Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Celebrating the Life of Margaret Lindgren, a beloved peace activist and member of ICUJP

This Friday we will celebrate the life and witness of  Margaret Lindgren, a beloved member of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace ( for many years. A tireless peace activist who demonstrated (and was arrested) countless times, she advocated for human rights, women's rights, immigrants and refugees, farm workers, and the environment. This celebration will begin at 7:15 am at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 3300 Wilshire Blvd, LA, CA. 

September 2, 1930 - January 13, 2018

Margaret Lindgren, a member of the Immaculate Heart Community for 20 years, died on January 13 at age 87. She was born in Canton, Ohio, to missionary parents who served in China, so she spent four childhood years in Shanghai. After returning to the U.S., the family settled in Claremont, CA. Margaret married Arne Lindgren, and they had two children, Disa and Alan. She became a nurse and worked at a Hawai'ian plantation hospital, followed by a clinic, nursing home, elementary school, and she served as the health care coordinator for the Immaculate Heart Community Residence in Los Angeles for 9 years. Raised in the Congregational and United Methodist churches, Margaret was deeply spiritual, a woman of prayer and service to those in need. She participated in ecumenical and interfaith gatherings and activities. An enthusiastic presence at meetings and marches, she was committed to doing the work of justice and peace. She advocated for human rights, women's rights, immigrants and refugees, farm workers, and the environment. Ever hopeful and buoyant, Margaret enjoyed the company of family, friends, and Community members. She will be remembered for her generosity, kindness, and happy spirit, and always being grateful for God's blessings. Margaret is survived by her daughter, Disa, and son, Alan. Her two brothers pre-deceased her. A memorial service to honor Margaret's life will be held on Sunday, January 28, at 2:00 p.m. at Culver-Palms United Methodist Church, 4464 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230 Donations in Margaret Lindgren's memory may be made to Immaculate Heart Community, 5515 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90028.

Published in the Los Angeles Times from Jan. 19 to Jan. 27, 2018

Avert War with North Korea: Support These Bills!

The Friends Committee on National Legislation ( has launched a nation-wide campaign to avert war with North Korea,  Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (  is taking part in this effort to persuade our elected officials to pass these bills: 

Federal - S 2047:A bill to bar the executive branch from using taxpayer money to launch a military strike against North Korea or introduce the Armed Forces into hostilities in North Korea unless Congress explicitly authorizes such actions or unless such actions are taken to rescue US personnel or repel a sudden attack on the United States or its allies.
Introduced October 31, 2017 by Sen Christopher Murphy (D-CT).

Federal - HR 4837: A bill to prohibit the introduction of the Armed Forces into hostilities in North Korea without a declaration of war or explicit statutory authorization, and for other purposes.
Introduced January 18, 2018

If you'd like to make a lobby visit to your elected officials, here's some information that you'll find helpful. Also please feel free to contact me if you're in the LA area. We have already planned visits to the offices of Senators Harris and Feinstein and Reps. Chu, Schiff and Gomez. 

First, read Dr. Martin Hart-Landsberg’s article, which was recommended by Rev Hyun Hur and also material by FCNL staffers Anthony Weir, Abigail Stowe-Thursdon, and Erin Connolly. Dr. Martin Hart-Landsberg is Professor Emeritus of Economics at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon; Adjunct Researcher at the Institute for Social Sciences, Gyeongsang National University, South Korea; and a member of the Board of Directors of the Korea Policy Institute and the steering committee of the Alliance of Scholars Concerned About Korea

then read these talking points carefully and decide which one(s) you’d like to present to your your elected official. Also think of a personal story explaining why you care about this issue. 

Here is how FCNL recommends that we conduct Congressional office visits. First, we meet in advance to plan our visit and discuss our talking points. During our visit, we follow the following guidelines. We 

  • ·         Thank our elected official for what they have done that we appreciate.
  • ·         Make our “ask.”
  • ·         Introduce ourselves and share stories and talking points.
  • ·         Allow time for q and a. Make sure we ask them questions that can help us understand their concerns and views.
  • ·         Repeat our “ask” and mention that we will follow up.
  • ·         Thank them for taking time to meet with us. Get a picture taken of our group with aide or elected official.

Here are our talking points. We may not have time to cover all of them. We choose the ones that we feel we can present most effectively.

War Is Not the Answer. “A war in Korea today — without the use of nuclear weapons — would kill up to 300,000 people in the first few days of fighting, according to the Congressional Research Service. It would affect upwards of 25 million people on either side of the border, including at least 100,000 U.S. citizens. The full scale of destruction would be even larger, and nearly unthinkable, if nuclear weapons were used either by North Korea or the United States.
“And when it comes down to it, there is no military option that would solve the problems posed by North Korea.
“According to the Pentagon, securing all of the sites related to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program would require a full-scale ground invasion. This means thousands of American boots on the ground in another potentially long, bloody war of attrition on foreign soil. The consequences of a war on the Korean peninsula would range from humanitarian disaster to global economic instability to the collapse of our alliance structures.”-—Op Ed by Abigail Stowe-Thurston and Erin Connolly (FCNL Staff)
Nuclear scientists recently moved their Doomsday clock closer to midnight than it has been since 1953, largely because of tensions between North Korea and the US. The threat of war, either intentional or accidental, is very real

It’s the job of Congress to stand up to President Trump. President Trump has the nuclear codes, but Congress alone may authorize war. Congress should pass legislation today reaffirming that the president may not start a war on the Korean Peninsula without explicit authorization from Congress. The Constitution demands it, and the American people deserve it. The Framers were not immature or short-sighted. They knew that war is dangerous, destructive, and corrosive. They wisely insisted that no one person should have the power to start a war. Their foresight is only more relevant today, when the cannon and the sail have given way to the thermonuclear warhead and the intercontinental ballistic missile.” Anthony Weir (FCNL)

Peace negotiations are possible and needed. Foreign policy expert Hart-Landsberg: “We don’t have to go down this road [to war]—we have another option—but it is one that the U.S. government is unwilling to consider, much less discuss. That option is for the U.S. to accept North Korean offers of direct negotiations between the two countries, with all issues on the table.”
North Korea is reaching out to South Korea to deescalate tensions, as evidenced by their recent efforts to engage in Olympic Game diplomacy (“Olympic games rather than war games”). This is not a time to threaten war, but to encourage negotiations. If Congress passes this bill, it will send a strong signal to North Korea that the US is serious about negotiations.

Dispelling myths about North Korea (based on an article by Dr. Martin Hart-Landsberg)

Most Americans don’t know much about Korea and what we think we know is mostly untrue. We need to educate ourselves. Time permitting, let’s dispel myths and share some of these important facts.
Hart-Landsberg writes: “U.S. government and media dismiss this option [of negotiations] as out of hand—we are told that (1) the North is a hermit kingdom and seeks only isolation, (2) the country is ruled by crazy people hell bent on war, and (3) the North Korean leadership cannot be trusted to follow through on its promises. But none of this is true.
North Korea is not a “hermit kingdom,” it is willing to negotiate: According to Hart-Landsberg, “If being a hermit kingdom means never wanting to negotiate, then North Korea is not a hermit kingdom. North Korea has been asking for direct talks with the United States since the early 1990s. The reason is simple: this is when the U.S.SR ended and Russia and the former Soviet bloc countries in central Europe moved to adopt capitalism. The North was dependent on trade with these countries and their reorientation left the North Korean economy isolated and in crisis.
“The North Korean leadership decided that they had to break out of this isolation and connect the North Korean economy to the global economy, and this required normalization of relations with the United States. Since then, they have repeatedly asked for unconditional direct talks with the U.S. in hopes of securing an end to the Korean War and a peace treaty as a first step towards their desired normalization of relations, but have been repeatedly rebuffed. The U.S. has always put preconditions on those talks, preconditions that always change whenever the North has taken steps to meet them.
“The North has also tried to join the IMF and World Bank, but the U.S. and Japan have blocked its membership. The North has also tried to set up free trade zones to attract foreign investment, but the U.S. and Japan have worked to block that investment.
So, it is not the North that is refusing to talk or broaden its engagement with the global economy; it is the U.S. that seeks to keep North Korea isolated.”
North Korea is not an outrageously militaristic country: According to Hart-Landsberg, “ N. Korea spends considerably less on it military than does South Korea: the media portray North Korea as pursuing an out of control militarism that is the main cause of the current dangerous situation. But it is important to recognize that South Korea has outspent North Korea on military spending every year since 1976. International agencies currently estimate that North Korean annual military spending is $4 billion while South Korean annual military spending is $40 billion. And then we have to add the U.S. military build-up. North Korea does spend a high percentage of its budget on the military, but that is because it has no reliable military ally and a weak economy. However, it has largely responded to South Korean and U.S. militarism and threats, not driven them. As for the development of a nuclear weapons program: it was the U.S. that brought nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula. It did so in 1958 in violation of the Korean War armistice and threatened North Korea with nuclear attack years before the North even sought to develop nuclear weapons.”
North Korea has been a more reliable negotiating partner than the U.S.. Dr. Hart-Landsberg shows that it is usually the US, not North Korea, that has reneged on agreements. Furthermore, North Korea’s nuclear program is largely for defensive purposes, to protect the North and to bring the US to the negotiating table. “The North has tested a nuclear weapon 5 times: 2006, 2009, 2013, and twice in 2016. Critically, North Korean tests have largely been conducted in an effort to pull the U.S. into negotiations or fulfill past promises. And the country has made numerous offers to halt its testing and even freeze its nuclear weapons program, if only the U.S. would agree to talks.”
This is a good time to negotiate: Hart-Landsberg writes: “The outcome of the recent presidential election in South Korea might open possibilities to force a change in U.S. policy. Moon Jae-in, the winner, has repudiated the hard-line policies of his impeached predecessor Park Guen-Hye, and declared his commitment to re-engage with the North. The U.S. government was not happy about his victory, but it cannot easily ignore Moon’s call for a change in South Korean policy towards North Korea, especially since U.S. actions against the North are usually presented as necessary to protect South Korea. Thus, if Moon follows through on his promises, the U.S. may well be forced to moderate its own policy towards the North. What is clear is that we in the U.S. have a responsibility to become better educated about U.S. policy towards both Koreas, to support popular movements in South Korea that seek peaceful relations with North Korea and progress towards reunification, and to work for a U.S. policy that promotes the demilitarization and normalization of U.S.-North Korean relations.”
That’s why we need to support bills that reject war and make diplomacy our priority.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Racing Against the Doomsday Clock

[This reflection was given today at Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace , the interfaith peace group to which I have belong for over ten years. We are partnering with FCNL to advocate stopping the threat of war with North Korea.]

In the fall of 1983, I left a teaching position at Carleton College to return to Princeton, my hometown, to care for my mother, who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I moved into my mother’s house where my sister also lived. One chilly October night, at 2:00 am, I heard a terrifying sound---the sound of a siren wailing. I leaped out of bed, my heart racing, terrified. I imagined that this was an air raid siren—the kind I had learned to fear growing up in the 1950s. I went to my bedroom window and saw neighbors peering out of their windows and felt a tremendous sense of grief. Was this it? Was this how the world would end? The sadness I felt is indescribable. I had come home to take care of my mother who was dying, and now the entire world was on the brink of destruction. I was utterly overwhelmed with emotion. My sister screamed, “Oh my God,” and rushed downstairs in panic. She ran to her old clunker car, lifted the hood, and disengaged the horn. It was a false alarm. We were safe. Or were we?
That same year, 1983, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the doomsday clock to 4 minutes to midnight, 3 minutes closer than it was in 1980, largely because Ronald Reagan was sable rattling and threatening the Soviet Union. Just this week, scientists moved the Doomsday Clock is 2 minutes to midnight, the closest it has been since 1953, because of tensions between North Korea and the US. The terrifying fact is that we have mentally unstable leaders in both countries who are threatening to use nuclear weapons. The fate of the world now rests in the hands of these two power-crazed men.
This is a threat  we cannot afford to ignore. There was recently false alarm in Hawaii in which residents were told that there were incoming missiles, presumably from North Korea. The entire island experienced for 38 minutes the kind of existential terror that I felt in 1983, and were no doubt relieved when it proved a false alarm and they were safe. Or were they?
If a technical glitch like this can lead to the conclusion that there are incoming missiles, how can we be safe? We know that in 1983, the same year that my sister’s car horn went off, there was a false alarm in the Soviet Union that almost led to WWIII.  On 26 September 1983, Stanislav Petrov, a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Forces, was the officer on duty at a bunker near Moscow which housed the command center of the Soviet early warning satellites. Petrov's responsibilities included notifying his superiors of any impending nuclear missile attack against the Soviet Union. If notification was received from the early warning systems that inbound missiles had been detected, he was supposed to launch an immediate and compulsory nuclear counter-attack against the United States (launch on warning), specified in the doctrine of mutual assured destruction.
Shortly after midnight, the bunker's computers reported that one intercontinental ballistic missile was heading toward the Soviet Union from the United States. Petrov considered the detection a computer error, since a first-strike nuclear attack by the United States was likely to involve hundreds of simultaneous missile launches in order to disable any Soviet means of a counterattack. Furthermore, the satellite system's reliability had been questioned in the past. Petrov dismissed the warning as a false alarm. His good judgment saved the world. Similar incidents have occurred before and since. Just last month, at the Maritime Museum in San Diego, Jill and I learned of a nuclear sub that came under attack by American vessels during the Cuban missile crisis. The sub commander, a man named Achipov, decided not to retaliate with a nuclear-tipped torpedo. He is also credited with saving the world. If we have come this close to nuclear war, and were saved only by the good judgment of a few sensible people, then the world truly hangs by a thread. That’s why nuclear scientists believe that we are only minutes away from nuclear holocaust, even during the best of times and with the best of leaders.
Most Americans live in a state of denial when it comes to nuclear war. We have never experienced the devastating effects of war, as have the Russians and the North Koreans. We are addicted to Hollywood violence that numbs us to the real horrors of modern warfare.
That’s why organizations like ICUJP and FCNL are so important. We are not afraid to look in the terrifying abyss and say, “We are facing nuclear midnight” and we intend to do something about it. That’s why we held a Justice Luncheon this summer in which a physician shared with us the terrifying sound of 5,000 pellets, each representing a nuclear weapon with many times the destructive power greater than Hiroshima, falling into a steel bucket. This kind of firepower can cause a nuclear winter and end life as we know it.
When I learned that FCNL had chosen as its priority stopping war with North Korea, I was thrilled. I know that FCNL has an excellent reputation and a track record. FCNL was one of the organizations that lobbied on behalf of the Iran nuclear agreement.
I also know the power that we possess as people of faith and conscience. During the 1980s people power played a key role in ending the Cold War through the work of citizen diplomats going to the Soviet Union and the nuclear freeze movement that put pressure on politicians here in the US. As many of you know, I was an editor of a joint Soviet/Americans book project sponsored by the Quakers that was published in the Soviet Union and the United States. Thanks to efforts like these, Reagan went to Moscow for an historic meeting with Gorbachev. This breakthrough was followed by the fall of the Berlin Wall and nuclear treaties that reduced the nuclear arsenals of the US and Russia by nearly 80%.
With 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world (down from 70,000 in 1980), we still have reason to fear, but we also have grounds for hope. As a person of faith, I believe in a God who blesses peace makers and loves justice. As a Quaker, I seek to live in the power that takes away the occasion of war, to use the words of George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends. I know from experience that the power of goodness and of love should never be underestimated. The Civil Rights movement, the anti-slavery movement, the suffragist movement, and many other movements testify to the power of nonviolent social change. Together we can do more than we can imagine.
Jesus made a remarkable statement to his ragtag band of followers, ”Greater things than I have done, you will do.” This was a starting statement coming from someone that his disciplines believe believed was the Son of God. But Jesus was right. He started a movement which over the course of centuries, did much more good than any one person could have done alone. Alone we can do little more than light a candle in the dark, but together we can perform miracles, such as ending legalized slavery and the Cold War.

I’d like to end with the words of nuclear scientists and of a President who knew first-hand the cost of war and the evils of the military industrial complex.  Dwight D. Eisenhower said:  “I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.” The nuclear scientists agree: "The failure of world leaders to address the largest threats to humanity’s future is lamentable, but that failure can be reversed. Leaders react when citizens insist they do so…They can insist on facts, and discount nonsense. They can demand action to reduce the existential threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change. They can seize the opportunity to make a safer and saner world."

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Martin Luther King's spirit is alive (and much needed) in Pasadena!

Jill speaking at the Metropolitan Baptist Church during the MLK celebration

I have often been disappointed by the public speeches given on Martin Luther King day, especially by public officials here in Pasadena. Public officials tend to be bland and often misrepresent Dr. King by equating his call of economic justice with the "prosperity gospel" ("work hard and you'll succeed and get rich").  In the past, the most impressive and prophetic word came from a sixteen-year-old high school student and from other young people who better understand King's message of compassion and concern for the "least of these" than most elected officials. But his year I felt inspired and challenges by the services I attended on Sunday. Perhaps this is an unexpected and unintended consequence of electing a racist President who refers to Haiti and African countries as "shitholes."  If that doesn't wake us up, nothing will!
I went to All Saints Episcopal Church, the most progressive and "woke" church in our city, where I heard Rev. Traci Blackmon,  an activist preacher who was appointed to the Ferguson Commission by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and co-chaired the Municipal Governance and Court Reform workgroup. According to her bio, "her work has gained her many audiences inclusive of both the Vatican and the White House. An internationally sought speaker and certified diversity trainer," Rev. Blackmon did not mince words. “Prophetic resistance is only possible for those who can still dream … those who can imagine a better world while they are awake. Stay woke!" You can hear her powerful sermon at
I was also impressed because All Saints "walks its talk." Its rector Mike Kinman is committed to racial justice, supports Black Lives Matter, and was the only pastor to speak out against the beating of Christopher Ballew by Pasadena police at a meeting that took place at City Council on Monday, Jan. 8. I am quite sure that if he were alive, Dr. King would be standing with those who are calling for police accountability in Pasadena. Here's what I wrote three years ago:
 In his sermon at Riverside Church (1968), King made himself very unpopular in government circles with this statement“I realized I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today - my own government.” Those in power don’t like to be reminded how state power is being abused by the police and the military. For this reason, I’d like to lift up local efforts to provide oversight for the police in Pasadena and other parts of the country. Here in Pasadena Kris Ockerhauser, Michelle White and others have started the Coalition for Increased Civilian Oversight of Pasadena Police (CICOPP).  which is advocating for an independent “Police Auditor” to investigate charges of police misconduct and report directly to the City Council. The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, a coalition of black pastors (including my wife Jill, who is neither a pastor nor black!), has joined the ACLU, NAACP and others calling for the full disclosure of an independent report about the police killing of Kendrec McDade, an unarmed 19-year-old African American. (The Pasadena Police Union is fiercely fighting to prevent this report from being made public and is doing its utmost to influence religious leaders.) Jill will be speaking about the need for police oversight at the IMA Martin Luther King event on Sunday. King would be pleased: he was always on the side of those who want accountability for those who wield power!

Three years later, the police and the City Council continue to try to thwart efforts to hold police accountable for racial profiling and unwarranted violence against people of color. To read about what happened during the recent City Council meeting, see
In the afternoon, I attended the MLK service at the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Altadena, sponsored by the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance (IMA), the oldest association of black pastors in our city.
Ever since moving to Northwest Pasadena 18 years ago, Jill has been part of this association where she is loved and respected, and the feeling is mutual. I was thrilled that the IMA has endorsed the Poor People's Campaign and the Palm Sunday Peace Parade, and showed a video explaining the mission of this campaign, which drew a lot a applause from the audience.
Rep Chu with Pastor Bledsoe, President
of the IMA
The most impressive public official to speak was Congresswoman Judy Chu. She proudly announced that she was arrested for standing up for the Dreamers during a demonstration in the Capitol. She is passionately committed to social justice, especially for immigrants, and also wants to ensure the Voting rights Act is enforced. She truly embodies the spirit of Dr. King. 
I was also glad that the keynote, Pastor Cambell of the AME Church of Pasadena, spoke about the social justice message of MLK.  He also was one of only two pastors present at the City Council meeting where passionate public comments about the Ballew incident were aired. He has a concern about police conduct and accountability. So does the IMA, thanks be to God! They see that justice and Jesus go together. Without justice there can be no peace in the community. As
I was also delighted that Jill had a chance to speak to students on Saturday and introduced the scholarship recipients during the MLK event on Sunday. (Over the years, the IMA has given thousands of scholarships to African American students that have helped them to earn their college degrees.) Here is the text of what Jill shared with students. 


In December 1967, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King announced the plan to bring together poor people from across the country for a new march on Washington. This march was to demand better jobs, better homes, better education—better lives than the ones they were living.
Just a year before his assassination, at a Southern Christian Leadership Conference staff retreat in May 1967, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
“It is necessary for us to realize that we have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights…[W]hen we see that there must be a radical redistribution of economic and political power,”
What does this mean? It means that those who have more share. It means that those who have larger homes share with those how none have. It means that those who make more money contribute a bit more to the common good—so we can have good schools, good roads without potholes and good health care for everyone.
I do Housing Justice Institutes around the US and I could list for you over 50 good policies that we could pass that would redistribute resources enabling us to live affordably. But these won’t get passed unless we also have political power.
What does it mean to redistribute political power? Example: the Golden Globes—famous movies stars used their stardom and fame to invite key leaders of movements that are seeking to bring justice to our world—to stand with them when they came to the Golden Globe ceremony. Suddenly those who have struggled to have a voice are now in the lime light—and now being interviewed by newspapers across the US.
The movie stars like MLK used their power to make change. How are you using your power to create change? Do you know you have power?
I want to tell you about my friend, David Hartsough…he deserves to win the Noble Peace Prize for his lifelong comment to waging peace with nonviolence. He was a friend of MLK and part of the struggle for civil rights 50 years ago.
My husband and I have had the honor of staying in his home in San Francisco. He gave us a copy of a book about his life. I want you to listen carefully as I read the story that opens his book:

It was 1960, and I was twenty years old. I was sitting on a stool at the lunch counter of the ironically named People’s Drug Store in Arlington, VA, along with ten African American classmates from Howard Univesity. The voice I heard was laced with venom, and the eyes of the speaker were filled with hate. He was threatening to thrust his knife—the blad just inches away from me—through my heart
What would you do? What kind of power do you have? What kind love would you have for the one who might pull a knife on you for standing with those who are being despised and unwelcome?
Here’s what David said he did in response. First, he was meditating on the teachings of Jesus, who said: “Love your enemies… Do good to those who hate you.”
So David turned around and did his best to smile.
Looking him in the eyes, I said to him: “Friend, do what you believe is right, and I will still try to love you.” Both his jaw and his hand dropped. Miraculously, he turned away and walked out of the store.

What does it take to be prepared for this kind of a response in the face of violence? Incredible practice and discipline. This is the kind of Movement that MKL and his leaders taught and this is what we need today.
I want to close with a another story and a charge to us all to be involved in the new emerging poor people’s campaign today—50 years later.
But first the story. At the MLK event several years ago at the Jackie Robinson Park, I heard Nicole Brown, 11 years old read her award winning essay. It was all about MLKs vison for housing and ending homelessness and Nicole’s’ broken heart when she saw a homeless person.
I approached Nicole after the event and asked if she would be willing to share her essay at the City Council. We were trying to get a housing commission for the city and her essay would help us.
I asked her parents, and they said they would support anything that Nicole wanted. So her whole family showed up at the City Hall to support her. When it was time to read her essay she went just over the 3 minutes allowed, but they turned off the red light and allowed to finish her beautiful speech. The Council members listened intently because they rarely have an 11 year old speak. They were taking photos of her from the chambers and posting them.
When she finished, she said, I hear one of the reasons that you don’t have a housing commission is because it is too expensive. I won $250 for my essay contest and I would like to give it to you.
They were speechless as was everyone in the Council Chambers that day. Finally John Kennedy, one of our elected council member and vice mayor stood up and spoke to everyone, “why does it take an 11 year old to teach us what we all should be doing?”
What kind of political power is this? Nicole shared what she had. Her time, her passion, her essay, her winnings and her heart.
What will we share that we have? And will be disciplined and prepared to share it in a nonviolent way like David Hartsough who choose to love in the face of violence when he took a stand for what was unpopular but right?
Now the charge: The Revival of Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality.
We need you to step up and join our efforts.
Thank you for allowing me to share with you today about Martin Luther King, David Hartsough and Nicole Brown. May we go forth and be encourage and follow in the footsteps of these shining example to help lead our path. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

An Open Letter to the Pasadena City Council on the beating of Christopher Ballew

Christopher Ballew and his mother Sonya
Several months ago, Christopher Ballew was driving up north Fair Oaks when the Pasadena police noticed  that 1) he had tinted windows on his car and no license plate in front and 2) he was a young black man. They followed his car into Altadena to a gasoline station and when he got out of his car, they approached him about this infraction. What happened immediately after this is unclear, but videos reveal that this incident soon escalated. The police tried to arrest and handcuff him, he demanded to speak to their commanding officer, and they demanded that he get onto the ground and be handcuffed. During a scuffle, the arresting officers told him to "give us your fucking hands." They pulled out batons to beat him and soon he was on the ground, his face pushed against the concrete and bleeding. He grabbed the baton to avoid being beaten and the officer pulled it away. His fellow officer pointed a cocked gun at Ballew while the officer beat him with a baton and broke his leg. Ballew was unarmed and is heard screaming with pain and begging them to stop. "What did I do?" See Ballew beating

The police charged him with felony assault and resisting arrest, and that probably would have ended the matter. However, a month later, a video was posted on social media showing the Pasadena police beating Ballew. The video went viral. Because the incident occurred in LA county, the County DA examined the case and dismissed charges "due to lack of evidence."

It seems clear that Ballew was not assaulting the police, but vice versa.
Only one pastor spoke out for justice:
Mike Kinman of All Saints Episcopal Church!

This has been called Pasadena's "Rodney King moment." The police were out of control when they assaulted Ballew, shouting obscenities as they beat him, yet the City Council is in denial. The City Manager accused Ballew of "resisting arrest" twice during the previous Council Meeting. Now he is letting the police conduct an internal investigation, and we are told to wait patiently for the outcome, but the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Police cannot police themselves. They will undoubtedly acquit the officers, just as they did with the officers who killed Kendrec McDade and R.J. Thomas. Only an independent review will be credible.

Ballew's family is conducting a law suit, which seems to nbe the only thing that the City Council understands or takes seriously. At the ACUL office this week I heard their attorney present the case and it's very clear and irrefutable, especially when you see the video.  The Ballews will easily win their case, the City will make another big settlement, and the police will probably be let off scott-free. That's how Pasadena handles these matters. It's a "cost of doing police business."

Jasmine Abdullah Richards was a powerful voice
for Black Lives Matter
Hundreds of people stormed City Council to demand justice--to demand an apology to the family, that the police who beat Ballew be suspended until their case is tried, and that there be an independent police auditor with subpoena powers to investigate cases like this. Public comment went on for nearly two hours. It was a moment of truth for Pasadena. Will racial profiling and police violence continue? Or will the Council finally do something about it? See Pasadena Now article.

So many came to protest that many had to stand outside or go to the overflow room. 

Here is my open letter to the City Council:

Dear Mayor and City Councilmembers,

I hope you got the message that the community is appalled and outraged by the behavior of police, not only the beating of an unarmed African American man but its efforts to cover up and justify its actions. Pastor Mike Kinman, community leaders and neighbors spoke out loud and clear about the need for police accountability, but did you really hear us?

Mayor Tornek and the City Council members were cautious and did not show any concern for the feelings of the family. Even though the DA refused to press charges against Christopher Ballew due to “insufficient evidence,” the Council acted as if there is still doubt that the police acted improperly. It is clear to anyone seeing the video that Ballew was brutally beaten by police who were out of control, using obscenities as they beat him. An officer screamed, “Give me you fucking hand.” At a gathering this week in the ACLU office, Mr. Ballew’s lawyer calmly laid out his case that the police violated procedures numerous times. This horrific video has tarnished the reputation of Pasadena police in the eyes of the world, and of the community.

Yet the Mayor and City Council were for the most cautious. None expressed sympathy to the family who were seating in the Council chamber. No one apologized for the behavior of police. Ironically, this Council meeting took place just before our City celebrates Martin Luther King Day. What would Dr. King say? In his 1968 sermon at Riverside Church, Dr. King said, “Silence is betrayal.” Dr King pointed out that those who remain silent in the face of injustice are complicit.

City Councilmember Tyron Hampton showed that he heard us and had the moral courage to speak out for fairness. He said that the officers should be taken off duty until an investigation is complete—which (as I pointed out) would happen if a teacher was accused of harming a student.  Why can’t a police officer be taken off duty in a similar fashion? Why is the public not being protected from police who commit acts of violence that the public regards as unwarranted?

Hampton called for firing officers if they acted out of compliance with police procedures. And he said something even more telling: if these officers are in compliance with police procedures, then those procedures need to change.
I agree with Councilmember John Kennedy that there needs to be education around racial issues, but the problem also requires action.

The Mayor counseled patience, but we know from past experience what that means. The City pays out damages to those who are victims of police violence, hoping to silence them, and then exonerates the police. This is what happened with Kendrec McDade and will probably happen with Ballew unless there is sufficient public outcry that our elected officials listen.

The Mayor also called for better “communication” but in doing so, he sounded to me like the captain in “Cool Hand Luke” who beats up a prisoner and then says, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

This is not a PR problem, a failure to communicate, it is an issue of trust and accountability. The black and Hispanic community don’t trust the police, and for good reason. Many of us who are white and privileged and seek to be allies with the black community see only too clearly that the police are becoming increasingly militarized and some (not all) police are dangerous. It has been rightly pointed out that not all police are bad apples, but almost all police defend bad apples, no matter how rotten their actions.

This video shows that our police department cannot be trusted.  Before this video surfaced, the police charged Christopher Ballew with felony assault and resisting arrest. Once the video appeared on social media, and the County DA had a chance to review it, those charges were dropped against Ballew. The video makes it clear to those who are willing to see that the police are the ones committing assault, not Ballew. It is also clear that the police department was covering up its actions until they were revealed on social media.

The community of Northwest Pasadena has zero confidence that the police can police themselves. From the comments we heard from police, we know that they defend their own, no matter what. I’m afraid that seems to be true of most City Councilmembers.

That’s why we urgently need real police accountability, we need an independent police auditor with subpoena powers able to hold our police department accountable when its members commit outrageous acts of violence against citizens they are supposed to serve and protect.

I brought to the City Council a petition signed by members of my Quaker meeting. As Quakers, we oppose all forms of violence, including police violence, and regard each person as sacred, deserving of fair and respectful treatment.  Diane Randall, the executive director of our national Quaker lobby, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, spoke out powerfully in favor of Black Lives Matter and police accountability. She said: “At the federal, state and local levels, our elected officials and the leadership of our police departments need to hear from us. They need to hear the voices of tens of thousands of people who support them, who care for them, who want them to do their jobs with fairness, with equality, with justice for all.”

“Equality and justice for all.” That’s what we pledged allegiance to when we stood and faced the flag at the beginning of this City Council session. It is time for the City Council to make good on that pledge.