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Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Star wants black politicians to waive their constitutional rights

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The Editor of Indianapolis Star was agitated.

I ran into Dennis Ryerson, the Star’s vice president and editor at the start of an off-the-record breakfast to hear about politics from renowned political consultant Frank Luntz. But Ryerson was steaming over the fact that City-County Councilwoman Doris Minton-McNeill refused to talk to the Star and other local media.

Ryerson’s newspaper editorialized strongly against Minton-McNeill’s failure to talk to the media after her arrest last Sunday by Indianapolis Metro Police. The councilwoman, who was named in April to replace Congressman Andre Carson, called police complaining about a man who’d come to her home who was bothering her. A dustup between the councilwoman and a policewoman ensued and Minton-McNeill was arrested, preliminarily charged with battery against a police officer and resisting arrest.

The Brown County prosecutor will act as a special prosecutor in the case.

Councilwoman Minton-McNeill’s arrest caused the Indianapolis Star and its editor to be perturbed.

Why? Because in their view the councilwoman didn’t return phone calls from Star reporters and that several hours after being released from custody, while performing her duties as a City-County Council member, Minton-McNeill didn’t speak to reporters crowding around her seeking comment.

Ryerson’s newspaper editorially slapped the arrested councilwoman saying that her “refusal on Monday to answer reporters’ questions about the incident is troubling.” The newspaper demanded that “Indianapolis residents deserve to hear from Minton-McNeill her version of what happened, whether she regrets anything she did or said, and how she plans to proceed.”

Besides, the First Amendment, the Constitution has a Fifth Amendment which gives those charged with crimes the right not to be compelled to testify against themselves. Right now, anything Councilwoman Minton-Neill says, including quotes in the media, can and will be used against her in court.

I do agree that Councilwoman Minton-McNeill’s arrest is troubling. I agree that at some point, she must comment, if only to provide an explanation to her constituents in the 15th Council District. Note: compared to the Indianapolis metro where 62.4 percent of adults read the Star once weekly, in Councilwoman Minton-McNeill’s district, only 56.2 percent read the Star once weekly. And only 19 percent read the editorial page.

Those statistics come from the same database the Star uses to inform about its readership.

The First Amendment doesn’t give anyone, including elected officials, the right that they must talk to the media. To expect Councilwoman Minton-McNeill to talk immediately after her arrest is unrealistic.

Four hours after my conversation with Ryerson, I went on the air with the information that Councilwoman Minton-Neill’s attorney was out of state and that he’d advised her to make no statements to the media. I was told that when she was ready to talk, she would, with her attorney present to protect her rights.

I got that information with a couple of calls to people I knew and trusted and who trusted me. When Minton-McNeill decides to talk, and she will, she’ll probably protect her right against self-incrimination by admitting only that she was arrested, that she hopes she’ll be vindicated and she’s letting the system take its course.

Expecting her to say more than that is disingenuous.

What I’m hearing in the streets

After I chastised them on my WTLC-AM (1310) talk show and in this column two weeks ago, the Department of Public Works has been working like bats out of Hades cleaning up storm debris. Not just in the tornado zone, but all over town.

Too bad the mayor’s office still hasn’t put a link on the city’s Web site home page linking to disaster relief information.

Mayor Greg Ballard says public safety is “Job One.” That means arresting more folks. But if those arrested can’t afford attorneys, what happens? Mayor Ballard wants them to pay with money they don’t have.

Ballard has proposed cutting the public defender office’s budget 5 percent. At a time arrests and trials are increasing, Ballard wants to either decrease public defender services or force the poor to pay for those services with money they don’t have.

When it comes to compassion for the poor and working poor of this city, does this current city administration even have any?

See ‘ya next week.

Amos Brown’s opinions are not necessarily those of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. You can contact him at (317) 221-0915 or by e-mail at ACBROWN@AOL.COM.

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