Tuesday, November 16, 2010

PART TWO: A Disturbingly Detailed, Chillingly Complete, And Terrifyingly Textured Account Of The Great Toe Stepping Civil Rights Trial!

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

Where were we? Oh, yes, just leaving the men's room, and thank god.

Click here for Part One of Al Flowers vs. Don Samuels. You wouldn't want to read the second part first and then have to switch everything around in your head. Reality in this trial is confusing enough already.

A Truly INCREDIBLE Line Up Of Plaintiff Witnesses

And so the plaintiff presented witnesses, an all-star loony toons cast of cast-offs, malcontents and also-rans which the jury would ultimately find to be NOT CREDIBLE compared to the defense witnesses, who fell into two categories: successful candidates for political office and normal people like the jury members themselves.

First on the stand for the plaintiff was Dokor Dejvongsa, (hereinafter "DD") the law partner of attorney Ben Myers, arguably the "true leader" of the ousted Old Majority JACC faction with Chair E.B. Brown as a figurehead. DD was asked about her role in JACC and then asked what she recalled of the alleged "assault" on Al Flowers by Don Samuels. DD said Samuels "seemed to be feeling with his back and elbows to see where Flowers was."

Plaintiff Attorney Clark--who may have justifiably worried at that point that her client Al Flowers looked like a mad, raving lunatic shouting stuff at the press conference which made no sense--asked if Flowers' comments were "understood in light of the dispute?" DD agreed that what Flowers was saying was understood in light of the dispute.

What was at stake, here? Clark asked.

DD said "we all live in the neighborhood" and we were concerned about who would be in charge. A lot of money was at stake in the dispute, which centered on who would control what happened to the money and what happens to the neighborhood. DD understood the press conference to be "open to the public." There was no "monitoring" of who attended. DD was there with her "partner" Ben Myers.

DD claimed she saw Don Samuels' foot...

...come down hard on Al Flowers' foot.

On cross-examination, however, DD looked right at the soundless "Goodmundson video" and said she didn't see Flowers shove Samuels. DD said she didn't see a shove happen in real life, either.

Nope, DD didn't see any shoving by Flowers. Nope. An officer of the court, sitting there under oath and it's nope, nope, nope.

DD also tried to downplay Flowers' LOUDNESS at the press conference which, on a scale of 1 to 10, went to 11. At one point, DD said, oh-so-innocently, "I don't know how loud he was in comparison to others."

Flowers would, of course, ultimately ADMIT that he shoved Don Samuels and the tapes showed what the tapes showed, for videotapes show reality. Flowers would ADMIT, well, he talks LOUD.

City Attorney Moore had plenty of fun with DD's credibility during final argument. Actually, he had fun with the credibility of all the plaintiff witnesses since they were, one and all, incredible.

Governor Not-Elect Farheen Hakeem Compares Herself To A Tea Bag

Farheen Hakeem approached the stand and swore to God to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. She described her job as mathematics lab assistant at Hennepin Technical College. Hakeem also spoke of her own experience at press conferences while running for public office, including a recent run for governor, saying it's pretty much normal to be interrupted during a press conference opening statement.

"Daggers will come at you, you just have to expect it," said Hakeem. You have to, she said, stay focused on the message you bring. At the JACC press conference, Hakeem said she was "seeking grant support" and saw the press conference as a chance to "mingle."

As she did the day of the press conference, Farheen coughed frequently while on the stand. Between bouts of coughing, she claimed that Don Samuels "stomped" on Al Flowers' foot.

"I didn't see the actual foot on the toe," she clarified. "I saw the foot go down."

And what did Flowers do in response?

He said, "Ow, this hurts" Hakeem answered.

Words. That. Clearly. Weren't. On. The. Tape.

Hakeem said at one point Don Samuels started to "intensely interrogate me" and she said, "Please back off, please calm down." Wearing her Muslim head covering on the stand, Hakeem explained how it's all very personal to her for anybody to touch her or even shake her hand. It would feel "like an assault" for her to be touched.

Hakeem complained how "the police officer wouldn't take names or testimony" about Don Samuels "shoving his shoulder blades" into Al Flowers. She herself was "not offended in any way by Mr. Flowers' speech that day and found it "distracting" when Don Samuels "walked across the room."

City Attorney Moore cross examined Farheen and got right to the heart of the matter by saying, "Let's listen to what Mr. Flowers ACTUALLY said." Moore played the tape. There was nothing on the tape like "Ow, this hurts" at the moment Don Samuels is supposedly on Flowers' foot.

Hakeem tried to say that "Ah" was really "Ow." Listening to the tape, I couldn't even hear the word "Ah." Hakeem's credibility was instantly shot. Moore got Hakeem to admit that it was "entirely speculation on your part" that Don Samuels stomped Flowers with his foot.

"Correct," Hakeem answered, almost cheerfully.

Hakeem talked about how she was afraid that, standing there, Council Member Samuels would falsely accuse her of some crime. At moments like this, you have to wonder who the plaintiff witness is testifying for. Is it all for the sake of a historic record to be later examined by a revolutionary tribunal? Some trier of fact beyond this trier of fact, who will use different standards on the capitalist insects which suck the blood of the proletariat?

Clearly, the jury from the suburbs wasn't buying any of this swill.

Moore asked Hakeem about a picture on her website where Flowers is pictured with Lt. Governor Candidate Dittman. Without much effort, Moore managed to show there was a relationship between Flowers and Hakeem, but Hakeem kept trying to distance herself from the relationship, saying the picture showed Flowers' support for DITTMAN.

The jury wasn't buying any of it. Loons of a feather flock together. They have loony lawn parties and recite the Team Rocket motto for galactic conquest, together.

At one point, Hakeem talked about how, in politics, "You're a tea bag. You get submerged in boiling water, and everything that's inside of you comes out."

And so I concluded the question I asked in a previous editorial, click here, had been answered:

Do Hakeem and Dittman have whimsical little herbal tea parties with stuffed animals, imagining aloud what their hypothetical (gubernatorial) administration will do?

They do. Of course they do. And somebody pours tea for teddy, too.

Zack Metoyer Comes To Court After Getting Dressed All By Himself

Zack Metoyer, who has long played Robin to Al Flowers' Batman, came to court all spiffed up in a tan suit. I hardly recognized him from behind, thinking, wow, Zack really got cleaned up.

Then Zack turned around, revealing an odd "highway safety cone orange" dress shirt and no tie. Zack was grinning. It was hard to see why he was grinning at that moment, unless he was very pleased with his outfit and the first impression he was making.

Under questioning by plaintiff attorney Clark, Zack Metoyer said he met Al Flowers "working with the NAACP." On the day of the JACC press conference, Zack was one of the first people there, actually helping to put out the doughnuts while asking for a copy of the bylaws. (Others present at the press conference have no recollection of doughnuts)

In regard to the toe stepping allegation, Metoyer said Flowers was "looking down" and what Flowers said made Metoyer think Flowers had been stepped on. Flowers wasn't saying or doing anything inappropriate by shouting, over and over, "I got four people says you was illegal." It was evident to Metoyer that Don Samuels was on the side of the newly-elected board.

In response to the city attorney, Metoyer agreed his "television show" was a cable access show where, really, anybody can come forward and have a show with no special qualifications. Flowers had been a guest on Metoyer's show, and vice versa.

Steve Jackson Talks About JACC "Chess Game"

Steve Jackson, the former self-styled "Sergeant At Arms" of the "Old Majority" JACC board, went to the stand in a black dress shirt which bore some kind of wild embroidered emblem on the back, possibly martial-arts related. Jackson said he works "at an alternative high school and the Boys and Girls Club." His job at JACC meetings was to be the Sergeant At Arms because sometimes there were "hostile" meetings and he needed to "make sure everybody was safe."

In regard to the "takeover" of the leadership of the neighborhood board, Jackson said it was "like chess." Somebody "got in the back door" and then excluded folks. "The first night (meeting?) they took over the board and fired the chair." There was an argument and it went to court. It was a long, drawn-out thing.

At one point, Jackson claimed he had "withdrawn" from the court battles and, indeed, claimed he didn't even know which way the court battle contest with JACC had gone, because he was not following it. There appears to be serious disagreement outside of the court room with this statement by Jackson about not being part of the JACC court battles. There is talk of a possible plaintiff appeal in the JACC court battle over the legitimacy of the board elected in January of 2009. This purported appeal has not been confirmed by JNS blog, however, it was stated in this court by Judge Schlitz that plaintiffs still had the right to file an appeal in that matter.

Jackson proceeded to explain his understanding of the term "pro-city" versus "pro-community" to describe the factions on the JACC board. To Jackson, "pro-city" means an effort to get folks from the suburbs to move to the neighborhood, but there is "not the same push" to give resources to people who had been "living in the community forever." Don Samuels, said Jackson, supported the pro-city side and "there weren't minority people on the pro-city side."

At the JACC press conference, announced by the NEW board, Jackson said he'd been asked by E.B. Brown, chair of the OLD board, to be present and act as Sergeant At Arms.

At the press conference, Jackson said he didn't see anything that was "out of pocket."

It should be noted this is something Jackson does all the time: he uses common phrases from American English in a way nobody else uses the phrases. It's not like a whole community uses "out of pocket" the way Jackson uses it. On the contrary, Jackson appears to speak his own unique language, and we are all expected to read in the common, understood meaning. So there you have it. Jackson didn't see anything "out of pocket" at the meeting and, furthermore, only if it got to be "overbearing" would it be a problem, said Jackson.

In the incident where Don Samuels had the audacity to stand in front of Al Flowers, Jackson saw Don as "being the aggressor" and wanted him (Samuels) to go back where he had been before." With Don standing there, "Al couldn't be seen or heard, I felt."

(Please note, the previous sentence is NOT in parody font)

Jackson felt there was "no reason to remove Al" because, after all, there is "shouting all the time at JACC meetings." More than once Jackson tried to emphasize this point: that's how meetings are in Jordan. Chaos, disorder, rudeness, shouting, interruption, this is how "normal" is defined. The problem is the videotape shows something different: articulate, democratic voices of order and reason are seen to struggle with the thuggish forces of social anarchy represented by Al Flowers shouting at the top of his lungs like an infant.

Jackson defines Al Flowers' behavior as the norm. Others define Al Flowers behavior as an interruption of the norm. A well-lit court of law is not the place where Flowers' argument can win. Flowers' argument is more suited to a knife fight in a dark alley. The rule is there are no rules. The only question is whether somebody will get hurt amid all the shouting and posturing.

City Attorney Moore asked Jackson about the idea of pro-city versus pro-community. Would Jackson say the pro-city forces were in favor of gentrification?

Yes, Jackson agreed.

And you were opposed to that? Moore asked.

Yes, Jackson was opposed to gentrification.

So there was a policy dispute within the board about how things should go?

Jackson agreed. At some point Jackson said (or had previously said) the pro-city faction didn't include minorities. Moore proceeded to show Jackson the list of who was elected and it certainly did include minorities.

"In fact," Moore pressed. "This was the most diverse board elected in years."

The pro-city group didn't include MY COMMUNITY MEMBERS, Jackson insisted. It's not just race. It's also time in the community.

"Let me rephrase myself," Jackson said, doing that delightful thing he does with the English language. "It's not about race. It's about class. A class of people."

So, Moore asked, would you say you can phrase it this way: How do we move forward? Gentrification or support for the people who have lived here for years? Yes, Jackson agreed, that is one way to phrase it.

For quite a while after watching this exchange, I tried to figure out what Moore was doing. At some point, after much contemplation, the answer seemed apparent: Moore was showing this struggle within the board was NOT ABOUT RACE. It was not a bunch of white people taking over a neighborhood board in a neighborhood which has been traditionally black for several decades. Rather, it was about a vital policy discussion among diverse people: how do we move our neighborhood forward? Do we move toward creating affluence and social order (New Majority) or do we keep subsidizing poverty and making excuses for criminal behavior? (Old Majority)

Ask the jury of suburbanites which path they think is better for North Minneapolis. The only problem with this whole exchange, when examined for the historical record, is the word "gentrification." The word fails to include nuances of economic inclusiveness found in the word "revitalization." We who struggle to turn around North Minneapolis do not accept the term "gentrifiers."

We are "revitalizers."

But this trial wasn't THAT discussion.

Did Al Flowers shove Don Samuels, Moore asked. Let's help with the videotape. After all, you are right there in the tape, right? This is you, here? And here? Moore played the "Goodmundson tape" and asked if Jackson had seen "a shove." Jackson said, "It could have been but I can't say positively." Jackson admitted Al Flowers "raised his voice, got hostile." Jackson told Al to "calm down." But, Jackson emphasized, keep in mind that yelling and not taking turns was "the status quo."

Jackson admitted Flowers was not a member of JACC.

Confronted with video of the "second push," Jackson admitted the second push was "more forceful" and agreed if you had a bad neck or back "it could do you harm." But this was just the way people in the community "spectator chairs" conducted themselves.

"Who disrupted the press conference?" Moore asked.

"To me, Don," Jackson answered.

And so ended testimony for that first day. The jury went home with Jackson's final words on their mind.

Who disrupted the press conference? Was it the guy yelling at the top of his lungs?

No, these witnesses all think it's Don Samuels. The man who stood in front of the guy who was yelling, arms crossed, he's the big meanie, here. He's the toe stepper. He's the violator of rights, the disruptor of meetings.

What on earth did these jurors talk about that night with their spouses? What did they say about North Minneapolis?

(To Be Continued In Part Three)

No comments: