Police Brutality


On October 29th, 2016, Misbah Awan delivered a speech at Bard College during an event on Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed the death of Eric Garner, and police brutality. She discusses the importance of educating yourself and speaking against injustice.



Bianka Bell

On July 17, 2014, Ramsey Orta filmed a police officer in New York killing his friend, Eric Garner. Since that moment, Orta has himself had a turbulent experience with law enforcement, and the judicial system at large. He has been sentenced to prison for alleged possession of a weapon and drug charges. After a long battle with the law, and being consistently threatened by law enforcement officers, Orta plead guilty this past July, stating that he was “tired of fighting”.

That said, officials have endangered his safety many of times; one particular instance included his food (during his temporary stay at Rikers Correctional Facility) being infused with rat poison. After this instance, Orta was released on bail, before making his inevitable return (due to a plea bargain) to Rikers for a 4-year sentence just this past Monday, October 3rd, 2016.

After speaking on a panel at Bard College just days before his departure back to the facility, Orta had a positive outlook on life following his incarceration, and even in regard to his time spent inside the penitentiary. He expressed great interest in studying law following his time served. However, just a day into his sentence, Orta has, yet again, been stared in the face by more corruption.

According to Orta’s wife, Bella, who spoke to him on the phone Tuesday afternoon, Orta has not eaten since his entry to the prison. Rikers, deemed one of the worst prisons in the country, is notorious for their inmate violence, staff brutality, rape, abuse of adolescents and the mentally ill, having one of the nation’s highest rates of solitary confinement. It has historically been the target of dozens of lawsuits and various exposes. Yet, it continues to actively neglect and abuse its inmates. Bella believes that Orta’s sentencing—and sentencing to this facility in particular—was in itself a form of judicial retaliation to his exploitation of the abuse of law enforcement. Knowing the history of the facility, and concerned for Orta’s safety, she posted the following status from his Facebook account:


Bella posited that because of the former rat-poison incident, Orta refuses to eat prison-produced food. Instead, he has raised funds to go toward his commissary. Apparently, the guards are refusing to accompany him there, meaning he currently has no source of food. Additionally, Orta told his wife that $400 of the money he took there with him had disappeared. He also said $40 of the $100 she had sent him wasn’t there, even though there had been a charge on her credit card statement for $100.


“Processing” means the amount stays there until it is received by the inmate, but Ramsey relayed to Bella that a guard informed him that he only had $60.

To make matters worse for the Orta family, at about 6:30pm on Tuesday evening, two correction officers at Rikers Island were slashed in the face by an inmate. Since that time, Bella has not been able to get in touch with Orta. She expresses that she is “terrified”, especially when considering what their children’s lives would be without a father. Bella says that she and her three-year-old, Ichiro (Orta’s stepson), watch “Marco Polo” videos of Orta telling them that he loves them, because he isn’t aware of what has happened to his father. Orta also has two daughters, Alivia and Mariah, who are anxiously awaiting his return home.


For more updates on Orta, or to donate to his commissary, go to http://www.ramseyorta.info/.




Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison after Filming the Murder of Eric Garner

Bianka Bell

On Thursday, October 29th, Ramsey Orta spoke to the students of Bard College about his long and turbulent experience with the judicial system after filming the brutal murder of Eric Garner (at the hands of police). Consequently, Orta has been sentenced to 4 years in prison.

He begins this sentence today, Monday, October 3.

See what he had to say here.


Featured image by Sabrina Sultana.

Dear Mr. Rogers

Bianka Bell

Over the past couple of days, reports have resurfaced of a June 22, 2016 police crime in Atlanta, Georgia, which resulted in the unwarranted murder of 22-year-old Deravis Rogers. Suspicion that Rogers was guilty of crime, which in turn, lead him to be shot, was consistent of practically every media account of the incident. This presumption allowed for a range of speculation by the public in regard to whether or not his murder was justified.

Again. Speculation.

Because it is apparently so incredibly difficult to believe that an officer could have killed an innocent young black man. As if it had never happened before. As if it isn’t a regular occurrence that is being widely protested nationwide. As if race isn’t a factor. As if it’s easier to just concoct some sort of absurd justification for why this sort of injustice ensues, rather than acknowledging that our country is in crisis.

The genocide of the black community by law enforcement under the perilously ambiguous terms of United States Law may be a hard pill for non-black people to swallow. But persisting with this sort of resistance is only going to further enable the killing of black persons in America (and, due to our strong ‘Western’ social influence, potentially globally).

According to Rogers’ killer, off-duty officer James R. Burns (whose identity wasn’t even released in original reports of the incident), someone had been seen breaking into a vehicle by an off-duty officer who called for backup. Burns, arriving at the scene after the call, posited that he had observed Rogers fleeing away, prompting him to fire his weapon. However, not long after his account, it was revealed that Burns’ testimony was not consistent with the details of the shooting. Burns was fired on July 1st by Atlanta’s Chief of Police George N. Turner, claiming that he had violated departmental procedures and that the shooting was an unnecessary and excessive use of force.

He was clearly in the wrong. He is a murderer. And yet, there are still no charges being brought against him. Yet, many people would still rather not acknowledge the truth.

In fact, one of the first videos of the account that surfaced was entitled “Man escaping from scene of car break-in is killed by Atlanta police”. Now, while I’m no linguist, I do I understand the crucial nature of semantics when attempting to provoke human emotion. A title such as this one – without any other details about the case – makes me, as a reader, believe at least two things:

  • That this man has committed at least a minor crime, and was guilty by virtue of his inclination to “escape”, and
  • The murder of this man could have been for a particular reason.

Additionally, a more recent written report from July 12th which fully acknowledged that “Burns’ actions that night were found to be unwarranted” ALSO felt the need to point out that Burns “has no record of prior disciplinary actions”, while Rogers “has a troubled past that includes encounters and arrests with law enforcement. In 2014, he was convicted of two counts of entering autos and sentenced. In addition, he has faced previous charges of entering auto and drug charges, according to court records.”

Even when black people are innocent under circumstances of injustice that have ensued against them, they are still – in some way, shape or form – portrayed as menaces to society by the media; whether that be done through the choice of photo provided when such crimes are publicly reported, or the manner their unofficially eulogies are composed. And this is why, on behalf of everyone who refuses to acknowledge this problem, I proclaim in sorrow:


Dear Deravis Rogers,

Alton Sterling,

Philandro Castil,

Sandra Bland,

Trayvon Martin,

Tamir Rice,

And the countless other black persons taken by not “senseless”, but premeditated violence:


I am sorry you had to be taken from your loved ones so soon.

I am sorry that the color of your skin made you the target of an inherently oppressive system.

I am sorry that you never stood a fighting chance.

I am sorry this had to be your fate.

I am sorry that this has been the fate of so many other black people, and will most likely to be for quite some time.

I am sorry that even as a victim, they still try to paint you as a villain.

And I am sorry that all I can do is raise my voice to those who do not want to hear me.

I am so, so sorry.

Marginalized Asians: Scapegoat at the Hands of White Privilege


A close friend of mine recently pointed out that Asians tend to be the observers of America. Her statement scintillated a previously dormant thought in my mind: Why do Asians tend to be marginalized? Why are we the given the stereotype of being “observers” rather than people of action or ones with voices to be heard? Is it due to inadequate media exposure of the Asian culture, or do we choose to adhere to the label of modesty? With such widespread problems ranging from the Paris shooting, to the American presidential debates, to the refugee phenomenon of Syria, the Asian American community does not seem to take precedence in news coverage.

That is, until the story of Peter Liang surfaced. It was then that I realized that we’re not only marginalized, but also made scapegoats by the laws of white American privilege.

In 2014, Peter Liang (NYPD) wielded his gun and opened fire, shooting unarmed Akai Gurley (black American). Before Liang and his partner called for medical assistance, Gurley passed away. Liang has since been convicted for second-degree manslaughter for the death of Gurley. Since this event, Asian American communities have banded together to shed light on quite a few issues erupting from Liang’s case, as well as issues regarding the Asian community’s place in America.

Peter Liang should and is paying for his actions against Gurley, but why is it that he is paying for consequences that a plethora of white police officers have escaped for so long? I recall the atrocities committed by Eric Casebolt, who used brute force and even pulled out his gun to shut down a party in McKinney, Texas. Video footage surfaced showing the police officer violently dragging and throwing a black teenage female across the lawn. Casebolt resigned and an investigation has taken place; however, the message is clear: Casebolt is protected by his whiteness from any real form of punishment. In fact, he was later hired by Arizona Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, to be the head of his SWAT unit. To elevate my point, half-white George Zimmerman was acquitted of the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin, and white police officer Darren Wilson escaped indictment on the account of Michael Brown’s death. Peter Liang has committed a crime, but so have numerous other white police officers. Yet, they are not subjected to a fitting degree of punishment. Why? Because they are white.

White privilege entitles a sense of superiority, and perpetuates systematic oppression. This said, I am not suggesting that Asian Americans should be entitled to the same privileges. Peter Liang’s case hits home to Asian communities because contrary to popular belief, we DO care about the issues arising in Black versus White America and how we fit within the framework of it. However, we are often silenced or marginalized. Our voices get lost in the binary of the white and black of America, and it is not okay. Peter Liang’s case is not necessarily unique in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, and this is far from me saying All Lives Matter (because that is just another example of white privilege at works). I am saying All Voices Matter, but it is only the white ones that are being heard. The criminal justice system is clearly in need of some serious modification, but I will even go as far as saying that in all 19 years since my immigration to America, it has become progressively evident that this country is broken in several ways. Peter Liang, Akai Gurley, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland are just examples of the many who are continually oppressed under the weight of white privilege and who serve as an indictment to America’s broken ways.

Tiffany Leung