Letters Nov. 25. 2021

Duluth Branch NAACP demands equity in criminal justice system

The Duluth Branch NAACP is appalled by the outcome of Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial in Kenosha.

Rittenhouse faced various charges related to shooting three racial justice protestors, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The facts are:

• Rittenhouse killed two men and wounded another with a firearm that he was not legally able to possess in his home state of Illinois.

• He is seen on video provoking protestors in alleged defense of private property to which he had no direct connection, and firing his weapon at three people in a crowd of protestors.

• He is then seen on video walking past numerous law enforcement officials while leaving an alleged murder scene in which he was the only individual who fired a weapon.

Consider this same scenario if Rittenhouse had been a person of color, particularly a young black man, openly and illegally armed with an AR-15 during a racial justice demonstration. Chances are he also would have not been convicted of any crime, because he would have never lived to see a trial. Young black men have been killed by police officers for FAR less than alleged murder or illegal possession of a firearm; allegedly driving with a broken taillight, selling single cigarettes, spending what was believed to be a counterfeit bill, holding a toy gun, wielding a knife, having a mental health crisis, fleeing unarmed from a traffic stop, the list goes on.

Let’s not forget that the protests which led to Rittenhouse’s actions were initially to bring attention to Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, who was left partly paralyzed after a white police officer shot him seven times in the back.

The legacy of Jim Crow continues to seep into all aspects of our criminal justice system in addition to our schools, healthcare facilities, and economic centers. There are seemingly two separate and unequal so-called justice systems; one that gives white vigilantes permission to kill protestors, and another that sentences unarmed people of color to death for alleged minor traffic violations and misdemeanors.

The system does not promote equity, but rather perpetuates the racist ideologies that have forever been woven into the fabric of our nation.

Here in Duluth, racial disparities in our justice system continue to prove this fact. In 2019, half of the Duluth Police Department’s use of force incidents involved people of color, while people of color only make up 10% of Duluth’s population. Similar disparities are present in arrest and traffic stop data within the department.

Furthermore, people of color in St. Louis County received on average longer sentences than white defendants for the same drug crimes. For 1st, 2nd, & 3rd degree charges, BIPOC defendants received an average of 96 more days in detention while for 4th & 5th degree charges, BIPOC defendants received an average of 33 more days in detention.

What we are looking at here cannot be seen as anything other than a d ouble standard.

We demand that our public officials begin to address these disparities through direct policy change. In the meantime, we encourage the press to further investigate the disparities that we have outlined here in the Northland. We do not need to look all the way to Kenosha to see the chilling and devastating effects of systemic racism.

Duluth Branch NAACP

Wisconsin justice

Black Lives Matter vs. White Supremacy.  To me, this is what the trial in Kenosha, Wis., will indicate the state in, and state of, Wisconsin.  The judge in the trial appears highly biased; biased to the point he should never have been appointed as a judge.  Judges do matter.

With so much noise and distraction lately, too many seem to have forgotten the basic goals of our democracy.  Some take the ultimate goal to be wealth. Wealth can be used as power. And power abuses those where the power comes from.

But we formed a democracy, one that is evolving, just like any other living thing. The idea was to have a government whose people governed themselves. At the same time, we wanted a government that was fair and equal to all peoples. We have Catholics, Muslims, Native Americans, Atheists and many more. While Catholics strongly oppose abortion, many Atheists strongly support the right and freedom for someone to decide for themselves. How do we fit all that into one government?

And under this unique umbrella that tries to protect and make equitable the rights of all, we have many disparate groups. There are Euro-Americans (whites), Latino, Native, Black, Somali, Vietnamese and others. To be called the democracy that the founders envisioned we would develop into, no group can have dominion over others.

Sometimes forgotten in the argument over rights, we ignore that for each right, there carries one or more responsibilities and duties. While each of us has a duty to ourselves, we have an equal or greater duty to the good of the democracy. Like it or not, believe it or not, humans are interdependent, not individual.

I will hope justice comes out of Kenosha.

A. Martin
Merrifield, Minnesota

The Rittenhouse murders

The  practice of accepting any police officer’s explanation of shooting people because they “feared for their life” has been effectively spread to anyone wielding a gun and “protecting the public” (at least if the shooter is white and the “public” means property of the privileged). The gun need not be legally obtained or the shooter an adult.  Wisconsin, Florida, it does not matter: the entire nation is armed to the teeth and eager to exercise its “rights.”

The Rittenhouse murders go from tacit acceptance of law enforcement as judge, jury and executioner to allowing any yahoo with a firearm to declare open season on “dangerous” (unarmed) human beings. A deluded teen answers a “call to arms” from social media operatives, is chauffeured for hours by a similarly deluded (or outright despicable) parent to a community not his own, and struts into a demonstration brandishing an assault weapon. He is greeted with thanks by heavily armed police.

The youngster was apparently terrified at the scene and had no choice but to shoot three demonstrators, the first in the face at close range (an unarmed man, Joseph Rosenbaum, who was perceived to be “angry” and “reaching” for the gun), the second, Anthony Huber, in the chest point blank after the victim tried to stop the shooter by throwing a skateboard at him. Both died at the scene. Finally, Rittenhouse shot and maimed Gaige Grosskreutz, who came upon the scene after hearing gunfire and had his pistol in his hand. Grosskreutz did not fire a single shot.

In a culture that glorifies vigilantism and convicts dead victims (a meme depicts Rittenhouse, gun at the ready, with the words “F*** around and find out 2020”, other media depicts the dead as “rapists” and “child molesters” or howls that Grosskreutz no longer had a permit for his pistol), with the assistance of a bizarre judge and a well-financed team of “defense” attorneys, what could really be expected? Justice? Exactly what does that look like in this nation?

Meanwhile, coming to a gun show near you:  George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s murderer, signing bags of Skittles, perhaps seated beside Kyle Rittenhouse, ready to sign skateboards. 

Dorothy Wolden
Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin

Crossword too hard!

Hello!  I am an avid crossworder. And I love The Reader. Been doing the crossword in it for years. But these last several weeks have been too hard. My friend and I used to have “crossword and beer” night. But now we quit picking up The Reader. 

Please consider changing crosswords.

Or not. Whatever. This is just my 2 cents.

Meredith Johnson, Crossword Puzzles Luva
Duluth, Minnesota

Editor’s Note: Sorry, Meredith but we have committed to Myles Mellor’s puzzles, including his tantalizing crossword puzzle. Yes, it’s challenging, and no you can’t do it in 10 minutes as you could our earlier, much easier puzzle, but I encourage you to toughen up and give it a try.

Jim Lundstrom
managing editor