My Father, Martin Luther King Jr., Had Another Dream
If he saw the issues of poverty and income inequality that exist today he would be greatly disappointed.
By Martin Luther King, III
“I have a dream.” “Martin Luther King Jr. is celebrated as a champion for civil rights. But today, I want you to think about a different part of my dad’s legacy. Something that you may not know, but it‘s more relevant today than ever — his fight against poverty and income inequality.” “But if a man doesn‘t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty, and the possibility for the pursuit of happiness.” “When my father was shot in 1968 in Memphis, he was crusading for higher wages for black sanitation workers. Their work conditions were abysmal — low pay, no sick leave, and many were on welfare. In a speech to the workers, Dad said the issue is injustice. The issue is the — ” “Refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants.” “Today my dad is revered. But in 1968, he was deeply unpopular. Two-thirds of Americans disapproved of him.” “Oh, I’ve been hit so many times I‘m immune to it.” “The F.B.I. said he was a Communist. But he kept protesting anyway. I traveled with him as a kid throughout Georgia in preparation for the Poor People‘s Campaign. The idea was to rally people to Washington to press the federal government to provide jobs and income for the poor. This was his other dream but he did not live to see it come to fruition. I think if my father saw the issues of poverty and income inequality that exist today, he would be greatly disappointed. Back then, 25 million people were living in poverty. But today, it’s close to 40 million, and some say it’s much higher, while billionaires pay a lower tax rate than the working class. Americans who teach our kids, deliver our food, drive our buses are struggling.” “It is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.” “If we really want to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the principles that my father stood for, our whole government needs to step up, from creating a cabinet position focused on fighting poverty to passing a universal basic income.” “There’s nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. And the real question is whether we have the will.”
Pass COVID Protection and Debt Relief
Stop the Eviction Cliff!
Forgive Rent and Mortgage Debt!
Millions of Californians have been prevented from working and will not have the income to pay back rent or mortgage debts owed from this pandemic. For renters, on Feb 1st, landlords will be able to start evicting and a month later, they will be able to sue for unpaid rent. Urge your legislator and Gov Newsom to stop all evictions and forgive COVID debts!
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock our state, with over 500 people dying from this terrible disease every day. The pandemic is not only ravaging the health of poor, black and brown communities the hardest - it is also disrupting our ability to make ends meet and stay in our homes. Shockingly, homelessness is set to double in California by 2023 due the economic crisis unleashed by COVID-19. 
Housing is healthcare: Without shelter, our very lives are on the line. Until enough of us have been vaccinated, our best weapon against this virus will remain our ability to stay at home.
Will you join me by urging your state senator, assembly member and Governor Gavin Newsom to pass both prevent evictions AND forgive rent debt?
This click-to-call tool makes it simple and easy.
Renters and small landlords know that much more needs to be done to prevent this pandemic from becoming a catastrophic eviction crisis. So far, our elected officials at the state and local level have put together a patchwork of protections that have stopped a bad crisis from getting much worse. But many of these protections expire soon, putting millions of people in danger. We face a tidal wave of evictions unless we act before the end of January.
We can take action to keep families in their homes while guaranteeing relief for small landlords by supporting an extension of eviction protections (AB 15) and providing rent debt relief paired with assistance for struggling landlords (AB 16). Assembly Member David Chiu of San Francisco is leading the charge with these bills as vehicles to get the job done. Again, the needed elements are:
Improve and extend existing protections so that tenants who can’t pay the rent due to COVID-19 do not face eviction
Provide rent forgiveness to lay the groundwork for a just recovery
Help struggling small and non-profit landlords with financial support
Ten months since the country was plunged into its first lockdown, tenants still can’t pay their rent and debt is piling up. This is hurting tenants and small landlords alike. We need a holistic approach that protects Californians in the short-run while forgiving unsustainable debts over the long term. That’s why we’re joining the Housing Now! coalition and Tenants Together on a statewide phone zap to tell our elected leaders to act now.
Will you join me by urging your state senator, assembly member and Governor Gavin Newsom to pass both prevent evictions AND forgive rent debt?
Time is running out. California’s statewide protections will start expiring by the end of this month. Millions face eviction. We have to pass AB 15 before the end of January. And we will not solve the long-term repercussions on the economic health of our communities without passing AB 16.
ASK YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS TO SAY YES ON AN EVICTION MORATORIUM AND RENT DEBT FORGIVENESS -- AB 15 AND AB16!!!
Let’s do our part in turning the corner on this pandemic. Our fight now will help protect millions of people in California. And when we fight, we win!
7th Annual Reclaim MLK's Radical Legacy Weekend
Gather your friends and family. Reach out to your schools, unions, churches and other organizations. On Monday, January 18, join the Anti Police-Terror Project for the 7th Annual March to Reclaim MLK's Radical Legacy!
This year’s Reclaim “march” will be a car caravan that begins at the Port of Oakland, makes its way down International/E14 and ends in East Oakland with a short program.
Reclaim MLK Weekend - January 15-17
Reclaim MLK March - January 18
For seven years running, the APTP Reclaim MLK event has been the only MLK March in the city of Oakland and brings together thousands of people across race, class and political ideology with a commitment to build a just and equitable Oakland that Dr. King would be proud of.
For decades, MLK’s legacy has been whitewashed. Often portrayed as a passive figure, in truth he was a radical leader demanding rational change: an end to capitalism, to war, to empire, to poverty, and to white supremacy. Communities in Oakland and across the country take this opportunity every year to celebrate the true spirit of this revolutionary. We intend to follow in his legacy through our campaign to defund the police and refund the community.
This year’s theme is Re-Imagine. Reimagine and remember King’s unrealized dream.
The work to Refund. Restore. Reimagine our communities is a modern-day reflection of King’s work, legacy and unfulfilled dream. He said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” That’s Oakland’s budget every year. As we reimagine what public safety means in Oakland — violence interruption, housing as a human right, living-wage jobs with dignity, good schools, clean streets and parks, mental health care and crisis support, and thriving communities — we are making King’s Dream a reality.
We acknowledge that the pandemic is still raging through our communities. We will take this seriously. But we also acknowledge the essential work of defunding OPD in order to eradicate police terror. Police terror, like the pandemic, is a public health emergency.
And that’s why we still plan to hit the streets on MLK Day and Weekend but will do so in a car caravan that envelopes our whole city as we ride from the Port to Eastmont Mall.
On Monday, January 18, we will take action to demand:
· Cut OPD’s allocation from the General Fund by 50% (roughly $150 Million);
· Redirect funds to invest in housing, jobs, youth programs, restorative justice, mental health workers and other services that actually keep us safe.
· Discontinue unauthorized overtime by OPD;
· An immediate response to the violence in our streets that is NOT rooted in the carceral state.
Email us if you'd like to get involved in the planning: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2020 ANTI POLICE-TERROR PROJECT
Workers' Rally Against Racism and Fascism!
For a General Strike!
Wednesday, January 20, 2021 at 3:00 PM
1 Dr Carlton B Goodlett Pl, San Francisco
Fascism and racism are on the rise! Covid-19 is claiming lives! Poverty, unemployment and homelessness are suffocating the working class! Biden is not going to save us with his neoliberal agenda and suppressive policies!
Join us in this rally to raise workers' own united, independent voice against racism, fascism, poverty and the virus!
Make sure to bring your masks and keep socially distant.
San Francisco BAY AREA Car Caravan
END U.S. Support for WAR on YEMEN
Monday January 25, 2021
12:00 PM—2;00 PM
Starting Point at 444 Spear St, San Francisco, CA
On January 25th, 2021 almost 200 organizations around the world are calling on people to have online or COVID safe in-person actions for Yemen. Take action for Yemen on January 25th and make sure governments around the world hear loud and clear: the world is saying NO to war on Yemen!
In solidarity with the Global call to action we invite you to participate in a S.F. Bay Area Car Caravan on January 25
San Francisco BAY AREA Car Caravan
END U.S. Support for WAR on YEMEN
Monday January 25, 2021
12:00 PM—2;00 PM
Starting Point at 444 Spear St, San Francisco, CA
On January 25th, 2021 almost 200 organizations around the world are calling on people to have online or COVID safe in-person actions for Yemen. Take action for Yemen on January 25th and make sure governments around the world hear loud and clear: the world is saying NO to war on Yemen!
In solidarity with the Global call to action we invite you to participate in a S.F. Bay Area Car Caravan on January 25
Reporters Without Borders
After overlooking the fake news and hate speech that Trump posted throughout his four years as US president, Twitter unilaterally decided on 8 January to permanently close his @realDonaldTrump account and then, a few days later, 70,000 other accounts linked to the pro-Trump QAnon movement. Facebook, Instagram and Twitch also suspended the presidential accounts for an unspecified period, while Amazon then suspended the pro-Trump social media Parler.
All of these decisions were taken by private-sector companies without any democratic or judicial control!
The laws of the public arena used to be established by parliaments and enforced by judges, but private-sector corporations are now in charge. Their norms are not defined within a democratic framework with checks and balances, they are not transparent and you cannot appeal to any court before they are carried out. The organization of the online public arena should not be left to market forces or individual interests.
It was to propose democratic safeguards for the digital arena that RSF launched:
The Forum on Information and Democracy in November 2019 with 11 organizations, research centers and think-tanks based in all continents. In November 2020, it published 250 recommendations on platform transparency, content moderation, the promotion of the reliability of information, and messaging apps when their massive use goes beyond the bounds of private correspondence.
The Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI), which is producing a set of machine-readable standards so that search engine algorithms can give preference to media that adhere to journalistic methods and ethics. These standards, which can also be used by advertisers, are the result of a self-regulatory initiative in which entities from all over the world collaborated under the aegis of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN).
Stop the oppression!
Justice for Malik Washington!
We’ve learned about the situation outlined below from our work with the Free Them All coalition and we urge you to take action.
Stop the oppression! Justice for Malik Washington!
—Click on the below article to read up:
—And then write and call Maria Richard, Director of the Taylor Center:
Follow the script or write your own!
Subject: Violation of First Amendment Rights of Malik Washington
Dear Ms. Richard:
I am [insert name here] and have recently learned that you are retaliating against Malik Washington, a resident of your halfway house. Mr. Washington recently learned about the dangerous COVID outbreak at your facility and as a journalist, he wrote about it.
I was deeply disturbed to learn that on Sunday night, his phone was confiscated and that he has now been confined to his room, a kind of house arrest. Mr. Washington's job as editor of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper is a critical position for the Bay View community. He should be viewed as a frontline essential worker and should not be denied access to his job.
This retaliation is a direct violation of Mr. Washington's first amendment right of free speech. I demand that you release Mr. Washington from house arrest, return his phone and end this illegal retaliation for exercising his freedom of speech.
Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this matter further. I look forward to your immediate action on this urgent situation.
Sincerely for justice,
[insert name here]
Here's my letter to Ms. Richard:
Dear Ms. Richard,
Defend Kshama Sawant
Freedom Socialist Party Editorial: DECEMBER 2020
Seattle’s lone socialist city councilor is again under attack. Kshama Sawant had the audacity to demand Mayor Jenny Durkan resign after unleashing the cops against Black Lives Matter protesters. In retaliation Durkan instigated a recall of Sawant.
The recall against Durkan was tossed out by the courts, but not the one against Sawant … interesting.
Democrats and downtown businessmen have tried for years to get rid of Sawant. Why? Because she was able to get a tax, albeit a small one, on corporations like Amazon.
In 2020, Durkan tried unsuccessfully to convince the council to investigate Sawant for “disorderly” behavior. This time around Sawant is charged with collaborating with her political party, Socialist Alternative, rather than taking orders from the Mayor! How hypocritical. And ridiculous. The rest of the city council takes directions from the Democratic Party kingmakers but that’s okay. This is anti-communist redbaiting plain and simple, and part of an anti-left hysteria sweeping the country.
Sawant is really under attack for challenging the status quo. This recall needs to go down in flames. End redbaiting. Defend Kshama Sawant!
To show support for Sawant, visit Decline to Sign – Kshama Solidarity
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.
Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.
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:
Center for Constitutional Rights
Civil Liberties Defense Center
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Grand Jury Resistance Project
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Tilted Scales Collective
The ability of a handful of people to control our public discourse has never been more obvious.
By Kevin Roose, Jan. 9, 2021
Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, at a Senate hearing in October. Mr. Dorsey, along with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, has been under increasing pressure to hold President Trump accountable. Credit...Pool photo by Greg Nash
In the end, two billionaires from California did what legions of politicians, prosecutors and power brokers had tried and failed to do for years:
They pulled the plug on President Trump.
Twitter’s decision to permanently suspend Mr. Trump’s account on Friday “due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” after a decision a day earlier by Facebook to ban the president at least through the end of his term, was a watershed moment in the history of social media. Both companies had spent years defending Mr. Trump’s continued presence on their platforms, only to change course days before the end of his presidency.
Why these companies’ chief executives — Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook — decided to act now is no mystery. They have been under pressure for years to hold Mr. Trump accountable, and that pressure intensified enormously this past week, as everyone from Michelle Obama to the companies’ own employees called for a permanent ban in the wake of Wednesday’s deadly Capitol riot.
These companies, corporate autocracies masquerading as mini-democracies, often portray their moderation decisions as the results of a kind of formulaic due process, as if “don’t incite an insurrectionist mob” had been in the community guidelines all along. But high-stakes calls like these typically come down to gut decisions made under extreme duress. In this case, Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Zuckerberg considered the evidence, consulted their teams, weighed the trade-offs and risks of inaction — including the threat of a worker revolt that could damage their ability to attract top talent — and decided that they’d seen enough.
Journalists and historians will spend years unpacking the improvisational nature of these bans, and scrutinizing why they arrived just as Mr. Trump was losing his power, and Democrats were poised to take control of Congress and the White House. The bans have also turned up the heat on a free-speech debate that has been simmering for years.
On Friday night, pro-Trump Republicans raged, claiming Twitter’s move was an example of Silicon Valley’s tyrannical speech controls. And while many liberals cheered Twitter’s decision as an overdue and appropriate step to prevent more violence, some also cringed at the thought of so much control resting in so few hands.
“We understand the desire to permanently suspend him now,” Kate Ruane, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in a statement on Friday. “But it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions — especially when political realities make those decisions easier.”
Above all, Mr. Trump’s muzzling provides a clarifying lesson in where power resides in our digital society — not just in the precedent of law or the checks and balances of government, but in the ability to deny access to the platforms that shape our public discourse.
Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Zuckerberg’s names have never appeared on a ballot. But they have a kind of authority that no elected official on earth can claim. This power appears mostly in subtle and unspoken ways — like the eerily calm, hostage-like video Mr. Trump filmed on Thursday, hours after Twitter and Facebook threatened to delete his accounts. In the video, Mr. Trump conceded that he had lost the election and condemned the Capitol attack, two things he had stubbornly refused to do even as Congress talked of impeaching him a second time and his own Cabinet members discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
Legal and political concerns certainly pressured the president to adopt a more conciliatory stance. But there was another interpretation of his change of heart: Mr. Trump would rather lose his presidency than his posting privileges.
In some ways, Mr. Trump — who used to boast that the platforms “would never” ban him — would be correct to make his social media accounts a priority over his remaining days in office. A successful impeachment would be an embarrassing end to Mr. Trump’s political career. But losing his huge online following — 88 million followers on Twitter, and 35 million on Facebook — would deprive him of cultural influence long into the future. It takes away the privilege he seems to covet most: the ability to commandeer the world’s attention with a push of a button.
Mr. Trump is no ordinary inmate in Twitter jail. Unlike other de-platformed partisans, he has a huge right-wing media apparatus that will follow him wherever he goes, and legions of followers who will amplify what he says no matter where he says it. On Friday, his followers pledged to decamp to so-called “alt-platforms” like Gab and Parler, which have less stringent rules. But these apps are tiny by comparison and, because they are largely unmoderated, often amount to last-resort echo chambers for noxious extremists.
If none of the alt-platforms suffices, Mr. Trump may well start his own social network, one where he can post with abandon. And if all else fails, he can always call into Fox News.
But rebuilding a huge audience on a new platform is no simple thing, even for a former president, and these alt-platforms face their own legal and technical battles. Parler itself suffered a major blow on Saturday when Apple joined Google in blocking it from their app stores, citing the app’s lax moderation policies.
No matter where he ends up posting, it’s doubtful that Mr. Trump will ever have what he had in Facebook and Twitter — a frictionless soapbox, where he could joust with his enemies as well as bask in the adoration of his fans, and a direct line to every newsroom in the country.
In some ways, Mr. Trump’s social media dominance was an accident of history. In 2009, when he first joined Twitter, Mr. Trump was a reality TV star looking for attention, and Twitter was a fledgling social network that needed high-profile celebrities to attract growth.
It was a perfect match, and Mr. Trump soon began honing the freewheeling, stream-of-consciousness style that would become his signature. For years, he used the platform to weigh in on everything from wind turbines (ugly) to President Barack Obama’s birth certificate (fake) to Jon Stewart’s comedy (overrated). Mr. Trump’s filter-free musings turned out to be engagement gold for Twitter, which recommended his tweets to millions of new users through its algorithms.
Social media became an even more powerful asset for Mr. Trump when he turned to politics. And after he got elected president, thanks in large part to his dominance on Twitter and Facebook, he used his accounts in ways no world leader ever had: to announce major policies, bully foreign governments, whip up votes in Congress, hire and fire senior officials, and interact with a motley crew of racists and cranks.
In time, we learned that the version of President Trump we saw on our feeds was, in many ways, more real than the flesh-and-blood human who occupied the Oval Office. People who wanted to know what Mr. Trump actually thought about kneeling N.F.L. players or Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t watch him read a prepared speech or hold a news conference. They looked to @realDonaldTrump, the most honest representation of who he was.
The most predictable result of Mr. Trump’s dismissal from Twitter — and, most likely, a similar ban he’ll face from Facebook after Inauguration Day — is that it will become a rallying cry for conservatives who see themselves as victims of Silicon Valley censorship.
“We are living Orwell’s 1984,” the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., fumed on his (still operational, 6.5 million-follower) Twitter account. “Free-speech no longer exists in America. It died with big tech.”
No serious thinker believes that Twitter and Facebook, as private companies, are obligated to give any user a platform, just as no one doubts that a restaurant owner can boot an unruly diner for causing a scene. But there are legitimate questions about whether a small handful of unelected tech executives, accountable only to their boards and shareholders (and, in Mr. Zuckerberg’s case, to neither) should wield such enormous power. These actions also raise longer-term questions, such as whether the business models of social media companies are fundamentally compatible with a healthy democracy, or whether a generation of Twitter-addicted politicians can ever be untaught the lesson that racking up retweets is a surer path to power than governing responsibly.
Mr. Trump’s ban will have tangible effects on the spread of disinformation about the 2020 election, much of which originated on his accounts. It will also probably accelerate the splintering of the American internet along partisan lines, a process that was already underway, and intensify calls on the right for the repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields social media companies from legal liability for their users’ posts.
n the short term, people worried about a slippery slope of censorship on Twitter and Facebook can take some comfort in the fact that Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Zuckerberg appear to hate playing the role of speech police, and avoid doing it whenever possible. For them, Mr. Trump’s case is unlike any other — a celebrity who rode their platforms to the presidency, then used them to stage an attack on American democracy itself — and their decisions to ban him aren’t likely to set much of a precedent.
But that will be cold comfort to Mr. Trump, who now finds himself on the wrong side of the bright line these companies have drawn.
The president railed against Twitter's ban on Friday night, releasing a fiery statement through the White House press office that claimed, “We will not be SILENCED!”
But in the ways that matter most to him, he already had been.
—World-Outlook, January 10, 2021
January 10, 2021—In a culminating step to a series of developments unprecedented in U.S. politics in more than a century, outgoing U.S. president Donald Trump and his supporters engaged in a riot aimed at overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election. While Congress certified the outcome of the November vote next day, on January 7, it is notable that more than 20 percent of members of the House and Senate, all Republicans, joined Trump’s challenge to his defeat at the polls, even after the rightist mob attack on the U.S. Capitol had been dispersed.
Trump’s dogged refusal to accept the results split the Republican Party as he insisted on his demand to hold on to political power and remain in the White House. The U.S. president and his supporters filed dozens of complaints and lawsuits to push unsubstantiated claims of a fraudulent vote. State government officials, often Republicans, state legislatures in the six “swing” states where Trump disputed the outcome of the popular vote, as well as lower federal courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court swiftly rejected these challenges. Despite such overwhelming institutional repudiation, Trump’s conspiratorial and outlandish claims of a “stolen election” still won backing from some 120 members of the House of Representatives and half-a-dozen U.S. senators, who in the end objected to certifying the election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. They also energized radical rightist groups, which, with Trump’s prodding, staged violent protests in the U.S. Capitol January 6, storming the building and forcing a joint session of Congress, convened to certify the election results, to temporarily suspend proceedings. Earlier, a fringe among the U.S. president’s backers had even suggested he invoke martial law to remain in power.
Many politicians tried to brush aside as “un-American” the unsuccessful attempt to overturn the election results. They included former President George W. Bush, who said January 6, this is “how elections are disputed in a banana republic, not our democratic republic.” These events, however, indicate that a not insignificant minority of the privileged classes at least considered sidestepping the legislative and judicial branches of government and handing all important policy decisions to the executive, run by an individual with extraordinary powers. One who would not act as a servant of the institutions of capitalist democracy, but who would instead be anointed to “rescue the nation,” in order to finally “make America great again.”
The accurate political term for such a course is “Bonapartism.” It was also manifested in the campaign and significant vote for billionaire Ross Perot in the 1992 U.S. presidential elections albeit as a whisper then. While the challenge to the 2020 election results failed, the danger it represents to civil liberties and the working class is palpable and will not disappear. To the contrary, all indications point to Trump and his backers using these claims to campaign against the “illegitimate” administration of Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the coming months and years.
All this is unfolding in the middle of the global capitalist economic and social crisis we are now living through, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The history of the last century shows that such steep economic downturns start breeding radical attitudes ahead of triggering significant class battles. Before large numbers of workers become receptive to class-struggle proposals and open to political action independent of the capitalist class and its parties—the Democrats and Republicans—radical attitudes get a hearing in the middle class and among layers of workers. The working class in the United States does not yet think and act like a class. Much of the political initiative today comes from right-wing currents. Ultra-rightist groups take advantage of their foothold within the two-party system and other ruling-class institutions. They tap into the loss of confidence in the government and suspicions of the most prominent, established politicians. Conditions are ripe for rightist demagogy and conspiracy theories to gain a wide reach.
Republican Party rift
While Trump tried to keep a tight grip on the Republican Party and originally won support from 13 U.S. senators and some 140 House members, he faced considerable pushback against his effort to hold on to power, indicating that a large majority of the moneyed men and women and their political representatives opposed a Bonapartist takeover. The rift tore through the GOP and extended to big-business executives and owners of conservative media who had backed Trump.
“The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken,” majority speaker Mitch McConnell, said January 6 on the U.S. Senate floor, before the assault on the Capitol. “If we overrule them, it will damage our republic forever.”
“CEOs urge Congress to certify Biden’s Electoral College win,” said a January 4 headline in the Wall Street Journal. “Nearly 200 chief executives call on legislators to uphold ‘essential tenets of our democracy’ by enabling transition of power to president-elect.”
“Stop the insanity,” read the front-page banner headline in the December 27 New York Post. “Mr. President,” the Posteditors, ardent Trump supporters until recently, declared, “You lost the election.” They advised their man to accept defeat and “focus on Senate races in Georgia.”
Paul D. Ryan, former House speaker and 2012 GOP vice-presidential candidate, said in a January 3 statement: “Efforts to reject the votes of the Electoral College and sow doubt about Joe Biden’s victory strike at the foundation of our Republic. It is difficult to conceive of a more anti-democratic and anti-conservative act than a federal intervention to overturn the results of state-certified elections and disenfranchise millions of Americans.”
The ten living former defense secretaries, Democrats and Republicans, signed an Op-Ed published in the January 3 Washington Post, warning: “As senior Defense Department leaders have noted, ‘there’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election.’ Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.”
These former overseers of the U.S. military were citing a statement by the secretary of the Army and the Army chief of staff, disavowing any intention of participating in a military coup. Reporting on this in a December 20 article in The Atlantic magazine, David Frum wrote: “That’s a fine statement, in line with the long-standing traditions of the U.S. military. It’s alarming, though, that anybody thought it necessary at all. The next day, multiple media sources reported that President Donald Trump has been scheming about a possible coup in the Oval Office with his innermost team of advisers: Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, and Rudy Giuliani.”
On December 1, Flynn, a former Trump national security adviser, had shared a message on Twitter calling on the president to suspend the U.S. Constitution, “declare limited martial law,” have the “military oversee a national re-vote,” and “silence the destructive media.” While Flynn’s views may be backed by a right-wing fringe at the moment, the more recent statements by U.S. military officials and former defense secretaries underline the danger such rhetoric poses.
Storming of U.S. Capitol
In a calculated move, Trump even pressured his vice president, Mike Pence, to try to stop Congress from certifying the November election. Pence refused. “I will keep the oath I made,” he stated, prompting his boss to slam him as a coward. “Mike Pence did not have the courage to do what should have been done,” Trump tweeted January 6.
The same day, Trump addressed thousands of his supporters at a Washington D.C. rally to press his demands for overturning the election. “We will never concede,” he declared, urging supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol. Thousands did. They surrounded the Capitol waving flags, signs, banners, as well as sticks and shields, and pressed the message of their leader, chanting “We want Trump!” While small numbers of police stood by or were ineffectual, hundreds stormed the building. Some broke windows, scaled fences, and brandished weapons. One protester was shot by the police in the melee and later died. Five others also died, three from medical complications and two policemen from injuries suffered during the scuffle. The rightist attack prompted officials to evacuate legislators and suspend the joint session of Congress, which at that time had started deliberations on certifying the November election. Most politicians, including Pence and other top Republicans, promptly condemned the assault and called on protesters to leave the area. The D.C. mayor declared a curfew that evening. Maryland state police, the D.C. National Guard, and federal agencies deployed armed forces around the U.S. Capitol.
In a pre-taped video message released to the media that afternoon, Trump offered a tepid reaction. He thanked protesters for their support, urging them to stay peaceful and go home, but his statement opened by reiterating his baseless claims of a “fraudulent vote.” Trump later seemed to condone the riot. “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly and unfairly treated for so long,” he tweeted that evening.
Trump had already heightened concerns about plans to bypass long-established capitalist electoral norms in a January 2 hour-long telephone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The transcript, made public by the Georgia Republican, reveals Trump’s demand that Raffensperger “find” 11,780 votes to overturn Biden’s win in that state. Trump also hinted that Raffensperger and the attorney for his office might find themselves charged with a “criminal offense” if they did not bend to Trump’s will. Georgia state officials declined the offer.
Mixed in with these threats were references to some of the wildest conspiracy theories Trump and some of his supporters have peddled, including the charge that 250,000 ballots or more were “dropped mysteriously into the rolls” in Georgia. Though unfounded, public opinion polls show that a large percentage of those who voted for Trump believe this claim and others.
The U.S. president had made his authoritarian tendencies clear leading up to Election Day. Trump repeatedly explained there could be only two outcomes. First, he would win. Second, he would be denied a second term through fraud and conspiracy. Echoing his assertion, he had been the victim of “the greatest witch-hunt in history” while in office, he claimed that could extend to the election outcome. He publicly insinuated there was no chance he wouldn’t be the choice of the majority.
These methods—conspiracy theories, the “big lie,” the leader allegedly under unfair attack from special interests—are among the stock-in-trade of Bonapartist demagogues who assert their word must be final in all disputes.
What is Bonapartism?
More than 50-years-ago Marxist scholar and working-class leader George Novack explained the essential meaning of Bonapartism. In an essay titled, “Bonapartism, Military Dictatorship and Fascism,” which appears in his book Democracy and Revolution, Novack said, “Parliamentary government…becomes a liability to big capital when the middle classes are radicalized, the workers take the offensive and the country seems to be slipping out of its control.”
He continued, “when social tensions tighten to the breaking point, parliament is less and less able either to settle the disputes at the top or act as a buffer between the power of property and the wrath of the masses. General disappointment with its performance plunges bourgeois parliamentarism together with its parties into a period of acute crisis.”
Bonapartism, Novack explained, “carries to an extreme the concentration of power in the head of the state already discernible in the contemporary imperialist democracies. All important policy decisions are centralized in a single individual equipped with extraordinary emergency powers. He speaks and acts not as the servant of parliament… but in his own right as ‘the man of destiny’ who has been called upon to rescue the nation in its hour of mortal peril.”
Many of these factors exist today. The working class has not yet “taken the offensive,” as Novack put it, although Trump spoke for many in the ruling class when he attacked last summer’s mass actions, which included millions of workers, protesting cop brutality and racism after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. The other signs Novack described, however, are increasingly familiar. Trump’s desire to maintain and expand his individual power is no secret to any observer.
Moreover, Trump’s preference for the strong-arm role has been apparent since before he won the White House in 2016. It was expressed most clearly when Trump told that year’s GOP national convention—and the country—“I alone can fix it,” referring to the nationwide political, economic and social crises.
He alone, he claimed, would “drain the swamp” that many working people agree exists in Washington D.C. He alone could “Make America Great Again.”
There are other examples of Trump’s strong-arm tactics and his unlawful ambitions during his four years in office. They include his use of special federal agents—some operating with no identifying insignia—against cop brutality protests in Portland, Oregon, and the threat to use them elsewhere, particularly in what he called “anarchist cities,” including New York and Seattle, last year. Repeatedly, Trump suggested he could serve more than the two presidential terms allowed by the U.S. constitution.
Trump administration was not Bonapartist regime, but that danger is now clear
Despite the rhetoric, however, the overall record of the Trump administration shows it was not a Bonapartist, nor, even less, a fascist regime, as many on the U.S. left claim.
Trump did use executive orders but not in a way qualitatively different than his predecessors.
His boasting that he would clean house in D.C. was simply demagogy. The swamp of lobbyists and special interests was never “drained”—nor even touched—during Trump’s four years in the White House. His cabinet and other appointments included dozens of the same types who usually fill these posts serving both major capitalist parties. Examples include the billionaire Betsy DeVos who ran the Department of Education and Wilbur Ross Jr., the Commerce Secretary, previously named by Bloomberg Markets as one of the 50 most influential people in global finance and once an adviser to then-New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Not to mention Giuliani himself.
Generally speaking, Trump did not try to openly undermine democratic institutions until last November. This changed in the aftermath of his defeat at the polls, as he openly bullied many state officials to revise the already certified vote tallies to help him stay in power, and called for street actions with the same goal. The scene at the U.S. Capitol January 6 shocked the U.S. and the world.
In today’s depression conditions and acute social crises, revealed more clearly by capitalism’s catastrophic response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the danger has grown that the resolutely reactionary forces within the ruling class may “conspire to get out of their bind by shunting parliament aside and going over to a more exclusive rule,” as Novack put it. Steps can be taken along this course prior to actually shutting down the U.S. Congress, as the January 6 events suggest.
As post-election events demonstrate, while Biden won the election, the political initiative today remains in the hands of the right wing. This is not unexpected. The deepening capitalist crisis has resulted in a growth of radical attitudes but has not yet led to massive working-class struggles. Working people do not yet have a political voice on any mass scale independent of the capitalists and their parties that can lead workers and other exploited producers to think and act on the understanding that our class interests are counterposed to those of the privileged rulers.
At the same time, rightist forces who always maintain a foothold in the Republican and Democratic parties, take the lead in shaping attitudes in a heterogeneous popular mass, including among those in the middle classes and layers of workers and farmers looking for radical solutions. Many of their “theories,” like the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory, alleging that a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotting against Trump, may sound irrational to most people. But they do get a hearing because millions are trying to find answers to the irrationality of capitalism.
Incumbent presidents who have lost a bid for reelection are generally viewed as “lame ducks” between election and inauguration days. Trump made plain he would play no such role. While his wild claims of a “stolen election” were initially dismissed, he remained undeterred, and he won widespread support from Republicans in Congress as well as among the 74-million who voted for him.
Trump pushed his fantastic claims, disregarding facts, or his own past declarations, despite Biden’s clear win—306 to 232—in the Electoral College, not to mention Biden’s 81-million national vote tally, outpolling Trump by some seven million votes. In 2016, when Trump himself won the Electoral College by a similar count—304 to 227—he claimed it was a “landslide,” despite his loss in the popular vote that year to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Continuity with Ross Perot
Bonapartism reared its ugly head in U.S. politics during the 1992 presidential election campaign in the form of Ross Perot—a super wealthy businessman—who ran the most successful third-party campaign in recent U.S. history. Decrying the policies and politicians of both the Democratic and Republican parties, he declared to all those fed up with the U.S. economic, social and political conditions at that time, “I’m Ross, you’re the boss.”
Perot exceeded predictions of all pre-election pollsters by winning 19 percent of the vote against Bill Clinton, the Democrat who won, and George H.W. Bush, the incumbent Republican who lost. Perot lied through his teeth, pushed conspiracy fantasies, and explained his admiration for the Navy Seals and other special forces of the U.S. military, while refusing protection from the Secret Service, which he said he did not trust.
Perot faded from the national scene but echoes of his appeal appeared later in the 1990s when Jesse Ventura—a well-known professional wrestler—again surprised many by winning the race for governor in Minnesota. Though more successful in attaining office than Perot, Ventura too faded from the scene.
These developments suggested the beginning of a crisis in the capitalist two-party system, which has long exercised a stranglehold on U.S. electoral politics. The propertied classes have used the Democratic and Republican parties to absorb all dissent, to conciliate the lower classes, and to deny the working class a chance for an independent political voice. The possibility of its breakup, revealed in the 1992 elections, corresponded to the inability of both parties to offer anything other than escalating assaults on working people beginning in the 1970s, with the end of the post-World War II boom. It was deepened by administrations run by both parties in the subsequent 40-years.
Since the developments recounted above, the working class and our main organizations, the trade unions, have remained on the defensive. The organized labor movement is as weak as it has ever been. With their mis-leadership tied to the Democratic Party, trade unions are for the most part docile and ineffective as working people face increasing misery.
Despite the tremors of the 1990s and beyond, however, the two-party setup has so far remained resilient enough to contain most dissatisfaction and discontent. Among liberals—including many workers who still define themselves that way—and what remains of “the left” in liberal and radical politics, the consensus to support Biden was virtually universal last year. Those who argue for independent working-class political action remain a tiny minority.
Among conservatives, and on the political right, there was no challenge to Trump’s re-election effort. His electoral loss notwithstanding, vote results showed that Trump’s support broadened and grew over 2016. This included winning slightly higher percentages among Latinos, and others of all skin colors, compared to four years ago. Biden, running as a Democrat, relied from the primaries through the general election, on overwhelming support among African-Americans. Yet even there, Trump seemed to have modestly gained strength.
Failure of bourgeois liberalism
This is a testimony to the decades-long failure of bourgeois liberalism as represented by the record of the Democratic Party. It is based on the experience of millions of workers—again of all skin colors—during the eight-year-long tenures of Bill Clinton in the 1990s and Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017.
Wars and imperialist interventions in the Middle East and beyond to safeguard the profits of big business were also waged and defended under the Democrats.
Joblessness, under-employment (millions juggling two or more, poorly paid, part time jobs, forced to do so by manufacturing jobs being lost to automation and outsourcing abroad,) low wages (the federal minimum wage has been $7.25-per-hour for more than a decade,) inadequate housing (declining homeownership across the board since 2006, but with Black homeownership rates dropping to levels predating the 1968 Fair Housing Act,) a failed educational system, more deportations than at any time in U.S. history (with Democrats often showing the way,) and utterly inadequate medical care (only underlined by the very modest reforms of Obama’s “Affordable Care Act”) continued to afflict working people no matter who was in the White House.
And, as revolutionary leader Malcolm X often pointed out, Black people always catch more hell. A reality also faced by many Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, and Native Americans, as well as Mexican and other immigrants from Latin America and the rest of the semicolonial world.
When Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, he echoed some of Perot’s messages. If elected he would cut through the gridlock in Washington. In fact, he would do more; he would drive the “special interests” from power and restore America’s “greatness.” Trump added an edge to his demagogy, aimed initially at immigrants. “When Mexico sends its people,” he said, “they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you…. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Trump, however, took a different path than Perot who had no hope of winning the nomination of either capitalist party in 1992 and didn’t try to do so. From the beginning Perot ran as an “independent.” Neither he, nor Patrick Buchanan, an incipient fascist who ran against George H.W. Bush in the Republican primaries, could defeat an incumbent president inside the GOP at that time. The capitalist crisis, while already apparent, had not reached a stage where such options were seriously considered by the ruling elites.
More than 20 years later, Trump did the opposite. He ran as a candidate in the Republican primaries. Initially discounted or dismissed by most pundits—and other more established politicians—he registered primary victories that led one GOP “front runner” after another to drop out of the race as he ridiculed them. By the time of the GOP national convention his nomination was a settled question. That gathering became Trump’s convention and the GOP became Trump’s party. He brooked no challenges to his authority and was quick to attack publicly any GOP leader who did not fall into line.
Perot’s “I’m Ross, you’re the boss,” was essentially transformed into, “I’m Trump, I’m the boss.” The boss who will “Make America Great Again.”
Thus, a new and unusual situation developed. Trump was of the Republican Party, its undisputed leader. Yet he was also not entirely of the GOP.
Events following the 2020 election signal a new stage in U.S. politics, one with roots in the past as well as new perils.
What does the future hold?
The outcome of the election is now settled, but the danger of Bonapartism most definitely is not. Trump himself is unlikely to disappear from the political stage. Rather he has staked out a new position in it. While scheduled to leave the White House January 20, he continues to portray himself as the “man of destiny,” denied his “rightful place” by vast fraud and conspiracy that Congress, the courts, and even the Department of Justice in his own administration, refused to act against.
Once outside the White House and no longer in any way a part of official Washington, Trump is free to decry every branch of government. All can be fair targets as the “swamp,” the “fraud,” the “conspiracy,” and the “witch hunt” against the only viable savior of the nation. Whatever his precise future plans, Trump’s stance and forthcoming actions will likely exacerbate the crisis of both capitalist parties and the two-party system. Even if Trump’s appeal fades, other demagogues may step forward to try to play a similar role.
Despite the promises by Biden and his running mate Harris, the new administration is unlikely to stem the decline in the standard of living of working people and threats to civil liberties and political rights, even if some of their policies seek to ameliorate these conditions. The Democratic Party remains an ardent defender of the system responsible for the crisis.
This will inevitably offer grist to the mill of Trump and his supporters. His theatrics regarding the recent bi-partisan pandemic “relief” bill, which his Treasury Secretary helped negotiate but Trump waited to attack until after Congress approved it, suggest the form this can take. It underlines the unique status Trump has claimed for himself. He is still seen as a central leader of the Republican Party, despite his electoral defeat. But he also claims to stand above it, above “the swamp,” including the “vipers’ nest” in Congress, above the federal courts that let him down by refusing to expose and reverse “electoral fraud.” Fallout from the failed effort to stay in power despite his defeat at the polls is already affecting Trump’s standing in the GOP, as the post-January 6 resignations from his Cabinet and among his aides indicate, but it may also make him more popular among his most ardent supporters.
Trump’s popularity does not rest on his role as the top GOP boss. Rather it rests on what millions see as his independence from “the system.” That is an illusion, but one that is no less powerful for being false.
Trump, or someone like him using his playbook, thus positions himself as the future solution to the deepening crisis that neither of the two capitalist parties can solve. This is the classic stance of a would-be Bonapartist dictator as Novack explained so astutely: “The Bonapartist regime makes a big show of total independence from special interests. Its head invariably claims to be above the brawling party factions which have misruled the nation and led it to the brink of ruin, from which he has providentially snatched it in time. He parades as the anointed custodian of the eternal values, the true spirit of the people who have been victimized by selfish warring cliques or threatened by alien and subversive mischief makers.”
Bonapartist aspirations are not enough. To realize them depends on winning substantial ruling-class support Trump does not have. “Actually the ‘man of iron’ is mandated to defend the social interests of the magnates of capital by blunting the class conflicts which created the opportunity for his despotism,” as Novack said. “Though the big bourgeoisie may clench its teeth at the overhead cost of the Bonapartist experiment, it prefers to pay up lest worse befall it.”
So far there is no indication that a large and bold enough section of the ruling capitalists has decided to pay that price. However, there is now evidence that such a course has been considered. A final point Novack raised should also be noted: “The various forms of antidemocratic rule in the era of imperialism are not separated by impassable partitions. The lines of demarcation between them are often blurred and one can in the course of time grow over into another.”
Future events—not least among them, the shape and pace of any new resistance by the working class and its allies among the oppressed and exploited—will determine the outcome.
An agency memo states that "if Congress attempts to remove POTUS via the 25th Amendment, a huge uprising will occur."
By Brett Wilkins, staff writer
Common Dreams, January 11, 2021https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/01/11/fbi-memo-warns-pro-trump-extremists-plan-armed-insurrections-state-capitols-across?cd-
The FBI on Monday warned law enforcement agencies across the United States that armed protests by Boogaloo Boys and other far-right groups are possible at state Capitols throughout the nation starting later this week, and that an unnamed militant group is planning a "huge uprising" if President Donald Trump is removed from office for inciting last week's deadly mob invasion of the U.S. Capitol.
"The FBI received information about an identified armed group intending to travel to Washington, D.C. on 16 January," the FBI bulletin—which was reported by ABC News and other outlets—read. "They have warned that if Congress attempts to remove POTUS via the 25th Amendment, a huge uprising will occur."
According to ABC News, the FBI has also received information that an unnamed right-wing extremist group is calling for "storming" federal, state, and local courthouses and other government buildings in the event that Trump is removed from office before his term expires on January 20.
The group is also planning on invading government offices in every state, regardless of whether Trump or President-elect Joe Biden won it in the 2020 presidential election, the FBI memo said.
NBC News reports the memo includes information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the DEA; Defense Department; Park Police; and the U.S. Marshals, among other agencies.
Another FBI memo from December 29, 2020 obtained by Yahoo News states that members of the Boogaloo movement planning protests scheduled for January 17 "indicated willingness to commit violence in support of their ideology, created contingency plans in the event violence occurred at the events, and identified law enforcement security measures and possible countermeasures."
The Boogaloo Boys are a far-right movement known for their violence, their Hawaiian shirts, and their desire to spark a second U.S. Civil War. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group's name and movement refer to their desire for a insurrectionist revolt that would spark another Civil War. The first such war, started by secessionist Southern slave states, lasted from 1861 and 1865 and left some 620,000 Americans dead.
At least five people died during the January 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol that occurred while lawmakers were attempting to certify the Electoral College vote that officially affirmed Biden as the next president.
Trump, along with some of his most prominent supporters, as well as numerous Republican members of Congress, stand accused of inciting the rioters with with lies about a "stolen election" and exhortations to "take back our country" and engage in "trial by combat."
Common Dreams reported that House Democrats on Monday introduced articles of impeachment accusing Trump of "incitement of insurrection."
There are also growing calls for Republican inciters including Sens. Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) to resign over their roles in spurring the insurrectionists, and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) on Monday introduced a resolution calling for the expulsion of her GOP colleagues who incited the mob attack.
Rick Snyder, a Republican, was Michigan’s governor during the city’s water crisis, which left residents sickened.
By Kathleen Gray and Julie Bosman, Jan. 12, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/12/us/flint-water-charges.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage
WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. — Rick Snyder, the former governor of Michigan, said he bears no criminal responsibility for the Flint water crisis, issuing a statement on Tuesday amid reports that charges connected to the crisis were imminent.
The Associated Press reported that Mr. Snyder, a Republican who has been out of office for two years, would be charged by the state attorney general’s office, along with several others, including his former health director, Nick Lyon.
“It is outrageous to think any criminal charges would be filed against Gov. Snyder,” Brian Lennon, a lawyer for Mr. Snyder, said in an email. “Any charges would be meritless. Coming from an administration that claims to be above partisan politics, it is deeply disappointing to see pure political motivation driving charging decisions.”
Mr. Snyder’s administration was in charge during Flint’s water crisis, which left thousands of the city’s residents sickened, angry and distrustful of the government.
Dana Nessel, the Michigan attorney general, declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, did not return phone calls.
The water crisis began in 2014, when officials switched Flint’s water source to the Flint River, a cost-saving measure that was intended to help a city in financial distress. But necessary corrosion controls were not added to the river water, causing lead from Flint’s aging pipes to leach into the drinking supply. Residents protested when water from their taps was brown and foul-smelling — frequently holding up jugs of discolored water in front of Flint’s City Hall — but local and state officials dismissed them.
Months later, doctors in Flint noticed alarmingly high lead levels in the blood of many residents, and at the same time, an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease sickened at least 87 people in the Flint region, killing nine of them. The outcry in Flint prompted the city to return the water to its previous source, Lake Huron, and begin an effort to replace the dangerous lead pipes — a project that is nearly complete.
Many of Flint’s 100,000 residents say that they have yet to trust the water again.
Charges had previously been filed in connection to the crisis, but in June of 2019, prosecutors stunned Flint by dropping all pending charges.
Fifteen state and local officials, including emergency managers who ran the city and a member of the governor’s cabinet, had been accused by state prosecutors of crimes as serious as involuntary manslaughter. Seven had already taken plea deals. Eight more, including most of the highest-ranking officials, were awaiting trial.
When the Michigan attorney general’s office, which had recently passed from Republican to Democratic hands, abruptly dropped the eight remaining cases, prosecutors left open the possibility of recharging some of those same people, and perhaps others, too. Mr. Snyder had not been charged in the earlier case, though members of his administration were.
Mr. Snyder, a former businessman, ran for the governor’s office a decade ago promising fiscal responsibility and a data-driven approach to the job.
Mr. Snyder left the governor’s office in 2019, prevented by term limits from seeking a third term.
Just last week, Mr. Snyder and Ms. Whitmer, in a rare gesture of bipartisanship, issued a joint statement condemning the violence in Washington.
The U.S. decision was made in “the death throes of a failed and corrupt administration,” Cuba’s president said. For Cubans, the change in administrations in Washington can’t come soon enough.
By Ed Augustin and Kirk Semple, Jan. 12, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/12/world/americas/cuba-terrorism-trump-biden.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage
HAVANA — When the Trump administration announced this week that it was designating Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism, the reaction in Havana was swift and vociferous.
The Cuban government accused Washington of hypocrisy, and called the label an act of “political opportunism” by President Trump to obstruct relations between Cuba and the incoming administration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Beyond indignation, though, Cubans are ready to move on, a sentiment underlined by their president, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, who tweeted on Tuesday that the American decision had been made in “the death throes of a failed and corrupt administration.”
For the Cuban government and its people, the change in American presidential administrations can’t come soon enough.
Mr. Trump’s hard-line approach to the Cuban leadership has led to an array of restrictions on tourism, visas, remittances, investments and commerce, which have worsened an already poor economy. The pandemic has compounded the problems, in large part by bringing tourism, a major source of foreign currency, to a grinding halt.
Facing profound shortages of necessities like medicine and food, Cubans have been forced to stand in lines for hours in the hope of getting their hands on the meager stocks that exist. Supplies have gotten so thin that the government made it illegal for people to buy rice beyond their government-restricted monthly allotments.
Amid this hardship, many in Cuba are hoping that Mr. Biden will shift American policy in ways that might ease the economic duress. The president-elect has said little publicly about his policy goals for Cuba, though during the campaign he attacked Mr. Trump’s approach to Havana, saying, “Cuba is no closer to freedom and democracy today than it was four years ago.”
And Mr. Biden’s advisers have allowed that a normalization of relations with Cuba — essentially a return to the Obama-era détente — was the best strategy for effecting positive change.
Senior foreign policy personnel on the Biden transition team — including Antony Blinken, Mr. Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, and Alejandro Mayorkas, Mr. Biden’s nominee for Homeland Security secretary — were involved in the negotiations with Cuba during Mr. Obama’s second term.
“Biden’s team is not just parachuting in with no prior experience,” said Rafael Hernández, a political scientist and the chief editor of Temas, Cuba’s leading social sciences magazine. “They can pick up on the consensus they created during 2015-2016.”
And that’s the hope of many in Cuba.
“Biden means: hope that the worst is over,” said Hal Klepak, professor emeritus of history and strategy at the Royal Military College of Canada, who lives part time in Havana. “He means: the possibility of a renewed Obama-style opening. He means: listening to the C.I.A., the Pentagon and Homeland Security on the value of Cuba as a friend and collaborator and not an enemy.”
The decision to return Cuba to the list of states accused of sponsoring terrorism — a designation that last applied for more than three decades, until President Obama lifted it in 2015 — capped a relentless effort by the Trump administration to impose economic and diplomatic restrictions on the island.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others “worked with focus on repealing anything that could be seen as a benefit to the Cuba government,” said Ted A. Henken, associate professor of sociology at Baruch College in New York.
Though Mr. Trump’s company had been looking into investing in Cuba shortly before he took office, as president he has hit the Communist-ruled island with the harshest sanctions in more than a half-century. American cruise ships were prohibited from docking on the island, remittances from the United States were banned and tankers carrying oil from Venezuela were prevented from arriving with their cargo.
“The only thing left is diplomatic relations,” Mr. Henken said. “We still do officially have diplomatic relations with Cuba, even though they are on ice in actual practice.”
These efforts by the Trump administration to reverse the Obama initiatives have set back the development of the private sector in Cuba and short-circuited efforts by American businesses that had tried to build relations based on the Obama détente, he said.
Amid the restrictions, streets in Havana’s colonial quarter that were once flush with tourists saw a sharp drop in traffic, dropping still further during the pandemic. Fuel shortages have led to occasional blackouts and have worsened transportation. A drop in hard currency for imports meant, in some places, empty pharmacy shelves.
But the abysmal economy has apparently not undermined the leadership of Mr. Díaz-Canel, a Communist Party loyalist who became president in 2018 and whose government has continued to suppress political dissent.
Mr. Díaz-Canel, a low-key figure handpicked by his predecessor, Raúl Castro, has emphasized continuity from the Castro era but has also plowed ahead with economic reforms.
On Jan. 1, he unified the nation’s dual currency system to make the island’s labyrinthine economy more transparent and easier to navigate for foreign investors. Last year, his administration allowed the private sector to import and export directly, a move analysts described as a pragmatic response to the economic crisis.
Mr. Díaz-Canel has been mostly silent, at least publicly, on the potential for a thaw after Mr. Biden takes office. But on Nov. 8, he acknowledged Mr. Biden’s victory with a suggestion of hope, writing on Twitter: “We recognize that the US people have chosen a new direction in the presidential elections. We believe in the possibility of having a constructive bilateral relation while respecting our differences.”
Should Mr. Biden move toward normalizing relations with Cuba, the Díaz-Canel administration will demand the removal of the terrorism designation as a condition, analysts said.
When Mr. Obama announced during his second term that he would normalize relations with Havana, the Cuban government was adamant about being removed from the list.
“The reason this is so sensitive to the Cubans is that they’ve been subjected to literally hundreds of terrorism attacks,” most of which were launched by Cuban exiles based in the United States and trained and organized by the C.I.A., said William LeoGrande, professor of government at American University in Washington.
So Cubans, he said, “take great offense at being labeled as supporters of terrorists.”
In reinstating Cuba to the terrorism list, Mr. Pompeo cited Cuba’s hosting of 10 Colombian rebel leaders, along with a handful of American fugitives wanted for crimes committed in the 1970s, and Cuba’s support for the authoritarian leader of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.
As the Cuban government has railed on social media and in the Cuban media against the terrorism designation, some Cubans have processed the news with a weary frustration.
“The U.S. is doing this to make things here explode,” said Liber Salvat, 35, a carpenter in downtown Havana who has been out of work and unable to get his hands on lumber since the onset of the pandemic.
Glen Ford, BAR Executive Editor
January 14, 2021https://www.blackagendareport.com/white-settler-uprising-capitol
Last week’s assault on the Capitol was essentially a race riot, the product of white racial grievance.
“If it can happen in the United States, it can happen anywhere,” wrote New York Times Berlin bureau chief Katrin Bennhold , purporting to sum up world leaders’ reaction to the white nationalist assault on the U.S. Capitol. The truth is precisely the opposite: mob violence by white people aggrieved at perceived threats to their political hegemony due to the growing influence or presence of the Other—most often, Blacks—is trademark Americana, an historically repetitive phenomena that is, to varying degrees, also characteristic of other white settler states that share the U.S.’s genocidal history. It cannot “happen anywhere,” because similar conditions and histories do not exist everywhere. Bennhold’s interpretation of global sentiment is pure American exceptionalist propaganda—an erasure of U.S. history to project a false view of the present. (In fact, the only world semi-notable who mouthed words similar to Bennhold’s was former Romanian prime minister Dacian Cioloş .)
White mobs and armed groups have been inflicting violence against the non-white presence in their colonial settler state ever since their ancestors arrived on these shores. The Puritans – a colony-in-arms—had all but completed the mission of racially “purifying” New England within a century of setting foot at Plymouth Rock. Far more Native Americans were killed by massed, armed settler civilians than by uniformed armies of the British Crown or the young U.S. republic. Whites in the slave states of the U.S. South were a people perpetually in arms in “defense” against slave rebellions, with every able-bodied white man obligated to aid in suppressing real or threatened Black revolts. Hundreds of Blacks were massacred in the wake of Nat Turner’s 1831 rebellion.
Northern white mobs also rejected the Black presence in their cities in the pre-Civil War era. Racists attempted to drive Black people out of Cincinnati, Ohio, three times: in 1829, 1836 and 1841. (In 1853 and 1855, white Cincinnati nativists also fought with German immigrants who had been influenced by revolutionary trends in Europe.)
After the Civil War, white mobs and racist armies spent 30 years subduing Black Reconstruction, from the New Orleans massacre of 1866 to the armed overthrow of the Black Republican-white Populist government in Wilmington, North Carolina’s largest city, in 1898. During this period tens of thousands were killed—far more than the four thousand-plus Black lynching victims recorded by the great journalist/organizer Ida B. Wells .
White civilians annihilated the remaining natives of California in the gold and land rushes, and terrorized and forced the mass expulsion of Chinese from the state.
For the first 160 years of the U.S. republic’s life, the term “race riot” applied almost exclusively to white mob attacks on non-whites. Every boxing victory won by Black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson set off lethal rampages by northern and southern whites in the early years of the 20th century. The “Red Summer ” of 1919, dubbed such by the Black public intellectual and activist James Weldon Johnson , saw white “race riots” in dozens of cities and the massacre of hundreds of Blacks in rural areas around Elaine, Arkansas. In Washington, DC, however, Blacks fought back, killing 15 white attackers while losing 38 to the mob. Heartened by the Black resistance to armed racist assault, Black poet and activist Claude McKay wrote the poem, If We Must Die :
“… O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!”
Just as the current president is blamed for inciting the white mob in Washington, President Woodrow Wilson was viewed as a prime instigator of mass racist violence during his terms in the White House, including the East St. Louis riot that claimed the lives of hundreds of Black people in 1917. An arch- segregationist who introduced Jim Crow to the federal civil service, Wilson endorsed the Ku Klux Klan-glorifying film Birth of a Nation as “History written in lighting,” in 1915. The presidentially-endorsed movie ushered in a “gilded age for the Klan. In the summer of 1925, 30,000 hooded terrorists paraded in a show of force in Washington, DC.
The term “race riot” was synonymous with white mob attacks against people of color until 1935, when an estimated 4,000 Blacks in Harlem, New York, took to the streets against police brutality . Harlem exploded again in 1943 , for the same reasons, establishing the modern pattern of police repression/Black urban resistance. (The “Zoot Suit” riot by white servicemen and cops against Latinos in 1943 Los Angeles was a mixture of both old and new patterns of white domestic aggression.)
Police repression/Black urban resistance has become such a part of the modern American experience that white mob violence is often not characterized as a “race riot” – especially if the rioters are cops.
Race has been as central to Donald Trump’s presidency as it was to Woodrow Wilson’s, a century ago. Last week’s assault on the Capitol was essentially a race riot, the product of white racial grievance. Since 1968, the Republicans have successfully sought to position themselves as the White Man’s Party. Not since 1964 has a majority of whites voted for a Democratic presidential candidate, and Donald Trump won 57 percent of white votes last November. Having feasted on Trump’s racist “red meat” rhetoric for the past five years, the most volatile elements of the white hordes mounted an assault on the “nigger lovers,” as they used to describe people perceived as allies of Blacks, on Capitol Hill.
Of course, the U.S. Capitol is no stronghold of Black Power—the Congressional Black Caucus voted overwhelmingly to make police a protected class, in 2018, and to continue the Pentagon’s militarization of local cops, in 2014. But racists are cognitively challenged; they see phenomena that doesn’t exist, and are blind to what’s right in front of their eyes. The denizens of white settler colonies, worldwide, have always perceived their states as precarious outposts of “civilization” – a worldview that justifies any and all atrocities against the natives and imported “lesser” humans, including genocide.
Given the mass murderous record of every white settler colony on the planet – which includes all the nations of the Americas, with the possible exception of the Caribbean countries -- it was surprising to find that only one recent book on Latin American white settler states turns up in a Google search engine. Richard Gott’s Latin America as a White Settler Society, published in 2007 by the Bulletin of Latin American Research, can be read at JSTOR . Gott sees race as central to understanding the white settler mentality, even many generations after settler arrival on foreign shores.:
“A recognizable feature of all ‘settler colonial’ states is the ingrained racist fear and hatred of the white settlers, alarmed by the continuing presence of the expropriated underclass. It is built-in to the history of the European colonial states in Africa as well as that of the antipodean colonies of Australia and New Zealand. Yet the race hatred of the settlers has only had a minor part in our traditional understanding of the drama of Latin American history and contemporary society. It is often underplayed or ignored – as it is too in the USA – and even politicians and historians of the Left have preferred to discuss class rather than race.”
In the case of the United States, American exceptionalism erases actual history and denies U.S. commonality with any other nation. New York Times reporter Katrin Bennhold can get away with pretending that the United States is both unique and a bellwether for “democracy” everywhere on the planet – which is ridiculous on its face. The events at the Capitol are absolutely consistent with racist white mob behavior throughout U.S. history, and totally understandable in the white colonial settler context. Outside of that context, these events make far less sense.
The U.S. is best understood as the first of the planet’s white colonial settler states – a species of state that includes most of the rest of the western hemisphere, Australia, New Zealand, and the last of the settler breed, Israel.In clinging to the exceptionalist fallacy that the U.S. is a model of democracy and unique in the world, rather than the end-product of colonial white settler predation, the Democrats reveal that they share much the same delusions as the flagpole-wielding Trumpsters they revile.
Mr. Johnson’s execution, the 12th during the Trump administration, was carried out weeks after he found out he had the coronavirus.
By Hailey Fuchs, Jan. 15, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/15/us/corey-johnson-execution.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration executed Corey Johnson on Thursday for a series of seven murders in 1992. He was the 12th federal inmate put to death under President Trump.
Mr. Johnson committed the murders in the Richmond, Va., area to further a drug enterprise that trafficked large quantities of cocaine. Among his crimes were the shooting with a semiautomatic weapon of a rival drug dealer, the killing of a woman who had not paid for some crack cocaine and the shooting of a man at close range whom Mr. Johnson suspected of cooperating with the police.
Mr. Johnson, 52, was pronounced dead by lethal injection at 11:34 p.m. at the federal correctional complex in Terre Haute, Ind., the Bureau of Prisons said.
When asked by an executioner if he had any last words, Mr. Johnson responded, “No, I’m OK,” according to a report from a journalist in attendance. Several seconds later, he said softly, “Love you,” gazing at a room designated for members of his family.
In a statement released by a spokesperson for his defense team, Mr. Johnson apologized to the families that were victimized by his actions and listed the names of the seven murder victims, requesting that they be remembered.
“On the streets, I was looking for shortcuts, I had some good role models, I was side tracking, I was blind and stupid,” he said. “I am not the same man that I was.”
Mr. Johnson thanked the chaplain, his minister, his legal team and the staff in the special confinement unit. He noted that “the pizza and strawberry shake were wonderful,” but that he never received the jelly-filled doughnuts that he ordered, a reference to his final meal request. “What’s with that?” he added. “This should be fixed.”
Mr. Johnson tested positive for the coronavirus last month, shortly after the government scheduled his execution, during an outbreak on federal death row at the prison in Terre Haute. At least 22 of the men housed on death row there tested positive, lawyers for the prisoners and others with knowledge of their cases said. Madeline Cohen, who represents two of the men, said she knew of 33 cases.
In a request to delay Mr. Johnson’s execution, his lawyers said the virus had caused significant lung damage. They argued his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment because he could experience a sensation of suffocating or drowning if put to death with the federal government’s method, which uses a single drug, pentobarbital. Instead, his lawyers suggested, Mr. Johnson could be executed by firing squad or the Bureau of Prisons could administer a pain-relieving anesthetic drug before the injection of pentobarbital.
Specifically, Mr. Johnson’s lawyers argued that the combination of the coronavirus and the government’s lethal injection protocol would place him “especially at risk of experiencing flash pulmonary edema while still sensate.” Flash pulmonary edema, a condition in which fluid rapidly accumulates in the lungs, has been at the center of some challenges to the federal government’s execution protocol. The courts have been largely unreceptive to those claims.
But briefly, it seemed as if the coronavirus would provide Mr. Johnson a reprieve. A judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia suspended Mr. Johnson’s execution and another execution scheduled for Friday until at least March. Shortly after, a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned that order.
Joined by another judge on the panel, Judge Gregory G. Katsas of the Appeals Court cited Supreme Court precedent that states that the Eighth Amendment “‘does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death — something that, of course, isn’t guaranteed to many people.’”
In a filing with the Supreme Court, the government contrasted its lethal injection protocol with death by hanging, claiming that hanging could cause suffocation that lasts several minutes. Even if coronavirus infections would make the prisoners’ executions more painful, the government argued, the “brief duration of pain,” most likely measured in seconds or at most two minutes, would be far less than that of inmates executed by hanging.
Mr. Johnson “is a convicted serial killer who murdered and maimed multiple people on different occasions, and whose victims included innocent bystanders,” the government said in a separate filing with the Supreme Court. “Their families have waited decades for the sentence to be enforced and are currently in Terre Haute, Ind., for the execution.”
A majority of the Supreme Court sided with the government in declining Mr. Johnson’s requests for reprieve.
Mr. Johnson’s lawyers also sought to challenge his execution by arguing he was intellectually disabled, rendering it unlawful.
His claims of intellectual disability were rejected on the basis that an I.Q. score of 77 was believed to be too high to merit the diagnosis, his lawyers said. But they argued that results from other I.Q. tests and an adjusted version of the same score indicated that he qualified as intellectually disabled.
But rebutting those claims, the Justice Department contended that the murders were planned, and not impulsive acts by someone incapable of calculated judgments. For example, when the drug organization operated in Trenton, N.J., Mr. Johnson beat people with a metal bat to protect the enterprise, the government said.
Lawyers for another man executed by the Trump administration — Alfred Bourgeois in December — also argued that their client was intellectually disabled. In both cases, a majority on the Supreme Court rejected the prisoners’ claims.
Two of Mr. Johnson’s lawyers still maintained that their client lacked the capacity to be a drug kingpin, as he was portrayed by the government. In a statement, they said he could barely read or write, struggled with basic tasks of daily living and was “a follower, desperate for approval, support and guidance.”
“No court ever held a hearing to consider the overwhelming evidence of Mr. Johnson’s intellectual disability,” said the lawyers, Donald P. Salzman and Ronald J. Tabak. “And the clemency process failed to play its historic role as a safeguard against violations of due process and the rule of law.”
Mr. Johnson was convicted in 1993 of seven capital murders, among a host of other charges related to drug trafficking and acts of violence. His lawyers unsuccessfully argued that he should be granted some reprieve under the First Step Act, a bill signed into law by Mr. Trump that among other things allowed for shortened sentences for certain drug offenders.
Two others involved in the conspiracy — Richard Tipton and James Roane — who together trafficked large quantities of cocaine in the Richmond area in the early 1990s, were also sentenced to death.
Mr. Tipton and Mr. Roane remain at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute. The Justice Department has not scheduled their executions.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., whose term begins Wednesday, has signaled his opposition to the federal death penalty, so their executions are unlikely to occur anytime soon. Mr. Biden has pledged to work to pass legislation to end the federal death penalty as part of his criminal justice platform.
The Trump administration intends to execute its final inmate, Dustin J. Higgs, on Friday. Mr. Higgs was sentenced to death for the 1996 murders of three women in Maryland. If his lawyers are unsuccessful in their appeals and Mr. Trump does not grant clemency, Mr. Higgs’s death will be the 13th federal execution in a little over six months and the third this week. Lisa M. Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row, was put to death on Wednesday.
Since July, the number of prisoners under a federal death sentence dropped by about 20 percent as a result of the spate of executions carried out by the Trump administration, according to data from the Death Penalty Information Center. That month, the administration resumed the use of federal capital punishment after a 17-year hiatus.
According to the lawsuit, Eric Parsa, a 16-year-old with severe autism, died after deputies sat on him — one after another — for a total of nine minutes while trying to restrain him.
By Allyson Waller, Jan. 15, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/15/us/eric-parsa-death-police.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage
The parents of an autistic teenager who died last year after an encounter with sheriff’s deputies in Jefferson Parish, La., filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday, claiming that deputies who were trying to restrain him had sat on him for a total of more than nine minutes, leading to his death.
The suit, filed in United States District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana, came a year after the death of the teenager, Eric Parsa, who had severe autism. Eric, 16, died on Jan. 19, 2020, after being held down, sat on and handcuffed by deputies in a shopping center parking lot after he had an autism-related meltdown, an outburst resulting from emotional or sensory overload, according to lawyers representing his parents, Daren Parsa and Donna Lou.
In the lawsuit, Dr. Parsa and Dr. Lou charge that the authorities exhibited negligence and used excessive force while also violating their son’s civil rights and his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Never did we ever think that our 16-year-old son with special needs would die in front of our eyes at this age and in the hands of law enforcement,” Dr. Lou said at a news conference on Thursday with her husband and their lawyers. “Unfortunately, it is our reality of a nightmare.”
Sheriff Joseph P. Lopinto III of Jefferson Parish and seven deputies from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office are listed as defendants in the lawsuit. The sheriff’s office disputes allegations in the lawsuit.
Howard Manis, one of the lawyers representing Dr. Parsa and Dr. Lou, said that the deputies had “clearly had no idea how to handle an individual with special needs.”
He said that even though the deputies had been told on numerous occasions and “they communicated amongst themselves that they were dealing with a young man who was severely autistic, to them it was just business as usual.”
On Jan. 19, Eric and his parents were leaving a laser tag facility in Metairie, La. — about eight miles northwest of New Orleans — when Eric experienced a sensory overload while in the parking lot, according to the lawsuit. Eric started slapping himself and his father, prompting a shopping center employee to call the police for assistance after receiving permission from Eric’s parents.
Surveillance footage from the laser tag facility and provided by the family shows Eric flailing his arms and hitting his father and a sheriff’s deputy who arrives at the scene. The deputy then placed Eric face down on the ground while sitting on him, “using his substantial body weight,” as he waited for other officers to arrive on the scene, according to the lawsuit. The authorities had been informed that Eric had special needs when they arrived, said William Most, one of the lawyers representing Eric’s parents.
After six other deputies arrived, Eric was handcuffed, and his legs were shackled. Three deputies sat on him — one after another — and one of them placed him in a choke hold. In total, they sat on Eric for just over nine minutes, lawyers said.
“They should’ve taken the weight off of Eric Parsa’s back,” Mr. Most said. “They should have rolled Eric Parsa on to his side to ensure that he could continue to breathe.”
The lawsuit alleges that the deputies did not roll Eric onto his stomach until “his body had gone limp.”
According to suit, the authorities ignored Dr. Lou when she informed them it was best not to have deputies crowd around Eric, as that would make him more agitated. Because of her experience as a physician, she also tried to intervene when they started to give her son cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but she was told to stand back as she and her husband could see their son foaming at the mouth and turning blue.
An ambulance eventually took Eric to East Jefferson Hospital, where he went into cardiac arrest, according to the lawsuit.
The Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office determined that Eric had died as a result of “excited delirium” caused by an acute psychotic episode, according to the lawsuit. Although the office classified the death as an accident, it listed the fact that he had been in a prone position as one of the contributing factors in his death. It also listed Eric’s morbid obesity and an enlarged heart as factors.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that it was “deeply saddened” over Eric’s death but that that should not lead to officials’ being “maligned and slandered by those seeking to profit from this unfortunate situation.”
“While the Sheriff’s Office understands that all deaths are cause for sadness and a time for grieving, this lawsuit is rife with false claims and malicious accusations against the first responding deputies,” officials said in a statement.
While speaking through tears on Thursday, Dr. Lou said that Eric, their only child, was her and Dr. Parsa’s “purpose in life.” With each year, she said, his life skills were improving: In 2017, he won a local student hero award, and before his death, he had made “significant progress” in social skills and independent living skills while in high school.
“Not a day goes by where we don’t yearn for Eric and grieve the loss of his life and the future he would have had,” Dr. Lou said.
“We bring this lawsuit in hopes that Eric’s death will not be in vain and no other families will have to go through the same horror, loss and shock that we are experiencing,” she said.
He devoted his life to pursuing the truth about the tragic events of May 4, 1970, and to keeping them in the public eye.
By Katharine Q. Seelye, Jan. 16, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/16/us/alan-canfora-dead.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Obituaries
In April 1970, Alan Canfora, a junior at Kent State University in Ohio, was outraged when a friend was killed in the Vietnam War. He was infuriated all the more when President Richard M. Nixon announced an expansion of the war into Cambodia.
Nixon’s action set off a wave of antiwar demonstrations across the country, including at Kent State, where the Ohio National Guard was called in to respond to destruction and to be a presence at a major demonstration planned for May 4.
The day began with brief skirmishing; students threw rocks at the Guard and the Guard fired tear gas at the students, whose numbers would swell from the hundreds to the thousands.
At one point, some soldiers knelt and aimed their weapons at the students, in an apparent bluff that they were going to fire. Mr. Canfora then walked out toward the soldiers by himself, waving a black flag.
The members of the Guard stood up and moved to a hilltop. Then, suddenly, 28 of them turned in unison and opened fire on the unarmed students.
They fired up to 67 shots in 13 seconds, killing four students — Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder — and wounding nine others. Mr. Canfora was among the wounded, shot through his right wrist as he darted behind a tree.
A photograph of Mr. Canfora waving his flag was part of a spread in Life magazine that became emblematic of the events of that day, one of the epic confrontations of his generation, when warriors in tactical gear gunned down students on an American college campus. Millions of students across the country went on strike, forcing hundreds of colleges and universities to close and bringing the war home in a visceral way that captured the political and cultural upheaval of the era.
Mr. Canfora went on to become a walking encyclopedia on all aspects of “Kent State,” the university’s name becoming synonymous with the shootings and with state-sanctioned violence — so much so that in 1986 the university tried to rebrand itself as “Kent.” Mr. Canfora spent the rest of his life making sure the university would never erase May 4 from its history.
And he and others never stopped trying to answer questions that persist to this day: Who gave the order to fire? Why? And why was no one held accountable?
Mr. Canfora died on Dec. 20 at the home of his sister, Chic Canfora, in Aurora, Ohio. He was 71.
His sister said the cause was a pulmonary embolism, a complication of his chronic kidney disease.
Mr. Canfora had held various jobs and positions. Since 2011, he had been the director of the Akron Law Library. Active in politics in his hometown, Barberton, Ohio, he served as chairman of its Democratic Party for 27 years.
But the work of his lifetime was to pursue the truth about what happened on May 4, 1970, and keep it in the public eye. He lectured widely, warning of the dangers of using excessive force to quash political dissent.
The university initially commemorated the shootings each May 4. But it stopped in 1975 and sought to disassociate itself from the tragedy.
Mr. Canfora and others established the May 4 Task Force the next year to keep up the annual remembrances. These events, which sometimes drew as many as 10,000 people, continued through the 50th anniversary last year, when it was held online because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Over the last half-century, Mr. Canfora was part of most of the developments involving the shootings.
“Alan has been THE driving force in the May 4 protest community since 1970,” Derf Backderf, author of the graphic nonfiction novel “Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio” (2020), wrote on Facebook last month after Mr. Canfora’s death.
He said Mr. Canfora “forced the university to face and accept its history, when all it wanted to do was sweep it under the rug.”
He was not always successful. When the university announced plans in the 1970s to build a gymnasium on part of the May 4 site, Mr. Canfora and his allies set up a tent city to block it. In the end, the gym was built.
But as part of a broad, if sometimes fractured, alliance with professors, historians and students, Mr. Canfora and the May 4 Task Force also helped make a lasting imprint.
They had permanent markers placed where the four students had been killed; until 2000, cars had been parking on those very spots. They developed a walking tour of the site where the protests and shootings occurred. They created the May 4 Visitors Center. They pressed successfully for the site to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010 and to be named a National Historic Landmark in 2017.
Along the way, Mr. Canfora, a librarian by training, amassed and archived mountains of material about May 4 and organized new information as it was declassified. He also examined archives that were stored at Yale. It was there, in 2007, that he discovered an audio recording of what appeared to be a clue to the shootings.
A forensic analysis of the audio file commissioned by The Plain Dealer of Cleveland confirmed that a voice on the recording was that of someone commanding the National Guard, “Fire!” The newspaper said such an order refuted the suggestion that the Guard had started shooting at the students, most of whom were hundreds of feet away, out of panic.
Using the audio file and other corroborating evidence, Mr. Canfora hoped to persuade the Justice Department to open an investigation. But the department declined
Mr. Canfora’s zeal sometimes rubbed people the wrong way.
“His passion resulted in a backlash from Guard apologists and callous dismissals from many in local media, who advised him to ‘get a life,’” Mr. Backderf, said in his Facebook post.
But he would not “move on,” Mr. Backderf added, “until the truth was known.”
Alan Michael Canfora was born on Feb. 13, 1949, in Barberton, in northeast Ohio. His mother, Anna (Minarik) Canfora, was a homemaker, raising four children. His father, Albert John Canfora, was an aerospace worker at Goodyear Aircraft. He was also a shop steward and organizer with the United Auto Workers and a longtime Barberton city councilman — an inspiration, Ms. Canfora said, for her brother’s civic engagement.
Alan earned his bachelor’s degree in general studies in 1972 and his master’s in library science, also at Kent State, in 1980.
He met Anastasia Mamedova at a meeting of the May 4 Task Force in 2009, and they married in 2010.
In addition to his wife and his sister, his mother survives him, as do his daughter, Maya; his son, Lev; and his brothers, Albert Jr. and Mark. His father died in 2018.
Many of the nine who were wounded at Kent State formed lifelong friendships over the subsequent decades. By the 50th anniversary, two of them had died.
Over time, the university started to reclaim its history; in 2000, it reverted to calling itself Kent State. As the university’s former president Beverly J. Warren said in a 2018 speech, it accepted its role as “reluctant custodian of an indelible mark on the American landscape.”
More recently, it agreed to resume overseeing the annual May 4 commemorations.
By the time of last year’s events, Mr. Canfora felt a sense of accomplishment.
“The dust of history is settling,” he told Smithsonian magazine in May. “We’ve never given up, and now the university is fully embracing their educational duty.”
By Jonathan Ben-Menachem, January 13, 2021
Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.
As of today, at least 26 sworn members of U.S. law enforcement agencies from at least 11 states have been identified by law enforcement agencies and local reporting as attendees of the Jan. 6 rally in support of President Trump that sparked a riot at the U.S. Capitol. [Update, Jan. 15, 6:05 p.m., Eastern time: Three more law enforcement officials, including one prosecutor and one volunteer deputy, have been reported as having attended the rally, bringing the total to 32 individuals from 15 states.] Beyond that tally, several former law enforcement agents attended the rally, and still more current law enforcement officials are under investigation for making statements in support of the rally.
A review of police attendance and support appears below and is also available in this spreadsheet,* which will be updated as more information becomes available. These specific law enforcement agents have not been tied to white supremacist movements.
And yet, it would be inaccurate to say that white supremacists have merely “infiltrated” law enforcement, a word used in a recent hearing on white supremacy and policing in the U.S. House Oversight and Reform subcommittee. American policing is rooted in white supremacy: many contemporary police departments originated as patrols dedicated to terrorizing and capturing enslaved people. Other antecedents of modern policing extend farther back in history to the ”oversight” of Native peoples. The main function of policing is to protect the interests of the ruling classes, and in the context of a society built on racial capitalism, that means the crosshairs of police officers focus on non-white communities. With this history in mind, the fact that police flocked from all over the country to attend the Trump rally merely shows how white supremacy is embedded in the very function of policing itself.
David Ellis, the police chief in Troy, New Hampshire, attended the rally, but told a New York Magazine reporter that while he condemned the assault on the Capitol, “there’s a lot of Trump supporters that are awesome people, like me.”
The Bexar County sheriff’s office in Texas is investigating Lieutenant Roxanne Mathai’s attendance. She posted a photo of rioters on the Capitol’s balcony after they’d made it past the police, writing as the caption, “and we are going in… in the crowd at the stairs… not inside the capitol like the others. Not catching a case lol.” Mathai typically has 70 to 80 employees under her command.
The Zelienople Borough Police Department (near Pittsburgh) is investigating Officer Thomas Goldie’s attendance. One photo shows him wearing a hat that appeared to say, “Trump MAGA 2020 f— your feelings.”
Sheriff Chris West of Canadian County, Oklahoma, attended the Trump rally. West denied breaking any laws, but two posts from a deleted Facebook account that appeared to belong to West read, “I’m okay with using whatever means necessary to preserve America and save FREEDOM & LIBERTY… I want several in Congress… in prison, or worse.”
The New York Times reported that a man named Jeff told a reporter that he was an off-duty police officer in York County, Pennsylvania. “There’s a lot of people here willing to take orders,” he said. “If the orders are given, the people will rise up.” The York Dispatch is working to confirm this report with local police departments.
The Seattle Police Department has placed two officers who attended the rally on administrative leave.
The Franklin County sheriff’s office in Kentucky reassigned detective Jeff Farmer after he attended the rally. Farmer has denied participating in the riot or in any violence. Local public defenders wrote a letter to Sheriff Chris Quire alleging that Farmer has made multiple social media posts expressing “disbelief in systemic racism and unconscious bias,” that he “resigned from the Versailles Police Department ‘in exchange for no further pursuit of criminal charges against him,’” and further that he “has been involved in many cases which reflect targeting and racial profiling.” Farmer was named Deputy of the Year in 2019.
Sergeant T.J. Robertson and Officer Jacob Fracker of Rocky Mount, Virginia, have been placed on administrative leave after photos emerged of them inside the Capitol. “There was no fighting with police officers,” Robertson said in reference to the Capitol police on Jan. 6. “The door was wide open and police officers were actually handing bottles of water out to people that came in.” In a Facebook post, however, Robertson wrote: “CNN and the Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem and not some random small business … The right IN ONE DAY took the f——— U.S. Capitol. Keep poking us.”
Philadelphia police detective Jennifer Gugger has been reassigned pending an investigation into her attendance. Until last week, she served in the department’s Recruit Background Investigations Unit, and the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that “until recently, [her] Facebook profile photo was a reference to the QAnon conspiracy movement.”
The police force for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, in Philadelphia, is also investigating seven officers who reportedly attended the Trump rally.
The New York Police Department said one police officer who attended is under investigation.
The Anne Arundel County Police Department, in Maryland, has suspended an officer with pay who reportedly attended.
The Charles County sheriff’s department, also in Maryland, is investigating the attendance of a corrections officer, who is presumably employed by the sheriff.
One Kentucky state trooper has been reassigned as the agency investigates his attendance.
Arkansas State Police told the Arkansas Times that two troopers requested leave time to attend the Trump rally.
According to Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, two Capitol police officers were suspended and at least 10 others are being investigated regarding their behavior during the Trump riot. One of the two suspended officers wore a MAGA hat and “started directing people around the building”; the other posed for a selfie with a member of the mob. A House aide told CNN that “as many as 17 officers” with the Capitol police department are under investigation.
Several former law enforcement officers also attended the rally.
Jurell Snyder, who was a police officer in Oakland, California, gave an interview to CBS affiliate KPIX explaining his participation and his support of the rioters. “What do you think is worse,” he asked KPIX’s Joe Vazquez, “storming the Capitol with a flag or committing treason against your country?” During his tenure as a police officer, Snyder killed one person in 2007 and another in 2013. Several current Oakland police officers expressed support for Snyder’s radical views on Facebook, and the department is investigating its members’ potential support for radical far-right movements.
Butch Conway, former sheriff of Gwinnett County, Georgia, attended the Trump rally but denied participating in any illegal activity.
The watchdog group Documented reported that the Rule of Law Defense Fund—the 501(c)(4) arm of the Republican Attorney Generals Association—issued robocalls encouraging supporters to attend the Trump rally. Many officers who did not attend the rally expressed their support in statements or social media posts.
Notably, John Catanzara, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, made several comments to NPR affiliate WBEZ echoing Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. “They’re individuals,” he said. “They get to do what they want. Again, they were voicing frustration. They’re entitled to voice their frustration.”
In Arizona, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb denied Trump’s responsibility for the violent white supremacist attack. At an event outside the state Capitol on Jan. 6, Lamb said, “I don’t know how loud we have to get before they have to listen to us and know we will no longer tolerate them stripping our freedoms away.”
One Secret Service officer is under investigation for making a Facebook post in support of the rally. “Good morning patriots! Yesterday started out beautiful and as usual Antifa soured the mood and attacked police and an Air Force veteran was murdered,” the post read. “It’s OFFENSE time finally!!” There is no evidence that anti-fascist activists were involved in the riot.
In Kansas, a lieutenant with the Sedgwick County sheriff’s office voiced his support on Facebook. “If you are a police officer in Washington, D.C., or a federal officer working in the Capitol, remember that the people in these rallies are on your side,” Jason Gill wrote. “Remember your oath before your orders.”
Sheriff Dallas Baldwin of Franklin County, Ohio, fired a civilian public information officer for writing a Facebook post that criticized Capitol police for failing to stop the Trump riot from breaching the building. “If this was a BLM protest, we’d be seeing tanks and mass casualties,” the PIO wrote. “White privilege at its worst.”
A complete list of law enforcement statements in support of the rally is available on this spreadsheet.
*Editor’s note: The author independently compiled the data herein and created the spreadsheet.