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Sunday, September 20, 2009

NAACP SUPPORTS HEALTH CARE REFORM THAT INCLUDES AN EXPANSION OF COVERAGE TO ALL AMERICANS AND ELIMINATES RACIAL HEALTH CARE DISPARITIES

From Hilary O. Shelton, Director of Washington Bureau NAACP

THE ISSUE:

Too many Americans today are straining under the burden of two related trends: shrinking health care coverage and rising health care costs. Over the last decade, millions of Americans have found themselves uninsured, and millions more have become under-insured as the value of their coverage has declined. In the years 2008-2010, it is estimated that approximately 6,000 people a day, or almost 7 million Americans total, will lose their health insurance. At the same time, health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs have risen steadily, and the number of families who are facing high health care costs continue to grow. In fact, nearly one in four non-elderly Americans are in families that will spend more than 10% of their pre-tax dollars on health care in 2009, and the vast majority of them (more than 82%) have health care insurance. Furthermore, in the United States today the color of your skin, your ethnic background and where you live can not only influence your health care access and quality; they can determine them. And while medical science has made a lot of advances over the last 10 years, the gains made by discovery of new drugs and treatment have not passed on to all segments of our population.

Health care reform is currently moving through Congress, and the NAACP is working hard to ensure that the final product has the following four elements: (1) full health care coverage that is affordable to every individual, family and business which also provides coverage for pre-existing conditions; (2) Standard, comprehensive health care benefits that meet everyone's needs from preventitive to chronic care; (3) The choice of a private or public health care plan, which includes a new public health care plan that will provide a guaranteed backup which will always be there to ensure quality, affordable health care coverage no matter what; and (4) Equity in health care access, treatment, research, and resources to people and communities of color and stronger health services in low income communities.

CONTACT YOUR SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVE AND URGE THEM TO PASS COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH CARE THAT OFFERS AFFORDABLE QUALITY CARE TO ALL AMERICANS AND ELIMINATES RACIAL HEALTH DISPARITIES

To send an email go to www.senate.gov; click "find your senators" look up your senators by state; go to their websites for email addresses

To Send an email to your Representative, go to www.house.gov and click on "write your representative.

To call your Senators and Representative call (202) 224-3121

Monday, September 7, 2009

African American Juvenile Probation Officer Found Not Guilty of Assaulting Seattle Police Officer


Yvette Gaston, a King County Juvenile Probation Counselor who has dedicated the past twelve years of her life to helping troubled children was found not guilty of obstructing Justice and assault of a police officer. In September of last year, Yvette Gaston secured a clothing voucher through her job so that she could help a child on her case load get school clothes. After securing the voucher she met the young man in downtown Seattle at Sears. After she got school clothes for the young man, she dropped him off on 23rd and Jackson. 23rd and Jackson is an area traditionally known as the Central District (CD). The CD has traditionally been the community of color in Seattle. It has long been known as a refuge for African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and Asian populations.

Shortly after dropping the young man off, he was approached by police officers who accused him of stealing his school clothes, throwing rocks and jaywalking. The young man called the one person who could vouch for his whereabouts and the fact that he had legally obtained the clothing.....his probation counselor. After the young man reached Yvette Gaston, he handed the phone to one of the officers. Yvette attempted to explain and reason with the officer over the phone. To her surprise she was met with an angry and aggressive tone. The officer told her that the young man was being "lippy" and that he was going to show him how we "operate things in the CD."

The statements of the officer caused Gaston great concern. In recent years there has been a great deal of concern about police misconduct and racial profiling in Seattle. She made the courageous decision to go back to 23rd and Jackson and bear witness to the "incident." Upon arrival, she saw that the young man had been handcuffed and placed in the back of a squad car. (witnesses would later say that the officers had handled the young man in a very rough and unnecessary manner). Yvette approached the officers, showed them her badge and asked if they were really arresting this young man for jaywalking. An officer quickly approached Gaston and accused her of assaulting a police officer. She was so disturbed with the officers actions that she eventually called 911 herself. The Sargent on the scene eventually took the phone from her and essentially instructed the officer to disregard the call.

Shortly after bringing this issue forward through the NAACP, Gaston was charged with assault and an obstruction allegation was later added. The Law Office of Joe St. Laurent and James Bible handled Gaston's case. After nearly 12 months and several pre trial hearings, the case was ready for trial. A jury quickly found Gaston not guilty. While the jury has exonerated Gaston of all charges, she still has many emotional scars that are a direct result of the way in which she was treated by the police.

We can't help but wonder what things would have been like if Gaston was simply a concerned citizen who was interested in protecting the rights of a young man instead of a probation counselor. Would the Jury have sided with her even then?