Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, January 8, 2020


One of the rioters carried a Confederate battle flag near the Senate chamber in the Capitol on Wednesday. Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times

1/9/21 Saturday SF Rally For United Front Against Fascism, 

General Strike and Labor Party 

SF Federal Building 90 7th St. SF 

12 Noon Rally-Speak-Out

Initiated by UFCLP
To endorse and speak




Morning After



It’s never been the people’s house


those are not built by slaves


or hosts to Indian killers,


rapists of the earth, segregationists


war mongers, women haters


Not the people’s house at all




This true history unravels what might seem to be a mystery


why the forces of law and order


(so vicious against Blacks and at the border)


used such kid gloves


as though they loved


the horned, invading Confederacy-flagged forces of disorder.




No “innocent blood” was shed


despite what the Capitol’s chaplain said.


A photo showed a few


(all day they arrested only 52)


uncuffed and face down on the floor


most of the others only asked to leave


(while the day before the Blake family had to grieve


that the cops who put seven bullets in Jacob’s back


would not be charged for their attack)


Alas this is not at all difficult to believe!




Spin artists are already busy


so fast I’m getting dizzy


trumpeting that “our democracy”


(sick with Covid-19 and an inhuman economy)


at dawn’s early light was ratified


when Biden’s election had been certified


But their complacency is lunacy!


Who’d want that kind of normalcy


festering for all to see?




The boil’s popped and out came the puss


posing big questions for the rest of us.


As Republicans and Democrats scurried like rats on broken glass


soiling their silk undies while trying to save their ass


while the police they trained


allowed the aspiring brown shirts so easily to pass


(showing us exactly what about the thinking of the ruling class?)


Trump is posturing to be the strong man


the only one who can


resolve this new morass.


Some say this makes him a candidate for the 25th Amendment.


Such naivete!


about this aspiring descendent


of fascism’s menacing precedent.








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: aptpinfo@gmail.com.









Partnership for Civil Justice Fund

Statement from the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund on attack at the U.S. Capitol

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and the Center for Protest Law and Litigation are demanding a fully public investigation into the federal and local police planning and response to today's events, and termination and prosecution of all officers and officials found to have condoned or colluded with the violent mob that attacked the Capitol today.

What happened at the nation's Capitol today could only have occurred because law enforcement allowed it to happen. Far-right mobs smashed windows and doors, stormed the Capitol behind a traitorous, terrorist Confederate flag, and broke into the Senate chamber.

The images of police officers calmly allowing barricades open, letting the crowd enter, and taking selfies inside the building with those who have stormed it cannot go without investigation and penalty.

The police have all the weapons and tactics at the ready to keep the Capitol from being breached and they chose instead to fall back. In contrast, when it comes to actual First Amendment protected protest, our clients have been beaten, shot with projectile weapons, tear gassed, soaked in chemical weapons, kettled and subject to mass false arrest - for peacefully chanting and holding signs.

Law enforcement has not hesitated to use violent and maiming force against peaceful Black Lives Matter and social justice protesters, against Black and Brown communities in DC, while giving a pass to white supremacists - to such an extent that they could storm the nation’s Capitol building, terminate the operations of Congress and force elected officials to take shelter. And then be allowed to walk away free not subject to arrest.

The Capitol police have not hesitated to arrest people merely for peacefully protesting on Capitol steps. They have grabbed, tackled and arrested anti-war activists who have dissented peacefully inside the building.

In 2007 the Capitol police arrested 200 anti-war activists, led by veterans, who sought to peacefully deliver a letter to the door of Congress. The police set up unlawful barricades and arrested everyone in outdoor areas normally open to the public. We successful defended activists at trial who were fully prosecuted for this peaceful, and lawful, action.

This is not a matter of the police being "unprepared." In our many constitutional rights cases in DC we have obtained inter-agency planning documents and communications that are created in advance of all events in DC. There is a very regular procedure to pre-event planning among local and multiple federal law enforcement agencies. Moreover, in this instance, this mob was openly planning violence and bragging that they were smuggling guns to DC. No agency can claim to  have been caught off-guard about this assault.

We cannot allow police personnel or officials to facilitate or condone mob violence and white supremacist activities, and in the absence of a fully transparent investigation resulting in accountability, these actions pose an ongoing threat to our democracy and our community.

This is why we are demanding a full and public investigation. This assault on the U.S. Capitol, incitement to violent sedition by a U.S. President, has been further aided and abetted by Congressional office holders as well as sworn law enforcement agents. They must be held fully accountable.

To be sure to get breaking news and legal alerts, follow @thePCJF on Twitter and PCJFund on Facebook.

You can also follow the new Center for Protest Law and Litigation on Twitter and Instagram (@protestlaw), and like us on Facebook at ProtestLawCenter.


ABOUT THE PARTNERSHIP FOR CIVIL JUSTICE FUND: The PCJF is a free speech and civil rights organization that has defended First Amendment rights for over 25 years in Washington, D.C., and around the country. For more information go to: www.JusticeOnline.org. For more information on the new CENTER FOR PROTEST LAW AND LITIGATION go to: www.ProtestLaw.org.



Carmen in middle before reporting

Sunday, Jan. 10, 7pm - Festival of Hope for Patrick O'Neill

We invite you to a virtual Festival of Hope on Sunday at 7 pm (Eastern) for Patrick O'Neill as he enters prison for the disarmament action at the Kings Bay Trident base in Georgia more than two years ago. He is scheduled to report to the federal prison in Elkton, OH on January 14 to serve the remaining 12 months of his 14 month sentence. Judge Wood recently denied his request for a delay until he could be vaccinated.

The program will feature talks from Jeannine Hill-Fletcher, a professor of religion at Fordham University who testified at the Religious Freedom Restoration Act hearing and Paul Magno, a fellow plowshares activist with Patrick in the Pershing Plowshares in 1984. Steve Dear will present a slideshow. Some of the other KBP7 are expected to speak.

Music will be provided by Luci Murphy, blues guitarist Scott Ainslie and by Patrick's daughters, Annie and Veronica. There will be a concluding blessing from Fr. Bob Cushing.

Zoom Link Changed for Sunday's Festival of Hope for Patrick O'Neill

We are looking forward to the virtual Festival of Hope on Sunday at 7 pm (Eastern) for Patrick O'Neill but have had to change the Zoom link. He is about to begin a prison sentence for the disarmament action at the Kings Bay Trident base in Georgia more than two years ago. He is scheduled to self report to the federal prison in Elkton, OH on January 14 to serve the remaining 12 months of his 14 month sentence. Judge Wood recently denied his request for a delay until he could be vaccinated.

The new link to join the webinar (via Code Pink):


The festival will be recorded and posted to Youtube afterwards. If you do not want to be seen please turn off your video. Check the website for link.

Patrick will also be speaking at a webinar on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 7pm (Eastern) on "Resisting Militarism, Embracing Peace; Plowshares and Palestine." It is sponsored by Voices for Justice in Palestine. The link to register is at:  https://sites.google.com/view/vjpweb

Fr. Steve Kelly is now being transported from jail in Georgia where he has been held since the action in April, 2018 to federal court in Tacoma, WA to appear for a probation violation. Steve had been convicted of trespass in an earlier action at the Kitsap-Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base. Taking into account his good time credit, Steve has served beyond the 33 month sentence given by Judge Wood. It is expected that his extra time will be credited to any sentence from the Tacoma court. So far Steve has stayed COVID-free and healthy. He gave away all his belongings just after his October 15th sentencing expecting to be moved soon but it didn't happen quickly. The transport to the West Coast could take days or weeks through various intermediate stages and holding prisons. Check the website for updates.

Carmen Trotta #22561-021
FCI Otisville
Federal Correctional Institution
Satellite Camp
PO Box 1000
Otisville, NY 10963

Martha Hennessy #22560-021
FCI Danbury
Route 37
Danbury, CT 06811

You can send letters to them on white paper with blue or black ink but no drawings. We are checking what else they may receive. See the website for updates.

Clare Grady and Patrick O'Neill will report to prison in the New Year. Mark Colville has a delay for sentencing until February 19.

To access the defendants' powerful sentencing statements go to https://kingsbayplowshares7.org/sentencing-statements/ which is under the "Legal" tab in the menu. Biographical information can be found under the "About" tab.

The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 symbolically and nonviolently disarmed Trident submarine nuclear weapons on April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who devoted his life to addressing what he called the “triple evils of militarism, racism, and materialism.”  Carrying hammers and baby bottles of their own blood, the seven attempted to convert weapons of mass destruction. They hoped to call attention to the ways in which nuclear weapons kill every day, by their mere existence and maintenance.





"The Most Broken of the Broken

Please sign the petition to stop her execution:



Dear lovers of peace & justice,

President Trump is planning to execute still more federal prisoners on death row.
Will it be by firing squad, poison gas or electrocution, three very cruel means of execution that Trump has recently reinstated?

Lisa Montgomery is one of the planned executions, a victim herself of lifelong cruelty and violence.

Say Her Name!  Know Her Story:

a poignant dedication to Lisa, who sustained a lifetime of cruelty from mother, father, friends, strangers, via physical and sexual abuse, repeated rape by father and husband and gang rape and sex trafficking by her mother, and ultimately, neglect and abuse by law enforcement and the state.  She is “profoundly mentally ill” as a result.

Please write on a plane piece of paper.  NO CARDS, POSTCARDS, DRAWINGS OR ANY OTHER MATERIAL ALLOWED.  Only words allowed!  (The cruelty continues.) 
A simple message can do wonders!  
Lisa loves Christmas….so your words may want to reflect on that.
Suggestion:  Choose a special stamp….to add color and vibrancy!

Mail to:

Lisa Montgomery, #11072-031
Federal Medical Center-Carswell
P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX 76127

Let’s all be thinking and praying and hoping for long life and justice for Lisa.

Toby Blomé & Susan Witka
Women for Peace & Justice

UPDATE: January 3, 2021

Lisa Montgomery: Appeals Court Allows Execution to Proceed

By Associated Press, January 3, 2020


A federal appeals court has cleared the way for the only woman on federal death row to be executed before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.


The ruling, handed down Friday by a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, concluded that a lower court judge erred when he vacated Lisa Montgomery's execution date in an order last week.


U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss had ruled the Justice Department unlawfully rescheduled Montgomery's execution and he vacated an order from the director of the Bureau of Prisons scheduling her death for Jan. 12.


Montgomery had been scheduled to be put to death at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, in December, but Moss delayed the execution after her attorneys contracted coronavirus visiting their client and asked him to extend the time to file a clemency petition.


Moss concluded that under his order, the Bureau of Prisons could not even reschedule Montgomery's execution until at least Jan. 1. But the appeals panel disagreed.


Meaghan VerGow, an attorney for Montgomery, said her legal team would ask for the full appeals court to review the case and said Montgomery should not be executed on Jan. 12.


Montgomery was convicted of killing 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore in December 2004. She used a rope to strangle Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, and then cut the baby girl from the womb with a kitchen knife, authorities said.


Montgomery took the child with her and attempted to pass the girl off as her own, prosecutors said.


But her lawyers have argued that their client suffers from serious mental illnesses.


Biden opposes the death penalty and his spokesman, TJ Ducklo, has said he would work to end its use. But Biden has not said whether he will halt federal executions after he takes office Jan. 20.




Urgent Demand For Mumia's Release
Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM 8335
There is a serious outbreak of COVID 19 in Mahanoy Correctional Facility, where Mumia and 2,400 other men live.  As of now 20 guards have tested positive 4 COVID 19, and the prison is frantically testing those housed in the prison.  Obviously, this a a huge cause for concern.  Despite the prison being on lockdown, meaning no one leaves there cell except for showers and emergencies.  Food is brought to the cells. 


Needless, to say, Mumia quite worried as he should be.  He is 66, years old, has liver damage and prison personnel are the ones bringing in the virus. 


Please call Governor Tom Wolf to demand Mumia and other aging elders with underlying vulnerable health concerns be considered for compassionate release.  Clearly, there is no such thing as social distancing in prison.  The only way to stop this virus from spreading and killing those in its' path is to send our elders home
who pose no threat to our community. 


Governor Tom Wolf -1(717) 787-2500  Fax 1 (717) 772-8284
Office of the Governor
508 Main Capitol Building
HarrisburgPA  17120    
After calling the governor, send an online communication about our concerns.   https://www.governor.pa.gov/contact/#PhoneNumber
Let us know what there response was, Thank you.  Mobilization4Mumia@gmail.com




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.

Emergency Hotlines

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: 

National Hotline

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. 

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 Jury Resistance Project

Katya Komisaruk

Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources

Tilted Scales Collective






1)  U.K. Judge Blocks Assange’s Extradition to U.S., Citing Mental Health

U.S. officials want the WikiLeaks founder to face charges of violating the Espionage Act. But a judge in London ruled that he was at extreme risk of suicide.

By Elian Peltier and Megan Specia, Jan. 4, 2021


Mr. Assange leaving the court in London last year.

Mr. Assange leaving the court in London last year. Credit...Dominic Lipinski/Press Association, via Associated Press


LONDON — A British judge ruled on Monday that the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the United States to face trial on charges of violating the Espionage Act, saying he would be at extreme risk of suicide.


The decision in the high-profile case grants Mr. Assange a major victory against the U.S. authorities who charged him over his role in obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Rights groups and advocates applauded the ruling, but many expressed concern about the its rationale. The judge focused on Mr. Assange’s mental health issues, but rejected the defense argument that the charges were an attack on press freedom and were politically motivated.


Mr. Assange, 49, who was present at Monday’s hearing and wearing a face mask, was indicted in 2019 on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act and conspiring to hack government computers in 2010 and 2011. If found guilty on all counts, he could face a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.


The judge, Vanessa Baraitser of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, said in Monday’s ruling that she was satisfied that the American authorities had brought forth the case “in good faith,” and that Mr. Assange’s actions went beyond simply encouraging a journalist. But she said there was evidence of a risk to Mr. Assange’s health if he were to face trial in the United States, noting that she found “Mr. Assange’s risk of committing suicide, if an extradition order were to be made, to be substantial.”


She ruled that the extradition should be refused because “it would be unjust and oppressive by reason of Mr. Assange’s mental condition,” pointing to conditions he would most likely be held under in the United States.


The ruling on Monday at the Central Criminal Court in London, known as the Old Bailey, was a major turning point in a legal struggle that has lasted nearly a decade. But that battle is likely to drag on, as U.S. prosecutors indicated they would appeal. They have two weeks to do so.


A crowd of supporters outside the court erupted in cheers when the verdict was delivered.


“Today, we are swept away by our joy at the fact that Julian will shortly be with us,” Craig Murray, a former British diplomat and rights activist who has been documenting the hearing, told reporters outside the courthouse. He said that while he was “delighted we have seen some humanity,” the ruling on mental health grounds was an “excuse to deliver justice.”


Rights groups also applauded the denial of the extradition request, but some expressed concerns about the substance of the ruling. Among them was Rebecca Vincent, the director of international campaigns for Reporters Without Borders.


“We disagree with the judge’s assessment that this case is not politically motivated, that it is not about free speech,” Ms. Vincent said. “We continue to believe that Mr. Assange was targeted for his contributions to journalism, and until the underlying issues here are addressed, other journalists, sources and publishers remain at risk.”


Stella Moris, Mr. Assange’s partner, echoed the sentiment, saying that while she was pleased that the extradition request had been rejected, the charges had not been dropped. She called on President Trump to “end this now.”


In a statement, the Justice Department said it was “extremely disappointed” by the decision but “gratified that the United States prevailed on every point of law raised,” and noted that it would still seek to extradite Mr. Assange.


Mr. Assange, who is Australian, rose to prominence in 2010 by publishing documents provided by the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. He then took refuge at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to escape extradition to Sweden, where he faced an inquiry into rape allegations that was later dropped. In the meantime, he kept running WikiLeaks as a self-proclaimed political refugee. He spent seven years there before his arrest by the British police in 2019.


During the extradition hearing, which began in February but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, lawyers representing the United States argued that Mr. Assange had unlawfully obtained secret documents and put lives at risk by revealing the names of people who had provided information to the United States in war zones.


“Reporting or journalism is not an excuse for criminal activities or a license to break ordinary criminal laws,” James Lewis, a lawyer representing the U.S. government, told the court last year.


Mr. Assange’s lawyers framed the prosecution as a politically driven attack on press freedom.


“The greatest risk for him in the U.S. is that he won’t face a fair trial,” said Greg Barns, an Australian lawyer and adviser to Mr. Assange. “Then he could spend the rest of his life in prison, in solitary confinement, treated in a cruel and arbitrary fashion.”


The hearing was stymied by multiple technical glitches and restricted access for observers, which rights groups and legal experts said hurt the court’s credibility and hampered their ability to monitor the proceedings.


Mr. Assange has been held at Belmarsh, a high-security prison in London, since 2019. Mr. Assange remained in custody after the ruling was announced on Monday, but his defense team said they planned to file an application for bail on Wednesday as the appeals process continued.


Many have hailed Mr. Assange as a hero for transparency who helped expose U.S. wrongdoings in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he has also been criticized as a publicity seeker with an erratic personality. The publication by WikiLeaks of emails associated with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, which U.S. officials have said were hacked by Russian intelligence to damage her candidacy, also undermined his reputation with many previous supporters.


Mr. Assange jumped bail in 2012 and fled into the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. During his years there, he gave news conferences and hosted a parade of visitors, including the singer Lady Gaga and the actress Pamela Anderson. He had also angered embassy workers by riding his skateboard in the halls.


By the time he was dragged away, Mr. Assange had become an unwelcome guest. Weeks later, he was indicted in the United States.


Mr. Assange’s mental and physical health deteriorated while he was held in prison in Britain, experts warned. Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and ill treatment, said in November 2019 that the punishment against Mr. Assange amounted to “psychological torture.”


Doctors said that his health had worsened during the hearing.


News and press freedom organizations, as well as rights groups, have long warned that Mr. Assange’s indictment and a potential trial in the United States would set a dangerous precedent for press freedom.


Prosecutors have never charged a journalist under the Espionage Act, but legal experts have argued that prosecuting a reporter or news organization for doing their job — making valuable information available to the public — would violate the First Amendment. Mr. Assange’s actions remain difficult to distinguish in a legally meaningful way from those of traditional news organizations.


Jameel Jaffer, the executive director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, warned that the charges that Mr. Assange still faces “cast a dark shadow” over journalism. The charges focused on pure publication of the material were of particular concern, he said.


“Those counts are an unprecedented attack on press freedom,” he said in a statement, “one calculated to deter journalists and publishers from exercising rights that the First Amendment should be understood to protect.”


Charlie Savage contributed reporting.



2) We Are the ‘Exonerated 5.’ What Happened to Us Isn’t Past, It’s Present.

Deceptive interrogations and false confessions are all too common. New York can stop them.

By Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana

Mr. Salaam, Mr. Richardson and Mr. Santana were exonerated after spending 13 years in prison. They are now criminal justice activists.

Jan. 4, 2021

From left: Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, and Antron McCray in 2019.
From left: Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, and Antron McCray in 2019. Credit...Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET

On Dec. 19, 2002, a judge vacated our convictions for the brutal attack of Trisha Meili, who many know as the “Central Park jogger.” On that day, our 13-year fight for justice came to an end. The lies that we were told by detectives to wrongly convict us were finally exposed and ceased to hold power over us. Now, we are fighting to prevent others from facing the same fate.


At the time of our arrests in 1989, we were just boys — Kevin and Raymond, the youngest among us, were only 14 — and we came to be known as the “Central Park Five.” Now we are known as the “Exonerated Five,” and, largely because of Ava DuVernay’s series “When They See Us,” the world knows our stories.


But what people may not realize is that what happened to us isn’t just the past — it’s the present. The methods that the police used to coerce us, five terrified young boys, into falsely confessing are still commonly used today. But in its coming session, New York State legislators have the power to change that.


It’s hard to imagine why anyone would confess to a crime they didn’t commit. But when you’re in that interrogation room, everything changes. During the hours of relentless questioning that we each endured, detectives lied to us repeatedly. They said they had matched our fingerprints to crime scene evidence and told each of us that the others had confessed and implicated us in the attack. They said that if we just admitted to participating in the attack, we could go home. All of these were blatant lies.


With these tactics of deception and intimidation, detectives sought to exhaust, disorient and confuse us. They hoped to make us so fearful of never seeing our loved ones again that we’d say anything to protect ourselves and our families. Ultimately, that’s what nearly all of us did.


It felt like the truth didn’t matter. Instead, it seemed as though they locked onto one theory and were hellbent on securing incriminating statements to corroborate it. A conviction rather than justice felt like the goal. And with those false confessions, they were able to secure our wrongful convictions. These deceptive tactics aren’t right — but they are 100 percent legal.


The miscarriages of justice in our cases weren’t isolated incidents. False confessions played a role in nearly 30 percent of wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA evidence. In New York State alone, 43 people who have been exonerated, including us, were wrongly convicted based on false confessions. Several of those innocent people were, like us, teenagers at the time they were wrongly accused.


In a courtroom, a confession — whether true or false — is likely to seal your fate. Judges and juries tend to believe confessions over DNA evidence that points to a person’s innocence, but they also have a surprisingly difficult time discerning between a true confession and a false one.


If confessions were evaluated for reliability before trial — the same way that the reliability of forensic evidence and eyewitness identifications are assessed before they are admitted as evidence — the use of false confessions could be drastically reduced. This could go a long way toward preventing wrongful convictions, and the groundwork has already been laid.


Since 2018, New York has required the recording of interrogations of individuals accused of serious crimes that occur in police stations, correctional centers, prosecutor’s offices and similar holding areas. These recordings, along with other evidence, could be examined during admissibility hearings to thoroughly evaluate a confession’s reliability before it’s admitted into evidence and presented in a courtroom.


Recording interrogations is crucial for accountability, but it’s not enough to prevent false confessions in the first place. The juries at our trials saw only videotapes of the statements we made after hours of questioning and coercion without lawyers present. They didn’t see the hours of threats and manipulation that preceded those recorded statements. To truly protect the innocent, New York must go a step further by banning the use of deceptive interrogation methods.


A bill by New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie that will come up this session could make this possible. Senator Myrie’s proposed legislation would ban the use of deception in interrogations and ensure that confessions are assessed for reliability before they make it into the courtroom. It’s crucial that New York lawmakers pass these measures to prevent future wrongful convictions and ensure that no one else is ever robbed of their youth or freedom.


These psychologically coercive tactics presume guilt rather than innocence and, as a result, they taint law enforcement’s efforts to find facts. Yet most police agencies in the United States still permit their use, even while many of their European counterparts have abandoned these methods.


These measures, together with a legislative proposal to ensure the right to legal counsel for young people during interrogations that will be considered in Albany would help prevent others from experiencing the injustices we endured.


New York could lead the way for the country by adopting these changes and strengthening our justice system. But until then, there’s no telling how many more innocent people the system will ensnare, forcing them to fight for their freedom and their lives.



3) Hundreds of Google Employees Unionize, Culminating Years of Activism

The creation of the union, a rarity in Silicon Valley, follows years of increasing outspokenness by Google workers. Executives have struggled to handle the change.

By Kate Conger, Jan. 4, 2021


Chewy Shaw, an engineer at Google, at a video meeting with other workers. He said a union would keep pressure on management.
Chewy Shaw, an engineer at Google, at a video meeting with other workers. He said a union would keep pressure on management. Credit...Damien Maloney for The New York Times

OAKLAND, Calif. — More than 225 Google engineers and other workers have formed a union, the group revealed on Monday, capping years of growing activism at one of the world’s largest companies and presenting a rare beachhead for labor organizers in staunchly anti-union Silicon Valley.


The union’s creation is highly unusual for the tech industry, which has long resisted efforts to organize its largely white-collar work force. It follows increasing demands by employees at Google for policy overhauls on pay, harassment and ethics, and is likely to escalate tensions with top leadership.


The new union, called the Alphabet Workers Union after Google’s parent company, Alphabet, was organized in secret for the better part of a year and elected its leadership last month. The group is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America, a union that represents workers in telecommunications and media in the United States and Canada.


But unlike a traditional union, which demands that an employer come to the bargaining table to agree on a contract, the Alphabet Workers Union is a so-called minority union that represents a fraction of the company’s more than 260,000 full-time employees and contractors. Workers said it was primarily an effort to give structure and longevity to activism at Google, rather than to negotiate for a contract.


Chewy Shaw, an engineer at Google in the San Francisco Bay Area and the vice chair of the union’s leadership council, said the union was a necessary tool to sustain pressure on management so that workers could force changes on workplace issues.


“Our goals go beyond the workplace questions of, ‘Are people getting paid enough?’ Our issues are going much broader,” he said. “It is a time where a union is an answer to these problems.”


In response, Kara Silverstein, Google’s director of people operations, said: “We’ve always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our work force. Of course, our employees have protected labor rights that we support. But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.”


The new union is the clearest sign of how thoroughly employee activism has swept through Silicon Valley over the past few years. While software engineers and other tech workers largely kept quiet in the past on societal and political issues, employees at Amazon, Salesforce, Pinterest and others have become more vocal on matters like diversity, pay discrimination and sexual harassment.


Nowhere have those voices been louder than at Google. In 2018, more than 20,000 employees staged a walkout to protest how the company handled sexual harassment. Others have opposed business decisions that they deemed unethical, such as developing artificial intelligence for the Defense Department and providing technology to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.


Even so, unions have not previously gained traction in Silicon Valley. Many tech workers shunned them, arguing that labor groups were focused on issues like wages — not a top concern in the high-earning industry — and were not equipped to address their concerns about ethics and the role of technology in society. Labor organizers also found it difficult to corral the tech companies’ huge workforces, which are scattered around the globe.


Only a few small union drives have succeeded in tech in the past. Workers at the crowdfunding site Kickstarter and at the app development platform Glitch won union campaigns last year, and a small group of contractors at a Google office in Pittsburgh unionized in 2019. Thousands of employees at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama are also set to vote on a union in the coming months.


“There are those who would want you to believe that organizing in the tech industry is completely impossible,” Sara Steffens, C.W.A.’s secretary-treasurer, said of the new Google union. “If you don’t have unions in the tech industry, what does that mean for our country? That’s one reason, from C.W.A.’s point of view, that we see this as a priority.”


Veena Dubal, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, said the Google union was a “powerful experiment” because it brought unionization into a major tech company and skirted barriers that have prevented such organizing.


“If it grows — which Google will do everything they can to prevent — it could have huge impacts not just for the workers, but for the broader issues that we are all thinking about in terms of tech power in society,” she said.


The union is likely to ratchet up tensions between Google engineers, who work on autonomous cars, artificial intelligence and internet search, and the company’s management. Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, and other executives have tried to come to grips with an increasingly activist work force — but have made missteps.


Last month, federal officials said Google had likely wrongly fired two employees who protested its work with immigration authorities in 2019. Timnit Gebru, a Black woman who is a respected artificial intelligence researcher, also said last month that Google fired her after she criticized the company’s approach to minority hiring and the biases built into A.I. systems. Her departure set off a storm of criticism about Google’s treatment of minority employees.


“These companies find it a bone in their throat to even have a small group of people who say, ‘We work at Google and have another point of view,’” said Nelson Lichtenstein, the director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Google might well succeed in decimating any organization that comes to the floor.”


The Alphabet Workers Union, which represents employees in Silicon Valley and cities like Cambridge, Mass., and Seattle, gives protection and resources to workers who join. Those who opt to become members will contribute 1 percent of their total compensation to the union to fund its efforts.


Over the past year, the C.W.A. has pushed to unionize white-collar tech workers. (The NewsGuild, a union that represents New York Times employees, is part of C.W.A.) The drive focused initially on employees at video game companies, who often work grueling hours and face layoffs.


In late 2019, C.W.A. organizers began meeting with Google employees to discuss a union drive, workers who attended the meetings said. Some employees were receptive and signed cards to officially join the union last summer. In December, the Alphabet Workers Union held elections to select a seven-person executive council.


But several Google employees who had previously organized petitions and protests at the company objected to the C.W.A.’s overtures. They said they declined to join because they worried that the effort had sidelined experienced organizers and played down the risks of organizing as it recruited members.


Amr Gaber, a Google software engineer who helped organize the 2018 walkout, said that C.W.A. officials were dismissive of other labor groups that had supported Google workers during a December 2019 phone call with him and others.


“They are more concerned about claiming turf than the needs of the workers who were on the phone call,” Mr. Gaber said. “As a long-term labor organizer and brown man, that’s not the type of union I want to build.”


The C.W.A. said it was selected by Google workers to help organize the union and had not elbowed their way in. “It’s really the workers who chose,” Ms. Steffens of C.W.A. said.


Traditional unions typically enroll a majority of a work force and petition a state or federal labor board like the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election. If they win the vote, they can bargain with their employer on a contract. A minority union allows employees to organize without first winning a formal vote before the N.L.R.B.


The C.W.A. has used this model to organize groups in states where it said labor laws are unfavorable, like the Texas State Employees Union and the United Campus Workers in Tennessee.


The structure also gives the union the latitude to include Google contractors, who outnumber full-time workers and who would be excluded from a traditional union. Some Google employees have considered establishing a minority or solidarity union for several years, and ride-hailing drivers have formed similar groups.


Although they will not be able to negotiate a contract, the Alphabet Workers Union can use other tactics to pressure Google into changing its policies, labor experts said. Minority unions often turn to public pressure campaigns and lobby legislative or regulatory bodies to influence employers.


“We’re going to use every tool that we can to use our collective action to protect people who we think are being discriminated against or retaliated against,” Mr. Shaw said.


Members cited the recent N.L.R.B. finding on the firing of two employees and the exit of Ms. Gebru, the prominent researcher, as reasons to broaden its membership and publicly step up its efforts.


“Google is making it all the more clear why we need this now,” said Auni Ahsan, a software engineer at Google and an at-large member of the union’s executive council. “Sometimes the boss is the best organizer.”



4) In Reversal, Pentagon Announces Aircraft Carrier Nimitz Will Remain in Middle East

The acting defense secretary abruptly reversed his previous order to redeploy the Nimitz, which he had done over the objections of his top military advisers.

By Eric Schmitt, Published Jan. 3, 2021, Updated Jan. 4, 2021

The aircraft carrier Nimitz will remain in the Middle East for longer than previously ordered.
The aircraft carrier Nimitz will remain in the Middle East for longer than previously ordered. Credit...Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Elliot Schaudt/U.S. Navy, via Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said on Sunday that it had ordered the aircraft carrier Nimitz to remain in the Middle East because of Iranian threats against President Trump and other American officials, just three days after sending the warship home as a signal to de-escalate rising tensions with Tehran.


The acting secretary of the defense, Christopher C. Miller, abruptly reversed his previous order to redeploy the Nimitz, which he had done over the objections of his top military advisers. The military had for weeks been engaged in a muscle-flexing strategy aimed at deterring Iran from attacking American personnel in the Persian Gulf.


“Due to the recent threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other U.S. government officials, I have ordered the U.S.S. Nimitz to halt its routine redeployment,” Mr. Miller said in a statement on Sunday night.


United States intelligence agencies have assessed for months that Iran is seeking to target senior American military officers and civilian leaders to avenge the death of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, in an American drone strike one year ago.


But it was unclear what new urgency about these threats, if any, prompted Mr. Miller to cancel his earlier order to send the Nimitz home. In the past few days, Iranian officials have increased their fiery messaging against the United States. The head of Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, said all of those who had a role in General Suleimani’s killing would not be able to “escape law and justice,” even if they were an American president.


It was unclear last week whether Mr. Trump was aware of Mr. Miller’s order to send the Nimitz to its home port in Bremerton, Wash., after a longer-than-usual 10-month deployment.


Some Trump administration officials suggested on Sunday that with a contentious political week coming up — Tuesday’s Senate runoff election in Georgia and Wednesday’s meeting of the House and Senate to certify President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory — the optics of the aircraft carrier steaming away from the Middle East did not suit the White House.


Whatever the reason, the mixed messaging surrounding the carrier’s movements raised new questions about the coordination and communications between an inexperienced Pentagon leadership and the White House in the waning days of the Trump administration.


Some current and former Pentagon officials have criticized the decision-making at the Pentagon since Mr. Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and several of his top aides in November, and replaced them with Mr. Miller, a former White House counterterrorism aide, and several Trump loyalists.


Officials said on Friday that Mr. Miller ordered the redeployment of the Nimitz in part as a “de-escalatory” signal to Tehran to avoid stumbling into a crisis at the end of Mr. Trump’s administration that would land in Mr. Biden’s lap as he took office.


In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has repeatedly threatened Iran on Twitter, and in November, top national security aides talked the president out of a pre-emptive strike against an Iranian nuclear site.


The Pentagon’s Central Command had for weeks publicized several shows of force to warn Tehran of the consequences of any assault against American troops or diplomats.


The Nimitz and other warships arrived to provide air cover for American troops withdrawing from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. The Air Force three times dispatched B-52 bombers to fly within 60 miles of the Iranian coast. And the Navy announced for the first time in nearly a decade that it had ordered a submarine, carrying cruise missiles, into the Persian Gulf.


American intelligence reports indicated that Iran and its proxies might have been preparing a strike as early as this past weekend to avenge the deaths of General Suleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the head of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq, who was killed in the same United States drone strike in Baghdad last January.


American intelligence analysts in recent days say they have detected Iranian air defenses, maritime forces and other security units on high alert. They have also determined that Iran has moved more short-range missiles and drones into Iraq.


But senior Defense Department officials acknowledge they cannot tell if Iran or its Shiite proxies in Iraq are readying to strike American troops or are preparing defensive measures in case Mr. Trump orders a pre-emptive attack against them.



5) The Richest 500 People in the World Added $1.8 Trillion to Their Wealth in 2020

By Julia Conley, January 3, 2021


SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses on the red carpet of the Axel Springer Award 2020 on December 1, 2020, in Berlin, Germany.

Bloomberg's year-end report on the wealth of the world's billionaires shows that the richest 500 people on the planet added $1.8 trillion to their combined wealth in 2020, accumulating a total net worth of $7.6 trillion. 


The Bloomberg Billionaires Index recorded its largest annual gain in the list's history last year, with a 31% increase in the wealth of the richest people.


The historic hoarding of wealth came as the world confronted the coronavirus pandemic and its corresponding economic crisis, which the United Nations last month warned is a "tipping point" set to send more than 207 million additional people into extreme poverty in the next decade—bringing the number of people living in extreme poverty to one billion by 2030. 


Even in the richest country in the world, the United States, the rapidly widening gap between the richest and poorest people grew especially stark in 2020.


As Dan Price, an entrepreneur and advocate for fair wages, tweeted, the 500 richest people in the world amassed as much wealth in 2020 as "the poorest 165 million Americans have earned in their entire lives."


Nine of the top 10 richest people in the world live in the United States and own more than $1.5 trillion. Meanwhile, with more than half of U.S. adults living in households that lost income due to the pandemic, nearly 26 million Americans reported having insufficient food and other groceries in November—contributing to a rise in shop-lifting of essential goods including diapers and baby formula. About 12 million renters were expected to owe nearly $6,000 in back rent after the new year. 


Tesla CEO Elon Musk enjoyed an historic growth in wealth last year, becoming the second richest person in the world and knocking Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates down to third place. Musk's total net worth grew by $142 billion in 2020, to $170 billion—the fastest creation of personal wealth in history, according to Bloomberg. 


Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is at the top of the list, with a net worth of $190 billion. Bezos added more than $75 billion to his wealth in 2020, as the public grew dependent on online shopping due to Covid-19 restrictions and concern for public health. 


While Bezos and a select few others in the U.S. have amassed historic gains in personal wealth in the last year, the federal government has yet to extend much in the way of meaningful assistance to struggling Americans. The Republican-led Senate on Friday continued to stonewall a vote on legislation that would send $2,000 checks to many American households.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) denounced the proposal as "socialism for rich people" even though the plan includes a phaseout structure and individuals making only up to $115,000 per year—not those in the highest tax brackets—would receive checks. 


"Surging billionaire wealth hits a painful nerve for the millions of people who have lost loved ones and experienced declines in their health, wealth, and livelihoods," Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, told Bloomberg this week. "Worse, it undermines any sense that we are 'in this together'—the solidarity required to weather the difficult months ahead."



6) The U.S. Money Tree

The untold story of American aid to Israel

By Ramzy Baroud

—CounterPunch, January 1, 2020


On December 21, the United States Congress passed the COVID-19 Relief Package, as part of a larger $2.3 trillion bill meant to cover spending for the rest of the fiscal year. As usual, U.S. representatives allocated a massive sum of money for Israel.

While unemployment, thus poverty, in the U.S. is skyrocketing as a result of repeated lockdowns, the U.S. found it essential to provide Israel with $3.3 billion in “security assistance” and $500 million for U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation.

Although a meager $600 dollar payment to help struggling American families was the subject of several months of intense debate, there was little discussion among American politicians over the large funds handed out to Israel, for which there are no returns.

Support for Israel is considered a bipartisan priority and has, for decades, been perceived as the most stable item in the U.S. foreign policy agenda.  The mere questioning of how Israel uses the funds—whether the military aid is being actively used to sustain Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, finance Jewish settlements, fund annexation of Palestinian land or violate Palestinian human rights—is a major taboo.

One of the few members of Congress to demand that aid to Israel be conditioned on the latter’s respect for human rights is Democratic Senator, Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, who was also a leading presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. “We cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government … We have the right to demand respect for human rights and democracy,” Sanders had said in October 2019.

His Democratic rival, now President-elect, Joe Biden, soon countered: “The idea that I’d withdraw military aid, as others have suggested, from Israel, is bizarre,” he said.

It is no secret that Israel is the world’s leading recipient of U.S. aid since World War II.  According to data provided by the U.S. Congressional Research Service, Israel has received $146 billion of U.S. taxpayers’ money as of November 2020.

From 1971 up to 2007, a bulk of these funds proved fundamental in helping Israel establish a strong economic base. Since then, most of the money has been allotted for military purposes, including the security of Israel’s illegal Jewish settlement enterprise.

Despite the U.S. financial crisis of 2008, American money continued to be channeled to Israel, whose economy survived the global recession, largely unscathed.

In 2016, the U.S. promised even more money. The Democratic Barack Obama Administration, which is often—although mistakenly—seen as hostile to Israel, increased U.S. funding to Israel by a significant margin. In a ten-year Memorandum of Understanding, Washington and Tel Aviv reached a deal whereby the U.S. agreed to give Israel $38 billion in military aid covering the financial years 2019-2028. This is a whopping increase of $8 billion compared with the previous ten-year agreement, which concluded at the end of 2018.

The new American funds are divided into two categories: $33 billion in foreign military grants and an additional $5 billion in missile defense.

American generosity has long been attributed to the unmatched influence of pro-Israeli groups, lead among them American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The last four years, however, required little lobbying by these groups, as powerful agents within the administration itself became Israel’s top advocates.

Aside from the seemingly endless “political freebies” that the Donald Trump Administration has given Israel in recent years, it is now considering ways to accelerate the timetable of delivering the remainder of U.S. funds as determined by the last MOU, an amount that currently stands at $26.4 billion. According to official congressional documents, the U.S. “also may approve additional sales of the F-35 to Israel and accelerate the delivery of KC-46A refueling and transport aircraft to Israel.”

These are not all the funds and perks that Israel receives. Much more goes unreported, as it is channeled either indirectly or simply promoted under the flexible title of “cooperation.”

For example, between 1973 and 1991, a massive sum of $460 million of U.S. funds was allocated to resettling Jews in Israel. Many of these new immigrants are now the very Israeli militants that occupy the West Bank illegal settlements. In this particular case, the money is paid to a private charity known as the United Israel Appeal which, in turn, gives the money to the Jewish Agency. The latter has played a central role in the founding of Israel on top of the ruins of Palestinian towns and villages in 1948.

Under the guise of charitable donations, tens-of-millions of dollars are regularly sent to Israel in the form of “tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” the New York Times reported. Much of the money, falsely promoted as donations for educational and religious purposes, often finds its way to funding and purchasing housing for illegal settlers, “as well as guard dogs, bulletproof vests, rifle scopes and vehicles to secure (illegal Jewish) outposts deep in occupied (Palestinian) areas.”

Quite often, U.S. money ends up in the Israeli government’s coffers under deceptive pretenses. For example, the latest Stimulus Package includes $50 million to fund the Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Funds, supposedly to provide investments in “people-to-people exchanges and economic cooperation…between Israelis and Palestinians with the goal of supporting a negotiated and sustainable two-state solution.”

Actually, such money serves no particular purpose, since Washington and Tel Aviv endeavor to ensure the demise of a negotiated peace agreement and work hand-in-hand to kill the now defunct two-state solution.

The list is endless, though most of this money is not included in the official U.S. aid packages to Israel, therefore receives little scrutiny, let alone media coverage.

As of February 2019, the U.S. has withheld all funds to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, in addition to cutting aid to the UN Palestinian Refugees agency (UNRWA), the last lifeline of support needed to provide basic education and health services to millions of Palestinian refugees.

Judging by its legacy of continued support of the Israeli military machine and the ongoing colonial expansion in the West Bank, Washington insists on serving as Israel’s main benefactor—if not direct partner—while shunning Palestinians altogether. Expecting the U.S. to play a constructive role in achieving a just peace in Palestine does not only reflect indefensible naivety but willful ignorance as well.



7) Police Chief Who Resigned After Fatal Shooting Will Lead Louisville Department

Erika Shields, who stepped down after the killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, will arrive in a city still gripped by the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor, which led to national cries for accountability.

By Will Wright, Jan. 6, 2021


A memorial in front of the Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta where police officers killed Rayshard Brooks in June.

A memorial in front of the Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta where police officers killed Rayshard Brooks in June. Credit...Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Atlanta police chief who resigned last year after a high-profile police shooting has been hired to run the department in Louisville, Ky., a city still reeling from its own prominent shooting that helped fuel the outcry for police reform that became a defining factor of 2020.


The incoming chief, Erika Shields, will become the fourth police chief to lead the Louisville Metro Police Department since the death of Breonna Taylor in March, Mayor Greg Fischer announced on Wednesday. She will replace the city’s interim chief, Yvette Gentry, when she is sworn in on Jan. 19.


Ms. Shields will arrive in a city rife with racial tension that ballooned with the killing of Ms. Taylor and subsequent protests, which drew thousands of people this summer and fall. Much of the anger surrounding Ms. Taylor’s death is still evident in Louisville today, nine months later, and activists said they will ramp up demonstrations in an effort to reinforce their demands for a transformation in the police force.


“Erika is definitely coming into chaos,” said Milly Martin, a political and social activist in Louisville. “Hopefully she can handle it.”


Ms. Shields served as Atlanta’s police chief for three and a half years, but resigned two days after a police officer shot and killed Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, in June. Officers had responded to a call reporting that Mr. Brooks was asleep in his car in a Wendy’s parking lot.


After 40 minutes of questioning and sobriety tests, the officers tried to arrest Mr. Brooks, who hit one officer, took another one’s Taser, fired it and then ran. One of the officers, Garrett Rolfe, pulled out a handgun and fired at Mr. Brooks as he fled, striking him twice in the back.


Prosecutors said that Mr. Rolfe then kicked Mr. Brooks as he lay dying, while another officer stood by. Neither of the two officers rendered first aid for more than two minutes.


Officials fired Mr. Rolfe and charged him with murder and aggravated assault within a week of the shooting. His case is awaiting trial.


Ms. Shields resigned the same day that Mr. Rolfe was fired, saying in a statement at the time that she was stepping down “out of a deep and abiding love for this city and this department.”


She now comes to a city that is still dealing with an even more prominent police shooting — that of Ms. Taylor, who was killed during a raid on her apartment in March.


No officers have been charged for Ms. Taylor’s death. One officer, Brett Hankison, faces charges of endangering Ms. Taylor’s neighbors when he shot into their apartment. The Police Department announced last week that two other officers would also be fired for their roles in the deadly raid.


In death, Ms. Taylor became an international icon for renewed calls to reform police departments and hold officers accountable when they commit unnecessary violence. That is especially apparent in Louisville, where fallout from the deadly raid continues to reverberate through the city. Protesters, though fewer in number than during the summer and fall, still occupy a public square in her honor downtown, and public officials continue to clamor for reforms and accountability measures that they complain have been slow to come.


Ms. Martin, the political activist, said she was disappointed that officials appointed Ms. Shields, who was asked to resign by the Atlanta chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. following the killing of Mr. Brooks.


“I just don’t see how she’s going to be a good fit for Louisville,” Ms. Martin said. “As the Black community, why would we want a woman like Erika Shields coming to our city to be the next police chief when clearly, clearly she could not get Atlanta P.D. under control?”


Atlanta had several police shootings while Ms. Shields served as chief, some of them leading to reforms.


In one instance, in 2019, an Atlanta police officer was working with an F.B.I. task force when the group attempted to arrest 21-year-old Jimmy Atchison after a chase. Mr. Atchison eventually attempted to surrender, but was shot in the face and killed by the Atlanta police officer. The officer said at the time that be believed Mr. Atchison was holding a weapon.


None of the officers were wearing body cameras, and the shooting remains under investigation, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


In response, Ms. Shields announced that the Police Department would cease to partner with the F.B.I., the Drug Enforcement Administration or U.S. Marshals Service because those agencies do not wear body cameras.


Ms. Shields, Atlanta’s second female chief and its first openly gay one, also won some support among progressives when she met with protesters who took to the streets after the killing of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis in May.


“I thought the way she waded out into the crowds to try and better understand the pain and worry that people were feeling in Atlanta last summer was really admirable,” said Matt Westmoreland, a Democratic City Councilman in Atlanta.


Robert Friedmann, professor emeritus of criminal justice at Georgia State University, said some of Ms. Shields’s ability to succeed in Louisville would depend on Mayor Fischer and the Metro City Council, and whether those elected officials would give the new chief the freedom to enact changes as she sees fit.


“If the mayor will not disrupt her position and her job, Louisville will be lucky to have her,” Mr. Friedmann said, adding that police chiefs often come under substantial political pressures, particularly after high-profile shootings and during periods of high crime rates.


Like many cities, Louisville experienced a sharp increase in homicides and other crimes last year. The Louisville Metro Police Department logged 173 homicides in 2020, more than the previous two years combined.


Chris Wells, a Louisville activist who attended a meeting on Tuesday to promote a truce between the city’s feuding gangs, said he doubted that someone from outside Louisville could come in and correct the myriad problems that only worsened for the city’s Black residents in 2020.


The selection process leading up to Wednesday’s announcement has unfolded in secrecy, and Mr. Fischer had declined to discuss the selection committee’s deliberations. City officials faced public criticism for not releasing the list of finalists before making a selection, in view of the calls for increased transparency in the wake of Ms. Taylor’s death.


“We were not given a choice,” said Attica Scott, a state representative from Louisville who participated in several racial justice demonstrations. “We weren’t engaged as partners, we weren’t engaged as community — activists, protesters and leaders have been left out.”


Gerald Griggs, the second vice president of the Atlanta chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., said that despite some reform efforts, Ms. Shields was ultimately unsuccessful in preventing unnecessary acts of police violence. He said the death of Mr. Brooks was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”


“To hear that now she’s going to one of the epicenters of the issues around police brutality is disheartening,” Mr. Griggs said. “I think it’s a bad decision. I like her as a person, but as an administrator of a police force, she’s been unable to curtail the activity that gives rise to police brutality.”


He added that activists in Atlanta “have a kindred spirit with Louisville because we understand what it’s like to lose a member of the community,” and that Ms. Shields “can expect activists from Atlanta to be in Louisville — we want to hold her accountable.”



8) Woman Who Tackled Black Teenager at SoHo Hotel Is Arrested

The woman, Miya Ponsetto, who falsely accused the son of a prominent jazz musician of stealing her phone, was taken into custody in California.

By Mihir Zaveri, Published Jan. 7, 2021, Updated Jan. 8, 2021

Keyon Harrold appeared at a rally last month with the Rev. Al Sharpton, left, and Benjamin Crump, right, a prominent civil rights lawyer.
Keyon Harrold appeared at a rally last month with the Rev. Al Sharpton, left, and Benjamin Crump, right, a prominent civil rights lawyer. Credit...Earl Wilson/The New York Times

Law enforcement authorities in California on Thursday arrested a woman who had been caught on video tackling a Black teenager in the lobby of a boutique hotel in SoHo after falsely accusing him of stealing her cellphone, officials said.  


The arrest of the woman, Miya Ponsetto, by sheriff’s deputies in Ventura County, Calif.,  was confirmed by the New York Police Department. It came after more than a week of mounting pressure on the department to make an arrest in the case and with New York officers taking the unusual step of traveling to California to interview her.


It was not clear what charges Ms. Ponsetto, 22, faced in connection with the hotel incident, which happened on Dec. 26. Prosecutors have declined to discuss the case, noting earlier on Thursday that charges had not been filed.


The episode at the hotel was yet another instance of Black people being confronted with baseless accusations while going about their daily lives. It has drawn comparisons to an incident in May when a white woman called 911 to falsely claim that a Black bird-watcher in Central Park was threatening her life.


The video was taken and posted on social media by Keyon Harrold, a prominent jazz musician, who was staying at the Arlo hotel with his 14-year-old son, Keyon Harrold, Jr.


In the video, Ms. Ponsetto can be seen confronting Mr. Harrold and his son after they walk into the hotel lobby, insisting without evidence that Keyon Jr. has her cellphone. Ms. Ponsetto can be seen asking a hotel manager to help her, after which the manager identifies himself and asks Keyon Jr. to produce a cellphone, in an apparent attempt to verify Ms. Ponsetto’s claim.


Surveillance footage released by the police last week shows Ms. Ponsetto running after Keyon Jr. and tackling him. Ms. Ponsetto was trying to rummage through Keyon Jr.'s pockets, Mr. Harrold said.


Mr. Harrold said he was told by the hotel that an Uber driver found Ms. Ponsetto’s phone later in the day, and she picked it up from the hotel.


Ms. Ponsetto, in an interview with “CBS This Morning” that was conducted hours before she was arrested, said she did not handle the situation properly.


“I could have approached the situation differently or maybe not yelled at him like that and made him feel, you know, maybe some sort of inferior way,” Ms. Ponsetto told CBS’s Gayle King. The interview aired on Friday morning.


Ms. Ponsetto also said that her actions were not racially motivated, presenting herself as a young woman who reacted poorly.


“I’m a 22-year-old girl,” said Ms. Ponsetto, whose lawyer, Sharen H. Ghatan, was seated next to her. “I don’t — racism is — how is one girl accusing a guy about a phone a crime?”


Ms. Ponsetto acknowledged that surveillance video did show her attacking Keyon Jr.  She did not directly apologize, however, or take responsibility for those actions, saying only that she regretted it if she had made Keyon Jr. “feel as if I assaulted him, or if I hurt his feelings or the father’s feelings.”


Over the course of the interview, which was conducted remotely, Ms. Ponsetto grew increasingly agitated and confrontational. At one point, as Ms. King pressed her on taking more responsibility for her actions, Ms. Ponsetto held up a hand to the camera as if to silence her.


“All right, Gayle,” Ms. Ponsetto said. “Enough.”


Ms. Ghatan then leaned over to her client, whispering: “No, stop. Stop.”


Capt. Eric Buschow of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said that Ms. Ponsetto had been arrested in Piru, Calif., a small town about 45 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles where she has been living.


Ms. Ponsetto was driving to her neighborhood at around 4:30 p.m. local time when deputies and New York police officers pulled her over, Captain Buschow said. Ms. Ponsetto refused to get out of the car at first and slammed a door on a deputy before being pulled from the car and taken into custody, he said.


Ms. Ponsetto was being held in the Ventura County jail on Thursday night with an extradition hearing to be held soon, Captain Buschow said.


After the arrest, Ms. Ghatan said that she was “very concerned” for Ms. Ponsetto’s emotional well being and that she had not heard from her client since Thursday afternoon.


Ms. Ponsetto had been the subject of public scrutiny and speculation about possible criminal charges since the video emerged. According to public records, she faced unrelated criminal charges in California, including a lewd conduct charge in Los Angeles County involving an incident in February and a charge of driving while intoxicated in Ventura County following an incident in October.


Prosecutors in California did not immediately provide more details.


In an interview on Wednesday with The New York Times, Ms. Ghatan said that Ms. Ponsetto regretted her actions and was seeking to apologize in person to Mr. Harrold and his family.


Ms. Ghatan said Ms. Ponsetto was not targeting Mr. Harrold or his son because of their race. She is of Puerto Rican and Vietnamese descent and does not identify as white, Ms. Ghatan said.


“She’s not trying to make any racial statement,” Ms. Ghatan said. “She’s a female herself of mixed cultural descent. She’s not some blond-haired, blue eyed privileged white lady. She literally just wanted to get her phone back.”


Ms. Ponsetto, who works in an office for a health-related company, was visiting her father who lives in the New York City area over the holidays when she lost her cellphone, Ms. Ghatan said. Ms. Ponsetto was a guest at the hotel at some point during the holiday week, Ms. Ghatan said, but it was not clear why she was there when the confrontation took place.


Ms. Ponsetto saw Keyon Jr. with a phone and thought it was hers, according to Ms. Ghatan.


“What happened, happened,” Ms. Ghatan said. “Would she do it again? No. It was purely out of her being anxious, stressed, cornered, feeling helpless, lost, alone, unsupported.”


In the CBS interview, Ms. Ponsetto first said that she had been “approaching the people that had been exiting the hotel” because she thought anyone leaving the premises could have been the one who had stolen her phone.


When pressed, she acknowledged that she had not stopped everyone she had seen, but she did not explain why she singled out Keyon Jr.


Mr. Harrold said Ms. Ponsetto’s actions demanded more than an apology. He said that both her behavior and the hotel manager’s actions reflected a systemic problem where Black people — and Black teenagers in particular — are seen as threats or outsiders.


Mr. Harrold described his son as innocent and impressionable — “an aspiring music producer, drummer, artist, who loves being around his friends.” But, he said, he is too often not seen that way. “He’s made out to be criminal. He’s made out to be a threat. That’s the thing that needs to change.”


The Police Department has said that it was not treating the confrontation as a “bias incident.” But it has drawn widespread attention as a striking example of racial profiling.


Joseph L. Giacalone, a retired New York City police sergeant and an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that the pressure from the public on the Police Department “is just immense here,” particularly given the recent protests against systemic racism following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.


He said that it was a rarity for detectives to travel across the country for anything other than murder or cold case investigations.


“This is an unusual event that is driven not only by media, but by social media,” he said.


At a news conference last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said it has “almost become tragically comical how much you can rely on the fact that someone will unjustly accuse a young man of color in America.”


“When someone does something like this, they have to suffer consequences,” he said. “And there needs to be real action here by the criminal justice system to make sure there are consequences in this case.”


At a separate news conference, the Rev. Al Sharpton and civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, who is representing Mr. Harrold, called on prosecutors and the police to bring charges.


“This has larger implications,” Mr. Crump said. “It was Emmett Till who was falsely accused and racially profiled that led to him being killed.”


Arlo, which has two hotels in the city, advertises its SoHo location as a trendy destination with a rooftop bar and Hudson River views.


The hotel has apologized to Mr. Harrold and his son in a statement. While the hotel said the manager called the police to report the incident and hotel security had stepped in, “more could have been done to de-escalate the dispute.”


Mr. Harrold, who has performed with artists including Beyoncé, Rihanna and Jay-Z, said he had been staying at the Arlo since mid-December.


Alain Delaquérière contributed research and Michael Gold contributed reporting.



9) Racial Double Standard of Capitol Police Draws Outcry

Black Lives Matter activists said the tepid response from law enforcement officers to mostly white protesters stood in stark contrast to the aggressive tactics they have endured for years.

By John Eligon, Published Jan. 7, 2021, Updated Jan. 8, 2021

Hundreds of activists marched through the streets of Minneapolis the day after November’s election, advocating for an end to police brutality. The group eventually marched onto an Interstate where law enforcement surrounded them and demanded that everyone sit down to be arrested.

Hundreds of activists marched through the streets of Minneapolis the day after November’s election, advocating for an end to police brutality. The group eventually marched onto an Interstate where law enforcement surrounded them and demanded that everyone sit down to be arrested. Credit...Kerem Yucel/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

While protesting the police killing of a Black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., several years ago, Johnetta Elzie said she was manhandled by officers. She said they pointed rifles at Black women who were pushing toddlers in strollers and cursed at them to turn around.


Similar scenes unfolded all summer, as police officers clashed with scores of Black Lives Matter protesters. Many times, officers used batons and chemical agents to disperse crowds.


And so what Ms. Elzie saw on television Wednesday afternoon infuriated her: A mob of mostly white Trump supporters stormed past police officers and vandalized the United States Capitol while officers, after initially offering resistance, mostly stood by. Some officers parted barricades, others held doors open and one was seen on video escorting a woman down steps.


“What a joke,” Ms. Elzie said. “I mean, they didn’t even pinch the white people. It wasn’t even like a family dispute. In a family dispute, you might at least hit your sister or something like that. This wasn’t even that. It was almost like tear-gas was not readily available.”


Black Lives Matter activists across the country expressed outrage on Thursday at what they said was a tepid response from law enforcement officers to mostly white protesters, saying it stood in stark contrast to the aggressive tactics they have endured for years — officers in full riot gear who have used tear-gas, rubber bullets and batons. It also underscored the country’s uneven system of justice, many said, and lent credence to their insistence that Black people are devalued and viewed as inherently dangerous.


In a national address Thursday afternoon, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. acknowledged the seemingly disparate treatment, saying he had received a text message from his granddaughter who questioned the police response at the Capitol.


“She said, ‘Pop, this isn’t fair. No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,’” he said, adding, “We all know that’s true. And it is unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.”


Officials with the Capitol Police, a federal law enforcement agency responsible for securing the Capitol building, have defended Thursday’s response, saying the officers were under prepared and overwhelmed by the pro-Trump mob.


Joel Shults, a former police chief of Adams State University in Colorado, said “the right balance of quelling a disturbance versus allowing the disorder to continue” was a difficult calculation for law enforcement to make. Every case presents its unique challenges, he said, adding that a lack of information and the location of Wednesday’s riot might have influenced the police’s response — and not the race of the largely white crowd that stormed the building.


“To have a lot of citizen-police violence on the steps of the Capitol,” he said, “I think it was really important that that not happen.”


Black activists noted that when they have planned protests, the police have rarely seemed ill prepared. This week, for instance, National Guard troops descended on Kenosha, Wis., and metal barricades were erected around that city’s courthouse the day before a prosecutor announced that no charges would be filed against an officer who shot a man, Jacob Blake, multiple times in the back last summer.


Last summer, a peaceful violin vigil in Aurora, Colo., to memorialize a Black man who died during a police arrest was disrupted when officers in riot gear charged the park and dispersed pepper spray, sending families with children fleeing. The police argued that there was a small group of agitators among the crowd, a contention disputed by many in attendance, who had been sitting on the lawn listening to people play the violin when the police descended.


And the day after the presidential election in November, hundreds of activists marched through the streets of Minneapolis, advocating for an end to police brutality. The group, which was spirited but peaceful and included parents with children, eventually marched onto an interstate. The plan was to walk to the next exit, something that should have only taken about 15 minutes, said Sam Martinez, one of the organizers.


Instead, the State Police surrounded the group while on the highway and demanded that everyone sit down to be arrested. Local elected officials frantically tried to negotiate with the authorities to let the demonstrators leave the highway, to no avail.


The police, saying that the demonstrators violated the law and endangered public safety by entering the highway, either arrested or cited and released nearly 650 protesters. The process took about five hours. Most were given misdemeanor charges, but a 19-year-old woman received felony riot charges for shining a laser pointer into the eyes of a police officer.


“It’s a glaring example of how unjust this system really is,” said Mx. Martinez, noting the disparity between the hundreds of arrests on the highway versus the handful of arrests at the Capitol. “If that had been us, there would have been way more than one casualty.”


The highway protest in Minneapolis came months after city police officers killed George Floyd, sparking widespread protests and calls for an end to systemic racism. Amid chaotic demonstrations in the days following the killing, the police retreated from a police precinct headquarters, allowing protesters to descend on it and burn it down.


But even that was not comparable to what unfolded at the Capitol on Wednesday, said Jeremiah Ellison, a Minneapolis City Councilman. In the days preceding the burning of the precinct, the police had been firing rubber bullets and tear-gas at protesters in what Mr. Ellison said he believed was an overreaction at times.


The police at the Capitol did not show that same hostility toward the demonstrators there, he said.


“I think the police will view a leftist protester with a gas mask as more dangerous than a right-wing protester with a semiautomatic rifle,” Mr. Ellison said.


Activists who protest the police say they believe they are targeted because of their criticism of law enforcement.


In a federal lawsuit against the city of St. Louis, a judge wrote in a 2017 ruling on a preliminary injunction that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on their claim that the Police Department “has a custom or policy of using chemical agents without warning on citizens” criticizing the police.


The lawsuit centers on the arrest of more than 120 people in 2017 during a protest of the acquittal of a white officer who killed a Black man in St. Louis. Earlier that evening, some protesters had broken windows and knocked over large flower pots downtown. The police declared an unlawful assembly and ordered people to leave.


Hours later, there were still dozens of people peacefully milling about a downtown street corner that was a few blocks from where the police had told the crowd to leave. Officers eventually moved in and arrested everyone who was still out — sweeping up members of the Air Force who happened to be in the area and at least one journalist in the process.


Video of the mass arrest showed one officer firing pepper spray at the people being arrested, “who all appear to be on the ground and complying with police commands,” Judge Catherine D. Perry of Federal District Court wrote in her injunction.


Javad Khazaeli, a lawyer representing several of the plaintiffs, said that even though his clients were peaceful, “The police made the choice to use violence.”


But the Capitol Police on Wednesday “made the choice” not to, he said. “It couldn’t be a more perfect example for everybody to see the two different criminal justice systems we have in America.”