a police officer who
was manning the cell. He kept making remarks as if these aren`t the real
thugs that we arrested. The real thugs will come on when the Puerto Rican
parade comes. We have other Latinos come in. Those are the real thugs,
you know. What hurt me the most is yes, I`m black, I`m African-American
and I`m Latino. So now I`m being dehumanized, criminalized, and I am being
insulted. You already arrested me for being black. Now you`re insulting
me, not knowing who Shawn Torres really is. You`re insulting me and making
me feel less of a person while I`m in jail.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the things I keep wondering is whether or not these
experiences will have a radicalizing, galvanizing effect on the generation.
So you know, it is possible that say for going and putting yourself out
there and standing in that situation, you may never have had that sort of
encounter with police. The likelihood of someone who looks like you having
this kind of encounter with the police is much less likely than someone who
looks like you having this kind of encounter with the police. I wonder if
what you look like, what your racial characteristics are starts to fall
away once you have that experience, and if that then becomes a galvanizing
moment for movement making.
PERRY: I think there`s a lot of people now across races who are saying
that enough is enough. We have realized what Frederick Douglass said 100
years ago was absolutely true. Power concedes nothing without a demand,
and it`s time to get out there and demand power to concede, just like Jesus
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the reasons I wanted to talk with you all is neither
one of you, at least at the moment, is a Martin Luther King Junior figure.
Who knows what you will turn into at some point? But I do wonder in fact
if, even as these experiences are galvanizing, but if waiting for a king,
and I don`t mean the advent season, but if waiting for a king actually
reduces the capacity of a movement to in fact move forward, if you`re
waiting for the one leader to show up and tell us what to do.
TORRES: I don`t think we have to wait for one leader. We were asked
questions before, are we on the shoulders of King? And I say we are on the
shoulders of King. However, it`s time for us to get off the shoulders of
King and hit the streets ourselves.
I see hope. I see hope in the protests that are happening around the
country. I see hope in my friend Ben who stayed with me. I see hope all
around. I see God all in this. So I believe that if people want to be the
king or want to participate in us becoming a collective king, they would
get out there and make their presence known.
HARRIS-PERRY: You mentioned Ben staying with you. And this felt important
to me about this question of, at the moment you are told by the police
officer, all right, just get out of here, what did you do?
PERRY: Well, I got up and my first thought was oh, they`re letting people
go. And so I turned and I looked and saw Shawn being led away toward the
police van by the two officers. And then it hit me exactly what was going
on. And so in that moment, it wasn`t so much a choice to stay or leave,
but a moral imperative to stay.
HARRIS-PERRY: So you stayed, and in that sense, had the opportunity, the
responsibility of bearing witness. I wonder in part then how that story
helps us to understand what it will take to build a truly multiracial
movement, out of this thing that is still deeply racialized in the
experience that people are having.
PERRY: I think our experience speaks to the fact - and especially when
we`re out there in the streets and looking around, there`s protesters from
all ages, all walks of life, all nationalities, all ages, all religions.
People getting together and saying enough is enough.
HARRIS-PERRY: You think this is truly a movement, a sustainable one?
TORRES: I do. I do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Shawn and Ben, Shawn Torres and Benjamin Perry, thank you
for your courage. Thank you for your voice. Thank you for sharing your
story with us this morning.
Up next, we`re going to have a little bit of a how to build a movement 101.
My panel is coming in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERICA FORD, ACTIVIST: We say not only do black lives matter, but all lives
and all people have a right to be safe. And we will take this cause to the
doors of city hall, to the doors of Albany, to the doors of D.C. To the
doors of all of those who have blocked the ability for our people to be
safe in the streets of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was activist Erica Ford speaking on Wednesday at New
York city hall, where protesters demanded that city leaders take immediate
action to address police violence. Joining me now to discuss purposeful
protest is Frances Fox Piven, distinguished professor at the graduate
center of the City University of New York and author of "Challenging
Authority: How Ordinary People Change America." Also Vince Warren,
executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. And Barbara
Smith, professor at Albany University, a founder of the Cambahi (ph) River
collective, publisher of "Kitchen Table Press: Women of Color" and author
of "Ain`t Going to Let Nobody Turn Me `Round: 40 Years of Movement Building
with Barbara Smith." And Carmen Perez, who is executive director of the
Gathering for Justice and co-founder of the Justice League NYC.
Vince, I want to start with you, in part because I`m not sure that we often
think about police officers as characters in the movement, but it does feel
to me like Bull Connor, like Sheriff Clark, they were as important to
moving legislation forward, by their overreaction. And I`m wondering if at
this moment, the movement could be stopped if police just stopped
VINCE WARREN, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Well, police officers and
figureheads like that, like Ray Kelly even in New York, for example, have a
tremendous role in galvanizing the energy. And essentially the police
departments can either move this in the right direction, accede to the
demands of the people, or they can resist. And history has shown when they
resist, particularly by force or by blocking policy, that only has the
effect of making people more frustrated, more angry, bringing more people
to the movement.
HARRIS-PERRY: And providing the images, quite honestly. I`m thinking
today about what`s going to happen in Washington, D.C.. And probably
what`s not going to happen in Washington, D.C. is that the federal police,
the park rangers are not going to come out and tear gas people. Even if we
get a large gathering and even if we get rousing speeches, my bet is it may
not have the same kind of galvanizing impact that you have when in fact the
police react in these ways.
WARREN: That`s exactly right. The police departments are interesting
historical entities. They`re the last group to realize that the ground has
shifted underneath them. Everybody else knows it`s a new day. They`re
trying to run out the same old game, oh, we`re going to throw out tear gas,
oh, we`re going to do this and throwing the tanks. It`s not going to work.
And it`s going to -- If they continue to do it, it`s only going to hasten I
think the demise of their role in history.
HARRIS-PERRY: Carmen, my best friend is a historian who in going back and
looking at some of what King was doing, realized King didn`t always even
know the history in which he stood, a protest that had come before him, for
example in Montgomery and Birmingham. I think part of what I`m interested
in for you as a young activist, as someone who is engaged and potentially
galvanizing this movement that is happening right now, is what the lessons
you are drawing from previous civil rights movements and previous civil
CARMEN PEREZ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE GATHERING FOR JUSTICE: For us, I
think, particularly for myself as well as Justice League members and I
think those involved in the movement is that we do have a direct connection
to history. Our founder is Harry Bellafonte. So we are informed of what
the civil rights movement did. Some of us are trained in the methodology
of Dr. King. And so we`re taking the protests, rights. They came out in
large numbers. They came out and they had teach-ins, and those are some of
the lessons we`re taking from the previous movements, but we`re also adding
our own flavor, and that`s what social media - and using different
organizing tools that allow us to be informed on a daily basis.
I think for us, the way in which the members of the Justice League
galvanized so quickly, was because we all got together, you know, we were
texting each other and we were telling each other, informing each other
where we were on the street and where we were going to meet up. So we`re
taking some of the lessons and beautiful lessons from our elders and
recognizing that we stand on the shoulders of many of those from the civil
rights movement and different movements, from Cesar Chavez to (inaudible).
But we`re also adding our own flavor to it. I think that`s really what
works for us.
Justice League is a group of young, diverse people. And I think having
people like Vince Warren, who is a part of advising us, and Harry
Bellafonte and others, we were really blessed, and so, I really think that
we`re combing both.
HARRIS-PERRY: Professor Piven, I wonder about the stories we tell about
movements that are wrong, that therefore end up giving lessons that are
inaccurate or maybe just incomplete. So to look at the movement and say,
OK, what does it take to sustain a long-term movement? One of those things
is resources. Money. Right? But we rarely talk about that when we talk
about a movement. To ask what isn`t important. Well, actually, unity.
You don`t have to have, you know, a total unity of goals.
If you had to name the things we should know about creating a sustainable
movement, what are they?
FRANCES FOX PIVEN, CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK: One thing I think we have
to recognize. And I have a sense that a lot of the activists now do
recognize that. Movements are not one big explosion. That they take
place. They unfold over time. And they take somewhat different forms and
different locales with different participants. But movements are long-term
phenomena. They`re not just a burst. And so that`s one thing that`s very,
Another thing that I think that this movement, and I think it is a
movement, that this movement knows, is that movements are not just slogans.
They`re not just parades. They`re not just marches. They`re not just
yelling. That movements really have to in a sense cause trouble. So that
the society resonates to some extent with the grievances, the demands and
the hopes of the movement. So movements are not easy, either for the
participants or for the people around who have to suffer the blocked
highways or whatever it is. Which is, by the way, one of the reasons that
it`s so important for the sympathizers with the movement to speak out, to
be loud. To come to the defense of the movement and to echo the hopes of
HARRIS-PERRY: To be long term, to be troublemakers who impose costs on
society is to also undoubtedly face some failures. It also feels like part
of what happens with movements is they move forward, they get some
successes. They get pushed back. They meet up against the American state.
They find out how powerful it is. I guess, you know, 40 years in a
movement building and no one is going to turn me around, and yet, movements
get turned around all the time. How do we generate that sort of
sustainability even in the context of what is often failure?
BARBARA SMITH, AUTHOR: I think that what has allowed me to be involved and
committed as long as I have is that I have the big picture or the bigger
picture. In other words, I understand like historical causation and how
you can`t really predict history. That`s one of the things I always say.
You never know what opportunities historical circumstances are going to
bring to you, but you do have to be ready. By keeping up your activism.
By always paying attention, by always working collectively with people,
because no one has ever changed anything, except perhaps a light bulb, by
themselves. So the thing is that if you do all of that, if you keep your
movements chops, so to speak, really active and kind of peak excellence,
then you can take advantage of moments. We couldn`t have predicted the
political circumstances we are in right now in a year ago. We couldn`t.
It`s just not possible. Michael Brown had not been murdered yet. Eric
Garner had not been murdered yet. And I know those are terms that I can`t
SMITH: They had not been killed yet. But the thing is, here we are. And
obviously there`s a dynamic cohort of younger activists who also have a
great deal of alliance and respect for those of us who are older, who are
ready to move.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with us. We have an important investigative report
we`re going to highlight as well as an update on the king of the court and
a little bit of lightheartedness next. But more on movement building when
we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have much more to get to this morning on the protests
still taking place throughout the country, calling attention to the simple
fact that black lives do matter. And in Nerdland, you might hear in the
background a little bit of a siren here. I just want you to know, all is
well, it`s a live TV moment. We`re going to get it all taken care of. But
first, Nerdland, tis the season, and we`re looking for your help. Earlier
this week, we tweeted out this request. Nerdland, we`re going retro.
Tweet us a pic of your favorite childhood toy for Sunday`s "MHP" show. We
have already seen images of classics such as
A pic of your favorite childhood toy for Sunday`s MHP show. Now, we have
already seen images of classics such as Lite Brite, recommended for ages
four and up. And the note to parents, live wolf is not included, and the
vintage 1970s doll, Peggy Penpal, who is going to write in any language you
could. My own personal favorite was a doll I called Balinda (ph), which
you can see here in a picture with my sister Beth and her doll Jenny. But
we want to hear more from you. So, tweet at us using #nerdland with a
picture of you playing with your favorite childhood toy. It`s all for a
segment on tomorrow`s program. We`re going to talk about the toys we
choose and what they say about us, our economy, race, gender and American
culture. We`re going to be right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: As the racial justice movement and police violence continues
to gain momentum, the LGBT rights movement has turned its attention to a
new front in the fight for equality. With barriers against same-sex
marriage falling across the country, advocates are gearing up for the next
battle, the passage of a comprehensive Civil Rights bill. To protect
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination. Similar
to the sweeping civil rights act signed by President Johnson in 1964. The
bill is meant to provide federal protection for LGBT Americans who are
still vulnerable to discrimination in broad swaths of the country.
According to a report released this week, by the Center for American
Progress, today it is still legal to fire, refuse housing or deny service
to Americans because of their sexual orientation and gender identity in 29
states. In most states LGBT Americans currently lack explicit protections
from discrimination in employment, housing, education, credit and public
accommodations. "The New York Times" reports the LGBT rights and civil
rights groups have been meeting for the past six months to work on a
And legislation is expected to be introduced this spring by Rhode Island
Democrat representative David Cicilline. But advocates expect the campaign
to push legislation into law could take a decade or longer. Which means
the newest phase of their movement still has a long road ahead.
This issue of intersectionality is in part why I wanted you sitting here.
The Combahee River Collective, of which you were a part wrote decades ago
now, "Above all else, our politics initially sprang from the shared belief
that black women are inherently valuable. That our liberation is a
necessity, not as an adjunct to somebody else`s, but because of our need as
human persons for autonomy. That LGBT movements that feminist movements,
that race movements are not just adjuncts, they are - they are what justice
SMITH: Indeed. And having read the Center for American Progress` report
about the need for comprehensive federal and LGBT rights legislation, I
can`t tell you how many times I wrote in the margin of that report,
intersectionality, intersectionality, intersectionality, so it`s really
there. For example, talking about how in housing that LGBT people of color
are worse off in relationship to the discrimination around housing.
Because they`re being discriminated against as people of color, too.
SMITH: So it`s definitely, it`s right there. And I think that reading the
report definitely made me think somebody got the memo back from the 1970s,
when we actually wrote the Combahee River Collective.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that, of course, goes in part to the question of
policing as well. So we know that transgender youth are particularly
vulnerable to policing. We know that immigrant youth, or those who are
perceived to be undocumented. Whether younger or older or particularly
again exposed to all of these questions of policing that are currently now
part of the hands up, don`t shoot movement.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is this the movement that finally begins to explicitly
PEREZ: Of course. I definitely - I think, you know, last night we had a
conversation about that and really trying to be intentional and sensitive
to that. And making sure that there`s this interconnectedness between us.
And we understand that. And we`re going to elevate that in our movement.
SMITH: And I`ve seen it. I absolutely have seen it. United We Dream of
the Dream Defenders who came together around the Trayvon Martin shooting.
All of these groups are really stepping out there, and also that LGBT
organizations without having to be asked or pushed issued statements when
these grand jury verdicts came out. I don`t know if people are aware of
that. But the thing is they stepped right up with their solidarity.
PEREZ: And I want to answer that, a lot of the groups that we`ve been
working with all over the country, work in this section, right? And so
they - we`re looking at developing a larger conversation, because it is
about making sure that all people matter, right? That all of us are safe
in our communities, that all of us are not necessarily discriminated
against by police or are brutalized by police. And so that`s where we`re
HARRIS-PERRY: So, black lives matters end up standing for brown lives
matter. Undocumented lives matter. All lives - Queer lives matter. All
lives matter. And yet, so often we hear Professor Perez, so often we hear,
not that issue right now, because we`re doing this issue right now. And
that doing intersectionality within movement work somehow weakens
movements. I mean one cannot be a feminist who is also a person of color
and not have heard, shsh, don`t talk about sexual assault. Because we`re
talking about racism. Scch, don`t talk about feminism. We`re talking
about racism. So what is the argument then that intersectional work
actually strengthens a movement?
SMITH: Well, it draws more people into the movement. Because their most
failure and heartfelt issue is also being announced by the movement. Or
think about how early in the Ferguson protests, low-wage workers came to
Ferguson. And domestic workers came to Ferguson to join the protest
against police brutality. I thought that was such a moving moment because,
of course, the people who are the victims of police brutality are also the
people who are going to have to work at the this low-wage jobs or going to
have to work without rights as domestic workers. And if they are gay or
lesbian or transgender, they`re going to be doubly or triply discriminated
against against as well. So, people see that now.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, you know, even as you think, I was thinking, and you
know what, police officers don`t make a lot of money and desperately need
their unionizing rights. And over and over again in international
movements, we have seen the breakthrough happen when the police or the
military cross this lines. So, I guess I just keep wondering, I wonder can
I get intersectional enough to actually include the interest of police as
workers. Like could they begin to see their interest in solidarity with
the movements that are currently over and against their power?
WARREN: Well, I think theoretically it could. But that`s a really
WARREN: Because I mean I`ll say this, Barbara, that there is
intersectionality in the bones of the people that are leading this
movement. That people don`t know this, but there are so many queer women
of color, queer men of color, who are running this. And people are
following. And it`s baked into what`s actually happening. I think the
challenge with the New York - with the police department is that that is an
WARREN: That needs to be dismantled by the movements, so it`s a particular
challenge to get the folks that are representing the status quo to realize
that their oppression is actually aligned with the people that are trying
to dismantle the system that they`re standing for. But that`s, you know,
something to watch for, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with us. We have much more. I also want to just -
quick program note, we have used the word queer a couple of times here. I
just want to point out that in the academy, often talk about LGBT issues
using the discourse of queer is something that is not at all ever meant to
be a slur. So, I just - I want to be clear about that. You are looking at
a live picture, we want to take you back, look at a live picture of where
the crowd for today`s march in Washington, D.C. are starting to gather.
We`re going to go there live next. Stay with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want you to go now to Washington, where protesters are
joining today`s march against police violence began gathering at 10:30 a.m.
Eastern in Freedom Plaza, just a few blocks away from the White House.
MSNBC national reporter Trymaine Lee has been there all morning awaiting
the start of the protests. Trymaine, you spent a lot of time on the ground
in Ferguson and reported back for us from there. Tell me a little bit
about how this crowd and mood is either different from or similar to what
you`ve witnessed in Ferguson.
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: OK, on the ground in Ferguson
there was this sense of kind of anger that had been simmering. Here you do
not feel that anger. But as hundreds are gathering now ahead of this
march, there`s certainly this sense of urgency and this energy that`s
bubbling now. You hear some of the similar chants, no justice, no peace.
Hands up. Don`t shoot. But when you scan the crowd, take a look at this
crowd first of all. You`ll see that it`s growing. People have signs.
Black lives matter. Don`t kill. Am I next? Now, part of this is about
protecting the black lives who are all too often lost to gun violence,
But in the crowd there`s also some folks with white family members and
loved ones who were killed by police violence. And so, beyond just black
lives matter, it`s about addressing the issues related to police violence.
And so, we see this kind of mixed crowd demographically, racially. For
different agents. That`s what is different here compared to Ferguson.
UM: For every American .
HARRIS-PERRY: Trymaine Lee, MSNBC national reporter on the ground there in
Washington D.C., thank you so much. We`re going to be bringing you the
latest on the march throughout the day today. Now, I want to turn now to
my panel. And I want to come back. Because that march, and certainly it
looks very traditional, if we think of a civil rights movement that we
often associate with marching and particularly with the march on
Washington. But one of the critical tactics as part of this movement have
been the die-ins.
HARRIS-PERRY: Not bodies moving, but bodies lying. Talk to me about what
that strategy, the value of the die-in is.
PEREZ: I think we want to put a visual to what`s happening in our
communities. And we want everybody to participate in that and
understanding that black lives do matter. And that it`s black and brown
young people that are being overly policed. And it allows people to
participate. It allows us to come together. One of the things that we
were talking about earlier is that this is a movement. This is a movement
of today. We`ve been organizing before this. There are people that have
been doing this work for a long time. And so when we came together so
quickly, it`s because we`ve been ready for this. We`ve been working with
those that have come before us. But as well as we communicate with one
another. We have our people in Florida, Dream Defenders who we work
closely with. Those that are in Ferguson that have been doing - just work,
just began doing this work and supporting one another as young people, or
Black Lives Matter people out of Los Angeles. And so we are united. We
have a unified message. Because this impacts our country. This impacts
our generation. And so it`s really powerful for us, for people to see the
hands up, don`t shoot. Because those are the last words of those that are
dying on the streets. I can`t breathe, right? The dying. This is visual,
this allows our grandmothers to understand what we are going through as a
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you said earlier a movement is not simply a slogan. And
yet, clearly the images, the slogans, the actions become things. When I
see that, when I see black lives matter, when I see the hands up, when I
see I can`t breathe, I understand that this thing is then part of this
PIVEN: That`s true. But it`s also true that a die-in is very moving. The
slogan convey a central issue, but movements have to do more than that.
Because movements, we`re talking now about movements from the bottom of the
society. Movements by the young people, the black people, the Latino
people. The poor people, who have been so hurt, who suffered the hardships
of an out of control neo-liberal capitalist regime. Let`s speak straight
about what`s going on. So yes, they have to project their issues and their
dreams. But they also have to do something else that is much more
troublesome to many people who would otherwise be sympathetic. They have
to shut things down. They have to stop things. That`s what strikers do.
That`s what people who walk out of universities do. They shut down the
universities. The die-in is not only symbolic, it also stops traffic. And
that`s why it`s so important also that movements have defenders. Those
older people, the liberals. If they don`t understand this, they are likely
to say, well, we agree with your issues but not with your methods. The
movement method is very important.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, when you talk about adding the capitalism aspect to it
and you talk about people on the bottom, and you talk about shutting things
down and making things uncomfortable. I think about Occupy. Which was
doing all bout, was - had that analysis. Which was making things
uncomfortable, and which (INAUDIBL), Is this the movement? And occupy did
some important work. It got some language and discourse even on a
presidential agenda, and then it also feels like it is not nearly as
present at this moment. So is this just the back and forth fail and
succeed? Or is this something that can make this more sustainable than
WARREN: No, I think it makes more sense just to think about it as a
continue rather than to think about individual chunks. And so, there`s
also value to individual groups. Like, for example, occupy. Being
invisible, but active at this moment, right? Because these are - they are
related issues, but they`re not the same issues. And I know for a fact
that there are plenty of Occupy people out there and that are part of this.
But this is, you know, we`re new a new phase. We have a new political
situation, that different people that are leading. And I think another
important part of the movement piece, is how the leadership emerges and how
leadership develops. And it is a very good sign that the Occupy people and
the black lives matter. People are not fighting what - who is running this
thing right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yep, yep. Francis and Vince are going to be back in our
next hour. Let me say thank you to Barbara Smith and to Carmen Perez. I
just want you to know also, my mother just is beside herself that you`re on
the show this morning. Up next, how this 17-year-old died, Lennon Lacy,
HARRIS-PERRY: This morning in Bladenboro, North Carolina, in the state
NAACP is holding another march. Separate from those taking place later
today in Washington, D.C. in New York City. Today`s march in North
Carolina is to honor the memory of 17-year old Lennon Lacy and to highlight
some progress in his case. Lennon Lacy was found dead on August 29th,
hanging from a swing set in the Bladenboro neighborhood. Local
investigators initially ruled out foul play because they said there was
insufficient evidence of criminal wrong doing. But the details of Lacy`s
death have raised many questions for the Lacy`s family and their
Bladenboro, North Carolina community. Three weeks ago the North Carolina
NAACP state conference officially asked for a federal investigation of
Lacy`s death. And at that time I spoke about the case with North Carolina
NAACP president, Reverend William Barber.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. WILLIAM BARBER: These questions have to be answered. And that`s why
this pathology report, independent pathology report is enough to have a
full federal investigation. We must have a federal investigation. The
family said if it proves that, you know, that it was suicide, they can
accept that. What we can`t have is this case going forward without all of
these questions being answered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now we have an update on the investigation of Lacy`s death.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has officially joined the effort to
investigate the circumstances of the death. Bladen County District
Attorney Jon David addressed the shift from his jurisdiction to the FBI`s
during a press conference yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON DAVID, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It is not uncommon for the SBI and the FBI
to coordinate on the biggest death investigations. That is now happening
in this case. And we welcome there as part of the investigative team. I
will tell you that particularly in the biggest cases, it`s vital that we
have the best response that we possibly can. And to the extent that we`re
able to use their resources and investigators in figuring out exactly what
happened, that is nothing but a positive development.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: After the news of the FBI`s involvement was announced, we
received this statement from Lennon`s mother, Claudia Lacy. "As Lennon`s
mother, along with his family, we are thankful for the decision by the FBI
to investigate thoroughly the death of my son. I do not believe he
committed suicide. Too many questions remain. Too many answers not given.
Lennon loved life and was looking forward to life."
We will continue to follow this story as it develops. And up next, the
things done in the service of the people of the United States. There`s
more MHP show at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Right now in Washington, D.C., a large cloud is gathering for the "Justice
for All" march set to begin in about an hour. The march is part of the
growing protest movement in the wake of grand jury decisions not to indict
the police officers who killed two unarmed African-American men, Michael
Brown and Eric Garner.
The families of both those men will be among those leading the march today.
Protesters from around the country have arrived in the nation`s capitol for
the march, and beyond Washington, protests are also expected today in New
York, in Ferguson, Missouri, and in other cities.
Later in this hour, we`ll talk with one of the organizers of the march in
Washington, my MSNBC colleague Al Sharpton, host of "POLITICS NATION" and
founder of the National Action Network.
But right now, we turn to the other huge story out of Washington this week.
A bombshell report from the Senate Intelligence Committee revealed that the
CIA`s, quote, "enhanced interrogation techniques" used in the years after
9/11 were much more brutal and widespread than we knew.
The details are horrific. A detainee who had held partially nude and
chained to a concrete floor died from suspected hypothermia.
Sleep deprivation involved keeping detainees awake for 180 hours, usually
standing or in stressed positions, at times with their hands shackled above
Waterboarding was a series of near drownings. Interrogation techniques
such as slaps and wallings, slamming detainees against walls, were used.
CIA officers also threatened at least three detainees with harm to their
families. An intellectually challenged man was held by the CIA solely as
leverage to get a family member to provide information.
At least five CIA detainees were subjected to rectal rehydration, or rectal
feeding, without documented medical necessity. The last has been
especially horrifying to medical professionals, as a senior medical adviser
for the group Physicians for Human Rights said, quote, "This is a form of
sexual assault, masquerading as a medical treatment."
The Senate report also claims that the CIA misrepresented the effectiveness
of these techniques to Congress, to the White House, and to the general
public, when it said enhanced interrogation techniques yielded information
that prevented terror attacks and that there was no other way to get that
On the contrary, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded the techniques
just didn`t work.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), SENATE INTELLIGEN CMTE CHAIR: The committee
found the CIA`s coercive interrogation techniques were not an effective
means of acquiring accurate intelligence or gaining detainee cooperation.
We took 20 examples that the CIA itself claimed to show the success of
these interrogations. Our staff reviewed every one of the 20 cases, and
not a single case holds up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The CIA Director John Brennan defended his agency in a press
conference Thursday, arguing that it got crucial information from CIA
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: The detention and interrogation program
produced useful intelligence that helped the United States thwart attack
plans, capture terrorists and save lives. But let me be clear, we have not
concluded that it was the use of EITs within that program that allowed us
to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is the question we fine ourselves discussing as a
nation, whether it is effective to subject people in U.S. custody to sleep
deprivations, to near drownings, to really unspeakable degradations,
whether by doing so we can get information that can save American lives.
So, we ask ourselves, does torture work? Those who oppose torture say it
doesn`t work. Like President Obama who banned enhanced interrogation
techniques like waterboarding, almost as soon as he took office. Here he
is speaking with Jose Diaz-Balart this week for Telemundo on the
effectiveness of what he calls torture.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some of these techniques
that were described were not only wrong, but also counterproductive because
we know that, you know, often times when somebody is subjected the to these
techniques, that they`re willing to say anything in order to alleviate the
pain and the stress that they`re feeling. And we have better ways of doing
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: On the other side, those who defend torture say, of course,
it works. Here is former Vice President Dick Cheney Wednesday night
speaking about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; believed to be the mastermind of the
9/11 attacks who was subjected to at least 183 waterboardings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER PRESIDENT: What are we supposed to do? Kiss him
on both cheeks and say, please, please, tell us what you know?
Of course not. We did exactly what needed to be done in order to catch
those who were guilty on 9/11 and to prevent a further attack, and we were
successful both parts.
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: This report says it was not successful.
CHENEY: The report is full of crap, excuse me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And so the debate has come down to this question: do
enhanced interrogation techniques, does torture, work to keep Americans
Now I want to ask a different question. If torture is morally and legally
wrong, as President Obama says, contrary to our values, should it matter
whether or not it works?
Joining me now: Frances Fox Piven, distinguished professor at the graduate
center at the City University of New York. Vince Warren, executive
director of the Center for Constitutional Rights Earl Catagnus, Jr.,
assistant professor of history and security studies at Valley Forge College
and Iraq war veteran. And Dr. Sandeep Jauhar, who is director of the heart
failure program at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center and "New York
Times" best selling author of "Doctored: The Disillusionment of An American
Earl, part of the reason I wanted to have you here is my sense that we`ve
been having this he conversation, and so many conversations are happening
at tables in studios in places like New York, what do we not know about the
realities of war that we ought to know? And if we knew them, would they in
any way change how we feel about torture?
EARL CATAGNUS, JR., ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, VALLEY FORGE MILITARY COLLEGE: I
think one is maybe we need to talk about it as abuse, the enhanced
interrogation, maybe there`s abuse. But when you say the word "torture",
the image comes up with the liberated torture houses that I saw in
Fallujah, with that al Qaeda, which the bloodstain walls, the excrement,
the smell of rotting flesh. That to me, and the video tape equipment, so,
it`s videotaped. That to me is torture.
Now, could we have the discussion about enhanced interrogation techniques,
are they abusive? Is it contrary to American morals? Yes. But I think
the word torture is going beyond.
And here`s another reason why, Survival Escape Resistance Evasion school,
SERE school. Every single pilot, air crew, as well as snipers or Special
Forces soldiers, who are SEALs, Navy SEALs, they go through this SERE
training. Every single one of those enhanced interrogation techniques is
done to American personnel.
Now, that includes waterboarding. Waterboarding, I`m not sure if they do
it anymore, the box, sleep and food deprivation, stress positions. And
we`re taught how to actually resist those interrogation techniques. The
difference is, obviously, is that we know that there`s not going to be --
that they`re going to kill us. But there is even simulated sexual
assaults, that`s in that. So that way it gives the psychological effect on
the other detainees.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, these are practices by American military officials on
American military men and women as a training for the possibility of this
CATAGNUS: Happening to them. And the idea is that it`s when we`re taught,
and all of the techniques are classified as well as the resistance
techniques are classified.
CATAGNUS: But one of the things that we understood is that everybody will
break. They have a breaking point. And it`s not necessarily a physical
breaking point, but a mental breaking point. And the idea is in resisting
interrogation is to put off the inevitable for as long as you can.
Most of these things and this is another thing, the context. Whether or
not -- and the 6,700-page report, the big one, has to be really looked at,
because every single interrogation done is preplanned and is done by
professionals with medical personnel there, with PhDs. And, in fact, the
two psychologists that they`re -- a company that was contracted by the CIA
to do this were actually psychologists for the SERE program.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so I`m not sure. On one hand that is profoundly and
critically useful to me understanding it. But I`m not sure it changes my
position on it, in the sense, particularly when you tell me there are
physicians present. I think that`s also part of the angst emerged. There
were physicians present when this enhanced interrogation techniques, this
torture was being done on those in our custody, and apparently also on our
own soldiers as a training technique, I guess keep wondering, are we just
stripping away the notion of this as torturers?
If we are making it normative, making it to do in part because we
experienced it ourselves?
DR. SANDEEP JAUHAR, AUTHOR, "DOCTORED": Yes, I mean, look, just because
the CIA abuse didn`t leave scars like, you know, Basher al Assad`s regime
or Fallujah, it doesn`t mean what they did wasn`t torturous. I mean, this
was clearly torturous behavior.
And the fact that you had medical professionals there makes it in my view
just even worse, because these doctors were not there to protect the
prisoners. They were there to facilitate the torture. And any way you
look at it -- I mean, I`m a physician. I`ve taken care of patients for two
decades. I`ve never heard of rectal feeding as a viable means of feeding
You know, just as an aside, the lower gut doesn`t absorb nutrients. This
is not a viable form of support for the patients.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I just want to underline what you`re saying there.
This is from the report on the doctors involvement in rectal feeding where
we have CIA medical officers discussing rectal rehydration as a means of
behavior control. One officer wrote that the infusion -- while I.V.
infusion is safe and effective, we were impressed with the ancillary
effectiveness of rectal infusion on ending water refusal. Another one
saying that it helps to clear a person`s head and is effective in getting
KSM to talk.
So, not effective as a rehydration, but potentially effective in gathering
JAUHAR: If you want to protect a patient, if you want to rehydrate them,
you put in an I.V., you don`t put in a rectal tube.
But, you know, apart from that, you know, you mentioned these two
psychologists. These goons really applied a completely discredited theory
of learned helplessness to force these prisoners in horrible,
psychologically torturous positions to gain information.
And you know, you bring up the point: is enhanced interrogation productive?
I mean, it depends of who you believe. Who are you going to believe,
President Obama or Dick Cheney, you know?
HARRIS-PERRY: That depends on where you`re standing. Who -- like -- so, I
mean, I think that`s part of what makes this complicated, is that for many
people, maybe not watching this show, the answer to that is pretty easily:
Dick Cheney over President Obama. And I think that`s part of what I want -
- and we`ll take a quick break. But I want to come back on exactly,
because what I don`t want, a conversation about torture to this be is
partisan. I want us to figure out if there`s a set of American questions
that aren`t about whether or not I have to choose between liking or
believing the Republican or the Democrat.
As we go out, we`re going to look at some live pictures here out of
Washington, D.C., where a large crowd is gathering for today`s "Justice for
All" march. Protesters from across the country are in the nation`s capital
for the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner will be leading the
Later in this hour, we`re going to speak with an organizer of the march, my
MSNBC colleague, Al Sharpton, who`s host of "POLITICS NATION" and founder
of the National Action Network.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Living our values doesn`t
make us weaker, it makes us safer, and it makes us stronger. And that is
why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that
the United States of America does not torture. We can make that commitment
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We
did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We
did some things that were contrary to our values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama, first in February of 2009, and
then in August of this year.
And I play the two clips together not to suggest that the president is
contradicting himself, but to raise the question of what exactly are
American values when it comes to the uses of enhanced interrogation
And this is where I wanted to come to you on this, because we`re talking
about it in this context. But there is Guantanamo as well and
conversations about whether or not the forced oral feedings there
constituting a form of torture.
WARREN: Absolutely. And the forced oral feedings, which really do amount
of sexual abuse, happened to our client, Mahji Khan (ph). And we had never
heard about this either.
So, when you have a situation where the military is using a medical
technique that has no medical value and it is essentially a breach of
someone`s physical person, this institutes sexual assault. So, what we
shouldn`t be having the debate about, whether torture works or not, anymore
than we should have be having the debate whether there`s value to slavery
or whether there`s value to genocide, because torture, genocide and value -
WARREN: Slavery -- thank you -- are all the highest forms of crime people
can commit to each other -- against each other, excuse me. So, that`s what
we`re talking about.
So, really, we need to be thinking about prosecution. The only way to
prevent torture and things like this from happening is to prosecute the
people that have done this. This is not a question of values. This is a
question of criminality.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, should we be persecuting the frontline folks who are
doing -- I mean, let me play Brennan, who made -- who said something about
this earlier. Let`s just play Mr. Brennan for a second.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: In many respects, the program was unchartered territory for the
CIA, and we were not prepared. We had little experience housing detainees
and precious few of our officers were trained interrogators. But the
president authorized the effort six days after 9/11 and it was our job to
carry it out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: They`re saying, well, it was our job. And then you have
frontline folks who are also taking orders. Is that who should be
prosecuted? Is it doctors who are going against a Hippocratic Oath? Is it
the president who, he says, said this was OK six days after 9/11?
WARREN: Everybody that had a role in ordering, designing, facilitating the
torturous actions should be investigated and prosecuted. The Center for
Constitutional Rights has actually filed cases internationally, in Spain,
in Canada, looking to hold high level Bush officials accountable for their
role in this torture. And we`ve done that internationally because there
has been no political will here in the United States to be able to do that.
But to be clear, U.S. law prohibits this. International law prohibits
this. There`s no conversation other than how are we going to move forward
with a meaningful investigation to hold people accountable so we can be
assured that U.S. officials won`t be saying in the future, well, yes, it`s
just a little bit of torture, but I`m sure it was OK because it was
working. It`s really hard --
HARRIS-PERRY: Professor Piven, let me let you in on this.
PIVEN: Well, I think we`re not asking the most important questions.
Torture is morally reprehensible. The defense of torture is that -- well,
it`s effective or it isn`t effective in getting information.
But there are other effects of torture that are so important that are not
being discussed. One is obviously, that there is almost a criminal gang in
the government in the security agencies that is not subject to democratic
accountability of any kind. And what they do has huge effects of the
future of the United States and the future of the world.
You can`t look at these horrific acts and not wonder, at least, whether the
experience of this kind of behavior at the hands of American agents doesn`t
have something to do with the rise of terrorist groups like ISIL, in the
very part of the world that we were operating.
CATAGNUS: I think that`s -- you`re drawing a much bigger conclusions. I
think these techniques when the rest of the world looks at them, besides
the Westerners. Many of these techniques people were think were
amateurish, and they would actually laugh, especially ISIL and ISIS,
So, I think we`re overstating it. You go and look at BBC. It`s not
mentioned on their news reporting, today. So for us in the United States,
it`s very big. But for the world --
JAUHAR: Really? The world is revolted by what the United States has done.
CATAGNUS: Is the world political elites that are using it to -- for a
sway? But the actual people on the ground, I don`t think so.
JAUHAR: Yes. The question of how these people are going to punish, you
know, I agree with what you`re saying, but how do you now retrospectively,
you know, impose legal sanctions, culpability when the United States
government that this torture program was legal? I mean, it was instituted
by the executive branch of the government. So, how do you say ten years
are later, actually, this was really bad. We shouldn`t have done it. And
now, we`re going to hold these people accountable.
I mean, they have an out. This was legal.
WARREN: Well, they -- of course, they created the out to begin with,
WARREN: So, if you think about the torture as a program that does include
doctors and it does include lawyers and it does include media, frankly,
that it`s very easy to create a narrative that we did this because we
needed to do it, and we asked everybody. We asked lawyers.
George Bush said this, the lawyers said it`s legal. The doctors say it`s
medical. And everybody is shifting the burden away from the central
question, which is the acts that we are committing, regardless of why we
felt that we needed to do it, regardless of the political implications are
fundamentally illegal, and it needs to be --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Nuremberg trials.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think in many ways, we`ve only begun to raise some of the
critical questions to be asked here. Thank you to Francis Fox Piven and to
Vince Warren. Also to Earl Catagnus, Jr., and Dr. Sandeep Jauhar.
Still to come this morning, why important information about convicted sex
offenders is missing from public online registries.
And before I go to break, I want to show you again the growing crowd in
Washington, D.C. right now. This is the Justice for All march. It`s
slated to start in less than an hour. Protesters are ling up.
We`re going do come back to this story and speak with an organizer of
today`s march, my MSNBC colleague, Al Sharpton, the host of "POLITICS
NATION" and founder of the National Action Network.
Stay with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Multiple law enforcement agencies are searching for Basil
Kingsberry. While serving in the Army, Kingsberry was convicted of rape
and forcible sodomy. He was in military prison until 2005. Now, nearly 10
years later, Kingsberry, a convicted rapist, cannot be found on any public
sex offender registry.
Kingsberry is not alone. A newly released investigative report reveals
that more than 200 military sex offenders are not on public registries.
After the break, how the military`s current system enables these convicted
sex offenders to evade registration, why the system is denying the public
critical information about sex offenders who could live just down the
HARRIS-PERRY: In 2006, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was
signed into law, requiring civilian sex offenders to submit their names and
details of their crimes to a registry before leaving prison.
But that is not what happens to sex offenders in the military. According
to a newly released nine-month investigative report by Scripps News,
reporter Mark Greenblatt found military officials are unable to register
sex offenders while they are in military prison. Because the Department of
Defense is not recognized as a jurisdiction, like say U.S. states are, so
it`s up to convicted sex offenders to self register upon their release.
Greenblatt`s investigation found at least 242 military sex offenders who
are not on public U.S. sex offender registries. Like this man, Matthew
Carr. He was convicted in 2003 by a military court of indecent assault
against seven women. While in the U.S. Air Force, Carr impersonated a
gynecologist in training. Her persuaded women to submit to pelvic exams
and drew blood samples.
Carr served time in a military prison. And when he was released, he never
registered as a sex offender. He reoffended in 2010. Carr was convicted
again, this time in civilian court in Wisconsin, of committing the same
kind of assault. Carr is still in custody and now registered by the state
One of the survivor`s mothers have searched for Carr`s name in the public
sex offender registry, but nothing turned up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never would have dreamed anything like this could
happen to our family. We live in a very small town, try to be vigilant and
conscientious about choices and decisions, and it happen to us. It could
happen to anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: While the burden is on the sex offender to register,
military officials are supposed to inform civilian authorities where the
offender plans to live.
According to Greenblatt`s investigation, officials had become more serious
about notification in recent months. But the details can get lost in
translation. In Carr`s case, for example, military court opinions
accurately documented Carr`s crimes as indecent assault. But when
documents reported to civilian authorities, federal probation officials say
that people who showed Carr committed a lesser crime, assault consummated
by battery, which is equivalent to a civilian misdemeanor.
Greenblatt took his question to the Pentagon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK GREENBLATT, SCRIPPS NEWS: Should there be an aspect of prevention and
response of further sexual assaults in the civilian community as well that
comes under your leadership?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In light of your question, we`ll obviously take a hard
look at that. So, thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now is Scripps News investigative reporter Mark
Greenblatt, and also Anu Bhagwati, who is a former captain in the U.S.
Marines and executive director and cofounder of the Servicewomen`s Action
Mark, what you found -- is it a kind of purposeful bad act on the part of
the military to shield these former service people and thereby to shield
themselves, or is this the kind of paperwork failure that leads to bad
GREENBLATT: Well, Melissa, I think it`s probably a little bit of both.
First of all, the Pentagon has repeatedly told us that they in no way, you
know, sanctioned what they call the heinous behavior of these sex
offenders. They don`t like sex offenders any more than you or I do.
But what you really drill down then and look at what their policies are,
that`s where sort of the rub and the breakdown is taking place. The
Pentagon will not release the location of where they discharged their
convicted sex offenders to, once they rejoin society, almost every branch
of the armed services will not tell you what state they moved to.
And the other thing that we found here and this is where their own
inspector general has said there could be a fix here is that, unlike in
civilian society, they will actually let their sex offenders leave military
prison before they get register.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that reality, connected with -- Anu, you have come and
talk to us on this program over and over again, which is the difficulty
given the chain of command and how sex assault is even dealt with in the
military. It does make you feel like maybe the military doesn`t take
seriously the question, despite the fact that these are folks who were
actually convicted during their time in service.
ANU BHAGWATI, EXEC. DIR., SERVICEWOMEN`S ACTION NETWORK: Absolutely. I
still question whether the Department of Defense takes this seriously. You
saw that Mark interviewed or rather asked that question at the Pentagon
press conference after the secretary of defense left that press conference
not having answered a single question about military sexual assault. And
so, I wonder whether our leadership takes this seriously.
Mark brings up a great point that we need to see a system in which military
offenders actually are registered in state registries before they are
discharged from the military. It should not be left up to them. I mean,
we`ve seen so many failures in the military policy when it comes to the
military justice system itself.
Right now, in last week`s report, we saw that convictions are down. And
that as a total percentage of reports, you know, depending on -- they
insist that reports have gone up, but as a total percentage of reports,
victims who reported through the unrestrictive process, meaning the ones
who are actually going forward with an investigation, putting their names
out there and hoping for a court-martial, that percentage has dropped. And
so, there`s a failure in the military justice system to serve victims.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, Mark, is this about sexual assault? My very first
thought is OK, so in the context of sexual assailants, we have a
registration process. But there are other crimes committed by service
members for which they are imprisoned with the military prison and make it
out. Do civilian networks that would normally know, like probation
officers and that sort of thing, who would normally know about other kinds
of offenders, who are not sex offenders, know if someone has been involved
Like, is this about sex offense or a general breakdown around crime in the
GREENBLATT: What we`re really looking at the sex offend system. Now, you
asked about other crimes, and the truth is the military does send over
criminal records to the FBI, for instance, for law enforcement to do
national criminal background checks on people, even when they were
convicted of murder or burglary for instance in the military.
One of the things that is going wrong here in the system, as it relates to
sex offends is the military currently has no ability to put the name of a
sex offender into the FBI`s criminal background check system, their
nationwide criminal data base, in the specific section of that, that all of
the civilian law enforcement community depends onto check for sex offenders
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask another question, Anu, about whether or not
sex offense is somehow different. A lot of what we do here is to try to
talk about issues of incarceration on this show and the ways in which once
people pay their debt, through incarceration, if we put an X on their back,
and for the rest of their lives they can`t get jobs and housing, all of
these other kinds of things, and then I find myself in the position of
saying, I want sex offenders registered, and I want these sex offenders
registered, is there something different about sexual assault and sexual
offense where advocates who would normally say, hey, let people pay their
due and move on are now saying, hey, actually, no, we want to monitor and
know where you are?
BHAGWATI: Well, I think the real difference here is victims within the
military are even more underprivileged than victims in the rest of society.
And that is extremely underprivileged. We have a military justice system
which currently favors perpetrators -- alleged perpetrators and
perpetrators themselves. And one of the things that Mark and I were
talking about earlier is that commanders have so much discretion over who
even makes it into a courtroom. So, things like non-judicial punishment,
administrative action, there`s a policy in the military that is literally
called resignation in lieu of court-martial.
BHAGWATI: Resignation in lieu of court-martial. So, there are a handful
of officers every year allowed to resign from the military without ever
seeing the inside of a courtroom. That is the problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Suggesting this problem is bigger than those who
convicted an served and not register.
Thank you to Mark Greenblatt for your reporting and your investigations,
and to Anu Bhagwati for being here and talking about this with us.
Up next, Reverend Al Sharpton joins me, just ahead of the march in
Washington that he is leading moments from now.
MADDOW: For months, a national movement to address policing in communities
of color has been gaining momentum. And right now, that movement is taking
center stage in Washington, D.C., where a large crowd is gathering for the
Justice for All march, set to begin in about 15 minutes.
Protesters have travelled from around the country to participate in the
march. And demonstrations are also planned in New York and other cities
Some younger activists have declared this a National Day of Resistance,
calling for protests across the country. This comes just weeks after
demonstrators took to the streets in Ferguson, Missouri, to protest a grand
jury`s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death
of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
During those demonstrations, police used tear gas to disperse the crowds,
prompting a lawsuit from some of the protesters who say their right to
peaceful assembly was violated.
And Thursday, they won a key victory: a federal judge in St. Louis ruled
police must first give protesters a clear and fair warning and time to
evacuate before using tear gas.
MSNBC national correspondent Trymaine Lee talked to some of the activists
behind the legal fight.
KIRA HUDSON BANKS, PLAINTIFF: I was just running. My eyes were burning.
I had to keep them open to be able to move.
LEE: St. Louis resident Kira Banks describes the night she and other South
Side residents who thought they were in a safe space were faced with tear
gas and police in riot gear.
BANKS: There wasn`t an announcement to disperse. There wasn`t an
announcement about unlawful assembly.
LEE: Banks joined a diverse group of protesters and the owner of this
coffee shop in a federal suit against the unified command, which was in
charge of law enforcement in Ferguson and the St. Louis metropolitan area
the night of the grand jury decision in the shooting death of Michael Brown
by Officer Darren Wilson. They claimed police used excessive force,
targeting a local business and using tear gas to punish protesters who said
they were doing nothing unlawful at the time.
(on camera): Had you been tear gassed before at any time during the
BANKS: I hadn`t. Any time there`s an announcement made about this is
unlawful assembly or you must disperse, I left. So, I mean, I have a
career. I have children. I want to express my feelings, but I`m not
trying to get tear gassed.
LEE (voice-over): Brenden Roediger and Thomas Harvey are the lead lawyers
representing the group.
BRENDEN ROEDIGER, ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY LEGAL CLINIC: We definitely think
the techniques to deal with crowd are illegal. That the use of tear gas is
illegal, especially the targeted group of tear gas against small groups.
THOMAS HARVEY, EXEC. DIR. ARCHCITY DEFENDERS: They are punishing people.
The effect of that punishment is to chill their First Amendment rights.
LEE: Police dispute those claims, a lawyer for the St. Louis County Police
Department told MSNBC, quote, "We believe that any actions that the county
police took were consistent with our policies and did not constitute any
excessive force or unauthorized use of any weaponry."
A federal judge in St. Louis has partially sided with the protesters,
ordering police to give clear warning before deploying tear gas, plus, the
time and means to vacate the area. It`s not the first lawsuit stemming
from policing in the Ferguson protests.
In October, a federal judge barred police from enforcing the so-called
five-second rule that they had been using to justify arresting anyone who
stopped moving, even on the sidewalk.
That same month, an Amnesty International report blasted what they called
abusive police practices, including the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and
high frequency devices for crowd control.
Banks, a psychology professor, joined the suit to show how broad the impact
the police response has been.
BANKS: It`s often a stereotype. Those people should get a job. They
don`t have anything better to do. I have a very successful life, yet I
still want to stand up and say I think we need to make sure that we think
about systemic racism and there are injustices in our society.
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now from Washington, D.C., at the site of the
today`s justice for all demonstration is MSNBC national reporter Trymaine
Trymaine, I understand there`s been some kind of unexpected activity on the
stage there already this morning. Can you tell me what happened?
LEE: Certainly, Melissa. Thank you for having me.
Just about ten minutes ago, a small group of protesters from Ferguson
actually stormed the stage demanding to be heard. Security rushed to
contain them. They actually shut their microphones off.
And Genita Elsey (ph), one of the protesters who have really been a leader
of the movement down on the ground in Ferguson, demanded to be heard. As
you said, we`ve started this. She said I was shot with rubber bullets.
I`ve been tear gassed nine times.
Then, she led the crowd in a chant of "hands up, don`t shoot". Again, she
said that young people started this movement and it should be nothing but
young people on the stage.
So, again, as thousands of people have swarmed across the country here at
Freedom Plaza, that Ferguson contingent has not been satisfied with the
energy here. And so, they decided to crank it up a notch. It was
something to be seen.
HARRIS-PERRY: Trymaine, that`s interesting. We spent a lot of the first
hour talking about the question of a movement and whether or not what we`re
seeing now looks like a real movement, and part of, of course, what was
true in the civil rights movement and many movements is the divide around
the question of localism versus kind of national identity, young, new
leaders and older established leaders. Are we beginning to see some of
that in this movement?
LEE: I think we`ve seen this from the very beginning, especially in
Ferguson, where there are so many spots trying to form groups of young
people, all with a common agenda, but some more radical than others. Some
work through the system. And we`re seeing that here today.
Now, as you mentioned, when you talk to old school civil rights leaders,
they say they were split between SNCC and other groups. The NAACP, for
But what you`re having here, especially for those veterans of the Ferguson
movement who have gone through all the issue with the police, all the
confrontations, all the nights after nights of tear gas. Now, there`s been
120 some days. And so, when they come to New York City, when they come to
Washington, D.C., and they see what many of them believe is a movement
that`s being co-opted here, getting permits, asking police to shut streets
down, that`s kind of not what they`re used to.
But, again, as that organization, and those groups kind of mature, these
are kind -- seem to be the growing pains.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, although quiet honestly for many in part, that might be
a suggestion that this is sustainable because of course unity is always
false, there`s always these kinds of interconnections. All of that said,
there are still some very key points of unity, clarity -- what is this
march ultimately all about?
LEE: Exactly. Now, the organizers of the march against police violence
and police abuses. And they`ve gathered the families of so many loved ones
who have been killed by police. So, it`s supposed to be about all lives
matter. But in particular black lives mattering.
But again, moments ago you had Randi Weingarten, the teachers union
president. You have other labor unions. You have members of the clergy
here. And so, while it`s under the umbrella of black lives mattering, this
is really been a collection of folks who are sympathizers on one hand, but
also have their own issues and own agendas that they like to avoid.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to MSNBC`s Trymaine Lee in Washington, D.C.
You`ve been on the ground in Ferguson. You`re on the ground now in
Washington, D.C. Thank you for the package you did for us earlier as well.
We so appreciate your reporting and keeping us part of the movement.
Up next, how the king of the court is winning in more ways than one.
HARRIS-PERRY: Once again, the book of sport and politics has been given a
specific King James translation.
On Monday, before the Cleveland Cavaliers took on the Brooklyn Nets, LeBron
James made a bold statement just by putting on a shirt. One of the most
famous athletes on the planet joined players on both teams and protesters
across the country with the shirt that read, "I can`t breathe.", the
rallying cry for justice in the wake of Eric Garner`s death from a police
chokehold and the decision of a grand jury not to indict the officers
James explained his choice to ESPN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Obviously, we know as a society, we
have to do better, we have to be better for one another, no matter what
race you are. But it`s more of a shout-out to the family, more than
anything, because they`re the ones that should be getting all the energy
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That same night, the King also welcomed a prince, Britain`s
Prince William and his wife Kate had prime seats at game, along with
American music royalty, Queen B and Jay-Z.
Now, LeBron gave William and Kate a pint-sized jersey for their young son
George. But when he put his arm around Kate, some Brits called the photo
op a royal faux pas. According to British protocol, a commoner is not
supposed to touch members of the royal family, even if that commoner is the
king of the court. But Kate didn`t seem too bothered by it.
The man who reigns supreme on the court is almost comfortable on the home
court. LeBron was recently featured in the HDTV series "Rehab Addict" for
his work with his charitable organization renovating a home in his native
And did I mention that in the midst of ripping out kitchen cabinets,
hosting royalty and advocating for justice, he`s also been pretty good at
his day job, basketball. He`s a big part of why the Cleveland Cavaliers
are near the top of their division. And despite struggling with a sore
knee this week, LeBron now has 40 career games where he`s scored 40 points,
five rebounds and five assists. Only Michael Jordan has more in the past
After his much talk about departure and return to Cleveland, King James is
hoping to win an NBA title for his hometown fans, just as he did twice for
the Miami Heat. But sometimes, heavy is the head that wears the crown.
After the 2013 NBA finals, when LeBron won his second straight finals MVP
Award, he was asked about the intense scrutiny he receives. He replied,
"I`m LeBron James from Akron, Ohio, from the inner-city, I`m not even
supposed to be here."
But in this moment, in this time, when young people from inner-cities and
outer suburbs across the country are standing up and making their voices
heard, LeBron James seems to be exactly where he`s supposed to be.
And that`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m
going to see you tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Tomorrow, `tis the season in a big way. And we are talking about the thing
on so many people`s minds, toys. Toys that raise questions about gender,
toys that raise questions about race, toys that raise questions about class
and the economy, toys are just fun.
And we want you to send us your input. So, send us pictures via Twitter
using #nerdland. And send a picture of you playing with your favorite
childhood toy. Maybe we`ll try to work it into tomorrow`s show.
Now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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