MICHAEL X?

Of all the ironies in the fallout from Councilman Michael Johnson's alleged roughing-up at the hands of a rookie Phoenix cop, there's one that's particularly troubling:

The presence of Charles Muhammad, a minister for the Nation of Islam's Phoenix branch, at a press conference given by Johnson last week at City Hall.

Where's Councilman Johnson been on profiling and police abuse toward Hispanics? In the nativist camp, according to his own writings.
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Where's Councilman Johnson been on profiling and police abuse toward Hispanics? In the nativist camp, according to his own writings.

Muhammad was there at the invite of Johnson, according to Johnson flack Stephanie Ribodal. And Muhammad conveyed an incendiary message at the press conference from none other than controversial NOI leader Louis Farrakhan.

"If justice is not served," warned Farrakhan in a statement read by Muhammad, "it will produce revolution."

During his time at the mic, Johnson continued to riff on the possibility that the incident, in which Phoenix cop Brian Authement reportedly laid Johnson on the ground and handcuffed him, was racially motivated or, perhaps, a reaction induced by the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered because of Authement's tour of duty in Iraq.

We don't know what was in Authement's head that night, in part, because we haven't heard from Authement, who's been ordered silent by police brass as they investigate the incident.

On the night of the confrontation, Johnson was checking on a neighbor whose house was on fire, and maintains he had the okay from fire officials to approach the victim.

Johnson is black. Authement is white. Did Authement overreact? Was it based on race, miscommunication, or just a cop's mentality of "shut up, and do as I say"?

Thing is, there's no Rodney King-like videotape. At least not that we know of. But let's accept for the sake of argument that race played a part in Authement's takedown of Johnson.

If so, why would Johnson invite a Nation of Islam minister to convey the thoughts of a man known for making anti-Semitic, anti-white, and homophobic remarks?

Over the years, Farrakhan has called Jews "bloodsuckers," Hitler "a very great man," and Judaism "a dirty religion." He's falsely claimed Jews were behind the slave trade and promulgated various anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

For such rhetoric and for its advocacy of black superiority over other races, the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the Nation of Islam a hate group.

But don't listen to it. In his day, Dr. Martin Luther King criticized Black Muslims, as they're also known, as "a hate group arising in our midst that would preach the doctrine of black supremacy."

If you've ever read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, you know that the theology of black separatism preached by Elijah Muhammad's followers has little to do with Islam.

In fact, Malcolm X eventually broke with NOI over Elijah Muhammad's extramarital affairs. And when Malcolm X made his pilgrimage to Mecca, it brought home the fact that true Islam was a faith embracing many ethnicities and nationalities.

Farrakhan regarded Malcolm X as a traitor and proclaimed at the time that "such a man is worthy of death."

Decades later, Farrakhan said he regretted the statement and admitted it may have led indirectly to Malcolm X's assassination. He's also attempted softening some of his rhetoric, though his anti-Semitism has persisted.

So why is Johnson, a former Phoenix homicide detective, aligning himself with Farrakhan and Farrakhan's followers? Is Johnson planning to become a black revolutionary?

Hardly. It's just one of several missteps by Johnson over his manhandling by Authement.

INVISIBLE MAN

As has been noted by my colleagues Paul Rubin and Monica Alonzo on New Times' Valley Fever blog, Councilman Johnson has hardly been Mr. Civil Rights when it comes to allegations of abuse of power by Phoenix cops.

Indeed, in the councilman's statement after the Authement incident, he practically admitted that he didn't take complaints against cops seriously before violence happened to him.

"For years now," reads the Johnson release, "I have received calls from residents complaining about police harassment, abuse of power, and, in some cases, brutality. I retired from the Phoenix Police Department and couldn't believe it. How could our police officers harass the very people they promised to protect and serve?"

Johnson concludes by promising, "I, Councilman Mike Johnson and police department veteran, am going to be the voice for the voiceless, and I'm going to be heard."

So Johnson's had his road to Damascus experience. Too bad it took getting put facedown on the ground for him to get there.

Johnson spokeswoman Ribodal told me that the councilman and his staff have had meetings with police commanders previously over other allegations of police abuse.

She characterized the councilman's concerns over the misuse of police authority as not something new, but "something that has been ongoing."

Then where were the press conferences from Johnson decrying past incidents? Most of Johnson's verbal ammo has been utilized in the past to support Phoenix cops and their union, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association.

Regarding the Johnson incident, PLEA is backing Authement, saying that Johnson was in the wrong for not obeying a police officer protecting the perimeter of a fire scene.

That's gotta rankle Johnson, who has consistently been in the cops' corner.

His past silences aside, Johnson hasn't been slow to throw his weight around regarding the Authement affair, informing the media that he's met with U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke to press him to investigate the matter.

The U.S. Attorney? Really? Why does the U.S. Attorney need to investigate when Public Safety Manager (formerly called Police Chief) Jack Harris already has asked the FBI to investigate (the PPD is also probing the situation internally).

Not that Harris' CYA move has carried much weight with Johnson's powerful pals.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon called a special City Council session to air the matter with the community. Johnson declined to attend because it dealt with him. Most other council members stayed away, as well, including Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who said he feared the meeting would turn into a police-bashing frenzy.

It was more than that. It was nearly a reverse-lynching.

State Representative Cloves Campbell practically said to hell with the investigation — chuck Authement out now.

"I'm personally asking for this gentleman's job to be taken away from him," Campbell told the assembled, "For his butt to be taken out . . . to be removed from the police department totally."

Don't get me wrong. If Authement reacted in the way Johnson says, he should be 86'd. Already he's on paid administrative leave. And if Johnson's claims prove accurate, Authement may end up working security at a Wal-Mart.

But even lowly Phoenix beat cops deserve a little due process.

Then there was the Reverend Oscar Tillman, president of the Maricopa County NAACP, calling for Harris' head on the proverbial platter.

"You've done well," Tillman told Harris at the meeting, "but it is high time you go home."

That's a little over-the-top, considering that Tillman is not calling for the resignation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio over the long list of his abuses of power.

There may be a lot of reasons for people not to approve of Harris, but his job should hinge on how he handles the Authement incident and the other claims of police abuse in the South Mountain Precinct, where Authement served. Not on angry invective from his critics.

BROWN, BLACK, AND BLUE

Since Oscar Tillman serves as head of the local NAACP, I think it's fair to ask where he's been as the county's Hispanic population has been terrorized by anti-immigrant sweeps and raids carried out by Arpaio's MCSO.

I'd ask the same of Johnson, save for the fact that he's already made known his views on cops asking people for their papers.

In 2007, Johnson penned a distasteful opinion piece for the Arizona Republic, wherein he admonished illegal immigrants and backed local cops inquiring about people's immigration status.

He charged, "Illegal immigrants, if not above the law, are sometimes certainly beyond its reach." And he erroneously asserted that the undocumented are somehow exempt from requirements on motorists for driver's licenses, registration, and insurance.

Not only are the undocumented subject to the same laws, they are likely to be arrested and deported after being stopped for minor infractions for which most of us would be ticketed and sent on our way.

Johnson complained about the cost of teaching immigrant students English in the piece, though that's part of a federal court mandate.

And he pooh-poohed the notion that families are broken up by deportations, ignoring the reality that mothers and fathers deported after detention in MCSO or federal facilities may have been in the country for decades.

He similarly overlooked the plight of so-called DREAM Act kids, brought to the United States when they were small. What about an American citizen kid whose mom or dad gets deported? Johnson showed no sympathy.

"There is a negative consequence to breaking laws, even immigration laws, which are set in place to be used as deterrents," he wrote.

No wonder you never see Johnson at the big anti-Joe Arpaio marches.

But back to Tillman, usually absent from anti-Joe activities, for a moment.

I have spoken to Tillman about Arpaio and the plight of Hispanics in this county. In January, before the last big anti-Arpaio march, we discussed an ad in the Republic comparing Arpaio to Bull Connor, Birmingham, Alabama's police chief during the '60s, who famously turned attack dogs and water cannons on civil rights demonstrators.

Tillman objected to the comparison as "name-calling," which he said Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas never engage in, unlike their detractors.

He also did not criticize Joe over the sheriff's Hispanic-hunting dragnets.

"Any complaint [of MCSO abuse] that has been filed with the NAACP office, has been dealt with direct," he noted. "We may not have ended up in the right agreement, but we have had a response direct from the sheriff, and that is the only thing that I can do."

Tillman insisted that such access to Arpaio helped him help others. Those who protest the sheriff should aim their sights at the ballot box, he suggested.

And yet, Tillman's quick to seek Harris' exit after the Authement-Johnson incident.

The stances of Tillman and Johnson expose a fault line between the African-American and Latino communities in Phoenix, one that I've heard Hispanic leaders complain about privately.

That's not to say some African-Americans have not spoken out against the ongoing Arpaio sweeps and the MCSO's ethnic profiling, which has garnered a federal civil rights lawsuit and a continuing, year-long probe by the U.S. Justice Department.

But there's a paucity of African-Americans involved in the Hispanic civil rights struggle here in Maricopa County, even though Hispanic leaders continue to preach solidarity between black and brown.

Recently, the city's Hispanic leaders gathered in César Chávez Plaza in downtown Phoenix to show their support for Johnson.

Phoenix lawyer and activist Danny Ortega was one. He told me that he had not talked to Johnson about the Authement incident. Nor was Johnson present at the media event.

"You can make whatever conclusions you want," he told me. "The bottom line is, we saw this as a very good opportunity, given the high-profile nature of this particular incident, to come back to what anecdotally has been a problem in the Latino and African-American [communities]."

The only problem with that is the lack of reciprocity. Take Arpaio's raid on four area McDonald's restaurants, where workers were carted off like common criminals.

One of them was American citizen and single mother Viridiana Ramirez. On her release, she wept as she told Channel 3 news about her wrongful arrest.

Sheriff Arpaio shrugged off the mistake.

"That's just normal police work," he said of Ramirez's collar.

If Jack Harris had callously said the same thing of the Authement-Johnson confrontation, what hell would he have been made to pay by Tillman and Johnson?

Why, they might have even asked him to resign.

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15 comments
nod87wake13
nod87wake13

How convenient and totally self serving for this rag of a newspaper to propose to understand the complexity of Michael Johnson's decision to visit Muhammad or the inner workings and dynamics of the Black Latino relationship. As usual you white people propose to DICTATE the meaning of what is the inside the Black and Hispanic community but only FROM YOUR WHITE PERSPECTIVE...and not have respect enough to ask Muhammad or Michael Johnson about why he visited The Nation of Islam. 

 All this quotin you doin in the article, but where are the RELEVANT quotes from the most relevant people on the most relevant issues? You do not have the quotes because you did not ask the relevant questions of the most relevant people...

You want to paint  a picture, spreading the same tired lies about Minister Farrakhan that I will not dignify with a response to here. Maybe you should, like Michael Johnson did, go through the humiliation of being slammed to the ground and having your manhood trampled upon, handcuffed, and treated like everything you are not, all actions apparently supported by the racism in the system that allows and defends these types of actions....as so clearly demonstrated here in the article and the comments.

 On a man to man level, Michael Johnson knew this was a violent race motivated action he was up close and personally involved in. It was he who looked into the face of his assailant, not any one of you side line quarterbacks! White people as a whole, just like what is demonstrated in this article and the comments,  are extremely placating and dismissive when a Black man states his case, especially in a charged, but not uncommon, situation such as Mr. Johnson was VICTIM of. 

Yeah! VICTIM !...You White people have VICTIMIZED the whole planet but your least liked word is VICTIM. Why? Because it exposes you and your historically racist system as the VICTIMIZER. My words are backed up by your history as well as your current exploits around the globe illegal warmongering and grubbing for the oil and resources of the planet. 

In the end this is a garbage article in the tradition of a Big Daddy White man.."I'll tell you where it hurts" "If I want your opinion I will give it to you" attitude ...As we say in text speak...SMDH


Joe M M
Joe M M

A comment from Gary Peter Klahr! Amazing, I thought he died of aids. But I still see he telss lies. A victim of 30 crimes?? Gary, please, STFU...and stay away from the children. As for Johnson. He was a useless detective that could not detect a fart in a plastic bag. Hi was carried by his partners and he certainly did not get assigned as a detective because of his stellar investigative abilities. He was useless then and is even more useless as a council member. His pulling the race card was predictable. It was the ONLY thing he could do. He was wrong. He is the racist, not the officer....Johnson is deflecting and hoping everyone ignores the real issue. Johnson created contact with the officer (twice) before the officer legally arrested him. So now Johnson is embacing Islam....Gee, now what could he expect to gain from doing that. Councilman Kichael johnson you have embarrassed yourself, your family, the Mayor and council, and the citizens of phoenix. You are NOTHING special. Lets see if this is dealt with properly (johnson being kicked off the city council for cause) or if "we all just get along" and look at this as a learning issue...Johnson needs to appologize and step down.

Watchdog
Watchdog

Gary Klahr, a crime victim +30 times? What, you got a target painted on your back? Leave the front door wide open? Something about your statement says "not the sharpest knife in the kitchen".

Klahr Watcher
Klahr Watcher

A victim of crime 30 times? Gary Peter still laying it on thick and still incapable of telling the truth. I remember one of your nonsense calls where you said you were the victim of a home invasion years ago and were found either handcuffed or tied to a towel rack in your bathroom that a Yorkie could have pulled from the wall. Give it a rest. Your referring to the Officer as Bri-boy makes your hatred for Officers quite obvious. You were not there Sir and you have no idea what actually happened. Be a responsible citizen and wait for the results of the investigation.

Gary Klahr, J.D.
Gary Klahr, J.D.

I must disagree with my friend Stephen in this case. I support Johnson 100 pct. There is no video as in Rodney King. but we DO know two KEY facts which tells me all I need to know---1)Johnson in fact HAD permission from the FD to cross the yellow tape line; 2) One of Brian's fellow cops was so upset by HIS actions that the other cop told Bri-boy to leave Johnson alone. Not only have I served on the Council myself, but I have been a crime victim 30+ times, have ridden with police as a C/o about 40 times AND served a record NINE YEARS on the Phoenix Police Review Bd per appointments from Terry Goddard and the late City Mgr Marvin Andrews!! And the cop has the NERVE to try to have the COUNCILMAN arrested for felony assault on him!!! I agree the cop should get due process---and quick; right now he is being paid FULL SALARY but is on "administrative leave": aka free vacation. As a Jew, I hate Farrakam but Johnson is no Black Muslim or Black power radical; and as far as protesting police brutality, my slogan is BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!! I do not agree with Johnson 's 2007 column on Hispanics AT ALL---but that does NOT justify what Bri-boy did to him in 2010 at the fire scene. COMPRENDE anyone???????????????????????

Tim
Tim

Mike Johnson is throwing the first volley to taint public opinion against the PPD. He wants to color the landscape to his advantage. He uses the Hispanic community when it serves his purpose and if not, turns a blind eye—which is most of the time. He recruits self-appointed Latino "leaders" to stand in front of cameras for him. These Latino "leaders" lead their own causes, not the Hispanic community's. Nowakowski and Ortega are ignorant to stand with a man who never stands for the Latino community and issues--but, now all of a sudden is tight with Latino's? Stop the grand standing and let the facts roll out, as they may. There are no real Latino leaders in the community who would stand up for Johnson. Latinos know what Mike Johnson is really about, but can’t say it in public for fear they are targeted and labeled racist. The tragedy is that he has been in political office too long and believes his position should get him to the front of the line. He has let the fight in the Roosevelt School District happen to allow Hispanic administrators to be picked off one at a time. He campaigned and urged Black community members to rail against Hispanic district leaders with no cause other than they were not African American. There is no Latino leadership in Roosevelt because Johnson has used it and ignorant board members to put in their own "puppets.", as a way to decrease Latino representation in an almost 90% Latino district. Was there a news conference to protest this? Where have his Latino "saviors" Ortega and Nowakowski been when this was happening. They are afraid to say no and allow themselves to be used by the African American community and Johnson, to stand with them as a united front for causes outside the Latino community. Do they really have 100% confidence that Johnson’s story is truth or just an offensive attack to win the community’s support. How can you put your reputation and the Latino community’s on the line when the facts are not out? Their actions discredit a whole community. As a Latino community member I am disappointed and outraged that Latino “leaders” are quick to jump on Mike’s band wagon and not for real causes that will further the Latino community. In their hurry to stand with Johnson’s self-cause, they forget who they are and where they should be standing. Do they really think backing up Johnson will help Latino or Black community members or are they grand standing to be part of this traveling “race card” show. Now a Hispanic "superintendent puppet has already been “pre-selected” and will be put in place to cater to the egos of the RSD board and the African community, by deals made with Johnson, Campbell and Tillman. These three are ethnocentric individuals who know right from wrong, but choose to spout rhetoric that saves their brother. Johnson picks and chooses his "causes" and selects those that are good for him, not the Latino community that has helped vote him in. He represents those who can keep him in office. Latinos do not fall in this favored group. It’s time for Latino voters to walk past Johnson and Campbell and vote for any candidate that doesn’t use their elected positions to attack others for doing their jobs—and, before the facts of both sides are known. Or, do they want to hear the other side? Johnson is a self-serving coward who stands up for himself and uses his race to bully those who are vulnerable . . . his former colleagues, the PPD . . . and the Latino community.

Officer Friendly
Officer Friendly

It wasn't a racial situation. It was an asshole cop situation. We deal with them all of the time. These guys are just itching to beat crap out of somebody or arrest them fo zero reason. Johnson just got a taste of the same strongarm tactics he used when he was a cop. Now he's al;lbutthurt. Boo-hoo-hoo.

Pete W.
Pete W.

Put Tillman and Farrakhan aside on this one. Both are racists and not part of this equation. Councilman Johnson made this a media circus by playing the race card when he knew he was in the wrong. He has a great deal more police experience than the officer and knew he should have asked him permission to cross the police line regardless of whether he had already received permission from a fire captain. A brief explanation which I will bet was never offered by the councilman would have prevented any of this. Accusing someone of racism every time they arrest someone of a different race is racism itself. Taking an uncooperative subject to the ground with no injuries is not excessive force. We still have some rights in this country, lets hear the officer's side of the story before we condemn him.

Minister of Propaganda
Minister of Propaganda

You dont need SPLC on this one. Doesn't take a brain surgeon to know Louis Farrakhan is a racist and the black muslims are a cult. Just Google or "Topeka" Farrakhan's name. Same for NOI. Theres enough to call them out for the weirdos they are.

rkeefe
rkeefe

There is no legal definition for "hate group". It is a meaningless smear the SPLC uses in its ongoing fear campaign. Professional journalists should not use this inaccurate and misleading term, or in any other way perpetuate SPLC fund-raising propaganda.

If "hate groups" really did exist in law, the SPLC would be unsurpassed experts on the subject as the organization was founded by self-avowed Klan lawyer, Morris Dees. (http://wp.me/pCLYZ-F)

This may account for the fact that NOT ONE of the SPLC's top ten, highest paid executives is a minority. (http://wp.me/pCLYZ-3r)

The last remaining "Whites Only" sign in Montgomery hangs in the boardroom of the SPLC. Some "experts."

Ben Jacobs
Ben Jacobs

The Nation of Islam? Farrakhan? The same assclowns who believe a mad scientiest developed the "blue eyed devil" in a labratory? The same shits who murdered Malcolm X? What a joke! Johnson's credibility is shot. No different than if he had his photo taken with a neoNazi. Based on this alone I think I believe Authoment.

JJ
JJ

I'll bet Councilman Johnson wishes he had previously advocated for citizen's rights. He really shouldn't expect anyone to come to his aid now. Oh, and Tillman can suck it too. I don't care if he is old and sick. Tillman has not been any sort of advocate for civil rights in Maricopa County.

THE_TRUMPET
THE_TRUMPET

The day for this kind of abuse is growing short! The god that we serve is bringing down his wrath on this wicked place you call America. Just keep your eyes on the weather!

P.S. Keep your hands off of Farrakhan!

Stacy
Stacy

((Second part - I prematurely sent it ))

And I wish that we could still see Jarred Maupin around.. he was someone who stood with Hispanics. I admired him for that and for doing it because it was the RIGHT THING TO DO.

Mike Johnson.. You're on your own.

Stacy
Stacy

The district that Mike Johnson represents is about 75% to 80% Hispanic. I remember a few years back when he stated that he WOULD NOT put a bilingual assistant in his office to take calls from his constituents.

I was outraged over the way he handled it. As if it would have degraded him or his staff if he catered to Hispanics.

Now I am equally outraged that he is calling on Hispanic Leaders to stand with him now that he got an ass-whooping from the cops.

When Hispanics kept asking for African Americans to stand with them on this racial profiling and abuse of power by the sheriff, only two or three of the African American leaders would come out. I love them for doing so, BUT I NEVER SAW MIKE JOHNSON THERE NOR CLOVIS CAMPBELL.

If I see Leah in trouble, I'll stand with her for defending Hispanic issues in the Legislature. If I see Rev. Tillman in trouble I will stand with him and I wish

 
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