NAT/GLOBAL

STOLEN AFRICAN

ART TO BE RETURNED

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Hornimam Museum to give back 72 Benin bronzes to Nigeria 

LONDON (MNS)Horniman to return ownership of Benin bronzes to Nigeria The Horniman Museum and Gardens has agreed to return ownership of its Benin bronzeslooted in 1897to Nigeria.

Ownership of 72 objects, which were forcibly removed from Benin City during the British military incursion in February 1897, will be transferred to the Nigerian government, following a decision by the Horniman’s Board of Trustees. The collection includes 12 brass plaques, known publicly as Benin bronzes. Other objects include a brass cockerel altar piece, ivory and brass ceremonial objects, brass bells, everyday items such as fans and baskets, and a key "to the king’s palace."

 

Prof Abba Tijani, director-general of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), said, "We very much welcome this decision by the Trustees of the Horniman Museum and Gardens. Following the endorsement by the Charity Commission, we look forward to a productive discussion on loan agreements and collaborations between the National Commission for Museums and Monuments and the Horniman."

 

The Horniman received the request from the NCMM in January 2022 and has since undertaken detailed

research of its objects from Benin to establish which are in the scope of the request. The Horniman has also consulted with community members, visitors, schoolchildren, academics, heritage professionals and artists based in Nigeria and the UK.

 

All of their views on the future of the Benin objects were considered, alongside the provenance of the objects.

 

According to Eve Salomon, chair of the Trustees of the Horniman Museum and Gardens, the evidence is clear the objects were acquired through force. 

 

"External consultation supported our view that it is both moral and appropriate to return ownership [of the art] to Nigeria," she said. "The Horniman is pleased to be able to take this step and we look forward to working with the NCMM to secure longer term care for these precious artefacts."

 

The Charity Commission, as the regulator of the charitable sector, endorsed the decision of the Horniman trustees on Aug. 5. The Horniman will now discuss with NCMM the process for the formal transfer of owner- ship, and the possibility of retaining some objects on loan for display, research and education. 

FOUR COPS THAT KILLED

BREONNA TAYLOR INDICTED

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Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in her apartment, March 13, 2020, after police executed a no-knock warrant and opened fire on Taylor and her boyfriend, who had a weapon and shot at police when they entered the residence. Screenshot

Louisville cops snagged for criminal conspiracy executing no-knock warrant

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CN)U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Thursday the indictment of four Louisville police officers on federal criminal charges related to the shooting of Breonna Taylor, including conspiracy charges stemming from an allegedly false affidavit used to secure a search warrant.

Garland told reporters two federal grand jury indictments had been unsealed, while another charging document was also filed.

Former Louisville Metro Police Department detective Joshua Jaynes and current LMPD sergeant Kyle Meany were named in the first indictment, which lists civil rights and obstruction charges related to "preparing and approving a false search warrant affidavit" that led to the raid of Taylor's apartment and, ultimately, her death.

The second indictment names a single defendant, former LMPD detective Brett Hankison, and charges him with civil rights violations and the use of excessive force during the execution of the search warrant. Current LMPD detective Kelly Goodlett is charged with conspiring to falsify the search warrant affidavit in the third charging document.

"Among other things," Garland said at a press conference, "the federal charges announced today allege that members of LMPD's place-based investigations unit falsified the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant of Ms. Taylor's home, that this act violated federal civil rights laws, and that those violations resulted in Ms. Taylor's death.

"Breonna Taylor should be alive today," he added. "The Justice Department is committed to defending and protecting the civil rights of every person in this country.  That was this department’s founding purpose, and it remains our urgent mission.”

Taylor was shot and killed in her apartment on March 13, 2020, after police executed a no-knock warrant and opened fire on Taylor and her boyfriend, who had a weapon and said he returned fire because he thought raiding police were burglars entering the residence.

A 26-year-old emergency room technician at the time of her death, Taylor became a nationwide symbol of the struggle against systemic racism and police brutality.

Her estate sued the city of Louisville and won a record-breaking settlement of $12 million—and a bevy of police reforms—less than five months after the lawsuit was filed.

Detective Myles Cosgrove, who fired the fatal shot, and Jaynes were fired by the city in January 2021, while Hankison was the only officer criminally charged by Kentucky in the wake of the shooting. Hankison was charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment but was acquitted by a jury in March 2022.

The press release from the Department of Justice says Jaynes and Meany knew information used to obtain the search warrant for Taylor's apartment was false, and that the execution of the warrant would likely create a dangerous situation for Taylor and the officers involved.

Jaynes is also charged with attempting to cover up the false affidavit by lying to criminal investigators and drafting a "false investigative letter" in the aftermath of the shooting. The excessive force claims against Hankison stem from shots fired through a covered glass door, a covered window, and a bedroom window that was covered with blinds and a blackout curtain.

None of the shots fired by Hankison struck Taylor or any of her neighbors, but his charges include language that his conduct involved an "attempt to kill," which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Goodlett faces several conspiracy charges for her role in the false warrant and the subsequent coverup. The obstruction

charges in the indictments carry maximum sentences of 20 years in prison, while the conspiracy and false-statement charges have maximum sentences of five years in prison.

"On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor should have awakened in her home as usual, but tragically she did not,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. "Since the founding of our nation, the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution has guaranteed that all people have a right to be secure in their homes, free from false warrants, unreasonable searches and the use of unjustifiable and excessive force by the police.

 

"These indictments reflect the Justice Department’s commitment to preserving the integrity of the criminal justice system and to protecting the constitutional rights of every American," Clarke said.

The attorneys representing Taylor's family—Ben Crump, Lonita Baker and Sam Aguiar—said in a joint state- ment that the charges are "a huge step toward justice."

"We are grateful for the diligence and dedication of the FBI and the DOJ as they investigated what led to Breonna's murder and what transpired afterwards," they said. "The justice that Breonna received would not have been possible without the efforts of Attorney General Merrick Garland or Assistant AG Kristen Clarke.

Revelations of the Clotilda

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Team members place a piece of timber from the Clotilda shipwreck in a bin filled with river water during a May 2022 study by the Alabama Historical Commission. Photo by Daniel Fiore/Alabama Historical Commission via Courthouse News

Exploration of sunken slave ship reveals charred timbers, artifacts

By JOHN BRACKIN, Contributing Writer

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) — The last ship to bring slaves to the United States from Africa in 1860 was set ablaze near the mouth of the Mobile River following the illegal voyage, and a recent archaeological assessment of the sunken vessel revealed the charred timber and other parts that remain.

"We have just concluded the 10-day project to assess Clotilda. As you’ve heard, we did it on time, and we’ve made some interesting discoveries. With those discoveries have come additional ques- tions," James Delgado, maritime archaeologist with SEARCH Inc., said at a Thursday night meeting in Mobile, Ala. "As the next few

The Alabama Historical Commis- sion conducted a 10-day marine assessment of the Clotilda, a sun- ken ship that illegally transported slaves to America in 1860 and was scuttled in the Mobile River.

months unfold, given the number of scientists, the number of laboratories that we’re working with, answers will also come."

Beginning last May 2, the Alabama Historical Commission, or AHC, conducted a scientific exploration of the infamous vessel, in partnership with SEARCH Inc., Diving with a Purpose, Resolve Marine, and others. Working from a large, red barge anchored near the wreckage, a series of scuba divers explored the site, retrieving timber and other artifacts from the muddy water.

According to Delgado, the project included a conservation analysis that required careful treatment of the retrieved pieces, including the disarticulated timbers that were found scattered outside the ship.

"As every timber came out, the way we worked this was basically a military style using the triage system,” he said. “What we would do is we would lay everything down on the deck of the barge directly adjacent to a large bin that was filled with river water. We didn’t want to take that timber out and then shock it basically and upset the equilibrium that might have preserved it by putting it into a different type of water. So, river water to river water, and we didn’t keep them out that long.”

Before the scientific assessment could even begin, however, Delgado said the team had to remove the trees that had accumulated along the wreckage.

"Major focus at first was to gain access to Clotilda, for the first time being able to go into a variety of areas, but also to relieve the stress from the number of trees that have come down the river over the years and lodged against it or in it," said Delgado.

The story of the Clotilda dates back to the eve of the American Civil War, when the importation of slaves had already been banned approximately five decades before. An Alabama plantation owner named Timothy Meaher masterminded the affair, in which 110 slaves were brought back across the Atlantic Ocean from the African country now known as Benin. Having completed the trip, the perpetrators burned and scuttled the Clotilda somewhere in the swampy waters of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta to hide the evidence of their crime.

For years afterwards, the ship’s exact whereabouts remained something of a maritime mystery until its wooden remains were positively identified in May of 2019, after a local journalist named Ben Raines had located the ship a year before. According to Delgado, the latest exploration revealed several significant pieces that further confirmed the identity of the ship and provided more clues into the ship’s destruction.

"We did find more diagnostic artifacts that, of course, spoke more to the fact that, yes, this is Clotilda. We found more material, more wood now that was very definitely burned," he said.

Divers also recovered a lead pipe, which was preliminarily identified as being a hawse pipe used for raising and lowering the anchor, as well as a cast iron pulley that was most likely a piece of the ship’s steering mechanism.

The success of the project was due in part to the river conditions over the prior two weeks, which Delgado said were the best the team had ever experienced while working at the site.

"The river was basically flat. The cur- rent was negligible," he said. "Sediment movement was practically nothing."

Project manager Aaron Jozsef with Resolve Marine concurred, saying, "From a weather standpoint, we were totally blessed." In addition to the notoriety attached to the ship itself, the story of Clotilda is also significant because of the survivors. Following the Civil War, more than 30 of the slaves that had been transported aboard the

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An artifact retrieved from the site of the Clotilda shipwreck sits aboard the Resolve Marine barge. Photo by Daniel Fiore/Alabama Historical Commis- sion via Courthouse News

ship, and survived their subsequent years of captivity, united to form a community called Africatown. That community, which is located just north of downtown Mobile, still exists today, though it has been largely industrialized and its population has decreased greatly from its high point in the 1960s.

For the remaining residents, many of whom are directly descended from the survivors of the Clotilda, the discovery of the sunken schooner has provided hope that the area can be revitalized. A new museum is currently under construction, and a new welcome center is also being developed using restoration funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The ultimate fate of the Clotilda is yet to be determined, but there are those who believe that the ship should be raised in its entirety and displayed in a world-class museum in Africatown. Raines, whose new book "The Last Slave Ship" details the journalist’s discovery of the ship and the complex history of Africatown,contends that the vessel is too important to leave submerged.

"This is a globally important archaeological artifact," Raines said in a recent phone interview. "This is the most intact slave ship ever found. It is the only slave ship ever found involved in the American trade, and it is the best documented ship in terms of what we know about the people who did it, the White enslavers, and the African American people who were captured and on the ship."

According to Raines, a museum in Africatown large enough to house the Clotilda would be the best way to preserve not only the story of the Clotilda but also the African diaspora.

"Ultimately, the Clotilda is sort of the origin story for the African diaspora, and I mean globally, not just in Alabama or America, but all people whose ancestors arrived in the hold of a ship," he said. "It’s wholly unlike anything else in the historical record for any enslaved people. That’s why the Clotilda is so important. Not just because it was the last slave ship, but because it is the best documented."

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In this undated image released by SEARCH Inc. in May 2019, archaeological survey teams seek the the location of the slave ship Clotilda, in delta waters north of Mobile Bay, Ala. Remains of the schooner were identified and verified near Mobile after months of assessment. Photo by Daniel Fiore/SEARCH, Inc.

According to Darron Patterson, the president of the Clotilda Descendants Association, the most important thing for the descendants is that their legacy be preserved.

"The main agenda should be Africatown," he said. "We’re trying to make sure that as we go forward that every- body understands that the main thing is the survival of that community and heritage honoring those 110 souls."

He said they would specifically like to see additional support from the city of Mobile.

"The biggest thing for us is getting the city onboard," he said. "Montgomery and cities like Montgomery have embraced their slave history and because of that, the entire community can prosper. We’d like to see the city of Mobile take the same tack, aggressively undertake what is going to be a major tourist boom here when Africa- town becomes what it will become in about two or three years."

In the meantime, four of the artifacts retained from the recent archaeological exploration will be preserved by the project’s conservation partner, Terra Mare Conservation. Those items include the possible steering apparatus, the lead pipe, a muddy plank and a section of the hull.

"Terra Mare has been working with AHC on those to develop a conservation plan to get them preserved so that they can be out of the water and available and visible and to be displayed in a museum setting," Delgado said. "Those four artifacts really help tell the story if you will, not only in terms of the scientific assessment, and how to conserve them and what would happen if more of Clotilda was to come up, but they speak to the human side of the story."

Speaking at the community meeting on Thursday, conservator Claudia Chemello cautioned that the conserva- tion would not be a short process, however, as the items present a variety of different challenges.

"It takes a long time," she said. "The steering part that was shown on the slide, it has at least three or four different materials together on one artifact. That is the most challenging conservation problem."

The rest of the items that were retrieved from the water during the project were returned to the wreck for onsite conservation. According to the AHC, the data that was collected during the project will be analyzed and event- ually put into a report, which will enable the AHC to develop a management plan for the wrecked vessel.

"As the guardian of the Clotilda, the Alabama Historical Commission takes the stewardship of this priceless artifact extremely serious," Lisa Jones, state historic preservation officer and executive director of the AHC, said in a statement. "The preservation of the Clotilda is important to Africatown and the nation. Careful consideration for the protection, preservation, and interpretation of the Clotilda has been methodical, strategic and deliberate."

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Seismologist Lucy Jones of the Center for Science and Society, said the expected short-term increase of 1-3 feet in sea level would only be an issue near the beach. NOAA Video screen shot

Tsunami No Cause for Panic

Sea rise of 1-3 feet an issue 'near beach' only

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Southland beaches were under a tsunami warning today after an underwater volcano erupted in the South Pacific.


People were advised to move off the beach and out of the harbors and marinas, avoid the coastline and not

to go to the coast to watch the tsunami. All beaches in Orange County and many beaches and piers in Los Angeles County were closed, but no evacuation orders were in place.


The warning was in effect for Alaska, Hawaii and the entire West Coast.
 

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano, near Tonga, erupted late Friday. A tsunami hit Tonga's largest island, Tongatapu, according to CNN, which reported that waves were flooding the capital.


Waves capable of producing strong currents hazardous to swimmers, boats, and coastal structures arrived starting at Southland beaches at 7:50 a.m. Wave heights of 1 to 2 feet were expected.


"Seeing some surges on the Port San Luis tsunami gauge. Reporting up to a 24 cm residual so far. That's

9.4 inches or about 19 inches from the bottom and top of the residual," the National Weather Service's Los Angeles office tweeted at 8:08 a.m. The NWS said at 7:05 a.m. that there were "no significant concerns about inundation."


The agency reported at 10:14 that "tsunami surging has been reported at all coastal locations," including

1 feet in Los Angeles. The Santa Monica Fire Department said the tsunami was not expected to cause major damage to beaches or to the Santa Monica Pier.


Seismologist Lucy Jones, founder of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society, said the expected short-term increase of 1-3 feet in sea level would only be an issue near the beach.


"Tsunamis are not one wave. It's more like sloshing and that sloshing can continue for a day. Just because

the first wave has passed, it is not time to go see the beach," Jones tweeted, adding that "much tsunami damage happens in ports because of the currents. Moving water has huge momentum."