CodePink is holding a brief covid-safe vigil Saturday, September 26 in San Francisco to mark the United Nations International Day to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons .
PLEASE JOIN US!
What: United Nations International Day to Eliminate all Nuclear Weapons Vigil
Where: Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market: One Ferry Building, San Francisco. When you RSVP you will receive specific location details.
When: Saturday, September 26, 2020 12PM - 1PM PT
Did you know? Nancy Pelosi squashed Congress' historic vote on legislation that would have cut the Pentagon budget by 10%. And she blocked Barbara Lee's legislation to cut the Pentagon budget by 50%. We will remind her that we still need to slash the Pentagon budget and invest in life-affirming programs such as healthcare, clean energy, affordable housing, education, and fighting covid and the climate emergency!
Messaging options for the Day:
Pelosi Votes For Nuclear Weapons
Divest From Nuclear Weapons
Invest in Peace!
Fund Housing, Jobs, and Healthcare
Healthcare NOT Warfare
Do Trump and coronavirus have you down? Then join us on September 26 to celebrate the 15 year anniversary of one of the world’s most beautiful projects: Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade!
The Henry Reeve Brigade will celebrate its 15th anniversary next month! Yes, it will have been 15 years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and prompted then-Cuban president Fidel Castro to offer to send doctors to help treat patients in the storm’s aftermath. The US government refused this offer, but Cuba was not deterred from wanting to show the world some much needed solidarity.
Since its founding, the brave women and men of the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade have given emergency medical assistance to more than 3.5 million people in over 50 countries. To honor their compassion and commitment, we will hear directly from Cuban doctors working on the frontlines of the pandemic.
What: Cuban Doctors Speak: 15 years of the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade
When: Saturday, September 26 at 8pm ET / 5pm PT
Where: Online via Zoom, YouTube and Facebook.
There’s even more good news: Danny Glover will be on with us to offer his commentary, and journalist/author Vijay Prashad will host this fascinating conversation! Please join Danny, Vijay, and the Cuban medical personnel for this celebratory event. We promise it will nurture your soul.
Alicia Jrakpo and Medea Benjamin
P.S. The attacks on Cuba’s medical internationalism are not stopping! Even Human Rights Watch (HRW), a liberal NGO, has joined in on the Trump administration’s campaign to slander this amazing example of solidarity. If you have not already, please read the rebuttal to the HRW report then sign and share the petition asking HRW to retract their flawed report!
Also, Vijay Prashad has just published a lovely article about why Cuban doctors deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. Check it out!
P.P.S. 1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel just made a video endorsing the Nobel for Cuban Doctors campaign! Click here to watch it!.
Want to make your own short video explaining why you support the Henry Reeve Brigade? Upload it to Twitter and tag @CubaNobel. Then we’ll be happy to like and retweet it! It’s a great way of spreading the word about the campaign.
We look forward to working with you to continue the aspirations of the Nobel Peace Prize for the Cuban Doctors campaign. Watch for our upcoming webinars and film series.
Alicia Jrapko and Medea Benjamin
Co-Chairs of the Cuba Nobel Prize Committee
To update your email subscription, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The six remaining Kings Bay Plowshares defendants have had their sentencing dates moved from September to October 15 and 16. They had requested a continuance because they want to appear in open court in Georgia and the virus situation there is still too out of control to safely allow it.
Steve Kelly has now served almost 29 months in county jails since the action in April, 2018 so has already met the guidelines for his likely sentence. The court may not want to grant him further extensions. (You can send a postcard to Steve to let him know you're thinking of him. Directions on writing here.)
The other defendants are not sure if they would prefer to seek more continuances or choose virtual appearances for sentencing in solidarity with Steve on those dates in October if it appears unsafe to travel to Georgia at that time. Check the website for updates.September 9 will be the 40thanniversary of the first plowshares action in King of Prussia, PA. Eight activists, known as the Plowshares Eight, entered the GE plant where nosecones for nuclear missile warheads were manufactured. They hammered on several and poured blood on the nosecones and documents.
Emile de Antonio’s 1983 film, In the King of Prussia, is about the trial of the Plowshares Eight. The judge is played by Martin Sheen and the defendants are played by themselves. It’s available for viewing on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUph8GWFupE
Denver Black Lives
On September 17, six protest leaders, including four members of the Party of Socialism and Liberation, were arrested in Denver, Colorado in a coordinated police action. Those arrested are now being threatened with a litany of bogus felony charges, including “kidnapping.” Four of the arrested individuals—Russel Ruch, Lillian House, Joel Northam, and Eliza Lucero—are protest leaders who have denounced the crimes of the Colorado police, most notably the racist murder of Elijah McClain. The repression against these activists, and many others, is nothing short of police-state retribution. As a PSL statement noted,
“This attack on the Denver anti-racist movement and the PSL is part of a concerted national assault on the Black Lives Matter movement, an attack driven directly from the White House, from Governor’s mansions, and from local police chiefs and police departments around the country.”
It is clear from the manner of the arrests that the Denver area police are trying to punish and intimidate activists. Russel Ruch, for instance, was followed to Home Depot and arrested in the parking lot; Lillian House was surrounded by five police cars as she was driving; and a S.W.A.T. team was sent to Joel Northam’s home. According to the 30-page long arrest affidavits, the police used livestream footage, call transcripts, and social media posts to build a case against those arrested. These coordinated arrests, which utilized both surveillance and brute force, aim to instill fear in every Denver area activist. “Protest, and you could be next” is the message being sent. And the absurd list of felony charges, known as “charge stacking,” means the arrested activists could be facing years, if not decades, in prison.
The arrest of these protest leaders in Denver are part of a larger nationwide crack-down on the Black Lives Matter movement. Across the country, protesters have been snatched off the streets by the police or federal forces in unmarked vehicles. In New York City, the NYPD used facial-recognition software to find and harass a Black Lives Matter activist. And earlier this month, in Washington, federal marshals gunned down Portland activist Michael Reinoehl without warning as he walked to his car.
Left Voice denounces the attempts to repress or otherwise intimidate anti-racist, anti-police activists. It is unacceptable that the state, under direction from both Republican and Democratic Party leaders, targets and intimidates activists fighting for racial justice, while the murderers of Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor and many more walk free. The real threat to public safety can be found in every police precinct, every city hall, and every seat of political power.
Drop the charges against Denver PSL activists—Free all the arrested protesters!
To sign the PSL’s petition to have the charges dropped, click here:
To donate to the PSL’s legal defense, click here:
— Left Voice, September 18, 2020
History, Great Britain, and Julian Assange
Below are the comments Clifford D. Conner made at a September 8, 2020 press conference in front of the British consulate in New York City. Conner is an historian and author of Jean Paul Marat: Tribune of the French Revolution and The Tragedy of American Science: From Truman to Trump. The court in Britain is holding hearings on the Trump administration’s request to have Julian Assange, the Australian editor, publisher and founder of WikiLeaks, extradited. Assange would be tried in a Virginia court on 17 counts of espionage and one count of conspiracy to commit a computer crime. If convicted, he could face up to 175 years in prison.
In 2010 Assange had the audacity to post a video showing a U.S. Apache helicopter indiscriminately murdering a dozen civilians and two Reuters’ journalists in the streets of Baghdad.
Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower, testified in court on September 16 that Assange could not receive a fair trial in the United States. When he pointed out that the Collateral Murder video was clearly a war crime, the prosecution maintained that Assange was not wanted by Washington for it but for publishing documents without redacting names. Ellsberg pointed out that when he leaked the Pentagon Papers, he did not redact a single name.
Assange’s lawyer has since informed the London court that in 2017 former Republican U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher and Charles Johnson, a far-right political activist, relayed Trump’s offer to pardon Assange if he provided the source for the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails. This was described to Assange as a “win-win” situation for all involved.
A National Committee to Defend Assange and Civil Liberties, chaired by Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and Alice Walker has been set up. For further information, go to: www.facebook.com/CommitteeToDefendJulianAssange. The press conference was organized by the New York City Free Assange Committee. The press conference was organized by the New York City Free Assange Committee: NYCFreeAssange.org
—Dianne Feeley for The Editors, Against the Current
Comments by Clifford D. Conner
I am here at the British Consulate today to protest the incarceration and mistreatment of Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison in Great Britain, to demand that you immediately release him, and above all, to demand that you NOT extradite Julian Assange to the United States.
As a historian who has written extensively on the case of the most persecuted journalist of the 18th century, Jean Paul Marat, I am in a position to make historical comparisons, and in my judgement, Julian Assange is both the most unjustly persecuted journalist of the 21st century and arguably the most important journalist of the 21st century.
Julian Assange is being hounded and harassed and threatened with life in prison by the United States government because he dared to publish the truth about American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan for the whole world to see. This persecution of Julian Assange is an assault on the fundamental principles of journalistic freedom.
The sociopathic Donald Trump and his accomplice, Attorney General William Barr, are demanding that you deliver Assange to them to face false charges of espionage. Every honest observer in the world recognizes Trump and Barr as utterly incapable of acting in good faith. If they succeed in suppressing Julian Assange’s right to publish, it will be a devastating precedent for journalists and publishers of news everywhere—and above all, for the general public, who will lose access to the information necessary to maintaining a democratic society.
If you allow yourselves to become co-conspirators in this crime, History will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.
Last November, more than 60 doctors from all over the world wrote an open letter to the British government saying that Julian Assange’s health was so bad that he could die if he weren’t moved from Belmarsh Prison, where he was being held, to a hospital, immediately. Your government chose to ignore that letter and he was not hospitalized, then or later. History will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.
Of all crimes against humanity, the most unforgivable is torture. No nation that perpetrates torture has the right to call itself civilized. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, has unequivocally characterized Julian Assange’s treatment in Belmarsh Prison as torture. History will neither forget nor forgive that terrible moral transgression.
Furthermore, the exposure of the widespread use of torture by the United States military and the CIA at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, at Guantánamo Bay, and at so-called “black sites” all over the world, absolutely disqualifies the United States from sitting in moral judgement of anybody. If you deliver Julian Assange into the hands of torturers, history will not look kindly on Great Britain for that.
So, I join together today with human rights advocates and advocates of journalistic freedom around the world.
I stand with the Committee to Protect Journalists, which declared: “For the sake of press freedom, Julian Assange must be defended.”
I stand with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which said that the attempt to prosecute Julian Assange is “a worrying step on the slippery slope to punishing any journalist the Trump administration chooses to deride as ‘fake news’.”
And I stand with the ACLU, which said: “Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for WikiLeaks’publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations.”
History will not only record the names of the countries that collaborate in this travesty of justice, but also the names of the individuals—the judges, the prosecutors, the diplomats, and the politicians—who aid and abet the crime. If you, as individuals, choose to ally yourselves with the likes of Donald Trump and William Barr, be prepared for your names to be chained to theirs in infamy, in perpetuity.
History will certainly absolve Julian Assange, and it certainly will not absolve his persecutors.
—Against the Current, November/December 2020
Call for the immediate release of
Syiaah Skylit from CDCR custody!
Sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/gavin-newsom-call-for-the-immediate-release-of-syiaah-skylit-from-cdcr-custody-blacktranslivesmatter?recruiter=915876972&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=abi_gmail&utm_campaign=address_book&recruited_by_id=7d48b720-ecea-11e8-a770-29edb03b51cc
Syiaah Skylit is a Black transgender woman currently incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP). Syiaah has been a victim of multiple acts of brutal, senseless violence at KVSP at the hands of prison staff and others in custody. Many of these attacks are in retaliation for her advocacy for herself and other trans women.
Syiaah’s life is currently at risk due to racist, transmisogynist violence at the hands of the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCr). While all the offending officers should be fired, this isn’t about a couple of bad apples. We have centuries of evidence that prison will never be safe — for Black people, for trans people, and especially not for Black trans women.
“I’m not going to make it out of this prison alive if I’m left here any longer.”
— Syiaah Skylit, June 2020
While incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison between 2018 and the present, prison staff have subjected Syiaah to severe and persistent physical, sexual, and psychological abuse (see below for examples, with content warnings). Staff at Kern Valley State Prison are also responsible for the 2013 death of Carmen Guerrero, a transgender woman who was forced to be housed with an individual who made it clear to officers that he would kill Ms. Guerrero if he was celled with her. Earlier this year, that individual was given the death penalty for killing Ms. Guerrero just eight hours after CDCR officers forced them to cell together.
Facing immediate danger, Syiaah has repeatedly asked to be transferred to a women’s facility and CDCR has repeatedly denied her requests. We demand that Governor Newsom and CDCR immediately release Syiaah to her community and family before she falls further victim to the lethal danger that transgender people face in prison.
[Content note: assault, sexual violence, anti-Black racism, transmisogny]
While in CDCR custody between 2018 and the present, Syiaah has:
- Been physically attacked by CDCR staff multiple times;
- Been threatened with sexual assault with a baton by CDCR staff;
- Been forced by CDCR staff to parade through the yard naked from the waist down;
- Been stripped naked by CDCR staff and left overnight in her cell without clothes, blankets, or a mattress;
- Been attacked by other people in custody who admitted that CDCR staff directed them to do so;
- Had her property stolen and destroyed by CDCR staff;
- Been maced in the face and thrown in a cage after reporting an assault;
- Been intentionally placed on the same yard as an individual she testified against who is facing attempted murder charges for his assault of a transgender woman. As Syiaah feared, this individual violently attacked her as revenge. This man was then allowed to attack a gay man after attacking Syiaah.
- Been intentionally placed on the same yard as individuals with histories of attacking trans women and other LGBTQI+ people, in spite of her pleas to be placed separately;
- Been thrown in administrative segregation after being the victim of an attack;
- Has had all of her recent documented complaints of discrimination and violence rejected under false pretenses;
- Has had contact with her legal representatives restricted to one phone call a week;
- Has been humiliated and discriminated against for going on a hunger strike as a form of protest;
- Has expressed numerous, documented concerns for her safety and had them blatantly ignored.
In spite of the constant violence Syiaah continues to survive, she continues to demonstrate her resilience and dedication to learning and growing. She has earned certifications in many educational and vocational programs and support groups.
We as Syiaah’s community and chosen family are ready to support her with a safe and successful reentry plan if Governor Newsom uses his executive powers to grant her clemency. Organizations that can offer Syiaah comprehensive reentry support including housing and employment upon her release include TGI Justice Project, Transgender Advocacy Group (TAG), and Medina Orthwein LLP.
Please sign and share this petition to #FreeSyiaah and declare #BlackTransLivesMatter!
Please also check out our social media toolkit to support Syiaah!
[Please do not donate as prompted after signing, as the money goes to change.org and not to any cause associated with Syiaah.]
Art by Micah Bazant at Forward Together.
Write to Kevin “Rashid” Johnson:
Kevin Johnson #264847
Wabash Valley Correctional Facility
6908 S. Old U.S. HWY 41, P.O. Box 500
Carlisle, IN 47838
Snowden vindicated by court ruling – time to drop
Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the NSA telephone surveillance program revealed by Edward Snowden was illegal and likely unconstitutional. This ruling should finally end any remaining debate on whether Snowden’s actions constituted whistleblowing, and on his necessity of going to the press. The question now is how to remedy the legal and ethical dilemma he was placed into. It’s time to either drop his charges or pardon him.
The court’s ruling validates Snowden on multiple levels. It settles beyond doubt that his belief in the illegality of the programs he witnessed was reasonable. The panel of judges ruled that the mass telephone surveillance conducted under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act was illegal. And while they refrained from issuing a ruling on the Constitutional challenge, they strongly suggested that the program was in violation of the Fourth Amendment. They ruled that the government’s claims about the effectiveness of the surveillance had been lies, and that its legal theory about the necessity of mass collection of phone data was “unprecedented and unwarranted.”
Legally, a whistleblower does not need to ultimately be proved correct about the concerns they report. If they simply have a “reasonable belief” their employer is breaking the law, they are entitled to whistleblower protections. While any plain reading of the Fourth Amendment and the FISA statutes should have sufficed to prove a reasonable concern, this ruling is beyond sufficient affirmation that Snowden’s concern was “objectively reasonable”.
While he should have been able to make a protected whistleblower disclosure based on such concerns, those channels were not a realistic option. As an outside contractor, he would not have been guaranteed protection under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA) statute in place at that time. Critics of Snowden also conveniently ignore the history of other NSA employees who blew the whistle on these programs before him. The internal channels were used to “catch and kill” the complaints of at least four previous surveillance whistleblowers, placing them – and even the Congressional intelligence committee staffer they went to – under criminal leak investigations. Snowden saw, for example, the punitive treatment of NSA whistleblower, Thomas Drake. Drake went through every conceivable internal channel: his boss, the NSA Inspector General (IG), the Defense Department IG, and the House & Senate Intel Committees. Not only did they fail to redress his grievances, many acted to further punish him: ignored his concerns, marginalized him, forced him out, blacklisted him, and ultimately drove his failed criminal prosecution.
Snowden correctly assessed that the only remaining option was to go to the press, and the 9th Circuit ruling credits him for choosing that path, noting that his disclosures enabled “significant public debate over the appropriate scope of government surveillance”. Indeed, this ruling simply would not have been possible without his public disclosures. The government had long maneuvered to keep mass surveillance programs beyond this kind of judicial scrutiny.
As a witness to large scale illegality, and without effective or safe channels, Snowden was placed in a dilemma: break his agreement to protect classified information, or break his sworn oath to uphold the laws and defend the Constitution. He chose to honor his higher duty and so turned to the only other available channel that could serve as a check against government wrongdoing: the press. Snowden turned to the “Fourth Estate” and it played exactly the role the Founders intended. We cannot now prosecute him as a spy or abandon him to a lifetime of exile for having done so.
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)
Johnson the Invisible Brat
Johnson the invisible brat,
Thinks he’s better than us all,
For he’s a posh prime minister,
Who defies international law,
No matter how many graves get filled,
Or the cupboards are running bare,
You bet you can rely on this,
Johnson won’t be there.
Hancock, Priti, any sycophant,
It doesn’t matter who,
Can keep a straight face on camera,
While reading the lies on the autocue.
Nursing homes, schools there’s Covid everywhere,
But whenever there’s a crisis,
Johnson isn’t there
Depravity, depravity there’s no match for his depravity.
He is nastiness in human form, with not a shred of common humanity.
You may read him in a by-line, or see his face in the morning paper,
But when there’s a problem to deal with,
Boris Johnson won’t be seen till later.
Depravity, depravity the are no bounds to his depravity,
He’s already broken every law and conduct of normality,
His powers of crass dishonesty are way beyond compare,
He lies in every sentence and doesn’t seem to care,
You may look for him in Downing Street or in another lair,
But when a job is needing done,
Boris Johnson is never there.
He’ll sack anyone who happens in his way
And tear up any treaty he doesn’t like today,
He is outwardly respectably but he cheats all his friends
He’ll trample over anyone to get to his own ends,
Or he’ll send his hoodlum Cummings to crush dissenting minds.
Lies, corruption, negligence we know he doesn’t care
But when there is money to be made,
Johnson and mates will be there.
In Britain he acts like a dictator doing just as he wants,
Ignoring real life tragedies while posing for photo stunts,
For all his fake bravado, he’s just another coward,
A liar, a bully a posh self-centred fraud.
He’s an invisible prime minister who is never here,
But whenever there’s Trump’s arse to kiss,
You can be sure that,
Boris Johnson will reappear.
Calamity then catastrophe with grand theft larceny,
Another billion of our money flushed down the lavat’ry,
He cares not for our suffering our deaths and our pain,
Fake news and lies again and again,
When things go wrong and account is called,
It is always someone else’s fault,
What ever the problem no matter where
He always can claim that he wasn’t there.
Covid 19’s, coming,
He says we’ll take it on the chin,
World beating, moonshot, track and trace,
Endless lies and spin
Just more meaningless hot air from this uncaring buffoon,
Exam results fiasco, yet he never showed his face.
Children going hungry a national disgrace
We must take matters in our own hands,
To make things proper here,
Have confidence in our own powers,
Make Johnson and his kind
Take Action Now
Write, email and call the Nebraska Board of Pardons. Request that they expedite Ed’s application, schedule his hearing for the October 2020 meeting and commute his sentence.
His peers criticized this appearance. The press purposefully didn't cover it. He simply wanted to inspire young minds with the beauty and power of science, drawing attention to the power of ALL human minds, regardless of race.
“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.” -Albert Einstein
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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)
You are receiving this list because you have opted in on our website.
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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
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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.
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
by DENNIS BERNSTEIN, SEPTEMBER 21, 2020
lllAn Exclusive Interview with Kevin Cooper
I interviewed long-time death-row prisoner, Kevin Cooper in San Quentin, on August 18th. Cooper is now a double survivor of death-row and Covid19. My Flashpoints Radio Team did some of the key research that helped to rescue Cooper in 2004 when he was exactly three hours forty-seven minutes from a California state-sponsored murder.
Cooper has been incarcerated for over 37 years (35 years on death Row) for the murder of the Ryan family and child guest Christopher Hughes, a brutal crime he doggedly maintains he did not commit. Currently, having exhausted appeals through the courts, Kevin is requesting that Governor Newsom order an innocence investigation to consider all the evidence that points to others and exonerates Kevin Cooper. Gov. Newsom has ordered DNA testing which has almost been completed at this time.
Quoting from a letter from Norman Hile, Kevin’s lawyer, to Gov. Newsom on July 6, 2020:
“The current profound awakening in California and the US as a whole to the systematic racism that affects Black lives every day is a clarion call to examine, under a bright light, the racism that drove the investigation, prosecution, and conviction of Kevin Cooper. The murder of George Floyd, and of so many other Black men, by racist law enforcement has brought us to a moment where the State of California can no longer look away. It is time to finally provide Kevin Cooper with a meaningful opportunity to prove his innocence.
“It is undeniable that racism was the driving factor in the SBSD’s [San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department] investigation and framing of Mr. Cooper and in the SBCDA’s prosecution and conviction of him. Racism drove this case from the moment the SBSD became aware of Mr. Cooper and continued unabated until he was tried, convicted and sentenced to death.”
Dennis Bernstein: We are joined, from San Quentin Prison, Death Row, by Kevin Cooper. Kevin, it is good to talk to you again. It’s been too long.
Kevin Cooper: Thank you, Dennis. Thank you for welcoming me back. I’m glad to be back. It’s been a long time.
DB: Been a long time, and we are glad that we are still talking. But let’s come in this door. We have seen the invasion of -19. The prisons have been the petri dish. I understand, not only did you have to face off with
Death Row, you had to face off with COVID-19. How are you doing? And what’s it like there, in terms of the disease?
KC: Personally, I’m doing well. I do believe I did have COVID-19, but I recovered from it. It’s hell on earth, just like it’s always been. It’s just a double dose of it. We inmates are trying to do the best that we can, to survive, as we’ve always done. But like I said, it’s a double dose, now.
DB: Kevin, the Flashpoints show has been on this case for many years. One of our producers, Leslie Kean, former producer here, did a lot of work on the case. We care a great deal about it. You’re in this battle for a long time. Can I ask you, what keeps you going? After all these years, how come you’re able to continue to struggle for an exoneration? Is that because you’re innocent?
KC: My innocence is what keeps me going. I mean, that is my motivating factor. And that’s all I know. I just keep goin’ and keep goin’ and keep goin’. I can’t stop. If I stop, they win. And I don’t want them to win. So, I keep going.
DB: We know that you’re in a battle now with the Governor of California. You are calling for an Innocence Investigation. What is an Innocence Investigation?
DB: What does that mean? Tell us about that and what the Governor’s position is, at this point.
KC: Innocence Investigation is exactly what it says. They investigate the innocence claims that are in my case. I am no longer dead in the court system, because the court system has rubber stamped me through it. And every time I went to the court, they denied me. But yet I have all these Constitutional violations. I have no less than six Brady Violations, and one is enough to get you a new trial. And I have no less than six.
And for people who don’t know what a Brady Violation is, it’s when the State willingly or unknowingly withholds material, exculpatory evidence from the defense, evidence that can prove a person’s innocence.
So, they did that, six times. They destroyed evidence, they planted evidence, they lied about witnesses. They did all types of stuff that they have historically done to people like me, in situations like this. And so,
we’re tryin’ to get all this exposed, in a hearing. And if we do that, then I’ll get out. I have no doubt about that. So, we’re not in a battle with the Governor. We’re waiting for this final DNA testing to get done so that
he can decide whether or not to give it to me. And if he does give it to me, we all believe that they’ll get me out, my legal team.
DB: Wow. It’s been a long, hard struggle. Kevin, I wanna ask you to step back a little bit and talk about your response to Black Lives Matter. Black lives in the prison, what does that look like? And has that given you any extra support, in your battle for freedom?
Recording: This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.
KC: Yes, and because I read, study, and understand our history of Black people in America, I understand that every generation has had some type of organization or people to come and fight for our humanity, our human rights, because we can’t have any other type rights, civil rights, or any other type rights, unless we first have human rights. And so, at this point in time in our history, it’s Black Lives Matter.
But before them, you can see it was the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. And before them, you can say it was SNCC, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Or you could say it was the Urban League or CORE, Congress of Racial Equality, or the SCLC, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, that Martin Luther King was a part of. Or you could even say it was Malcolm X and the [inaudible] relations that he was after. And before that, Marcus Garvey, and all through that, A. Philip Randolph. So, my point is, you can go all the way back to Frederick Douglass and before him. And we’ve always had people or
organizations to fight for us. And right now, it’s Black Lives Matter, because Black lives do matter. They haven’t mattered throughout the history of this country, but they matter, now.
And we are makin’ these people accountable, even with this death penalty, which I have experienced and wouldn’t have really experienced, if they had executed me, in 2004, when I came within 3 hours and 42
minutes of being strapped down to that gurney and burned alive from the inside, with those poisonous,lethal injection drugs. So, we understand that this criminal justice system, how unjust it is, from the back end, where I’m at, to the front end, where George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and everybody else was at, when they got murdered.
So, we need Black Lives Matter, not just as an organization that protests on the street. But we need that mentality to come up here in this criminal justice system. We need that mentality to get up there in Washington DC in Congress and in the United States Senate and in the White House, where those people, up in there, understand that Black lives matter.
DB: What’s ‘good trouble’, to you? What does that phrase mean, to you? ‘Making good trouble’?
KC: Doing what I’m doing, what I have been doing, what I have been doin’, since I’ve met you and Leslie Kean, a long time ago. What I — what Mumia Abu Jamal was doing and what every other person is doing, what
Angela Davis is doing, and what Black Lives Matter is doing, what — you know, making good trouble. Don’t let things stay as, quote, unquote, “normal”. Because when things are normal, when we get murdered, when we get discriminated against, you know? People do all types of foul things to us, when things are normal.
So, we can’t let things be normal, because we’re tired of suffering under normal circumstances. We have to make good trouble, to make people see that their normal is our pain and suffering. And we’re tired of
suffering and having pain, because of them. So, we must ‘Get up, get into it, and get involved’, using the words of James Brown. We must! That’s what gettin’ in good trouble means, to me. Good trouble is no
longer sitting down and being silenced, because silence is betrayal. It really is! Bein’ complicit is givin’ the other side to go ahead to keep on whippin’ our ass. People are shooting us. People keep their knee on
our neck. We can no longer — I mean, we really couldn’t do it, before, and a lot of us have always fought back. But we really can’t stand it, now, because now, we have more people understanding that their plight in this country is right alongside ours. That’s why you see so many poor people — poor white people, Latino people, Native American people, involved in this movement, right now. That’s what makes it different than any movement, before. They can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines.
DB: What do you think about the expanding White Power movement? We have a serial white supremacist in the White House, and he has opened up the door and given the go-ahead for folks to, shall we say, ‘express themselves’. I’m wondering what you think about — what’s your reaction to this new White Power movement, where you can — where a vigilante can walk down the street in Kenosha and shoot people, after having a conversation with the Sheriff and getting some water and encouragement? Your thoughts on the White Power movement?
KC: Well, I look at it this way, Dennis. There’s always been a White Power movement in America, always. It ain’t never went nowhere. Never! The only thing that’s different now, between then and now, is the fact that you have a guy in the White House, and he brought people out from behind the closet door, out of the woods, out of their sheets, and all of that stuff. They’re out in the open, more so, now, than ever since the 1960s or ‘50s or ‘40s. So, I honestly believe that these people, who are sick in the head like that, they’re never gonna change. Not the majority of ‘em. So, we just have to keep going and keep fighting and keep building’, regardless of what they do.
See, in my mind, it’s not about what they do. It’s about what we do. We’re not gonna stand there and let us — let them just dog us out. We gotta stand up and get in good trouble. But there’s always been and will always be a White Power movement in America, because America was founded on –
Recording: You have 60 seconds remaining.
KC: And this racism that America was founded on has not left, and it will not leave. There have always been Black people or Black organizations, who have always stood up and fought for us.
On the other side of the coin, since the coins are — do have two sides, there’s always been those who have been opposed to us. But we’re not in this country today because of those people, those white supremacists and those white supremacist presidents, like Trump and Woodrow Wilson and Reagan and W. Bush and H.W. Bush and — you know, I can keep going, all the way down the line. Even, some degree, Clinton. No. We’re not here — still here because of them. We’re still here, in spite of them, despite them, you know what I’m sayin’? Because we keep fighting.
My mentality, and I’m in a prison where white supremacy is in here, white supremacists, and they — and officers. And I know that, but — in that court system that I’m in, there’s white supremacy. But we don’t care what they do, to a degree, because it’s not about what they do. It’s about what we do. And that’s how I see white supremacy. It’s there. It’s gonna – it’s always been here. It’s always gonna be there. It’s always
gonna be here. We just gotta keep on fighting’. And if we fight long enough and hard enough, eventually, we’re gonna win. We are! We are! That’s what I believe. Dennis, I say this, in all due respect and all due
truth. If I had not been fighting all these years in this white supremacist criminal justice system, these people would’ve tortured and murdered me, in 2004. The only reason why I’m alive today is because I fought, and a whole bunch of other people fought against this white supremacist criminal justice system and proved that they were wrong and that they framed me. Now, I’m still stuck here, on this modern-day plantation, in this Death Row Section, but it’s not like [laughs] – I’m dead. And as long as I’m alive, there’s a chance I can get out. So, we keep fighting.
DB: Kevin, the situation in — in —Death Row there and in the prison at San Quentin has really been a very terrible scourge, and it was caused by the system, the same white supremacist system, wasn’t it?
KC: It’s my understanding that this COVID-19 virus got here in this prison because one prison, who had infected inmates down in Southern California, transported ‘em all the way up here to Northern California and some of ‘em here. And the rest took on a life of its own. I mean, the coronavirus spread throughout this prison, and a lot of people died. And I think 26 inmates died. Half of ‘em, or a little less than half, were on Death Row, you know? And that happened because these people in this system — now, I can’t say all of ‘em. I’m not gonna whitewash all of ‘em like that, but the majority of ‘em, they don’t give a damn about us people. You know? They don’t. Because if they did, common sense would’ve told ‘em not to do nothin’ like that. But they don’t use common sense. You know? They don’t use things that you and I would use. They do things that they know is gonna mess with people, because that’s what they do. They mess with us. They mess with us mentally, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, physically —
Recording: This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.
KC:—and any other type way they can mess with us. That’s what they do, because they’re oppressors. Oppressors don’t give a damn about the people they’re oppressing. And whatever they did, they didn’t do it for those inmates’ best interests. They didn’t have their best interests at heart. And so, we’re stuck in the situation that we’re in. I think that things are getting better, but I can’t tell, because I’m stuck in this cage. I don’t know.
DB: What does the medical care system look like, inside the prison? Were they up for this? Were they up for this outbreak?
KC: No. They were not. I mean, historically, healthcare in prison systems around this country, and especially in the state of California, have notoriously been bad, the worst in the world, in some cases. And in this state, even in this prison, has been under a Federal court order. It’s been monitored to get it right, because inmates were dyin’ from preventable deaths, because the healthcare system was bad. Now, when this coronavirus broke out, no. Nobody was ready for it, not the inmates, not the officials, not the officers, you know, because some of them, I mean, a lot of them got sick. One of ‘em, I know, died, and he was a good officer. You know?
But it’s just — it just happened. But those of us who were in here, behind enemy lines, we took the brunt of the pandemic. We were the worst off. We suffered the most. And our families are still sufferin’, Dennis, because they won’t let us have contact visits. They won’t even let us have visits through the glass, video visits, or no type visits, you know? We don’t — I haven’t seen anybody since, I believe, January. Not my attorneys, not my family, not my friends, nobody. So, this is not good for us.
DB: But this is the nature of the system, that that’s how they attempt to keep prisoners powerless, right, to cut them off from the source of love, energy and support. Wouldn’t you say that’s a part of prison treatment?
KC: Yeah. That’s true. I mean, if it wasn’t for these telephones. And in truth, they took the telephones away from us during this pandemic, for a couple weeks, because they said they were afraid that we would get
coronavirus from the telephones, even though they were wiping ‘em down with this very powerful disinfectant called Cell Block, which they pass out just to clean these cages. And they use it in the showers, because it’s supposed to kill coronavirus. But nonetheless, they wouldn’t give us the phones.
So, we found out later that the reason why they wouldn’t give us the phones, because certain inmates were calling the news media and telling them what was going on in here. They were talking to their family
members and telling their family members, and their family members were in turn talking’ to the news media and exposing’ all this stuff that was happening’ to us in here. So, therefore, these people decided to
take the phones from us. But we finally got ‘em back, but it’s just the principle of the thing. Yeah. They don’t care about us. They don’t care about our families. They don’t care about nothin’, man. These are
oppressors. Oppressors don’t care about us, man. They don’t care about our families.
They all — you know. They just don’t. Just not into — this is a money-making machine. This is a business, the business of death, the business of imprisonment, the business of modern-day enslavement, you know?
That’s what this is. It’s a business. And they can say — what’s the saying? ‘It ain’t nothin’ personal. It’s business.’ And that’s the mentality that these people have. It’s business! So what, you don’t get to see your family? Don’t worry about it. It’s business! It ain’t nothin’ personal.
But in the men’s eyes, it is personal, because without our families, man, a lot of us don’t have nothin’. Our families is what keeps us alive and keeps us going, that love that we have, that connection that we have, that commitment that we have, or that responsibility that we have to each other.
Recording: This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.
KC: That’s one of the strongest things that we have, that keeps us not just alive, as far as on a physical level, but on an emotional level, or on a mental level, on a psychological level.
DB: Kevin Cooper — we’re speaking with Kevin Cooper, at San Quentin Prison. He’s on Death Row. We’re talking about — really, what we’re talking about, the fact that there’s an opportunity now, after all these years of struggling to get the truth out about Kevin’s case, he’s got tremendous support from the Innocence Project, from several sections of it. And they’re now moving to have the Governor open up the door for an Innocence Investigation. We are delighted and really honored to be speaking with Kevin, on Death Row. It’s been a long road for us, and I wanna ask you, Kevin, has your case — do you think your case has helped to call attention to other cases, other innocence cases, and also, on the struggle to abolish the Death Penalty?
KC: In truth, I cannot answer that question. I don’t know if my case has had that type of impact on the criminal justice system. But I do know that it has had a positive impact on everybody who learns the truth about this case. You know? From the United Nations, to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, former Judges on the California Supreme Court, certain Governors from Texas and Louisiana, and a whole slew of other people have found out about this case. And they have stood up and said, ‘No, man, you can’t do this. We support this guy. We want this man to have a Innocence Investigation’, because the evidence has all been disproven, that they used to convict me.
So, it’s just a matter of us gettin’ the opportunity to show our side in a open forum, that the criminal justice system denied me, for all these years. And if they do that, if I get that from Governor Newsom, and like I said earlier, we believe that I’ll get outta here. Now, if I get outta here, that does not — that does not mean that I will be free. Excuse me. What that means is, I will no longer be on this modern-day plantation, because freedom — true freedom, without equality, there’s no freedom, at all. So, I understand, you know, that — if I get outta here, I will be in a status of a second-class citizen, or something like that.
I will continue the work that other “second-class citizens” have done in this country, to help make this country better, such as John Lewis, who got in good trouble, such as Malcolm X, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Stokely Carmichael and Ella Baker, and a whole bunch of other people, who’s too many for me to name in this brief conversation. But they were considered second-class citizens, when they took it on them — on themselves to fight back. So, I will be out there on the front line, along with my brothers and sisters that struggle, fighting to bring this crime against humanity to an end. I will be definitely workin’ for all of us and fighting for our human rights, because it’s important for my wellbeing to know that I belong and that I am part of this struggle.
DB: Kevin, it’s like you were given [laughs] — it was an attempt at a — sort of a multiple death sentence. If they don’t kill you in the — in the killing chamber, they’re gonna kill you with COVID. But in that regard, we — you know, when we talk about Black Lives Matter — Black and Brown Lives Matter, Indigenous Lives Matter, this goes far beyond the prison, in terms of the racism that really comes up — being brought up by the pandemic and how different people are much more vulnerable than others. You wanna talk about how racism comes into it, through the economy, through the economics of it?
KC: I just recently wrote a essay and called “Disproportionate Blues”, which was about how African Americans and Native Americans and Latino Americans are disproportionately affected by this coronavirus pandemic.
And this is our history, in our country. This is why Black people invented the Blues, so — because they had to find some way to express themselves about the horrendous conditions, from healthcare, to jobs, to housing or lack thereof, to everything else that we were facing in this country.
This is why the Blues was invented. So, if you fast forward all the way up to date and all that time in between, while things have changed for certain people — for certain people, for those same certain people of a lower class, things have not changed all that much, from redlining to where a person can or cannot live, to the type of schools their children can or cannot go to, to the type of jobs that a person can or cannot get, because of their education. These things all play a part in why coronavirus is affecting us. The Policies of this country have made it so that healthcare is not a human right. They don’t wanna give us healthcare. They want money. Everything’s about money, in this capitalistic society. And so, if you cannot afford to pay for healthcare, then, therefore, you do without it. And when you do without it, oh, well, you find out what happens when cases like coronavirus come around. So, we all, who are poor people in this country, are catchin’ hell. So, some Black people are escapin’ this, because they have money. But the ones that don’t, we’re in trouble. And it’s — it’s a historical fact. So, when people say, ‘Times have changed’, to a degree, they have. But to a larger degree, they have not, because racism — it’s like when they build a building, when they build a courthouse or they build a hospital, it’s like they have racism in the — in the cement, right? So, it’s like institutional racism. It’s all up in there.
And it affects it so much that it’s killing us. They don’t kill us one way, Dennis, they kill us another way. Or they put us in a position to kill ourselves. And then, they say it’s our fault. It’s our fault for having high blood pressure. It’s our fault for bein’ obese. It’s our fault that we live in food deserts. It’s our fault that we have to eat processed food. It’s our fault that we live in rat and roach-infested apartment buildings.
Everything’s our fault! But no, man, it ain’t our fault. It’s the system’s fault. But yet, we pay the price.
DB: You’re listening to Flashpoints, on Pacifica Radio. Again, we’re speaking with Kevin Cooper, on Death Row. And Kevin is in a battle towards exoneration. He has the — he’s calling for an Innocence Investigation to be granted by Governor Newsom of California. We’re keeping a very close eye on that as well. Kevin, can I ask you, what — what are some of your favorite books? What are you reading, now?
KC: I just finished reading “Caste”, by Isabel Wilkerson. And before that, I read James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time”. I’m getting ready to read, because I just received, “Freedom Is a Constant Struggle”, by Angela Davis. And, you know, I do a lot of reading. I read a lot of books, you know. So, I’m always reading about this struggle that we are in, this historic struggle that we’re in. And it helps me to better understand my situation, why that I’m in here, and they know I’m innocent, but yet, I’m still in here, goin’ on 40 years. You know? Because innocence makes no difference in America. They don’t give a damn about killin’ innocent people on the front end of this criminal justice system or the back end of this criminal justice system or fixin’ it all in between.
So, they give us these draconian sentences of 100 years or 200 —
Recording: This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.
KC: — so, when I read all these books, and I understand this historic struggle that we’re in, it gives me not just knowledge and not just a better understanding, but a will not to succumb to my circumstance. You know?
It keeps me — these books that I read keep my back straight. Because as Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘They can’t ride your back, if your back is not bent over.’ You know? So, it’s like, reading, to me — and I guess it could be for everybody. Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. So, I love to read, and I’m thankful for all the people who send me books.
DB: Are you – have you always been a reader? Were you a reader, as a kid?
KC: Oh, hell, no. I was stuck on stupid, as a kid. I didn’t know the first thing about books, when I was a kid. I grew up thinking that white people were the greatest thing on earth. I mean, I was all messed up. I was uneducated and miseducated. I didn’t know too much about nothin’. You know? And that’s why I put myself in the position for those devils to get their hands on me, and they did the rest.
Because — and that’s another reason why I testified in my own behalf at trial, because I was so naïve, so stupid, so believin’ in this rotten-ass system. I said, ‘If I get up on this witness stand and tell the truth, they’re gonna believe me, and they’re gonna let me go.’ When I got up on the witness stand, and I told the truth, they did not shake my story. They did not change my story. They did not prove that I was lyin’. And yet, still, the jury found me guilty. Yeah. So, no. When I was a child, man, I — no, I was all messed up. But I’m not messed up, no more. And that’s the good thing about it. I’ve learned.
DB: Still learning, right? And how many books are you allowed to have in your — in your cell? Do you have a little library there, or do you — can you keep your favorite books?
KC: Oh, first — all right. First, let me — I mean you no disrespect, all right? I gotta correct you on that. This is not my cell, right? If it’s anybody, it’s the taxpayers’ cell. This is a cage, that I’m forced to live in, against my will. I will never — claim this as mine. Nothing in this joint is mine.
But in this cage that I’m in, I’m allowed to have 10 books. So, I’m always sendin’ books out and gettin’ new books sent in. But you know — but it’s good, because the books that I send out, I send to people who share ‘em with other people, especially youngsters, so they can gain knowledge.
DB: Books are crucial, behind bars. That’s for sure. I remember teaching in Rikers Island, and I had a book of poems by Etheridge Knight that I lent to one student in my class at Rikers. And it was a little dog-eared, it was a little ripped up, it came back all beautifully taped together, all nicely re-put together, and I — with a little note saying, ‘Hey, Teach, this book is too important to let unravel here. So, take better care [laughs] of your books.’
KC: [laughs] Right. And I even had your book up in here, you know? And so, I thank you for sending it to me. [Follow the Money] I forgot to mention that, you know? All the interviews that you did and — over the years, and you even have my interview in there, after I came back from that near-death experience, in 2004. So, that — you know, and it’s up in here. So, I thank you for that.
DB: Well, I — well, I’m happy to hear that. I really am. And of course, it’s really good to speak with you. I wanna give you a chance. I’d like to open the mic, and why don’t you — what would you like to talk about? What have I forgotten to ask you? I’m gonna — we’re gonna end by, you know, how people can find out more information about your case. But before that, what — what did I miss? What did we miss?
KC: Dennis, you didn’t miss too much of nothin’, because this is real life, and everything is continuing to grow, continuing to move. And I’m still here. The struggle is most definitely here, and it’s not gonna —
Recording: This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.
KC: — the struggle, this movement, is not going away, because they’re growing stronger. And so, I’m gonna continue to do my part, as everybody in my life, who is in my life, I mean, really in my life is, because if they weren’t, they would no longer be in my life or part of what I do. I think we’re good. I really do. Considering the type of circumstance that I’m in, and what we have to go through, to make this phone call and all that, yeah. We’re good. We handled our business. And I thank you for allowing me to speak on your program.
DB: Well, it’s an honor. And we all are learning together. And I have to ask you the final question. How can people, if they want, get more background? How can they help? How can they let the Governor know that they might want to see Kevin Cooper walk out of those — through those prison gates, into the [laughs] –—the larger — I guess we could say, the larger prison that’s now being run by a white supremacist [laughs] in the White House? How can people learn more?
KC: [laughs] Well, anybody who is very interested in my case and situation, they can go to kevincooper.org and learn about my case and a lot of the people and organizations who have supported me. They can go to my other website, freekevincooper.org. My Facebook page is currently bein’ redone, but I do have a Facebook page. Actually, that’s freekevincooper. And if anybody really wanted to take that extra step, they could also write the Governor and ask him to grant me an Innocence Investigation.
And for whatever reason that they can find out why I’m on one of these websites with ‘em, because —
Recording: You have 60 seconds remaining.
KC:— I have the support of the people, then I’m good. And I do have support of a lot of people. But you can never have too much. So, with that said, and I thank you so much. And I wish everybody at KPFA well, and all of you stay safe and virus-free.
DB: All right. Well, I want you to come back. Maybe next time, we could do this at KPFA, if the — if we don’t have the virus, and we don’t have the virus of that prison. Maybe we can look eye to eye, and —
Maybe we can look eye to eye, and and have the next conversation together. Thank you, Kevin.
KC: You got my word, that’ll happen. Thank you.
The engineering and land management that enabled the state’s tremendous growth have left it more vulnerable to climate shocks — and those shocks are getting worse.
By Christopher Flavelle, Sept. 20, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/20/climate/california-climate-change-fires.html?searchResultPosition=1
San Francisco at dusk.Credit...Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times
California is one of America’s marvels. By moving vast quantities of water and suppressing wildfires for decades, the state has transformed its arid and mountainous landscape into the richest, most populous and bounteous place in the nation.
But now, those same feats have given California a new and unwelcome category of superlatives.
This year is the state’s worst wildfire season on record. That follows its hottest August on record; a punishing drought that lasted from 2011 to last year; and one of its worst flood emergencies on record three years ago, when heavy rains caused the state’s highest dam to nearly fail, forcing more than 180,000 people to flee.
The same manufactured landscapes that have enabled California’s tremendous growth, building the state into a $3 trillion economy that is home to one in 10 Americans, have also left it more exposed to climate shocks, experts say.
And those shocks will only get worse.
“There’s sort of this sense that we can bend the world to our will,” said Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist in San Francisco for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Climate change is exposing the vulnerabilities in the systems that we’ve engineered.”
Those systems include some of the greatest accomplishments in American public infrastructure: Transporting huge amounts of water from the mountains to the coast and from north to south. Creating almost 1,500 reservoirs to store that water until it’s needed. Subduing the fires that are part of forest ecosystems, making more land livable for millions but stocking those forests with fuel in the process. Building dense cities along a shoreline susceptible to erosion and flooding.
Those accomplishments reflect the optimism that defines California, according to R. Jisung Park, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who focuses on climate adaptation. But like so much that underpins modern American life, they weren’t designed to accommodate the increasingly harsh extremes of climate change.
Dr. Park, like other experts interviewed, noted that California’s engineered landscapes are not the only factor behind its high-impact disasters. The state’s size and geographic diversity expose it to an unusually wide range of extreme climate events. And its large population means that when disasters do strike, they are very likely to affect large numbers of people.
Still, the manufactured systems that support the state’s population and economy have left the state especially vulnerable. The wildfires are only the latest example of how climate change can cause engineered landscapes to go awry. Those blazes are partly the result of hotter temperatures and drier conditions, scientists say, which have made it easier for vegetation to ignite, causing fires to become bigger, more intense and more frightening.
“Sometimes you feel really small and helpless,” said Mandy Beatty, who manages and maintains trails through the forests of the Sierra Nevada for the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, a nonprofit group. On a chalkboard in her house in Plumas County, on the edge of the forests, she counts how long she and her husband have endured the smoke. Friday was Day 33. The fire, still raging, is on the other side of the mountain.
The intensity of the fires also reflects decades of policy decisions that altered those forests, according to Robert Bonnie, who oversaw the United States Forest Service under President Barack Obama. And the cost of those decisions is now coming due.
In an effort to protect homes and encourage new building, governments for decades focused on suppressing fires that occurred naturally, allowing the buildup of vegetation that would provide fuel for future blazes. Even after the drawbacks of that approach became clear, officials remained reluctant to reduce that vegetation through prescribed burns, wary of upsetting residents with smoke or starting a fire that might burn out of control.
That approach made California’s forests more comfortable for the estimated 11 million people who now live in and around them. But it has also made them more susceptible to catastrophic fires. “We’ve sort of built up this fire debt,” Mr. Bonnie said. “People are going to have to tolerate smoke and risk.”
President Trump, apparently referring to the increase in vegetation, has responded to California’s fires by telling the state to “clean your floors.” But most of the forests in California are federally owned, Mr. Bonnie noted, and Mr. Trump has sought to cut spending on forest management. And Mr. Bonnie said the fuels that matter most aren’t on the forest floor, but rather the trees themselves — and the best solution is letting more of them burn safely.
Another example of California’s engineered landscape is the sprawling system of transporting and storing water. Three-quarters of the state’s precipitation falls north of Sacramento, according to Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. But three-quarters of the state’s water use is south of Sacramento.
“The vast majority of our people are concentrated in the areas where the water is not,” Dr. Mount said. California’s response was to build what he called “by far the West’s most complicated storage and conveyance system.”
That system moves water that falls as snow on the Sierra Nevada mountains to the south and west, providing drinking water for the state’s coastal cities and irrigation for farms in the arid Central Valley, turning California into an agricultural powerhouse that produces one-quarter of the nation’s food.
Climate change is now shaking that system.
Precipitation patterns are becoming more extreme: The dry years are becoming drier, forcing cities and farmers to deplete their underground aquifers — something that Frances C. Moore, an assistant professor of environmental economics and climate science at the University of California, Davis, called a “race to the bottom.”
“That is not something that’s a sustainable response,” Dr. Moore said.
At the same time, wet periods are becoming wetter, which brings challenges of its own. Heavy rains threaten to overwhelm the vast network of aqueducts, reservoirs and dams that hold that water.
That increases the likelihood of the sort of catastrophe that almost struck three years ago, Dr. Mount said. A combination of intense rain and structural damage nearly caused the failure of the Oroville Dam, the nation’s highest, which would have unleashed disastrous flooding north of Sacramento.
Oroville is unlikely to be a one-off event. California has more dams rated “high hazard” than almost any other state, according to figures from the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. California’s state auditor reported in January that while the state has upgraded the Oroville Dam, others around California continue to pose a risk.
“You’re got 40 million people who are dependent on this system, which was designed in the last century,” Dr. Mount said. “It’s not a surprise that you’re seeing many crises.”
Climate change is also threatening California’s coastline, the longest in the nation after Alaska and Florida. That coastline is less physically exposed to rising seas than parts of the Atlantic, where water levels are rising more quickly, according to Dr. Dahl at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
But California’s more densely populated coast, combined with its use of landfill to expand waterfront communities and its famous cliff-side homes, mean the state has more people at jeopardy from rising seas.
“We’ve built right to the edge of the water,” Dr. Dahl said. “We’ve altered the coastline to suit our needs, and we’re increasingly seeing the limitations of that.”
To some, California’s vulnerability to climate change is just one more challenge for the state to engineer its way out of, even as it keeps growing.
Annie Notthoff, a California water expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the state has already made progress on water efficiency, encouraging cities and counties to cut their water use and recycle wastewater.
“I think that if we’re smart, and we use new technology, there’s room for everyone,” Ms. Notthoff said. “I believe in California. I’m fifth-generation.”
That optimism is shared, perhaps unsurprisingly, by state officials. Kate Gordon, a senior climate adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom, described a series of steps the state is taking to cope with climate risks, including shifting more development into cities and away from the edge of the wilderness, and designing coastal roads and bridges with rising seas in mind.
“We’ve allowed for a development pattern that’s completely sprawled, which I don’t think we can keep doing,” Ms. Gordon said. “We have a lot of ability to be more compact, to be more efficient.”
Others were more wary. Solomon Hsiang, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and co-director of the university’s Climate Impact Lab, described being stuck inside as smoke filled the sky, and walking around his home with a hand-held air-quality indicator to find out which rooms had the worst air. “Everyone who could leave town has left town,” he said.
Climate change in California is more than just an escalating series of short- and long-term disasters, Dr. Hsiang said. It’s also eroding the idea that the state can mold itself into whatever it wants to be, insulated from the physical threats around it.
“California was the land of opportunities,” Dr. Hsiang added. “There’s this story that we can have it all, and that’s just not true.”
Thomas Fuller contributed reporting from Quincy, Calif.
Watching TV news from the past helps me get a grip on the present.
By Farhad Manjoo, Opinion Columnist, Sept. 23, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/23/opinion/trump-media.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
After the 2016 election, I was deeply shaken not just by the outcome, but by the terrifying sense that I did not understand the nation as well as I’d thought I did. To blunt the shock, I went on a bender through American history. I dove into books about the Civil War, the Progressive era and, finally, Robert Caro’s titanic biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, where I washed up on the shores of the turbulent 1960s.
I discovered something amazing: After 1960, much of history as many Americans experienced it — through popular culture on TV, on the radio and at the movies — is preserved and easily accessible online. With a few clicks around YouTube, history leaps into the present, often in ways that deepen and complicate the narrative.
For instance, Caro ably describes Johnson’s stirring first presidential address to Congress. It was five days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the new president pressed lawmakers to pass civil rights legislation in Kennedy’s honor. “Everywhere you looked, people were crying,” the journalist Hugh Sidey wrote.
Watching the speech is something else. “All I have I would have given gladly not to be standing here today,” Johnson begins, and the hairs on the back of your neck tingle. You feel the weight of the hushed chamber and Johnson’s labored delivery. And then, the trauma that enveloped the audience is transformed, over the 24-minute address, into cheering determination, even hope.
That was the speech that hooked me, and soon I found myself living a second life in the past. I’d spend my days as a journalist covering the raucous present; but on and off over the last few years, on nights and weekends and vacations, I’d jump into my digital DeLorean and take up residence in earlier times — making my way, slowly, through the 1960s and then the ’70s, accompanied by an unending library of historical documents and pop cultural artifacts I found online.
It is a project I commend you to try. Go live for a bit in another, far-off decade, and I promise it will give you fresh perspective on a present as nutty as ours.
Doing so will take a bit of work. Although the internet contains uncountable historical treasures, its most-used services tend to constrict our focus to the instantaneous ever-present. Every moment on social media offers up a deluge of novelty; news is always breaking, memes always trending, hot takes never not taken.
The Trump years, especially, have been marked by a barrage of events so overwhelming that each new day seems to scramble every day that preceded it. We are all Dory, Nemo’s forgetful fish friend, so unsettled by the present that we forge — I’m sorry, my pocket just buzzed, what was I saying?
Right. To visit the past online, you need to deliberately seek it out. My method was straightforward; I began by reading. In addition to Caro’s Johnson biography, the historian Rick Perlstein’s excellent books on the rise of modern conservatism — which take readers from Barry Goldwater through the treacheries of Richard Nixon to, in the latest volume, the political era dominated by Ronald Reagan — are a perfect place to start.
Then, as you read, seek out videos online. Among other things, you will find the chilling news coverage of Johnson arriving at Andrews Air Force Base after the assassination. There’s Johnson’s 1965 speech introducing the Voting Rights Act, in which he invoked the anthem “We Shall Overcome,” a speech that made Martin Luther King Jr. cry. You will find King’s own thundering speeches — not just the most famous one, but also many others worthy of your time, including the last one he gave.
You see Malcolm X parrying with derisive reporters (“What is your real name?”). There’s news coverage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, as delegates cheer inside and riots erupt outside. Here is Walter Cronkite telling Americans the truth about the war in Vietnam, which pushed Johnson not to run for re-election. By the time you get to Nixon you are overwhelmed with video — from his slick 1968 campaign ads to the dramatic trip to China to the endless hours of content related to Watergate.
Sure, there are easier ways to understand Watergate. “Slow Burn,” the Slate podcast that documented Nixon’s downfall, may be a better use of your time than watching every minute of the investigation. But the magic of the internet is how it collapses time; you can listen to a documentary produced in 2017 about a break-in in 1972, and then, if you want to fall in even further, you can watch testimony in the Senate’s 1973 Watergate hearings as if it were just unfolding.
There’s unexpected value in consulting the originals. “One of the things I tried to get across was the extraordinarily high level of civic commitment that the public showed in following these things, because it was complicated and slow,” Perlstein said of Watergate. After watching long stretches of Senate hearings in the background while I cooked or cleaned the kitchen, I understood what he meant.
The Trump era has drawn numerous comparisons to the 1960s and early ’70s. Both periods have had protests, riots, police brutality, political turmoil and corruption and endless war. And both have been consumed by unsettled questions over race, gender and equality.
What has stood out to me is not the similarities in plot but the differences in presentation. Watching TV news from the past is jarring and refreshing. A lot of it is outmoded — this is the news as seen through the eyes of old white men — but there are aspects to coverage from the past that I felt myself pining for in the present.
When broadcast news was tightly controlled by three TV networks, there was an antiquated formality to the spectacle. I marveled at the tone of the presidential news conferences from the time.
The basic grammar of political media was different from what we see today: The questions were longer and more complex, the answers more detailed and nuanced. Even under a president as mendacious as Nixon, the political universe was still bounded by a shared sense of reality. Facts mattered, and documentary evidence had weight. If a politician said something today that contradicted what he (or, rarely, she) said yesterday, or there were recordings of a president disclosing something in private that undermined what he’d said in public, the inconsistencies were considered damning.
Broadcast news, which the TV networks offered as public service, also had little room for cheap punditry and outrage in search of profits. As a result, the coverage was more serious than anything on the dial today — no shouting talking heads, no montages of precisely edited sound bites, nothing engineered to drive you to share with your million friends. But because broadcast news was the only game in town, it was also more trustworthy, and more influential — perhaps explaining why both Johnson’s and Nixon’s presidencies ultimately collapsed under the weight of their own distortions.
In the fishbowl of 2020, where the news is fragmented and none of us can remember yesterday, we are not at all so lucky.
Mr. Prude had a somewhat troubled life in Chicago, with a series of personal tragedies disrupting his attempts at finding meaningful stability.
By Robert Chiarito and Sarah Maslin Nir, Sept. 23, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/23/nyregion/daniel-prude-profile-rochester.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Daniel Prude died after the police in Rochester put a mesh hood over his head. Credit...Roth and Roth LLP, via Associated Press
CHICAGO — On the last day anyone on Chicago’s West Side saw Daniel Prude alive, he was his usual self, shooting the breeze with a loose band of neighbors outside of a local carwash.
He was the imp of the group, often playacting that he was itching for a fight, only to break into a wide grin the minute fists were raised. The only thing different that day was his repeated requests for a spare $20.
The money was for an Amtrak ticket: He was leaving his hometown that day for his brother’s home in Rochester, N.Y.
Less than 24 hours later, Mr. Prude was near death after a confrontation with the police in Rochester. He had what the police said was a psychotic episode, leading him to burst from his brother’s home, shirtless and shoeless, into the frigid Rochester streets, as his brother frantically dialed 911 for help.
By the time the police found him, he was naked, and had shouted that he had the coronavirus. Officers put a mesh hood over his face when he resisted, and pressed his head into the pavement until he lost consciousness. A week later, on March 30, Mr. Prude, 41, was dead.
It would take months for his family to know of his ordeal, when they obtained footage from the officers’ body cameras. This month they shared it publicly, accusing the police of covering up the incident.
When Mr. Prude died on March 30, few knew of his death or the circumstances surrounding it. Now his name has joined the rallying cry against police brutality and racism alongside those of other Black people who died during police encounters, like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
His death has roiled Rochester: The city’s mayor, Lovely Warren, has since fired the chief of police and suspended the seven officers involved in the encounter; the state attorney general’s office has opened its own investigation and a grand jury will now examine the case.
Mr. Prude’s life was enigmatic, dotted by pain, loss and hardship. His playful interactions with his friends hid the fractures snaking through his life: the deaths of two of his brothers, his anguish over a nephew’s recent suicide and his increasing reliance on drugs to cope with the loss — Mr. Prude had been home in their shared apartment when the teenager shot himself last fall, friends said. He also had just been kicked out of the home he shared with his sister, after a spate of paranoid outbursts had frightened her.
In an interview, his brother, Joe, insisted that Daniel had no children; hours later that same day, a news conference was held in Chicago on behalf of his five children. (Mr. Prude was not married to any of the children’s mothers, and there were varying accounts of how involved he was in their lives.)
His sister-in-law said that she did not know him to drink or use drugs. But the police said Mr. Prude had overdosed on Phencyclidine, or PCP, and an autopsy, which determined that he had suffered “complications of asphyxia,” listed acute intoxication by phencyclidine as a contributing factor toward his death.
And outside the carwash, his friends — who refer to themselves as the 12th Street group, after the original name of this stretch of squat buildings on West Roosevelt Road — said they regularly shared bottles of Hennessy, and had seen him high in the weeks before he left Chicago.
Mr. Prude held jobs in warehouses and factories on Chicago’s Southwest Side, amid a slew of arrests — at least 37 since 1998, according to Cook County records, mostly for crimes like drug possession and driving without a license. At least two of his arrests were for violent scuffles with domestic partners.
But friends said that Mr. Prude’s life had seemed to mostly stabilize, until the nephew’s suicide led him to increasingly use illicit substances that he told them helped him cope with the loss, but led to more erratic behavior.
Despite the inner turmoil, Mr. Prude was dedicated to a job he held at Gold Standard Baking, a commercial bakery near the south bank of the Chicago River, according to Jason Hunley, a former co-worker, who said that Mr. Prude was responsible for shepherding pastries down the line and into the oven.
Mr. Prude took it upon himself to help others in the neighborhood get jobs at Gold Standard, according to Antonio Hall, 42, a childhood friend who now co-owns an apparel company. “Everybody that was willing to work that knew Rell, he’d get you in there,” Mr. Hall said, using a nickname for Mr. Prude that derived from his middle name, Terrell (also sometimes spelled Terrel on official reports). “That’s the type of guy he was.”
The best part of the job, he would tell the 12th Street group, was how it enabled him to buy gifts like trendy sneakers for his grown children. “He’d say, ‘I got to be a daddy before I’m anything,’” his friend, April Jones, recalled as she hung out not far from the carwash, Nation Wide Hand Car Wash, on a recent afternoon.
Mr. Prude grew up in Lawndale Gardens, a public housing complex of two-story brick rowhouses spread across about seven acres in the Marshall Square neighborhood. He was one of five siblings, four boys and one girl. The Prude children were raised by their mother Dorothy, a bus driver whose strictness kept them out of trouble, said Olivia Jenkins, 68, who lived near the family in a unit in Lawndale Gardens.
Daniel attended Manley Career Academy High School, after graduating from John Spry Community School; he peers out shyly from page 27 of its eighth grade yearbook, where he lists his favorite TV show: “Martin.” He liked dogs, said Mr. Hall, who grew up with the Prude children, and said they used to take in stray animals and train them.
Daniel was in elementary school when the first of a series of tragedies befell the Prude family: According to Joe Prude, their brother, Timmy, was 11 when he was struck by a car on the way to school and died.
Years later, on an evening in 2008, another brother, Byron, 23, was shot and killed near where they grew up; the murder remains unsolved. Their mother died shortly after.
In the wake of the deaths, Daniel stepped up into the role of the family’s “protector,” Joe said, moving in with his sister Tameshay, who goes by Tammy, and growing close with her sons.
“If you were sad and you were going through something he would pick up on it, and give you a motivational talk — or just tell a joke and make you laugh if that’s what you needed,” said Tashyra Prude, 18, one of Mr. Prude’s daughters, whose nickname, Shyra, was tattooed on his shoulder.
“Everybody sees my father now as somebody who was helpless and who was in a bad mental state at the time of his death,” Ms. Prude said. “But I didn’t know him as that.”
An arrest on domestic battery charges in 2016 (the case was later dropped) listed Mr. Prude as a member of the Conservative Vice Lords, or CVL, a notorious Chicago gang. The affiliation was confirmed by Mr. Hunley, the former co-worker who was also a childhood friend, but he said that membership did not mean Mr. Prude engaged in any gang activities, and that the association with such groups was a rite of passage for young men from the neighborhood.
For the past several years, Mr. Prude seemed to be on a steady path forward. Then, in September 2018, one of his teenage nephews shot and killed himself in the home they shared. “He used to talk about it all the time, and I think he probably felt responsible because he was the uncle,” said Ike White, 48, a friend.
“Tim got hit by a car and died. Byron got shot and died. Their momma died. Then his nephew,” Mr. White added. “That will affect a person, all that death in his life.”
Mr. Prude quit his job at Gold Standard, and began working at a warehouse. He was smoking PCP more frequently, according to several friends, who asked not to be named because they did not want to upset his family.
When using PCP, he could become erratic. His play-fighting sometimes spiraled into actual fistfights. Shortly after his nephew’s death, the 12th Street group stopped allowing him to hang out with them at the carwash when he was high.
On the train to Rochester, Mr. Prude’s behavior remained unsteady. Amtrak workers eventually kicked him off the train in Buffalo, he told his brother. He said he was pickpocketed by a passenger, his cellphone stolen. Later that day, he started talking about the devil and was suffering from hallucinations.
His brother had him hospitalized for an evaluation, but Mr. Prude was sent home by doctors hours later, only to flee into the streets later that night, when he was confronted by the police in an encounter that would prove fatal.
But on his final day in Chicago, March 22, he was there with his neighbors on Roosevelt Road, outside of Nation Wide, chatting with the 12th Street group and asking around for a spare $20 for his ticket to Rochester.
It was his childhood friend, Mr. Hall, who reached into his pocket and gave him that $20, he said. “I asked him when he would be back,” he recalled. “And he said he wasn’t sure.”
A report shows Black neighborhoods have been more heavily patrolled, but police officials have said that enforcement is mostly driven by 911 and 311 calls, not racial bias.
By Alan Feuer, Sept. 23, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/23/nyregion/nypd-arrests-race.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage
When Bill de Blasio first ran for mayor in 2013, he promised that under his administration New York City police officers would patrol residents less aggressively than in the past, especially in predominately Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
Five years later, with the help of the police, the City Council and the city’s district attorneys, Mr. de Blasio managed to reduce the total number of arrests, criminal summonses and pedestrian stops by more than 500 percent. At the same time, the city’s crime rate fell to lows not seen since the 1950s.
One thing did not change, however, according to a report released this week by the Data Collaborative for Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice: Black neighborhoods continued to be policed at a higher rate than white ones.
Though overall enforcement started dropping in 2011 — near the end of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s final term — and kept falling sharply during Mr. de Blasio’s first five years in office, Black New Yorkers were still arrested and stopped at nearly twice the rate of the average city resident, the new report said. White New Yorkers were arrested and stopped at about only a third of the average rate.
“Despite significant efforts to shrink the footprint of the criminal justice system, we still see these racial disparities,” said Erica Bond, the data center’s policy director.
Police officials have long maintained that racial disparities in enforcement are a consequence of the higher volume of 911 and 311 calls in the city’s low-income neighborhoods rather than bias. More officers are deployed to those areas in response to complaints, driving up arrests, they have said.
The report’s findings come as New York, like other cities across the country, is struggling with a sharp rise in violent crime and with calls to redefine the role of the police in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of officers in Minneapolis.
They also have emerged at an exceptionally fraught political moment, when the New York City police and city leaders have found themselves trying to account for a disturbing rise in gun violence over the summer.
That debate has only intensified as President Trump and his allies in the local police unions have blamed the spike in shootings on failed liberal attempts to rein in the police, and as some city Democrats have accused the police of engaging in a slowdown and backing off on enforcement.
The study’s results appear to confirm as well that predominately Black communities, experience an unequal share of police killings and more frequent contact with the police in general.
The new report sidestepped the question of why Black New Yorkers were still being stopped and arrested at the same unequal rate as they were under Mr. Bloomberg. As first a Republican and then a registered independent, Mr. Bloomberg oversaw a “stop-and-frisk” program under which the police searched people for weapons and contraband in high-crime neighborhoods.
“There’s not going to be a single answer,” Ms. Bond said.
Enforcement declined under de Blasio …
Less than a month after taking office, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, announced that he was ending the city’s long legal battle over the Police Department’s practice of stopping and often frisking people on the street, a tactic that a federal judge had ruled in 2013 was racially biased.
Settling the lawsuit was just one move in a broader effort to rein in the more aggressive tactics the police had practiced under Mr. Bloomberg and his Republican predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani.
In 2014, William J. Bratton, then the city’s police commissioner, ordered officers, with some exceptions, to start issuing criminal summonses instead of making arrests for people caught with marijuana.
Two years later, the City Council passed the Criminal Justice Reform Act, which moved several quality of life offenses, like littering, public urination and open-container violations, from the criminal to the civil courts.
In 2018, the district attorneys in Brooklyn and Manhattan laid out plans to stop prosecuting most people arrested on marijuana charges, which had historically been enforced most heavily against Black and Hispanic residents.
These policies had a drastic effect. In 2011, the total number of arrests, criminal summonses and pedestrian stops by the police reached a high point of nearly 1.5 million. But by 2018, those enforcement actions dropped more than fivefold to less than 292,700 — even as crime rates also fell.
Pedestrian stops saw the steepest decline, the new study found, falling by 98 percent from 2011 to 2018. Criminal summonses decreased by 83 percent in the same period. The study determined that misdemeanor arrests came down by nearly half in those years and felony arrests decreased by 13 percent.
… yet racial disparities remained.
Even after years of the police using a lighter approach, the study found that Black New Yorkers were still nearly six times more likely to be stopped or arrested in 2018 than white New Yorkers were. And the ratio has not changed in more than a decade, according to the report. In 2003, Mr. Bloomberg’s second year in office, it was exactly the same.
“We’ve seen really great progress, but the status quo is never good enough,” said Bill Neidhardt, a spokesman for Mr. de Blasio. “There is clearly work to do and we’re not going to be shy about it.”
For some Black New Yorkers, the likelihood of being stopped or arrested had actually gone up, the study found.
Black teenagers, 16 and 17 years old, were nine times more likely to encounter police enforcement in 2018 than their white counterparts. That same year, Black people 18 to 20 years old were nearly eight times more likely to be stopped or arrested than whites of the same age.
“Everything is different about policing in communities of color, and it always has been,” said Delores Jones-Brown, a visiting professor of criminal justice at Howard University. “Black people, especially young people, don’t get to enjoy public space in same way whites do.”
The police say 911 calls determine enforcement.
Police officials did not respond to requests for comment on the report, but the Police Department has long insisted that it deploys its officers in response to requests for help: Police activity, senior officials have said, is principally driven by 911 and 311 calls, not racial bias.
“It’s the nature of police assignments that you put the bulk of your cops on the dots — the hot spots, if you will,” Mr. Bratton, the former commissioner, said in an interview. “Those hot spots are based on call workloads and complaints, and there are a much larger proportion of them in poor minority neighborhoods.”
Mr. Bratton added that while more people might be getting stopped or arrested in Black neighborhoods than in white ones, more victims of crime in those places were also being helped by the police. “It’s Policing 101,” he said. “You put cops where things are happening that you’re trying to prevent.”
Ms. Jones-Brown, however, said the greater attention Black neighborhoods received from the police could not solely be attributed to more crimes being committed in those places. The federal judge who ruled in the stop-and-frisk case, she noted, found that the majority of the pedestrian stops in those neighborhoods never turned up evidence of a crime.
“Even with the drop in enforcement, some officers are still being cued into Black males as targets,” she said. “Black kids in particular are often treated as a target group, not as individuals.”
Preeti Chauhan, the data center’s director, said that to better understand the racial disparities, researchers would need more data about how the Police Department deploys its officers and how many stops and arrests are “discretionary” as opposed to responses to calls for service. But the study her group released did not include that analysis.
Richard Aborn, the president of the nonprofit Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, said there was no simple answer to why Black neighborhoods were more heavily policed, but racial bias could not be ruled out as a factor.
“The majority of calls for service do come from communities of color,” he said. “But I think there’s a secondary response, which is that there is implicit bias in policing like there is in every other part of life.
“It’s very hard to measure how that plays out in enforcement activity,” Mr. Aborn added, “but I don’t deny that it exists.”
Jalil Muntaqim has been in prison for 49 years
By Ed. Pilkington
—The Guardian, September 24, 2020https://news.yahoo.com/former-black-panther-released-more-122912231.html
A former Black Panther who has been in prison for almost half a century has finally won his decades-long battle for freedom after a New York parole board ordered his release.
Jalil Muntaqim, AKA Anthony Bottom, has been in unbroken custody for more than 49 years having been arrested and later convicted of the 1971 murders of two police officers in Harlem. Under the terms of his parole he must be released from the maximum-security Sullivan correctional facility in upstate New York by 20 October.
At a hearing earlier this month – at least his 10th such panel appearance since he became eligible for parole in 1998 – Muntaqim expressed his remorse for the killings of Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones. The officers had answered what they believed was a domestic dispute call but were then ambushed and shot.
The two parole commissioners on the panel accepted his expression of remorse as genuine.
Muntaqim, 68, was the subject of a Guardian profile in 2018 as part of a series that looked at black liberation radicals incarcerated for decades in the wake of political and racial turbulence in the late 1960s and 70s. At the time of the Harlem incident he was a clandestine member of the underground wing of the Panthers, the Black Liberation Army.
In the course of a three-hour filmed interview with the Guardian in Sullivan, Muntaqim described how he was only 18 years old when he signed up for the Panthers, quickly going on to join the armed and clandestine BLA. He said that in his many years behind bars he had matured from the revolutionary position that he adopted in 1971, though he remained committed to the cause of racial equality and justice.
“I now take the ‘r’ off the word and make it ‘evolutionary’,” he said. “Revolution for me is the evolutionary process of building a higher level of consciousness in society at large. I’m an evolutionary revolutionary.”
Muntaqim’s release has been virulently opposed by the New York police union, the PBA, and by the widow of one of the murdered police officers, Diane Piagentini. In a statement she said: “We are heartbroken to see another of Joe’s killer set free by politics. But more than anything else, we are angry.”
Muntaqim was one of a dwindling number of black liberation radicals who were incarcerated during the heyday of the Black Panthers and who have been locked up ever since. Edward Poindexter, convicted of the killing of a police officer in Omaha, Nebraska, marked his 50 years in a prison cell in August.
Others have been released on parole in recent months. The surviving seven members of the Move 9, black liberation and environmental radicals from Philadelphia who were arrested following a police siege of their communal home in 1978, were all released on parole over the past two years.
One of the seven, Delbert Africa, died in June just five months after he was set free.
Muntaqim had two co-defendants at trial for the killings of the police officers in Harlem, when they each received sentences of 25 years to life. Albert “Nuh” Washington died in prison in 2000, and Herman Bell was released on parole in April 2018.
No police officer will have to answer for her death. This never gets easier.
By Melanye Price, Dr. Price is a political scientist., Sept. 24, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/24/opinion/breonna-taylor-charges-racism.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Kentucky’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, announced Wednesday that one police officer would be charged, not in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, but with endangering her neighbors with reckless gunfire. “If we simply act on emotion or outrage, there is no justice. Mob justice is not justice,” Mr. Cameron said, in an apparent attempt to explain the lack of more serious charges relating to the 26-year-old’s killing. “Justice sought by violence is not justice. It just becomes revenge.”
Mr. Cameron’s use of the term “mob justice” to characterize protests by African-Americans who want officers who kill Black people with seeming impunity held responsible for their actions is curious phrasing, particularly from an attorney general from a Southern state.
Mob justice was literally used by Kentucky and other Southern states for decades to rule over Black people. Lynching and other racial terror tactics were deployed frequently, often with the help of the criminal justice system. Authorities were known to hand Black people to mobs who turned violence and spectacle into regional events. The news of an impending lynching would bring Southern white families to town squares on foot and by wagon. They arrived with picnic lunches and cameras to watch live examples of the devaluation of Black citizenship and the snuffing out of life.
According to Ben Tobin of the Louisville Courier-Journal, “between 1877 and 1934, lynchings of at least 186 African Americans took place in KY.” This was mob justice. This represented repeated failures of the criminal justice system. This was a willful shunning of the nation’s basic principles.
All Ms. Taylor’s family wanted, and all many of the protesters wanted, is for the Constitution and the mechanism of justice to work for them the way it works for others. Mr. Cameron, who is Black, should know that to suggest that protesters are nothing but a mob dehumanizes the people calling for justice and respect. And it reminds African-Americans of the way we’re so often unfairly portrayed as perpetrators of crime, and so rarely seen as victims.
Police officers who kill citizens are rarely convicted. But in this tragic situation, in which the woman killed was not only unarmed but asleep in the moments before a police officer took her life, we hoped that for once, justice would be on our side. This is yet another disappointing reminder that it’s not.
These efforts take a cumulative toll. Young African-Americans consuming a regular diet of Black death are learning to not trust their government. It’s painful to realize that kneeling for the national anthem can cost a football player like Colin Kaepernick his career, but a police officer firing a deadly shot into an innocent young woman’s home late at night will face no consequences. Black people will try to make sense of this, try to rebuild whatever expectation of safety we can muster, and tap into coping mechanisms that are now so familiar. Preparing for moments like this feels like a futile job that can never really soften the actual experience.
In recent years various media outlets have invited people to share stories about when they first realized they were Black. Often, the realizations came from some negative experience with racial prejudice: The time a white childhood friend couldn’t invite them to a sleepover, or when a favorite high school teacher told them affirmative action would get them into a great college. We’ve frequently read and heard about the talks Black parents have with their children, explaining how racism can make people misconstrue their behavior, and about how teens must learn the etiquette of negotiating racial animus. Don’t talk back. Look down. Say yes ma’am and yes sir.
But what can prepare a person for the proper response to heavily armed cops in their home in the middle of the night? How could we have prepared Breonna Taylor? The answer is, we couldn’t have. What could have prepared her family for the failure to hold the police officers in this case accountable? Nothing.
I have always known I was Black. I was raised in a segregated community, attended a racially segregated church, was bused across town to schools with more resources, watched “Roots” and “Eyes on the Prize” with my family and recited Margaret Walker poems in Black History Month programs. I was bathed in blackness from birth. I also knew fairly early on that not everyone viewed blackness through the same lens, and that I would be on the receiving end of racial hostility. I felt prepared for this eventuality. But when I was standing on High Street in front of Ohio State’s campus and someone from a car full of white boys yelled a racial slur at me in broad daylight, with lots of people watching but not even acknowledging what happened, I learned there is never enough preparation. Not for the pugilistic ways that white supremacy can render you an afterthought of American democracy.
That experience has stayed with me for over 20 years. The realization that no police officer will face consequences for killing Breonna Taylor will stay with me, too.
It’s not that the failure to indict a police officer for killing Ms. Taylor was unpredictable. It’s that the emotional and political exhaustion surrounding the news was predictable. This is what inspires the rage and despair that Mr. Cameron cruelly and ahistorically dismissed as “mob justice.” This is what forces Black people to push for this nation to be better stewards of its ideal, while recalibrating our expectations time and time again.
Melanye Price (@ProfMTP), a professor of political science at Prairie View A&M University in Texas, is the author, most recently, of “The Race Whisperer: Barack Obama and the Political Uses of Race.”
A wide gulf remains between the public perception of police violence and how it is treated in court.
By Shaila Dewan, Sept. 24, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/24/us/police-killings-prosecution-charges.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Protesters marching through downtown Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday, the day that a grand jury announced charges in the Breonna Taylor case. Credit...Whitney Curtis for The New York Times
Since Breonna Taylor was awakened in the night and shot to death by the police in her own home, Louisville has banned no-knock warrants. A police chief was fired, and so was an officer who was on the scene. But despite demands from across the country, no one was charged in Ms. Taylor’s death.
On Wednesday, the Kentucky attorney general announced far less serious charges of wanton endangerment against one of the officers involved in the raid, and none against the two who shot Ms. Taylor six times.
The lack of a murder or manslaughter indictment was an outrage to many — but not a surprise.
Few police officers are ever charged with murder or manslaughter when they cause a death in the line of duty, and only about a third of those officers are convicted.
Even as tens of thousands of Americans protest police brutality and demand overhauls of law enforcement, a yawning gulf remains between the public perception of police violence and how it is treated in court.
In the case against the Minneapolis officers charged with killing George Floyd, whose videotaped death in May shocked the nation and was almost universally denounced, the prosecutor, Attorney General Keith Ellison, has warned of the difficulty of prosecuting officers.
“Trying this case will not be an easy thing. Winning a conviction will be hard,” Mr. Ellison said in June, even as he announced that he was raising the charge against one of the officers, Derek Chauvin, to second-degree murder. “History does show that there are clear challenges here.”
Union protections that shield police officers from timely investigation, legal standards that give them the benefit of the doubt, and a tendency to take officers at their word have added up to few convictions and little prison time for officers who kill. On top of that, misconduct and poor judgment do not always amount to criminality.
Though state statutes vary, officers are generally permitted to use deadly force if they reasonably perceive imminent danger — a standard that has been criticized as overly subjective and prone to racial bias.
“Police know what to say and what to tell a jury and what to tell a judge to make those folks believe that they were reasonably in fear,” said Kate Levine, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. “Even if there are other witnesses, those witnesses just don’t get the same amount of credibility determination from prosecutors, judges, juries.”
Law enforcement officers kill about 1,000 people a year across the United States. Since the beginning of 2005, 121 officers have been arrested on charges of murder or manslaughter in on-duty killings, according to data compiled by Philip M. Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Of the 95 officers whose cases have concluded, 44 were convicted, but often of a lesser charge, he said.
Convictions include cases like the killing of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, for which Jason Van Dyke was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison, and the killing of Justine Damond in Minneapolis, for which Mohamed Noor was sentenced to 12.5 years.
Many officers who avoided criminal convictions have been fired, like three of the other officers in the McDonald case, and Daniel Pantaleo, who used a chokehold on Eric Garner on Staten Island.
More recently, officers involved in the deaths of Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta have been swiftly indicted on murder charges. Mr. Brooks’s case in particular appears to reflect changing standards; because he grabbed and fired an officer’s Taser before he was killed, several experts said they doubted charges would have been brought had the death occurred before the wave of protests and police scrutiny that followed Mr. Floyd’s death.
But two cases do not prove that prosecutors have grown more willing — or have yielded to increased pressure — to hold officers criminally accountable. Professor Stinson said any such uptick is so far statistically insignificant. And several equally high-profile investigations of police killings have resulted in no indictment.
The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 illustrates the disconnect between public views and prosecutorial reality: After nationwide protests over his death and a federal review of the case, the officer, Darren Wilson, was not indicted.
In July, Wesley Bell, the prosecutor elected after Mr. Brown’s death, ruefully announced that after yet another review he would not seek charges, though he added that his decision did not “exonerate” Mr. Wilson. “The question of whether we can prove a case at trial is different than clearing him of any and all wrongdoing,” he said.
This week the prosecutor’s office in Tucson, Ariz., came to a similar conclusion in the death of Carlos Ingram Lopez, citing “insufficient evidence of a crime,” despite what the police chief had called violations of policy. Mr. Lopez died in police custody while naked, handcuffed and face down.
With increasing calls for change, a few states have attempted to make it easier to hold officers accountable.
In Washington State last month, an officer was charged with murder under a 2019 law that eliminated a requirement that prosecutors prove that an officer acted with “malice.” After the death of Stephon Clark in his grandmother’s backyard in Sacramento resulted in no criminal charges against officers, California tightened its use-of-force standard from reasonable to necessary.
But situations in which the police were facing an armed individual are always difficult to prosecute.
In a case like Ms. Taylor’s, for example, the fact that her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired at the police first mattered more — under criminal law — than any flawed decisions or shoddy police work that led to the officers breaking down her door in the first place.
“I do understand why people are surprised, because the circumstances that led to Ms. Taylor’s death were preventable and unacceptable in terms of how the police treated her and Mr. Walker that night,” said Taryn Merkl, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice and a former federal prosecutor.
In recent months, some advocates of criminal justice reform have argued that prosecuting officers may even be counterproductive because it avoids addressing systemic problems and, in the words of Professor Levine, allows “the mainstream, white public, and the politicians who represent them to rest easy believing that problem police officers have gotten their due.”
These advocates point out an inherent contradiction between wanting to end over-incarceration and wanting to send police officers — including police officers of color, like Mr. Noor — to prison. “To the extent that the public sees these prosecutions as a neat reckoning against white police officers on behalf of people of color, it is just not that simple,” Professor Levine wrote.
Last month, Essence magazine published an op-ed by two Black prison abolitionists headlined, “We Want More Justice for Breonna Taylor Than The System That Killed Her Can Deliver.” The authors, Mariame Kaba and Andrea J. Ritchie, did not say that the officers should not be prosecuted, but that “collective responses rooted in arrests and prosecution are likely to lead to dead ends and deep disappointments.”
What do we do when everything is coming apart?
By Jamelle Bouie, Opinion Columnist, Sept. 25, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/25/opinion/trump-supreme-court-missouri-compromise.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
If you’ll bear with me for a moment, I want to talk a little about the Missouri controversy of 1819 to 1821.
On its surface, it was a struggle over the sectional balance of slave and free states. Would Congress admit Missouri without restrictions on slavery, or would it outlaw the institution in the territory as a condition of statehood?
But there was a deeper dispute at work, over the nature of the American union itself. “In one conception,” the historian George William Van Cleve writes in “A Slaveholder’s Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic,”
“…the Union was a progressively improving nation seeking unified moral ends, based on a constitution founded on and subordinate to a religiously grounded (or ethically universalist) higher law.”
And in the other,
“…the Union was a political union of states dedicated to preserving political and moral freedom, based on a constitution founded only on popular consent and federalism principles that tolerated moral diversity even on evils such as slavery.”
The political exigencies of the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 may have forced the framers to protect slavery where it existed. But there was no obligation to accept the spread of slavery beyond the original borders of the United States.
What’s more, for Northern opponents of slavery’s expansion, like Senator Rufus King of New York, the Constitution was not its own justification. Instead, Americans were bound by “the broad Principles of the Law of Nature,” which is the “foundation of all constitutional, conventional and civil laws, none of which are valid if contrary to the Law of Nature.”
Among those principles was the idea that
“…all men are born free, and justly entitled to the possession of Life & Liberty, and to the free pursuit of happiness — hence that man could not enslave man; and that States could not make men Slaves.”
For King, the “political reasons against the extension of Slavery” were strong enough to justify its restriction in Missouri. But even if they weren’t, “the Law of Nature imposes this Restraint, and as slavery may be prohibited by Congress, they are bound to prohibit it.”
On the other side were slaveholding Southerners and their allies who thought this was nonsense. “It is idle to make the rightfulness of an act the measure of sovereign power,” argued William Pinkney, a Democratic-Republican senator from Maryland. “The distinction between sovereign power and the moral right to exercise it, has always been recognised.”
He went on:
“Is a citizen, or are the courts of justice to inquire whether that, or any other law, is just before they obey or execute it? And are there any degrees of injustice which will withdraw from sovereign power the capacity of making a law?”
To judge the legality of a law according to its morality would make governing impossible. And channeling Thomas Jefferson, Pinkney argued that republican government meant the people themselves could limit natural rights by popular consent:
“In such a Government, rights, political and civil, may be qualified by the fundamental law, upon such inducements as the freemen of the country deem sufficient.”
There may have been a settlement that would allow Missouri into the United States. But there was nothing to resolve these irreconcilable views of the Union itself. Where slavery was concerned, Van Cleve writes, there was no “rule of law” — no agreed upon foundation for adjudicating conflicts. One side believed the United States was a moral union, the other believed it was a compact of states founded on popular will. Between the two, there was “no basis for agreement on what constituted legitimate political sovereignty in the Union.”
There is no one-to-one comparison from the past to current events; there never is. But drawing on the Missouri controversy, I do have an observation to make about our present situation. Once again, under the guise of ordinary political conflict, Americans are fighting a meta-legal battle over the meaning of both the Union and the Constitution.
Right now, Democrats are fighting to keep President Trump from filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Four years ago, Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate majority denied confirmation to — or even a hearing for — Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia. A politically risky escalation of constitutional hardball, McConnell justified it as Senate convention, citing a heretofore unknown tradition — he called it “the Biden rule” — which deferred any court vacancy to the next Congress when it occurred in a presidential election year. “We’re following the Biden rule,” McConnell said at the time. “Biden was chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 1992, in a presidential election year, he said the Senate should not act on filling a Supreme Court vacancy if it had occurred that year.”
Under this “rule,” Republicans should defer filling this vacancy until after the November election or into the next year. But they aren’t. Shortly after the announcement of Ginsburg’s death, McConnell said a Trump nominee would “receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.” A little later, several key Republicans said they would confirm a nominee. Trump, for his part, said he would make a nomination. Democrats cried hypocrisy. “They know there is no reason, no reason, no argument, no logic to justify flipping your position 180 degrees and calling it some kind of principle,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said on the Senate floor Monday.
McConnell didn’t have a response as much as an ad hoc justification. The Biden rule, he claimed, was about partisan control in an election year, not the fact of an election itself. Anyone could watch the tape from 2016 and see this was false, a make-do condition for a made-up rule. But that didn’t matter. Then, as now, McConnell is playing for keeps, and he won’t let rules or norms or civility get in the way. Under the Constitution, the Senate says who sits on the bench, even if it can’t directly nominate a judge or justice. With a Republican majority behind him, McConnell could block a moderate liberal nominee chosen by a Democratic president, so he did. Now he can confirm a conservative nominee chosen by a Republican president, so he will.
A fight over the fate of the Supreme Court is weighty enough, but beneath the surface of this conflict is an even fiercer struggle about what the Constitution means, one taking place in the context of minority rule and incipient democratic failure.
At no point has a majority ever voted for long-term conservative control of the Supreme Court. The president, and the Republican Senate, represent an electoral minority. Their power rests on a constitutional structure that weights the interests of their voters over those of their opponents’ voters. It is very possible that next year Trump and the Republican Party will hold power in Washington again, despite losing the popular vote by millions. This, it’s true, is procedurally meaningless. But Americans tabulate the national popular vote — and have for nearly 200 years — because victory on that front confers legitimacy and defeat signals weakness and grounds for political contestation.
Many democratic political systems allow for minority-led governments, although they often force parties to build majority coalitions to achieve them. That’s because minority government becomes an unacceptably bitter pill when the winning party rejects compromise and consensus in favor of factionalism and unilateral action. The problem comes when a political system allows for minority winners but doesn’t require coalition government. Stability is possible, but it depends on forbearance and good faith from all sides. You can play political and constitutional hardball, but it might bring conflict out into the open that you can’t ultimately control, and it will raise questions about your mandate to govern.
Trump, McConnell and the Republican Party have embraced a kind of political total war. Democrats and their liberal allies say this violates the democratic principles against which we judge the fairness of our institutions. In response, Republicans say the Constitution is what counts. Whether or not an action violates some abstract principle, if it’s in the rules, it’s in the rules.
The argument, in other words, is over the nature of American democracy. Is it expressed solely in the Constitution, so that a constitutional action is inherently democratic? Or is the Constitution only a tool for realizing the principles of American democracy as they develop over time? If it’s the second, then an action can be both constitutional and undemocratic, which ought to take it off the table as a legitimate move in political combat.
There’s no umpire to resolve this conflict — no case to take to the Supreme Court. Similar to the Missouri controversy, there’s no “rule of law” with which to settle the dispute. And it’s clear, already, that the conflict has real world implications far beyond the vacancy on the court.
Writing for The Atlantic magazine, Barton Gellman notes that in anticipation of narrow margins and contested ballots, the Trump re-election campaign has developed a plan for winning the electoral vote in Pennsylvania and other key swing states. According to Gellman’s sources in the Republican Party at both state and national levels, Trump’s campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority. With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly.
This would be an attack on the democratic process itself, an attempt to nullify the election to secure a fraudulent victory. It would also be legal and in full accordance with the Constitution, which gives state Legislatures the authority to choose and allocate electors. There is, in truth, a constellation of actions a president could take that violate the principles of democratic government but are lawful under the Constitution, for the simple reason that no constitution could ever cover all possibilities.
Constitutional government depends on good faith adherence to the spirit as well as the letter of the law. Discard the former, and there’s nothing in the latter to keep a democracy (or if you prefer, a republic) from falling into unenlightened despotism.
The Missouri controversy was, of course, settled with a compromise. Missouri would enter the Union as a slave state, and Maine would enter as a free state, but Congress would prohibit slavery in all land of the Louisiana Purchase north of the 36° 30’ parallel. This defused the fight over the territory, but could not resolve the conflict over the Union. This was legislation, a good faith agreement between two irreconcilable sides, not a permanent addition to the constitutional framework.
Nor could it be permanent in a country where sectionalism made it impossible to meet the supermajority requirement for amending the Constitution. There would be no neutral ground for mediating sectional conflicts over slavery. Instead, Americans would try as much as possible to suppress disputes through a careful balance of power and territory. It was the only option in a society where both sides, North and South, feared domination should one side win the upper hand. Or, as Van Cleve writes,
“…they believed that under the Constitution long-term capture of the federal government by one section or the other was entirely possible, and that no reciprocity in governing would then be required, so that the losing side would be exploited by the victors in a zero-sum game.”
Our conflict isn’t the same, but the dynamic — fear on both sides of long-term defeat and permanent domination — feels familiar. Liberals fear suppression at the hands of a narrow political minority, its power amplified by courts and counter-majoritarian institutions; conservatives fear the same at the hands of a progressive coalition, its power amplified through the organs of cultural influence.
The election in November will shape the future of this dynamic — either strengthening conservatives and freeing them to act without restraint or giving liberals a chance to make political, economic and judicial reform a reality — but it won’t resolve the conflict. The divides are too deep, tied to fundamental questions of ideology and both national and personal identity. We need a compromise, an agreement for the sake of democracy and constitutional government, but it’s not clear we can forge one. And even if we could come to a truce this year or the next, it’s also true that nothing lasts forever.
The system erased her as if she never existed.
By Charles M. Blow, Opinion Columnist, Sept. 24, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/24/opinion/breonna-taylor-black-trauma.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
I filed this column late. Very late. I couldn’t find the words — an unsettling experience for a writer. The words I did conjure failed, not because the message was difficult to convey, but rather because the conveyance is maddeningly depressive in repetition.
The killing of Breonna Taylor reveals yet again how easy it is for the state to take a Black life and how hard it is to hold the state accountable for its transgression. That is in part because the system is designed to make it nearly impossible for the state to transgress.
Taylor was an innocent woman, sleeping in her own home, breaking no law. The state broke down her door and shot her dead.
Most of what the state did in her home that night was in fact, outrageously, legal. According to the state attorney general, the two officers who shot her were justified in using lethal force because her boyfriend, believing that people were breaking into the house to harm him and Taylor, deigned to defend himself by shooting at the intruders.
That, according to the state, allowed the officers to then act in self-defense. But here’s the problem: The bullets went into Taylor, not her boyfriend. How can you justify killing me while defending yourself from something my friend did?
When the grand jury charges were announced, only a third officer, who was fired in June, was charged, and not with anything that had to do with the killing of Taylor. He was charged with wanton endangerment because he shot so randomly that some bullets entered adjacent apartments.
Put another way, the bullets that provided the material for the crime were the ones that did not enter Taylor’s body. In essence, a former officer was charged for the shots that missed her.
That grand jury, the system, the state, erased Taylor as if she had never existed. Her death was simply a “tragedy,” a regrettable mistake for which no punishment was merited or required.
For the state, her body fell like a tree in the forest. For us, it landed like a thunderclap and shook the earth. It was a horror. It could have been us. It could have been someone we knew and loved.
Taylor was just 26, the same age as my oldest son is now. Taylor was a certified E.M.T., and her mother said she planned a lifelong career in health care. My son is in medical school. She could have been my daughter. My son could have been her.
They are both adults, to be sure, but to us, their parents, they are our children, our babies. You can’t just cut down someone’s baby and say, “Oh well.” No amount of money can fill the hole that loss would leave.
It was so egregious, like so many of these police shootings, and for months we waited to see if justice would be served, hoping against hope, knowing that history had trained us in trauma, knowing that justice was unlikely.
And, in the end, the system performed precisely as expected: It disregarded the Black body and defended the state bodies.
When you are injured or killed by community violence, the law is on your side, or on the side of the loved ones who grieve you. Justice in those cases can be swift and brutal. But, when it is the state doing the hurting and killing, the law is on their side. They are the law.
That is why state violence is so insidious: because you are nearly helpless to protect yourself from it.
People have to chant “Black lives matter” — to assert it, to make it hang in the air so that both the person speaking these words and the person hearing them can remember it — because the system demonstrates continually that those lives don’t matter to it.
Taylor was killed by the disastrous war on drugs that is itself hopelessly racialized. She was killed by the judicial system that granted the warrant. She was killed by militarized hyper-policing that is too often dangerous and deadly. She was killed by public indifference that lets all this play out without demanding correction.
This is a woeful ritual. This is a perpetual parade of anger and astonishment, of loss and longing, of demanding justice and being denied it. It is weighing on the souls of Black America and all Americans of good conscience.
America has created an unsustainable condition, one that I fear will one day explode, and yet the country lacks the will or inclination to right its wrongs. America, sadly, will regret this.
Bully and ignore the experts, and send in the quacks.
By Paul Krugman, Opinion Columnist, Sept. 24, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/24/opinion/trump-science-coronavirus.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
Lately I’ve found myself thinking about Trofim Lysenko.
Who? Lysenko was a Soviet agronomist who decided that modern genetics was all wrong, indeed contrary to Marxist-Leninist principles. He even denied that genes existed, while insisting that long-discredited views about evolution were actually right. Real scientists marveled at his ignorance.
But Joseph Stalin liked him, so Lysenko’s views became official doctrine, and scientists who refused to endorse them were sent to labor camps or executed. Lysenkoism became the basis for much of the Soviet Union’s agricultural policy, eventually contributing to the disastrous famines of the 1930s.
Does all of this sound a bit familiar given recent events in America?
Those worried about a crisis of democracy in the United States — which means everyone paying attention — usually compare Donald Trump to strongmen like Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, not Stalin. Indeed, if the G.O.P. has become an extremist, anti-democratic party — and it has — it’s an extremism of the right.
But while nobody would accuse Trump of being a leftist, his political style always reminds me of Stalinism. Like Stalin, he sees vast, implausible conspiracies everywhere — anarchists somehow in control of major cities, radical leftists somehow controlling Joe Biden, secret anti-Trump cabals throughout the federal government. It’s also notable that those who work for Trump, like Stalinist officials, consistently end up being cast out and vilified — although not sent to gulags, at least not yet.
And Trumpism, like Stalinism, seems to inspire special disdain for expertise and a fondness for quacks.
On Wednesday Trump said two things that both, if you ask me, deserved banner headlines. Most alarmingly, he refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election.
But he also indicated that he might reject new guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration for approving a coronavirus vaccine, saying that the announcement of these guidelines “sounds like a political move.” What?
OK, we all understand what’s going on here. Many observers worry that the Trump team, in an effort to influence the election, will announce that we have a safe, effective vaccine against the coronavirus ready to go, even if we don’t (and we almost certainly won’t have one that soon). So the Food and Drug Administration was trying to reassure the public about the integrity of its approval process.
And we really need that reassurance, because the Trump administration has given us every reason to distrust statements coming from public health agencies.
Last month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance to the effect that people exposed to the coronavirus but not having Covid-19 symptoms didn’t need to get tested — contrary to the recommendations of just about every independent epidemiologist. Subsequent reporting revealed that the new guidance was prepared by political appointees and skipped the scientific review process.
More recently, the C.D.C. warned about airborne transmission of the coronavirus — this time matching what experts are saying — only to suddenly pull the guidance from its website a few days later. We don’t know exactly what happened, but it’s hard not to notice that the retracted guidance would have made it clear that recent Trump rallies, which involve large indoor crowds with few people wearing masks, create major public health risks.
So the F.D.A. was trying to assure us that it won’t be corrupted by politics the way the C.D.C. apparently has been. And Trump basically cut the agency off at the knees; his assertion that the new guidelines sound political actually meant that they weren’t political enough, that he wants to keep open the possibility of announcing a vaccine as a way to help retain power.
But if political hacks are calling the shots at the C.D.C., and the F.D.A. is being told to shut up and follow the party line, who’s advising Trump on pandemic policy? Send in the quacks.
Trump’s disastrous push, back in April, for early reopening was reportedly influenced by the writings of Richard Epstein, a law professor who somehow decided that he was an expert in epidemiology and that Covid-19 would kill no more than 500 people, a number he eventually increased to 5,000 — roughly the death toll we’re currently experiencing every week.
But the quack of the moment is Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist with no expertise in infectious diseases who nonetheless impressed Trump with his appearances on Fox News. Atlas’s opposition to mask requirements and advocacy of just letting the coronavirus spread until we’ve reached “herd immunity” are very much at odds with what actual epidemiologists are saying, but they’re what Trump wants to hear, and Atlas has apparently become a key adviser on pandemic policy.
That’s what had me thinking about Trofim Lysenko. Like Stalin, Trump denigrates and bullies experts and takes advice on what should be scientific issues from people who don’t know what they’re talking about but tell him what he wants to hear.
And you know what happens when a national leader does that? People die.
For many, the grand jury announcement in Breonna Taylor’s case was more of the same, underscoring the need for systemic change.
By Alisha Haridasani Gupta, Published Sept. 24, 2020, Updated Sept. 25, 2020https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/24/us/breonna-taylor-grand-jury-black-women.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage
Protesters marched in Louisville after Wednesday’s announcement. Credit...Xavier Burrell for The New York Times
“The system that killed Breonna Taylor is not set up to provide justice or reparations for the killing of Breonna Taylor.” — Andrea Ritchie, author of “Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color”
After more than 100 days of protests demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, a grand jury’s decision on Wednesday to not bring charges related to her death against the police officers involved landed with a thud for those who had hoped for more, and stronger, charges.
On March 13, a little after midnight, three police officers punched down the door of Ms. Taylor’s apartment in Louisville, Ky. using a no-knock warrant in a late-night drug raid. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fearing an intruder, reached for his gun and let off one shot, wounding an officer. Another officer and the wounded officer returned fire, while a third began blindly shooting through Ms. Taylor’s window and patio door.
The two officers who shot Ms. Taylor six times face no charges, while a former police detective, Brett Hankison, was indicted on a charge of “wanton endangerment” for firing recklessly into a neighbor’s apartment.
“The decision before my office is not to decide if the loss of Breonna Taylor’s life was a tragedy — the answer to that question is unequivocally yes,” said Kentucky’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, at a news conference in the state’s capital, Frankfort.
“Justice is not often easy and does not fit the mold of public opinion,” Mr. Cameron said, adding that not everyone would be satisfied with the charges and that, as a Black man, he understood the pain brought about by Ms. Taylor’s death.
As the decision was read aloud, a crowd that had gathered in downtown Louisville shrieked in despair. Shouts of “That’s it?” rose from the crowd. “They murdered her!” a woman yelled between sobs.
“This is one of the biggest miscarriages of justice I’ve seen in about 25 years,” said Linda Sarsour, a political activist who was among the crowd in Louisville when the announcement came down. “I’m remembering a quote by Malcolm X: ‘The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman.’”
For many, the heartbreak was compounded by the fact that, despite mounting national attention and pressure, the outcome was, simply put, unsurprising. It had crushed cautious hopes that this case could have spurred change, particularly for Black women.
“Sometimes you wish, even outside of the knowledge that you have, that lightning strikes and something different will happen,” said Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at U.C.L.A. and Columbia Law School and founder of the Say Her Name campaign. “You can attach that hope to some of the factual distinctions of this case: The police can’t even claim she was doing anything. But realism tells you that the likelihood of something different was pretty slim.”
Few police officers who cause deaths are charged or convicted. Since 2013, law enforcement officers across the country have killed about 1,000 people a year and Black people are about three times more likely to be killed by the police than white people, according to the crowdsourced database Mapping Police Violence.
Yet, since 2005, only 121 officers in total have been arrested on charges of murder or manslaughter in on-duty killings, according to data compiled by Philip M. Stinson, a former police officer himself and a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Of the 95 officers whose cases have concluded, 44 were convicted, but often of a lesser charge, like assault, he said.
While fewer women than men are killed by the police overall, the conviction rate is low in those cases, too, particularly for Black women. Since 2015, nearly 250 women in total have been killed by police officers, of which 48 — about a fifth — were Black, according to a Washington Post database.
Since the beginning of 2005, there have been eight cases in which officers were charged with manslaughter or murder of a Black woman. In the past five years, there has been one, Professor Stinson said. Almost all of the officers in those cases were acquitted.
And the numbers in Professor Stinson’s database, as well as in others, are most likely an underrepresentation, relying on news media reports and alerts, he explained, “because the government does a lousy job of collecting this sort of data.”
“Law enforcement agencies don’t like providing this data,” he said. “And we have 18,000 agencies across 50 states and the District of Columbia that define things differently. It’s just very complicated and decentralized.”
Andrea Ritchie, author of “Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color” and co-author, with Professor Crenshaw, of the Say Her Name report, which investigates police brutality against Black women, said the fact that the criminal justice system so rarely convicts police officers is a key reason activists should seek structural change.
“This is part of a larger pattern, and if we don’t interrupt the pattern, we’re going to be in this position again and again and again,” Ms. Ritchie said. “The system that killed Breonna Taylor is not set up to provide justice or reparations for the killing of Breonna Taylor.”
Activists on the ground are working to change that system.
The Black Lives Matter movement in Louisville has urged the city’s mayor, Greg Fischer, to fire the police officers who weren’t indicted, said Shawnte West, adjunct professor of social policy at the University of Louisville and a volunteer with the group. Professor West added that B.L.M. has also called on Mayor Fischer to investigate the gentrification policies that, she said, had “created the conditions that led up to the murder of Breonna Taylor,” and for increased investments in community services, like child welfare or homeless shelters.
Partly because of persistent pressure from the group, Mayor Fischer in June signed “Breonna’s Law,” which effectively outlawed the kind of no-knock warrants that enabled the three officers to burst into her apartment. And, this month, the mayor announced a $12 million settlement in the civil suit by the Taylor family that included police reform policies like a requirement that commanders approve all search warrants before they go to a judge and the use of mandatory body cameras.
“Now I’m hearing Black women talking about running for judge seats, for City Council positions, in statewide elections,” Professor West said. “We’re not just sitting around and being sullen. This is just the second day of the second phase of this.”
John Eligon contributed reporting from Louisville, Ky.
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