Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 11/28/15
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, why are two
schools just nine blocks apart so very different? Plus, outrage over 16
shots in 13 months. And the surprisingly simple solution to homelessness.
But first, the latest on the attack at a Planned Parenthood clinic in
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris Perry. And we begin today with the story
that unfolded Friday in Colorado when the shooter opened fire at a Planned
Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Police now have a suspect in
custody, 57-year old Robert Dear who was arrested yesterday following an
hours long standoff that left three people dead and nine injured. Officers
arrived at the clinic after gunshots were first reported near the facility
just a little after 11:30 a.m. Mountain Time.
Police said the shots were fired by a single gunman armed with an AK-47-
style weapon. They say the gunman shot at the police who responded to the
scene from inside the building. Police exchanged gunfire with the
suspected shooter for several hours before they were able to make contact
with him and he turned himself in just before 5:00 p.m.
One University of Colorado, Colorado Springs officer and two civilians were
killed in the attack. Five police officers and four civilians were injured
and transferred to local hospitals. Officers were still securing the scene
following the arrest, investigating several items allegedly brought by the
gunman into the building to determine whether or not they were explosive
devices. A law enforcement source told NBC News that investigators were
also trying to identify an object in the suspect`s car that appeared to be
a propane tank with wires attached.
Joining me now from Colorado Springs, Colorado is NBC News correspondent
Leanne Greg. Leanne, what can you tell us about the latest developments
since last night?
LEANNE GREGG, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Melissa, the nine people who
were hospitalized are all in good condition this morning. The
investigation is continuing. The processing of the crime scene, we`re
told, could take several days, and they`re trying to determine a motive
what caused the gunman to want to go off and start shooting inside the
Planned Parenthood facility. That standoff lasted for five hours before he
surrendered. Three people were dead, nine people were injured. Among the
dead, 44-year-old police veteran Garrett Swasey. He was a father of two
young children, and a husband. There also were two civilians who were
killed. Their identities will not be released until an autopsy has been
performed. We are told that will happen either later this afternoon,
President Obama did issue a statement today. Part of it saying that we
can`t let this become the new normal. It went on to say we have to do
something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on the streets.
This entire community is mourning today. There will be two separate
vigils. One at the church where the law officer who was killed was a
volunteer pastor. Another will be held at a local university. That`s
later today. And again, this investigation, far from over. It will take
several days, possibly even weeks. Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Leanne Gregg in Colorado Springs. With
me at the table this morning here in New York, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries,
founding member of the New Congressional Criminal Justice and Public Safety
Caucus. Dr. Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center for Medicine, Health
and Society at Vanderbilt University whose research includes race, gun
violence and mental health. Irin Carmon who is MSNBC national reporter.
And David S. Cohen, law professor at Drexel University and co-author of
“Living in the Crosshairs, the Untold Stories of Anti-abortion Terrorism.”
And so, David, obviously, I want to start with you. In part because, you
know, we`re still talking about what the motives are. But almost
regardless of what those motives are, this act of violence occurring in the
space that is Planned Parenthood becomes part of a long history. Tell us a
little bit about that history.
DAVID S. COHEN, LAW PROFESSOR, DREXEL UNIVERSITY: Since 1993, there have
been eight or nine, depending how you count, abortion providers who have
been murdered in this country. There have been arsons. There have been
clinic bombings. There have been attacks offsite. Before this, the most
recent abortion provider who was murdered was Dr. George Tiller in his
church on a Sunday morning. So, this fits a pattern. Also, recently there
has been an escalation of attacks on Planned Parenthood following the
deceptively manipulated videos released this summer. There have been at
least four arsons. Several vandalisms. Increased death threats. So, this
really fits into a pattern of anti-abortion terrorism that`s been going on
for decades. And this is just the newest incident about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, your point about these videos, and not only about the
doctored videos but then of course, Congressman, the congressional hearings
that came out of it. I want to, you know, I hate to play YouTube, but I
want to actually listen to a little bit of what you had to say there in
your role as a member of Congress about what those hearings were about.
Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D) NEW YORK: This is not a legitimate congressional
exercise. This is not a fact-finding hearing. This is theater. This is a
charade. This is stage craft. This is nothing more than a political hit
job on a women`s right to choose. Which, by the way, is constitutionally
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, why was it important for you to make that point in that
JEFFRIES: Well, I think it was important to make it clear that those
hearings were operating in a fact-free zone and that the Republican intent
was not to uncover any wrongdoing because they were – they should be
cleared if there was no wrongdoing. Those are doctored videos that were
clearly put together to articulate a political point and nothing more than
that. The Republicans legitimized it by holding this hearing and now have
gone even further, they`ve doubled down, by commencing a special committee
that presumably is going to spend millions of dollars of taxpayer resources
chasing down a rabbit hole and finding nothing.
HARRIS-PERRY: And see, this feels like it matters to me, right? It is
not. It is certainly not that the congressional hearings are responsible
for violence, right? I mean, no one wants to make that claim. What I
don`t want to make a claim, though, to - Irin, is that the way that we
frame who our opponents are. Whether or not we see them as interlocutors
in a reasonable democratic discourse where we have disagreements versus
defining people as murderer, as defining people as baby part sellers.
Like, that these ideas actually end up having purchase in what we think is
happening in our - either opposition or support for women`s choice.
IRIN CARMON, MSNBC NATIONAL REPORTER: You know, you don`t have to look as
far as Washington to look at the rhetoric around this video. In fact, the
vice president and medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky
Mountain, which is part of the clinic that was targeted, which, you know,
the medical director of the clinic, that was the site of the shooting, was
one of the doctors who was secretly recorded by this anti-abortion group,
the Center for Medical Progress, Dr. Zeveda Ginde. So, Colorado Springs
has been nicknamed the evangelical Vatican. This is a place with many mega
churches. It`s the headquarters of Focus on the Family. And it`s a place
whose elected representatives have been among those leading the charge,
again, in their own words, leading the charge against Planned Parenthood.
So, even without knowing anything concrete about this man`s motives, we
know what life has been like for the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.
And we know that it`s gotten markedly more difficult, more polarized.
They`ve been stigmatized as, quote, “trafficking in baby parts,” in
particular since last summer.
HARRIS-PERRY: Whatever the motives, Jonathan, once again, I had a friend
say to me the other day, I hate when I see Jonathan Metzl on your show
because I know it`s bad news. I know that there has been a shooting.
There`s been another act of gun violence. And indeed, here you sit. And
we are once again talking about this act of gun violence. As the president
said, we can`t allow it to be normal. But it feels mighty normal at this
DR. JONATHAN METZL, CTR. FOR MEDICINE, HEALTH AND SOCIETY, VANDERBILT
UNIVERSITY: Well, I would love to come on for a happy topic like the
circus comes to town.
METZL: Something like that. But I mean, you know, again, a terrible
tragedy happened yesterday. People were trying to relax. To enjoy their
holiday. Police were just trying to usher people to safety. People were
bringing their mothers, their sisters, their wives, there, you know,
relatives to Planned Parenthood for well women exams or breast cancer
screenings or reproductive issues. It was just a normal day. Where people
should be able to relax. And instead, the news again got dominated by an
increasingly familiar form of white terrorism. In which people are
literally terrorized beyond the realm of this. And I know what`s going to
happen now, which is that we`re going to have a story about the mental
health of the person. It`s going to locate it on a particular issue. And
I have to say, that even though I know there are many complicated issues
with this person`s biography that are important to find out, that we really
do need to see this as a bigger contextual problem. That this is an
intersection of the war on women and women`s rights that`s been
increasingly an issue. The issue of guns, as president Obama mentioned,
which is particularly assailant in Colorado, a very complicated gun story,
and I think a political climate that urges people to take issues into their
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with us, because up next, how the story out of
Colorado Springs plays into our renewed focus on the threat of terrorism.
HARRIS-PERRY: Police have not yet determined what motivated the gunman who
held a Colorado Planned Parenthood under siege yesterday, but the
possibility of the clinic being targeted for violence was already enough of
a concern that according to “The New York Times,” the building had a
security room equipped with a supply of bulletproof vests. Joining me now
from Philadelphia, Malcolm Nance, counterterrorism and terrorism
intelligence consultant to the U.S. government and executive director of
the Terror Asymmetrics Project. So, Malcolm, should we be thinking of this
moment as terrorism?
MALCOLM NANCE, EXEC. DIRECTOR, TERROR ASYMMETRICS PROJECT: Absolutely.
You know, we have this unfortunate habit in the United States of dividing
terrorism into different categories. External, foreign terrorism, which
manifests itself overseas or in the United States, or domestic terrorism.
And then when we use the word domestic, we discount its actual impact as
political terrorism, which is, of course, political violence meant to
impact an audience outside of the immediate victims. And what we`ve seen
in Colorado Springs clearly meets the definition of terrorism.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting that you say that. You know, I was
traveling, as so many other people were on this holiday weekend, and I
think started in the holiday weekend with the fear kind of coming out of
the wake of Paris, anxiety about, you know, travel on a flight, and while
I`m sitting in the airport, this story breaks. And I`m watching it and
thinking, right, this is the nature of fear. Is that we actually don`t
know where it`s coming from. And yet, this doesn`t seem surprising in that
there is - and there`s a long enough history that this Planned Parenthood
had, in fact, the safe room.
NANCE: Of course. I mean, they needed a safe room. Because they`ve been
under threat for so long. But there has been, certainly, in the last five
to six months clearly a documentable and quantifiable campaign against
Planned Parenthood using terrorism. As a matter of fact, there have been
four incidents of arson in the terrorism, arson is the single most
fundamental form of terrorism that there is. It`s the simplest terrorist
tactic. And now this incident that we have, if you compare that to what we
saw in Paris, this was a hostage barricade where the person confronted law
enforcement and held people inside. Until brought out. The only
difference was it wasn`t a suicide hostage barricade as we saw over in
France. And so, people make these small differentiations, but they don`t
really realize that here in the United States we need to see this equal as
foreign terrorism. Because the only difference is, is the question of
their exact target.
HARRIS-PERRY: Malcolm, hold for me a second. I want to come to you on
this, because, obviously, you wrote about this. We were just talking in
the break about the fact that Colorado has a bubble bill that allows a
little bit of a safe zone, a buffer zone, for patients who are going into
clinics, but you say that`s actually because of the amount of danger that
existed in Colorado?
COHEN: Right, the only way the Supreme Court would uphold the bubble, or a
buffer zone, which is a zone around a clinic that says no protesters, is if
there`s a history of problems and violence in the past in that location.
And in 2000, the Supreme Court upheld a buffer zone and a bubble zone
around Colorado clinics because of that specific history in Colorado. As
well as the history around the country. The Supreme Court didn`t uphold
the buffer zone around in Massachusetts last summer, but Colorado has
enough of a history that it upheld the one there.
HARRIS-PERRY: Malcolm, I want to come back to you for a second, because
your work is around counterterrorism. So if we`re going to call this
terrorism, how do we counter it? We talk about a war on terror. It
doesn`t look anything like how we might imagine what we`d need to do in
NANCE: Well, we`re going to have to counter. And we do. Law enforcement
does counter political extremism here in the United States in the exact
same way that they do political extremists who are infiltrated into the
United States, who may come from a religious motivation, you know, as we
saw overseas in Europe. But the same methodologies have to be used. You
can`t differentiate between an Islamic terrorist and a Christian terrorist.
Or a politically motivated terrorist who`s anti-abortion or someone who may
have differing views. So, the intelligence collection processes are the
same. There`s actually some fluidity here in the United States. Using
local intelligence against them. But you still have to infiltrate these
groups. You still have to collect intelligence as you see fit. And they
are organized. They are very well organized in the anti-abortion movement.
Ideologically, they`re almost the same. And that`s where we see these
spurts of violence.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Malcolm Nance in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
When we come back, I`m getting the rest of the table back in. I`m going to
also talk about an eye witness accounts of Friday`s attack. They are
starting to come in, and you`re going to hear from a man who came face-to-
face with the gunman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OZY LICANO, EYEWITNESS TO SHOOTING: And then when he aimed right at me, I
could see his face. He wasn`t a young man, he was a white male, he is
wearing tan or gray and his gun seemed small. It didn`t look like and it
didn`t sound like an automatic weapon. Because he could have finished me
off there. Like two seconds between each shot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Ozy Licano, an eyewitness to Friday`s attack at the
Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood. In an interview done by the NBC
affiliate KOAA. Jonathan, what did you hear there?
METZL: Well, I mean, there`s a level of kind of familiarity to this
particular routine. Though, I think, it`s worrisome and I think that one
thing to compare this to what happened in Paris is there`s a level of
shock. People are saying, oh, my gosh, we thought of the world as a more
innocent place than it is. And now we see the world very differently. And
I think what makes me sad about the American news reporting is there`s a
kind of almost learned helplessness that happens here. Where it`s like,
oh, yeah this thing has happened again. And so the news scripts are the
same. The news cycles are the same. There`s a rush to the biography,
there`s a rush to this. And so, even though individuals like that, that
person, are traumatized in ways that will affect them for the rest of their
lives, there`s almost a familiarity to this that I think President Obama is
exactly right, we need to combat because this really can become the new
normal, but that`s really what`s been happening.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I mean Congressman Jeffries, I wonder if in fact there`s
even more frustration when you`re an actual lawmaker. That it`s one thing
to kind of stand outside and say as a voter I`d like to have to vote on
this issue, I`d like to be able to put this on the agenda. But as a
lawmaker to continuously see this happening. It`s part of the frustration
I feel like I hear in the president.
JEFFRIES: Well, there`s a tremendous amount of frustration, but we have to
push forward. And it`s going to be important to call terrorism terrorism.
Because what has happened, is that we have brought our public policy
response by failing to identify these acts of violence for what they really
are. And this was an act of domestic terrorism. Now, we as members of
Congress, take an oath to protect the United States against all enemies,
foreign and domestic. And what we`re seeing is that these acts of
terrorism are being committed by American citizens in this particular
instance at a Planned Parenthood site, certain with a political agenda,
fueled by the extremist rhetoric that we`ve seen from some on the hill and
from people all across the country as it relates to a woman`s right to
choose. And that`s problematic. And one of the things that it warps is
our ability to deal with the fact, why could this individual have an AK-47-
type weapon of mass destruction? There`s no justification for that. He
can`t hunt deer with that. It`s unnecessary. He`s hunting human beings.
And so, I think if we more directly get at the heart of the problem, what`s
fueling these things, hopefully as public policymakers, we can come up with
an actual response.
HARRIS-PERRY: Irin, “The Daily Beast” reported that this shooting is at
least the fifth high-profile crime on a Planned Parenthood clinic since the
release for the Center for Medical Progress`s undercover sting videos this
July. You have been reporting on questions of choice, of safety, of sort
of the way that this terrorism impacts how people make medical choices.
Are you at all believing we`re about to turn a corner, that this could
shift, or does this feel like we`re on a pathway towards more of this?
CARMON: Well, the kind of polarization that you talked about is so evident
here. Even in people`s immediate reactions. You know, the colleague, the
co-pastor of the tragically murdered officer, referred to, quote, “the
abortion industry.” He said that the officer wouldn`t have supported the
abortion industry but he was there to save lives. Now, it`s admirable that
he was doing his job, of course, and it`s tragic that he was killed. But
let`s stop and think about the fact that a medical clinic that is
performing abortions that are constitutionally protected, that nearly 1 in
3 women will have in their lifetimes, is being referred to in this tone,
“abortion industry.” And I think the rhetoric has become very
inflammatory. People are talking about, quote, trafficking in baby parts.
Including representatives from this very town, Colorado Springs. So I
think, again, with the Supreme Court about to step in on some of the
restrictions on clinics, you are seeing an escalation in rhetoric. You are
seeing a deep polarization around a medical procedure that remains
HARRIS-PERRY: I just - I want to go all the way back. You said at one
point how important it was that this officer was doing his job. And I just
keep thinking of how many times I`ve heard Ferguson effect. And I`ve heard
it because of protests, officers are afraid to do their job because of –
because of a YouTube effect. And I`m thinking, and yet this officer was
killed in the line of duty in this moment.
METZL: Well, I mean, I think that one of the other lessons about what
happened here is that open carry laws, even though many police, sheriff
departments in Colorado support them, make it much harder for law
enforcement to do their jobs.
METZL: And so, we`ve had a shooting in Colorado Springs around Halloween
where someone called 911 and said there`s someone with a long gun walking
around and 911 almost hung up on them because they said, oh, everybody …
HARRIS-PERRY: We have …
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right, we`ve got open carry, so you can`t do anything
about it. OK, thank you to Irin Carmon. The rest of the panel will be
back later in the program. In our next hour, I`m also going to be joined
by the former board chair of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
And up next, big demonstrations in Chicago on Black Friday. The high link
to continuing outrage over 16 shots in 13 months.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hundreds of people marched along Chicago`s high-end
Magnificent Mile shopping district on Friday, blocking the entrances to
stores on the busiest shopping day of the year. To demand Chicago`s mayor
and police chief resign over the investigation into the death of 17-year-
old Laquan McDonald who was killed by police more than a year ago. It took
prosecutors 400 days to charge Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke with
first degree murder in Laquan`s death. There is no question about how
Laquan died. It was captured on video. Less than 30 seconds after
arriving on the scene where officers were responding to reports of someone
breaking into cars, officer Van Dyke shot Laquan 16 times over about 15
seconds. For most of that time, Laquan was already lying on the ground as
Officer Van Dyke continued firing.
Prosecutors said it was only when Van Dyke paused to reload his gun that
his partner told him to stop shooting. The video also shows Laquan was
walking away from the officers as the shooting started, not as police
originally claimed lunging at them with a knife. On Tuesday, state
prosecutors announced the murder charge against Officer Van Dyke. That
same day officials finally released video of the shooting. Cook County
State`s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel both described the
video in blunt terms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANITA ALVAREZ, COOK COUNTY STATE`S ATTORNEY: To watch a 17-year-old young
man die in such a violent manner is deeply disturbing and I have absolutely
no doubt that this video will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans.
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D) CHICAGO: It`s also a violation of your conscious
and it is wrong. And it was just hideous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, it still took Alvarez`s office more than a year to
file charges. State prosecutors defended the delay, saying it simply took
that long to complete their investigation into a shooting death that was
caught on tape. Alvarez says they were still interviewing witnesses up
until just last week, and city officials have resisted releasing the video,
saying they wanted to wait until both state and federal prosecutors have
completed their investigations. City attorneys didn`t even show the video
to the board of aldermen when they voted last April to pay Laquan`s family
$5 million over his death. A remarkable settlement, considering his family
had not even filed a lawsuit against the city. Interesting timing too, in
that it came just days after Mayor Emanuel won his re-election bid. It
took a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and subsequent court order to get
the video released. And the video`s released is the only reason we saw the
timeline for officer Van Dyke`s charge of first degree murder pushed up to
The prosecutor said that while she had decided to bring the charges weeks
ago, she would have waited even longer before announcing them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALVAREZ: While we would have preferred for the investigation to have run
its full course, and enable our federal partners to complete their
evaluation in its entirety, I felt compelled in the interest of public
safety, to announce these state charges today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s important to note that in the interest of public
safety, Alvarez and other officials fear that to release the video
prematurely before pressing charges would lead to violence in the streets.
We should also note that Laquan McDonald`s family did not want the video
released, according to their attorney, fearing it could lead to riots.
Even with the charges, Chicago`s leaders were concerned that violence would
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL: I understand that the people will be upset and will want to
protest when they see this video. It is fine to be passionate. But it is
essential that it remain peaceful.
SUPERINTENDENT GARRY MCCARTHY, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: People have a
right to be angry. People have a right to protest. People have a right to
free speech. But they do not have a right to commit criminal acts.
ALVAREZ: Violent actions will not honor the life of Laquan and it will do
nothing to hold that this defendant accountable for his actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Protests in Chicago this week were mostly peaceful.
Peaceful, but angry. Because even with an exceedingly rare charge of first
degree murder for an officer who killed while on duty, questions remain
about the timing. And if police are subject to a different justice system
than other people. It took 13 months to charge Officer Van Dyke with
murder. Even though the entire shooting was captured on video. A video
officials admit is hideous and, quote, deeply disturbing. 13 months the
officer was collecting a paycheck from the city and working desk duty. It
would have taken even longer had the city not been ordered by a judge to
release that video.
Still with me, is Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, founding member of the new
Congressional Criminal Justice and Public Safety Caucus, Dr. Jonathan
Metzl, Director of the Center for Medicine, Health and Society at
Vanderbilt University. And joining us now is also Omar Wasow, who is
assistant professor at Princeton University, where he researches race and
politics. But first, I want to go live to Chicago to Charlene Carruthers,
a community organizer and national director of the black youth project BYP
100. Charlene, you have been involved, obviously, in the protests since
the release of the video. Talk to me about what those protests hope to
achieve. What are people demanding?
CHARLENE CARRUTHERS, NATIONAL DIRECTOR BYP 100: So right now we live in a
city where the Chicago police department takes up 40 percent of the city`s
budget. And that amounts to about $4 million a day. And so while we
continue to invest in more policing and hyper surveillance and in officer`s
salaries and pensions like Officer Van Dyke who killed Laquan McDonald,
we`re closing public schools. We don`t have quality health care,
comprehensive health care in our communities. And so what we see is
manifestations of systems that – the same system that impacted the killing
of Tyshawn Lee is the same system that impacted the killing of Laquan
McDonald. And so, what we want, what we absolutely want is divestment from
policing in Chicago and investment in the futures of black people and
things that actually help materially and they`re not some pie in the sky
idea. But people need to eat, people need a safe place to leave, and
people want to actually work and live with dignity.
HARRIS-PERRY: Charlene, you talk about living and working. And I want to
also include here protesting with dignity. The discourse about violence,
the conversation that there would be violence in the streets and that
basically people needed to be protected from the information that this
video contained. When it does appear at the moment like the violence,
right, that was occurring, was in part violence not by protesters, but in
this case violence that was enacted by an officer.
CARRUTHERS: Absolutely. So, I saw it - firsthand experienced it firsthand
the night that the video was released. BYP 100, along with Fair - leaders,
Leading by the Youth, Assata`s Daughters, We Charge Genocide, we were on
the streets immediately after the video was released. And, you know, we
had what folks would consider a peaceful march. And it was peaceful until
the police showed up and they started throwing us on the ground, pulling
hair. My leg was injured, personally. They arrested three of us. And we
were marching down the street. And so, that`s just a microcosm of the
violence that Laquan McDonald experienced when he was shot 16 time into his
body. And you just take a moment to count from one to 16. That takes a
lot of time, until that officer even had a moment to reflect, I believe,
could have had a moment to think about what he did when he was taking
Laquan McDonald`s life. But it`s also not an isolated incident. Rekia
Boyd shot in the back of the head. Ronnie - I have the list goes on and on
and on. The black folks who lost their lives at the hands of police.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Omar, it feels to me like part of the – part of the
seething anger, part of the like the protests in the context of the
democracy are not just like this individual officer did this individual
thing on this day, but then there is 13 months of elected officials paid
for with tax dollars put into office by citizens in the city who seem to be
engaging in a willful decision to keep accountability from occurring.
OMAR WASOW, ASSISTANT PROF., PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Yeah, I know, the
question of accountability is profound. This officer had 20 complaints
against him there in the – about a year and a half ago, there was a
settlement over $400,000 against him for excessive force. And so, what
you`ve got is a pattern of some officers being particularly abusive. Those
NPR did an analysis of the New York City police department. 40 percent
have zero complaints. 20 percent have one complaint. But there are small,
1,000 officers have over ten complaints. These particular officers are
engaging in patterns of abuse that if there were accountability, we would
see the police force policing themselves.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, if the police will not police themselves, if the
mayor in this case, if the aldermen are voting for a $5 million settlement
when they haven`t seen the video, what choice do citizens have?
JEFFRIES: Well, we certainly need prosecutorial accountability as well.
Both as it relates to the failure of this prosecutor during a 13-month
period to bring forth an indictment when the facts seem to suggest that
it`s clear this officer committed murder. It was on videotape. There was
no justification for it. But another bigger problem is the fact that these
incidents of police violence continue to occur because far too often the
officers on the force rally around the one who committed the act of
violence and, in this particular instance, may have engaged in a cover-up
that itself should be prosecuted.
Initially, the police union in Chicago said that Laquan McDonald lunged at
this officer with a knife. That was the story that was put into the public
record by members of the Chicago police department. Of course, the video
tells a very different story. For 86 minutes, there was a video that was
captured by a nearby Burger King that appears to have been deleted by four
or five officers who gathered in that Burger King immediately after the
shooting. Where are the indictments against these officers for engaging in
a cover-up? That is the type of accountability that we ultimately need to
HARRIS-PERRY: But why - So for me, I guess the question is but why? So I
think about being a professor, for example. I mean all you have is sort of
your credibility and the context of, you know, we`re going to write
articles and we have to be believed that we`re citing and we`re telling the
truth about our data. And so, if there is a member of the faculty who is
committing intellectual dishonesty, typically you will see other folks
rally and say no, not here, you won`t, because it actually challenges our
capacity to do our work. So, I literally wonder in this context why
officers don`t say, you know what, if we are afraid, if we feel we are
under attack, then the single best thing we can do is to purge officers who
are behaving in these ways.
JEFFRIES: Well, decade after decade, the police culture has been just the
very opposite. And that`s been to ignore or to rally around. And that`s
something that systematically we are going to need to break this blue wall
of silence if we`re ever going to dramatically change and end the culture
of police violence. And that`s what I would encourage the people out in
Chicago and all of us to continue to press for, that type of prosecutorial
accountability. And if this county prosecutor, this county attorney can`t
deliver it, then perhaps they should be voted out of office next April.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with us, because so much of the focus on the story of
Laquan is and how long it took to bring charges in that case. Don`t forget
that for the family of Tamir Rice, the wait continues. And that`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: The wait for justice continues for the family of Tamir Rice
who was 12 years old when he was shot by Cleveland police on November 22,
2014. Tamir died one day later. No charges have yet been brought against
the officer who shot Tamir while responding to report of a man brandishing
a gun in the Cleveland park. Tamir was 12. He was playing with a toy gun.
To mark the one-year anniversary of his death, activists along with members
of Tamir`s family on Monday demanded that the prosecutor in the case,
Timothy McGinty step aside and allow a special prosecutor to take over.
They delivered a petition with more than 200,000 signatures to McGinty`s
office. They`ve accused the prosecutor of purposely delaying the process
and tainting the investigation by releasing expert reports that claim the
shooting was justified. McGinty has denied the allegations. He said it
will be up to a grand jury to decide if the officer involved in Tamir Raice
shooting will be charged. A grand jury is now reviewing the case.
Jonathan, I want to come to you on this because one of the kind of regular
narratives that have emerged over the course of the past year, have really
been about white officers and black victims. But race as critical as it is
to this, also feels somewhat incidental to a broader question of policing
and police relationship to community.
METZL: That`s absolutely right. And so, I think you know this
conversation is spot on. What the video shows absolutely is a crime, and
possibly a crime that went, you know, quite conceivably too long to
prosecute. And in that crime, as we see, a white police officer shooting
an African-American man who is clearly not coming towards the officers.
And so, in that sense, it`s understandable that we narrate this through the
kind of categories of race that we have. This is somebody who may have had
a racist impulse at the moment. May well have. But I think the student is
- that we spoke to earlier was spot on, in that this shooting is also a
symptom of a much bigger problem that police violence or just relationships
with the police are part of. Which is it`s not delinked to questions of
community. About how do people get their health care? How do people get
their food? How do people feel that their lives matter in society?
And so, I think that if we just fix policing and we don`t fix income
inequality and we don`t fix health care and we don`t fix a number of other
issues that, in a way, this is, you know, policing is a symptom of an
issue. It`s a symptom of an issue. And in that regard, I think that we do
it a disservice if we just focus on the race of the officer or even of the
victim because this is an issue about class as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Charlene, I want to come back to you on this issue. Because
I just – I know what – the kind of – there will undoubtedly be a
discourse about the Chicago case. Maybe even linked potentially to Tamir
Rice at 12 years old being killed. That the other Chicago story out of
Chicago this week is about a boy dragged basically, lured off of a
playground and killed by gang members. So, you know that one of the
conversation lines will be, well, isn`t that also a form of violence that
protesters ought to be engaged in trying to end. How do you and other
protesters respond to that?
CARRUTHERS: It is absolutely a form of violence that we not only have to
protest against, but we have to organize to make sure we get to the root
causes of that issue. And so, the violence that Tyshawn Lee experienced
and the violence that other black children and black people have
experienced in Chicago and all over this country is not isolated. It`s not
isolated at all. It`s connected to the same systems that are corrosive.
Via capitalism, patriarchy, just poverty, people being poor, people not
having access to quality education and people not believing that their life
has as much value, because things are taken away from them. And so, we
have to fight for these things. It looks different. I think the fight
Protesting against Mayor Rahm Emanuel looks different than going towards or
fighting crime within our communities. Because I am not about to protest a
person who I know who has killed someone in the same way that I will
protest Mayor Rahm Emanuel who represents a system, an institution of
power, and he`s accountable to a wide range of people. Black folks, what
we need, of course, is much more resort of justice practices in our
communities. But we also need those basic goods, those basic needs,
resources that we don`t have. And so, we can`t tackle one without tackling
the other. My protests of Tyshawn Lee`s death and his killing looks
different, but it still exists and it`s still valid. It may not - it
doesn`t get the cameras. You have mothers in Inglewood who fight every
single day. Mothers in Inglewood who fight every single day.
CARRUTHERS: You don`t see them on TV.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I was thinking about the mothers and fathers who were
on a hunger strike there when the schools were being closed because they
were talking about the danger of the children having to cross these lines.
Stick with us. Don`t go away. Because up next, on the shooting of Laquan
McDonald, President Obama weighed in.
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama shares his thoughts on the video of the
shooting of Laquan McDonald in a Facebook post on Wednesday. He wrote,
“Like many Americans, I was deeply disturbed by the footage of the fatal
shooting of 17-year old Laquan McDonald. This Thanksgiving, I ask
everybody to keep those who suffered tragic loss in our thoughts and
prayers. And to be thankful for the overwhelming majority of men and women
in uniform who protect our communities with honor. And I`m personally
grateful to the people of my hometown for keeping the protests peaceful.”
So, here`s the president weighing in. In part because it`s Chicago. In
part because Rahm Emanuel was his chief of staff early on. But it also
feels to me like there is a question about democratic, I don`t mean with a
big “D”. Little “d,” democratic accountability here, and whether or not
people can be certain that they are policed in a way that is fair.
WASOW: Yeah, and I think I saw a lecture recently where somebody said, you
know, we`ve moved from the age of Obama to the age of Ferguson. And in
some ways, Obama has become quite marginal. And he`s not somebody who`s an
important figure in these movements, in these discussions. He has been a
part of a larger discussion about criminal justice reform, but I think
we`ve in some ways moved past him as a kind of leader on issues in the
black communities it relates to criminal justice. And so, in some ways,
the puzzle is, like, what fills this void. All of this energy, there is
all of this attention being focused on the issue of criminal justice in
America and yet we haven`t quite coalesced around a narrow set of issues
where we can sort of say, this is what we`re pushing for. And so, there is
I think my one concern about saying we need to attack this multi-prong set
of the issues, which are all real. Poverty is real. Health care access is
real. But you`ve got to focus people`s energy. There`s pretty good
evidence that movements that focus on one issue are more successful than
issues that focus on a lot of issues. And so, you know, when we had
something like Bloody Sunday with Selma, like Voting Rights Act happened
days, you know, in the days, in the wake of that.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, you know, to bring up the VRA, I think, is
important, like it`s part of why I`m not sure that I agree that we`re in a
post-President Obama moment, that, but there is still extraordinary - that,
in fact, over the course of whatever we have left, 13, 14 months here, that
having that president from this place in that space is still like this
possibility of bringing to fruition some of what we`ve seen.
JEFFRIES: And we are the in midst of a bipartisan moment as it relates to
criminal justice reform and dealing with mass incarceration in America
which disproportionately impacts the African-American community. And if we
can get something done during the next 13 months that will be an important
part of President Obama`s legacy. Most significantly, it will change the
course and direction for millions of African-American black men as well as
their families who are impacted by the mass incarceration phenomenon. And
we`ve got legislation that`s moving both out of the House Judiciary
Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee on their way to the House and the
Senate floors with bipartisan support to deal with reforming the failed war
on drugs, to rolling back mandatory minimums, to making retroactive the
change that was made as it relates to the disparity between crack cocaine
and powder cocaine. These are incredibly important things that could
happen over the next several months with President Obama`s leadership and
partnership with Democrats and conservatives and Republicans.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jonathan, in the nearly four years I`ve been hosting this
show now, the number of videos I have had to watch and that we`ve all as a
country had to watch relative to the death of young people of color is
painful. I mean like, I don`t really have any other word, other than to
say this, painful and harmful. You wrote a piece about psychiatry after
Ferguson where you talk about healing can`t be just individual, it has to
be structural. Tell me what you mean there.
METZL: Well, these aren`t all - many, I agree, these are - these are
stories that have many avenues, but they are, in part, structural stories.
And so, when we individuate the stories, I mean - are worried about the
police, which is undoubtedly there are police, and we saw yesterday a
police officer gave his life trying to defend civilians. There are many
police in Chicago, in Nashville where I live that put their lives on the
line every single day for the safety of their communities. And yet, there
are these bigger structural stories that surround the narratives. That we
don`t tell, you know, as we narrate the stories very often. So, Chicago`s
a perfect example. I mean there`s a story about drugs. And the cutting
away of drug treatment facilities. There`s the story about the easy access
of firearms. There`s all these stories that make it much harder for police
to do their jobs. They`re putting their lives on the line in a very
different way than they used to because we`ve cut away different kinds of
services and made it easier for people to get guns. And so …
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we`ve got 15 seconds. Charlene, I want to give you the
last word in the last 15 seconds.
CARRUTHERS: So, the picture you just painted of policing in America I
think how that actually shows up in the lives of black people, it doesn`t
match up. For every cop who – as you referred to, sacrifices their lives
for the life of another, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of young
black people whose lives are cut short because they don`t have access to
quality education and they`re told that they don`t actually matter. I
think we have to center the most marginalized in this story. And the
police, they`re going to be all right. My people aren`t all right. And
so, we take it very, very personally when our lives are taken. And we talk
about the goodness of cops. Let`s talk about how cops even got started in
this country. And if the root of how you got started is evil and it`s
negative and it`s visceral, than the fruit that you bear is going to be
equally as violent and it`s going to overshadow the so-called good acts.
Because mothers sacrifice their lives every day, but they`re also
victimized and criminalized every single day. And so I just had to put
that out there. It`s a very personal moment right now, it`s even difficult
to talk about this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to the Black Youth Project, BYP 100, Charlene
Carruthers in Chicago. And here in New York, thank you to Congressman
Hakeem Jeffries, to Dr. Jonathan Metzl and to Princeton professor Omar
Wasow. In our next hour, the story of two schools separated by only nine
blocks, but operating as though they were worlds apart. And I`m going to
be joined by Alexis McGill Johnson. She`s the former board chair of the
Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She`s with me at the top of the
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
And we are learning more this morning about the suspect taken into custody
following Friday`s deadly attack inside a Colorado Springs Planned
Parenthood. He`s 57-year-old Robert L. Dear. Police believe he opened
fire with an AK-47-style weapon near the Planned Parenthood facility
yesterday, just after 11:30 a.m. Mountain Time.
Police exchange gunfire with the alleged shooter and the standoff stretched
for hours before dear turned himself in.
Kentanya Craion was inside the clinic when the shooting began and she spoke
with NBC`s “Today” show earlier this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENTANYA CRAION, INSIDE CLINIC DURING ATTACK: I noticed people in the
front were going down, saying everyone get down, and I heard gunshots. I
saw the gunman. From there, had ran down the hall at the Planned
Parenthood in the back, you know, back of the building and I tried to open
different room doors. Some of them were locked.
I was able to get inside one room where there was two other patients that I
was able to alert that there was a gunman because they were unaware of it
actually being a gunman on site.
From there, we grabbed the table, we placed it against the door. We sat
there frantic for at least up to five hours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: One police officer and two civilians were killed in the
attack. Five police officers and four civilians were injured.
Joining me now from Colorado Springs, Colorado, is NBC News correspondent
Leanne, what are police doing now? What is happening with the
GREGG: Well, Melissa, this is a very large investigation. It`s going to
take several days to complete. They want to know what caused the gunman to
go inside plan the parenthood and start firing, whether this was a targeted
location or a random selection, that`s part of the investigation.
This went on for five hours, the standoff. As you said before it was over
and he surrendered, three people killed and nine injured. Some good news
to report on those who were hospitalized, they all are in good condition
Among the dead, though, however, 44-year-old veteran police Officer Garrett
Swasey. He was a married father of two young children, also two civilians
were killed. Their identities won`t be revealed until their autopsies are
performed. That could happen later today, possibly tomorrow.
President Obama today issued a statement regarding the shootings. He said,
in part, “We can`t let this become the new normal.” He goes on to say, we
have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on the
streets to people who have no business wielding them.”
The items the gunman left at the scene have all been secured according to
officials and processed, and are no longer a threat. There was some
concern that he left some explosive devices in the facility and also in his
Earlier this morning, the bodies of those who were killed were removed from
the crime scene. And during that time, police officers lined the streets
and saluted as the vehicles went by.
Today, there will be two separate vigils held in honor of the victims. One
at a local church and another at a nearby university – Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Leanne Gregg in Colorado Springs.
Joining me now is Alexis McGill Johnson, the former chair of Planned
Parenthood Federation of America and a current board member.
And back with me is David S. Cohen, law professor at Drexel University, and
co-author of “Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold stories of Anti-Abortion
2015 has been quite a year for Planned Parenthood.
ALEXIS MCGILL JOHNSON, FORMER CHAIR, PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF
AMERICA: Right there.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, first the doctored videos, then the congressional
hearings, TRAP laws being instituted across the country. And now, the
shooting. I`m wondering if the organization is feeling like there is a
JOHNSON: Oh, absolutely. We`re about to celebrate our 100th year next
year. And the work is planning for that, the next of the second century,
in large part because we are firmly committed. We have our boots on the
ground and our staff, our amazing staff, that took care of so many patients
and providers inside of that building yesterday in Colorado. You know,
they`re there to provide access for women and particularly for women, for
poor women, for many women of color.
And so, we`re open for business today, you know, because we – because
that`s the work we do. But, yes, it has been a very, very difficult year.
It`s been a, you know, difficult century trying to fight for women`s
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is kind of a small point that it`s been a difficult
century. I mean, you know, as tough as 2015 had been, you guys had a sort
of big pop culture moment. Just over a week ago, when Shonda Rhimes
scandal really took on Planned Parenthood`s discourse as a central kind of
part of its show, and then you had just filed suit in Texas around
So, talk to me about the ways that the Planned Parenthood plans to push
JOHNSON: I think that`s what we`re doing in Texas. We`re filing a suit
against a state which continued to try to defund women`s health, right,
which continues to try to limit access for services we are currently
provided, you know, we`re just not going to reimburse you for them, we`re
not going to offer Medicaid reimbursement for you. You know, I think what
I`m seeing is that culture matters, right, how we shift and normalize these
conversations really matter.
And Shonda Rhimes no accident, right? She is a board member of Planned
Parenthood Los Angeles and she`s taken on these issues over and over again
throughout her work. The idea we can push back, we can be proactive is
really energizing, it`s inspiring to lead as far as our supporters and our
patients. And I think that work is really kind of going to be at the
forefront of what we`re doing to push back.
HARRIS-PERRY: David, I want to let you weigh in. Before this shooting, we
booked you to talk because we wanted to talk about the scandal episode and
sort of what it meant and I know that you actually lectured about it in
your class. And then, of course, it`s the Colorado thing shifts the
discourse for us.
COHEN: Yes, I mean, it was amazing that a prime-time show showed a woman
getting abortion in a very uncomplicated way. She didn`t think about it
for days and really worry about it. She needed an abortion. She got it.
The next day, she was shown without regret.
And that was really wonderful. To reduce abortion stigma is a large part
of what needs to be done to get us to the point where we don`t have
But yesterday, we were reminded the context that abortion clinic workers go
to every day. I mean, I think of the Planned Parenthood and independent
abortion clinic staff who are going to work today. They knew before
yesterday that they were in a risky field. But today, it just – my heart
goes out to them going to work after what happened yesterday.
HARRIS-PERRY: I kept thinking about – about that in the context of
listening to Kentanya talk about her experience there and barricading the
door. Honestly, I`ve been sort of half paying attention while we were
prepping. I just presumed she was with a provider, she was someone who
worked there, because so few people would say, I was in the Planned
Parenthood. Even if they were there for a mammogram or prescription
There is such stigma that, in fact, even being willing to say I have
crossed the threshold. That seems to be part of this problem.
JOHNSON: Absolutely. I think reducing stigma, all sorts of things,
including abortion, including just our own sexuality, the kind of shaming
that happens. I think the continuum that we`re seeing around this extreme
rhetoric that has kind of put Planned Parenthood in the crosshairs is not
just connected to these extreme acts of terrorism. They`re the daily
attacks that happen through the state legislatures.
Like 50 percent of women in America live in states that are anti-women`s
health. The state legislatures are going through drastic measures through
the TRAP laws, you know, through the denial of Medicaid funding in order to
deny us access to women`s health care. And I think it`s that rhetoric
through the policies, through just the daily micro aggressions that we
experience as women and how we just are living our lives very normally and
it will take the kind of cultural pushback to make that point.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, I wanted to bring in a doctor and an
abortion provider who has spoken out on what it`s like to perform her work
feeling that constant threat of violence.
HARRIS-PERRY: Earlier this month, we talked to a doctor who wrote a
compelling op-ed for “The Washington Post” about the threats and constant
fear she lives with because she performs abortion, legal medical procedure.
She recently found her office address and a picture of her daughter who was
then an infant posted on a Web site accusing her of being part of, quote,
“the abortion cartel”.
She wrote in her op-ed, “I fear for the safety of my child. I worry that
protesters may somebody show up in her daycare, focused on hurting her as a
way to punish me. Seeing her face on the anti-choice Web site made me
consider that maybe she would be safer living apart from me. That my
presence in her life might cause her more harm than good. While I refuse
to be intimidated from doing my job, this assault on my confidence as a
mother has been particularly distressing.”
Dr. Diane Horvath-Cosper joins me now from Baltimore.
It`s nice to have you back. Although in the circumstances maybe not such a
nice way to welcome you back.
DR. DIANE HORVATH-COSPER, OB/GYN: Sure.
HARRIS-PERRY: Are you – last time we talked, I kept saying, are you sure?
Are you feeling like you would want to change your path? I have to ask you
that same question today.
HORVATH-COSPER: You know, I think that abortion providers and my
colleagues and I and the staff we work with are drawn by a sense of
conscience to provide this care for patients. It doesn`t matter, you know,
what type of care you need. I want women to be able to access abortion in
a safe legal compassionate environment. So, no, I`m not deterred.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, clearly the point of this work of – I mean, excuse
me, of this kind of violence, clearly the point of terror in these spaces
is to deter physicians, to deter the young medical students from going into
this work and so, I guess part of what I wonder is, what does it mean to
have gone through all the work, all the student loans, undoubtedly to get
through medical school, and then be facing this? Not in a war zone, but in
your own hometown?
HORVATH-COSPER: Right. Well, I think that, you know, this is just
behavior that`s not tolerated in any other type of medical profession.
People walking into other kind of clinics don`t have to deal with phalanx
of protesters and harassment. And I think it`s unacceptable in a civil
society and I hope that this is a sign that the tide is turning and I hope
the public outrage about this domestic terror attack helps drive the
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with me, Doctor.
David, I wanted to ask you about this, because, you know, as I`ve been
reading about it, apparently part of the reason this Planned Parenthood was
in this space, right, in this kind of mini mall, there`s a UPS, there`s a
nail shop, so they`re not isolated, so there`s more privacy for their
patients who are coming in, as well as presumably they`re more protected in
this space. And yet, the idea that the Planned Parenthood still may have
been a target here.
COHEN: Right, the further abortion clinic can be away from public traffic,
the safer they are. If they`re on private space as part of a private
medical center, the more protested they are.
But that goes against what we were talking before. They shouldn`t have to
be back away from public space. They should be out there with their
Planned Parenthood or women center sign because abortion should not be
stigmatized the way it is. They should be safe being public about being
abortion providers, and being an abortion clinic. But they`re not because
of what happened yesterday.
HARRIS-PERRY: I can remember, Alexis, my mom, who was working in domestic
violence work in the 1970s and `80s. And the shelters for people coming in
sometimes for domestic violence were always shielded. It doesn`t say
shelter for help and emergency outside because you recognize that there`s
And so, you know, I look at a moment like this and I go, so do we take the
Planned Parenthood signs down? Do we cower? Do we hide behind this?
Because I – courage matters, but then I also worry about the safety of
JOHNSON: Well, and I – you know, we worry about that intensively, right,
our staff are very well-trained around security procedures. I think it`s -
- all of the law enforcement officials that I saw commenting on this
yesterday talked about how really well-trained they were that there wasn`t
a larger loss of life or folks who were injured.
But I think it`s like really the question that we should be building better
barricades for women`s health centers, you know, is not the right one,
right? We have to be figuring how the why women`s health is under attack
in such an intense way. See talks all the time about having grown up in
Texas that, you know, there are states now that have fewer rights for women
than we had just, you know, 50, 60 years ago.
And so, the idea we are reverting and creating these very horrible
environments for our providers, it`s really, really horrible thing. But I
agree with what the doctor said, that our – the mission driven of our
health care professionals is so – you feel like you`re walking into a
movement when you walk into Planned Parenthood because you know they`re
there for their patients, no matter what.
HARRIS-PERRY: Doctor Cosper, did you and your colleagues – I presume like
all the rest of us, you have e-mail lists. Like, did you all activate
yesterday? Were you talking to each other? What kinds of things were you
HORVATH-COSPER: I think we act out of concern and support for one another
and the recognition we`re here for our patients. The important thing to
remember is that no matter what happened in Colorado Springs yesterday,
hundreds of clinics across the country are open today and ready to take
care of patients with compassion and with empathy and with that mission
focus that we`ve always had.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s kind of the central claim of counterterrorism, right,
is that you stand up the next day and you don`t allow the fear to overtake.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to thank you, too, Dr. Diane Horvath-Cosper in
Baltimore. Here in New York, I want to say thank you to Alexis McGill
Johnson and to David S. Cohen.
Up next, two schools, just nine blocks between them, but they seem to be
HARRIS-PERRY: This is a tale of two schools. Two public schools here in
New York City, two schools just nine blocks apart. One is on West 61st
Street. The other is on West 70th Street. OK, that`s Manhattan`s upper
west side, home to many high-end luxury buildings and several more under
There`s even an MHP show producer living within these nine blocks. And as
a result, we`ve had a front row seat on the way these nine blocks have
become the very center of an education controversy. The issue at stake,
which children will be assigned to which school. This story is a New York-
style microcosm of an enormous and emotional issue facing families across
In our story here in New York City, one of the schools is P.S. 199. It`s a
K-to-5 public elementary school where they rate higher than the citywide
average in reading and math. In fact, students at P.S. 199 don`t just do
better than the city average, they trounce it.
P.S. 199, 87 percent of third through fifth graders score a three or a four
on the state math exams, compared to just 39 percent for the citywide
average. And 74 percent score a three or four on the state English
language exam, compared to just 30 percent citywide.
At P.S. 199, 66 percent of the students are white. Their parents have
means. The PTA budget is in the hundreds of thousands.
OK. Now let`s take a look at the school just nine blocks south. That
school is P.S. 191. It`s a pre-K to eighth grade public school that serves
many students living in a nearby public housing development. Here, just
more than one-tenths of students pass the state reading and math test.
At P.S. 191, 47 percent of the students are Latino and 33 percent are
African-American, 77 percent are eligible for free lunch, compared with
just 7 percent over at the other school, P.S. 199.
Two schools, nine blocks apart. But, there were merely 100 kindergarten
students on the waiting list at P.S. 199, making it the longest wait list
in New York City this year. At P.S. 191, there are empty seats.
Seeking to address the imbalance, this September, the New York City
Education Department unveiled a proposal to redraw the school zones. That
plans means that many zoned for the higher performing school would now be
transferred to the zone for the lower performing school. The proposition
outraged parents whose children might be affected by the change.
And the outrage intensified after P.S. 191 was labeled this year as, quote,
“persistently dangerous” for a school having a high rate of violence over a
two-year period. Remember, this is an elementary and middle school. It
serves children from pre-K to eighth grade.
In the wake of parental outrage, the proposal has been dropped. Several
other plans have been proposed, but none enjoy a consensus. The education
department is waiting until 2016 to introduce a new solution.
In the meantime, families are wondering where will the kids go to school
and whether they should stay or move or hope for the best or prepare for
For the rest, this tale of two cities elicits larger social questions.
What do we mean when we say a school is good or bad? And what does it mean
to accept such different outcomes for children who, after all are all
Joining me now the table: Kim Watkins, treasurer and zoning chair of New
York City`s community education council third district, the elected body
responsible for voting on zone lines.
Andrew Chu, the father of a 3-year-old. Andrew is part of a group of
parents working to resolve the rezoning challenge in the south end of the
upper west side.
Kajsa Reaves, PTA president at P.S. 191. That`s the school that is the
lower performing school.
And Prudence Carter, professor of education and sociology at Stanford
University, and author of “Stubborn Roots: Race, Culture and Inequality in
U.S. and South African Schools”.
Kajsa Reaves, I want to start with you. Is P.S. 191 a bad school that
parents should be worried about sending their kids to?
KAJSA REAVES, PTA PRESIDENT, P.S. 191: No, absolutely not, I don`t think
so. Otherwise, I wouldn`t be there. I would not send my child there.
HARRIS-PERRY: Why do you think therefore there`s such outrage about the
possibility that students currently zoned for 199, the higher performing
school, may, in fact, have to go instead to 191?
REAVES: I think it is because we have the designation. People are afraid
to send them there, because we have been stamped with that designation. I
also think they are worried because we have low scores, low test scores.
I think there are many factors that are counting. I mean, we have – we
are across from the housing project. I think that worries a lot people.
Yes, I think that is a big, big factor.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you have a 3-year-old.
ANDREW CHU, NEW YORK CITY PARENT: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: These are personal decisions.
HARRIS-PERRY: But they`re also structural. They`re also about a whole
city and a whole country.
HARRIS-PERRY: So talk to me about what it means to be a parent of a 3-
year-old facing these choices.
CHU: Yes, I think, you know, one thing that maybe we can, you know – I
personally can empathize with is while a lot of parents have these concerns
around test scores, you know, in the case of 191, perception of safety, I
think, you know, at least there can be some possible common ground, and
that`s, you know, parents are making these decisions because in their mind,
they`re trying to do what`s best for their child.
And I can empathize with that. I might not necessarily agree with their
rationales or methodologies or ultimately the decisions they make. I think
at least finding that common ground is something we can kind of build a
foundation, you know, from and kind of build from that.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I like this idea of common ground. But, Kim, I have to
say, you know, we put this show together in a kind of collective process
every week. We sit around, we talk.
And rarely has it gotten more just like on fire than when we started having
these conversations. People have many feelings about the question of where
their children and other people`s children will go to school. And, you
know, you`re in many ways in charge of or part of the group in charge of
making those decisions.
What constitutes a fair or just set of decisions about school zoning?
KIM WATKINS, TREASURER, COMMUNITY ED. COUNCIL, 3RD DISTRICT: Well, that`s
a good question, one that we`re struggling with, and we talk about through
our conversations in the zoning committee, and the larger council
throughout the entire process.
But the one thing that is the most stunning about this entire – this
entire story is that the upper west side has had this real estate boom, a
complete real estate boom, thousands of new units being built over the last
five years. Not a single new elementary school seat has been added since
The Department of Education is supposed to add 12 elementary school seats
for every 100 units it builds. And we have simply not seen this. So –
HARRIS-PERRY: Yet maybe the claim will be we don`t need it because nine
blocks away there`s a school with empty seats.
WATKINS: Well, you might say that, but there aren`t enough seats, even if
the school were filled. If P.S. 191 were completely at capacity, we would
still be shy several hundred seats for the overall sort of area that we`re
talking about for the southern part of the third district of New York. So
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I have high levels of skepticism, but also high levels
of empathy, right? So my social sciences self, my kind of racial justice
social sciences self on one side and my parent of young children self on
the other side, right?
We know that test scores are not necessarily about educational quality.
They tend to really be about kind of a proxy for parental – if you put
your 5-year-old at a school nine blocks away, that they`re never going to
get into Princeton, Harvard, Yale, right?
PRUDENCE CARTER, PROF. OF EDUCATION & SOCIOLOGY, STANFORD UNIVERSITY:
Right, right, absolutely. There are a couple of things here. We know test
scores are highly correlated with socioeconomic status. That`s give them.
Some with the social fact, I mean, you can actually see that from some of
the research now.
But I think the thing that we`ve done is we`ve backed ourselves in a corner
because we live in this testocracy where the narrow metric or educator of
educational excellence is that one number, that test score that comes out
HARRIS-PERRY: I love this word, testocracy.
CARTER: Yes, absolutely. So, we live in it. You know, it became very big
since the passage of No Child Left Behind. We backed ourselves in a corner
in a country because that is the one metric we use to determine what
academic excellence is for children.
And when groups are designated as not high test taking performing groups,
they become stigmatized as anti-achievement. And so, you know, I`m in the
same position. I have a kid. I want my kid to go to the best school in
But I also know as a researcher that there are a lot more, a lot more
indicators of what school engagement, school quality can mean. I think
it`s time to open our minds about what those things are.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re going to stay right on this topic. I know ya`ll at
home are having all the feelings. So, we`re going to talk about it more
when we get back.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back and talking about the tale of two schools, two
schools nine blocks apart here in the upper west side of Manhattan. But
one of the schools being defined as persistently dangerous, which for me is
particularly difficult to understand, given that it serves 4-year-olds to
WATKINS: Well, it`s a good question. We are still trying to answer that
question. The Department of Education did not help us through this
process. The community wanted to ask questions about the –
HARRIS-PERRY: Is it a city, the state or the federal?
WATKINS: Well, it`s all of them, right?
WATKINS: So, that`s why it`s so complicated, because a couple of kids are
fighting in the hallway, and one bonks his or her head against the door.
Unless the incident is taken on paper probably and enter properly with the
right specificity and inclusion of certain words on a citywide system, and
then it gets transferred to a statewide system, which is in compliance with
the federal system. And there`s always the escalation up.
So, unless the individual who is going through each of these individual
steps, and there`s several people involved, the incident can become a
violent incident very quickly. A door bonking a kid in the head becomes an
assault with a weapon.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, but we know that that is much more likely, that kind
of designation is much more likely to happen with a school with a high
minority population. We know that from school push out and other kinds of
CARTER: Disproportionality by race and ethnicity and gender at this point.
So, we know that black and brown children, specifically boys and girls
actually are much more likely than their counterparts, the white
counterparts and their Asian counterparts to be suspended or expelled for
the kinds of things we would see as kind of every day bad behavior for
kids, developmental in some ways.
But these little kids, black and brown kids get adultified very early –
very early on, from 5 years old, even earlier, pre-K. And that`s become a
major problem, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yet this is the upper west side, right. We are not talking
about the first district of, you know, some location where people are not
interested in school integration. In fact, I would presume that most upper
west siders, those whose kids are schedule for 199 actually would say they
value racial and socioeconomic diversity as part of what`s important to
CHU: Yes, I think so. I mean, I think underlying this again coming back
to this concept of common ground, is to understand that parents, we got to
this point not necessarily by intent but also not coincidence. I mean, I
think there`s something systemic underlying this that is, you know, causing
And I think part of that is, to Prudence`s comment earlier, how we define
excellence. And I think, you know, the comment on testocracy I think is
right, you know, on the button because it`s not necessarily because
parents, you know, rely on these metrics, because they, you know, they
fully believe in them per se, but it`s almost as a default. It`s for lack
of a better metric, a better kind of definition of what excellence is, and
I think until we kind of have that discussion, a lot of these kinds of
scenarios are going to play out exactly as we`re seeing.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love this so much. I keep trying to argue what we
actually need to do is redefine what constitutes a quality school or good
school. I mean, you k now, as you go on realtor.com or whatever to buy a
house or look for an apartment, it will have the rating of the school. But
what if we shifted so the rating of the school included the level of racial
diversity. Where more racial diversity – in other words, what if it
wasn`t just test scores? What are the things you value at your school?
REAVES: That I value at P.S. 191, I value the racial diversity at our
school highly. I value – I mean, we have the same curriculum obviously.
So, our school is the same as all the other schools.
What I don`t value is that we have to raise money in order to get the same
programs that the other schools have. So, for example, P.S. 199, we have
to raise money in order to get extra assistance into classrooms. We have
to raise money to get chess programs. We have to raise money to get all
these extra activities. That is what I find to be the great equality.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are going to come to that issue as soon as we come back
from the commercial break. I do want to talk about the money part of this
HARRIS-PERRY: So we`ve returned to our story about two Manhattan public
schools that are nine blocks apart. Despite the proximity, the two schools
are vastly different. At the high performing and predominantly white P.S.
199, nearly 100 children for kindergarten waited at a spot at a school
where 98 percent of students scored proficient or above in the state
science exam and where an overall test score ranked far higher than the
At the second school, P.S. 191, it serves many students who live in a
nearby public housing development and is predominantly black and Latino.
This school has too many empty seats. And the test scores are mostly lower
than the citywide average.
But the test scores are not the only discrepancy between these two schools.
The parents of teacher organization for P.S. 199 raised more than $800,000
in one year. Over the years, such hefty PTA budgets have financed a
science and technology teacher, visits from a chef and extras like
automatic toilet flushers and bed bug detection in every classroom.
Nine blocks away. P.S. 191`s parent teacher organization raised $24,000
last year. And the school recently announced that it has begun a
fundraising drive to raise $30,000 for a library.
And so, this leads me to ask, are there public schools? I mean, at the
point at which one school – so we talk about funding, but then you have an
$800,000 parent benefit accruing to one and a $24,000 parent benefit
accruing to the other. Are there really public schools?
WATKINS: That`s a good question. My family and I, we made the
unconscionable decision about getting an apartment without figuring out
where our kid was going to school later. We live in Harlem and we send our
kid down to P.S. 166. She went to kindergarten at P.S. 191. We love the
I think when seeing the amount of money that we have been asked to donate
to the new school relative to the expectation at P.S. 191 was an eye opener
for us as a family because it really is a significant amount of money,
regardless of where you are on the income spectrum. But you`re weighing it
against private school in New York City which can cost up to $60,000.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I was making this point the other day that, you know,
because folks were saying again in our heated meeting, those are rich
parents. I was like – well, I don`t know, because Manhattan is this weird
space where, like, what would make you 1 percent every other place makes
you completely in the middle of the road in a place like the Upper West
Side. These are lots of dollars but these dollars don`t go far in a place
like Manhattan so people aren`t opting into $45,000 or $60,000 private
CHU: Right, right. I think, yes, it makes the stakes that much higher I
think in New York in particular that, you know, the cost of a private
school, it`s not an easy option. And, frankly, for a lot of family also in
the city, it`s not an option at all. And, you know, whether fortunately or
not, I think that`s one of the reasons why people are attracted to 199,
because in their mind, they see the quality of, you know, quote/unquote,
“the quality” of a private school for a public school price more or less.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead.
HARRIS-PERRY: I wanted – I just want to – if there was one thing I wish
that we could do, it would be to convince parents of relative privilege
that their children will actually thrive potentially more in an environment
where all of the other children around them are not ho – there is actually
extraordinary education – like actual cognitive brain connection, social,
emotional power to going to school with people different than you.
CARTER: And research shows it. The more diversity in this, the more
innovative, the more creative it can become. We have research on that and
we use it –
HARRIS-PERRY: And mostly for the privileged kids.
CARTER: I mean, I think the thing that really, really gets me down as a
researcher, having been in scores and scores of schools, is that it`s such
a narrow understanding of what it means to have quality education. I think
we have to get back to that. Just because a school has high test scores or
is private or quasi-private does not make it an excellent school in my
book. Goodness and excellence is multidimensional today in a society with
the demographics we have.
So, you can have teachers who can teach their subject matter. But if you
can`t have pedagogical sophistication to transcend social lines to teach
all kids that subject matter, it calls into question just how exemplary you
are as a teacher, as far as I`m concerned, given what I`ve seen. I`ve seen
kids from these backgrounds in school also with less resources thrive.
They go on to college, they go on to do wonderful things in the world, but
they have teachers who are invested in being very dynamic with the
HARRIS-PERRY: I hope you all get a zoning solution that not only does good
things for individual families but maybe provides a model for rethinking
what we mean by a good school.
I want to say thank you to Kim Watkins, to Andrew Chu, to Kajsa Reaves and
to Prudence Carter. This is a tough decision. I really appreciate you
taking the time to come and sit with me.
Up next, the surprisingly straight forward solution to homelessness in
HARRIS-PERRY: While many of us are enjoying the comforts of home this
holiday weekend, a nonprofit in Houston, Texas, is making real progress
towards ending chronic homelessness in their city by the end of the year.
The Way Home provides housing and wrap around services to people like Paul
Lakey who was homeless for 30 years. And now, at the age of 66, he has a
place to call his own.
Video journalist Nathan Willis produced this story for MSNBC`s “Shift.”
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It cost more to walk past a homeless person than it
does to provide housing for them. We determined that our homeless
population was going to cost us about $100 million annually in jail, in
emergency room, in transportation and shelter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And so it is fiscally the right thing to do.
Compassionately, if these folks are not helped, they will die.
PAUL LAKEY, FORMER HOMELESS INDIVIDUAL: I will take my key, and stick it
in here. And unlock my door and open my door and walk on in. And say,
this is all mine. You know, whereas I couldn`t do this a year ago. You
know what I am saying? I couldn`t do none of this here a year ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We became very good at helping people to manage their
homelessness. We could get you a meal and shelter and not thinking about
tomorrow or the next day, or those reasons that you were in homelessness.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As we looked at the data, we started to really see
things in aggregate as a system instead of looking into an individual
programming in the success of one agency may have, we started to recognize
that the only way that we were going to be able to support people is with
the housing first model.
LAKEY: The words for me to use to describe this is euphoric, OK, and
amazing, and surprising, and scary as hell.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chronic homelessness is a rather technical definition
of an individual on the streets for a long time who has very serious
health, mental health and substance abuse issues that keep that individual
from getting off of the streets without significant support.
LAKEY: I`m 60 years old, man. Do you know this is the second apartment I
ever had in my life in my name, and that is nothing to be, nothing to be
proud of. By the same token, it is something to be proud of.
MARILYN BROWN, CEO, COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS: Come into housing no
matter the condition, and then once you are in safe stable housing, it`s
probably a lot easier for the person to begin to make decisions about life
changes. There`s an integrated service package that includes behavioral
health, physical health, case management, someone who can really help
access benefits that many of the people are eligible for, but just can`t
get through the paperwork.
MANDY CHAPMAN, MAYOR`S SPECIAL ASST. FOR HOMELESS INITIATIVES: So those
supports are intensive and include what we call the integrative care teams.
We have doctors, behavioral health specialist, and caseworks and nurses and
a variety of peer supports. They function in a team to the wrap around
that individual to the access those services as that individual needs those
An end of chronic homelessness is not taking somebody who has been on the
street as long time, and housing them, it is building a system that ensures
that it will never happen again. That is what we are aiming for.
LAKEY: I mean, I have money. For the time being, it is mine. I have a
dollar. That, I`m total grateful for. It is a hell of a feeling.
HARRIS-PERRY: Something to think about this Thanksgiving weekend. For
more stories like this, head to MSNBC.com/originals.
One more note: as we enter the holiday season, many families are going to
be looking for ways to give back. On Tuesday, December 1st, MSNBC is
celebrating #givingtuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. To
learn more, visit GivingTuesday.MSNBC.com.
And that`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I will
see you again tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Tomorrow on the MHP show, we are
going to look at the issue of race to college campuses, from Mizzou, to
Occidental, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, what college students are facing and
how they`re handling it.
But right now, it`s time for preview of “WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT”.
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