Keeping Up with those KKKourt Dates: Justice for André and Bryson
[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A black and white ink drawing of two young Black men, who are brothers, one seated in a wheelchair, the other with his arm on the seated man’s shoulder. Big block letters at the top say “Justice for André and Bryson” with three exclamation points. On the left side of the image, the words “Drop the Charges” run vertical down the page. André, who is standing, wears a t-shirt with the words “You Are Love,” and an image of hands making a heart-shape. Bryson, seated, wears a hat that says “BOSS,” and stylish sporting gloves. They are both wearing cross pendants. Drawing by nomy lamm.]
On May 21, 2015, Bryson Chaplin (21) and André Thompson (23) were shot by an Olympia police officer after a failed attempt to steal beer from a Safeway grocery store on the Westside of Olympia, WA. The young Black men are brothers, were unarmed, and while the officer shot at body mass striking several times (as police are trained to do, in the science of and Use of Force), Bryson and André thankfully survived the shooting. One of the bullets fired that hit Bryson is still lodged in his spinal column, and has caused paralyzation from the waist down. The white police officer, 35 year old Ryan Donald, was not injured, but did report by radio that he had been “assaulted with a skateboard.” The shooter, officer Donald, like every single WA state law enforcement officer (ever) that has used excessive Force, was not indicted and was cleared of any wrong doing. Bryson and André, however, are being accused of trumped up and very serious charges of assault. Rather than dropping the charges, which was the rallying plea of the Olympia activist community supporting this family, these charges are being brought to criminal trial.
[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A watercolor painting of a Black family facing a judge in the courtroom. The family’s backs are to the viewer, with a young man on the end in a wheelchair, and his sister, brother, and mother seated on a bench next to him. Beneath the family is what looks like some kind of living organ, red and blue with veins and arteries, it spreads out on the floor underneath the young man’s wheelchair. Over their heads is a tree branch, with a little bird sitting on it. The judge facing them is a white woman in a black robe, and behind her is the Seal of the State of Washington, with George Washington’s face on it. There are three flags flanking her with golden eagles on top, and along the wall next to her are portraits of four white male judges. The words “Justice for André & Bryson” are written in an organic style in brown, with leaves sprouting from them. There is a yellow burst of light, hearts and love surrounding the family. Painting by nomy lamm.]
On January 21st, 2016 at 10:30am the Thurston County KKKourthouse is buzzing with activity. Inside a heavily monitored large crowded courtroom a steady stream of people, accused of crimes (and victims of The System) await the next name to be called, taking turns to meet their fate or find out the date of their next appearance. Some people are no shows. The back of the courtroom is lined with tables as makeshift desks over which check ins are happening. There is a hum of almost distracting voices as folks are last minute prepping to stand before the judge, with mostly white men in suits talking with clients. At the helm of the proceedings is Thurston County “Superior” Court Judge Carol Murphy, a woman, and the most powerful white person in the room, and seated higher than everyone else, to display her power very clearly. Most of the rotating lawyers on both sides are white, while the “defendants” are Black, Brown, Poor and people with Disabilities. On the left wall above the empty jury seats are huge photos of four (presumably very important) white judges who are men. Above the “superior” court judge's high perch is an embossed gold portrait of George Washington himself, the emblem of the state of Washington, a glaring symbol of colonization.
Front and center of the courtroom, waiting to be called before the judge are the tight-knit Chaplin-Thompson family. In the aisle in his wheelchair is Bryson, holding a Chicago Bulls hat on his lap. To his right is his sister Jasmine, and next to Jasmine is André, and to his right is their mom, Crystal Chaplin. You can feel the love between this family, they are a unit. There are members of community in support of Andre and Bryson sprinkled throughout the courtroom. André and Bryson wait patiently for two hours, then find out from one of their lawyers, George Trejo, that they can actually leave without being seen by the judge. Hurry up and wait, and now go home. Papers have been signed and the next court appearance is in April 2016, and failures to appear will lead to warrants.
[image description: Brightly colored chalk on the steps of a blue house reads “There were no charges for the Olympia cop that shot and tried to kill Bryson & André.” There are hearts around their names and the words “Young, unarmed, love, Black, brothers” are there. On the steps it reads “They SURVIVED and face assault charges. This family is in solidarity with the Chaplin-Thompson family. POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY NOW. JUSTICE FOR ANDRE AND BRYSON.]
In the United States there is a nationwide crisis of profiling, police terror and violence against Black people. It is a low estimate that somewhere in the U.S. every 28 hours a Black Loved One is killed by law enforcement, and that does not consider those “disappeared” or who die in custody. In the state of Washington the Black population is 3.6% and in Olympia it is 2% (2010 Census report). The percentage of Black folks incarcerated statewide in Washington is 18.1% (Dec 2015 Department of Corrections). Not unlike other cities, such as San Francisco, where the Black population is 3% and more than half the jail's population are Black, anti-Black racism is alive and well in Olympia, WA and plays out loudly in the actions of police (Ryan Donald) and the white people who call them (employees of Safeway).
[image description: A racist meme, similar to this one, was found on Ryan Donald's facebook page by a reliable source, and was documented. The meme depicts civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. with a dreamsicle (an orange ice cream popsicle) disrespectfully photoshopped into his powerful clenched fist. Words read “I have a dreamsicle. A Dreamsicle. He has one.”]
REST IN POWER MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
It's 8am on July 7th, 2016 and Bryson bounces down three steps to the sidewalk in his wheelchair (which has a flat tire), he's gotten extremely good at navigating using his chair. “I didn't get much sleep,” he says. André joins him, “me neither,” he says. They both look very tired, and for good reason, as they are about to make yet another early morning, mandatory pre-trial kkkourt appearance and they have been mourning the loss of many Black extended community members recently killed by police. “My mom should be right out,” André tells his friend who has come to help with a ride. Crystal's car broke down the night before. Bryson lifts himself into the car while André breaks down his wheelchair and finds room for it in the back of the car.
“Did you hear about the shooting, the one in the car?” Bryson asks his friend. “Philando Castile!” they exclaim. The conversation is solemn as the three talk about the violent lynchings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the videos of their executions by police had just been all over social media.
REST IN POWER PHILANDO CASTILE
REST IN POWER ALTON STERLING
Crystal emerges from the house “alright let's go,” she says.
Today the courtroom is very empty, on the left are four People of Color, attorney (and Woman) Sunny Ko, then André. Next to him is George Trejo then Bryson. On the right side of the courtroom are the two white prosecutors, Scott Jackson and Wayne somebody. There's a different judge presiding, white Judge Tabor, who is flanked by a white stenographer and white bailiff. Judge Tabor is very close to retiring, he announces this from his throne.
“This is a status conference,” Tabor announces. He talks about a “3.5 hearing” that happened recently where yet another Judge – Judge Dixon – made a ruling of some sort in this case. What he says doesn't make a lot of sense to an outsider, and he's very jokey about it. It does seem strange that this is the third judge involved presiding over the fate of two men, but this guy makes it clear he's the judge presiding now, and will be seeing this trial through.
“Mr. Rogers, who is not a party to this case, and represents Donald, (the lawyer of Ryan Donald) is not present,” the Judge points out. It isn't mentioned but Ryan Donald is also not present.
“August 15th is not gonna work,” Judge Tabor says. The prosecutors are concurring (fancy lawyer talk) that maybe August 15th is “too soon.” This is the date André and Bryson's family and their community thought that the criminal trial was finally set to start. It becomes clear that this kkkourt appearance is about scheduling, (not dropping charges as what seems an obvious solution). Judge Tabor then addresses the defense, and infers that it is taking the defense a long time, he tells Trejo “this date was set LONG AGO.”
Bryson's lawyer Trejo tells the judge that this hold up has everything to do with a defiant and inaccessible officer Ryan Donald. Interviews so far with Donald were unsuccessful. Trejo finds it problematic that when interviewed, officer Ryan Donald had this “inability to recall disciplinary action” that has happened to him as a police officer.
Donald refused to respond to any questions about racism, having referred to André and Bryson as “thugs.”
Also, on March 1, 2016, a date set for officer Ryan Donald to be questioned by Ko and Trejo, Donald was a no show. At that time Donald refused to attend, as he was on paid “administrative leave” for his involvement with the in-custody death of Loved One Jeffrey McGaugh on February 29, 2016. Officer Ryan Donald was on paid vacation, like happens when kkkops kill someone, for his involvement in a “mysterious in custody death” so he failed to appear.
REST IN POWER JEFFREY McGAUGH.
If André or Bryson hadn't shown up for a court date, they would be in jail.
Trejo also talked about a “motion to sever accounts” under the 8.3 motion, because “the state provided Donald with all the discovery on the case.” This sounds like Donald is being given all kinds of background information and history about André and Bryson, yet Donald won't even answer direct questions, questions being asked by two People of Color, the defense lawyers Ko and Trejo. It is likely that Donald the kkkop is still writing his narrative of what happened.
Trejo agrees that August 15th is too soon. The reason for this is the lack of officer Donald's version of what happened the night he shot to kill André and Bryson. When he finally complies to that requirement, Ko (Andre's lawyer) explains that expert witnesses will then need time to review his assessment. Ko pushes for Donald's narrative, and some time to review it before trial. There's a deadline for the defense team to interview Donald and it is July 29th.
Judge Tabor then said something that sounded a lot like someone who thought fairness and justness and truth are irrelevant. From his seat above everyone else, to a mostly empty courtroom, Judge Tabor said “I know this case has high visibility, and people have strong feelings. They have a right to their feelings and opinions about what's right and wrong. But that doesn't matter here,” he said. “Legal issues need to be assessed here.”
Then the Judge told the court his scheduling conflicts the coming months, and he excused himself from the kkkourtroom so the prosecutors and the defenders could come to a decision about scheduling.
The scheduling conversation came off like a strange insiders theatric performance. It takes place in a bubble of laughter and talk of vacations and other pending cases, (SO MUCH GOING ON), and talk of more vacations... Even the stenographer gets in on the scheduling back and forth, describing this judge's jury selection process to be predictable (and hilarious apparently), she described Tabor's jury selection process as “half hour, half hour, half hour, 20 minutes, 20 minutes, half hour, hopefully done by noon.” And all the lawyers with the stenographer and the bailiff laugh together, because that's so funny. “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha,” they laugh, like no one else is in the room.
All the while André and Bryson sit there. They are not laughing. They are not in on the joke. They face hard time in prison for failing to steal beer (no beer actually left the store) and for getting almost killed by a racist police officer. Crystal and a few friends, the only other people in the court room, also just sit there. They exchange looks, also not laughing. One of them is a child, even he knows this process is unjust, this Black family's fate in the hands of these people in this system.
The defense and prosecution, never ever involving André nor Bryson in the conversation, come to the conclusion that October 3rd is the date the trial will start. It will begin with jury selection. The Judge returns. It is agreed the trial will likely run 3-4 weeks. After all, these folks are the ones with the power, they know how it works, they are experienced and knowledged, they make the decisions. The judge says that someone must coordinate with Mr. Rogers (the lawyer of officer Donald, who is not “party to this kkkourt”) to confirm. The judge and Trejo also decide that July 20th at 8:30am is when Bryson must appear one more time, about those motions Trejo had filed.
The community is encouraged to attend July 20th at 8:30am in support of Bryson.
The community is requested to please attend the estimated 3-4 week criminal trial for André and Bryson that begins October 3rd, 2016.
please read the article A Mother's Cry for Justice in the BayView National Black Press by Crystal Chaplin
[image description: It's July 7, 2016 out front of the Thurston County Courthouse just after an appearance of André and Bryson. There's a big green leafy plant on the left and the Chaplin-Thompson fam hugging tightly on the right. Handsome and smiling Bryson, dressed in all Black is seated in a red wheelchair. Crystal, Bryson's mom, has her hand wrapped warmly around Bryson's arm, she is wearing a beautiful patterned dress with a black sweater over it. Crystal is also arm in arm with Andre, who is about a foot taller than his mom. André is smiling, holding and leaning toward his mother, and wears white pants and cool high tops. This family loves each other.]
Lisa Ganser is a white, Disabled, genderqueer artist living in Olympia, WA, on colonized Squaxin land. They are a copwatcher, a sidewalk chalker, and the daughter of a momma named Sam.