When you ‘fit the description…’

Television producer Charles Belk, handcuffed, sitting on a Beverly Hills curb on Fri., August 22, 2014 — because he “fit the description.”

I worry about my son. He’s 20 years old and a senior at the University of Southern California. My wife and I tell him regularly that he needs to be as above board and as disarming as possible in his demeanor — which is difficult at best. He gets his smart mouth from the best of Rachel AND me. 

I have to get him to bite his tongue and to not smart off at authority figures — especially the local constabulary. Why? Because he “fits the description.”

How does that work? Ask 51-year-old Charles Belk. Belk is a USC engineering grad, an IU MBA graduate and a noted television producer with credits that include the 1996 Summer Olympics here in Atlanta, other television and film productions and numerous film festivals.

The Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t see that last Friday when they grabbed Belk while he walked to his car from a Wilshire Boulevard restaurant. 

He was surrounded, handcuffed, searched, then taken to a police station where he was booked and accused of taking part in an armed bank robbery. His car was impounded and he was held on $100,000 bail. He says he was denied a phone call and was not even told initially WHY he was being held. 

More than six hours later — and only after Belk was finally able to ask the lead detective and an FBI agent — investigators looked at the video footage from the bank and realized they were looking for a different “tall, bald, black man.” They realized that they had the wrong “tall, bald, black man.”

They had picked up Belk because he “fit the description.”

Until folks figure out that black men don’t all look alike, until more care is given while investigating by officers, and as long as my son is out in the world, I remain afraid. Because my son, like me, like Charles Belk, like black men of all ages and sizes, “fit the description.”

Reporter gets fed up with journalists’ Ferguson coverage

A freelance journalist who was in Ferguson for Al Jazeera got so fed up with what some of the mainstream journalists were doing that he was pretty much ready to pack it in last week. And I can’t quite rightly blame him. For example:

-Cameramen yelling at residents in public meetings for standing in way of their cameras

-Cameramen yelling at community leaders for stepping away from podium microphones to better talk to residents

-TV crews making small talk and laughing at the spot where Mike Brown was killed, as residents prayed, mourned

-A TV crew of a to-be-left-unnamed major cable network taking pieces out of a Ferguson business retaining wall to weigh down their tent

-Another major TV network renting out a gated parking lot for their one camera, not letting people in. Safely reporting the news on the other side of a tall fence.

-Journalists making the story about them

-National news correspondents glossing over the context and depth of this story, focusing instead on the sexy images of tear gas, rubber bullets, etc.

-One reporter who, last night, said he came to Ferguson as a “networking opportunity.” He later asked me to take a picture of him with Anderson Cooper. 

One anecdote that stands out: as the TV cameras were doing their live shots in front of the one burnt-out building in the three-block stretch of “Ground Zero,” around the corner was a community food/goods drive. I heard one resident say: “Where are the cameras? I’m going to go see if I can find some people to film this.”

Sadly, there’s more. Ryan Schuessler details further in his blog.

The eyes of the world are on Ferguson

p_lss_brown1_140818.nbcnews-video-reststate-640[1]Let preface my comments with this: I support the police. They are necessary to help keep the peace, to protect the public and to serve the community at large. They are there to enforce the laws and to arrest those involved in crime. I have friends in law enforcement. I want them to remain safe. I want them to come home at night, safe and sound.

I know there are folks who feel that Michael Brown’s death was justified, or warranted, or even coming to him, due to his actions. This may be true.

But THIS IS IMPORTANT. The autopsy showed CLEARLY that there were no powder burns on him. He was shot from a distance. He was clearly unarmed. I don’t care what his crime was — and at that point, by the admission of the police — the officer was not aware that Brown was involved in the robbery at the time.

The officer certainly had a responsibility to detain Brown for questioning. If they would not cooperate, he should have called for backup. Had Brown “bum-rushed” him, as some witnesses/friends have said, lethal force may have been necessary. BUT NOT FROM 35 FEET AWAY.

The lack of respect for the people in the Ferguson community on the part of the authorities is specific and obvious. This is America. This is NOT a police state.

Now, to talk about the rioters/looters. Listen carefully: BLACK AMERICA IS NOT A MONOLITH.

Black America is NOT a monolith. Those who are rioting, those who are looting, those who are causing trouble are not the people who live in that community. They are opportunistic anarchists who are seizing the chance to do two things: pillage the community and to cause overall mayhem.

Those responsible for the mayhem and destruction should be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. They should be charged with sedition and the proverbial book should be thrown at them.

The people who simply want their community to be safe and to not be harassed by an overly militaristic police force should be allowed to speak their minds. They should be allowed to express their Constitutional right to speak out and to assemble.

Is this combination an easy one for those in power? No. But it is no different than the same situation in Nevada earlier this year. You had people whose ideologies and views differed from government and they, likewise, had the right to be heard.

Back to Michael Brown. The truth will, indeed, eventually come out. And if the facts support the actions of the officer, fine. And if the facts support the community, that’s also fine. But the authorities need to be as open, upfront and transparent as possible in order to ensure that everyone sees that justice is, indeed, colorblind.

Finally, the treatment of the press has been abhorrent. Information has been manipulated by law enforcement, by the governor, and even by some in the streets.

The journalists — those with the mainstream media AND those with the alternative press — are the eyes and the ears of the world. They should not be manipulated by either side to craft an endgame to these events favorable to one side or the other. That would make our society no better than the “second” or “third world” states that we claim to be better than.

I hope and pray this comes out with a positive outcome and a better understanding and relationship for both sides.

Florida father beats accused child abuser

Police say a Daytona Beach man beat an 18-year-old man until he was unconscious after finding him sexually abusing his 11-year-old son.

The 35-year-old man called 911 early Friday morning after walking in on the his son being abused by Raymond Frolander.

“I just walked in and found a grown man molesting (my child), and I got him in a bloody puddle for you right now officer,” he said.

When police arrived, they found Frolander unconscious on the living room floor of the home. His face was bruised severely, and he was bleeding from the mouth.

The father admitted to beating Frolander.

Asked by the dispatcher if any weapons were involved, the father said “my foot and my fist.”

“I didn’t proceed to ask him any questions sir,” the father said. “He is nice and knocked out on the floor for you. I drug him out to the living room.”

Raymond Frolander

Daytona Beach’s police chief said the father was acting like a dad. No charges were filed against him. Frolander is being held without bail on charges of sexual battery on a child under the age of 12.

Dad, I salute you!


Fla. stabbing suspect does not want ‘negro’ public defender

Thomas Thorpe speaks at his first court appearance Thursday. His public defender looks at him.

A man charged with attempted murder after he allegedly stabbed a person at an Orlando bus stop, demanded that the black public defender standing next to him Thursday at his first court appearance, not stand next to him.

“I said not guilty — I pleaded not guilty and I don’t want this negro standing next to me,” (51-year-old Thomas) Thorpe told the judge. “I don’t want a negro standing next to me.”

The attorney turned to Thorpe, but said nothing.

The judge said he would assign a public defender to his case while the court determines if he’s mentally fit to stand trial.

RT reporter quits over coverage

Sara Firth, formerly of RT

London-based RT reporter Sara Firth resigned after the questionable coverage from the network on yesterday’s shooting down of Malaysia Airlines’ MH17 over eastern Ukraine. She told BuzzFeed:

“When this story broke I ran back into the newsroom and saw how we were covering it already and I just knew I had to go,” she said.

“It was the total disregard to the facts. We threw up eyewitness accounts from someone on the ground openly accusing the Ukrainian government [of involvement in the disaster], and a correspondent in the studio pulled up a plane crash before that the Ukrainian government had been involved in and said it was ‘worth mentioning’.

“It’s not worth mentioning. It’s Russia Today all over, it’s flirting with that border of overtly lying. You’re not telling a lie, you’re just bringing something up. I didn’t want to watch a story like that, where people have lost loved ones and we’re handling it like that.

“I couldn’t do it anymore. Every single day we’re lying and finding sexier ways to do it.”

Firth worked for RT for the past 5 years.

RT, who has a history of “inventing” the truth when it suits them, said in a press release, “Sara has declared that she chooses the truth; apparently we have different definitions of the truth. We believe that the truth is what our reporters see on the ground, with their own eyes and not what’s printed in the morning London newspaper.”

Firth isn’t the first RT reporter to resign over the network’s perceived manipulation of facts. Anchor Liz Wahl resigned on the air earlier this year in the wake of the network’s apparent twisting of facts in the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea.