Before the world heard of Trayvon Martin, another teenager, Ramarley Graham, then 18 years old, was walking home in the Bronx when New York Police officers later claiming they thought Graham had a weapon, chased him into his home, busted down the door, climbed the stairs and shot him dead in the boy’s bathroom in front of his grandmother. The young man was unarmed. The police, in plain clothes, had no search warrant. The family held monthly vigils at their home drawing hundreds of people. They marched on the Bronx’s 47th police precinct and protested in front of the Bronx District Attorney’s office asking for answers. After more than a year, one police officer Richard Haste, was indicted on manslaughter charges. A crowd of New York Police officers cheered Haste as he exited the courthouse. In May 2013, a judge tossed out the indictment saying the prosecution had mistakenly instructed the grand jury and Richard Haste was set free.
The story of unarmed black teenage boys being shot dead by police or their surrogates (George Zimmerman) repeats nearly every day across the USA. The defense follows a similar script, I thought he had a gun, I thought he was going to hurt me. He looked like he was going to hurt me. Yet there is little accountability, and the killings continue.
Sarah Schulman a writer and professor, posted this on Facebook.
The (Zimmerman) verdict is a privileging of perception over reality. Just because a person feels afraid doesn’t mean they are in danger. In fact, their perception may be so pathological that it puts OTHER people in danger. In this extreme case, taking a young man’s life for no reason. The perpetrator claims to be the victim, and believes that s/he is the victim. And then when the “community” re-enforces the right to false perception regardless of how much pain it causes, the “community” (or state apparatus) becomes an enforcer of injustice.
Photos ©Nina Berman
Remember Agent Orange, the Monsanto produced defoliant which was supposed to smoke out the Vietnamese enemy?
It was a crop killer, a cancer agent, a chemical weapon, sprayed by the tons across Vietnam. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, causing cancer and abnormalities in veterans here and more dramatically, in children in Vietnam, more than one and two generations since the end of the war. (Do the after effects of war ever really end?)
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have their own legacies, depleted uranium, and something you might not have heard of: burn pit exposure. All those military bases constructed like mini cities, produce trash, loads of it: hundreds and thousands of plastic water bottles, body parts, ammo, vehicles, you name it, whatever is discarded is burned and burned hot, lit by jet fuel. Troops lived in this toxic smoke day in and day out. And they got sick, really sick and now they have tumors, organ damage, asthma, and they are dying. Who operated those burn pits? KBR and Halliburton.
A powerful group of veteran victims and their advocates sought justice through the courts, and last week, they lost big time. Bush appointed US District Court Judge Roger Titus ruled that private companies working for the US government – like KBR and Halliburton – can’t be sued.
To learn more about burn pits, start with Kelly Kennedy’s brilliant reporting. I did follow up stills and videos in 2010.
All photos:Nina Berman
Iraq war veteran and U.S. Marine Tyler Ziegel, who was wounded in a bomb blast and overcame the most horrific injuries, died Christmas Day after slipping on ice in a parking lot of a local restaurant near his hometown in Illinois. He was 30 years old.
I photographed him in 2006 and 2008 and became friends with his mom, Becky. Some people find it too difficult to look at the pictures maybe because his facial injuries were so severe. I kept wanting to look at him. His strength, his odd and dark sense of humor, his lack of self-consciousnesses in front of a camera, and his determination to live a “normal” life was amazing and inspiring to me. My deepest sympathies in these sad days to the Ziegels and the many Marines, caregivers, relatives and friends who loved him.
Photo ©Nina Berman, 2oo8 “Ty on the land of his dreams”
All Rights Reserved
Without power, lower Manhattan is dark except for police and ambulance lights, strobing red, orange, deep blue, and spots from little flashlights that people carry to see their way. The point of reference, like the North Star, is the Empire State Building, the line of demarcation. Everything north of the Building is normal, as though little happened. South of it is another world, quiet, strange, like a movie set.
In this photograph, looking north from 14 street. ©Nina Berman 2012, All Rights Reserved
Newsweek’s Tina Brown announced this week that the print version of the magazine would end. I’m sorry for the people who will lose their jobs, but I don’t think the magazine, in its present state, will be terribly missed. It’s a long way since the glory days when Newsweek was known for fresh reporting and photography. I was lucky enough to work for the publication back then under amazing photo editors including: Jim Colton, Guy Cooper, John Whelan, John Filo, Sarah Harbutt, Elizabeth Gallin, Jesse DeWitt, and the list goes on and on. I met the amazing writer Carla Power there. I have huge gratitude to the old Newsweek for giving me my start and sending me around the world. Below are some nostalgic offerings.
New York University Law School releases a comprehensive report on human rights violations by law enforcement in response to the Occupy Wall Street movement. The report paints a picture of the New York Police Department as a chronic violator with little regard for accountability or rule of law. It calls for the United Nations Special Rapporteurs to seek US compliance with international human rights law. It’s serious reading for those interested in civil liberties and the erosion of rights in the USA. Download a copy here: