Title 42, Section 1983 of the U.S. Code says if your civil rights are violated by any state “statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage,” the injured party can bring a federal civil rights lawsuit against the responsible party. It applies to deprivation of rights, privileges, and immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
If anyone infringes on your right to peaceably assemble by shooting you, you can sue. You can sue if someone shoots you because of what you say. Another person cannot shoot you for simply being there. What if things go badly and other people riot? Your right to sue and recover damages is based only on your behavior. Someone else’s looting does not compromise your own personal right to sue for the harms. Every law enforcement homicide is a civil rights violation.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that of a national population that's about 13 percent Black, about 32 percent of arrest-related deaths have been of Black citizens. Hispanics, comprising 17 percent of the U.S. population, made up about 20 percent of arrest-related deaths. Whites are half as likely to die incident to an arrest. A third of the resulting civil rights cases went to jury trial or trial before a judge, resulting in damages averaging $114,000-$154,000. Another 30-40 percent of cases were settled out of court. Cities and counties ultimately use tax dollars for insurance, settlements and judgments. We should train law enforcement in how not to kill.
Oklahoma doesn’t even keep track of these deaths. Bureau of Justice Statistics research found the media was more reliable than self-reporting by state law enforcement agencies – even where law enforcement grants required reporting, and law enforcement agencies were promised no retaliation for reporting.
In America, we have an institutional racism problem. The government’s constitutional duty is to protect the right of peaceable assembly, not to prevent or harm those who exercise that right. It violates the Constitution to suppress free speech, but Trump has cynically decided he benefits from the violence and turmoil.
The Equal Protection Clause says Trump can’t apply laws selectively against some groups because they are Black, Democratic, or because fascist skinheads are his base – not others based on race, political opinion or re-election strategies. Trump condones motoring over a peaceful protestor in Charlottesville, then wants to shut down protests in Portland.
An obvious remedy is to get guns off of our streets, and out of the hands of powder-keg, self-appointed, uber-right-wing "militia" members who are hunting citizens exercising their civil rights with paintballs and pepper spray, claiming "self-defense." They are domestic terrorists threatening our guarantees.
Donald Trump, Americans want our country back. Stop the disproportionate police killing of minorities. Stop fanning the flames of right-wing violence. Stop lumping peaceful demonstrators in with property destroyers. While you pretended, six million Americans have gotten a preventable disease. Minorities are disproportionately impacted by COVID, too. Thirty percent of 180,000 COVID-related deaths are coming from amongst 13 percent of the population, so 52,200 excess dead Black souls are your legacy. Does your God tell you killing is wrong? People die when endemic structural racism goes unresolved. Citizens die on the streets with no trial over counterfeit $20 bills, and broken turn signals, and misunderstandings.
Enough. Give someone else the president’s job. I want to write about local history, not about sneaking away postal mailboxes and sorting machines; not torched international diplomacy; not chaos from stilted attitudes. I don't want to write about lawless elections, justice system breakdowns, national security failures, watchdog agencies being neutered. America is not headed in the right direction, and we are not better off than we were four years ago.
Kathy Tibbits is a Cherokee citizen, attorney, and artist living at Lake Tenkiller.