'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, December 6th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: December 6, 2014
Guest: Bryonn Bain, Janai Nelson, Tim Wu, Michael Skolnik, Phillip Agnew,
Ashley Yates, Maya Wiley, Eugene O`Donnell, Marquez Claxton, Phillip Atiba
Goff, Nicole Bell, Connie Schultz
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC: Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And
we have a lot to get to on the program this morning, including the latest
in the response to the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case.
But we start with breaking news from overnight. An American photo
journalist, who was being held hostage in Yemen was killed by al Qaeda
militants during a rescue mission by U.S. Special Forces. Al Qaeda posted
a video earlier this week threatening to kill Luke Somers in three days.
Somers, a British born U.S. citizen was abducted a year ago in Sana`a where
he worked for "The Yemen Times." A second hostage was also killed in the
rescue attempt. President Obama condemned the killings as barbaric. He
explained the mission in a statement, saying in part, "Earlier this week a
video released by his terrorist captors announced that Luke would be killed
within 72 hours. Other information also indicated that Luke`s life was in
imminent danger. Based on this assessment and as soon as there was
reliable intelligence and an operational plan, I authorized a rescue
attempt yesterday. I also authorized the rescue of any other hostages held
in the same location as Luke." Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also released
a statement this morning that reads in part "Yesterday`s mission is the
reminder of America`s unrelenting commitment to the safety of our fellow
citizen wherever they might be around the world. I command the troops who
undertook those dangerous mission. Their service and valor are an
inspiration to all of us."
This was the second failed attempt to rescue Somers in two months. We`ll
continue to follow this story throughout the day on MSNBC.
But right now we`re going to turn to news here at home. This week a grand
jury in New York declined to indict the police officer involved in the
choking death of Eric Garner in Staten Island. This decision came one week
after the St. Louis grand jury decided not to indict now former Ferguson
police officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing Michael Brown. This
decision comes in a week when we have learned that the police officer who
shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice on a Cleveland playground just two
seconds after arriving on the scene, previously was deemed unfit for duty
by a neighboring police force. These deaths and the sense of injustice
surrounding them will forever mark how many Americans remember 2014.
But right now I want to invite you to draw your focus a little wider and
think not only about this week or this year, but also about this decade.
Ten years ago in January of 2004, 19-year-old Timothy Stansbury Jr. decided
to take a shortcut to a friend`s birthday party. He had to pass through a
stairwell in a Brooklyn apartment building. As he emerged from the
stairwell, he was shot to death by a police officer who was patrolling the
area. No indictment was issued against Richard Neri, the officer who shot
the unarmed teen. That same year, a decade ago in 2004, the Hollywood
blockbuster "Crash" premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. Now, this film
purported to illuminate America`s ongoing racial angst by following a set
of intertwined human stories. The key moment of the movie is when white
LAPD officer John Ryan played by Matt Dillon saves an African-American
woman portrayed by Thandie Newton from a burning car. But you see, the
fictional Officer Ryan is no stranger to this woman. He encountered her
earlier in the film when he demanded that she and her husband exit their
car during a traffic stop. When she refuses to comply with his demands,
Officer Ryan sexually assaults her, under the guise of a standard patdown.
And this violation of a black body by an armed officer for the sole purpose
of serving his power and authority is a gut wrenching scene.
But the scene where that same officer saves his victim from certain death
risking his life to drag her to safety wipes the slate clean of the
residual evil of racial and sexual assault. It restores Officer Ryan`s
humanity and shows the audience that no one is all bad. "Crash" went onto
win the Academy Award for best picture.
Ten years Alaska in this country, we created, consumed and applauded a
cultural product that redeems rather than punishes a white police officer
who abuses and degrades a black body. According to the CDC, between 1968
and 2011, black people were between two to eight times more likely to die
at the hands of law enforcement than whites. In August of 2005, less than
a year after "Crash" premiered, Hurricane Katrina caused a massive failure
of federal levies that were supposed to protect New Orleans. Low lying
African-American communities were hit hardest. But elected officials
initially reacted with more concern for property than for the men, women,
children and elderly who were trapped in the flooded city without adequate
food, water or medicine. Louisiana`s Democratic Governor, Kathleen Blanco
was reported to be just furious about the lawlessness and pledged we`ll do
what it takes to bring law and order to our region. The city`s African
American Mayor Ray Nagin ordered most of the city`s dramatically limited
police force to halt rescue efforts and to concentrate on stopping looters
who had grown more aggressive. Then on September Fourth while the city was
still in chaos, four New Orleans police officers opened fire on the group
of unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge. Two were killed. One was 17-
year-old James Brissette. It took nearly six years to obtain a federal
civil rights conviction of the officers, but that conviction was overturned
when it was revealed that prosecuting attorneys were posting messages in
the online comment section of the local paper.
There is still no resolution for the families of that unarmed man and boy
gunned down by police officers in the aftermath of a storm. Between 2003
and 2009 the Department of Justice reported that 4,813 people died while in
the process of arrest or in the custody of law enforcement. Three years
after Katrina America did something extraordinary. With an unprecedented
multiracial coalition that spanned from coast to coast and broke the solid
South, America elected an African-American Democrat to be president of the
United States. The next year, Henry Louis Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher
University professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and
African American Research at Harvard University was arrested by Cambridge
Massachusetts police for breaking into his own home. When the new
president had the audacity to offer his opinion that arresting a tenured
full professor from Harvard for entering his own property constituted
acting stupidly, the opinion about who had been victimized in this moment
shifted dramatically. And in the end the officer who arrested Gates was
invited to the White House for a beer.
According to the Bureau of Justice statistics African-Americans were twice
as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the
use of force during encounters with police. In 2011 the state of Georgia
executed Troy Davis for the murder of a police officer in 1989. Davis was
executed over the objections of a global community of activists. Executed
despite the fact that serious questions remained about his guilt. Executed
even though many of the witnesses whose testimony secured his conviction
had recanted. And 96 percent of states where there have been reviews of
raising the death penalty, there was a pattern of either race of victim or
race of defendant discrimination or both.
In 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford,
Florida, on his way home from the store. While he was carrying skittles
and ice tea. It took 46 days for George Zimmerman to be charged with
second-degree murder for killing the unarmed teen. Later that year we
reelected President Obama. Six months after President Obama`s second
inaugural address, George Zimmerman was found not guilty. 80 percent of
black men voters, 18 to 29 voted for President Obama in 2012. And now
2014, July 17th, 2014, Eric Garner dies after being put in a chokehold by
New York City police officers arresting him for selling untaxed loose
cigarettes. No indictment. August 5, 2014. John Crawford is shot to
death by police in the suburban Ohio, Walmart. He was walking around the
store holding a bb gun that is sold in the store. No indictment. August
9th, 2014, Michael Brown is shot and killed by Ferguson police officer
Darren Wilson, Brown was unarmed. Wilson initially stopped Brown for
jaywalking. No indictment.
Writing for "The Guardian" Pulitzer prize winner Isabel Wilkerson
considered the contemporary deaths of black men at the hands of police
officers against a backdrop of American lynching, writing "Not terribly
long ago in a country that many people misremember if they knew it at all,
a black person was killed in public every four days for often the most
mundane of infractions or rather accusation of infractions, for taking a
hug (ph), making boastful remarks, for stealing 75 cents. For the most
banal of missteps, the penalty could be an hour`s long spectacle of torture
and lynching. No trial, no jury, no judge, no appeal. Now into a new
century, as a family in Ferguson, Missouri buries yet another American
teenager killed at the hands of authorities, the rate of police killings of
black Americans is nearly the same as the rate of lynchings in the early
decades of the 20 century. About twice a week, or every three or four days
an African-American has been killed by a white police officer."
Wilkerson invites us into a world known by our grandparents. One of
disenfranchisement of encoded second-class citizenship enforced by the
terror of lynch law. The world our parents changed when they marched and
spoke and stood and sat and studied and demanded equality. A world my
students and my children were never supposed to know. This generation who
cast their first ballot to realize a never fully articulated, yet still
profound desire to experience the American state embodied in a black body.
This generation was supposed to inherit an America, finally prepared to
fulfill its aspiration, to be a nation by and for all the people. A
country governed by laws. A union watered in the blood of the martyred,
but blooming forth with the unrealized potential for equality, the art of
the moral universe was meant to be bending finally towards justice.
Instead, they inherited this decade. The decade of young, black bodies
felled by bullets. A decade of assault on the dignity and bodies of black
people that goes unrecognized and unpunished. Even as the same black
bodies are held lethally accountable for the slightest infraction, the most
minor crime, or even just a trespass against someone else`s sense of
security. A decade where even in our blockbuster imagination, where we can
imagine life on other planets, we cannot bring ourselves to imagine holding
police accountable for their actions against black bodies. This is the
decade when they have come of age and so this generation lies down in the
streets in New York, in Detroit, in Chicago. In D.C., in Ferguson. They
lie down as though dead, asking, is this the only acceptable position for a
young black body? Is this the only future we can expect? And with their
bodies stretched out in our nation`s streets, they indict us all.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week as we awaited the decision of a Staten Island
grand jury in the choking death of Eric Garner, Ferguson, Missouri, was
still dealing with the aftermath of the St. Louis grand jury`s decision in
the case of Officer Darren Wilson. Tuesday the St. Louis County police
department announced that they were investigating among others, Louis Head,
the stepfather of slain teen Michael Brown. Because of what he said when
that decision was released at the night of November 24th. Head had joined
his wife, Brown`s mother, Leslie McSpadden along with a group of protesters
outside the Ferguson police department. When the announcement came that
the grand jury would not indict Officer Wilson for killing Michael Brown.
As the decision played out, over the stereo, McSpadden broke down in tears
and Head, who you`d be able to see in a green and white shirt in the
background of the video, after comforting his emotionally devastated wife
turned to the crowd with this response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOUIS HEAD: (INAUDIBLE) (EXPLETIVE DELETED) (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That night, some in Ferguson committed acts of arson,
vandalism and theft. And by the next day 12 commercial buildings in the
city had been destroyed by a fire. And now St. Louis county police are
considering whether to charge Louis Head with inciting a riot with his
comments as part of an investigation into those alleged offenses.
Wednesday Head released this statement. Explaining his reaction.
"Something came over me as I watched and listened to my wife, the mother of
Michael Brown Jr., react to the gut wrenching news that the cop who killed
her son wouldn`t be charged with a crime. My emotions admittedly got the
best of me. This is my family, I was so angry and full of raw emotions, as
so many others were, and granted I screamed out words that I shouldn`t have
screamed in the heat of the moment. It was wrong. And I humbly apologize
to all of those who read my pain and anger as a true desire for what I want
for our community. It wasn`t.
But to place blame solely on me for the conditions of our community and
country after the grand jury decision goes way too far and is as wrong as
the decision itself."
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now, Tim Wu, professor at Columbia Law School and
director of the Poliak Center for the Study of First Amendment issues at
Columbia Journalism School. Also Bryonn Bain was a poet, writer and actor
in "Lyrics from Lockdown" and also author of "The Ugly Side of Beautiful:
Rethinking Race and Prisons in America." Janai Nelson, associate director,
counsel for the NAACP legal defense and education fund, and, of course,
Michael Skolnik, editor-in-chief of Globalgrind.com and political director
for Russell Simmons. Tim, you`re new to our table. Let me start with you.
TIM WU: Sure.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is this inciting a riot, is that moment of emotional
outburst as a matter of law, inciting a riot?
WU: You know, if you are going to bring - first of all, I don`t think it`s
a good prosecution. If you are going to bring it, you would have to
connect what he said to the actual burnings. In other words, there`s a
clear and present danger standards where if you have a group of people,
let`s say us, when I said, you know, go burn that thing down, that actually
could be a crime. Or you order a criminal command, for example, hay you,
WU: That`s not free speech. But expressing - there`s a different line
between that and expressing anger, expressing emotion. I don`t see the
direct link. I mean you would have to prove that they actually - it was
something more like an incitement to do this right now.
WU: And I think of this more just like an outburst of the motion, and
we`re allowed to be angry in this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Also, when you say that, we`re allowed to be angry in the
country, that`s actually part of where I want to go. Is when I saw that
there was even discussion of an indictment? Even if it`s pretty unlikely,
I thought to myself, maybe we`re not allowed to be angry that there is some
kind of residual civil rights rule about how you are allowed to publicly
grieve the loss of your loved one, particularly if you are African-
BRYONN BAIN, WRITER * ACTOR, "LYRICS FROM LOCKDOWN": That`s absolutely
right, if your unarmed teenage son was murdered in the street, you would
want a trial. And if you were white in America you would get one. If you
were rich in America you would get one. That`s the state of justice in
America right now. This whaling utterance of a grieving father, you know,
the idea that can be prosecuted is I think ridiculous. You know, and I
think it really brings home what the context is, Missouri was the slave
state, the same slave state that denied Dred Scott access to his freedom,
to his citizenship .
HARRIS-PERRY: His humanity.
BAIN: His basic humanity, and that`s what - as in question here, black
folks` right to be human, to actually grieve and mourn the loss of our
children. And that`s a tragedy of this situation.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I thought about it some, Michael, in that there
are these extraordinary mostly women`s but some men as well that we`ve seen
recently who have lost their son or their husband in these very public ways
and we -- I mean, you look at Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin
and her absolute composure. Her extraordinary strength in the face of it.
And we applauded. And, of course, we should. But it also then becomes to
feel like an imperative so that you can`t, on the other hand, scream out,
and have that anger.
MICHAEL SKOLNIK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, GLOBALGRIND.COM: I had the pleasure to
sit with Mike Brown`s mother Leslie the day after for dinner when she was
in New York. After this announcement came in. These are extraordinary
people dealing with unfortunate, terrible circumstances. Just to put this
in the context for a minute, where Mr. Head was about a ten-mile distance
from where the actual burnings happened. So, the South Florissant is not
West Florissant where the actual burnings happened. This idea about the
right to be angry, angry does not mean violent. And I think for the
protesters in general .
SKOLNIK: There is this painting or this whitewashing of the protesters,
because you are angry, therefore you are violent.
SKOLNIK: The folks who burned those buildings are arsonists, the folks who
looted those stores are looters. The folks who stood out there for 110
plus days are protesters exercising their First Amendment rights.
HARRIS-PERRY: And let me also just point out that arson and looting, while
illegal and not things that I support and I think also counterproductive in
many ways, are also not necessarily violence in that they are violence
against property, and that does actually carry a legal difference, right?
I mean, violence against property ought to be different than violence
JANAI NELSON, ASSOCIATE DIR., COUNSEL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE: I mean
certainly harming a human being is worse than burning down a building.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. It should be. Right? It is.
NELSON: OK, in fact, it is in the law. It is treated differently under
the law, and we know that. I mean the penalties that attached to each of
those are being quite different. But what we have to understand is there
has to be some channel for this anger and rage. And what is so frustrating
is that the picture that`s painted of these protests focuses on these
abhorrent acts as opposed to the three months of peaceful, intentional,
organized, passionate protests that have really called this nation to take
a look finally at how black lives are being disregarded and abused
ultimately by law enforcement.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, as I was watching him, I was remembering Richard
Martinez. His son was killed in San Diego as part of that shooting spree
that occurred. I just want us to listen to him for a minute to remind
ourselves when we have allowed a parent to be angry like this in public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD MARTINEZ: Chris died because of craven irresponsible politicians
and NRA. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris` right to live?
When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say stop this
madness! We don`t have to live like this! Too many have died. We should
say to ourselves, not one more!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, there is no way not to feel the humanity of that
moment. I`m sorry. So, killed in Santa Barbara, not in San Diego. But
that is what is human. It`s not race, and so the idea that we can`t allow
these other families to feel that -- we`re going to talk more about the
question of speech in one second. But I want everybody to hang on.
Because before we go to break, there`s an update on the news from
overnight. Another kind of killing. The killing of an American hostage by
al Qaeda militants during an attempted rescue mission by U.S. commandos in
Yemen. Let`s go right now to the White House north lawn where NBC`s
Kristen Welker has details. Kristen?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Melissa, just moments ago I spoke with
senior administration officials who gave me all of the details of this
failed rescue attempt. They tell me that when AQAP, that terrorist
organization released a video on Thursday of Luke Somers , threatening to
execute him in three days, U.S. officials say with the help of that video
and other credible intelligence they assessed that Somers would be executed
today. So, that set into motion, a serious of conversations and meetings
about how to rescue them. U.S. officials telling me that the president did
have credible intelligence about where Luke Somers was and again that AQAP
would execute him on Saturday if he wasn`t rescued. So on Friday,
President Obama approved the mission to try to rescue Luke Somers and any
other hostages who may have been being held with him. I`m told that the
time line specifically of when the operation commenced was late afternoon
or early evening East Coast time on Friday.
In terms of the actual operation, senior administration officials telling
me that approximately 40 U.S. Special Forces went to an area described as a
remote area of Shabwa government. That is in central Yemen. Once those
U.S. Special Forces got on the ground, a firefight ensued with a terrorists
there. Senior administration official telling me that one of those
terrorists ran into the compound where it is believed that those hostages
were being held and the administration officials think that at that point
the hostages were executed. Want to make it very clear that, Melissa, they
didn`t die at the scene. When I asked how they were executed, they
wouldn`t tell me specifically. But they also didn`t wave me off of reports
that those hostages were shot. They were both were treated in an Osprey
and evacuated. One of the hostages did die in that Osprey, Melissa, the
second hostage, which we believe is Luke Somers, died on the Navy ship
where they were evacuated.
I`m also told that no civilians at this point in time, this is an early
assessment, no civilians were killed, but that several terrorists were
executed - were killed, I should say, in that attempt to rescue Luke
Somers. One government official telling me that the entire U.S. government
is mourning today. That this was a whole of government effort, a heart and
soul effort to try to bring Luke Somers home. And they`re devastated that
that couldn`t happen. Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels like there`s a lot of - that sense of loss, and we
certainly, our hearts go out to those families. Thank you to NBC`s Kristen
Welker at the White House.
Up next, from this to this to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN CARLOS, FORMER OLYMPIC ATHLETE: I don`t think they are precluded from
the First Amendment because the athletes, you know, they are not just paint
on the wall. They`re a part of this society. They have emotions. They
have concerns and feelings about what`s taking place in and around the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Olympic medalist John Carlos speaking with my
colleague Chris Hayes last night on "All In." And, you know, all of us,
we`re sort of feeling this and we are actually seeing it emerge in these
kind of pop culture places where now we have these athletes, the St. Louis
Rams, hands up in the sense of solidarity. What is it the solidarity
speech? What is the value of it in this kind of larger narrative that
SKOLNIK: Well, I think as a big fan of sports, I have John Carlos and
Tommie Smith photographed in my office. I think it was an amazing moment
for this country. Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, (INAUDIBLE), folks that really
put their careers on the line. For the St. Louis Rams to put their hands
up, you know, it was 100 plus days after Mike Brown was killed, but never
too late. I think it meant a lot to the community in St. Louis or
Ferguson. It`s something made a statement to the country that we`re not
just going to enjoy athletes on Saturdays and Sundays and tell them to shut
up on Mondays. It`s important for them to have a voice, to exercise their
First Amendment rights. If they feel strongly about something, you might
disagree with them, but let them speak.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, your point about being 100 days after, so, Bryonn, I was
thinking a bit about this, because it does feel to me like we are often
asked, and by we, I just mean activists or people who are emotionally
invested in the moment like this. Let the system work, right? So I can
remember in the context of the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman
situation, the request was like, we`re not even asking for guilt. We`re
just asking for an arrest.
HARRIS-PERRY: But shouldn`t the person be arrested when an unarmed child
is shot. In this case, well, just get an indictment. And so, it feels
like we are moving back on - pole of justice, like no longer even asking
for a guilty verdict. Just - now not even - and that is almost more that,
that sense that there is no system that can work for us.
BAIN: Right. "The Malcolm (ph) Expressions" reported that every 28 hours
a black person is killed by a police officer, security guard or vigilante
in this country. You know, so that`s a context that we`re living in right
now. And so, and we have a time honored tradition from Paul Robson to
LeBron James, you know, of our athletes standing up for social justice.
So, I think this is something that we should support, we should celebrate,
we should ask that - of 31 teams in NFL and the 30 teams in the NBA to
follow suit. That`s a challenge I think we should put out to them. Where
are you on this? And where - folks, can you take the stand? And the stand
that the Rams took is the right stand. I think we should applaud them and
celebrate their courage for doing that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, you know, so that raises sort of a question for me
then about free speech .
HARRIS-PERRY: . relative to employment status. So, the NFL has stood
behind these players because they don`t apologize to anybody.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I do wonder - so we are allowed to just say anything we
want. We`re not allowed to tweet anything we want. Right? So, I guess I
am wondering about that question of where your employment status bumped up
against your free speech.
WU: Well, the truth is, some of the greatest censorships in this country
is by employers, as opposed to by the government. And we talk about the
government, the government, the government. But you know, your employer
can have much more control on what you say and don`t say. And I think it`s
an under-recognized thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: You can`t be arrested for it, but you can be fired.
WU: You could be fired.
HARRIS-PERRY: It would be more .
WU: Which is more realistic. So actually, the real speech code in this
country is set more by employers, and often it`s more and more oppressive,
in fact, than anything the government does. I mean the government does bad
things, too, but I`m saying, it`s often employers.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, when we come to that then, I guess part of what I want
us to start thinking about in this context of speech and how we`re going to
use our voices because I keep hearing from friends, from family, from
activists, I just feel so powerless, and so what people can do is to tweet
or to cry out or to speak. But I guess part of what I`m wondering is how
do we move away from feeling powerless to feeling like there`s something we
can do about what feels like again, a decade -- a century of injustice.
NELSON: Absolutely. I think making sure that we keep this issue on the
front burner, that we keep this matter in the public eye is essential.
That`s the only way we`re going to get systemic and structural and really
transformative change out of these tragic incidents. And it`s true that we
have these opportunities, and I love that these sports athletes have used
their platform to do this. We can`t forget that back in 1968 when Tommie
Smith and Juan Carlos raised their fists in defiance, in an arc of duty and
power, this was connected to a broader movement. This was the Olympics
project for human rights, and we have a legal defense, always connected
this issue to both civil rights and human rights, so we have an opportunity
to really bring this to a broader platform. And we need to use our First
Amendment rights to do that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And putting their hands up is linked to that broader
movement. We`re going to stay on the issue of speech. Because this was a
moment. Chief Justice John Roberts quotes Eminem.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Monday the Supreme Court heard arguments in a landmark
case that for the first time asked the court to consider online threats and
whether those threats constitute speech that is protected by the First
Amendment. At the center of the case are threats posted to Facebook in the
form of rap lyrics by Anthony Elonis, a Pennsylvania man who went by his
rap name `Tone Dougie. Elonis`s posts were lengthy, violent screams, most
of which involved detailed fantasies about brutally hurting or killing his
ex-wife. He was charged under a federal law that makes it a crime to use
interstate communications to threaten or injure someone. But Elonis
insists his lyrics were not meant to be taken seriously. During arguments,
Chief Justice John Roberts pushed the lawyer for the government to clarify
the circumstances in which threatening rap lyrics could be prosecuted by
temporarily turning himself into a hip hop emcee and reciting some of the
lyrics from a song, in which rapper Eminem threatens to kill his wife.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS: What about the language at pages 54 to 55 of the
petitioner`s brief? You know, "Dada make a nice bed for mommy at the
bottom of the lake, tie a rope around a rock." This is during the context
of a domestic dispute between a husband and a wife. "There goes mama
splashing in the water, no more fighting with dad," you know, all that
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The decision in the case is not expected until January or
February at the earliest. So, thank God he is now worse than me trying to
do KRS-One`s "Black Cop" on air .
HARRIS-PERRY: . which was a low point in my life.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, you know, in both this case and in the trial in San
Diego, in which a rapper Tiny Doo is on trial not for actually doing
anything, but for making an album. And the charge is that because he made
the album, he`s benefitting from gang activity, of all the things that are
causing social chaos, are we focusing on the wrong thing here?
BAIN: Yes. Yes. I mean the Ku Klux Klan is calling for vengeance against
everyone Niggers, Jews and everyone who supports them, right?
BAIN: In Ferguson. Record recruitment rates in Ferguson right now for the
Ku Klux Klan. Record gun sales, you know, at the same time. And so, I
think in that context, like focus on this, I think is a little bit absurd.
My inclination as an artist who`s fought censorship myself. You know, my
book being banned in Texas`s prisons, because I was exposing violence there
against there against folks there. I`m inclined to come to bat for
artists. But I also feels like this speaks to me of black face (INAUDIBLE)
-- this white pseudo rapper who is actually trying to defend his sexist
attacks of a woman, using his performance of black culture, that disturbs
me. Eminem himself has called himself, you know, the worst thing since
Elvis. You know, so I think the history from Al Jolson to Iggy Azalea of
(INAUDIBLE) comes to mind for me here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you just did something like on the TV that was
representative of this thing that we`re talking about, so you used the "N"
word in its full n-i-g-g-e-r word. Right? And you made that decision, and
right, and you have the First Amendment, I have no idea whether or not
we`re allowed to do that. But like I thought - I jumped back a little bit
in part because I do think about this question of the ways in which we
self-censor or censor around, right? And so, like, you`re doing that in
part as the shock value to demonstrate what it`s like to feel and hear
that. And then I`m actually responding to it like, whoa, now I`m having
feelings and right, having heard that word on a Saturday morning.
And so, I guess that`s part of what I`m wondering about what it is we think
the problem is, right? So, is the problem that that word exists and can be
deployed into the world by the Klan, or is the problem that hip-hop somehow
makes that word acceptable to be used?
WU: Yeah, I mean I don`t think hip hop has made the word acceptable to
WU: You know, people have had a long history of misunderstanding hip-hop.
I`m probably not the one to speak about it. But the interesting thing in
the case that you brought up is whether when people say or use hip-hop
lyrics, whether they really mean them or not or whether it`s just lyrical.
And that`s actually kind of a hard question. I mean that one - of all the
cases we`ve talking about, the Eminem case is actually one of the hardest.
Because he said very direct threatening things to his wife. And if you
intend to say those things, it is actually and should be a crime to
actually intend to send someone an incredibly threatening letter. Because
I mean it`s close to -- it`s so close to the borderline that that`s a true
HARRIS-PERRY: And Michael, we`ve talked with on this - on this show about
gamer - and about the kinds of threats that come particularly to women
through social media. So, there`s a part of me as a woman who gets those
kinds of threats and says, yes, we have to talk about whether or not this
is legal. And on the other hand, the justice is feeling like I feel like
we`re looking at the wrong space for what is terrorizing communities.
SKOLNIK: Yeah, certainly, I would agree with you. I think that any threat
towards women should be investigated and looked at and taken very seriously
in this case, the same right. This man has made many threats besides hip
hop lyrics. But when talking about free speech and going back to the St.
Louis Rams, right? Jeff Roorda, who is the spokesperson for the police
association in St. Louis is, you know, attacking them and saying the NFL
must criticize them when the state should be protecting free speech.
Whether you like it or not. The Tiny Doo in San Diego, this - we have a
history of attacking hip hop and free speech from two live crew onto today
when Tiny Doo, his laws about gang affiliation because his album, he talks
of being in the gang. And he was photographed with gang members, we are
taking conspiracy to a whole different level, and we`re saying you are
associated or using a hip-hop lyric, therefore we should stop your speech
or we should charge you with a crime.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I mean, right - yeah, go.
WU: Yeah, what I`m going to say, conspiracy is already misused. This Tiny
Doo case is going a whole another level. Conspiracy is already misused.
And criminal law should really focus on when there`s actual violence or
actual harm. And, I don`t like some of the situations where police
officers are killing people. And instead - all these situations with
people being arrested or indicted because they might be dangerous .
WU: before they`ve actually done anything. And so, it`s just the
priorities are all backwards.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s exactly that distinction of, you know, here`s a
father who - they`re talking about indicting for his sadness and grief.
Here`s a rapper who has been indicted, you know, for making songs, but then
here are these police officers who we know, there`s no dispute, have taken
the lives of unarmed men and boys who are not being indicted. And I think
that is the thing that then ends up making it feel so painful.
NELSON: That`s right. I mean we have to look at these laws that are
premised upon this presumption of criminality among black folks in
particular. This is not just a one off. This is really engrained in our
legal culture. And we see it manifest in these laws. There`s no reason
that three strikes laws came out in the way that it did and have the impact
on African-Americans. The crack-cocaine distinction and the impact that it
had on communities of colors, blacks and Latinos, and these types of laws
that criminalize affiliation with gangs in this way.
Certainly no one is suggesting that we want to protect that sort of
activity or that the lyrics and words that came out of this young man`s
mouth were not entirely problematic.
NELSON: But this is just the wrong focus here. And I also think we need
to stop thinking about this as a hip-hop issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, god.
NELSON: Right? There are many other genres of music that have very
problematic lyrics. And we can point to, you know, various ..
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. It goes to your point about the presumptions of
HARRIS-PERRY: Not the two criminal bodies. Thank you to Tim Wu and to
Bryonn Bain for just shaking it up this morning. And also to Janai Nelson
and to Michael Skolnik.
Up next, President Obama weighs in.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Monday President Obama announced a new taskforce that he
said will recommend concrete ways to build trust between the police and the
communities they serve. He also said his administration will improve
oversight of the program that provides local police departments with excess
military equipment, and he proposed $75 million in new federal funding for
police body cameras. Also on Monday the president met with eight young
activists who are on the forefront of the racial justice movement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And one of the
most powerful things that happened today was I had the opportunity to meet
with some young people. What made me concerned was the degree to which
they feel as if they are not heard or that the reality of what they
experience has been denied. What made me greatly encouraged was how clear
the voices were when they were heard, and how constructive they are in
wanting to solve these problems. And I think anybody who had a chance to
listen to them here today felt the same way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ll get to hear more of what exactly those young activists
had to say to the president of the United States when two of them join us
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now, two of the activists who met with President
Obama this week to tell him what they think about the state of policing in
this country. Phillip Agnew is the executive director of the Dream
Defenders, an organization created in the aftermath of the killing of
Trayvon Martin. And Ashley Yates is co-creator of Millennial Activist
United, a grassroots organization based in Ferguson, Missouri. So I was
thrilled to discover that both of you were at the White House. But I know
that you have been critical, even of the invite. So let me start with you.
In a recent piece you said we recognize that the White House had more to
gain from this meeting even than we did. Tell me what you mean by that.
PHILLIP AGNEW, EXEC., DIR. DREAM DEFENDERS: You know, it`s been over 100
days since Mike Brown was murdered, and the president hasn`t found his way
to Ferguson. And so as we know that this meeting was earned by unrest
every single day by an uprising of people from around the country, we knew
that the PR machine from the White House was a little bit stronger than
ours and the visual the president needed with organizers and activists from
around the country, supports the notion of a dialogue that`s going on, when
in actuality for years, for decades and certainly months and weeks, our
voices have gone unheard at all levels of government.
We know that things are happening at the top level of government and that
it trickles down eventually. Progress takes time. Progress is slow. But
quite frankly, this meeting was long overdue.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so let me do two things. One, you used the language of
murdered. And I know - I know that you did that in part because you`re
claiming an ethical and moral position here.
HARRIS-PERRY: I just have to as the host of the show say murdering is a
legal designation. And, of course, we didn`t even get an indictment,
HARRIS-PERRY: So we have a killing. That said, this is precise to maybe
what you mean when you say your voices haven`t been heard. There`s the
part of me that thinks, actually, your voices are - they are the most
powerful thing emerging from all of this in the sense that it is the
activism of young people that has shifted our focus. So when you did get a
moment, a hearing with the president, what did you say to him?
ASHLEY YATES, MILLENNIAL ACTIVISTS UNITED: Well, we had a frank
conversation, and we told him, you know, the reality that we live as young
black people in America, that`s very hard for certain people to understand,
of a class stature, certain people of a certain age to understand, and
definitely the president who is very, you know, far removed. He`s isolated
because he`s the president. So we brought the reality of what we live day-
to-day. The street harassment that we incur from the police. The way that
the police interact with our communities. The way in which they speak to
people. Definitely and particularly with Ferguson we talked about the
ticketing system there and how you`re compounded, ticket upon ticket upon
ticket until you have a warrant and then you`re taken in and actually
jailed for minor and petty offenses, right? So .
HARRIS-PERRY: Parking tickets.
YATES: Definitely are. Parking tickets, our metro (INAUDIBLE) tickets,
which is like our subway system. You can be jailed for that. So, we
brought that reality to him and you know, really painted a portrait of what
it`s really like to live in this country that we are having here.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s so interesting for me to hear you say that the
president is removed, right? Because this is the president who was working
on the south side of Chicago as a community activist, who, before being
elected to the U.S. Senate, he was the state senator, very present in
community and has generally thought of that as very central to his
identity. Did any of that, the sort of young Obama, the before he was
President Obama, did any of that emerge in the way he talked with you all?
YATES: He definitely spoke to us from a personal place, as like a formal
organizer. He let us know, you know the struggles that we`re going to run
into. Some that we have already ran into. The hurdles that we need to
overcome. He did encourage us to take it gradually and not be discouraged
when we didn`t see the large changes, that, you know, we are .
HARRIS-PERRY: Like defeat is part of the long march.
YATES: Exactly. So, he did - you know, he did speak from that place and
let us know that he does still relate - I mean, he`s still a black man in
America. And that`s what we wanted to kind of remind him of. Is that he`s
still a black man in America, and we are his family, you know, in that
regard. And that he needs to also be president of black America as well.
AGNEW: And one thing he actually said is he`s also a father of two
daughters that are going to a live in America after he is president. And
so, what are we building towards? What is the nation that his daughters
are going to raise up and be reared up and raise children in?
And so, that was the big thing that we talked about a lot of times with the
president there. Look, you know, we find common cause with you. I`m from
west Englewood, Chicago. Those streets. My parents lived around the
corner from you in Hyde Park, I saw your flyers.
AGNEW: But things happen slowly in Washington, but quickly on the grounds.
Just in hours while Ashley and I are here, there`s going to be a lot going
on on the ground. And things shift dramatically and that`s why they asked
us to come there.
HARRIS-PERRY: Two seconds after the police arrived on that Cleveland
playground there is a child that is dead. So, that`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, stick with us. I know you`re going to hang out with
us for a little bit more. Phillip, Ashley, thank you for being here. I
hope you will come back to Nerdland and continue to have your voice heard
Still to come this morning, Maya Wylie. She is counsel to the New York
City mayor, Bill de Blasio. She`s here to talk about Eric Garner and the
police. Plus, a foot soldier that is going to make every nerd smile at the
end of what has been a grueling week. More Nerdland at the top of the
HARRIS-PERRY: Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. We have a lot to
get to in this hour including the latest reaction to the grand jury in the
Eric Garner case.
But we begin with breaking news from overnight. U.S. officials say al
Qaeda militants killed an American hostage and a second captive during a
rescue attempt by U.S. commandos in Yemen.
This was the second failed attempt in two months to rescue American
journalist, Luke Somers, who was abducted last year. Just days ago, the
militants threatened to kill Somers by the end of the week unless the
United States met their demands.
Joining me now is NBC News White House correspondent, Kristen Welker.
Kristen, what is the latest you now have on that failed rescue?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Melissa, good morning.
I spoke with senior administration officials just a short time ago. They
say that they believed based on the video that was released by that
terrorist group and based on intelligence that Somers would be executed
today, on Saturday, if the administration didn`t try to rescue him.
So after a series of meetings, high level meetings after the secretary of
defense, Chuck Hagel, signed off on a rescue plan. And after the
administration was confident that they had the accurate intelligence to
know specifically where Luke Somers was, President Obama gave the green
light for that rescue mission on Friday.
Now I am told that the rescue actually took place late afternoon, early
evening on Friday, about 40 U.S. Special Forces went to an area in Central
Yemen. It is a remote area in Central Yemen.
I should say they went to a compound where the hostages were being held.
Once the Special Forces arrived, there a fire fight ensued. An official
tells me that one of those terrorists ran into the compound where the
hostages were being held.
It is believed at that point in time, the hostages were attempted to be
rescued. I mean, to be executed. Neither of them actually died inside
that compound. When I asked specifically how they were executed, this
official wouldn`t tell me, but also wouldn`t wave me off of reports that
the two hostages were shot.
At that point in time, medics, the U.S. Special Forces tried to evacuate
the hostages. It was Luke Somers as well as a South African national. I
am told that one of the hostages died on an Osprey while being evacuated
and the second hostage died on a Navy ship after they had been evacuated.
So bottom line is they didn`t die at the scene. They died afterwards.
U.S. government telling me that at this point it doesn`t appear as though
any civilians were killed and several terrorists were killed. They`re
still trying to assess the situation on the ground.
They tell me this was a whole of government effort to rescue the hostages
and they say that everyone here is just heartbroken this morning --
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Kristen Welker at the White House. We
will have more on this story throughout the day here on MSNBC.
We turn now to the continuing protests here at home. For a third straight
night protesters in New York and other cities across the country took to
the streets last night to protest the decision by a Staten Island grand
jury not to indict a New York police officer in the choking death of Eric
For many, the outcome was especially troubling in the wake of the grand
jury decision in Missouri. You see, that grand jury refusal to indict
Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown was
complicated by conflicting witness testimony.
With no camera to catch exactly what happened, Officer Wilson`s four hours
of testimony without any cross-examination was the only direct account of
the fatal encounter heard by grand jurors.
After the decision many wondered if things would have been different if
there were video of the stop, the struggle or the shooting. If he were
wearing a body camera, perhaps Officer Wilson would still have stop Michael
Brown, but at least we would have one more witness to the events, the
So despite the sense of frustration and helplessness that so many felt
after that grand jury decision, the remained hope of a policy that could
make things different. We have heard from activists, organizers for
Michael Brown`s parents and even from President Obama and advocacy for
police body cameras.
Just this week the White House announced plans to spend $75 million, to
make body cameras available to police departments across the country. In
the wake of Ferguson, it felt like at least a step in the right direction.
Until Wednesday, when the Staten Island grand jury revealed its decision
because this time we did have the video, we did see the police officer
using what appears to be a chokehold on Eric Garner after attempting to
arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes.
We did hear Garner repeatedly say, I can`t breathe. Yet the outcome was
the same as it was in Missouri. No indictment. What is different this
time and maybe encouraging is the reaction from city officials.
This time instead of focusing on cracking down on protests as officials in
Ferguson, Missouri, initially did, after Michael Brown`s death. New York
seems to be focused on cracking down on mistrust between police and the
communities they serve.
One day after the Garner decision, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio outlined a
series of planned changes and police training including strategies to get
suspects to comply without the use of force and exposing officers to the
realities of the communities they`re asked to patrol.
De Blasio spoke not only as the mayor, but as father of a son who shares a
unique vulnerability to racialized policing and with the understanding that
this problem has deep roots in American history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: People of all backgrounds utter
the same basic phrase. They`ve said black lives matter and they said it
because they have to be said. It`s a phrase that should never be said. It
should be self-evident.
But our history, sadly, requires us to say that black lives matter. As I
said the other day, we`re not dealing with a problem in 2014. We`re not
dealing with years of racism dealing with it or decades of racism. We are
dealing with centuries of racism that have brought us to this day. That is
how profound the crisis is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: With me now, Eugene O`Donnell, a former New York City police
officer now with John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Marcus Claxton,
director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance and also a former New York
City police officer, and Maya Wylie, counsel to Mayor Bill De Blasio.
Maya, you were a regular many times on the show before being in this role
in the De Blasio administration. Clearly, this mayor is responding very
differently than we saw with Governor Nixon or with the Ferguson officials,
but let me ask, is it enough to talk about retraining police officers?
MAYA WILEY, COUNSEL TO MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: First let me say that I think
the entire administration has been deeply disturbed by the video. Our
hearts go out to the family of Eric Garner as well as the family of Michael
So I think the first answer is miles to go before we sleep. We see this as
a really critical first step. And certainly one of the things that we have
to do to ensure both the safety of the public is that we have good, strong,
That`s the way the police department is approaching it. So the commitment
that the mayor and the police commissioner came out with very shortly after
Eric Garner`s death, which was to commit to 35,000 people being retrained.
I mean, remember that the New York City Police Department is the largest in
the country, but it`s the largest by a very big margin. This is a huge
department. But that it`s also commitment -- because it`s everyone that
we`re training from the top down.
So in other words, it`s not just that the patrol police themselves are
going to be retrained, management has to be retrained to support the shift
happening within the department. So it`s not the only thing we`re doing.
We have many more things to talk about.
HARRIS-PERRY: So the officer who has not been indicted, who was involved
in this case, we`re now seeing reports that he was -- there were cases
brought against him, previously for actions of aggressiveness, previous
And I guess, part of what I`m wondering is, was there an accountability set
of missteps or is it that people knew, but simply didn`t care that he was
back in the community.
WILEY: I can`t speak to that because I don`t have knowledge of it. What I
will say that I think is critically important is that there is a process
under way now within the police department to look at his actions and
evaluate whether or not there should be disciplinary action taken against
As you know, one of the other things that happened here in New York that
was different from Ferguson is that, well, that`s important for --
HARRIS-PERRY: Many things.
WILEY: -- was that immediately he was off the streets and without a gun.
And so I think that it was an important signal to the community that we
take very seriously both the desires to protect the rights of officers to
be heard, there has to be due process, but that we will protect the public
and the public trust at the same time.
HARRIS-PERRY: So let me ask this. So, this officer who is again, not been
indicted, but there`s at least several cases here. He said in his own
statement I became a police officer to help them and help those who can`t
This is what he`s saying about why he wanted to become a police officer.
And so I am left with the question, when I look at these kind of bad acts
or over aggression, is the problem that we recruit people who are likely to
behave in this way?
Is the problem that we train people in ways that allow this or is it that
over time there is kind of a residual process of coming to dislike the very
communities that you are policing?
EUGENE O`DONNELL, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: I`m sure you don`t
become a police officer to arrest people for selling loose cigarettes,
which is an administration issue and a leadership issue and it goes beyond
the city. The police are being over assertive. We are having a
conversation that`s way too heavily weighed in at the bottom. Not the top
and we could go over this historically --
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s an interesting point. He`s actually incentivized.
O`DONNELL: We can talk about all of it. Those are leadership,
administration and training failures from the very top of the organization.
HARRIS-PERRY: So even as we -- so this is an interesting to me. As we
start thinking about -- so where does the problem rest, it may be easiest
to go to the one bad apple. But if there are incentives, that said, like
as we start thinking about changes.
So here is Mayor De Blasio saying things need to change and the police
union immediately says you threw us under the bus. We were reporting in
Minneapolis about a mayor who is trying to make changes, her police union
coming after her. And I`m thinking, so who even has the credibility to
actually make change from the top?
MARQUEZ CLAXTON, DIRECTOR, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: Well, I agree
with Eugene. I think we have to examine the top, and also we have to
acknowledge, yes, training is fine. Training is important. Training is
necessary. Technology is fine, important and necessary.
The conversation is fine, important and necessary. But there needs to be a
significant mind set. There needs to be a shift in the mind set and the
mentality, and part of that shift requires that we deal forthrightly with
Until we get to the point that we can deal honestly and openly and
forthrightly with race, we will always get to the same position because you
cannot train out racist mentalities. You can affect a person`s behavior,
but not their mind set through this organized police department training.
So we`re really talking about significant shifts in behaviour -- behavioral
modification as opposed to just training and that`s part of a challenge.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I want to play this and then have you respond. I want
to listen to Mayor De Blasio saying something about race that we have very
rarely heard. Particularly from a white elected official, quite honestly.
Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE BLASIO: We have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that
he may face. Good young man, law-abiding young man who would never think
to do anything wrong and yet because of a history that still hangs over us,
the dangers he may face.
We`ve had to literally train him as families have all over this city for
decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the
police officers who are there to protect him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILEY: So I think this is one of the key differences that the community
should be very hopeful about what`s happening in New York City today. We
are willing to talk about race and confront the fact that there are issues
we must confront as a community, as an administration.
Let me go back to the question of what this means in terms of making
change. Because I absolutely agree obviously that we want to change hearts
as well as minds. But when it comes to policing, the thing is, it is
critically important to change behavior.
I think that one of the important steps that we`ve taken as administration,
one of the first things the mayor did when he came to office was actually
to end to the stop and frisk policy. The reason it`s so critical is we
have seen a dramatic decline, literally over 70 percent decline in
therefore in those stops.
When the stops happened to Mr. O`Donnell`s point about loose cigarettes,
when we actually are able to intervene, have more options per summonses or
for reducing the stops nor the first place that`s where we actually see
And this is a national issue, obviously not just an issue for New York
City. But one of the things that we`re so proud of, is not only that, but
already in just two weeks seen a dramatic drop in low level marijuana fence
And there`s more we can do on when we issue summonses, the more we reduce
the contact between the police and the community that don`t need to happen
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Stick around here. I have more questions about who
it is exactly that needs to be trained. Thank you so much to Maya Wiley
for being here and for speaking to these key differences that are
happening and yet still the pain and anguish here in the city of New York.
More when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tuesday in Phoenix a white police officer shot and killed an
unarmed black man. According to Phoenix police, the officers were
investigating a burglary at an apartment complex when a resident told him a
drug deal was going on inside a nearby SUV.
When the officer approached the SUV, the driver got out. The officer says
he told that driver, Romain Brisban, to this show his hands, but Brisban
stuck them into his waistband.
According to a Phoenix police spokesman, the officer drew his gun and
Brisban ran towards nearby apartments. When the officer caught up he says
there was a struggle and that`s when the officer believed he felt the
handle of a gun while holding the suspect`s hand in his pocket.
The yet to be identified officer fired two shots, killing Brisban. In
Brisban`s pocket is a bottle of oxycodone pills.
Back at the table, Philip Agnew, executive director of the Dream Defenders,
and also joining us, Phillip Atiba Goff, who is a professor of Social
Psychology at UCLA and the president of the Center for Policing Equity.
So here`s my question to the former police officers, if you resist, and
what would count as resisting? Are all bets off? Is a police officer
allowed if you say, as Eric Garner did, stop messing with me? Are they
allowed to do -- I really want to know where the line is here.
O`DONNELL: I`m hearing people say training, training. I get it. They
think it`s not significant. It`s a very significant issue. The cops are
left to their own devices here. Diagnosing situations, they have virtually
no training on that.
So they`re going into the situations and not able to read that probably a
gentle giant, Mr. Garner. Once he`s on the ground, he`s not able to move
at all. Just a little bit of training would direct you. You can`t cover
everything, but you can do certainly more than we`re doing.
Three days is wonderful finally to get a little bit of hands-on training
and that`s going to cost a fortune. But we got to look at American police
and I don`t think it`s a punt. I think it`s a significant issue that the
police people you don`t know what to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I guess that leaves me then, Marquez, to question whether
or not it`s about not knowing or not caring. So when this large African-
American man is saying I can`t breathe and they`re just like well, and
walking away. I guess, I`m wondering do they simply not believe that it is
possible for a black man`s body to be incapable of getting air. You can
breathe, man. Whatever?
CLAXTON: When you fail to recognize the humanity then you get individuals
that will see someone dying before them, walk around them and just kick
rocks. Something very important in that scene in regards to Eric Garner.
The extended version of the video where you saw Mr. Garner obviously
unconscious, questionable whether he is breathing or not, and several
police officers in the area, that was a diverse group of officers.
You had black and Latino. Most poignantly, there was a black female
sergeant, a supervisor, right in the background. She was also kicking
rocks. So I think when people have the discussion about ethnicity and
changing the color of the police department.
You can`t change just the color of complexion without the behavior
modification because if not, relate the story with what Dr. King said to
him. It`s like sending my people to a burning house. That`s what it is.
Right now, the house is burning. It needs to be restructured and rebuilt
from the bottom up.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so this is what you do. How do you start making those
PHILLIP ATIBA GOFF, UCLA: Well, you start with the voices of the community
mattering because, you know, policing in a municipal sense. It was very
difficult to set up in the first place.
Because the people that got set up in the U.K. said we don`t want armed
people inside of where we live. That`s the military. So number seven and
the most important one, the public are the police and the police are the
And when we get away from that, we get away from the things that
differentiate between law enforcement and occupying military. So we start
there and then we work back to the policies that put people in the
situations where they can recognize humanity first and deal with coercion
second, third and fourth down the line.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, stick with me. I have to take a break. I need to ask
them about going back to Mayor De Blasio talking about training police, but
also to train his own son about how to engage. I want to talk about what
it means to be young and black and facing the police when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, we`re back and continuing to talk about the aftermath of
the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case in New York. We heard
Mayor De Blasio saying what was extraordinary that he himself has had to
train his son despite the fact that these officers now work for him in the
context of being mayor.
That`s part of what I want to ask them like even as we`re talking about
these changes for police, what it means to be trying to keep yourself safe
as a young person of color?
PHILLIP AGNEW, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DREAM DEFENDERS: You know, we ran a
session on Monday where a mother had to have the talk with her son about
how to interact with the police. I`m going to speak personally. I have
never felt safe around police. Lights behind me while I`m driving never
presented a soothing feeling for me.
I think we`re in an interesting time right now because what was once
invisible is now very visible around the country that black people, brown
people, poor people, do not feel safe around police officers.
And so I don`t think that we can go on without having this conversation
with our children and our young people, but the conversation needs to
happen with our police officers quite frankly. And we`ve talked about
training and a lot of policy things that we can do, but we need a cultural
If every day, and I`ve talked about this before, if every day as a human
being, let alone a police officer, at the top of the hour is administering
black face, on cops as a black man being dragged out no amount of training
will you black out is going to prevent that prejudice from seeping in.
So I think we need some deep cultural work that we need to do, some
conversations that need to happen to keep us from dying in the hundreds and
thousands every year.
HARRIS-PERRY: So it`s so interesting when you say this about never feeling
safe. One of the things that I do because I get sometimes credible
physical threats or death threats is when I go to give public lectures,
there`s almost always a uniformed police officer, someone who I do not
know, who nonetheless is putting themselves potentially at risk for me,
standing with me, walking around a city with me that I don`t know.
And honestly those guys do make me feel safe. That have guy in that moment
comes, Miss Perry, and we talk, and so every time I`m having this
conversation I also just want to pause and be like, is there something
going on in the world that they are encountering?
In the workplace that they are encountering that is turning young men and
young women who have come to do good to doing bad?
AGNEW: The parameters of that relationship with the police officer are set
before you engage him?
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
AGNEW: There`s a front loading of safety, but when I call a police officer
about something going on in my community, those parameters are not set, and
the empirical evidence that I have is that a police officer is going to
judge me first as the criminal. And that guns and there are two Americas
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And I`m talking about one of great privilege in that
CLAXTON: I don`t need to validate that point at all. I just want to
second that and then add another layer to that. As I was a police officer
in the police department, there was that concern that you mentioned, Phil.
So it`s that real.
When I`m in the agency itself, in the capacity that I have some concern at
different situations my fear was greater because I carried a weapon at that
point, as you can imagine what was going on. So you multiply the level on
the street, multiply my anguish and that`s what needs to be shown.
GOFF: And this is why we have to be talking about modifying situations and
not devolving the conversation into ones about character. I say this all
the time whenever I`m lecturing and when I`m training officers.
I said, do you know someone you think of is a liar? Everybody says yes.
Do they lie all the time? We would call them the opposite truth teller and
they would be the most reliable people we`ve ever met. They lie when they
think they can get away with it.
They`re motivated to or the punishment is relatively low. You know who
else lies when those things are happening, everybody. Situations are more
powerful. And what policy and procedure can do -- it can create the
situations where humanity can become the first thing that people encounter
and legality could be the second.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m sitting here thinking, Maya Wiley, says 35,000 people
work for the New York Police Department. It cannot be a mass layoff,
right? So there`s got -- if we`re going to have some sort of solution that
includes police as part of our world then we have to figure it out.
Up next, I`m going to talk somebody who sees this from a very deeply
personal perspective. Nicole Belle joins me next.
HARRIS-PERRY: As the nation reacts to grand jury decisions in both Michael
Brown and Eric Garner cases, the most gut wrenching moments are those
revealing the pain felt by their families who lost a loved one.
Their beloved taken from them and then compounded by the news that the
officers who were responsible will not face criminal charges, that
experience along with the public and media scrutiny that accompanied it
have become far too common.
But still an experience few can truly comprehend. One woman who can`t
understand is Nicole Paltry Bell. She`s the fiance of the late Sean Bell.
Sean was 23 years old and unarmed in 2006 when he was fired on 50 times by
New York City police officers while leaving a Queens nightclub the night
before his wedding.
Though the officers responsible for Bell`s death were indicted by a grand
jury, they were eventually acquitted on all charges. Since Sean`s death,
Nicole has become an activist, speaking out against excessive use of force
And she`s the founder and president of "When It`s Real, It`s Forever," an
advocacy group that combats police brutality and civil rights abuses, and
she joins me now. Nicole, what do you know these families are going
through right now?
NICOLE PAULTRE BELL, PRESIDENT/FOUNDER, "WHEN IT`S REAL, IT`S FOREVER": I
have to say after eight years of being vocal about these tragedies, I can
say I`m stronger than I was eight years ago.
But when you turn on the news and I did a phone call that there`s another
family that is going through what we went through then, after all the
fights and the marches and protests I know that these families will never
be the same.
And we`ve said it over and over time after time again. My daughters are
growing up without Sean. Nothing can ever, ever fill those shoes.
HARRIS-PERRY: What do you tell your daughters about the police?
BELL: We watched the decision of Michael Brown no indictment and my
daughter was just so disappointed. Not knowing what to think. She`s at an
age in middle school, which is a very crucial age. She knows that the
police officers killed her dad.
She knows not all police officers are bad. But at the same time, they`re
the only ones who can kill an innocent person and walk away from it and not
be held criminally accountable.
And that`s the only thing the families want. No one is asking for the
death penalty. We`re asking for fair treatment and no one should be above
HARRIS-PERRY: Particularly the folks who are -- my daughter is 12, and
similarly, I`m struggling with how do you help them feel like they`re safe
to walk through the world, but also be honest about the nature of these
injustices, and I guess it`s been eight years. Are you -- to be an
activist, you have to still have hope. Do you have hope still in this
BELL: I do have hope. I feel every day we`re facing change. The world is
outraged as you turn on the news. Everywhere you look the countries are
marching. And it`s -- if you look in the crowd, everyone is not black.
This is not just a black issue. This is a human issue.
And too many times we`re seeing our men, husbands, sons, uncles, relatives
being killed. No one is being held accountable. It`s unfair. It`s time
for the federal government to come in, and the Justice Department under
We need reform that will help these families, our families get justice.
And to stop this whole, you know, everyone is a thug, everyone is a
criminal mentality. That`s not the case.
HARRIS-PERRY: I can remember after Sean`s death there was an attempt to
paint him as something other than who and what he is. I want to play for
you, and this is tough, but this is a 2012 interview with one of the
officers who fired on Sean that night. I just want to play a moment. It
feels like it connects back to what happened today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As Norah says, he does feel for the loss of the Bell
family suffered but he insists he`s not at fault.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not looking back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No apologies? No regrets?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No apologies. No regrets. I came to grips with what I
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: What is it -- I feel like that`s part of what we heard from
Officer Wilson as well. He said he was doing his job, he was following his
training. In addition to the legal piece, what does it mean to not even
get the recognition of a sincere apology or something or does that even
matter at a certain point?
BELL: It`s like a script that they read after an innocent person loses
their lives. It`s completely insensitive. The families are ruined. You
ruin the family, and regardless if you were held accountable, you killed
And in America when you kill someone, you go to jail. And at least there`s
a trial that will lead up to that. In our case we did have a trial, but if
you remember, I don`t if anyone does, but in 2006, there was this myth
about the fourth man that mysteriously disappeared.
And then they came out and said, no, it was our fault. There was no fourth
man. We knew that. This is a part of the smoke screen they put up to
deter and distract everyone who is watching. And it`s completely
You know, my daughters have to grow up without their father. You don`t
have any apologies. These mothers have to go on without their children.
And it`s unacceptable. And I will never be able to accept these things
that shouldn`t be allowed to continue to go on. These families need
justice, accountability, criminally.
HARRIS-PERRY: Nicole, you had to go from being a bride to an activist
overnight. I can`t imagine having to make that transition, but you have
done so beautifully over these years, and I hope someday we`re sitting here
and talking about how many long, long years it`s been since anything like
this happened. Thank you so much for being here.
Up next, the latest on the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.
HARRIS-PERRY: The same day it was announced that a Staten Island grand
jury decided not to indict a New York City police officer who fatally --
whose fatal chokehold killed Eric Garner, a much younger victim of police
force was laid to rest in Cleveland, Ohio, 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
He was shot in the abdomen mere seconds after police responded to a 911
call about his brandishing a gun in the city park. The gun was a pellet
gun. The next morning, Tamir died. He died amid heightened national
attention over police killing with unarmed black men and boys.
So he quickly became a symbol, a media story, a talking point. But more
than 100 friends and family gathered Wednesday to recall Tamir, the 12-
year-old child who enjoyed drawing, loved basketball and was sweet on a
girl in his class. One of his teachers spoke about him at the service.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLETA GOODWIN, TAMIR`S TEACHER: Tamir enjoyed life. It just exuded from
his very being. He loved to joke around and compete against other
students. Tamir consistently came to school every single day. He didn`t
miss a day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Just as we were learning more about who Tamir was, we also
learned a lot about the police officer who shot him, 26-year-old Timothy
Loehmann, a personnel file released to the public showed he resigned from
his previous job as an officer in the Cleveland suburb of Independence
after being deemed unfit for duty and, quote, "distracted, weeping and
unable to communicate clear thoughts at firearms training."
The Independence`s deputy chief also wrote on November 29th, 2012, quote,
"Due to this dangerous loss of composure during live range training and his
inability to manage personal stress, I do not believe Patrolman Loehmann
shows the maturity needed to work in our employment.
I do not believe time or training will be able to correct or change the
deficiencies." Five days later Loehmann resigned. He joined the Cleveland
police force this last spring.
Back at the table, Eugene O`Donnell, Marquez Claxton, Phillip Agnew and
Phillip Atiba Goff, and joining me from Cleveland is Connie Shultz, the
Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, and now an essayist for "Parade" magazine
and syndicated columnist for the "Craters Syndicate."
What is going on in Cleveland? Why is the circumstance so mad?
CONNIE SCHULTZ, PULITZER PRIZE WINNER: Well, as you know, Melissa, on the
heels of this funeral for this 12-year-old boy, I can`t say that enough, a
12-year-old boy with no weapon, he had a pellet gun, the Justice Department
Eric Holder announced the findings of an almost two-year investigation, and
it is damning as a report can be about police brutality, about police
shooting when they shouldn`t be, about them retaliating after they
handcuffed people because they leaped off to them.
And so they use tasers on them, and they kicked them and they used the butt
of their guns to hit them. So this is as I said from my piece in
"Politico" that ran yesterday.
If that investigation had been announced the day before Tamir Rice had been
killed, I can`t help but wonder, would this have happened and that will
bring a mother to her knees just thinking about that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Exactly when you said that, I`m thinking the Garner decision
is harder to take in some ways and in some ways that Tamir Rice, the most
horrifying is that these 12 years old and unarmed. Also to know that the
DOJ was in there, was investigating. We all keep thinking maybe this is
our solution to this problem.
SCHULTZ: Well, I think the DOJ report is this. We have a window in time
where everyone is now watching. And I mean, I can`t tell you how happy I
am that you`re doing a segment on this. That means the nation is watching.
This is an opportunity that we have to exploit to the fullest to correct
training and practices.
It has been an ongoing problem. Clearly the police did not anticipate this
report coming out in the way it did. Why would they continue in this
When you look at that video, it is haunting. He had 2 seconds, 2 seconds,
they zoom up within feet of him and he is on the ground and when you watch
it, thank God for the video. It countered the description given initially
by the police.
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, let me turn to Eugune and Marquez here. Can any
officer assess any situation reasonably in 2 seconds?
O`DONNELL: If you have an honest belief that your life is at risk. This
is a training issue. You`re not automatically shoot people. You`re
supposed to make an assessment. He deserves a lot of credit for the panel.
He may not be liked at this table.
But DOJ goes into these departments and find out the most basic things are
not happening. Maybe we don`t just take these departments over after
people get killed. Maybe with the president`s initiative we can have every
chief in America take a look and say, are our use of force policies right?
Are we putting human dignity at the center of what we`re doing? Chief
Ramsey, who is very respected by cops, the president deserves a lot of
credit for picking Chief Ramsey.
HARRIS-PERRY: So this is not a small point -- I have a lot of critiques of
AGNEW: Also supports militarization.
HARRIS-PERRY: I have a lot -- but those critiques might be exactly the
same -- so in other words, the person I would put at the top would be very
different than someone who does have the respect of officers. Is that a
CLAXTON: I think regardless of who is going to head this task force, it`s
important for the task force to be as comprehensive and as wide as
possible. And quite frankly, part of widening that you need to collect
data, you need to collect data in a different way that`s normally being
I think the work that Phil Goff has been doing with Center for Police
Inequity is vital in this type of an action because you can`t fix it if you
can`t define it, calculate it, and point towards the data. We`re there.
That`s where we are right now.
As far as the heads and who is in charge of the committee themselves, the
task force itself, I don`t think it will have a lot of baring. What should
happen is a revolutionary transformation.
I`m hopeful in regards to the task force because the president said it`s a
short time frame for. I want input. I want results in a short period of
time frame. Once again, we got to get back to modifying the behavior.
And that has to be, not only do you get the carrot but the stick. When you
start applying the stick, behaviors get modified, even in police
HARRIS-PERRY: I only have 30 seconds, but I have to ask you this. Do you
think this story of Tamir Rice ends differently than the ones for Eric
Garner and Michael Brown? Do you think we will see some sort of justice?
Obviously nothing brings this child, but what you know about Cleveland,
does it end differently?
SCHULTZ: I think some of that is going to depend on the community of
Cleveland, and I mean including the suburbs of Cleveland including white
residents of Cleveland, standing together and insisting differently. They
have to feel an enduring sense of pressure.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Connie Schultz in Cleveland, Ohio. Thank you
to Eugene O`Donnell and Marquez Claxton here. But also thank you to
Phillip Agnew and Phillip Atiba Goff. I didn`t get back to you guys. I
have so much more I want to talk to you about.
But up next we have to lighten the mood a little bit. If you stay with me,
you are going to finally leave this show with a smile.
HARRIS-PERRY: These past few weeks have been tough marred by police
violence and the sense of injustice. So when we find a bright spot out, it
is a pleasure to pause and highlight it. Our foot soldier this week is an
8-year-old girl from Cleveland, Ohio. Her name?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADISON: Madison. Read it on my sweater.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: NBC affiliate WKYC caught up with Madison last month at the
grand opening of a brand-new Little Free Library. Unfamiliar with the
concept? Let`s hear from Madison.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADISON: We can get a book, in the same token, we give a book back. So
the environment isn`t without a book. We have a book. But we also give a
book. So we both win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Little Free Library is a non-profit organization with an
estimated 15,000 boxes around the world where, as Madison explained, you
can take a book and leave a book. Madison not only intends to make use of
the Little Free Library for herself, she wants to get the whole world
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADISON: There are a lot of books and it will be a good time to exchange
them. If I had to give two books to every person in the school, I would do
that. And I would just put the books they give me in the Little Free
Library, read them and give them back to kids who need books. The world
What would the world be like without books? They fuel our mind like cars
and gas. The cars can`t go without gas. Our brains can`t go without
books. The world needs books. We need books.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And Madison`s enthusiasm does not wane from there. Just
listen to her preach.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADISON: It would break my heart if one book was lost, just a page, just a
word, just a letter was gone. I would be heartbroken. What would the
world do without books? The world would be empty. It would be empty like
a bucket without water. Like a brain without knowledge. Like a file
cabinet without papers. We need books!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: For her inspiration and her impromptu, impassioned speeches
and for her sheer nerdalicious love of books and just for making us smile
in a week we all need a reason to smile, Madison reed is our enthusiastic
foot soldier of the week.
That`s our show for today. Thanks for watching. See you tomorrow morning
at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. We`ll be joined by Jacqueline Woodson to talk about
her new book. Right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX
WITT." Hi, Alex.
ALEX WITT, ANCHOR: I`m just hanging it up. There`s no way any of us can
compete with Madison. She was amazing. Thank you for that, Melissa. We
do have new details on the failed hostage rescue. I`ll talk with a
colleague of the American who was killed.
We`re also going to hear from NBC`s Richard Engel about his experience as a
hostage and how difficult rescue operations are.
Important parts of that gang rape story at the University of Virginia are
coming into question today. I`ll talk with someone covering that story.
And there`s some good news as it involves an important part of most
Americans` lives. So don`t go anywhere. I`ll be right back.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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