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Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or email@example.com
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Reality Winner Tests Positive for COVID, Still Imprisoned
With great anguish, I’m writing to share the news that NSA whistleblower Reality Winner, still in federal prison, has tested positive for COVID-19. Winner, despite her vulnerable health conditions, was denied home release in April – the judge’s reasoning being that the Federal Medical Center, Carswell is “presumably better equipped than most to deal with the onset of COVID-19 in its inmates”.Since that ruling, COVID infections at Carswell have exploded, ranking it now as second highest in the nation for the number of cases, and substantially increasing the likelihood that its medical capacity will be overwhelmed.This news comes one week after Trump’s commutation of convicted felon Roger Stone, and two months after the home release of Trump’s convicted campaign manager, Paul Manafort:Donald Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s prison sentence is galling on numerous levels. It’s a brazen act of corruption and an egregious obstruction of an ongoing investigation of the President and his enablers. There are few figures less worthy of clemency than a Nixonian dirty trickster like Stone. But the final twist of the knife is that Reality Winner, the honest, earnest, anti-Stone of the Russian meddling saga, remains in federal prison.
Please share this with your networks, and stand with us in support of Reality Winner and her family during this critical time.
Thank you,Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)
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Subject: Shut Down Fort Hood! Justice for Vanessa Guillén. Sign the petition!
SHUT DOWN FORT HOOD NOW!JUSTICE FOR
PFC. VANESSA GUILLÉN!
Sign the Petition
In late April, Pfc. Vanessa Guillén went missing from her base in Ft. Hood, Texas. It took her family and friends working night and day to appeal to the commanding officers to get any attention whatsoever about her whereabouts. Vanessa had told her family she had been sexually harassed by her supervisor.For more than three months, Vanessa’s higher-ups paid little attention to her family’s urgent pleas to investigate her disappearance. She was treated as being disposable.In late June, her body was found 25 miles from the base. Vanessa had been tragically murdered by her abuser who later killed himself upon capture.The unspeakable crimes against Vanessa Guillén have opened a floodgate of testimonies about sexual assault in the military. Many women and LGBTQ2S+ people are telling their heartbreaking stories with the hashtag #iamvanessaGuillén.Vanessa’s death is a result of sexual harassment in the military, which is deplorable. Fort Hood is the worst. According to the Pentagon’s own reports, it has the most sexual assaults of any Army post in the country. That is why it must be shut down now!In addition, Fort Hood, the single biggest military post in the U.S. armed forces, is named after a Confederate general. Its name glorifies racism and slavery.When Vanessa Guillén enlisted in the Army, she thought she’d be doing good and it would be helpful to her. Instead, it destroyed her. But how could it not when the military exists not to help people, but to defend Wall Street? It invaded and still occupies Iraq and Afghanistan, killing millions, just for oil profits.The case for Justice for Vanessa is very much linked to the movement for Black Lives. Young people of color must have other options than police violence or going to war for their future.WE DEMAND:•Investigate Fort Hood Commanding General Robert White and others for conspiracy to cover up Pfc. Vanessa Guillén’s murder. Why did it take a mass movement to find what happened?
•Shut down Ft. Hood! There is no other way to end the deplorable conditions soldiers face.
•Job training, education, COVID-19 relief, not war! If we shut down the Pentagon, the annual U.S. defense budget of $1 trillion could be used for people’s needs, not war.
•End misogyny and homophobia in the military. Justice for Vanessa and all survivors.
147 W 24th St.
New York City, NY 10011
This legacy belongs to all of us:
“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed the forest to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries. . . Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature–but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.” The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man 1876. —Friedrich Engels
Marvin Gaye - What's Going On (Official Video 2019)
BlackRock loves to make a killing on killing: Over a thousand Americans have been killed by Tasers — 32 percent of them are Black Americans. Tasers are made by the colossal law enforcement supplier Axon Enterprise, based in Arizona.
One of their top shareholders happens to be Blackrock. Recently Blackrock has been trying to be sympathetic to the atrocities of murders waged on Black Americans and communities of color. If we ramp up massive pressure and blow the whistle on their deadly stocks, we can highlight that divesting from Tasers and the war in our streets will be a step in the right direction in building a fair and just society.
This issue is important to having peace in our streets. But this will only work if people participate. Send an email to Blackrock to divest from the Taser manufacturer Axon Enterprise which is responsible for the killing of thousands of Americans, and CODEPINK will pull out all the stops to make sure Blackrock execs hear our call:
Blackrock could do this. They recently announced that they were divesting from fossil fuels — signaling a shift in their policies. If CEO Larry Fink cares about “diversity, fairness, and justice” and building a “stronger, more equal, and safer society” — he should divest from Tasers.
Plus, compared to Blackrock’s other holdings, Taser stocks aren’t even that significant!
But if Blackrock does this, it could be the first domino we need to get other investment companies on board too. Send an email to BlackRock and share this widely!
If there’s one thing our community stands for, it’s peace and social justice. And one way we can help achieve that is by cutting off the flow of cash into the manufacturing of Tasers. So, let’s come together to make that happen, and help prevent more innocent Americans from being killed with these senseless tools.
Nancy, Carley, Jodie, Paki, Cody, Kelsey, and Yousef
To update your email subscription, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you haven't seen this, you're missing something spectacular:
On Saturday May 30th filmmaker and photographer David Jones of David Jones Media felt compelled to go out and serve the community in some way. He decided to use his art to try and explain the events that were currently impacting our lives. On day two, Sunday the 31st, he activated his dear friend author Kimberly Jones to tag along and conduct interviews. During a moment of downtime he captured these powerful words from her and felt the world couldn’t wait for the full length documentary, they needed to hear them now.
So what has protesting accomplished?
👉🏾Within 10 days of sustained protests:
Minneapolis bans use of choke holds.
👉🏾Charges are upgraded against Officer Chauvin, and his accomplices are arrested and charged.
👉🏾Dallas adopts a "duty to intervene" rule that requires officers to stop other cops who are engaging in inappropriate use of force.
👉🏾New Jersey’s attorney general said the state will update its use-of-force guidelines for the first time in two decades.
👉🏾In Maryland, a bipartisan work group of state lawmakers announced a police reform work group.
👉🏾Los Angeles City Council introduces motion to reduce LAPD’s $1.8 billion operating budget.
👉🏾MBTA in Boston agrees to stop using public buses to transport police officers to protests.
👉🏾Police brutality captured on cameras leads to near-immediate suspensions and firings of officers in several cities (i.e., Buffalo, Ft. Lauderdale).
👉🏾Monuments celebrating confederates are removed in cities in Virginia, Alabama, and other states.
👉🏾Street in front of the White House is renamed "Black Lives Matter Plaza.”
Military forces begin to withdraw from D.C.
Then, there's all the other stuff that's hard to measure:
💓The really difficult public and private conversations that are happening about race and privilege.
💓The realizations some white people are coming to about racism and the role of policing in this country.
💓The internal battles exploding within organizations over issues that have been simmering or ignored for a long time. Some organizations will end as a result, others will be forever changed or replaced with something stronger and fairer.
🌎 Protests against racial inequality sparked by the police killing of George Floyd are taking place all over the world.
🌎 Rallies and memorials have been held in cities across Europe, as well as in Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand.
🌎 As the US contends with its second week of protests, issues of racism, police brutality, and oppression have been brought to light across the globe.
🌎 People all over the world understand that their own fights for human rights, for equality and fairness, will become so much more difficult to win if we are going to lose America as the place where 'I have a dream' is a real and universal political program," Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador to the US, told the New Yorker.
🌎 In France, protesters marched holding signs that said "I can't breathe" to signify both the words of Floyd, and the last words of Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black man who was subdued by police officers and gasped the sentence before he died outside Paris in 2016.
🌎 Cities across Europe have come together after the death of George Floyd:
✊🏽 In Amsterdam, an estimated 10,000 people filled the Dam square on Monday, holding signs and shouting popular chants like "Black lives matter," and "No justice, no peace."
✊🏽 In Germany, people gathered in multiple locations throughout Berlin to demand justice for Floyd and fight against police brutality.
✊🏾 A mural dedicated to Floyd was also spray-painted on a stretch of wall in Berlin that once divided the German capital during the Cold War.
✊🏿 In Ireland, protesters held a peaceful demonstration outside of Belfast City Hall, and others gathered outside of the US embassy in Dublin.
✊🏿In Italy, protesters gathered and marched with signs that said "Stop killing black people," "Say his name," and "We will not be silent."
✊🏾 In Spain, people gathered to march and hold up signs throughout Barcelona and Madrid.
✊🏾 In Athens, Greece, protesters took to the streets to collectively hold up a sign that read "I can't breathe."
✊🏾 In Brussels, protesters were seen sitting in a peaceful demonstration in front of an opera house in the center of the city.
✊🏾In Denmark, protesters were heard chanting "No justice, no peace!" throughout the streets of Copenhagen, while others gathered outside the US embassy.
✊🏾 In Canada, protesters were also grieving for Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old black woman who died on Wednesday after falling from her balcony during a police investigation at her building.
✊🏾 And in New Zealand, roughly 2,000 people marched to the US embassy in Auckland, chanting and carrying signs demanding justice.
💐 Memorials have been built for Floyd around the world, too. In Mexico City, portraits of him were hung outside the US embassy with roses, candles, and signs.
💐 In Poland, candles and flowers were laid out next to photos of Floyd outside the US consulate.
💐 And in Syria, two artists created a mural depicting Floyd in the northwestern town of Binnish, "on a wall destroyed by military planes."
Before the assassination of George Floyd some of you were able to say whatever the hell you wanted and the world didn't say anything to you...
THERE HAS BEEN A SHIFT, AN AWAKENING...MANY OF YOU ARE BEING EXPOSED FOR WHO YOU REALLY ARE. #readthatagain
Don't wake up tomorrow on the wrong side of this issue. Its not to late to SAY,
"Maybe I need to look at this from a different perspective."
"Maybe I don't know what its like to be black in America..."
"Maybe, just maybe, I have been taught wrong."
There is still so much work to be done. It's been a really dark, raw week. This could still end badly. But all we can do is keep doing the work.
WE ARE NOT TRYING TO START A RACE WAR; WE ARE PROTESTING TO END IT,
How beautiful is that?
ALL LIVES CANNOT MATTER UNTIL YOU INCLUDE BLACK LIVES.
YOU CANNOT SAY 'ALL LIVES MATTER' WHEN YOU DO NOTHING TO STOP SYSTEMIC RACISM & POLICE BRUTALITY.
YOU CANNOT SAY 'ALL LIVES MATTER' WHEN BLACK PEOPLE ARE DYING AND ALL YOU COMPLAIN ABOUT IS THE LOOTING.
YOU CANNOT SAY 'ALL LIVES MATTER' WHEN YOU ALLOW CHILDREN TO BE CAGED, VETERANS TO GO HOMELESS, AND POOR FAMILIES TO GO HUNGRY & LOSE THEIR HEALTH INSURANCE.
DO ALL LIVES MATTER? YES. BUT RIGHT NOW, ONLY BLACK LIVES ARE BEING TARGETED, JAILED, AND KILLED EN MASSE- SO THAT'S WHO WE'RE FOCUSING ON.
🖤🖤🖤BLACK LIVES MATTER🖤🖤🖤
IF YOU CAN'T SEE THIS, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.
*I do not know the original author*
Copy & paste widely!
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Ultimately, the majority of human suffering is caused by a system that places the value of material wealth over the value of
human life. To end the suffering, we must end the profit motive—the very foundation of capitalism itself.—BAUAW
(Bay Area United Against War Newsletter)
Ultimately, the majority of human suffering is caused by a system that places the value of material wealth over the value of
human life. To end the suffering, we must end the profit motive—the very foundation of capitalism itself.
(Bay Area United Against War Newsletter)
I didn't do nothing serious man
please I can't breathe
I can't breathe
I can't breathe
man can't breathe, my face
just get up
I can't breathe
I can't breathe sh*t
I can't move
my stomach hurt
my neck hurts
some water or something
I can't breathe officer
don't kill me
they gon' kill me man
come on man
I cannot breathe
I cannot breathe
they gon' kill me
they gon' kill me
I can't breathe
I can't breathe
please I can't breathe"
Then his eyes shut and the pleas stop. George Floyd was pronounced dead shortly after.
By ShakaboonaTrump Comic Satire—A Proposal
Write to Shakaboona:Smart Communications/PA DOCKerry Shakaboona Marshall #BE7826SCI RockviewP.O. Box 33028St. Petersburg, FL 33733
Enough is Enough: Global Nuclear Weapons
Veterans Join Call for a Global Ceasefire
www.couragetoresist.org ~ 510.488.3559 ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist
Oakland, CA 94610-2730
"The biggest block from having society in harmony with the universe is the belief in a lie that says it’s not realistic or ￼humanly possible."
"If Obama taught me anything it’s that it don’t matter who you vote for in this system. There’s nothing a politician can do that the next one can’t undo. You can’t vote away the ills of society people have to put our differences aside ban together and fight for the greater good, not vote for the lesser evil."
—Johnny Gould (Follow @tandino415 on Instagram)
When faced with the opportunity to do good, I really think it’s the instinct of humanity to do so. It’s in our genetic memory from our earliest ancestors. ￼It’s the altered perception of the reality of what being human truly is that’s been indoctrinated ￼in to every generation for the last 2000 years or more that makes us believe that we are born sinners. I can’t get behind that one. We all struggle with certain things, but I really think ￼￼that all the “sinful” behavior is learned and wisdom and goodwill is innate at birth. ￼ —Johnny Gould (Follow @tandino415 on Instagram)
Major Tillery, a prisoner at SCI Chester and a friend of Mumia, may have caught the coronavirus. Major is currently under lockdown at SCI Chester, where a coronavirus outbreak is currently taking place. Along with the other prisoners at SCI Chester, he urgently needs your help.
500 E. 4th St.
Chester, PA 19013
Telephone: (610) 490-5412
Email: email@example.com (Prison Superintendent). firstname.lastname@example.org (Superintendent's Assistant)Please also call the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections at:Department of Corrections
1920 Technology Parkway
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Telephone: (717) 737-4531
This telephone number is for SCI Camp Hill, which is the current number for DOC.
Reference Major's inmate number: AM 9786
Email: email@example.comDemand that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections immediately:
2) Disinfect all cells and common areas at SCI Chester, including sinks, toilets, eating areas and showers;
3) Provide PPE (personal protective equipment) for all inmates at SCI Chester;
4) Provide access to showers for all prisoners at SCI Chester, as a basic hygiene measure;
5) Provide yard access to all prisoners at SCI Chester;
6) Provide phone and internet access to all prisoners at SCI Chester;
7) Immediately release prisoners from SCI Chester, including Major Tillery, who already suffers from a compromised immune system, in order to save their lives from execution by COVID-19.
It has been reported that prisoners are now receiving shower access. However, please insist that prisoners be given shower access and that all common areas are disinfected.
The Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
Some of what we saw was people cosplaying consciousness — symbolism that cost nothing and shifted no power.
By Charles M. Blow, Opinion Columnist, Aug. 9, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/09/opinion/black-lives-matter-protests.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
We are in a period of post-mortem reflection following the time during which racial justice protests were at their most intense. We now must ask ourselves: What has changed and what hasn’t? Have power and privilege truly been disrupted? Has oppression been alleviated? What will be the legacy of this moment?
The historic protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing were met with high hopes and soaring rhetoric. The protests were called a racial reckoning, a long-overdue racial accounting.
We painted murals on the streets and took down some statues. Companies committed to changing the Black faces on a bottle of syrup and a bag of rice. Athletes were allowed to kneel and racecar drivers held a racial solidarity parade.
There were television specials about injustice and expanded coverage of protests. Books about race rose to the tops of best-seller lists.
States like New York and California passed police reform legislation and scores of individual departments banned or restricted chokeholds and strangleholds and required officers to intervene when their colleagues use excessive force.
But, national progress, even on the issue of police accountability and reform, remained elusive. The slate of police reforms passed by the House is now bogged down in the Senate.
Donald Trump called the Black Lives Matter mural painted in front of Trump Tower in New York City a “symbol of hate,” one of his personal lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, called the group a “domestic terror group,” and his Justice Department began targeting demonstrators as terrorists.
On the Democratic side, Joe Biden quickly batted down any support of the move to defund the police, which is simply an effort to better allocate funding between police departments and social service agencies. There are also efforts at police abolition, but the defund movement is not synonymous with that effort.
More than 50 civil rights organization sent Joe Biden a scathing letter, chastising him for his involvement in mass incarceration and the war on drugs, and demanding that he:
“Immediately incorporate the policies laid out by the Movement for Black Lives into your campaign platform, and announce the specific changes publicly. This includes their critical demands for interventions that will end state violence against Black people, end the economic exploitation of Black communities, advance reparations, and defund police, prisons and weaponry so we can fully fund health care, housing, education and environmental justice.”
BLM co-founder and activist Patrisse Cullors spoke at the D.N.C.’s virtual party platform meeting in July and said: “Without the sea changes our movement recommended for the 2020 Democratic platform, any claims to allyship and solidarity with our work to fight for Black liberation are for naught.”
While national political progress appeared tentative, mired or weakened by intense opposition, it did feel like personal progress, on a national scale, was made in some ways.
A Pew Research Center report in late June found that 6 percent of American adults said they “attended a protest or rally that focused on issues related to race or racial equality in the last month.” That’s about 15 million people, an astounding number.
Furthermore, the movement had multiracial participation. The percentage of protesters who were white was nearly three times the percentage who were Black. The percentage of Hispanics taking part was higher than the percentage of Black people as well.
But even as support for Black Lives Matter grew, many Americans still opposed the things the movement demanded.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in mid-July found that while nearly 70 percent of Americans believed “Black people and other minorities are not treated as equal to white people in the criminal justice system,” most still generally opposed “calls to shift some police funding to social services or remove statues of Confederate generals or presidents who enslaved people.”
Barack Obama issued a statement that read in part:
“It falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station — including the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job the right way, every day — to work together to create a ‘new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.”
I’m not sure that “new normal” is in the immediate offing. Much of what we saw in response to protests amounted to performative gestures, symbolism that cost nothing and shifted no power.
We must come to the conclusion that some of what we saw as a racial awakening was prone to whither. Some of what we saw was people cosplaying consciousness, immersing themselves in the issue of the moment.
I am very leery of tokenism, leery of the illusions of progress as the system holds fast. I’m leery of appeasement, of being told that there is a change coming as a way of quieting me in the waiting.
America has a sterling track record of dashing Black people’s hopes.
If the federal government repeats the mistakes of the last recession, millions of Americans will lose their apartments and homes.
By Binyamin Appelbaum member of the editorial board. Aug. 9, 2020
The belongings of a family evicted at the end of July from their home in New Orleans. Credit...Jake Clapp/Gambit New Orleans
In Columbus, Ohio, judges have relocated eviction hearings to the cavernous halls of the city’s convention center, to ensure there’s plenty of space for the grim business of throwing families onto the street.
In New Orleans, piles of personal belongings on sidewalks — “eviction cairns,” in the haunting phrase of Sue Mobley, a member of the city’s planning commission — are an increasingly common sight.
In Savannah, Ga., the county sheriff, John Wilcher, announced at the start of the month that he would begin moving forward with about 500 pending evictions. Mr. Wilcher told reporters that he hadn’t carried out evictions for the last five months, but that “people after five months should have been able to come up with some kind of deal or something to help themselves out where they wouldn’t be evicted.” The sheriff didn’t offer any pointers on how to find a job in the midst of a pandemic.
The last time the economy went over the cliff’s edge, in 2008, the federal government encased the banking system in plastic Bubble Wrap and allowed millions of Americans to lose their homes. It’s about to make the same mistake all over again.
I was a housing reporter during the last crisis. I spent long days with young families and old ladies desperately trying to hold on; with sheriff’s deputies tasked with removing people from homes owned by faceless companies; with exterminators sent to prevent mosquitoes from occupying abandoned swimming pools.
The government dismissed the woes of homeowners and renters as personal tragedies that did not require the attention of the Treasury Department. The government was wrong. The millions of individual tragedies required action. A nation is a collection of people; the first job of government is to keep people from harm.
Even on its own terms, the government’s indifference was a mistake. The massive dislocations shredded communities, as families were replaced by abandoned homes. Schools struggled to help displaced children, whose test scores declined and behavioral problems increased. Businesses lost their customers. Cities starved for property tax revenue slashed spending: Colorado Springs turned off one-third of its streetlights.
The accumulation of individual tragedies left lasting scars on the economy and on society.
As the coronavirus spread around the country in the spring, federal policymakers and authorities in many states announced temporary bans on evictions, part of a broader effort to weather the pandemic by suspending economic activity. The federal government also expanded unemployment benefits for people who lost jobs, providing many with the means to keep paying the mortgage or rent.
But the federal aid ended last month. More than 20 percent of households say that they don’t expect to be able to make their next monthly rent or mortgage payment, according to a Census Bureau survey. Some eviction bans have ended, and others will end soon. Americans once again are beginning to lose their homes.
The dislocations could be worse than last time. Even before the pandemic, the nation was facing a housing crisis. Years of residential underbuilding have driven up prices, particularly in the areas where jobs are concentrated. Tens of millions of lower-income families already were struggling to afford a place to live. Millions already were evicted each year. And many more Americans have lost jobs this time around.
In a policy memo published Friday, a group of housing policy experts and affordable housing advocates said, “The United States may be facing the most severe housing crisis in its history.”
Some state and local governments are trying to help.
In 2008, Aisha Wahab was a 19-year-old college student living in her parents’ longtime home in Fremont, Calif. She watched as they lost their clothing store in nearby Oakland, and then their home. She watched as their marriage fell apart. By 2012, Ms. Wahab and her father were sharing an apartment in Hayward, a nearby city with cheaper housing.
Ms. Wahab said her family has never recovered. “I can 100 percent attest to the fact that my family is nowhere near where they were prior to 2008,” she said. Now, at 32, she is the youngest member of the Hayward City Council, and she is doing what she can to prevent another crisis. Hayward has prohibited evictions until the end of September. Alameda County, which includes Hayward, has prohibited evictions at least until the end of the year. Tenants will then have a year to catch up on any missed rental payments. Homeowners, however, must negotiate separately with their lenders. And it’s not clear where renters or homeowners will find the money without federal aid.
Local officials are simply postponing the day of reckoning. Sooner or later, in Hayward and across the country, the eviction moratoriums will end.
“What happens on the next day?” Ms. Wahab said.
The Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond has argued compellingly that eviction is not just a result of poverty — it is also a cause of poverty. The downward trajectory, well documented in research on the last crisis, is the same for homeowners and renters. People who lose their homes also lose their communities. Studies show they generally move to less expensive neighborhoods, and their children end up enrolling in lower-quality schools. Eviction strains the ability to keep a job. People who are evicted suffer from higher rates of mental and physical health problems. If they are married, they are more likely to get divorced. They are more likely to end up homeless.
This new crisis builds on the last one. During the last recession, Renee Matthew lost her job at a New Orleans law firm, and then she lost her home to foreclosure. She didn’t find a new job until 2015, working as a parking lot supervisor at the city’s cruise terminal.
On March 15, Ms. Matthew lost her job yet again. Federal unemployment benefits allowed her to keep paying $929 in monthly rent, but the last of the federal benefits arrived in late July. Now she’s getting just $232 a week in state benefits. She was able to pay her August rent, and she may be able to pay her September rent, but she doesn’t see how she can pay her October rent.
“My life is just at a hold,” Ms. Matthew said. “You feel depressed. You start taking the little things out on everybody and anybody.”
The federal government has the power to avert a crisis by imposing a moratorium on tenant evictions in each state through the end of the year. That would provide enough time to create a program of federal aid for people who can’t afford to pay rent. The most direct approach would be to give federal housing vouchers to every needy family.
(The apparent simplicity of proposals for rent forgiveness is misleading. That would simply move problems up the food chain. Roughly half of apartments are owned by small landlords, many of whom face foreclosure if they can’t pay their own mortgages. That, too, would lead to tenant evictions.)
This crisis is hitting tenants harder than homeowners because job losses are concentrated among lower-income households, and the last crisis sharply reduced homeownership among such households. But many homeowners need help, too. Congress can facilitate mortgage modifications by changing bankruptcy laws that bar courts from reducing most mortgage debts. President Barack Obama promised to make the change during the 2008 campaign, but failed to do so while in the White House. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has made the same commitment — hopefully with a different result.
I asked Ms. Matthew if she had a message for policymakers in Washington.
“I need help,” she said. “It’s hard to pay the bills on nothing.”
I have a message, too: There is no excuse for making the same mistake twice.
On both sides of the Atlantic, the signs of radical possibility are everywhere.
By Thea Riofrancos, political scientist and activist. Aug. 9, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/09/opinion/left-politics.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
The signs of radical possibility are everywhere we look. In the midst of a pandemic, masses of people defied lockdowns and demanded justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and all the Black lives lost at the hands of police brutality.
What has become the largest protest movement in American history also provided an outlet for discontent with the economic immiseration and mounting death toll that are devastating communities of color and working-class people. In Europe, protesters took to the streets as well, in solidarity with the American movement and targeting the often denied yet pervasive racism in their own societies.
It’s a spectacular sight: Affluent liberal democracies are experiencing an upsurge of radical energy. This volatile moment is felt most acutely by younger generations whose coming-of-age story is one of financial meltdown, right-wing resurgence, climate chaos and, now, a plague.
Crisis and discontent are two necessary ingredients for radical change. But on their own, they aren’t sufficient. In the United States and almost all of Europe, the left — socialists, labor organizers, activists and agitators traditionally outside the major center-left parties — is out of power and wounded by electoral defeat. (Spain and Portugal, where formally and informally center-left parties currently govern together with the radical left, are the exception that proves the rule.)
As the coronavirus courses devastatingly around the world, the left on both sides of the Atlantic, joined by a long history of mutual influence and inspiration, finds itself in a shared predicament: How can we exercise power without governing directly? And beyond that, how can we shape the world that emerges after the pandemic?
On the left, “electoralism” — pursuing public office through elections — is a hotly debated tactic. Some see the activity as fatally compromised. But contesting elections is essential to winning radical reforms that change the consensus on what is possible and build power.
Take Paris and Barcelona. In the early 2010s, neither city, sitting in countries governed by the center and the right, seemed a likely venue for a resurgence of left-wing politics. But in the course of two years, each was led by leftist mayors — first Anne Hidalgo in Paris in 2014, then Ada Colau in Barcelona the next year. They built new public housing, banned polluting cars from city streets and expanded urban green spaces, becoming the heads of the “radical municipalism” movement.
A small city in northwest Britain had led the way. When plans for a massive shopping mall fell through in late 2011, Preston seemed doomed to the chronic disinvestment suffered by deindustrialized municipalities around the world. But since then, the left-led City Council has transformed the city into a laboratory for innovative policies, from supporting worker cooperatives to contracting local farmers to provide produce for public school meals. The experience proved so successful it earned its own name: The Preston Model.
Winning the chance to reshape policy, as councilors, state legislators and mayors, is why elections are crucial. But successful campaigns for national office are also powerful ways to broadcast transformative ideas. In the United States, for example, the election of Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar to Congress has spread demands like the Green New Deal, rent cancellation and Palestinian rights far beyond the margins.
When leftists win elections, they can transform radical ideas into pragmatic realities and move more ambitious political programs into the mainstream. But what should the left do when it is out of power?
Last year, when President Emanuel Macron of France was trying to push through pension reforms that would raise the age at which citizens received a full pension from 62 to 64, he faced profound opposition — not in Parliament, but in the streets. Large protests and a general strike drained the government’s resolve and eventually scuttled the proposed reform. Unwavering resistance forced Mr. Macron’s hand.
It’s a good example of how the left can shape politics, even when far from power. Similarly, the student strikes against climate change that swept across Europe in March 2019 — closely followed by occupations coordinated by Extinction Rebellion — propelled the urgent need for a just ecological transition up the political agenda.
In both cases, protests and strikes materially altered the course of policy. Elsewhere, it’s insurgent and oppositional electoral projects with close relations to movements that helped reshape the political landscape.
In the United States, in part through the platform provided by Bernie Sanders’s campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination, demands for universal health care, the Green New Deal, national rent control and abolishing ICE entered mainstream conversation. And in Britain, the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn did much to reconfigure the terms of debate, most notably on austerity and public investment.
There’s a lesson here. Though the circumstances differ — the room for left and Green parties in Europe largely does not exist in Britain and the United States, compelling leftists to contend with established parties — the left is most effective when it disrupts institutions.
By conceiving of itself as something like an opposition party, operating inside and outside the formal political system, the left can push the boundaries of debate, changing minds and policies alike.
Principled opposition is essential. But it’s not enough. To be successful, protests and insurgent campaigns need to build on and contribute to organizing — the continuing, difficult work of building grass-roots organizations that empower people to act in concert with one another.
In Minneapolis, the groundwork for the current protests was laid by groups such as the Black Visions Collective. In 2018, they worked in alliance with Reclaim the Block to win cuts to the city police budget and funding for violence prevention. Organizations like these recruit activists and teach them the skills they need to plan a meeting or a direct action, all while cultivating the trust and accountability that are vital to movements’ long-term success.
Similar lessons apply to electoral politics. The Labour Party’s community organizing unit, which spent two years building relationships and developing leaders at the local level, may not have prevented December’s disappointing election result. But it established a network that will prove indispensable in future elections and that has already helped win local campaigns, such as organizing tenants against eviction and protecting health clinics from closure.
The New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America is another case in point. Some of the group’s initial forays into electoral politics were unsuccessful. But in the process, they trained hundreds of activists in the basics of canvassing and phone-banking. Years later, their endorsed candidates have won seats in Congress and at the state level. And most recently the chapter declared victory for their entire slate of primary campaigns — all, it’s worth noting, socialists of color — in the State Legislature.
Though some may be tempted to suggest such inroads are confined to New York, the recent slew of left wins in Democratic primary battles in Pennsylvania, Texas, Michigan, Tennessee and, most strikingly, in Missouri shows how effective the strategy can be.
As different as they are, both street rebellions and electoral campaigns can leave behind a legacy of organizational infrastructure. This infrastructure is absolutely vital. There’s no way to win without it.
In my two decades of political involvement, I’ve never been more optimistic about the left’s power to shape the terms of debate. But doing better than the past isn’t anywhere near good enough.
We are in the middle of a ruinous pandemic whose effects will remake the world: On both sides of the Atlantic, economies are contracting, unemployment is soaring and people are suffering, all while billionaires’ wealth balloons to astronomical levels. The situation in the United States, where the pandemic has exposed deep race and class inequality, is especially dire.
The coming months and years are crucial. They will shape not only politics but also, as the climate crisis intensifies, the very conditions of life on this planet. That’s a huge challenge. But it’s also a historic opportunity to make a better, more equal and more just world. We must not pass it up.
Sheerpost. August 5, 2020
Death Row, San Quentin State Prison—We men and women who unfortunately have been sentenced to death and sent to death rows here at San Quentin State Prison (for men) and the Central California Women’s Facility at Chowchilla have often been referred to as the “walking dead” or “Dead Man Walking,” as made famous by the 1995 movie, starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, about a death row inmate.
We were called these names long before the COVID-19 pandemic came upon us all, seemingly out of nowhere. After it came on the scene, we death row inmates got a double dose of death.
Since May 1985, when I first arrived at San Quentin, I have been living under the constant threat of manmade death, state-sanctioned torture and murder, first by way of the gas chamber, then later by lethal injection, as well as living in one of the most violent prisons in the entire world, where inmates stabbing each other for any type of reason was once the norm.
In 2004, when I came within three hours and 42 minutes of being executed by lethal injection, I was at least able to prepare myself as best I could for this crime against humanity that was going to take place against my Black body by prison guard executioners trained to do this by burning me alive from the inside with their poisonous lethal injection drugs.
In my mind, I thought, and I prayed, that I could honestly prepare myself for this…But could I really?
Not even that near death experience could prepare me for this COVID-19 pandemic and all that it brought with it. The uncertainty of everything concerning one’s health, or even death, is unnerving. At least when I was facing manmade execution, I was told exactly the day, date and time that my life was going to be taken. But that’s not the case with the coronavirus.
Every little thing that happens like a cough for example, or a sneeze, or anything like that makes you wonder, Do I have the coronavirus? This is a form of psychological torture, just as executions and knowing what is going to happen to you is, but it’s also very different.
Then one starts to wonder, as I did, about the men who live in the cages on either side of the four-and-a-half-by-11-foot cage I live in, number 82, and in cage 81 and 83 there are other men, and then men on their further side. While this type of mental torture is happening in one’s mind, the reality and truth about what has and is taking place must be dealt with as well.
According to the prison grapevine, certain news stations, and a friend from outside, 21 inmates have died of COVID-19, 11 of them from death row as of July 29. Plus, there have been 2,166 confirmed COVID-19 cases here, and more than 200 prison guards are among the 254 staff who tested positive. Fewer than 90 have returned to work, and now there’s a staff shortage at San Quentin.
Many of these cases and deaths were preventable, and the chief medical officer of the state prison system was removed from his job for this and other reasons, according to certain prison guards and news reports.
The prison furniture factory, where inmates from general population work to make furniture, has been closed and converted to a hospital for inmates in general population who need to be hospitalized, but not in a hospital outside the prison.
There have been huge tents set up on the general population yard for triage and for whatever medical needs inmates have. The prison kitchen where food was cooked to feed the entire prison, including death row, was closed because of this epidemic. Inmates were served baloney and cheese sandwiches, then the prison hired an outside food vendor to deliver truckloads of prepared food in plastic and non-plastic trays for all inmates in this prison, and now we’re back to the kitchen food being served on paper trays.
This prison is truly on “lockdown” and the only time we inmates on death row leave the cages that we are assigned to is for medical and dental visits or to be taken to the shower three times a week. Telephone privileges were temporarily taken away, the only prison in the state where this happened. Supposedly the prison medical staff were afraid that we can get the coronavirus from handling the telephone. Then we heard on local NBC News that the main reason was because inmates were calling their families and the news media with information about what was going on in here.
While living this unbelievable life under these unbelievable circumstances, I remembered that in early 2020 my friend and lead attorney in my case told me about an illness that he had. He told me how he hurt and all he went through, though it may not have been the coronavirus. I remember thinking to myself that he was exaggerating as to the horrible experience that he went through concerning his illness, nothing could be that bad, and I said to myself that he was getting soft in his old age. After all, “I’m rough, I’m cheap, tough steak, I can handle anything,” was my mentality.
In late June 2020, I called my attorney and apologized to him for thinking that he was exaggerating about how bad he felt and all that he experienced because of that illness. I told him that I honestly thought that he was truly exaggerating when he told me about the things he went through.
Why did I apologize to him? Because in the middle of June, I began to get ill as well. But because I kept getting both my body temperature and my oxygen levels checked every other day by the prison medical staff, and was told that I’m good and everything is fine, I knew that I didn’t have the virus and wasn’t thinking about anything else as far as illnesses go. I was focused on not getting the coronavirus.
Every test I took I was good, no high temperature, good oxygen levels, but I kept feeling worse with each passing day. I was still doing everything that I do in this cage, from reading to writing to working out and speaking to my people on the phone, all the time getting worse, but not having a temperature and still having good oxygen levels.
One day, I just fell onto the bed and lay there for hours. Dozing in and out of sleep, I kept hearing inmates calling out, “Man down!” “Man down”—an alarm system we inmates use to notify the prison guards when an inmate in a cell is unresponsive or sick. I kept hearing inmates call “man down” and giving their cell number and tier.
And this went on for a week straight, all day and all night long, inmates were calling “man down” somewhere in the unit. When this happens, the alarm in the unit goes off, which is a loud buzzing sound that can be heard all over the unit and outside the unit. Then the officers go to the cell where the inmate is down. Some inmates can walk out on their own, sometimes the medical staff has to be called and they are taken out on a gurney. Some of these men ended up in the hospital.
There are five open-air tiers in the East Block—death row—with 52 cells, a total of 260 cells; each tier has two showers. On each tier, 26 cells on one side face an equal number across from them. One side has sealed windows that face the prison yard, and across the way the cells have a view of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. That is the view from my cell on the fourth tier. So, when an inmate yells “man down” anywhere in the block, it can be heard throughout death row.
If we inmates do not look out for each other by calling “man down,” inmates can lie in their cage without getting any help for lord knows how long. And that might cost somebody his life. Especially if it is after 4:00 P.M. because at 4:00 P.M. is standing count—and if we don’t stand for the count, they will want to know why, and after that, there is no count till 4:00 P.M. next afternoon.
I did not want to call out “man down” for myself out of fear that they would remove me from this cage and take me to who knows where in this prison for some type of isolation purpose. The prison has put flu and COVID-19 patients in solitary confinement in the solitary housing unit, or SHU, with no phones and few personal belongings.
I made myself get up at 4:00 P.M. for mandatory standing count; I then lay back down. I didn’t eat dinner, or breakfast, lunch or dinner the following days. Exactly how many days I don’t know. I only got out of bed for standing count, temperature and oxygen checks, which remained good, and to use the phone. I would man up and use the phone and talk to everyone like nothing was wrong (although some said later my voice was weak.)
I did not want to make anyone in my world and on my team and in my life worry about me anymore than they already were, especially knowing that they have their own lives, families and everything else, including worrying about catching the virus themselves.
So, I pretended that everything was good with me, but I was hurting and hurting badly. Each and every day I was getting worse. I went and reread the information concerning the symptoms of the coronavirus that the prison handed out, and I did not have any of those symptoms, yet I was in bad shape.
My body started to hurt, and I started to vomit. I couldn’t keep even water down, and the water from the tap was so warm that all I kept thinking of was ice water.
I wanted ice water so badly! Ice water is contraband in this prison. You can’t get ice unless a doctor prescribes it, like if an inmate hurts his ankle playing basketball and the doctor gives him a prescription to put ice on it. At one point a doctor came by and I begged him for ice, but he turned away and I did not get the ice.
I had spoken to many of my friends on the phone shortly before this. My attorneys and I spoke to Kim Kardashian, a supporter, to give her an update on my efforts to get an innocence investigation to present new evidence in my case, and I wished her luck on her studies for the “baby bar,” a precursor to her taking the state bar exam.
Everything was good, then it was all bad, seemingly just that fast.
I started to develop a sour taste in my mouth. It was nasty, and all I could do is wash my mouth out with mouthwash. I could not get rid of that sourness inside my mouth and in my throat and stomach. All the while, I was throwing up, hurting with body aches, and having no medication other than Tylenol and ibuprofen on hand.
I contacted a couple of my friends and asked them to send word out that I was ill. They did that, and one of them posted it on my Facebook page and word got out quickly. I could no longer afford not to let my people know about my illness for fear that I may actually die. When my friend in New Zealand, Dr. Kate Orange, learned about my illness, she told me by way of my friends not to take ibuprofen without having food in my stomach. I couldn’t eat, but I never took the ibuprofen because I couldn’t keep anything down.
I also found out, mainly because I was not the only inmate who was down at this time, that we all had the flu, and a bad case of it. Medical staff were asking inmates about it, but none ever asked me, and I did not tell them. I felt better emotionally knowing I had the flu instead of the coronavirus, yet the flu kills many people every year as well, and I did not think of that during this point in time. I just knew I did not have the common symptoms of COVID-19.
“The living dead”
Being in prison is bad enough for one’s health, especially when the prison health system in this state of California was at one time among the worst in this country, so much so that it was under federal court orders to fix all that was wrong because inmates, all poor, were suffering and dying due to lack of adequate healthcare. We on death row see our plight ten-times worse than the regular prison population because after all, we are on death row, deemed unworthy of life by society, and healthcare, especially good and consistent healthcare, not only saves lives, it gives life to the lifeless, people like me who are condemned to death.
In all of this pain and uncertainty about what was happening to me, I honestly felt like the living dead, even though I have no real idea of what “living dead” is, other than a zombie, or oxymoron. Yet I did not feel alive, and in fact I started to lose weight, about ten-or-so pounds. My thighs got really thin, as did my legs, and my stomach shrank; by not being able to eat, I could not maintain the body weight that I had.
I stayed in bed all day long and still kept getting worse, hurting and telling myself not to give up, that I was going to make it, that I have too much to live for not to make it, that I have people who care about me, people who are working hard to get me out of this horrible place, people who are standing by my side fighting with me and for me to prove my innocence. I couldn’t give up and let them down.
While my body was getting weaker, my spirit and will to survive got stronger. Then, just as the illness came out of nowhere and kicked my ass in this cage, I began to feel it leave little by little. I began to feel better. It was after I went through this most painful health experience and started to feel better, I called my attorney and apologized to him because he was not exaggerating about anything. We laughed, and he was honestly happy that I was feeling better and on the mend.
I am scared not only of this coronavirus, but also of this prison healthcare system. So much so that I did not tell them I had what we all think was the flu. I did get a flu shot last year, as I do every year, and I hope it helped in ending what I had.
Now I am back to living this inhumane experience in this inhumane place, still living under the threat of manmade death by lethal injection, and by mother nature with this pandemic, and the flu. All kill and will continue to do so. Which way is worse? I do not know, nor do I want to find out.
Sometimes living on this modern day plantation I do not even know which way is up because I have been down for so long. Living in a place where I have no say about anything, control over nothing, a place where ice water is contraband, and there is no clean air inside this building called East Block where I am forced to live against my will.
This place where loneliness is my best friend and death is my constant companion makes me wonder: Am I going to make it out of here alive—or dead in a body bag? There has to be more than this to what we call life. Living by one’s animalistic nature cannot be living life, and if one is not truly living, then aren’t they dead?
So, you tell me, am I living, or am I dead?
A new generation of activists is trying to figure out where to concentrate its efforts. Residential desegregation is the final frontier.
By Richard Rothstein, Aug. 14, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/14/opinion/sunday/blm-residential-segregation.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Many Greeks have grown frustrated as tens of thousands of asylum seekers languished on Greek islands. Now, evidence shows, a new conservative government has a new method of keeping them out.
By Patrick Kingsley and Karam Shoumali, Aug. 14, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/14/world/europe/greece-migrants-abandoning-sea.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
RHODES, Greece — The Greek government has secretly expelled more than 1,000 refugees from Europe’s borders in recent months, sailing many of them to the edge of Greek territorial waters and then abandoning them in inflatable and sometimes overburdened life rafts.
Since March, at least 1,072 asylum seekers have been dropped at sea by Greek officials in at least 31 separate expulsions, according to an analysis of evidence by The New York Times from three independent watchdogs, two academic researchers and the Turkish Coast Guard. The Times interviewed survivors from five of those episodes and reviewed photographic or video evidence from all 31.
“It was very inhumane,” said Najma al-Khatib, a 50-year-old Syrian teacher, who says masked Greek officials took her and 22 others, including two babies, under cover of darkness from a detention center on the island of Rhodes on July 26 and abandoned them in a rudderless, motorless life raft before they were rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.
“I left Syria for fear of bombing — but when this happened, I wished I’d died under a bomb,” she told The Times.
Illegal under international law, the expulsions are the most direct and sustained attempt by a European country to block maritime migration using its own forces since the height of the migration crisis in 2015, when Greece was the main thoroughfare for migrants and refugees seeking to enter Europe.
The Greek government denied any illegality.
“Greek authorities do not engage in clandestine activities,’’ said a government spokesman, Stelios Petsas. “Greece has a proven track record when it comes to observing international law, conventions and protocols. This includes the treatment of refugees and migrants.”
Since 2015, European countries like Greece and Italy have mainly relied on proxies, like the Turkish and Libyan governments, to head off maritime migration. What is different now is that the Greek government is increasingly taking matters into its own hands, watchdog groups and researchers say.
For example, migrants have been forced onto sometimes leaky life rafts and left to drift at the border between Turkish and Greek waters, while others have been left to drift in their own boats after Greek officials disabled their engines.
“These pushbacks are totally illegal in all their aspects, in international law and in European law,” said Prof. François Crépeau, an expert on international law and a former United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.
“It is a human rights and humanitarian disaster,” Professor Crépeau added.
Greeks were once far more understanding of the plight of migrants. But many have grown frustrated and hostile after a half-decade in which other European countries offered Greece only modest assistance as tens of thousands of asylum seekers languished in squalid camps on overburdened Greek islands.
Since the election last year of a new conservative government under Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece has taken a far harder line against the migrants — often refugees from the war in Syria — who push off Turkish shores for Europe.
The harsher approach comes as tensions have mounted with Turkey, itself burdened with 3.6 million refugees from the Syrian war, far more than any other nation.
Greece believes that Turkey has tried to weaponize the migrants to increase pressure on Europe for aid and assistance in the Syrian War. But it has also added pressure on Greece at a time when the two nations and others spar over contested gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean.
For several days in late February and early March, the Turkish authorities openly bussed thousands of migrants to the Greek land border in a bid to set off a confrontation, leading to the shooting of at least one Syrian refugee and the immediate extrajudicial expulsions of hundreds of migrants who made it to Greek territory.
For years, Greek officials have been accused of intercepting and expelling migrants, on a sporadic and infrequent basis, usually before the migrants manage to land their boats on Greek soil.
But experts say Greece’s behavior during the pandemic has been far more systematic and coordinated. Hundreds of migrants have been denied the right to seek asylum even after they have landed on Greek soil, and they’ve been forbidden to appeal their expulsion through the legal system.
“They’ve seized the moment,” Professor Crépeau said of the Greeks. “The coronavirus has provided a window of opportunity to close national borders to whoever they’ve wanted.”
Emboldened by the lack of sustained criticism from the European Union, where the migration issue has roiled politics, Greece has hardened its approach in the eastern Mediterranean in recent months.
Migrants landing on the Greek islands from Turkey have frequently been forced onto sometimes leaky, inflatable life rafts, dropped at the boundary between Turkish and Greek waters, and left to drift until being spotted and rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.
“This practice is totally unprecedented in Greece,” said Niamh Keady-Tabbal, a doctoral researcher at the Irish Center for Human Rights, and one of the first to document the phenomenon.
“Greek authorities are now weaponizing rescue equipment to illegally expel asylum seekers in a new, violent and highly visible pattern of pushbacks spanning several Aegean Islands,” Ms. Keady-Tabbal said.
Ms. al-Khatib, who recounted her ordeal for The Times, said she entered Turkey last November with her two sons, 14 and 12, fleeing the advance of the Syrian Army. Her husband, who had entered several weeks earlier, soon died of cancer, Ms. al-Khatib said.
With few prospects in Turkey, the family tried to reach Greece by boat three times this summer, failing once in May because their smuggler did not show up, and a second time in June after being intercepted in Greek waters and towed back to the Turkish sea border, she said.
On their third attempt, on July 23 at around 7 a.m., they landed on the Greek island of Rhodes, Ms. al-Khatib said, an account corroborated by four other passengers interviewed by The Times. They were detained by Greek police officers and taken to a small makeshift detention facility after handing over their identification documents.
Using footage filmed at this site by two passengers, a Times reporter was able to identify the facility’s location beside the island’s main ferry port and visit the camp.
A Coast Guard officer and an official at the island’s mayoralty both said the site falls under the jurisdiction of the Port Police, an arm of the Hellenic Coast Guard.
A Palestinian refugee, living in a disused slaughterhouse beside the camp, confirmed that Ms. al-Khatib had been there, recounting how he had spoken to her through the camp’s fence and bought her tablets to treat her hypertension, which Greek officials had refused to supply her.
On the evening of July 26, Ms. al-Khatib and the other detainees said that police officers had loaded them onto a bus, telling them they were being taken to a camp on another island, and then to Athens.
Instead, masked Greek officials transferred them to two vessels that ferried them out to sea before dropping them on rafts at the Turkish maritime border, she and other survivors said.
Amid choppy waves, the group, which included two babies, was forced to drain the raft using their hands as water slopped over the side, they said.
The group was rescued at 4:30 a.m. by the Turkish Coast Guard, according to a report by the Coast Guard that included a photograph of Ms. al-Khatib as she left the life raft.
Ms. al-Khatib tried to reach Greece for a fourth time, on Aug. 6, but said her boat was stopped off the island of Lesbos by Greek officials, who removed its fuel and towed it back to Turkish waters.
Some groups of migrants have been transferred to the life rafts even before landing on Greek soil.
On May 13, Amjad Naim, a 24-year-old Palestinian law student, was among a group of 30 migrants intercepted by Greek officials as they approached the shores of Samos, a Greek island close to Turkey.
The migrants were quickly transferred to two small life rafts that began to deflate under the weight of so many people, Mr. Naim said. Transferred to two other rafts, they were then towed back toward Turkey.
Videos captured by Mr. Naim on his phone show the two rafts being tugged across the sea by a large white vessel. Footage subsequently published by the Turkish Coast Guard shows the same two rafts being rescued by Turkish officials later in the day.
Migrants have also been left to drift in the boats they arrived on, after Greek officials disabled their engines, survivors and researchers say. And on at least two occasions, migrants have been abandoned on Ciplak, an uninhabited island within Turkish waters, instead of being placed on life rafts.
“Eventually the Turkish Coast Guard came to fetch us,” said one Palestinian survivor who was among a group abandoned on Ciplak in early July, and who sent videos of their time on the island. A report from the Turkish Coast Guard corroborated his account.
In parallel, several rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have documented how the Greek authorities have rounded up migrants living legally in Greece and secretly expelled them without legal recourse across the Evros River, which divides mainland Greece from Turkey.
Feras Fattouh, a 30-year-old Syrian X-ray technician, said he was arrested by the Greek police on July 24 in Igoumenitsa, a port in western Greece. Mr. Fattouh had been living legally in Greece since November 2019 with his wife and son, and showed The Times documents to prove it.
But after being detained by the police in Igoumenitsa, Mr. Fattouh said, he was robbed and driven about 400 miles east to the Turkish border, before being secretly put on a dinghy with 18 others and sent across the river to Turkey. His wife and son remain in Greece.
“Syrians are suffering in Turkey,” Mr. Fattouh said. “We’re suffering in Greece. Where are we supposed to go?”
Ylva Johansson, who oversees migration policy at the European Commission, the civil service for the European Union, said she was concerned by the accusations but had no power to investigate them.
“We cannot protect our European border by violating European values and by breaching people’s rights,” Ms. Johansson said in an email. “Border control can and must go hand in hand with respect for fundamental rights.”
Patrick Kingsley reported from Rhodes, Greece, and Karam Shoumali from Berlin.
Using crowd-control weapons, agents were able to extract people who were detained on one of the buses after hundreds of protesters in Bend, Ore., blocked the vehicles from moving.
By Mike Baker, Aug. 13, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/13/us/ICE-bus-protesters-Bend-Oregon.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=US%20News
Dozens of federal agents were deployed in Bend, Ore., late Wednesday after protesters stood for hours to block the path of buses that held two people who had been seized by immigration agents, according to witnesses and videos from the scene.
The federal officers came to the scene of the protest, a hotel parking lot, in helmets and tactical gear, said Barb Campbell, a member of the Bend City Council. Using crowd-control devices such as pepper spray, the officers were able to work their way through the crowd, remove the detainees from one of the buses and take them away, she said.
The effort to block the buses began on Wednesday morning when Luke Richter, president of the activist group Central Oregon Peacekeepers, heard from a friend that officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were operating in the city. He was able to find two unmarked buses and decided to block their path while livestreaming video from the scene.
Others later joined the effort, including Ms. Campbell, who parked her vehicle and set up a lawn chair in front of one of the buses. As the day wore on, hundreds of protesters gathered. Mr. Richter said he was overwhelmed by the response from the community.
“They are not welcome here,” Mr. Richter said of the federal agents.
Janet Sarai Llerandi Gonzalez, who leads a local support organization for Latinos called Mecca Bend, said children of the men were at the scene pleading with bus drivers to let them go. When the federal agents arrived to remove the men, she said family members were violently tossed to the side.
“This is something that perhaps we never thought would happen in our community,” Ms. Llerandi Gonzalez said.
It was not immediately clear why the men were detained. In a statement, ICE accused the men of having a “history of criminal violent behavior.”
“While ICE respects the rights of people to voice their opinion peacefully, that does not include interfering with their federal law enforcement duties,” the statement said.
Ms. Campbell said that if the men had committed crimes, the city’s Police Department and district attorney could handle it without the involvement of federal officers. Bend is a community of about 100,000 people in central Oregon — a few hours drive from Portland.
The district attorney in Deschutes County, John Hummel, said he went to the scene on Wednesday to better understand what was transpiring but could not get answers from federal officials about who had been picked up and why. Mr. Hummel said that as the crowd grew into the hundreds, he worked with the governor’s office to try and talk with federal officials about how to bring things to a calm resolution.
Instead of trying to de-escalate the situation, he said, the federal officials on scene said they were calling in reinforcements from Portland and Seattle to try and reclaim the detainees.
“I hope that if the federal government is going to come in with full tactical gear and weaponry like they did that it’s because all options short of violence have been exhausted,” Mr. Hummel said. “To go to force as the first option was disheartening.”
Officials in Oregon have repeatedly expressed frustration with the tactics of federal law enforcement officers during protests this summer, especially over the handling of demonstrations around a federal courthouse in Portland, which often involved the use of tear gas and other heavy-handed crowd control measures.
Lawyers from the Portland-based Innovation Law Lab have filed a motion in federal court to block the deportation of the Bend detainees.
A grand jury indictment accused the officers of pulling George Robinson, 62, from his car in Jackson, Miss., last year, slamming him headfirst into the pavement, and striking and kicking him in the head and the chest.
By Michael Levenson and Marie Fazio, Aug. 14, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/14/us/jackson-mississippi-police-murder.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage
Three Mississippi police officers have been charged with killing a Black man by body-slamming him to the ground and then beating him last year, the authorities said on Friday.
The three officers — Desmond Barney, Lincoln Lampley and Anthony Fox — were indicted this month on charges of second-degree murder in the death of George Robinson, 62, of Jackson, Miss.
The officers, who were all members of the Jackson Police Department at the time, caused Mr. Robinson’s death by pulling him from his car, throwing him headfirst onto the roadway pavement, and then striking and kicking him multiple times in the head and the chest, according to the indictment, issued by a grand jury in Hinds County, Miss. The indictment said the officers’ actions evinced a “depraved heart, regardless of human life.”
Jody E. Owens II, the district attorney in Hinds County, said the officers saw Mr. Robinson sitting in his car on Jan. 13, 2019, when they were canvassing a predominantly Black neighborhood in Jackson after a pastor, Anthony Longino, was fatally shot in a botched robbery outside his church hours earlier.
The officers, who are also Black, approached Mr. Robinson because they believed they had seen him dealing drugs with another person, although that person was never detained, Mr. Owens said.
When the officers ordered Mr. Robinson to get out of his car, he was slow to comply, perhaps because he had survived a stroke, Mr. Owens said. According to witness accounts, Mr. Owens said, officers then proceeded to assault Mr. Robinson.
Medical reports, including one from the state coroner, showed that Mr. Robinson died of blunt force trauma to the head and of a bleeding brain, Mr. Owens said. The reports also showed that several of Mr. Robinson’s ribs had been broken, Mr. Owens said.
Mr. Owens, a former lawyer at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the case was among a number of languishing investigations that he had revived after taking over as district attorney in January.
“Poor, Black — it doesn’t make a difference,” he said. “Every life has value, and we have to treat all life the same.”
The three officers have posted bond and are free awaiting their next court date, Mr. Owens said.
Officer Lampley, 33, still works for the Jackson Police Department but has been placed on desk duty, according to his lawyer, Francis Springer.
“We feel really confident, once we’re able to exhibit the evidence we have, that these officers are going to be vindicated,” Mr. Springer said.
After Mr. Robinson’s death, Officers Barney, 31, and Fox, 35, were hired by the Police Department in nearby Clinton, Miss., according to that city’s mayor, Phil Fisher. He said both officers had been “assigned other duties within the department until this matter is resolved.”
Mr. Fisher said the Clinton Police Department hired the officers after the Jackson Police Department’s internal affairs division cleared them of wrongdoing and “multiple agencies looked into the incident and advised that no criminal conduct occurred.”
“I stand behind these two officers and believe they will be exonerated,” he said.
Paul Luckett, a lawyer for Officer Fox, said his client was innocent, and “we are preparing to mount a vigorous defense.”
Michael Cory, a lawyer for Officer Barney, said the three officers believe “there’s a lot more to the story, and they’re looking forward to their chance to be fully vindicated.”
Dennis C. Sweet III, a lawyer who represents Mr. Robinson’s family, said the indictment was “one place where it looks like we’re trying to get some justice for African-Americans who were brutally beaten by police officers.”
“It’s been 19 months,” he said, “but at least it’s getting done.”
The charges came amid intense scrutiny of police brutality after the killing in May of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis police.
Mr. Robinson’s family has filed a civil suit against the City of Jackson, the three police officers and American Medical Response Inc., the ambulance company that treated Mr. Robinson at the scene and released him. Hours after Mr. Robinson was released, his girlfriend saw that he was losing consciousness and called another ambulance, the family’s lawyers said. He died at a hospital on Jan. 15, 2019.
The suit, filed in October 2019, claims that Mr. Robinson was wrongfully killed through use of “excessive, unreasonable and unjustifiable” force, and that he was denied the right to due process when he was seized from his car, according to court records.
“It was pretty egregious,” said Mr. Sweet, whose son Dennis C. Sweet IV also represents the Robinson family. “Mr. Robinson had blunt force trauma to the head, he had fractured ribs and we have eyewitnesses. It was in front of his home, on Jones Street.”
The younger Mr. Sweet said his firm was also representing the family of Mario Clark, another Black man who died after an encounter with the Jackson police.
“We’ve seen a common practice in this police department, and it seems to be a majority of the time in poor, Black communities,” he said. “You see it a lot in South Jackson and West Jackson.”
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba of Jackson said on Friday that his administration was “committed to ensuring that Jacksonians have an accountable police department.”
Mr. Lumumba said the city adopted a policy in October 2018 of turning over all cases of people who died in the custody of the Jackson police to the district attorney for a grand jury review.
“The Hinds County grand jury indictments, issued today, begin another phase of the process,” Mr. Lumumba said. “In the full spirit of transparency, the administration will continue to monitor the situation and provide information to the public throughout each phase. We ask that you keep all those affected by this tragedy in your prayers.”
Bobby White was celebrated as the “Basketball Cop” after millions saw a video of him shooting hoops with local teenagers. A recording from two years earlier shows him throwing a young Black man on the hood of his car during an arrest.
By Nicholas Casey, Aug. 15, 2020
A video from 2014 showed Mr. White slamming a teenager on the hood of a police car. Credit...via Chanae Jackson
Aahtrell Johnson remembered the police car rolling up, just before he was about to take his shot at the basket under the pine trees. It was 2016, and his neighbor had called 911, complaining that he was getting loud in the street. A white officer named Bobby White had been sent to respond.
As Mr. White, a Florida native with a trimmed goatee, approached Mr. Johnson, who is Black, the officer could see the 17-year-old was only playing basketball with his friend. Rather than issue a ticket, Mr. Johnson recalled, the officer asked if he could join the game. He shot some hoops with the teenagers, and others came out of their homes.
No one noticed that Mr. White’s dashboard camera was running the whole time.
The video — posted online by the Police Department afterward and watched by millions of viewers — was a moment of hope in an age where recordings of police brutality were the ones going viral. Mr. White became a celebrity in Gainesville, Fla., and was nicknamed “Basketball Cop.” Sports stars came to play pickup games with the Gainesville teens. Mr. White founded a nonprofit to ease relations between the police and Black youths and was invited on NBC’s “Nightly News” and ESPN to promote it.
“He didn’t look at us like we were criminals,” Mr. Johnson, now 22, said.
But Chanae Jackson, a real estate agent who was born in Gainesville, had a different understanding of policing in the city. Her son had a troubling encounter with law enforcement in 2018, and she became a vocal critic of the department. This May, someone sent her another video of Mr. White: A cellphone recording of him slamming a Black teenager into the hood of his patrol car.
After the killing of George Floyd, Ms. Jackson decided she would release the video.
And with just a click on Facebook, she set off an uproar that stripped away not only Mr. White’s image as the face of what good neighborhood policing should be but also the assumption — embraced by liberal-minded reformers in Gainesville and across the country — that fixing racial bias could be as simple as retraining officers and focusing on “community policing.”
“The culture of police departments creates an environment where there are no real consequences for these officers,” Ms. Jackson wrote in her post under the clip of Mr. White’s encounter with the teenager, who was pulled over for running a stop sign on his bicycle.
Gainesville, a largely white and liberal college town, likes to think of itself as different from its neighbors in the Deep South, both in its politics and its policing.
This summer, it responded to calls for defunding the police with a proposal to eliminate city money for stationing police officers in schools. Shortly afterward, officials removed a Confederate general’s name from an elementary school and vowed to rename it. In 2015, the police chief had invited the Justice Department to retrain its entire force.
Yet Black residents like Ms. Jackson argued that law enforcement in Gainesville remained plagued by the racist legacies of a time when its police officers enforced Jim Crow laws.
“Peel back the layers, and Gainesville is not progressive at all,” she said.
Since the killing of Mr. Floyd on May 25, a similar scrutiny of the police has been underway nationwide. And what’s at play is the fundamental question of how the police are perceived. Or, as the two videos of Mr. White illustrate: Do you think a cop is more likely to play ball, or throw you on the hood of a car?
In Gainesville, Mr. White remains in the police department. He declined interview requests for this article and provided a copy of a 2015 internal investigation which cleared him of wrongdoing.
Mr. Johnson, the teenager Mr. White approached in the basketball video, fondly recalled the games he played with the officer and the group of teens Mr. White called “the crew.” Mr. Johnson remembered going with Mr. White to see the Orlando Magic for the first time and how Mr. White stayed in touch and helped him move out of his family home when he got older.
But Mr. Johnson hadn’t seen the other video, the one of the arrest, and asked to watch it on his phone.
When a Times reporter called him back later that day, his voice had changed. He said his perceptions were different now.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a video of every policeman in the world like that,” Mr. Johnson said. “It’s what they’re taught.”
A celebrity cop
At age 17, Mr. Johnson said he couldn’t help but notice his interactions with the Gainesville Police Department kept becoming more frequent. They were often harassing, he said, and the stops always came after he had finished playing basketball and his friends walked one another home.
This time the police car pulled up before the teenager had even finished his game. But when Mr. White stepped out in 2016, he had a smile on his face.
“Can you believe that someone called complaining that kids are playing basketball in the street?” Mr. White asks in the video recorded on his dashboard camera. “But I ain’t got no problems with it.”
The boy tosses the officer the ball and the two start to play.
Mr. White came to the Police Department in 2008, a transplant from South Florida. Though white, he has said that he came to identify with some of the struggles of many Black youth in the city. He grew up with a single mother who died of drug addiction at a young age. There was never a male role model in his household.
But there was a big difference when it came to the police. In a podcast interview last year, Mr. White said that as a child he remembered thinking the police “were like superheroes.” He didn’t get that reception from children when he arrived in Gainesville.
“I noticed right away that the kids were scared of us,” he said.
That was because relations between law enforcement and African-Americans in Gainesville had long been uneasy, and would soon be more strained. Even before the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner made national news, the city was dealing with a string of brutal incidents involving the police and sheriff’s officers in the city.
In 2009, two unarmed Black men were shot by officers during separate altercations; one died, and the other, who was mentally ill, survived only after his colon was removed. The next year, an officer unleashed an attack dog that mauled Bryce Bates, a 10-year-old boy, in responding to what turned out to be a false report of a burglary. In 2012, a 29-year-old Black man named Nehemiah Dillard died of a heart attack after being hit twice with Tasers during an arrest.
“The chief saw a trend he didn’t like,” said Jorge Campos, the chief inspector of the Police Department. The police chief ordered the department to be retrained — from a traditional policing model that focused mainly on crime fighting, to one in which Mr. Campos said policing would be done “in conjunction with the community,” which had long been the department’s goal.
The city requested help from Justice Department officials, who assigned teams to meet officers in separate sessions on racial profiling, the use of force and when to report biased tactics.
Lorie Fridell, a criminologist who set up the training, said the venue allowed officers to admit prejudice such as “when I see young Black males, my response is ‘danger and crime,’” and to try to overcome their unconscious biases before returning to work.
But the turnaround effort needed a face. Mr. White’s basketball video, which went viral months after the training, made him the obvious choice. The officer was becoming popular on Facebook, where he often posted pictures of himself surrounded by smiling Black children who posed with him on his beat.
Mr. White did a circuit of cable-news interviews, saying the police had been misunderstood in videos of police brutality that only showed law enforcement at its worst. Gainesville offered a counterexample, he insisted.
When a construction company asked to help, Mr. White had a cement court built behind the home of one of the teenagers. He founded a nonprofit, Basketball Cop Foundation, to distribute basketballs to police departments around the country with the motto “hoops, not crime.”
“It’s no secret that there is a damaged relationship between our country’s law enforcement and the youth in the communities we serve,” he wrote in the foundation’s mission statement. “I also believe that kids do not prefer to feel this way, but society, with the help of social media and the news has influenced them.”
Mr. Johnson described Mr. White as a gentle, almost fatherly presence. The officer helped the teenager find a job after high school. Mr. White came with other officers, dressed in Santa Claus hats, to distribute gifts in the neighborhood at Christmas and hosted birthday parties for children whose parents couldn’t afford them.
There was even a surprise visit from Shaquille O’Neal, whom Mr. White brought in 2016 to the same street where the video was filmed.
Mr. O’Neal ordered up a shooting contest for the teenagers, offering $100 for each successful free throw. The visit was featured on “Good Morning America.”
But Mr. Johnson said things changed when Mr. White and the television cameras were gone. He was still being followed by the police, who would ask to search his shoes for marijuana and sometimes ask if he had been selling drugs.
“I was in high school, my friends were in the eighth or ninth grade,” he said.
It turned out even Mr. O’Neal had run into problems the day he visited Gainesville. The N.B.A. star was pulled over by state troopers and questioned before he arrived to meet the teens, Mr. White later said.
‘They’ve messed with the wrong child’
Chanae Jackson had just received the call she said she had feared since moving back to Gainesville, where she grew up. Her 18-year-old son, Keyon Young, was on the other line, and officers from the sheriff’s department had pulled his car over for allegedly speeding and told him to get out.
It was 2018, and Ms. Jackson was getting her start as a real estate agent in the city after raising her son in Atlanta. She returned home in 2016 to take care of her father, who was ill. But Gainesville wasn’t Atlanta, she told her son, especially when it came to the police. During her pregnancy, officers there once slammed her on the hood of a car during a traffic stop, she said.
She told her son to keep his hands visible and stay in the car. She would call 911, hoping the dispatcher there would ask the officers not to escalate the situation.
Dash cam footage released by the sheriff’s department showed what happened next. Two white officers rush toward Mr. Young’s Volvo. One pulls open the door and shouts, “Exit the vehicle or you’re going to jail.” Both officers then lunge into the car. There’s a brief struggle and one officer steps back to point his weapon at Mr. Young’s head.
“I thought they were going to kill him,” Ms. Jackson said.
Ms. Jackson jumped into her car and sped down the streets near her home, searching for the traffic stop. She found her son in handcuffs when she arrived.
She pulled out her phone and began to broadcast her son’s arrest on Facebook to hundreds of friends and family.
“Y’all know me, y’all know I don’t ever go live — anything I have to say, I say within the confines of my own home,” she said, her anger rising. But this time was different, she said. “They’ve messed with the wrong child.”
As her son was arrested, Ms. Jackson referred to studies on policing by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center. She cited arrest statistics of Black people in Gainesville. Ms. Jackson kept the camera rolling, through a first video, a second and a third hours later as her son drove her home after his release.
“I’ve told Keyon, as a Black man in America you have two strikes against you, no matter how well you speak, no matter how well you do,” she said in the video.
A judge later cleared Mr. Young of the speeding charge. But the experience caught the attention of the small but growing activist community in the city. Just as the video of the policeman playing basketball made Mr. White the spokesman of the law enforcement reform effort, the video of the angered mother made Ms. Jackson a star critic of the police in Gainesville.
It had been two years since the Police Department had undergone retraining. But a study by the University of Florida found racial disparities persisted. While African-Americans accounted for only a fifth of the population, they were four times as likely to be arrested in Gainesville than whites. Black teens were seven times as likely to be arrested than white teens.
Less than a year after the Department of Justice training, officers shot and killed Robert Dentmond, a 16-year-old Black high school student who had called 911 saying he was armed and suicidal. Officers fired 35 times after he refused to put down what was found later to be a plastic weapon. A grand jury found the killing justified.
Ms. Jackson argued that the reforms were only a facade and that law enforcement needed to be taken on more directly.
When she saw Black men pulled over as she drove through Gainesville, Ms. Jackson took to stopping and questioning the officers in live Facebook videos. She broadcast to her followers from outside the Alachua County jail and referred to Sadie Darnell, the sheriff, as #ShadySadie in her posts. She was more confrontational than other activists, but said she didn’t mind being a lightning rod.
“I take full ownership of being an angry Black woman,” she said. “Change doesn’t happen in times of comfort.”
Ms. Jackson had always been skeptical of Mr. White’s fame and the media attention that his Basketball Cop Foundation received.
In mid-May, a group of officers in the Police Department who shared her concerns about racism on the force got in touch with her. They sent her a 2014 video in which Mr. White could be seen violently throwing a young Black man onto the hood of his vehicle after he rode a bicycle through a stop sign.
“Black children, in their minds, are compliant,” she said, describing the attitude of the Police Department. That was why Mr. White was popular with the children he knew. “But Black teenagers are seen as grown people — the police see them as Black men, and the world is supposed to be scared of them.”
On May 25, George Floyd was killed by police officers in Minneapolis. The wave of protests against police brutality reached Gainesville days later.
Before a rally, the police chief, Tony Jones, condemned the Minnesota officers. He said Gainesville wasn’t Minneapolis. Its officers had a different philosophy. They had simply been taught differently, retrained in community policing.
He echoed so many political leaders who have argued this year that more training, getting to know residents and working with them to solve neighborhood problems, and hiring officers who look like the people they serve is the best way to end police brutality.
“What I saw in that video erodes the trust of police,” the chief said.
Ms. Jackson thought of the video of Mr. White sitting on her hard drive.
One last viral moment
Mr. White had also become vocal on social media about the killing of Mr. Floyd. In his view, it left a black eye on officers everywhere, and was pushing the country back toward the police brutality narrative that he’d spent years countering.
“I’m a cop. Emotions….” he wrote on Facebook on May 26 under a video still of the arrest. “I am DISGUSTED by the actions of this officer. I am ANGRY at the officers on the scene who didn’t stop him.”
Mr. White’s Facebook page for his Basketball Cop Foundation had given the officer a platform well beyond Gainesville. About 140,000 people nationwide followed his posts on the good deeds of the police, like a local television segment Mr. White posted of one officer who gave a laptop to someone after hers was stolen.
But Mr. Floyd’s death marked a turning point. Some of Mr. White’s followers asked him whether the police were deliberately targeting Black people. Mr. White argued that there was no larger problem, saying his own white family was treated the same as Black families by the police.
“I’m a cop and my teenaged son is white. I still had ‘the talk’ with him, too,” he wrote, referring to how to behave during a police stop. “It’s because I know it’s your actions that will get you shot, not your race.”
Mr. White’s followers began to push him on the unrest and looting in Minneapolis, which some said was justified, one quoting a speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mr. White argued that businesses shouldn’t be harmed.
As the criticism mounted, Mr. White dug in. He posted an article from the far-right website Breitbart News decrying “those smearing every police officer,” and another item about recent crime in Chicago, saying there was too little focus on “Black-on-Black” crime.
“What about the thousands of black babies aborted each year?” asked one commenter in the thread. “Why is it different when a white person is killed similarly by the police?”
Mr. White clicked “like.”
As the disputes between Mr. White and his followers reached a peak, Ms. Jackson returned to the video that was sent to her.
She had been trying to gather more information before releasing it. Shot on a cellphone, the video showed an encounter from 2014. Semajiah Ferguson, then 16 years old, stands next to Mr. White, looking at the ground as the lights flash on the patrol car at nighttime.
“He bothering us Black folks for no reason,” says Mr. Ferguson’s cousin, who was recording the video. “Can you tell us what we did, sir?”
In an interview, Mr. Ferguson recalled he had been riding his bicycle home to his parents’ house after picking up a two-liter bottle of Tropical Punch when he was stopped.
Mr. White later told his superiors the teenager had committed two minor traffic violations — running a stop sign and having improper lighting for the bike — but on the video, the officer mentions neither. Instead, he tells the teenager to sit on the ground. Mr. Ferguson says he doesn’t want to.
Mr. White suddenly grabs the young man, and pins his knees against the hood. The boy goes limp. The officer then throws Mr. Ferguson’s upper body against the hood of the vehicle twice, and a loud thud can be heard.
“Down! Down! Lay down on the car!” Mr. White shouts.
Watching it again, Ms. Jackson decided on June 14 that other people should see this video of Mr. White, too.
As the video circulated on Facebook, she began to see in the comments that this kind of behavior from the police in Gainesville was a surprise to some residents. “Before, some people said we didn’t even need protests in Gainesville because there was no police brutality,” she said.
The video generated outrage among the city’s leaders. Gail Johnson, a city commissioner, said it showed the kind of overzealous policing over minor infractions that her Black constituents had long complained was commonplace.
“It is grounded in racism,” she said. “I don’t even know how to approach it.”
Residents and activists, brought to the streets after the Minneapolis killing, now began to rally against Mr. White in their demonstrations as marches continued around Gainesville. If the police had the video of the arrest, many asked, how was it that the officer had been allowed to work with young children for so many years?
The department released a lengthy statement saying that it had looked into the arrest years before and it didn’t violate any departmental policy. It also said prosecutors hadn’t found any evidence of wrongdoing by the officer even though authorities had found no crime with which to charge the teenager he had thrown.
“The search was captured on video and appeared proper,” said a police report on the incident.
Soon after the department’s statement, which once more praised its community policing model, Ms. Jackson found herself under attack by law enforcement officers for releasing the video.
Becki Holcomb, a white officer who dated Mr. White and worked on the force when it underwent retraining, went after Ms. Jackson on the official Facebook page of the Gainesville Police Department.
“Chanae Jackson, you are a horrible person and you should be ashamed of yourself,” the officer wrote under the department’s statement on Mr. Ferguson’s arrest. “You are a liar, a race baiter and one of the most uneducated, hateful women I’ve ever had to deal with.”
Not long after, Ashley Mauger, a 911 dispatcher in the sheriff’s office, threatened to run background checks on those who were criticizing Mr. White on Facebook. She then turned her attention to Ms. Jackson, calling her a “hothead” and criticizing her grammar.
“I can’t fathom the response you will get the next time you dial 911 and possibly get me on the phone with a loved one or yourself in a life-or-death emergency,” she wrote, adding, “you should all be ashamed of yourselves.”
Ms. Mauger was briefly suspended for her comments; Ms. Holcomb is under investigation, the police said.
Ms. Jackson said that while the attacks by the officers angered her, she was not surprised.
If anything, Ms. Jackson said she felt some vindication. After years of hearing white neighbors praise Gainesville’s policing, the video and the reactions showed a reality that contradicted that of the “Basketball Cop.”
“I said, ‘There they go, proving my point again,’” she said of the fallout.
Ms. Jackson continues her efforts to hold the police accountable in her online videos. Driving for errands in the nearby city of Ocala in early July, she pulled over when she saw more than a dozen police cars surrounding a group of teenagers of color, and started filming.
When the traffic stop finished, she yelled out to the young men to pull over a second time — she wanted to instruct them on how to file a complaint if they felt the stop was unwarranted.
“I’m gonna record for y’all to see every time this happens, every time,” she says to her online audience in the video.
Stella Cooper contributed reporting.
Nicholas Casey is a national politics reporter. He was previously the Andes bureau chief, based in Colombia.
As the pandemic wreaks havoc on public transit systems across the country, experts say it is low-income residents, people of color and essential workers bearing the brunt.
By Pranshu Verma, Aug. 15, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/15/us/virus-transit-congress.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
WASHINGTON — As Nina Red stood under a tree in the New Orleans rain, waiting for two buses that never came, she recalled a feeling of helplessness.
Ms. Red, 69, a resident of the city’s Algiers neighborhood, does not have a car. The bus, which she has ridden for 43 years, is the cheapest way to get around. But since the coronavirus pandemic hit, she has noticed service take a deep dive.
A six-mile trip to the grocery store, which used to take an hour, sometimes takes close to three. Routine doctor’s appointments at 8 a.m. require her to wake up by 5. Many days, buses have skipped her stop without warning. When they do arrive, they are packed, making her worry she is going to be exposed to the coronavirus.
“We’re desperate,” Ms. Red said. “We have no other transportation. If we had an alternative, we would take it.”
New Orleans, like most American cities, has seen its transit budget drastically affected during the pandemic. Public transit leaders across the country have issued dire warnings to Congress, saying that the first $25 billion in aid they received in March is quickly drying up, and they need more — otherwise their systems will go into a “death spiral.”
In return, though, Congress has shown little sign that another stimulus package will pass soon, or even include any of the $32 billion more in assistance that transit experts say is needed to prevent systems from making more severe cuts to service that could stall the nation’s economic recovery.
But as service cuts to the United States’ bus, rail and subway systems start to happen, experts say it is the nation’s low-income residents, people of color and essential workers bearing the brunt. Many of them feel the congressional gridlock is completely ignoring their plight.
“It seems like we’re invisible,” Ms. Red said, “and they don’t care about us.”
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on public transit. Ridership on top city systems has declined 70 percent to 90 percent. Sales tax revenue, which fuels many transit agency budgets, has cratered because of a collapsing economy. All told, transit agencies across the country are projected to rack up close to $40 billion in budget shortfalls, dwarfing the $2 billion loss inflicted by the 2008 financial crisis.
To stay afloat, transit leaders have started to pare back service, which has caused immediate disruption. Many riders are already experiencing longer commute times, more system breakdowns, a lack of social distancing and, in some cases, unexplainable lapses in service.
But the effect is not spread equally, according to data.
Minority residents account for 60 percent of all public transit riders, according to industry experts. While over 2.8 million essential workers rely on public transportation to get to work, expert analysis found, 67 percent of those are people of color.
In the early days of the pandemic, industry analysis also showed white ridership on transit systems dropped drastically, with 22 percent of transit users identifying as white, compared with 40 percent normally. Black ridership, which normally accounts for 24 percent of transit users, increased to nearly 38 percent.
“The wealthy have lots of choices,” said Beth Osborne, the director of Transportation for America, an advocacy group. “People with enough money can choose to opt out for a while. That’s quite a luxury.”
Experts say the ability for higher-income and white-collar workers to work remotely or use a car at higher rates than low-income and minority residents highlights another systemic inequity made glaringly obvious during the pandemic.
Two economic studies have found Black people could be dying at nearly double the rate of white people from the coronavirus, in part because of their heavier reliance on public transportation.
For essential workers like Mosi Tibbs, 26, who lives just outside Pittsburgh, the inequality is glaring during his daily bus trip to his job at Trader Joe’s.
Mr. Tibbs, who is Black and the main breadwinner for his household, has noticed buses on his route coming less frequently, or much later than normal. When they do arrive, they are usually packed and filled with riders who are not wearing their masks.
He has considered buying a car because he does not want to risk being late to his job and losing it, or contracting the virus and giving it to his wife, who has Celiac disease. But it is just not affordable right now.
“I’m upset I have to make that type of decision,” Mr. Tibbs said. “I have to choose between financial stability, and the health of myself and my wife.”
The plight of public transportation riders has drawn attention on Capitol Hill, but not in ways that have produced hope for transit riders across the country.
In May, House lawmakers passed a coronavirus aid package that would dedicate an additional $15 billion in funding to transportation agencies. It stalled in the Republican-led Senate.
The White House and top congressional Democrats are still at a standstill over the next relief package. The Senate has gone home for its August recess, with no indication that a deal is imminent. The White House’s $1 trillion proposal does not include any emergency relief for public transit.
The omission has caused uproar among lawmakers. In late July, 110 representatives in the House signed a letter urging congressional leadership to include $32 billion in emergency funding for public transportation agencies in any future aid measure.
Last week, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said Democrats had heard the warnings from public transit leaders and were imploring their Republican colleagues to ensure funding is included.
“This is when government is needed,” he said. “Jump-starting our economy means getting people back to work safely, and that means mass transit: fully operational, fully funded mass transit.”
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, did not respond to a request for comment.
Transit leaders have signaled that the cuts they are making to service are only the start, and the real pain will be felt in the coming months. Bigger city systems will see the first round of coronavirus aid dry up in the next few months, while midsize cities expected to see the worst next year.
Nearly one-third of public transit agencies are furloughing employees or are planning furloughs, according to the American Public Transportation Association. A third of agencies are also delaying capital projects that were meant to upgrade transit systems and reduce the risk of accidents.
Reduced revenue from fares and sales tax subsidies have meant cities like San Francisco have cut half their bus lines. In New Orleans, where 14 percent of its transit workers have tested positive for the virus, fare revenue has dropped by 45 percent. Chicago expects up to a $1.5 billion budgetary shortfall into next year.
If additional aid from Congress does not come through, transit systems could plunge into a transit death spiral, where cuts to service and delayed upgrades make public transit a less convenient option for the public. That, in turn, prompts further drops in ridership, causing spiraling revenue loss and service cuts until a network eventually collapses.
Transit advocates say if that happens, it could slow the nation’s path to economic recovery by cutting off a main way for workers who rely on public transit to get to work.
And while congressional leadership remains at an impasse over the next round of coronavirus aid and how much more support to give transit agencies, those outside Washington said it was simply another sign of how federal lawmakers were out of touch with the struggles facing everyday Americans.
“It’s not their problem,” Ms. Red said. “Their families and friends have everything they need. They don’t look at us.”
The trooper, who is white, was fired and charged with murder a week after the killing, which happened after the driver had been pulled over for having a broken taillight, the authorities said.
By Allyson Waller, Aug. 15, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/15/us/georgia-state-trooper-charged-murder.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage
A Georgia state trooper was fired and charged with murder on Friday, one week after a 60-year-old Black man was fatally shot during a traffic stop over a broken taillight on his car, the authorities said.
The trooper, Jacob G. Thompson, 27, who is white, was charged on Friday by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation with felony murder and aggravated assault in connection with an Aug. 7 traffic stop that resulted in the death of Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis of Sylvania, Ga.
“Mr. Lewis was no threat as a 60-year-old man just trying to make it home from a convenience store run” to get a grape soda for his wife, said Francys Johnson, a lawyer representing Mr. Lewis’s family.
A Georgia State Patrol report details how events unfolded:
Around 9 p.m. on Aug. 7, Mr. Thompson spotted Mr. Lewis near Sylvania, Ga., which is about 60 miles northwest of Savannah, driving with a broken taillight, followed him and attempted to pull him over.
Mr. Lewis continued driving, and Mr. Thompson eventually used his patrol vehicle to force Mr. Lewis’s car to turn sideways, causing him to stop in a ditch. Mr. Thompson drew his gun as he got out and saw Mr. Lewis with both of his hands on the steering wheel, the report said.
It then appeared, the trooper said, that Mr. Lewis was trying to maneuver his vehicle toward him, prompting him to open fire, the report said. Mr. Lewis was pronounced dead at the scene, the bureau said in a statement.
Mr. Lewis’s family did not learn of his whereabouts or his death until around 1 a.m. the next day, Mr. Johnson said.
The Georgia Department of Public Safety said in a statement that Mr. Thompson had been fired for his “negligence or inefficiency in performing assigned duties; or commission of a felony.”
Keith Barber, who was described by The Associated Press as Mr. Thompson’s lawyer, could not immediately be reached on Saturday. He told The A.P. that Mr. Thompson “has an excellent character.”
“I think he’s a fine trooper,” Mr. Barber said. “I think at the end of the day he will be exonerated in this case.”
The decision to arrest and fire Mr. Thompson a week after Mr. Lewis’s death was a surprise, Mr. Johnson said on Saturday.
“Oftentimes justice is so delayed in these kinds of cases,” he said. “I can’t think of another case that has moved so swiftly.”
He said he believed it was a direct result of protests and increased scrutiny in the aftermath of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police.
In May, two white men were charged with murder months after the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was shot while jogging through a neighborhood in Brunswick, Ga.
And on Friday, the authorities said three police officers in Mississippi had been indicted on charges of second-degree murder in the death of a Black man, George Robinson, 62, of Jackson, Miss. The indictment accused the officers of pulling him from his car, slamming him headfirst into the pavement, and striking and kicking him in the head and chest.
The Rev. James Woodall, the president of Georgia’s N.A.A.C.P., said immediate action needed to be taken to address violence and racial terrorism against Black people, regardless of whether it was committed by the police or by private citizens, he said.
“People are literally losing their lives on a daily basis due to this senselessness, and we must do something about it,” he said.
Mr. Lewis was celebrated by friends and family at a vigil in Sylvania on Friday, and funeral services were held on Saturday morning. He was semiretired and worked as a carpenter, Mr. Johnson said.
Mr. Lewis was “too good to die as he did,” his wife, Betty Lewis, said in a statement.
“I want justice for Julian,” she said. “This is one step towards justice.”
Christina Morales contributed reporting.
By Luma Nichol
—Freedom Socialist newspaper, Vol. 41, No. 4, August-Sept 2020
Mrs. America, a critically acclaimed miniseries streaming on Hulu, is a brilliant historical flashback with women center stage. It dramatizes the decade-long effort to pass the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) in the 1970s, in a period piece saturated with the debates, music, and tobacco smoke of the era.
The riveting, nine-episode drama presents a lesson for our times: the perils of ignoring the far right. Creator Dahvi Waller (a Mad Men producer) tells the story of the two combating camps.
The anti-ERA forces are upper-middle-class homemakers led by Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) of Illinois. They live in a world where sexist jokes are the norm and men are the providers who must sign credit card applications. They oversee Black maids who toil long hours. They always wear dresses.
The series is a reminder of why feminism was so necessary. Sadly contradicting the efforts of the traditionalists are battered wife Pamela (Kayli Carter), forced to bear child after child, and despairing spinster Eleanor (Jeanne Tripplehorn), cruelly discarded as a nobody.
In contrast, the pro-ERA camp, centered in New York City, is diverse and vibrant, awash in controversies over racism, lesbianism, abortion rights. It is populated with queers, Latinas, and Black feminists including Flo Kennedy (Niecy Nash), Margaret Sloan-Hunter (Bria Henderson) and Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba), the first African American and first woman to run for President — in 1972.
But the stars are liberal white feminists: Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) of Ms. Magazine; Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), author of The Feminine Mystique; and U.S. Representative “Battling Bella” Abzug (Margo Martindale).
Breakthrough and backlash.
The ERA is the radical concept that equality of the sexes should be added to the U.S. Constitution — which omits women. It was first proposed in 1923 by suffragist Alice Paul and socialist feminist Crystal Eastman. But it wasn’t until 1972 that the proposal passed both houses of Congress and went to the states for ratification, needing 38 to adopt it by 1979.
The ERA surged forward, winning 35 states by 1977, then hit the brick wall of Phyllis Schlafly and the Eagle Forum, her “Stop ERA” troops.
Schlafly was an arch-conservative, anti-Communist who thought Republican President Nixon too liberal. She ticked all the boxes: anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-“libber” and anti-racial equality, although her racist beliefs are muted in Mrs. America. Blanchett portrays her as intelligent, ambitious and ruthless. Limited by sexism, she turns her powerful organizing skills to an acceptable woman’s domain — countering the ERA.
Schlafly joined Southern segregationists and anti-abortionists to form a national pressure campaign that appealed to misogynist Christian fundamentalists, Mormons and Orthodox Jews. Before Trump ever dreamed of it, she used inflammatory fear-mongering that was loose on facts. She warned of “daughters in foxholes, unisex bathrooms, and the loss of alimony” should the amendment pass. The series underscores how the ascendancy of the religious right in the Republican Party began on the backs of women’s rights.
How could the ERA lose?
ERA backers made a classic liberal mistake. In 1973 (Episode 4) when Schlafly is just getting started, Steinem recommends ignoring her, saying, “We don’t want a cat fight.” With nothing to stop her, Schlafly creates an ultra-conservative wave that not only kills the ERA, but moves the Republican Party far to the right, and stalls Second Wave feminism.
There were other factors contributing to the ERA’s defeat, not covered in Mrs. America. Labor and much of the Left opposed the ERA, calling it divisive and fearing it would eliminate laws to protect women from workplace abuse. The liberal ERA leadership by-and-large failed to address these objections, ignored the concerns of working women and women of color, and denied the ERA would advance queer rights.
The show omits the voices of socialist feminists like Radical Women who mobilized for the ERA and expanding protective legislation to men and stood strong for LGBTQ+ liberation.
Interestingly, the series also doesn’t name the National Organization for Women (NOW), the main organizational force for the ERA. This gives the impression that the moderate figureheads in Mrs. America were the women’s movement, not just its most well-known faces.
NOW was and is deeply tied to the Democratic Party whose approach to women’s rights is solidly pro-Establishment. The show reveals how Democratic Party feminists watered down their demands to secure the presidential nomination for George McGovern, the liberal, anti-war hope of 1972. Party hack Abzug bullies everyone to get behind the “electable” candidate and presses Chisholm to abandon her bold run. She and Steinem agree to a pathetically weak statement on abortion that McGovern ensures isn’t adopted.
Ultimately, the ERA lost because liberal leadership failed to build a multi-issue movement to counter Schlafly’s far-right pressure campaign. The single-issue approach of prioritizing middle-class concerns at the expense of women of color, lesbians and working-class women, and their reliance on the Democrats, was — and is — a losing strategy.
For all its omissions, Mrs. America is like no other TV drama: respectful of feminism, it is a gripping account of a battle whose outcome affects us still. It is an appeal to a new generation of feminists to learn from the mistakes of the ’70s and to finish the fight for the rights of all women.
Want to learn more about Radical Women? Contact the national offices:
• United States: 206-722-6057
• Australia: 03-9388-0062
• Website: radicalwomen.org
Emerging data show that some of the coronavirus’s most potent damage is inflicted on the heart.
By Haider Warraich, Aug. 17, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/17/opinion/covid-19-heart-disease.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, was initially thought to primarily impact the lungs — SARS stands for “severe acute respiratory syndrome.” Now we know there is barely a part of the body this infection spares. And emerging data show that some of the virus’s most potent damage is inflicted on the heart.
Eduardo Rodriguez was poised to start as the No. 1 pitcher for the Boston Red Sox this season. But in July the 27-year-old tested positive for Covid-19. Feeling “100 years old,” he told reporters: “I’ve never been that sick in my life, and I don’t want to get that sick again.” His symptoms abated, but a few weeks later he felt so tired after throwing about 20 pitches during practice that his team told him to stop and rest.
Further investigation revealed that he had a condition many are still struggling to understand: Covid-19-associated myocarditis. Mr. Rodriguez won’t be playing baseball this season.
Myocarditis means inflammation of the heart muscle. Some patients are never bothered by it, but for others it can have serious implications. And Mr. Rodriguez isn’t the only athlete to suffer from it: Multiple college football players have possibly developed myocarditis from Covid-19, putting the entire college football landscape in jeopardy.
I recently treated one Covid-19 patient in his early 50s. He had been in perfect shape with no history of serious illness. When the fevers and body aches started, he locked himself in his room. But instead of getting better, his condition deteriorated and he eventually accumulated gallons of fluid in his legs. When he came to the hospital unable to catch a breath, it wasn’t his lungs that had pushed him to the brink — it was his heart. Now we are evaluating him to see if he needs a heart transplant.
An intriguing new study from Germany offers a glimpse into how SARS-CoV-2 affects the heart. Researchers studied 100 individuals, with a median age of just 49, who had recovered from Covid-19. Most were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms.
An average of two months after they received the diagnosis, the researchers performed M.R.I. scans of their hearts and made some alarming discoveries: Nearly 80 percent had persistent abnormalities and 60 percent had evidence of myocarditis. The degree of myocarditis was not explained by the severity of the initial illness.
Though the study has some flaws, and the generalizability and significance of its findings not fully known, it makes clear that in young patients who had seemingly overcome SARS-CoV-2 it’s fairly common for the heart to be affected. We may be seeing only the beginning of the damage.
Researchers are still figuring out how SARS-CoV-2 causes myocarditis — whether it’s through the virus directly injuring the heart or whether it’s from the virulent immune reaction that it stimulates. It’s possible that part of the success of immunosuppressant medications such as the steroid dexamethasone in treating sick Covid-19 patients comes from their preventing inflammatory damage to the heart. Such steroids are commonly used to treat cases of myocarditis. Despite treatment, more severe forms of Covid-19-associated myocarditis can lead to permanent damage of the heart — which, in turn, can lead to heart failure.
But myocarditis is not the only way Covid-19 can cause more people to die of heart disease. When I analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I found that since February nearly 25,000 more Americans have died of heart disease compared with the same period in previous years. Some of these deaths could be put down to Covid-19, but the majority are likely to be because patients deferred care for their hearts. That could lead to a wave of untreated heart disease in the wake of the pandemic.
Many patients are understandably apprehensive about coming back to the clinic or hospital. The American Heart Association has started a campaign called “Don’t Die of Doubt” to address the alarming reduction in people calling 911 or seeking medical care after a heart attack or stroke.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s been clear that people with heart disease or related conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure are at increased risk for severe Covid-19 illness. The C.D.C. recommends that the more than 30 million Americans living with heart disease practice extra precautions to avoid infection. Hospitals and clinics should work overtime both to ensure they are safe for patients and to bolster telemedicine services so that patients can be cared for without having to leave their homes.
Doctors and researchers should no longer think of Covid-19 as a disease of the lungs but as one that can affect any part of the body, especially the heart. The only way to prevent more people dying of heart disease, both from damage caused by the virus as well as from deferred care of heart disease, is to control the pandemic.
Haider Warraich (@haiderwarraich), the author of “State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease,” is a cardiologist and researcher at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Under emergency coronavirus orders, the Trump administration is using hotels across the country to hold migrant children and families before expelling them.
By Caitlin Dickerson, Aug. 17, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/16/us/migrant-children-hotels-coronavirus.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=US%20News
A person waved to protesters demonstrating against the practice of detaining migrants in hotels at a Hampton Inn in McAllen, Tex., in July. Credit...Joel Martinez/The Monitor, via Associated Press
The Trump administration has been using major hotel chains to detain children and families taken into custody at the border, creating a largely unregulated shadow system of detention and swift expulsions without the safeguards that are intended to protect the most vulnerable migrants.
Government data obtained by The New York Times, along with court documents, show that hotel detentions overseen by a private security company have ballooned in recent months under an aggressive border closure policy related to the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 100,000 migrants, including children and families, have been summarily expelled from the country under the measure. But rather than deterring additional migration, the policy appears to have caused border crossings to surge, in part because it eliminates some of the legal consequences for repeat attempts at illegal crossings.
The increase in hotel detentions is likely to intensify scrutiny of the policy, which legal advocacy groups have already challenged in court, saying it places children in an opaque system with few protections and violates U.S. asylum laws by returning them to life-threatening situations in their home countries.
Children as young as a year old — often arriving at the border with no parents — are being put in hotels under the supervision of transportation workers who are not licensed to provide child care. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say the children are being adequately cared for during the hotel stays and emphasize that their swift expulsion is necessary to protect the country from the spread of the coronavirus.
Federal authorities have resorted to using hotels during previous spikes in immigration and as staging areas for short periods of time ahead of traditional deportations; the conditions are in many ways better than the cold, concrete Border Patrol holdings cells where many migrants have been left to languish in the past.
But because the hotels exist outside the formal detention system, they are not subject to policies designed to prevent abuse in federal custody or those requiring that detainees be provided access to phones, healthy food, and medical and mental health care.
Parents and lawyers have no way of finding the children or monitoring their well-being while they are in custody.
The existence of the hotel detentions came to light last month, but documents reviewed by The New York Times reveal the extent to which major chains are participating. The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has detained at least 860 migrants at a Quality Suites in San Diego; Hampton Inns in Phoenix and in McAllen and El Paso, Texas; a Comfort Suites Hotel in Miami; a Best Western in Los Angeles; and an Econo Lodge in Seattle.
Though the data does not specify ages, the official who provided it, as well as several former immigration officials who recently left the Trump administration, said it was likely that most or all were either children traveling alone or with their parents, because single adult migrants tend to be housed in Border Patrol holding stations.
The administration’s pandemic-related border closure policy calls for migrants to be expelled from the country, rather than put into traditional, formal deportation proceedings. Parents often send their children to the American border alone because they are more likely to win asylum if they are not traveling with adults.
Under the new policy, most children are instead being put on planes and returned to their home countries, primarily in Central America, though some have been handed over to child welfare authorities in Mexico, leading parents into desperate efforts to track their children down.
Searching for the children has been made nearly impossible because they are not being assigned identification numbers that would normally allow families to track their locations in the highly regulated federal detention system.
Only rarely used in the past, the practice of expulsions has surged under the Trump administration’s coronavirus-related border ban. Unlike deportations, expulsions are meant to take place very soon after a migrant is encountered by immigration agents. But delays in securing flights necessary to return the increasing number of migrants now arriving at the border have led the administration to turn to MVM Inc., a private corporation known mostly as a transportation and security company, to detain migrant children and families.
Started in the late 1970s by three former Secret Service agents, MVM has grown substantially.
The company now has contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars with nearly all of the federal agencies involved in immigration enforcement. It has secured at least $1.9 billion in federal contracts since 2008.
“The reputation was, ‘You ask it, they do it,’” said Claire Trickler-McNulty, a former deputy assistant director of the office of detention planning and policy at ICE. “No task was too big for MVM.”
Before the pandemic hit, MVM was the primary company used to transport migrant families encountered at the border to family detention centers. Its security workers oversee the tent courts that were erected to process cases of asylum seekers who have been made to wait out their cases in Mexico. In 2018, when a federal judge ordered the reunification of families that had been separated by immigration authorities along the border, MVM transported parents to staging facilities near the shelters where their children were being detained.
Despite its substantial transportation portfolio, MVM does not have much experience detaining migrant children. In a previous foray in 2018, the company was criticized for detaining children overnight in a vacant office park in Phoenix.
Two laws weigh heavily on the treatment of detained migrant children. The Prison Rape Elimination Act requires procedures to allow them to independently report physical or sexual abuse by government workers or contractors. To comply with the law, migrant detention centers post phone numbers to abuse hotlines and provide detainees with free access to phones. (Public data show that 105 such reports were made against government immigration contractors in 2018, the most recent year of available data.)
The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act provides safeguards to ensure that detained children who could be abused or tortured in their home countries are not sent back into harm’s way.
Neither of these protections appear to apply to the informal hotel stays overseen by MVM.
“A transportation vendor should not be in charge of changing the diaper of a 1-year old, giving bottles to babies or dealing with the traumatic effects they might be dealing with,” said Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, another former deputy assistant director for custody management at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who worked with MVM during his time at the agency.
“I’m worried kids may be exposed to abuse, neglect, including sexual abuse, and we will have no idea,” he said.
A spokesman for MVM said the company’s contract with ICE bars representatives from responding to media requests.
ICE officials provided a statement explaining that MVM workers are trained in the requirements of the Prison Rape Elimination Act. But the company is not contractually required to follow its rules.
The statement said company employees are instructed “extensively” on how to handle situations where detained migrants would be left particularly vulnerable in their presence, such as when the migrants are bathing or breastfeeding. It says red flags indicating potential torture or abuse could be reported to the guards, who would then share the information with ICE. But there appear to be no mechanisms for detainees to report abuse by guards, except to other guards.
An ICE spokesman said no more than two children could be housed in a hotel room at any given time, but at least one migrant teenager said he was detained overnight in a hotel room in Miami with two other young migrants and three guards.
Expulsions have come to replace formal deportation proceedings as the primary way of processing migrants who try to enter the United States during the pandemic. About 109,621 people have been expelled from the southwest border since the restrictive policy went into effect.
Announced as a policy to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further in the United States, the border directive adopted in March, which relies on the authority available to the surgeon general during public health emergencies, was intended to block the flow of most nonessential travel across the northern and southern borders. Seeking asylum from violence or persecution is not considered essential under the policy.
But even with the restrictions in place, millions of people continue to cross the border each month, calling into question whether the expulsion policy can truly mitigate the spread of the virus.
And the Trump administration has been testing migrant children to confirm that they have not contracted the coronavirus before expelling them, as was first reported by ProPublica. If the children have been confirmed to be virus-free, they are then being expelled. Some children who test positive have remained in the hotels to quarantine, while other have been placed in government shelters for migrant children, as was the practice before the pandemic.
Unlike children, many adults have been deported and expelled despite having tested positive for the coronavirus.
While the practice of detaining migrant children and families in hotels has been previously reported, the fact that so many well-known hotels are part of the program only became apparent with the release of the list. Some of the hotels listed appeared to be unaware of the program.
After facing scrutiny for detaining dozens of migrant children and parents in its hotels in McAllen, Phoenix and El Paso, Hilton, whose participation was previously reported by The Associated Press, said that the decision to do so had been made by franchisees. The corporation released a statement saying that it was against company policy for its hotels to be used for detention and that all franchise locations had been notified they should reject future requests for reservations for that purpose.
A legal challenge on behalf of the children detained at the hotel in McAllen was settled earlier this month when the government agreed to release them. One unaccompanied child and the few families that remained were transported to a family detention center in Karnes City, Texas.
A spokeswoman for the Choice Hotel chain, which has been used to detain migrants in Miami, Seattle and San Diego, said in response to the data obtained by The Times, “It has been our position that hotels should not be used as detention facilities, and we are not aware that any hotels in our franchise system are being used in this capacity. We ask that our franchised hotels, which are independently owned and operated, only be used for their intended purpose.”
Mike Karicher, a spokesman for the Hampton Inn in Phoenix, one hotel franchise that has been used by MVM, said management was not aware of the activity, and does not support or wish to be associated with it. “The hotel has confirmed that they will not accept similar business moving forward,” he said.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association, an industry trade group, said it opposed the use of hotels as detention centers and has sent out guidance to its members on “red flags” that could indicate rooms being used for this purpose.
The expulsion policy is part of a sweeping crackdown by the administration on both legal and illegal immigration that appears to have intensified in recent months. Confidential documents submitted by a court-appointed monitor in a long-running federal case warned that the use of hotels for detaining children had become prevalent.
“Begun as a relatively small, stopgap measure to assist in the transfer of children to ICE flights, the temporary housing program has been transformed by the Title 42 expulsion policies into an integral component of the immigration detention system for U.A.C.s in U.S. custody,” the monitor wrote, using the acronym for unaccompanied alien children.
There have been several legal attempts to challenge the expulsions, especially of children, including one case in which a judge recently appointed by President Trump sided against government lawyers. But the government avoided an injunction blocking the policy in each case by agreeing to release the individual children named as plaintiffs, rendering the challenges moot.
Immigrant advocates say that the government has also agreed to release individual children who have been discovered in the expulsion system.
But there are many others whose locations are unknown.
Lee Gelernt, who is leading the legal challenge against the policy for the A.C.L.U., said the primary problem is that children are not being offered a way to obtain asylum from unsafe conditions in their home countries, as is required by law. “As dangerous as it is for children to be secretly held in hotels,” he said, “the ultimate problem is that they are expelled without a hearing, regardless of where they are held.”
Kitty Bennett contributed research.
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