German police raid 60 purveyors of anti-Semitic, other internet hate postings


Police in 14 German states reportedly conducted raids on 60 individuals in an attempt to root out the sources of anti-Semitic and other hate postings on the internet.

The raids on Wednesday marked the first time that Germany has conducted a nationwide hunt for internet hate purveyors, according to German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, who said he hoped the operations would send a strong message that criminals cannot hide from the law in the seemingly anonymous internet.

According to German news reports, the raids followed months of observing one Facebook group that glorified National Socialism and broke German laws against promoting hate.

Suspects were accused of posting anti-Semitic, extremist and xenophobic messages, including denial of or relativizing the Holocaust, celebrating aspects of National Socialism and using Nazi symbolism, and calling for attacks on refugees and politicians. Evidence was seized at several locations.

Maizière said in a statement that hate speech paves the way for actual violence, thus the urgency of the crackdown.

According to the ministry, there are increasing numbers of “hate lists” found online with the names, addresses and employers working against right-wing extremism as well as people seeking asylum in Germany. The publication of these lists has been linked with public calls for violence against these people, the statement said.

In Germany, those who encourage violence based on religious or ethnic background can face up to three years in prison.

“There is no area in Germany that is above the law; criminal law applies to the internet” as to any other space where a crime is committed, Maizière said, adding that internet providers also will be held responsible when hate is spread by clients.

Pro-Palestinian NYU students won’t recant claim that Israeli army influences US police brutality


A pro-Palestinian student group at New York University that blamed Israel for recent police shootings of black men is now scaling back, somewhat, on the accusations it made on Facebook.

In the original Facebook post from July 7, Students for Justice in Palestine at NYU held Israel accountable for the black people “lynched” by police forces in the United States because “many U.S. police departments train with the Israel Defense Forces.”

“The same forces behind the genocide of black people in America are behind the genocide of Palestinians,” the post said.

The post attracted plenty of attention, but not many likes. The majority of the more than 600 comments expressed disgust, amusement and incredulity at the group’s claims.

The NYU Students for Justice in Palestine responded to the backlash by denying it had directly implicated Israel in the killings of black Americans but reiterated that the IDF bears culpability for oppressive practices aimed at African-Americans.

“Our statement regarding the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile — and the rampant murders of Black Americans by the police — was not a suggestion that their deaths are part of an Israeli conspiracy. Israel did not literally kill either of these men: that much is obvious,” the SPJ chapter said in its follow-up post on July 9.

The latter post reiterated the assertion that the IDF training of some American police officers is behind a brutal ethos.

“The IDF assists the NYPD and other American police departments in their oppression and murder of black people,” the second post said. “These groups share a common logic that manifests in several types of oppression, white supremacist racism among them.”

The Anti-Defamation League sponsors trips by U.S. law enforcement officers to Israel, where they learn how to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks and how Israel protects airports, shopping malls and public events. The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs has run a similar program.

The accusation among pro-Palestinian sympathizers that Israel’s counterterrorism training of American officers contributes to police brutality is not new.

Pro-Palestinian activist Alice Rothschild recently wrote an opinion piece for the anti-Zionist website Mondoweiss called “Modern day lynchings: an international view” in which she asserted that such law enforcement exchange programs demonstrate that “parallels between white racism and Jewish supremacy flourish here and abroad.” In 2015 black student groups at Yale, Columbia and the University of California, Berkeley, signed on to a statement calling for solidarity between blacks and Palestinians that denounced “police and soldiers from the two countries [who] train side-by-side.”

On July 8, the Zionist Organization of America called on NYU President Andrew Hamilton to condemn the student group and demand it apologize for “nefariously using Israel as the scapegoat for problems of racism in this country – problems which Israel could not possibly have anything to do with.”

How 10-year-olds, not cops, spearhead gang prevention in South L.A.


If you want to limit gangs, law enforcement cannot be the driving force of your strategy.

It seems counterintuitive, but it was one of the most important lessons I learned while leading Los Angeles’ Gang Reduction & Youth Development (GRYD) program in South L.A. and other neighborhoods. The police and other law enforcement officials are precisely the wrong people to be working on gang reduction. Los Angeles is fortunate to have a smart and diverse police force, and officers are needed to stop violent and law-breaking gang members from putting the public in danger. But the gang prevention focus needs to be on keeping gang-age young people out of gangs. Too often, the police can provide a common enemy that solidifies the bonds of young people in gangs, and keeps them there.

This insight was not my own—it’s one of the central ideas of legendary gang researcher Malcolm Klein, an emeritus sociologist at USC. In one of my conversations with Mac, he compared the social relations that bring together gangs to the lifelong affection and solidarity that soldiers have for those with whom they served in combat. In countering gangs, it is vital not to put potential gang members under siege or to give them a common enemy; that just fuels their cohesion.

Applying this insight was an enormous departure in L.A. For 30 years, the city handled gangs as primarily a law enforcement matter. In the 1980s, LAPD Chief Daryl Gates declared war on gangs—which Mac’s research showed was counterproductive. Our overcrowded prison system, too, reinforced gangs by segregating prisoners by race and gang affiliation.

But a decade ago, Police Chief William Bratton and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa decided to shift strategies. They figured out that to disrupt the gang phenomenon, you needed to focus on weakening the social ties between gang members and strengthening other kinds of relationships and social ties among gang-age young people.

In 2006, South L.A. was the source of half the gang-related violence in the city. By that year, every category of crime was in decline L.A.-wide—except gang violence, which had increased 16 percent in one year. There had been a series of shootings in Watts at the end of 2006, with nine people killed. On the heels of the violence came a report from attorney Connie Rice and The Advancement Project  and an audit from Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick that deemed the city’s anti-gang approach a failure, creating enormous public attention—and an opportunity to change.

At the time, I had recently completed two years as chief of staff at Sojourners, the Washington, D.C.-based Christian community dedicated to social justice. I’m also an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene. But my expertise and work had been with young people, and figuring out how to engage them during my 17 years at the Bresee Foundation.

Which is why the mayor hired me to develop the new approach to combating gangs that became GRYD. Until then, the city’s anti-gang and youth resources had been spread thinly across 15 Council Districts in Los Angeles like peanut butter. In mid-2008, we won a bruising political battle to consolidate them, taking the money and targeting it in eight zones where rates of violence were four times more than in the rest of the city. Four of these zones were in South L.A.

In summer 2008, we had our first big initiative, Summer Night Lights. We kept certain public parks open late into the night, turned on the lights, and brought in programming that had been designed in consultation with young people, including gang members. Summer Night Lights was, and still is, an immediate hit with young people. It became the linchpin of our efforts to turn public spaces into places where everyone could participate.

We put two-thirds of the money into prevention programs and activities like Summer Night Lights. We spent a lot of time talking to LAPD officers, and suggesting that they focus their attention only on the hardcore gang members who do the shooting, and stop arresting kids who look or walk like gang members.

We also had researchers at USC create an assessment tool to produce data on who might be most likely to become a gang member. The researchers told us we were actually looking for a very small number of people. Even in neighborhoods considered gang-infested, 85 percent of kids will never join a gang; only 15 percent will join, and most will be active for two or fewer years. So how could we identify those few kids who were most at risk to become hardcore gang members, and focus our resources on them?

The research showed that kids are most likely to join gangs between ages 10 to 14, and we came up with 15 primary risk factors to assess that age group for gang membership. If the assessment tool scored them as likely to join a gang, they were eligible to be in the GRYD program.

This was controversial, especially when the assessment tool contradicted what people thought. People might look at a kid whose father and brother were gang members and say, ‘this is a high-risk kid.’ But it turned out that for some kids, having family members who were gang members provided daily reminders of why they didn’t want to be in gangs.

GRYD brought together city agencies to develop plans for high-risk kids that would include improving their school performances and encouraging activities that built strong social relationships. Some of our biggest allies in much of this work turned out to be grandmothers, who worked with their grandchildren, and some of whom also drove the work of the Watts Gang Task Force, a joint effort of law enforcement, communities, and agencies that has made a huge impact on reducing gang violence.

GRYD was just one factor in the decrease in gang violence in South L.A. Gang-related crime was dropping at the time across the country. We don’t understand all of the reasons why, and it’s not clear if previous strategies will work in today’s landscape, where gang violence has shifted to being done online and through human trafficking instead of drug trafficking. But we do know that aggressive assessment of risks and youth development make a difference in keeping kids away from law enforcement—and out of gangs. 

Rev. Jeff Carr led GRYD and served as Chief of Staff under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Most recently he was the interim CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Los Angeles, a new umbrella organization of seven clubs, three in South L.A.  He recently relocated to Portland, Oregon.

This essay is part of South Los Angeles: Can the Site of America's Worst Modern Riots Save an Entire City?, a special project of Zócalo Public Square and The California Wellness Foundation.

Gunman citing Islamic State ambushes Philadelphia policeman


A gunman claiming to have pledged allegiance to Islamic State militants shot and seriously wounded a Philadelphia police officer in an ambush on his patrol car, the city's police commissioner said on Friday.

Edward Archer of Philadelphia approached Officer Jesse Hartnett, 33, shortly before midnight and fired 11 rounds, three of which hit the officer in his arm, authorities said. Police released still images from surveillance video that showed the gunman dressed in a long white robe walking toward the car and firing, eventually getting close enough to shoot directly through the window.

Hartnett chased Archer, who was arrested by responding officers and later confessed to the attack, saying he had carried it out “in the name of Islam,” police officials told reporters.

“He has confessed to committing this cowardly act in the name of Islam,” Ross told a press conference, adding that the 30-year-old assailant also referenced Islamic State militants.

Philadelphia Police Captain James Clark added, “He said he pledges his allegiance to Islamic State, he follows Allah and that was the reason he was called on to do this.”

U.S. officials have been on high security alert following a series of Islamic State-linked attacks at home and abroad over the last few months.

In November, gunman and suicide bombers affiliated with Islamic State killed 130 people in a series of coordinated attacks in Paris. Last month a married couple fatally shot 14 people in San Bernardino, California, in an attack inspired by Islamic State militants.

Those concerns have led to calls by some Republican governors and presidential hopefuls to restrict the admission of Syrian refugees fleeing that country's long civil war.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat sworn in on Monday, told reporters he did not believe Archer's actions reflected Islamic thinking.

“In no way shape or form does anyone in this room believe that what was done represents Islam,” Kenney said. “This was done by a criminal with a stolen gun.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the leading U.S. Muslim advocacy group, on Friday said Archer “does not appear” to be an observant Muslim. 

NO SIGN OF CONSPIRACY

There was no evidence as yet that the shooter had worked with anyone else, Ross said.

“He was savvy enough to stop just short of implicating himself in a conspiracy,” Ross said. “He doesn't appear to be a stupid individual, just an extremely violent one.”

About a dozen FBI agents and city detectives could be seen on Friday afternoon searching a two-story row house in a working class West Philadelphia neighborhood where Archer was believed to have stayed at times and a second home just outside the city where his mother lives.

The house where Archer was believed to have stayed was about two blocks away from the intersection where Hartnett was shot.

Archer has a criminal history. Court records show he pleaded guilty in 2014 to assault and carrying an unlicensed gun, charges that got him a prison sentence of between nine and 23 months.

Archer's mother told the Philadelphia Inquirer that her son, the oldest of seven children, had suffered head injuries from football and a moped accident and recently began acting erratically.

“He's been acting kind of strange lately. He's been talking to himself,” and hearing voices, the newspaper quoted Valerie Holliday as saying. “We asked him to get medical help.”

Hartnett was taken to Penn Presbyterian Hospital and will require several surgeries for three gunshot wounds in his arm.

“We're just lucky, that's all I can say,” Ross told reporters. “I can't even believe that he was able to survive this.”

The shooter used a gun that had been stolen from a Philadelphia police officer's home several years ago, but not by the shooter, Ross said.

“We know it was stolen, how many hands it may have passed through in the last couple of years, we do not know,” Ross said.

In New York City, where two police officers were shot dead in their patrol car in a December 2014 attack by a man angry over police killings of unarmed black men, the police department issued a memorandum urging officers to “exercise heightened vigilance and implement proactive measures” in light of the Philadelphia shooting.

“Those who carry out attacks in the name of ISIS or any other terrorist organization must be fully prosecuted,” said U.S. Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, using a common acronym for Islamic State. “We have to take every appropriate step to safeguard our communities and ensure safety.”

Chicago mayor cuts short vacation after latest police shooting


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Monday he would cut his family vacation in Cuba short to address the fatal shooting of two more black residents by a city police department already under federal investigation over its use of deadly force.

The decision comes after activists stepped up calls for Emanuel's resignation over his handling of policing in the nation's third-largest city. A protest is planned at City Hall on Thursday. 

“While Mayor Emanuel has been in constant contact with his staff and Interim Superintendent (John) Escalante, he is cutting his family trip short so that he can continue the ongoing work of restoring accountability and trust in the Chicago Police Department,” said the mayor's spokeswoman, Kelley Quinn.

Emanuel is set to arrive back in Chicago on Tuesday afternoon, she said. The mayor's office did not say when he left for Cuba or when he had been scheduled to return. 

The latest police shootings killed Bettie Jones, 55, and college student Quintonio LeGrier, 19. Family members said police were called after LeGrier, who had mental health issues, threatened his father with a metal baseball bat.

Jones' family is expected to seek video footage of the shootings, which occurred early on Saturday, if any exists, in an attempt to get a clearer picture of what happened, according to its attorney.

The release of a Chicago police video last month of the fatal shooting of a black teenager, which had been withheld for more than a year, led to the resignation of the city's police chief and the start of a U.S. Department of Justice probe into whether the city's police use lethal force too often, especially against minorities. 

High-profile killings of black men by police officers since mid-2014 have triggered waves of protest, including in Chicago, and fueled a civil rights movement under the name Black Lives Matter. On Monday a grand jury cleared two Cleveland police officers in the November 2014 fatal shooting of black 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was brandishing a toy gun in a park.

Emanuel called Jones' family to offer his sympathy, according to Ja'Mal Green, an activist and protest organizer in Chicago. But he said Emanuel should resign and his return will not help problems in the city's social and justice systems.

“Here or not, you know, is still like him not here,” Green said.

The embattled mayor issued a statement on Sunday calling for a review of the police Crisis Intervention Team and better guidance for officers when dealing with mental health cases. 

“There are serious questions about yesterday's shootings that must be answered in full by the Independent Police Review Authority's investigation,” his statement said.

Regarding the latest shootings, police said LeGrier was being combative, but have admitted that Jones, who lived on the first-floor of the building, was shot by accident and offered condolences.

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Monday he did not know if there was video of the shooting.

However, attorney Larry Rogers Jr., representing Jones' family, said at a prayer vigil on Sunday that there may be a video from a house under construction across the street, and that police footage may exist.

The previous killing of 17-year-old black teen Laquan McDonald in October 2014, which was captured on video released last month, led to multiple protests and calls for Emanuel's resignation. 

Emanuel, previously U.S. President Barack Obama's White House chief of staff, became Chicago's mayor in 2011 and was re-elected earlier this year in a run-off. He was already facing pressure over high crime and gang violence in parts of the city and had been criticized for closing 50 public schools in mostly minority areas. 

Calls for his resignation started with the release of the McDonald video last month. 

Civil rights activist Al Sharpton said Emanuel should step down in an interview on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' program on Monday, before Emanuel said he was returning.

Israel announces new measures to stop Palestinian attacks


This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

Under pressure to stem attacks by Palestinians on Israeli citizens Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet approved plans to boost police numbers with the deployment of soldiers in Israel’s cities and to increase security checkpoints around Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. Government officials also said they would take away the Jerusalem residency permits of terrorists, a move which must be approved by Israel’s Attorney General.

Outside Jabel Mukaber, home to two Palestinian men who conducted an attack which killed two Israelis and injured more than a dozen others, police checkpoints have already been set up, with other neighborhoods reportedly to follow.

Local residents and human right groups have expressed concerns that these security measures fail to reduce the risk of attacks and instead hamper the lives of ordinary Palestinians. They contend that will increase rather than reduce simmering tensions.

At some locations Israeli police set up concrete roadblocks instead of police search teams. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) expressed concern over the use of this tactic which could be longer-term.

“It is ok for the police to curtail freedom of movement for short periods of time for (something) specific. (If) there’s a stabbing on the street it’s acceptable to close the street for a few hours,” Ronit Sela, from ACRI, told The Media Line. Mass unrest such as an ongoing riot could necessitate sealing off a geographic location – a violent incident which was no longer occurring and had been carried out by an individual or small group did not, Sela explained.

Police previously closed off the entrances to whole Palestinian neighborhoods for extended periods of time, beginning last summer when tensions spiked after Palestinians kidnapped three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, and Israeli extremists kidnapped and killed a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.

ACRI’s concern is that rather than a targeted security measure the roadblocks are being used as a blanket punitive measure. The human rights organization received reports from community leaders in several different Arab neighborhoods stating that police had informed them checkpoints will continue until disturbances in their area ended, Sela said. The police are holding the neighborhood to account for what the teenagers living there are doing which is effectively collective punishment, the activist said.

Any notion of collective punishment was rejected by Micky Rosenfeld, the Israeli Police spokesperson.

“After recent terrorist attacks and recent disturbances a number of roadblocks have been set up – they’re temporary. They’re not closing off the neighborhood but they’re there in order to make sure that we can identify any suspicious vehicles,” Rosenfeld told The Media Line. Residents in neighborhoods with checkpoints at the entrance could still enter and leave freely, Rosenfeld said, pointing out that such procedures were standard police practice.   

But Palestinians say these moves just make life harder for Palestinians, the vast majority of whom are not involved in the violence.

“All the clashes are by teenagers, they don’t have cars and they don’t do attacks using cars. They’re on foot,” Hatem Khwess, a field researcher for the dovish organization Ir Amim and a Palestinian resident of the Mount of Olives, told The Media Line. Police checkpoints, or concrete blocks placed in the road, will not stop the young men involved in the disturbances.

A lack of investment in infrastructure by the Jerusalem Municipality in east Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods was to blame for the feeling of resentment held by the young generation towards Israeli police, Khwess said. “Look in the classrooms – what’s new?” Khwess argued.

Ir Amim and ACRI have both issued reports about a shortage of classrooms in Palestinian schools in east Jerusalem, and a lack of qualified teachers in some subjects. Israel’s deputy mayor Ofer Berkovich says he is aware of the gaps and the city is working hard to eliminate them.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected any argument that linked Palestinian violence to frustrations within the Arab community. “Terrorism comes from the desire to annihilate us,” Netanyahu said during the opening of the winter session of parliament.

A motion to deploy army personnel into city centers across Israel was also approved by the Israeli cabinet, something that would represent a step up in security measures. Reports suggest that 300 Israeli Army personnel have been deployed to support police on the ground, though a spokesperson for the military would not comment on this. In Jerusalem’s city center small numbers of soldiers could be seen checking the identification of shoppers and residents, a role normally performed by the border police.

Other measures discussed by the cabinet have been the imposition of a curfew on Arab neighborhoods in the east of the city. Former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman called for not only a curfew but the imposition of full military rule in east Jerusalem if further unrest were to take place in the coming days.

Such measures were not likely to lead to an increase in security and could exasperate Palestinian residents, Betty Herschman, director of international relations and advocacy at Ir Amim, told The Media Line. “These are measures which only make it more difficult for people to lead their daily lives (and) have no strategic significance,’ Herschman said. The director went on to say that a more effective short term solution to curbing attacks would be efforts to convince Palestinians that their “collective identity in the city” was not threatened.

 

Jerusalem’s population of 800,000 is about 64 percent Jewish and 36 percent Palestinian. Most of the Palestinians are not citizens, but carry the same type of ID cards as Jewish Israelis giving them freedom of movement throughout the city. Almost all of the attackers in the current wave of violence came from east Jerusalem.

No arrests in Ferguson protests for first time in five days


Protests in Ferguson, Mo., over last year's police killing of an unarmed black teenager ended peacefully on Wednesday morning, law enforcement officials said, after shots had been fired and shop windows smashed earlier in the week.

It was the first night since Friday to end without arrests, said St. Louis County police spokesman Shawn McGuire.

The mainly black St. Louis suburb of 21,000 people has had months of largely peaceful protests punctuated by nights of rioting, arson and gunfire since a white police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014.

A crowd of several dozen protesters took to West Florissant Avenue, which has borne the brunt of the rioting, on Tuesday night. Demonstrators occasionally attempted to block traffic and threw rocks at police, but the conflict was defused, and no injuries to civilians or police were reported, county police said early Wednesday.

A state of emergency, declared after Sunday night protests where police shot and critically wounded an 18-year-old black teen they said had fired at them, remained in place. County Executive Steve Stenger told local media on Tuesday, however, that it might be lifted if calm prevails.

Police on Tuesday released a video of Sunday's shooting that they said showed the teen, Tyrone Harris, drawing a pistol from his pants. Harris has been charged with four counts of assault on law enforcement, five counts of armed criminal action, and one count of shooting at a vehicle. Bond for Harris, who is black, was set at $250,000.

Harris' father has denied that his son had a gun. Others in Ferguson have said he might not have realized that he was firing on plainclothes police officers.

Brown's death and similar police killings that followed in Baltimore; North Charleston, South Carolina; Cincinnati; and Arlington, Texas, sparked a year of protests and debate across the United States about race, justice and law enforcement's use of force.

A grand jury and the U.S. Justice Department found Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, broke no laws in the shooting. A separate Justice Department report found that the police department in Ferguson routinely violated the rights of black citizens, who make up two-thirds of the city's population.

Wilson has since left the force. The officer who killed a 19-year-old black Texas college football player last week was fired on Tuesday.

Police reform isn’t always about confrontation


On May 20, 2014, two Salinas police officers shot and killed 44-year-old Carlos Mejia on Del Monte Avenue in the city’s east side. Within hours, a cell phone video was posted to YouTube that shows Mejia walking down the sidewalk and turning toward the police. You hear the sound of the bullet, the screams of the crowd, and see Mejia fall.

Mejia was the third person shot by police in three months in 2014—after Angel Ruiz (March 20) and Osman Hernandez (May 9). 

The night after Mejia was shot, a candlelight vigil grew into a protest with more than 100 young people filling the busy intersection where Mejia was shot. Someone had parked a white SUV in the intersection and people were standing on top of it launching bottle rockets, while others stood nearby carrying signs and shouting “¡Queremos justicia!” (We want justice!). 

I was there with a few other people who had just left a community meeting a few blocks away. The mood was very tense, and the video of the shooting, viewed over and over, had given residents a focus for anger and frustration that had been growing for years. As organizers trying to keep the peace, our deepest question was: Are we co-opting a legitimate protest and making the protestors’ anger illegitimate? Are we, in a sense, selling out? 

Violent protests, no matter how righteous their motivation, won’t create the concrete change East Salinas needs. If we continued on the path towards confrontation, we’d simply reinforce the fact that the police had all the power and the citizens had none.

And it was exactly this feeling of being disempowered that had led the youth to occupy the intersection. For us, the main question was how could we do something that had never been done before—reach out to the police and community to create a true, working relationship to build some lasting change?

It’s hard to organize anywhere, but particularly in East Salinas. Salinas became a city in 1874, but the east side remained unincorporated until 1963, and its representation, its infrastructure, and its opportunities still lag far behind. The 101 divides the city, and if you drive from one side to the other you can easily see the poor roads and crowded housing of East Salinas, but what you can’t see is even more significant. Power—who has it, and who doesn’t—hangs over everything here. It’s not just the elephant in the room; it’s the elephant in our heads. If we could work with the community to feel empowered and to hold the police accountable in a conversation, that would be revolutionary.

In late May, I was part of a group of organizers that held meetings every other week to create a space for community members to talk about their feelings about the officer-involved shootings. One of these meetings, organized by Motivating Individual Leadership for Public Advancement, the United Farm Workers Foundation, and East Salinas Building Healthy Communities, brought in more than 100 people. People told us they didn’t trust the police. They said they wanted a voice, and told us how they wanted to organize—sin violencia, y con respeto (without violence and with respect).

One night, a reporter from the local TV news attended a meeting. At the time, I was an outreach coordinator for the United Farm Workers Foundation, so the reporter asked me for an interview—and if I was “for” or “against” the police. In that moment, I realized that the “us vs. them” narrative is part of the problem. It’s one thing to work on changing that narrative through community organizing, but another thing to explain it in a five-second news clip. On-camera, I said something about how it was easy for the media to perpetuate the “us vs. them” narrative because it’s filled with the drama and conflict that sells news.

I understand where the narrative comes from. I moved to Salinas four years ago for a job with the United Farm Workers, and the city immediately reminded me of the community where I grew up. Like Salinas, cities in the East Coachella Valley are full of people who have a bad relationship with law enforcement. One of my most vivid childhood memories from growing up in East Coachella Valley in the early 1990s is of the Border Patrol taking my aunts and uncles away to be deported; we didn’t know that we could deny them entry to our house, so inside they went. My family members were hiding, scared, my baby brother was crying. I did not understand why they were taking our family away. Experiences like that leave people with a deep fear and distrust of authorities that is hard to change.

As awful as they were, the officer-involved shootings in East Salinas provided an opportunity for us to pressure the city to listen and for the community to voice their concerns and fears. We began working to prepare for a meeting between community members and staff members from the city, including the police department. 

As organizers, it was very important to us that the community didn’t come in unprepared. We did not want a situation where people were yelling at the police, shutting conversations down, and leaving the community angrier.

I come from a traditional organizing background and worked with organizers with backgrounds in theater and traditional healing. On the evening before the big meeting in November, Motivating Individual Leadership for Public Advancement, which uses teachings from across indigenous Mexico to promote a sense of culture and belonging, organized a healing circle. Community members were asked to name what makes them feel most oppressed. Some people said that, until talking with the police, they thought the police would never respect them. At first I was skeptical about the healing, but as people went around the circle articulating their feelings I saw a shift as they began to realize the power of their own humanity. This healing was necessary—it made the difference for community members that could not be in front of an officer without a rage building inside of them so strong that the only thing they could do was shut down.

The next day, the big meeting began—structured as a weeklong training. For the first two days, about 50 community members, mostly from nonprofits and community-based groups, met to talk about how to discuss racism in a constructive way without attempting to “identify the racist in the room.” Then about 50 members of the city staff—including the city manager—met separately for two days to look at how the city government’s policies might be informed, intentionally or unintentionally, by bias. On the last day, the two groups got together and made a plan to continue the discussion

After all that talking, we’ve seen results. While there was a fourth officer-involved shooting in 2014, there have been none in 2015. In June, Police Chief Kelly McMillan dismantled the Monterey County Joint Gang Task Force, and transferred officers back to patrol and investigation bureaus. We hope this means the department is moving toward a strategy of prevention and early intervention. And that police officers will work to create relationships with community members so it doesn’t seem like they only show up to arrest people. 

Other positive changes have occurred. Last year, Salinas voters approved an annual sales tax increase that could generate $20 million, which means more funding for public safety, as well as repairs to streets and public parks.

In June, the California State Assembly’s Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color held a formal hearing in Salinas—with organizers, city staff, and the chief of police—to hear about the issues impacting our community. 

The reality is that we do not know how this work on community-police relations will succeed in the long-term, but as we expand our efforts, we must also take a critical look at the deeper roots of the broken relationships between law enforcement and the people they are supposed to serve and protect. In Monterey County, 1 in 3 residents fall below the poverty line, and child poverty is especially high.

Mending relationships with the police is just one part of the work we have to do in Salinas. And residents of the community must be the ones driving that change. 

Jesús Valenzuela is a health equity organizer with the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, as well as a freelance reporter and member of Pacific Media Guild. He lives and organizes around health issues with the #Health4All campaign in Salinas and across California.

This essay is part of Salinas: California's Richest Poor City, a special project of Zócalo Public Square and The California Wellness Foundation.

British teens arrested in theft of Auschwitz artifacts


Two British teenagers were arrested in Poland after police found in their backpacks items believed to be stolen from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum.

On Monday, museum security guards notified Polish police of the suspected theft of buttons, a fragment of a hair clipper and a piece of a spoon that belonged to prisoners of Birkenau. Police questioned the teens, 17 and 18, with the assistance of a translator.

The teens maintained their innocence, according to Deputy Inspector Mariusz Ciarka of the Malopolska police, but remain in police custody. They are charged with “misappropriation of objects that are artifacts of special cultural significance,” the Krakow Gazette reported.

Ciarka told the local media that the teens do not appear to realize the gravity of their alleged crime and are unfamiliar with “the dramatic history associated with Auschwitz. In contrast, museum staff are particularly sensitive to these types of incidents.”

If found guilty, the teens could be jailed for one to 10 years, though a fine and probation are the more likely punishment.

Ethiopian-Israelis, police clash at Tel Aviv protest against racism and brutality


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A demonstration by hundreds of Ethiopian-Israelis and their supporters in Tel Aviv against racism and police brutality turned violent.

The demonstrators marched to Rabin Square, where clashes with police broke out on Monday evening, resulting in arrests, The Jerusalem Post reported. Rabin Square was the site of previous protests by Ethiopian-Israelis, including one in May that turned violent.

Prior to the clashes, two demonstrators were arrested for blocking a road in central Tel Aviv, according to Israel Police.

The protest began in the afternoon in part also to protest the decision by Israel’s attorney general to close the case against the Israeli police officer who was caught on camera beating an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier without charges.

The demonstrators said they will continue their protests until they see changes, according to reports.

Hours earlier, Israel Police released the findings of a special committee made up of police and representatives of the Ethiopian-Israeli community to address the community’s needs and the areas of police responsibility.

The committee investigated 300 cases involving Ethiopian-Israeli juveniles and found no evidence of discrimination or violation of their rights. The report recommended that police officers undergo cultural training to better understand the Ethiopian community, to work to increase the number of Ethiopian-Israelis who serve on the police force and to have Amharic speakers in police stations in areas with a high concentration of Ethiopian residents.

There are 663 Ethiopian-Israel police officers, or 2.3 percent of the force. Ethiopians make up about 2 percent of the Israeli population.

Stumbling into Riots


Last Sunday night in Tel Aviv, where I live, I had a 40-minute glimpse into what it’s like to feel like an outsider, like a rejected member of society. I wasn’t given a chance to explain myself, to answer questions, to say, “No I’m just passing through, I’m not looking for violence.” I was simply one of “them”—one of the thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis protesting against discrimination and police violence. I thought: “But I’m not really part of this! I’m different! I’m just an observer!”

I should have realized that once I was on the scene, I would lose any privilege of being simply an “observer.”

Who cares that I had just stumbled onto these riots? That I had decided to walk to my friend’s house to pick up a toothbrush, and, on my way home, had walked right into the main square in Tel Aviv where the riots had migrated? At first, innocent me, I thought it was just a wild party, one of those spontaneous happenings you often see in Tel Aviv. I heard the sound of fireworks and pulled out my camera, thinking I might record something interesting. I’ve been studying film and communications at IDC Herzliya for three years, so pulling out my camera has become an instinct. 

But I quickly realized these were not fireworks—they were stun grenades fired by police. And the people were not party people, they were protesters running away from the stun grenades. Now the people and the police were running towards me. I tried to escape the mob and retreat to my “observer” status, but it was too late. I was now part of the mob. We were all part of the mob.

At one point the police drove what I can only describe as monstrous riot controlling vehicles sporting nozzles releasing foam with the water pressure of a fire truck hose. The crowd began panicking, running in different directions, trying to dodge the foam. Amid the panic, I met a young Ethiopian girl that helped me run away from a stun grenade heading towards my feet. She looked at me and said, “This is Israel, can you believe it?” I didn’t know what to say to her. I was raised to love and admire Israel deeply, to defend Israel come hell or high water. We both kept running and eventually lost ourselves in the crowd.

I made it home safely but I was still shaken. I thought again about the girl’s question: “This is Israel, can you believe it?”

Well, what can I believe? That Israel needs to make good with its Ethiopian population and other minorities, and fight racism and discrimination with all our might? That’s for sure. That Israel is full of problems, like poverty and the high cost of living, that need immediate attention? That’s for sure, too.

But there’s something else I’ve come to believe about Israel. It’s hard to be an observer here. It’s hard to stay on the sidelines. You may think you’re just walking through, that you’re not “one of them,” that you are somehow privileged, but in the end, you get sucked in. You end up joining the mob, becoming a participant. Even when I go film something as innocent as a rave party in the desert, I can’t just be an observer. I become one of them.

I’m not sure what you call this phenomenon. Maybe I’ll just call it Israel.

Shanni Suissa was born and raised in Los Angeles, and is graduating this year from IDC Herzliya in Israel, where there is never a dull moment.

Clergy march to LAPD headquarters, City Hall to protest skid row killing


On April 8, group of local Jewish and African-American leaders spotlighted the increase in police-involved deadly shootings in areas such as Skid Row during a press conference outside the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) headquarters.

“We wanted to reinforce that the Jewish community is standing together with the black community on this issue,” Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, a board member at Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice-Los Angeles (CLUE-LA), told the Journal in an interview.

He, along with members of the Black-Jewish Justice Alliance, a program of community organizing groups CLUE-LA and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, participated. Prompted by the May 1 killing in Skid Row of Charly “Africa” Leundeu Keunang, an unarmed black man, as well as the policing methods toward the homeless of the area, according to press materials. 

Rabbi Jonathan Klein, executive director at CLUE-LA; Rabbi Heather Miller, a rabbinic fellow at Beth Chayim Chadashim and b’nai mitzvah educator at Temple Israel of Hollywood; and Temple Beth Hillel of North Hollywood Rabbi Emeritus Jim Kaufman also attended.

The event took place to coincide with the fifth day of Passover.

The group staged a press conference at 10 a.m. outside the LAPD headquarters at Main street and 1st. Afterward, armed with jars of bitter herbs and charoset, they marched into LAPD headquarters and  into Los Angeles City Hall to deliver letters addressed to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. They gave the letters and the Passover foods to LAPD Detective Meghan Aguilar and Garcetti Westside Representative Daniel Tamm. Beck and Garcetti were not available to meet with the group.

“We demand that there be an independent prosecutor appointed to investigate all cases of police-involved shootings,” the letters read.

After the press conference, Cohen poured Clamato juice, a tomato juice meant to resemble blood – representing one of the Ten Plagues — into a hedge outside the LAPD headquarters. This was to symbolize bloodshed, he said.

“It’s all bound together,” Cohen told the Journal. “The message of Passover is that liberation is an unfolding story. As deep as it is, there’s more liberation that has to be done.”

Additional participants were Reverend Cue Jn-marie of The Row LA, Pete White, director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network and Pastor William D. Smart of the Christ Liberation Ministries.

Two officers shot outside Ferguson police HQ after chief quits


Two police officers were shot during a protest outside the Ferguson, Missouri police headquarters early on Thursday, police said, just hours after the city's police chief quit following a damning justice report into his department.

“Two @SaintLouCo police officers were shot outside the #Ferguson PD shortly after midnight. Gathering more info. Conditions not known,” the St. Louis County Police Department said in a tweet.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper earlier reported that Ferguson Lt. Col. Al Eickhoff said he did not believe either of the officers were part of his department. He could not provide details on their injuries to the Post-Dispatch.

A few dozen demonstrators fled following the sound of gunfire around midnight with some screaming, “They hit a cop,” according to a Reuters photographer at the scene.

Several dozen protesters had gathered in front of the Ferguson police department earlier on Wednesday night, just hours after the city's police chief, Thomas Jackson, announced his resignation.

Prominent activist Deray McKesson said on Twitter that he was at the scene, adding that the gunfire did not appear to come from the group of demonstrators.

“The shooter was not with the protesters. The shooter was atop the hill. We can live in a world without guns,” McKesson said.

Protesters had called for Jackson's removal since the fatal shooting of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014. The killing triggered nationwide protests and drew scrutiny to police use of deadly force, especially against black men.

Neither a grand jury nor the federal probe led to charges against Wilson.

Jackson's departure was the latest in a string of officials who stepped down following a scathing report from the U.S. Justice Department that found widespread racially biased abuses in the city's police department and municipal court.

Wednesday's demonstration had been tense but peaceful throughout the night. Several dozen people attended, and at one point demonstrators hung a flag with the words “Racism Lives Here” over a silhouette of the St. Louis skyline and drew chalk outlines in the parking lot of the department.

Later, some two dozen officers clad in riot gear faced off against the demonstrators, who had relocated to the street. At least two people were taken into custody.

Holder: Ferguson must act immediately on racial bias in policing


Attorney General Eric Holder called on leaders of Ferguson, Mo., to take “immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action” on the problems with the city's police that the Justice Department unearthed while investigating the shooting of an unarmed man this summer.

Holder, who will soon hand over the position of the country's top cop to Loretta Lynch, said the department would continue to work on reducing and eliminating racial bias within Ferguson's police force and elsewhere.

“Let me be clear: the United States Department of Justice reserves all its rights and abilities to force compliance and implement basic change,” Holder said in a speech about the department's findings of systemic racial bias and unconstitutional policing in the Midwestern town.

The death of Michael Brown, a young black man, at the hands of a local white police officer led to massive civil unrest this summer. Holder, though, said the investigation revealed problems with policing across the country.

“In the days ahead, the Department of Justice will stay true to my promise, vigilant in its execution, and determined in the pursuit of justice – in every case, in every circumstance, and in every community across the United States,” Holder said.

Police hunt three Frenchmen after 12 killed in Paris attack


Police are hunting three French nationals, including two brothers from the Paris region, after suspected Islamist gunmen killed 12 people at a satirical magazine on Wednesday, a police official and government source said.

The hooded attackers stormed the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly known for lampooning Islam and other religions, in the most deadly militant attack on French soil in decades.

French police staged a huge manhunt for the attackers who escaped by car after shooting dead some of France's top cartoonists as well as two police officers. About 800 soldiers were brought in to shore up security across the capital.

Police issued a document to forces across the region saying the three men were being sought for murder in relation to the Charlie Hebdo attack. The document, reviewed by a Reuters correspondent, named them as Said Kouachi, born in 1980, Cherif Kouachi, born in 1982, and Hamyd Mourad, born in 1996.

The police source said one of them had been identified by his identity card, which had been left in the getaway car.

The Kouachi brothers were from the Paris region while Mourad was from the area of the northeastern city of Reims, the government source told Reuters.

The police source said one of the brothers had previously been tried on terrorism charges.

Cherif Kouachi was charged with criminal association related to a terrorist enterprise in 2005 after he was arrested before leaving for Iraq to join Islamist militants. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008, according to French media.

A police source said anti-terrorism police searching for the suspects had been preparing an operation in Reims, and that there had already been a number of searches at locations across the country as part of the investigation.

A Reuters reporter in Reims saw anti-terrorism police secure a building before a forensics team entered an apartment there while dozens of residents looked on. They did not appear to be preparing a major raid.

A government official told Reuters there had been no arrests.

During the attack, one of the assailants was captured on video outside the building shouting “Allahu Akbar!” (God is Greatest) as shots rang out. Another walked over to a police officer lying wounded on the street and shot him point-blank with an assault rifle before the two calmly climbed into a black car and drove off.

A police union official said there were fears of further attacks, and described the scene in the offices as carnage, with a further four wounded fighting for their lives.

Tens of thousands joined impromptu rallies across France in memory of the victims and to support freedom of expression.

The government declared the highest state of alert, tightening security at transport hubs, religious sites, media offices and department stores as the search for the assailants got under way.

Some Parisians expressed fears about the effect of the attack on community relations in France, which has Europe's biggest Muslim population.

“This is bad for everyone – particularly for Muslims despite the fact that Islam is a fine religion. It risks making a bad situation worse,” Cecile Electon, an arts worker who described herself as an atheist, told Reuters at a vigil on Paris's Place de la Republique attended by 35,000 people.

Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Weekly) is well known for courting controversy with satirical attacks on political and religious leaders of all faiths and has published numerous cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad. Jihadists online repeatedly warned that the magazine would pay for its ridicule.

The last tweet on its account mocked Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the militant Islamic State, which has taken control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria and called for “lone wolf” attacks on French soil.

There was no claim of responsibility. However, a witness quoted by 20 Minutes daily newspaper said one of the assailants cried out before getting into his car: “Tell the media that it is al Qaeda in Yemen!”

Supporters of Islamic State and other jihadist groups hailed the attack on Internet sites. Governments throughout Europe have expressed fear that fighters returning from Iraq or Syria could launch attacks in their home countries.

“Today the French Republic as a whole was the target,” President Francois Hollande said in a prime-time evening television address. He declared a national day of mourning on Thursday.

EXECUTIONS

An amateur video broadcast by French television stations shows two hooded men in black outside the building. One of them spots a wounded policeman lying on the ground, hurries over to him and shoots him dead at point-blank range with a rifle.

In another clip on television station iTELE, the men are heard shouting in French: “We have killed Charlie Hebdo. We have avenged the Prophet Mohammad.”

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said the assailants killed a man at the entrance of the building to force entry. They then headed to the second floor and opened fire on an editorial meeting attended by eight journalists, a policeman tasked with protecting the magazine's editorial director and a guest.

“What we saw was a massacre. Many of the victims had been executed, most of them with wounds to the head and chest,” Patrick Hertgen, an emergencies services medic called out to treat the injured, told Reuters.

A Reuters reporter saw groups of armed policeman patrolling around department stores in the shopping district and there was an armed gendarme presence outside the Arc de Triomphe.

U.S. President Barack Obama described the attack as cowardly and evil, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel was among European leaders condemning the shooting.

The dead included co-founder Jean “Cabu” Cabut and editor-in-chief Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier.

France last year reinforced its anti-terrorism laws and was on alert after calls from Islamist militants to attack its citizens and interests in reprisal for French military strikes on Islamist strongholds in the Middle East and Africa.

The last major attack in Paris was in the mid-1990s when the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) carried out a spate of attacks, including the bombing of a commuter train in 1995 which killed eight people and injured 150.

Why it’s not about Ferguson


The Jewish community should be engaged and enraged over what’s happening in Ferguson, Mo., and the long-standing racial discrimination in America that Ferguson has thrust into the spotlight. But the current news cycle will inevitably end, and we will either be an allied force for systemic change or we will fall back into our normative patterns of silent acquiescence. 

While Jews must not be painted with a single-colored brush — our own racial diversity strengthens us — on the whole, many of us enjoy the privileges of a society that favors white skin, overtly and inadvertently. It is an undeniable reality that race permeates all aspects of American life, especially the justice system and its collateral consequences. 

Nationally, we Jews live two realities at the same time: minority and majority. As a minority, we are vulnerable to religious bigotry and hate crimes, especially now as anti-Semitism is resurgent throughout the world. We know the experience of persecution. Simultaneously, many of us belong to the majority in a society where race plays a disproportionate role in educational and economic opportunity. We often greatly benefit from what is essentially an accident of birth.

Our challenge is to openly acknowledge the complexities and discomfort of this dual reality.

When confronted with struggle or difficulty, we turn to our tradition, and more specifically to the foundational narrative of our people, the Exodus.

Our story is intimately familiar to us: We were brutally persecuted, enslaved, then redeemed. It’s part of our religious DNA, the emotional and psychological reverberations eternally implanted in our souls. And it rightly animates many of the core values informing our fight for justice throughout the world.

But right now our history of enslavement may not be the primary biblical impetus for American Jews to actively engage in the fight against discrimination. There’s another aspect of the Exodus story we’re less eager or likely to confront. Our story contains an evil Pharaoh, and he’s more than just the brutal oppressor. He is a paradigm for a darkness within all humanity. 

Time after time, Pharaoh is presented with the opportunity to release his slaves, to hearken to the anguish of his own heart after each plague sent by God. And in each instance, precisely when the pain is most palpable, Pharaoh briefly shifts in his decision-making. He considers letting the Israelites go free. But as the open wounds close, so does his willingness to side with dignity and freedom. So does his chance to live in and with the vulnerability of not knowing what will come after the current normal ends.  

So Pharaoh is not only the perpetrator of injustice, but is also, paradoxically, the potential that can enable redemption. 

This defining pharaonic trait allows our heart’s defensive walls to become too high, too thick.

As rays of light get in, they are swiftly swallowed up in the darkness of apathy, control and neglect. Although God may have planned and set the wheels in motion for the narrative to play out as it did, Pharaoh’s behavior contributed to and exacerbated the damage as well. His blindness to the emotions within his heart also allowed for a heinous status quo to persist, all under a delusional misconception of law and order. We are all susceptible to the weaknesses of Pharaoh, to allowing our protective layers to obstruct our ability to connect even with our own hearts.    

It is for this reason that God, despite creating us with the capacity for a stiff, hard heart, commands us to de-layer it: “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer” (Deuteronomy 10:16).

It is for this reason that God promises: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). 

Objectively, our hearts are born no different from the heart of Pharaoh’s and the silent Egyptians who allowed for the culture of slavery to exist. They are at once tender and primed for compassion, and ready for walls that permit cruelty. We all experience both. We try to commit to the former because we know to bend toward the elevation of life and dignity. But it takes hard work to live up to that sacred goal. 

The Torah includes the inner workings of Pharaoh’s heart so that we will take them seriously. Let us use this textual mirror to identify the walls we’ve permitted to accumulate around our hearts. And then it is time to tear them down. Because all too often, when the in-your-face images fade away, we quickly fall back into our normal patterns, and the cracks in our hearts are plugged with apathy. 

If 20 children murdered at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., wasn’t enough to move our Congress to make sweeping changes in favor of public safety for all of our children — to open an actual national dialogue about our gun violence epidemic — then we shouldn’t be surprised when Ferguson drifts away without the establishment addressing the root causes of systemic racism. We can’t let this fade away again in hopes that it will eventually work itself out. 

As our brothers and sisters cry out for justice, we must be more open than ever to their pain, which is ours, too. When our heart aches, as it should, from yet another story of a young black or brown man or woman killed or wrongfully incarcerated, we can assess the magnitude and complexity of the issue at hand, turn off the news and hope someone fixes these problems soon, or we can remain awake, enter the pain empathically, and be a source for healing that goes beyond the surface.

Start now. Read Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” and discuss it with two or three friends. If moved, connect with others who are trying to understand what to contribute to this centuries-long struggle and how to create systems, encourage behaviors and develop communities that treat all of God’s children with the dignity, benefit of the doubt and compassion they deserve, and which we all hope to receive from others. 

The Jewish community is uniquely positioned to be a critical force in this country for moving beyond the idea of a melting pot toward the creation of a sacred tapestry of race, ethnicity and faith that doesn’t melt away our differences, but rather weaves together our distinct gifts with the gifts of all our neighbors.

America deserves more. Our children deserve more. Our Jewish voices must reflect our post-redemption experiences, our commitment to diminishing the apathetic tendencies in each of us, and our recognition that equality of opportunity is an essential, divine value.


Rabbi Aaron Alexander is associate dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University. Rabbi Ronit Tsadok is assistant rabbi at IKAR.

Police come under gunfire, 31 arrested in Missouri racial unrest


Police came under “heavy gunfire” and 31 people were arrested, authorities said on Tuesday, during racially charged protests in Ferguson, Missouri sparked by the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman 10 days ago.

“Not a single bullet was fired by officers despite coming under heavy attack (on Monday night),” State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson told a news conference.

“Our officers came under heavy gunfire,” in one area, he said, and riot police had confiscated two guns from protesters and what looked like a petrol bomb (molotov cocktail).

Demonstrations, mostly peaceful but with spasms of violence by smaller groups, have flared since Michael Brown, 18, was shot dead during an incident with a policeman in a patrol car while walking down a residential street in Ferguson on Aug. 9.

An overnight curfew has been imposed and the National Guard, the U.S. state militia, has been deployed in the St. Louis suburb of 21,000 people to stop looting and burning that have punctuated the protests and stirred questions about U.S. race relations.

Missouri state police with an African-American in charge, Johnson, have taken over security efforts from mostly white local police, widely accused of using excessive force against blacks, and President Barack Obama and civil rights leaders have appealed for calm while a federal investigation proceeds.

Brown was shot by policeman Darren Wilson, 28, who is now on paid leave, in hiding and under criminal investigation.

The clashes between riot police and protesters on Monday night occurred after hours of demonstrations that were mostly peaceful, Reuters witnesses said.

Police had closed a roadway to traffic to provide a path for marches but said a smaller group within the larger crowd hurled bottles, rocks and petrol bombs at officers standing near armored vehicles. Police responded by firing gas-filled canisters and a noise cannon to try to disperse the throng.

Johnson, commanding state police now overseeing efforts to reinstate order, told CNN that two people were shot within the crowd, but not by police, and were taken to hospital.

Some demonstrators, including a church minister using a blow horn, urged crowds to calm down.


Protestors drag a portable toilet onto the roadway during protests near Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 18. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Local broadcast media said on Twitter that one person was shot in the hand and taken to an area hospital and that another man rushed to a police line holding his side saying he had been shot. Reuters could not confirm the reports.

“This has to stop. I don't want anybody to get hurt. We have to find a way to stop this,” Johnson said.

There have been peaceful protests over Brown's killing elsewhere in the United States including in St. Louis, New York, Seattle and Oakland. Johnson said some of the arrested protesters had come from California and New York.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Ferguson on Saturday and a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. He also mobilised the National Guard to back up state police.

Obama said he told the governor the use of the National Guard should be limited and called for conciliation in communities hit by the unrest. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will visit Ferguson on Wednesday, Obama said.

“While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving in to that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police, only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos,” Obama told a news conference. “It undermines, rather than advancing, justice.”

Holder said over 40 FBI agents were canvassing Ferguson neighborhoods in their investigation and an additional medical examination was being performed on Brown. Results of autopsies done by federal and St. Louis County authorities were pending.

MULTIPLE SHOTS

An autopsy conducted on behalf of Brown's family showed he was shot at least six times, including twice in the head. The path of one bullet indicates Brown may have been lowering his head in surrender when the fatal shot struck, according to Brown family attorney Daryl Parks.

“His head was in a downward position,” Parks told reporters. “Given those kind of facts, this officer should have been arrested,” Parks said. There were no signs of struggle with the officer and no gunshot residue on the body.

Ferguson police quoted Wilson, the 28-year-old officer who shot Brown, as saying he had asked Brown and a friend to move off the street where they were walking onto the sidewalk. Wilson reported that Brown reached into his patrol car and struggled for his gun when the officer fired the initial shot.

St. Louis County prosecutors' spokesman Edward Magee said the case could be presented this week to an investigating grand jury which would decide whether Wilson will be indicted.

Ferguson has seen a stark demographic shift in recent decades, going from all white to mostly black. About two-thirds of the town's 21,000 population are black, while out of a police force of 53, three officers are black.

Many Ferguson residents say Brown's killing was emblematic of police excesses against blacks, a charge authorities deny.


A protestor raises his hands in front of a fog of tear gas hovering over West Florissant during protests near Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 18. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Brown's friend Dorian Johnson, 22, said Wilson had reached out his car window to grab Brown and the teenager tried to get away. Johnson said Brown held up his hands to surrender but Wilson got out of his car and shot him several times.

The National Bar Association, containing the largest network of black attorneys and judges, filed a lawsuit on Monday against Ferguson and its police department, demanding it protect evidence of the shooting and arrests made during protests.

Looting has left a number of Ferguson stores in shambles.

In July 2013, there were angry albeit peaceful protests in cities across the United States over the acquittal in a Florida second-degree murder and manslaughter trial of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, who shot shot dead an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in the street during a scuffle in February 2012.

Additional reporting by Lucas Jackson in Ferguson, Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Mo., Eric Beech in Washington, Curtis Skinner in New York; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Never an excuse for shooting unarmed suspects, former police chief says


I was the police chief in Kansas City, Missouri, when an unarmed African-American teenager was shot by a cop for a non-violent issue. The result was a peaceful and constructive public dialogue – the opposite of what is happening now in Ferguson, Missouri, in the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old.

I was then the youngest big-city police chief in America, having just arrived from New York City, where I had been a deputy inspector in the New York Police Department during a high-crime period. But I had no real honeymoon in Missouri.

Just a few days after I took charge, on a crystal clear day in 1973, a uniformed officer responded to a daylight break-in of a home. The officer raised his shotgun and fired at a youth running away. He killed Rory Lark, age 15, unarmed and slight, at 115 pounds.

The Kansas City Star filled its entire front page with an image of Lark, an angelic school photo of the youngster who looked to be a skinny 10-year-old. If you had a heart, you had to be touched.

If Lark had received any punishment, it would likely have been a week in juvenile hall. As a gesture of sympathy to the black community, I attended his funeral in civilian clothes. The officer was reprimanded and transferred.

Reasonable people, black and white, didn't want to hear how the law was complicated, or how a new chief was not responsible for the boy's death. So we waited through the night to see if the city would burn. It didn't. The next day, however, pickets appeared in front of police headquarters demanding, in none-too-polite language, that I should go back to New York.

Kansas City's black community wanted to know, Why had this boy died for a nonviolent crime? My police department responded quickly: He should not have been fired upon.

I reminded the media that I had announced in my first news conference as chief that I didn't believe officers should use their firearms unless there was imminent danger to human life. I planned to rewrite the firearms policy, I had declared, so that officers were officially ordered not to fire except under those circumstances.

As soon as possible, we announced the official new policy. It prohibited police officers from firing at unarmed suspects. We cut back on all police use of military gear. We invited local community leaders to help shape police responses.

In the wake of the new policy, police shootings fell dramatically, and crime declined as local leadership joined with police in speaking out against crime.

The Kansas City shooting, remarkably similar to Ferguson today, offers lessons we can learn.

First, except for highly unusual circumstances, police have no excuse for killing unarmed people.

Second, it is in Americans' national DNA that we be policed by civil, not military, institutions. So television and social media pictures of heavily armed police in military gear and armored vehicles are no way to gather public support. In Ferguson and across the nation, police need to recalibrate the use of deadly force – and return to traditional strategies of professional police forces working with the public to win support against criminals.

Body cameras, better training and discipline, new police leadership and other strategies are crucial. But it is clear that U.S. police must recalibrate current militarization policies, in which officer safety is paramount.

The fundamental police duty is protection of life. Officer safety should never supersede democratic policing, where police officers adhere to their role as public servants willing to take reasonable risks to protect and serve.

As Kansas City chief, I was responsible for maintaining order within my city, releasing to the public all legally permissible information through the media, the mayor and state and local officials.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, a self-appointed spokesman for an investigation of which he was not part, held frequent press conferences that only created more confusion. For example, when Jackson released the name of the officer involved in the shooting, he also released security camera stills of a convenience store robbery that he said are of Brown. Even though the Justice Department had asked the Ferguson Police Department not to do this.

Jackson also did not coordinate with Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, whom Governor Jay Nixon had put in charge to help defuse the situation.

Jackson seems to have foolishly tried to walk through a legal minefield, possibly releasing information that could hinder the prosecution of involved officers. This may also lead to charges of a police cover-up.

Yet, all the remedial steps now being debated focus on actions to take after a tragic death – not the deep-rooted causes that must be part of real reform.

Yes, the heat is now on Ferguson police. The real challenge, however, is to all U.S. policing. Police nationwide have drifted into the militarization of attitude and equipment as a strategy for controlling street demonstrations such as Occupy Wall Street, youth violence, heavy crime zones and drug searches.

This sort of militarization was intended for extremely rare hostage situations. The arrest of journalists and the use of tear gas in Ferguson is zany.

The major issue, though, is still the unanswered question: What justification do the police have for killing an unarmed suspect?

The answer is always: None.

Joseph D. McNamara

Missouri names officer in shooting of unarmed teen, cites robbery


Police named Darren Wilson as the officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., and said the youth was the key suspect in a robbery that occurred minutes before the shooting, which sparked days of sometimes violent protests.

Wilson was the officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown last Saturday, police said, giving in to pressure to identify the six-year veteran officer with a clean record, and to provide details about the investigation in order to ease tensions in the largely black suburb outside St. Louis.

Days of protests had cast a spotlight on racial tensions in greater St. Louis, where civil rights groups have complained in the past of racial profiling by police, of the arrests of a disproportionate number of blacks and of discriminatory police hiring practices.

At a news conference Friday, police released incident reports, video stills of the robbery and provided a more detailed timeline of the Aug. 9 events. The reports, based on video surveillance and witness interviews, said the events unfolded shortly before noon, with a report of a robbery at a Ferguson convenience store.

Two men, Brown and 22-year-old Dorian Johnson, entered the store and Brown became involved in a “struggle or confrontation” with someone else at the store, apparently over a box of cigars, a police report said.


An incident in a store in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9. Photo by Ferguson Police Department/Handout via Reuters

One page of the report named Brown as the “primary suspect in this incident,” describing him as being dressed in khaki shorts, a white t-shirt and sporting a red baseball hat. It identified Dorian Johnson, the friend who was with Brown when he was shot, as a second suspect.

That page of the incident report appeared to be written by a police officer whose name was redacted from the publicly released version. The officer appears to suggest he or she was able to observe Brown's body – found in khaki shorts and a white t-shirt – after he was shot by Wilson.

“I responded to that scene and observed Brown,” the officer's report said. “After viewing Brown and reviewing this video, I was able to confirm that Brown is the primary suspect in this incident.”

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said at a news conference Friday that Wilson came upon Brown at about 12:01 p.m., walking down the street not far from the convenience store, and Wilson had shot the teenager by 12:04 p.m.

Jackson did not discuss details of the actual shooting.

The police version that has thus far been provided of Brown's shooting differs markedly from witness accounts.

Police said Brown reached into the police car and struggled with the officer, who shot and killed him. Wilson sustained a facial injury, which was treated in a hospital, they said.

Witnesses have said Brown was trying to get away from the officer, who tried to grab him after telling him to move off the street and onto a sidewalk. Brown held up his hands in a sign of surrender but was shot several times, they said.

Some residents expressed outrage that police suggested Brown was a robbery suspect when he was killed.

“For them to say this is an armed robbery makes me think this is a cover up,” said Ferguson resident Milton Jackson, 37.

“I don't believe what the officer did was called for. Even if there was a robbery, it was unnecessary force to shoot an unarmed black man,” he said.

Arthur Austin, 39, another resident, said: “This is how the police operate here, they always defame the name of the victim. Michael Brown had never been in trouble so it doesn't add up. The more I hear, the less I trust what the police are saying.”

Police had held back naming Wilson for nearly a week because of fears he could be harmed amid a volatile and sometimes-violent week of angry protests that followed Brown's death.

The move to identify the officer comes after the American Civil Liberties Union sued St. Louis County and the county police Thursday, seeking copies of initial police reports of the shooting.

Civil rights leaders from around the country, community activists and protesters also demanded that the officer be identified and be held accountable for the killing.

Thousands of protesters, demanding justice for Brown's killing, had clashed with riot gear-clad local police since Saturday, but there was a marked shift Thursday to a calmer tone after the governor put an African-American Missouri Highway Patrol Captain in charge of security for the area.

On Thursday night, a small number of police mingled with the crowd, urging a healing to the racially charged situation, in marked contrast to the riot gear, rubber bullets and tear gas that had confronted protesters earlier in the week.

Just three of Ferguson's 53-strong police force are black, while two-thirds of the town's population of 21,000 are black.

Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, who was named Thursday to oversee security in the area, reported Friday that the near week-long period of unrest and angry confrontations between police and protesters appeared to be over.

Under his direction, roadblocks were lifted, and instead of using teargas and intimidation, Johnson's teams walked the streets to talk with protesters and listen to their concerns.

“Last night was a great night,” he said. “People were talking… getting their voice out.

Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, David Bailey in Minneapolis, Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Jeff Mason in Edgartown, Mass., Curtis Skinner, Jonathan Allen and Brendan McDermid in New York; Writing by Carey Gillam and Eric Johnson; Editing by Susan Heavey and Bernadette Baum

Obama urges police to respect protesters in Ferguson


President Barack Obama called on police Thursday to respect demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo., in an attempt to defuse tensions after four nights of often-violent protests over the police killing of an unarmed black teenager.

“There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting,” Obama said a televised remarks.

“There's also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protesters or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their first amendment rights,” he told the press from Edgartown, Massachusetts, near where he is vacationing with his family.

Following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in the mostly black St. Louis suburb on Saturday, dozens of protesters have been arrested, and officers in body armor have used SWAT vehicles, riot gear, stun grenades, smoke bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets to break up protests.

Since Sunday, there have been peaceful vigils and demonstrations – with protesters holding their hands in the air and chanting “hands up, don't shoot” – as well as episodes of looting, vandalism and violence.

Missouri lawmakers urged Governor Jay Nixon to step in on Thursday and change the police tactics used in Ferguson, which, they said, were causing an escalation of violence.

“My goal has been to try to move out some of the military responses that they have been embracing and see if we can't get back to good, solid police work that keeps the protesters safe,” U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill said during a visit to Ferguson on Thursday.

Nixon told community members at a church near Ferguson that he would make operational shifts so that people would feel a different tone from police on the streets. He did not specify what steps would be taken.

He was due to make an announcement Thursday afternoon.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told reporters the police would work to “facilitate” protests and not escalate tensions, but added that police had to react to crowds that turn violent.

The tactical chief of the police operations at the protests has been the St. Louis County SWAT commander, he said.

Authorities also said Thursday they might rethink their decision to withhold the name of the police officer who was involved in the shooting.

Protesters have said a lack of transparency by police investigating the incident – including the refusal to release the officer's name – had stoked already-high tensions.

They have also called for St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCullough to be removed from the case.

Early on Thursday, a member of the Anonymous hacker activist collective, using the Twitter name @TheAnonMessage, tweeted a name, alleging it was the police officer who shot Brown.

Police and prosecutors strenuously denied that the person named was the officer involved, saying he was not even a member of the St. Louis County Police Department or the Ferguson Police. Later, another collective member, tweeting as @OpFerguson, said the name was incorrect.

Hackers have periodically disrupted the Ferguson police website and other local government sites throughout the week.

THREE INVESTIGATIONS

The shooting and protests have shed a spotlight on race issues in the highly segregated city of St. Louis and its suburbs.

Ferguson has seen a stark demographic shift in recent decades, going from mostly white to mostly black. About two-thirds of the town's 21,000-strong population is black. Still, on a police force of 53, just three officers are black.

Civil rights groups have complained in the past that police in St. Louis County racially profiled blacks, arrested a disproportionate number of blacks and had racist hiring practices.

Amnesty International called on Thursday for a thorough investigation of the shooting of Brown, as well as the tactics used against protesters.

The U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the St. Louis County prosecutor's office are all investigating Brown's death.

There is little clarity on what occurred during Saturday's incident.

Police have said that Brown struggled with the officer who shot and killed him. The officer involved in the shooting was injured during the incident and was treated in hospital for swelling on the side of his face, they said.

But some witnesses have said that Brown held up his hands and was surrendering when he was shot multiple times in the head and chest.

Two reporters were among those arrested late Wednesday during protests. Ferguson Mayor James Knowles pledged on Thursday that the reporters would be treated “in a proper fashion.”

Obama said “in the United States of America police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs.”

Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Susan Heavey and Bernadette Baum

Obama says Missouri shooting death tragic, reflection needed


President Barack Obama called the police shooting death of an unarmed black teenager a tragedy on Tuesday and urged a thoughtful response after two nights of violent protests, looting and arrests in a St. Louis suburb.

But early on Wednesday, a police officer shot and critically wounded a man who drew a handgun near the site of the protests, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper reported, citing a police spokesman.

St. Louis County Police Department officers responded about an hour after midnight to reports of four or five men with shotguns and wearing ski masks. They encountered “multiple subjects running,” police spokesman Brian Schellman said.

One of them pulled a gun on an officer, who fired at him, police said. The man was taken to an area hospital.

Shortly after midnight, police fired tear gas into protesters who had confronted a line of officers after a far larger crowd dispersed, Schellman said. A photograph in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showed a protester wearing a shirt with an American flag printed on it throwing a tear gas container back at the police.

President Obama promised a full investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the teenager's death, which has provoked outrage in the largely African-American town of Ferguson.

“I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but … I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding,” Obama said in a statement.

Friends and family of 18-year-old Michael Brown held a peaceful church vigil on Tuesday night, after his father pleaded for an end to the violence. Standing with supporters, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, Michael Brown Sr. said he wanted justice for his son but wanted it “the right way.”

“I need all of us to come together and do this right, the right way,” said Brown Sr., who wore a T-shirt showing his son's baby picture. “No violence.”

Several hundred protesters appeared to heed the calls for non-violence late on Tuesday evening, chanting “hands up, don't shoot” and “no justice, no peace” during a tense but ultimately peaceful stand-off with police clad in riot gear and flanked by armored vehicles near the site of Brown's death.

The protesters, some of whom waved signs as the group was led in chants by megaphone, had dwindled to a handful before midnight.

Also on Wednesday, a woman was shot in the head in a drive-by shooting blocks from the area where Brown was killed. Her condition and whether the shooting were related to the protests was unknown, Schellman said.

In a separate incident simmering in California, a vigil was planned after Monday's shooting death of an unarmed 24-year-old black man in Los Angeles, USA TODAY cited a Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman as saying.

Sharpton, a New York-based civil rights leader, called for peaceful protest in the wake of looting and more than 50 arrests since the shooting. Sharpton's National Action Network will pay for Brown's funeral.

“To become violent in Michael Brown's name is to betray the gentle giant that he was,” Sharpton said of the 6-foot, 4-inch (198-cm) Brown, who had planned to start college this week.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon told a packed church in North St. Louis County on Tuesday evening the community was “reeling from what feels like an old wound that has been torn open afresh.”

The activists also were demanding authorities make public the name of the officer involved. The police had said they would release the officer's name on Tuesday, but changed the plan, citing fears of retaliation, according to media reports.

Police said Brown was shot in a struggle with a gun in a police car but have not said why Brown was in the car. At least one shot was fired during the struggle and then the officer fired more shots before leaving the car, police said.

The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the racially charged case and St. Louis County also is investigating.

CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS

A witness to the shooting interviewed on local media has said that Brown had been putting his hands up to surrender when he was killed.

“There were many, many witnesses who have talked to family members and they paint a very different picture than police witnesses,” said Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Brown family. Crump also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen killed in Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012.

The “hands up” gesture has been frequently seen at protests over the shooting. More than 100 protesters in front of the St. Louis County Courthouse in nearby Clayton on Tuesday morning chanted “hands up, don't shoot.”

Demonstrations on Sunday night turned violent, with looting and property damage. Violence broke out again on Monday night as police officers in riot gear, armed with rifles and accompanied by dogs tried to secure the area.

Residents in the low-income, mostly black neighborhood where Brown was killed say they are often harassed by police. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said the neighborhood had a lot of crime but there were no race problems.

Ferguson has seen a stark demographic shift in recent decades, going from all white to mostly black. About two-thirds of the town's 21,000-strong population are black. On a police force of 53, three officers are black.

The race of officers should not matter as long as their work is fair and professional, said Dave Klinger, a former police officer and criminal justice professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“If the officer behaved inappropriately, we've got to sanction the officer and figure out what it is that led him to do what he did,” Klinger said. “Was he poorly trained? Was there a pattern in this agency?”

Klinger said the investigation must be as “transparent as possible.”

Additional reporting by Mary Wisniewski in Chicago and Carey Gillam in Ferguson, Missouri; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Larry King

Herschel Grynszpan: ‘The Boy Avenger’


Like stills from a film noir, the black-and-white photographs of a 17-year-old boy named Herschel Grynszpan that have come down to us — police mug shots, newspaper photos, a souvenir snapshot taken at a Paris street fair — capture the various faces that he presented to the public during the fall of 1938, when he boiled up out of a noisy Jewish neighborhood in a backwater of Paris and demanded the attention of the astonished world.

L’affaire Grynszpan, as his case came to be known, starts with a single act of violence behind the locked gates of the German embassy in Paris on November 7, 1938, when he fired five shots at a Nazi diplomat. Nowadays, when Grynszpan is remembered at all, it is because the Nazis seized upon the assassination as a pretext for Kristallnacht, the pogrom that marked the sudden and ominous escalation in Hitler’s war against the Jews. But it is also a story replete with shock and scandal, mystery and perplexity.  

Precisely what transpired inside the ornate German embassy in Paris on that day remains a puzzlement, but even more baffling is the black hole of history into which Grynszpan has fallen since the end of World War II. Herschel Grynszpan was briefly famous, and it was his fame — or, as the Nazis saw it, his infamy — that accounts for the trove of historical detail that is available to us today. We know how much he weighed, how tall he was, and how much money his family received in welfare payments because he was investigated by both French and German police officers, and he was examined by physicians, psychiatrists and social workers in the service of the French criminal courts and later by their counterparts in Nazi Germany, all in the greatest and most intimate detail. Grynszpan, still only an adolescent, was questioned by the famously efficient interrogators of the Gestapo and even by Adolf Eichmann, a self-styled expert on Jewish affairs in the Nazi bureaucracy and one of the masterminds of the Final Solution.

Today, however, Grynszpan remains a mystery, an irony if only because Grynszpan was among the most famous inmates of the Nazi concentration camp system. Perhaps the most vexing aspect of the Grynszpan case is the fact that he has never been embraced as the heroic figure he earnestly sought to be. His fellow Jews, suffering through the catastrophic aftermath of his act of protest at the German embassy in Paris, “generally disapproved of it as useless, dangerous and a great disservice to Jews everywhere,” according to Gerald Schwab, one of the principal investigators of the Grynszpan case. One of Grynszpan’s own attorneys, richly paid to defend him in the French courts, dismissed him privately as “that absurd little Jew.” Hannah Arendt pronounced him to be “a psychopath” and, even more shockingly, accused him of serving as an agent of the Gestapo. Jewish armed resistance against Nazi Germany is much studied and celebrated, but Grynszpan remains without honor even among the people whose avenger he imagined himself to be.

The effacement of Herschel Grynszpan, who wrote and spoke so ardently about his deed to lawyers, judges, politicians and reporters in the months and years following his arrest, would have broken the boy’s heart. His prison journals, which were carefully preserved and studied by both French and German authorities, reveal that the lonely and frightened adolescent yearned not merely for attention but for a place of consequence in the saga of the Jewish people. “He thought the only end to isolation was to reach the point where he was no longer separated from the true struggles that went on around him,” writes Don DeLillo of Lee Harvey Oswald in the novel “Libra,” but the same words surely apply to Grynszpan. “The name we give to this point is history.”

As we observe the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, we ought to pause and recall the 17-year-old boy who was among the very first Jews to fire a weapon in defense of the Jewish people during those dark years. “For three lines in history that will be written about the youth who fought and did not go like sheep to the slaughter,” insisted the martyred ghetto fighter Dolek Liebeskind, “it is even worth dying.” Yet the search to find examples of Jewish resistance has failed to acknowledge the exploits of Herschel Grynszpan.

At the end of the short, strange and turbulent life of Herschel Grynszpan — a life tainted by rumors of sexual scandal for which Herschel himself was the source — we are left with two ineradicable facts. Only weeks after the prime ministers of England and France had trembled before Hitler in Munich, Grynszpan walked into the German embassy in Paris and shot a Nazi diplomat, an “act of counter-violence” in explicit protest against Hitler’s persecution of the Jews. And, three years later, the same young man, alone and abandoned in a Gestapo cell in Berlin, succeeded in denying his Nazi captors the opportunity to justify the mass murder of the Jewish people in the show trial they had planned for him.

For these two acts of courage and defiance, the young man paid with his life. If Jewish armed resistance deserves more than “three lines in history,” then we are obliged to remember Herschel Grynszpan and to regard him as the hero he sought to be. 


Jonathan Kirsch is the book editor of the Jewish Journal. Excerpted from “The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in Paris” by Jonathan Kirsch. Copyright © 2013 by Jonathan Kirsch. With permission of the publisher, Liveright Publishing Corp. 

Accused as sex-abuser, Mendel Tevel appears in L.A. court


On Thursday afternoon, Oct. 31, Mendel Tevel appeared in a Los Angeles Superior Court for the first time since his arrest two days earlier by Beverly Hills police acting on a warrant issued by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. Tevel, a rabbi and youth worker, is accused of 11 counts of alleged sexual abuse in New York.

Handcuffed, wearing a standard blue jail suit and standing behind glass in a sealed-off section of a downtown courtroom, Tevel listened without expression as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba verified that he had signed a form waiving his right to oppose his extradition to the State of New York. His lawyer confirmed Tevel’s signed consent, giving New York law enforcement officials until Dec. 2 to retrieve Tevel from the custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Tevel’s attorney, Dana Cole, asked the judge if the court would consider granting bail to Tevel based on two factors: Concern that it would be difficult for Tevel to maintain a healthy weight in county jail while observing strict kosher dietary restrictions, and the fact that Tevel has a clean record in California.

“Because of his very rigorous dietary restrictions it would be very difficult for him to maintain weight [and] health in county [jail],” Cole said.

Torrealba turned down the request, saying, “You’re not entitled to bail, and because of the very violent and serious nature of these offenses, it does appear that no bail is the most appropriate way to make sure that you get back to the state of New York to face these charges.”

Members of Tevel’s family were in the courtroom, including his wife, Bracha, and her father and Tevel’s father-in-law, Rabbi Hertzel Illulian, the founder and director of the JEM youth center in Beverly Hills, a Jewish community center where Tevel worked—and where police arrested him on the afternoon of Oct. 29.

Tevel is expected to be charged, pending his extradition to New York, with three counts of criminal sexual acts in the first degree, five counts of criminal sexual acts in the third degree and three counts of sexual abuse in the first degree.

In an article in the Jewish Journal in August, four men alleged that they had been victims of Tevel as minors (ranging from ages 6 to 14 at the time of the alleged abuse).

They claimed Tevel performed acts that included spanking on bare skin, as well as sexually suggestive rubbing. The instances described by those who spoke with the Journal took place as early as around 1995 and as recently as around 2004.

On Oct. 30, one of those alleged victims, a Brooklyn resident, told the Journal, “I would like to see him going away forever.”

Because the indictment remains sealed, whether those charges include the four men who made accusations against him to the Journal is unclear.

Tevel is believed to have moved to Los Angeles in 2012, shortly after his marriage.

Lt. Lincoln Hoshino of the Beverly Hills Police Department said that when the department investigated Tevel in August, detectives concluded there had been “no complaints” of any criminal or inappropriate sexual acts with students at the JEM center.

Illulian would not comment when contacted in August, and did not respond to multiple calls this week to his cell phone. He also declined to speak with the Journal in court.

In an interview earlier in the week, Illulian told KABC-TV, “God will help that it will show that it’s all false and will clear up, and people will see while we [JEM] will still continue our good job for the community,”

Outside of the courthouse after the hearing, attorney Cole spoke with the media, saying Tevel is “anxious to go back to New York and start the process” he hopes will “clear his name.”

Tevel “absolutely denies the allegations—he believes that they are fabricated,” Cole said.

When asked why he raised the issue of kosher dietary restrictions when the county jail is known to provide kosher food, Cole responded, “They do provide kosher food, but Los Angeles county jail is a miserable environment. It’s very difficult for a very religious person with strict dietary restrictions to really survive there.

“He’ll have to do the best he can,” Cole said.

Sherman Oaks arsonist remains at large


On Thursday, Itzchik Weinstein, walking on his way to Chabad of Sherman Oaks, passed by The Hair Studio, an upscale salon on Ventura Boulevard, between Colbath and Stern Avenues in Sherman Oaks, that had nearly caught on fire on the evening of Sept 25.

“Some lunatic — meshugennah — who is trying to get attention,” Weinstein said of the unknown arsonist, who remains at large and is thought to be responsible for six rubbish fires Wednesday night, including one in an alleyway behind The Hair Studio.

The fires all were set off in trashcans in the area of the 13900 block of Ventura Boulevard, a largely Jewish neighborhood. The one behind the salon was considered the most destructive of the  fire, seriously damaging a vacant two-story apartment building that shares an alley with the salon. No one was injured in the fires, which also left a pile of burnt rubble in the salon's parking lot. A fire official said the damage from the six fires is estimated to be as high as $100,000.

Authorities are still looking for the person responsible for setting off the fires.

“The investigation related to these series of fires is ongoing,” David Liske, senior arson investigator at the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD), said during a press conference outside the hair salon on Thursday morning.

All six fires occurred within close proximity, but Liske did not list their exact locations.

Around midnight on Thursday morning, the Los Angeles Police Department-Van Nuys division made an arrest in connection with the fires, based on “a solid description of a person-of-interest,” Liske said. The arrestee turned out to have no connection to the fires, however.

Authorities have kept that individual in custody for an unrelated crime, Liske said.

Meanwhile, as of press time, authorities were continuing to search for the suspect — Liske said they believe all of the fires were likely set by one person.

Authorities received the first report about a fire in Sherman Oaks at approximately 8:15 p.m. Wednesday. The fires were contained by 9:30 p.m., according to Liske.

There have been no subsequent fires today, following a “massive undertaking to try and arrest and stop the individual responsible for these fires,” Liske said.

The neighborhood is home to many Jews of all levels of observance, including many Iranian Jews and Israelis. Many Jewish businesses operating in the neighborhood were closed through Saturday, in observance of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

Nearby business owners in the neighborhood expressed their disbelief at Wednesday night’s events, including Sarah Vidana, the owner of The Hair Studio, which Vidana said has a sizable Jewish clientele. She called the news of the fires “shocking” but said she “felt relief” upon learning her salon was not damaged.

“Do you know lucky we are that it didn’t hit this place?” Vidana said while inspecting the pile of rubble and the charred apartment building outside her salon on Thursday morning.

Two miles west down the road at the Chabad, dozens of men worshipped in honor of Shemini Atzeret, the final day of Sukkot. Allen Feinstein, 52, whose sister, Pamela, lives at Moorpark Street and Stern Avenue—less than two blocks from where the biggest fire occurred—said he was confident authorities would nab their suspect.

“They’ll find him,” Feinstein said. 

Muslim Brotherhood says police fired on Cairo march


The Muslim Brotherhood said on Tuesday that Egyptian policemen dressed in plain clothes opened fire on one of its marches in Cairo, wounding five people in violence that risks worsening political turmoil.

A security source said seven protesters had been wounded but added that it was not immediately clear who had opened fire.

The shooting could further inflame political divisions as the Brotherhood stages protests, marches and sit-ins to demand the reinstatement of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.

Supporters and opponents of Morsi earlier battled in the streets of the capital, showing Egypt remained dangerously split six weeks after the army overthrew him in response to mass protests against his rule.

Aside from the violence, an initiative by Al-Azhar, a top religious authority, to resolve the crisis appeared to inch forward.

The Nour Party, the second biggest Islamist group, forecast that Al-Azhar-backed talks would happen very soon, while Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood signaled it was ready to take part as long as they were on the right terms.

Morsi's backers stood firm in protest camps in Cairo's al-Nahda Square and around Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque.

No police crackdown appeared imminent despite frequent warnings from the army-installed government that the protesters should pack up and leave.

Interim President Adli Mansour swore in at least 18 new provincial governors, half of them retired generals, reversing Morsi's appointment of civilians.

The “April 6” pro-democracy youth movement, which played a prominent role in the revolt that brought down long-time strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011, was among those criticizing the appointments as a step backwards.

“Holding on to the old faces that contributed to ruining political life before the revolution is a new failure for the current administration,” it said on its website.

Writing by Angus MacSwan in Cairo; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Robin Pomeroy

Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman: Stand our ground


I’m outraged at the Trayvon Martin case, but not because a jury found George Zimmerman, the man who killed Martin, not guilty.

When you read through the state’s case and the witness testimony, when you stop to understand the trial the way the jurors did, when you go over the actual points of law that had to be decided, then it’s easy to understand why Zimmerman was found not guilty. The state failed to make its case.

What outrages me still is this: A boy who didn’t have to die is dead.

On Feb. 26, 2012, Martin, 17, was walking back to his father’s girlfriend’s home in a Sanford, Fla., gated community when he drew the suspicions of Zimmerman, a 29-year-old neighborhood watch captain. Zimmerman armed himself with a pistol and followed Martin. The two got into a confrontation. It ended when Zimmerman shot Martin dead.

We don’t know how Martin behaved that night. We don’t know if Zimmerman acted like the Terminator or Andy Griffith. All we know for sure is this: Zimmerman took a gun and went to confront Martin, and Martin is dead.

[Related: David Suissa's reaction to the Zimmerman verdict]

At the time Zimmerman started to follow him, Martin was carrying a bottle of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. He had endangered no one. He had threatened no one.

Zimmerman first called 911 and reported “a suspicious person.” The operator told Zimmerman not to leave his vehicle or approach Martin. Zimmerman ignored the instructions and left his SUV. 

No matter how many times I hear about the trial, my mind goes back to that moment — that’s where my outrage begins.

Why did Zimmerman have to take matters into his own hands? Why wasn’t a phone call to the police enough? Why go looking for trouble?

If Zimmerman had made his call and waited for the police, Martin would be alive today. 

The reason Zimmerman didn’t wait is because of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” statute. Under that law, a person can justifiably use force in self-defense, even outside of one’s home or car, when there is a reasonable belief of an unlawful threat, and without the obligation to first retreat. 

Until this case exploded, I had no idea there could be such an idiotic interpretation of what would otherwise be a common-sense law. People attacked in their home should be able to stand their ground. But claiming every piece of Florida sidewalk as “your ground” defies logic. It’s an outrage. 

Of course we must have the right to defend ourselves against imminent threat. “One who comes to slay you,” the Talmud says, “rise up and slay him.” Yet the Jewish law of din rodef, literally, the case of the pursuer, obligates us to defend ourselves and others from a pursuer come to do us harm. Ours is not the religion of “turn the other cheek.” Ours is the religion of Yael, who didn’t wait for Sisera to lead an army against the Israelites. The night before battle, she lulled Sisera to sleep, then drove a spike through his head. Jewish law — and common-sense law — gives us the right to preempt our destruction. 

But Martin had as much right to stand on that ground as Zimmerman. If Zimmerman had to defend himself, it was because he chased a boy he had no business pursuing. It’s likely Martin was the one who felt he was standing his ground. But we’ll never know, because he wasn’t the one with the gun.

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law mocks the common sense of self-defense. It gives individuals the right to preempt their own imagined destruction. Killing someone who comes to kill you is ethical. Chasing after someone who looks like you imagine someone who might want to kill you looks — that’s immoral. When you get a gun and go looking for trouble, chances are you’ll find it. 

What outrages me about the Zimmerman verdict is how it may only reaffirm this behavior.

“What the verdict says, to the astonishment of tens of millions of us, is that you can go looking for trouble in Florida, with a gun and a great deal of racial bias, and you can find that trouble, and you can act upon that trouble in a way that leaves a young man dead, and none of it guarantees that you will be convicted of a crime,” Andrew Cohen wrote in The Atlantic.

The facts bear this out, as if common sense doesn’t. Since Florida passed the “Stand Your Ground” law in 2005, deaths due to self-defense have jumped 200 percent.

Maybe it should come as no surprise that the National Rifle Association, which has pushed concealed carry laws, obstructed efforts at common-sense background checks and never met a weapon it wanted to ban, played a key role in supporting Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. What fun are concealed weapons if you can’t shoot people with them?

There are 23 states with “Stand Your Ground” laws like Florida’s. In order that there never be a 24th, the rest of us must stand our ground.


Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter @foodaism.

Far from Kotel, Women of the Wall pray with police protection


Women of the Wall conducted its monthly prayer service at the Western Wall plaza with an occasional disturbance from protesters, but the worshipers were kept far from the wall itself.

The women, who came to the holy site Monday morning to mark the beginning of the Hebrew month of Av, were blocked with barricades in the southern part of the plaza.  The Western Wall was not in sight, blocked by the Mughrabi Bridge to the Temple Mount.

“It sucks,” Women of the Wall’s chairwoman, Anat Hoffman, told JTA during the service. “It was a surprise.”

A police spokeswoman told JTA that the barricade was placed far from the wall for the “personal safety” of the female worshipers.

Thousands of Charedi Orthodox girls and women arrived ahead of the Women of the Wall, packing the women’s section of the Western Wall plaza, praying silently and blocking Women of the Wall from entering.

A crowd of mostly male Charedi Orthodox protesters surrounded the barricade, with some protesters singing and yelling epithets such as “Get out, Nazis!” Later in the service, protesters threw eggs and a bottle of water at the women, striking a male supporter of the group in the head.

Midway through the service, the female worshipers crowded close to the barricade, face to face with the protesters. The women held their prayer books in the air and sang loudly, trying to outmatch the chants from the other side of the police line.

Women of the Wall gathers at the beginning of each Jewish month for a women’s Rosh Chodesh service at the Western Wall. Members have been arrested in the past for wearing prayer shawls because of a law forbidding any practice that falls outside of the wall’s “local custom.”

In April, a judge determined that the group’s activities did not contravene the law. Since then, none of the women has been arrested.

That month, the Women of the Wall service saw thousands of Orthodox girls pack the plaza and a police barricade enclosed Women of the Wall in the plaza’s center, separate from a crowd of protesters.

In June, a barricade enclosed the women into a space adjacent to the wall.

Murder victim related to temple founder


A Porter Ranch woman, who authorities said was shot and killed early Friday morning when a domestic dispute escalated, was the daughter of a founding member of Temple Ahavat Shalom (TAS) in Northridge, according to a family member of the deceased.

The victim — identified as Risa Suggs, 52, by the L.A. County Department of Coroner — was allegedly shot by her boyfriend in the residential area near Kenya Street and Baton Rouge Avenue.

Police found Suggs' body lying in the middle of the street, across from her home at the 19200 block of Kenya, according to the L.A. Daily News.

Suggs had three children and five grandchildren, said Cheri Cheney, a congregant of TAS and Suggs’ cousin.

“I know she will be greatly missed by her family, her children, grandchildren and extended family,” Cheney said. Suggs’ late father, Lindley Berry, helped found the Reform congregation TAS.

Suggs’ name was not released publicly until Sunday, when the Daily News reported that the office of the L.A. County Department of Coroner identified Suggs as the victim.

Police were alerted to the situation after neighbors phoned the authorities to report fighting at Suggs’ home. Police arrived on the scene at around 12:30 a.m. The suspect and a Los Angeles Police SWAT team engaged in a nearly five-hour standoff before the suspect finally surrendered, according to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

The alleged shooter was arrested on suspicion of murder at approximately 5 a.m. His name was not available at the time this story was published.

The inciting fight between Suggs and her boyfriend was related to the couple “breaking up,” Cheney said. She said she did not have additional information about the cause of the dispute.

Gezi Park rebuilds, digs in for more clashes


This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.

By nightfall the Gezi Park protesters had cleaned up the trampled tents and trash left behind from crowds fleeing police during clashes in adjacent Taksim Square.

Thousands joined together again in song as a local musician played the piano, vendors were back selling cheap protective masks against tear gas and smoke from grilled meat filled the air.

But it was a very different atmosphere from previous long nights of demonstrations – the dark sky was empty of the hundreds of rising red glowing Chinese lanterns that symbolized hope, police water cannons were trained on Gezi Park protesters waiting for any flare ups and several hundred riot police stood ready behind a wall of plexiglass shields just feet away in Taksim Square.

Protest leaders said they will not let police and government officials pressure them into leaving, despite new calls Wednesday by Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to clear out the park—which has become the last stronghold for anti-government demonstrators.

“We are staying here while we wait for police,” protest leader Nail Ocal told The Media Line. “It will continue. There is no limit.”

But Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is determined to end the protests that have spread across his country, including to his doorstep in the capital of Ankara.

Turkish media reported Erdogan has instructed his interior minister to quickly end the protests in Gezi Park.

It may be easy for authorities to clear out the park with tear gas and stun grenades, but protesters say the call for change has become too large to dampen.

The movement has grown to include more than just college students and artists, entertainers and doctors in dozens of cities and villages have joined the ranks of the protestors.

Earlier this week, thousands of lawyers dressed in black robes stormed out of Istanbul's main courthouse protesting the arrest of their colleagues in a similar demonstration just the day before.

Gezi Park protesters told The Media Line they expect demonstrations to continue, despite any anticipated police action against them.

“People have put their lives on the line for this,” 60-year-old Sibel Bulay told The Media Line. “So you can't just say: 'we're tired, let's go.'”

While many political groups opposed to the government have called on members to join the protests, there is no clear leader.

However, there may be one demand, according to Bulay.

“Ultimately, what people want is to have a say in how we're being governed. And the biggest thing is: don't tell me how to live my life.”

Protesters said they will not leave until they see some element of change in how their government operates.

Of course, many are still demanding an end to plans for development of Gezi Park. It was those government plans that sparked the demonstrations more than two weeks ago.

In what may be viewed as an “olive branch,” the AKP has said it will consider holding a referendum on the future of the park.

But one protester, who this reporter first met while the middle-aged man was dodging a police water cannon and shielding himself from clouds of tear gas earlier this week, told The Media Line the protests are not about Gezi.

“People just want freedom here, because the government is pushing laws against the people,” said the man who refused to give his name.

A law banning advertising of alcohol, and its sale during certain hours, is among the concerns of protesters. Proposed changes to the constitution and restrictions on the freedom of the press also remain worrisome. 

Turkish police battle protesters in Istanbul square


Turkish riot police using tear gas and water cannon battled protesters for control of Istanbul's Taksim Square on Tuesday night, hours after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded an immediate end to 10 days of demonstrations.

The governor of Istanbul went on television to declare that police operations would continue day and night until the square, focus of demonstrations against Erdogan, was cleared.

Police fired volleys of tear gas canisters into a crowd of thousands – people in office clothes as well as youths in masks who had fought skirmishes throughout the day — scattering them into side streets and nearby hotels. Water cannon swept across the square targeting stone-throwers in masks.

The protesters, who accuse Erdogan of overreaching his authority after 10 years in power and three election victories, thronged the steep narrow lanes that lead down to the Bosphorus waterway. Gradually, many began drifting back into the square as police withdrew, and gathered around a bonfire of rubbish.

Erdogan had earlier called on protesters to stay out of Taksim, the centre of demonstrations triggered by a heavy-handed police crackdown on a rally against development of the small Gezi Park abutting the square.

Gezi Park has been turned into a ramshackle settlement of tents by leftists, environmentalists, liberals, students and professionals who see the development plan as symptomatic of overbearing government.

Riot police fire teargas during a protest at Taksim Square, Istanbul, on June 11. Photo by Murad Sezer/Reuters

The protests, during which demonstrators used fireworks and petrol bombs, have posed a stark challenge to Erdogan's authority and divided the country. In an indication of the impact of the protests on investor confidence, the central bank said it would intervene if needed to support the Turkish lira.

Erdogan, who denies accusations of authoritarian behaviour, declared he would not yield.

“They say the prime minister is rough. So what was going to happen here? Were we going to kneel down in front of these (people)?” Erdogan said as action to clear the square began.

“If you call this roughness, I'm sorry, but this Tayyip Erdogan won't change,” he told a meeting of his AK party's parliamentary group.

Western allies have expressed concern about the troubles in an important NATO ally bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran. Washington has in the past held up Erdogan's Turkey as an example of an Islamic democracy that could be emulated elsewhere in the Middle East.

Victor in three consecutive elections, Erdogan says the protests are engineered by vandals, terrorist elements and unnamed foreign forces. His critics, who say conservative religious elements have won out over centrists in the AK party, accuse him of inflaming the crisis with unyielding talk.

A Turkish flag is obscured by black smoke from burning barricades during clashes between police and anti-government protesters in Istanbul's Taksim square on June 11. Photo by Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

MARKET TURMOIL

“A comprehensive attack against Turkey has been carried out,” Erdogan said. “The increase in interest rates, the fall in the stock markets, the deterioration in the investment environment, the intimidation of investors – the efforts to distort Turkey's image have been put in place as a systematic project.”

Despite the protests against Erdogan, he remains unrivalled as a leader in his AK party, in parliament and on the streets.

Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu appealed to people to stay away from the square for their own safety. “We will continue our measures in an unremitting manner, whether day or night, until marginal elements are cleared and the square is open to the people,” he said in a brief television announcement.

“From today, from this hour, the measures we are going to take in Taksim Square will be conducted with care, in front of our people's eyes, in front of televisions and under the eyes of social media with caution and in accordance with the law.”

The unrest has knocked investor confidence in a country that has boomed under Erdogan. The lira, already suffering from wider market turmoil, fell to its weakest level against its dollar/euro basket since October 2011.

Protesters run as riot police fire teargas during a protest at Taksim Square in Istanbul on June 11. Photo by Murad Sezer/Ruters

The cost of insuring Turkish debt against default rose to its highest in 10 months, although it remained far from crisis levels.

The police move came a day after Erdogan agreed to meet protest leaders involved in the initial demonstrations over development of the square.

“I invite all demonstrators, all protesters, to see the big picture and the game that is being played,” Erdogan said. “The ones who are sincere should withdraw … and I expect this from them as their prime minister.”

Protesters accuse Erdogan of authoritarian rule and some suspect him of ambitions to replace the secular republic with an Islamic order, something he denies.

“This movement won't end here … After this, I don't think people will go back to being afraid of this government or any government,” said student Seyyit Cikmen, 19, as the crowd chanted “Every place is Taksim, every place resistance”.

Turkey's Medical Association said that as of late Monday, 4,947 people had sought treatment in hospitals and voluntary infirmaries for injuries, ranging from cuts and burns to breathing difficulties from tear gas inhalation, since the unrest began more than 10 days ago. Three people have died.

Erdogan has repeatedly dismissed the protesters as “riff-raff”. But Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said on Monday leaders of the Gezi Park Platform group had asked to meet him and Erdogan had agreed.

A meeting was expected on Wednesday.

Protesters run as riot police and water cannons returned to Istanbul's Taksim square late afternoon on June 11. Photo by Yannis Behrakis/Reuters