No. 186, Aug. 8-14, 2002


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Allegations of racial profiling, brutality against APD

A still from the videotape that documents the arrest of Ismael Hassan by officers of the Asheville Police Department.

By Shawn Gaynor

Asheville, North Carolina, Aug. 5 (AGR)— Two African-American Asheville residents, Khalid Saadiq and Ismael Hassan, both 31 years old, are voicing allegations of police brutality and racial profiling over an incident on the night of Sunday, July 21.

The two say Hassan was beaten by two white Asheville police officers, and a videotape of the incident supports their claim. Saadiq is a former Asheville police officer and Hassan is a current youth corrections officer.

These allegations come at a time of heightened national awareness of police brutality due to the recent events in Inglewood, California and Oklahoma City.

According to Hassan the two friends were returning home from their place of worship, along with his 5-year-old son Elijah. Upon arriving at Hassan’s home on Blanton St., an Asheville Police Department (APD) cruiser pulled up in front of the house and turned on its lights. According to Saadiq, by this time the three were on the front lawn.

Saadiq said the officers told them to get back in the car, approaching the two men on the lawn. Saadiq began asking for what reason they are been detained, and at this point officer Breneman grabbed him.

“I told him that I did this [police work] for seven years, that he didn’t know what he was doing. I told him to take his hands off of me, that I was not resisting [arrest], and that’s when he dropped his hands, turned me around and handcuffed me.” said Saadiq.

Witnessing Saadiq’s arrest, Hassan, wearing his Swannanoa Youth Corrections Officer uniform, approached Breneman.

“I dropped my son off at the porch and told him to ring the doorbell. Then I walked back up in a calm manner and asked ‘what’s up, what’s the deal,’ and that’s when he [officer Maltby] pepper-sprayed me twice,” said Hassan.

“From there I turned around with my back to the officers and squatted down. Maltby ordered me to go prone, and I did. He started to bring my arm back to cuff me and he twisted it the wrong way. I say ‘you’re breaking my arm’ and he started to beat me.” Breneman, who had just finished loading up Khalid into the car returned and joined in, Hassan said.

A neighbor from across the street, alerted by the police lights, grabbed his camera and began to videotape.

The tape begins as Breneman is closing the door of the car with Saadiq in the cruiser. All appears calm. Then, without any discernible verbal orders on the part of the officer, or verbal resistance from Hassan, a physical confrontation can be heard breaking out in the yard. Several blows can be heard on the videotape. “You stop hitting him! You stop hitting him,” pleads Hassan’s sobbing mother, rushing onto the lawn.

As the camera comes across the street and gains a clear view of Hassan’s lawn, both Breneman and Maltby can be seen on top of Hassan, who is prone on his stomach. Maltby knees Hassan in the back, and strikes him.

“I’m not resisting arrest,” says Hassan, “this is my lawn.” Then Hassan gives his hands to Maltby to be cuffed.

The evidence of the beating can be seen on the back of Hassan’s youth corrections uniform shirt: knuckle marks in blood.

“They hit me repeatedly with quick punches to the head and back, Maltby kneed me in the back,” Hassan said. “When they were hitting me Breneman cut his hand.”

On the tape, Breneman can be seen coddling his injured hands as he gets up off the now cuffed Hassan.

“You don’t hit him any more. He’s in cuffs, don’t you hit him anymore,” says Hassan’s brother Isaac, who had also come out onto the lawn.

Then for the first time Maltby calls in the incident…as a traffic stop.

Other officers arrive and officer Eberthart opens the back door to the cruiser after recognizing Saadiq, his former colleague, in the back seat.

“‘What are you doing in here,’ he asks me. That’s exactly what I want to know,” recalled Saadiq.

The officers huddle, and begin treating Hassan for pepper spray. Hassan is then taken from the site to the hospital, examined, and then taken to the county jail where he and Saadiq are booked.

Why the two were initially stopped by police is still a matter of disagreement. On Hassan’s arrest record he is charged with being stopped for running a red light on Coxe Ave.

“I never ran a red light,” Hassan said. “He claims that we ran a light on Coxe but we never came that route.”

Both men assert they were stopped only because of the color of their skin.

“They could have simply avoided this by calling in our tag, or they just could have answered the question when we asked,” said Saadiq. “We asked them ‘why do you want us to get back in the car. We haven’t done anything wrong.’ They could have said we want you to get back in the car because of whatever. It’s that simple — if they had a reason. They didn’t have a reason, that’s why they didn’t say anything. In my estimation, they see two black faces in a halfway decent-looking car with rims and they figure we’re drug dealers or whatever and they’re gonna make a quick name for themselves by busting us. If they violate rules and go against procedure, and violate laws, it’s OK because we’re two ‘niggers’ and who’s gonna believe us over two white police officers, and that’s what took place.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” Saadiq continued, “there are a lot of good officers out there. There are a lot of guys who are professional… but then you have those who think you’re nothing, and ‘I’ll do what the hell I want to do because I’m the police and I can’.”

Saadiq said that because of a recent change in Asheville Police Department policy in regards to officer training, both officers Maltby and Beneman were relatively inexperienced. It was previously required that an officer have three years minimum service to train a rookie officer. That limit has been reduced to one year of service, leaving rookies to train rookies, Saadiq said.

Asheville Police Chief Will Annarino said an internal investigation of the incident is being conducted. While the investigation is pending, Annarino said he would not answer any questions.

Hassan has been charged with running a red light, improper right turn, disorderly conduct, assaulting a government official, and resisting arrest. Saadiq is facing a single charge of resisting a public officer, a misdemeanor.

They are due to appear in court on Aug. 19. Both men say they have no previous criminal record.

The two men have begun circulating a petition demanding their charges be dropped and the APD reformed.

Regional economic crisis hits Uruguay

Thousands of people marched to protest the closing of emergency room services at the Hospital de Clinicas and against the economic policies of the government of Jorge Batlle and the IMF, on Thursday, July 25, 2002 in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Photo courtesy of Indymedia.

Compiled by Sean Marquis

Aug. 7 (AGR)— Argentina’s economic meltdown has spread to its neighbor Uruguay which saw bank closures, supermarket lootings, and a general strike last week.

There were outbreaks of looting in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, as workers held a general strike in protest at the country’s worsening economic crisis.

Spreading contagion

During the past few months, deep recession in Argentina has knocked confidence in the economies of Uruguay and Brazil.

Currencies in the region have taken a nose-dive as investors are increasingly concerned that Argentina’s problems have been exported to neighboring countries.

Three years of recession in Uruguay have left one in four people unable to meet basic food needs or pay home bills.

Most recently, concerns that a leftist could win Brazil’s presidency in October and push the regional giant to default on its $250 billion public debt have added to Uruguay’s problems.

The financial crisis in Uruguay is manifest in the rapid decline in Central Bank reserves, which plummeted from $3.1 billion at the end of 2001 to $725 million last week. At least $50 million were withdrawn last Monday alone. The month of July saw capital flight totaling $746 million.

Fears that the Uruguayan financial system would repeat the Argentine scenario of a government-ordered freeze on bank deposits increased last week.

The nation’s president, Jorge Batlle, decreed a bank holiday Tuesday and gave his word that the bank holiday would last only 24 hours, but then extended it through Friday to prevent the continuation of massive withdrawals.

The recently appointed Economy Minister, Alejandro Atchugarry, reported that 40 percent of the total deposits had been withdrawn from the country’s banking system since January.

The government decision to close the banks came after weeks of massive capital flight from the nation’s banks, as Uruguayans and Argentines withdrew money they had deposited when Argentina’s economy collapsed last year.

Uruguay’s once strong financial system fell victim to the lack of confidence caused by the recession begun in 1999, the contagion of the Argentine financial collapse, and the alleged fraud committed by the owners of two private banks — one of which was taken over in June by the Central Bank.

President Batlle reported Thursday on the negotiations under way with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a potential financial bailout.

Uruguay is asking the IMF for the immediate disbursement of the $1.5 billion remaining in a contingency loan of $3 billion that the multilateral institution approved in May.

The partial immobilization of the fixed-term deposits in the state-owned banks would be one of the IMF’s conditions for freeing up the funds Uruguay is requesting.

According to an article in Newsday, Atchugarry has acknowledged that no “Plan A” exists, only “Plan B,” which consists of immediate foreign financial aid. Government sources say that if such assistance does not arrive, Uruguay would likely default on its foreign debt, according to Newsday.

Stealing food

Chanting, “There is hunger,” hundreds of Uruguayans looted or attempted to loot nearly 30 supermarkets on Aug. 1, mostly in poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of Montevideo, the capital. Crowds that included youths with their faces covered and women with children succeeded in looting at least 13 supermarkets.

Uruguayans looted supermarkets on
Aug. 2, 2002, driven by hunger and
the fear of “another Argentina.”
Photo courtesy Indymedia.

Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to keep the crowds out of the other supermarkets. In some cases, looters and neighborhood residents threw stones at police and at reporters covering the incidents; at least 34 people were arrested and four police officers and one civilian were injured.

State prosecutor Enrique Moller said he would pursue charges of criminal association against many of those detained, a serious offense punishable by up to eight years in prison.

Interior Minister Guillermo Stirling insisted that the looting was organized and coordinated by groups from the “extreme left” and “anarchists,” though he admitted he could point to no specific groups.

A statement by the Federacion Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU) said that the state’s answer to people stealing food was “repression” with police “brandishing clubs against young kids and women who run off with a package of flour, noodles or rice.”

According to the FAU, “Hungry children in rags are found throughout the country. Begging for a coin, cleaning windscreens, stealing someone’s wallet…eating rubbish, forming bands to steal from other poor…seeing the aggressive and hostile opulence of a few.”

A series of telephoned false alarms on Aug. 2 were the work of “a little bin Laden,” Stirling said, referring to Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

That same day, thousands of police guarded Uruguayan shops to avoid renewed looting.

“We have mobilized 5,000 police officers and two air force helicopters,” said Stirling, vowing to deter any repeat of Thursday’s looting, but there were still signs of unrest.

In a poor neighborhood on the capital’s outskirts, about 500 people gathered outside a supermarket demanding food.

An Associated Press photographer watched as supermarket employees loaded a truck full of bags of sugar, cooking oil, bread and noodles and drove it out to the crowd. People swarmed the truck and battled over the foodstuffs.

Workers demand employment, pay raise

On Friday, Aug. 2 thousands of Uruguayans staged a four-hour general strike to demand wage increases and public works projects.

“The strike was unanimously approved by the 42 unions we represent,” said union leader Juan Castillo, a member of Uruguay’s largest labor movement umbrella group, Inter-Union Workers Plenary-National Workers Convention (PIT-CNT ).

Workers in most sectors except health, education and some bank employees walked off the job, in Montevideo, a city of 1.5 million people — nearly half of Uruguay’s 3.1 million population.

Union leaders were due to meet Economy Minister Atchugarry, who took the post two weeks ago after a split in the coalition government forced his predecessor and the Central Bank president to step down.

One union demand was for the government to approve a pay raise to compensate for the fall in value of the peso, which has raised the cost of basic imported goods like wheat and sugar.

Unemployment is at a 30-year high, with 15.6 percent of the work force out of a job. Talk of spending cuts in a country that has one of South America’s largest public sectors and a minimum monthly wage equal to $50 are drawing sharp criticism.

“People here don’t earn much, the economy is in terrible shape, and the peso is really low, so the government should not be talking about more austerity,” said a mother of four.

Sources: Associated Press, BBC, Newsday, IPS, Sky News (Britain), Weekly News Update on the Americas

Alarm raised over issue of mercury in vaccines

By Elizabeth Allen

Aug. 3 (AGR)— Recently, concern has been on the rise that mercury in childhood vaccines may cause autism.

Mercury poisoning can display outward traits, a neuroanatomy, neurotransmitters and biochemistry similar to autism. A major source of mercury -- second only to uranium as the most toxic metal known to humans -- is Thimerosal, used in vaccines as a preservative. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) determined that on an individual and cumulative vaccine basis the amount of mercury injected into young children exceeds government safety standards.

Data collected from the US government and medical literature suggests Thimerosal has induced many cases of idiopathic autism, which represents an unrecognized mercurial syndrome. Observations are based on the existing similarities between mercury poisoning and autism and the known exposure to mercury through vaccines. The connection also reflects a causal relationship with, among many other factors, symptoms appearing shortly after vaccination, increases in Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) cases corresponding to increases in vaccinations, and parental reports of children with autism as also having elevated levels of mercury.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder conceived primarily of a psychiatric condition with a threefold diagnostic criteria including social impairment, communication impairment, and preservative or stereotypic behaviors, or a need for sameness. Autism may have differential diagnoses including obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety disorder and schizophrenia. Mercury vapor poisoning shares autism’s characteristics of neurosis, problems with inhibition of preservation, stereotyped behaviors and, as in the case of one twelve-year-old girl, eye contact. Symptoms of both conditions have a lot of inter-individual variation but disorders of physical movement are present in nearly all cases of ASD and mercury poisoning. Also common to both conditions are a general aversion to touch and heightened sensitivity or insensitivity to pain.

Parents can request vaccines that do not contain Thimerosal, whose production was halted a little over a year ago but without recalling existing products. Government committees, under pressure from the AAP, ordered pharmaceutical companies to stop using Thimerosal by March of 2001, but as far back as 1982 the FDA said Thimerosal is “not safe for ‘over-the- counter’ topical use because of the potential for cell damage.”

Organic mercury readily crosses the blood/brain barrier and targets nerve cells and fibers. Primates are shown to accumulate the highest levels of mercury in the brain as opposed to other body organs. Further highlighting the link, autistic brains and those with mercury poisoning show virtually identical types of neurotransmitter irregularities.

Epilepsy is another possible consequence of both conditions. One study estimates that 34­45% of autistic people develop epilepsy and another study found that half of the participating autistic children who experienced epileptiform activity during sleep, another trait that is shared with mercury poisoning.

The amount of Thimerosal exposure found in babies more than doubled in the early 1990’s when government regulators added the Hepatitis B and HiB vaccines to the roster of mandatory immunization requirements for children entering school. Mercury expert Dr. Boyd Haley, who has testified before Congress and the Pentagon as a leading expert on Thimerosal and mercury poisoning explains, “If you take a ten pound baby in, and it gets four shots in one day, which is common practice, that’s equivalent to giving a one hundred pound person forty shots that day.”

There now are a greater number of individuals with autism than with Downs Syndrome, childhood cancer, and childhood diabetes combined.

Studies show that in 1992 one in ten thousand children had developed autism, in 1998 one in five hundred, in 2000 one in two hundred and fifty and most recent studies are estimating one in one hundred fifty children have autism. Over a five-year period Florida and Maryland have had, respectively, a 571% and 513% increase in statewide autism rates. Autistic children require specialized care, which California’s Department of Developmental Services estimates will cost taxpayers two million dollars for every child who has autism until they turn twenty-one. The study does not include projections for the amount of money needed after the person turns twenty-one. The financial burden is likely to strain Social Services.

Thimerosal is controversial because alternatives to it have been known for years. Eli Lilly is a pharmaceutical company that is currently being examined for its use of Thimerosal in vaccines. Despite evidence dating back as early as the 1960’s that the company was aware of Thimerosal’s toxicity, they continued to produce the metal until as late as 1999. That year they changed their packing insert to identify Thimerosal as “toxic” and warned it may cause “fetal changes, decreased offspring survival and lung tissue changes.” Children have a predisposition to Thimerosal’s adverse effects based on genetic and non-genetic factors.

Marleen Gaynor, autism expert with many years of experience working with special education children, commented, “Remember there are undoubtedly a combination of causes for autism, with mercury in inoculations possibly being a part of the puzzle. Also of concern is the MMR vaccine. Some argue that cases of autism increased drastically when the three components of this inoculation were combined into one vaccine. The MMR vaccine does not have mercury in it as a preservative.” Currently, Congressional Committees are scheduled to be hearing debate on the use of Thimerosal in vaccines.


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Entire Contents Copyright 2002 Asheville Global Report.
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