Thursday, June 29, 2017

#AutisticWhileBlack: Justice For Marcus Abrams

Marcus Abrams after his encounter with police.
Image of the face of an African American male
with injuries to his face Credit City Pages
On Monday, August 31, 2015,  17-year-old Marcus Abrams, legally blind and autistic, was the victim of a catastrophic encounter with Metro Transit police in Minnesota.  Marcus, now accused of punching an off-duty police officer working security at a nightclub, is being scheduled for a competency hearing. He brought suit against the officer who was dismissed from the force and Abrams won a small settlement. Yet here is what the City Pages first reported about what happened back in 2015:

"Tuesday night after Black Lives Matter St. Paul wrapped up its protest of Gov. Mark Dayton, the group gathered in front of the governor’s mansion to hear sisters Jacqueline Vaughn and Neenah Caldwell recount a harrowing interaction between their 17-year-old brother and police.
Vaughn told the crowd that on Monday evening her brother, Marcus Abrams, who is legally blind and autistic, "was coming home from the State Fair and off of Lexington and University was beaten brutally by the police. He was beaten so bad he was in a seizure and declared dead for 15 minutes." She added that police accused her brother of being under the influence.
According to Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla, police were driving by the Lexington station at about 7 p.m. that day when they saw Abrams on the light rail tracks, “a dangerous situation for anybody.” Officers asked Abrams to get off the tracks, so the teen jumped back on the platform. Officers then began to question him.
What happened afterward is under review. Video footage of the station is not yet available to the public and Padilla isn’t ready to confirm exactly what led officers to take Abrams to the ground. He said the teen suffered a split lip, though if Abrams also went into a seizure, it would have been beyond the officers’ ability to recognize it definitively.
Padilla said officers eventually called medics and took Abrams to the hospital, where they discussed what happened with his mother. Abrams’ mother said she intended to file a complaint, though has not done so as of Wednesday afternoon.
“After the mother notified us of the teen’s challenges and issues, we determined that he should go home with his mother rather than the juvenile detention center,” Padilla says.
On Tuesday, Vaughn said it was a witness who called an ambulance to take her brother to the hospital."
60 #BLM protestors marching to the Governor's office. Credit
City pages.
Marcus, now 19, suffered a seizure from the beating and was declared dead for fifteen minutes. Please explain how someone legally blind goes from being beaten to having to face charges of attacking an off-duty policeman and now facing a competency hearing? The rapid deterioration and perversion of this case force back haunting memories of the case of Neli Latson. Beyond tactile issues and issues of gait and sensory concerns that have very little to do with competency but are part of an Autism diagnosis, as someone who was blind for a time there is nothing more invasive than being touched without one's consent. It is terrifying regardless of the degree of disability to have some random hands laid on you by people who you may not be able to see well enough to identify. 

Note the lines I highlighted. 1. Abrams followed instructions but was later subjected to such a beating that he had a seizure. 2. The officers' ability to recognize a man having a seizure was said to probably be beyond their abilities. 3. It was a witness who called an ambulance to take Marcus to the hospital. Video footage was not released to the public. It would be revealed later that Marcus was placed in a chokehold preceding the beating.

I don't know if there is video footage from this latest accusation of assault where he was also tasered.
I can't imagine what a taser does to someone with a seizure disorder.

The story of Marcus Abrams is parallel to the story of Reginald "Neli" Latson. After four years of everyone sitting on their hands and Neli suffering the permanent effects of being placed in solitary confinement,  people came together to help Neli's attorneys and they at least freed him from one hell, that of the criminal justice system, but he is still being held in confinement within a facility in the mental health system when he should never have been in either place.

Will we sit on our hands and watch another young man, blind and autistic while black, have his life destroyed like Neli's? Someone has to act now. Someone needs to reach out to #BLM in Minnesota, to his mother and sisters, to his attorney. This time, let's do something before he is irrevocably harmed. 

Let's see how well the white activists who usurped the voices all too familiar with the narrative of the black disabled victims of catastrophic encounters with police step up to the plate now and fight for those whose victimization and subsequent unjust criminalization they've profited from. This is where the bill, for individuals who treat the black disabled body like data to be collected for discourse and display and the human victims of horrific harm like revenue streams and potential training, speaking, and writing for pay fodder can learn what true advocacy means. Marcu Adams should not be stripped of his civil rights and committed to a mental institution. Time to save a life about to be destroyed. 


#SaveMarcusAbrams, #Blind and #AutistcWhileBlack

The Case of Marcus Abrams
The Case of Neli Latson
Reginald Latson's case points to a major scandal in US prisons:

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