Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, March 31, 2021

   9 minutes 29 seconds

I've been hearing over and over again on the news—on TV and in print—the figure of "almost eight minutes." Even in Charles M. Blow's Opinion Piece this morning in the New York Times, "On Hallowed Ground," he reported "almost nine minutes" that Derik Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd's neck. But that was not true. It was nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds—not until the paramedics brought the gurney beside George's body did Chauvin finally get up. All the while the other cops stood by and threatened bystanders, including a first responder, to keep away from Chauvin—to let him continue to murder George Floyd. 

I wrote a comment to Blow's column this morning as follows:

"CORRECTION: It wasn't "nearly nine minutes." It was nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds! Let that sink in! Nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds. Not until the paramedics arrived, felt for George Floyd's non-existent pulse at his neck, Chauvin still kneeling on his neck, that finally, with the gurney beside his body, did Chauvin finally get up. By then George was dead. Chauvin made sure of that, and the other cops stood by and did NOTHING except threaten the people standing by in horror." —Bonnie Weinstein




This beautiful and powerful exhibit is ongoing 

and can be viewed online at:




Reprinted below is a short legal update from Judy Ritter and Sam Spital, the attorneys who are litigating Mumia Abu-Jamal's conviction. On March 17th, they filed a response to DA Larry Krasner's position on the issues that are being re-litigated, following Tucker's ruling to reopen all appeals filed by Mumia's attorneys between 1998 - 2012. Maureen Faulkner also filed a motion yesterday. Both filings are at the link above.

--Reprinted below is a statement released by attorneys Judith Ritter and Sam Spital on March 18, 2021:

Yesterday we filed our reply brief in Superior Court in support of Mumia’s claims in the re-opened appeals. We focused on four arguments:

(a) the Court’s jurisdiction to hear this case notwithstanding the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Reid that most petitioners seeking to re-open their cases post Williams v. Pennsylvania cannot do so because their claims are not timely;

(b) trial counsel’s ineffectiveness in failing to present evidence that Robert Chobert was on probation at the time of his trial testimony;

(c) the admissibility of Yvette Williams’s declaration reporting what Cynthia White said to hear about lying against Mumia; and

(d) racial discrimination in jury selection in violation of Batson.

Also yesterday, Maureen Faulkner sought permission, again, to intervene in the Superior Court. Essentially her argument is that the DA is not in her view raising—or at least not vigorously raising—a jurisdictional/timeliness argument, which she says reflects ongoing bias and the need for disqualification.
Questions and comments may be sent to info@freedomarchives.org







The movement to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, the most prominent political prisoner in the U.S., from the slow death of life imprisonment and the jaws of this racist and corrupt injustice system is at a critical juncture. The battle to free Mumia must be is as ferocious as it has ever been. We continue to face the unrelenting hostility to Mumia by this racist capitalist injustice system, which is intent on silencing him, by all means.


Mumia is at immediate risk of death by covid! Mumia has tested positive for covid-19. The PA Department of Corrections and officials at SCI Mahanoy at first denied this, but then needed to hospitalize Mumia. He is now in the prison infirmary. Mumia’s life is on the line. He is almost 67 years old; his immune system is compromised because of liver cirrhosis from years of untreated hepatitis-C.  It is also reported that Mumia now has congestive heart failure! 


An international campaign succeeded in getting a judicial order that Mumia was deprived of essential health care and be treated with life-saving Harvoni treatment. That has compelled the DOC to provide the medication to Mumia and other prisoners infected with hep-C. 


The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) said it best, “The refusal of health-care reminds us of the conditions we were put in under Apartheid prisons where sick detainees were allowed to die in very deplorable lonely conditions in solitary as part of the punishment for their role in the struggle.” 


We, in the Free Mumia movement, call on all to ACT NOW! Mumia must not die in prison from covid! He should be released, now!


Urgent: Email Gov. Tom Wolf, brunelle.michael@gmail.com; John Wetzel, Secretary PA Department of Corrections, jwetzel@state.pa.us and ra-crpadoc.secretary@pa.gov.


Demand: Mumia Abu-Jamal Must be Released from Prison! No State Execution by Covid! Prisoners 50 Years and Older Should also be Released from Prison to Protect them from Covid 19!


Mumia’s life was saved from legal lynching of state execution in 1995 and 1999 by the power of mass, international mobilization and protest, which included representatives of millions of unionized workers. Human and civil rights organizations, labor unions, and students won Mumia’s release from death row in 2012 and his medical treatment for deadly hep-C in 2017. Now we need to do the same to save his life from covid-19.


We also must face the latest obstacle in Mumia’s pending legal appeal.


In the prosecution Response to Mumia’s appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, filed February 3, 2021, “progressive” District Attorney Larry Krasner rubber stamps the lying, racially biased, politically motivated and corrupt conviction of Mumia for the murder of P.O. Daniel Faulkner on December 9, 1981 under hanging judge Albert Sabo who promised, “I’m going to help them fry the nigger.”


For decades Mumia fought racist and corrupt prosecutors in Pennsylvania state court and the U.S. federal court. “Progressive” Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner joined their ranks in filing the prosecution legal brief to the Pennsylvania Superior Court stating that Mumia is guilty and should remain imprisoned for life. 


There is a moment of opportunity to deepen the struggle for Mumia’s freedom.  Political consciousness about the systemic racism of the U.S. injustice system and policing has reached a high level not seen in 50 years, accelerated by the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others, and the massive protests that followed.  Mumia’s name has been injected into struggles around Black Lives Matter, the pandemic and the economic crisis. Notably, Colin Kaepernick has called for Mumia’s freedom. 


There is also a new danger. Nationally and in Philadelphia, there is a rise in the illusions of the “progressive district attorney” who will upend the entrenched repressive, racially and class-biased [in]justice system, which is integral to capitalism and rooted in the legacy of slavery.


 A new legal path to Mumia’s freedom was opened by the historic ruling in December 2018 from Philadelphia Court Judge Leon Tucker, the first Black jurist to review Mumia’s case. Judge Tucker granted Mumia the right to file a new appeal of all the evidence of judicial, prosecutorial and police misconduct that had been rejected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from 1998-2012. That evidence was proof that Mumia is factually innocent and framed and is legally entitled to dismissal of the charges against him, or at least a new trial.


“Progressive” DA Larry Krasner blocked that path with the prosecution’s legal Response to Mumia’s new appeal to the PA Superior Court on February 3, 2021. Krasner opposes Mumia getting a new trial—let alone a dismissal of the charges. And Krasner calls for the appeals court to dismiss Mumia’s appeal without even considering the facts and law. Krasner follows exactly the script of the notorious, pro-cop, racist prosecutors who preceded him, notably Edward Rendell, Lynne Abraham—called “one of America’s deadliest DAs” —and Ronald Castille, whose pro-cop, pro-prosecution, and pro-death penalty bias became the grounds opening up Mumia’s right to file this new appeal. 


The Krasner Response begins with the same lying “statement of facts” of the case that has been used since Mumia’s 1982 frame-up trial by District Attorney Edward Rendell. Krasner insists that Mumia’s appeal should be dismissed without considering the merits because it was “not timely filed.”  This makes clear the falsity of Krasner’s purported withdrawal of his objection to Mumia’s new right of appeal granted by Judge Tucker. 


Krasner also denies that the newly disclosed evidence of state misconduct—“Brady claims”—from the six hidden boxes of Mumia’s prosecution files found two years ago in a DA storeroom are “material” and grounds for a new trial. This is legal jargon for saying the evidence against Mumia at trial was so overwhelming that it wouldn’t have made a difference to the jury that convicted him of first degree murder and sentenced him to death. Krasner’s Response on the new evidence that the trial prosecutor purposely disqualified African-Americans as jurors is that the Pa Supreme Court has previously decided the jury selection process was fair and should not be re-examined. 


As District Attorney, Krasner had the legal authority and responsibility to review Mumia’s case and, as constitutionally warranted, to support overturning Mumia’s conviction because of due process violations and state misconduct. Those due process violations included: 

*trial and post-conviction judge Sabo was biased and racist

*African-Americans were excluded from juries as a policy and practice of the Philadelphia DA’s office

*police and prosecutorial misconduct in presenting false witness testimony that Mumia shot Faulkner, a fabricated confession and a manufactured scenario of Mumia shooting PO Faulkner which is disproved by ballistics, medical, and other forensic evidence, including photographs of the crime scene; and

*the suppression of witnesses who swore that Mumia did not shoot PO Faulkner, that a shooter ran away and the confession to fatally shooting Faulkner. 

But “progressive” DA Krasner argued these factors should not even be considered. 


DA Krasner’s Response brief ends with: “For the foregoing reasons, including those set forth in the PCRA court’s opinions, the Commonwealth respectfully requests that this Court affirm the orders denying post-conviction relief.” This means District Attorney Krasner approved all previous court denials of Mumia’s challenges to his convictions made from 1995-2012, including those of Judge Sabo. 


This Response is the definitive, final statement of District Attorney Larry Krasner to the Superior and Supreme Courts of Pennsylvania. And should Mumia’s case return to the U.S. federal courts, this would remain the prosecution position: that Mumia is guilty and there are no legal or factual reasons to re-consider his conviction. 


Once there has been a conviction and sentence, the District Attorney does not have unilateral authority or power to reverse a criminal conviction, order a new trial or dismiss the original charges. That decision rests the post-conviction review judge or appeals court.


The District Attorney does have enormous authority and credibility to argue to the courts that a case should be reversed, a new trial granted or charges dismissed. The opinion of the district attorney’s office is a persuasive authority to the reviewing court.  And it was that process which resulted in overturning the convictions of 18 imprisoned men during the past three years. Those publicized reversals as well as Krasner’s promises of criminal justice reform; his “no objection” to releasing on parole the surviving, imprisoned MOVE 9 men and woman; his partial ban of cash bail and de-escalation of arrests for minor, non-violent offenses, and his record as a civil rights lawyer gave him credentials as a “progressive DA”.


Krasner’s Response to Mumia’s appeal is an undeniable legal blow and has most likely blocked the judicial path to Mumia’s freedom. 


To any who held out hope that Krasner would “do the right thing”, Krasner has never given any indication that he questioned Mumia’s conviction, even when—after protest and pressure—he agreed not to oppose the appeal process.  


 In fact, “progressive DA” Krasner was explicit when questioned during the proceedings brought by Maureen Faulkner to have him removed from Mumia’s case on grounds he was biased in favor of Mumia. Krasner was allowed to continue prosecuting Mumia in the Supreme Court ruling on December 16, 2020.  During those proceedings, Larry Krasner assured the investigating judge that, “in my opinion based upon all the facts in law [sic] that I have is that he [Abu-Jamal] is guilty.”  Further, the investigating judge found all prosecutors involved, including DA Krasner, stated, “it is their intention to defend the conviction, and that they are aware of no evidence that would support or justify a decision to the contrary or to concede any PCRA relief.”  


It is precisely because Larry Krasner has a profile and reputation as “a progressive DA,” and faces hostility from the Fraternal Order of Police, and supporters of racist “law and order” who will be supporting anti-Krasner candidates in this year’s DA election that his total rejection of Mumia’s claim is so damaging. 


The rejection of Mumia’s appeals by this “progressive DA” is not just equal to those of prior DAs but is more damaging. The position of the “progressive DA” in opposition to Mumia’s appeal provides additional rationale and justification for the appeals courts to reject Mumia’s appeals.


Krasner must be uncompromisingly exposed and denounced as not different from Judge Sabo and prior prosecutors.  Mumia’s prosecution, his conviction, death sentence and appeal denials are an indictment of the entire racist capitalist injustice system. Opening up Mumia’s case exposes the racism, rot, corruption, brutality and fundamental injustice of the whole system. “Progressive” district attorney Larry Krasner would not and cannot go down that road and keep favor with the elements of the ruling class that seek to provide a “progressive” cover to delay and distract those who fight not only for Mumia, but for justice for all.


What is to be done to free Mumia? Continue to mobilize protest action demanding the Department of Corrections and Governor immediately release Mumia – along with prisoners 50 years and older to stop death by covid. In Pennsylvania the governor has the executive power to commute sentences and release prisoners who are serving life without parole. 


We must expand the international campaign for Mumia’s freedom, centered on the understanding that Mumia is factually innocent and framed, that he never should have been arrested and prosecuted for a murder the state knows he did not commit. International mobilization has been critical to our prior limited victories. Now more than ever, we need to grow in strength and numbers Mumia’s defenders, including labor, Black Lives Matter, human rights and civil rights organizations, and left organizations in rallies and mass demonstrations. 


Rachel Wolkenstein (former attorney for Mumia Abu-Jamal);  and for the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal <laboractionmumia.org>: Jack Heyman (International Longshore and   Warehouse Union-retired), Bob Mandel (Oakland Education Association-retired, member of Adult School Teachers United), Carole Seligman (Co-editor of Socialist Viewpoint)


March 5, 2021

Call the Superintendent of Mumia's Prison and demand he be taken to the hospital for treatment for COVID-19. It is not okay that they merely test him (they had not as
of Fri. night), the results will take days to come back and he is experiencing chest pains & breathing problems now--and COVID requires quick medical care to avoid death. 

Bernadette Mason, Superintendent
SCI Mahanoy
301 Morea Road
Frackville, PA 17932
(570) 773-2158

It Is Now Freedom or Death For Mumia!


BRO. ZAYID MUHAMMAD - March 11, 2021




I’m going help them fry the nigger...” Judge Albert Sabo


“There comes a time when silence is betrayal...” Martin Luther King, Jr.


Imagine all NNPA Black newspapers, for example, carrying regularly featured articles as a matter of priority on all of the evidence suppressed in Mumia’s case.


Imagine Black clergy rallying at major news sites condemning the white-out and/or the demonization of Mumia through their media entities.


Imagine Black elected officials from Philadelphia and from all over the country rallying to denounce the continued ordeal of this man.


Imagine surviving ’60s icons conducting civil disobedience at the governor’s office and the DA’s office in Philadelphia with an eager throng of two generations of action-hungry activists looking to bumrush it, en masse if it didn’t yield results.


Even though Mumia has survived two execution dates, 30 years on death row and several recent dangerous medical challenges, thankfully with the force of a multiracial international campaign at his back and our ancestors, this hasn’t happened yet.


It’s time to ask ‘why?’


As this goes to press, Mumia is in a prison infirmary dangling on a tightrope of both COVID-19 and congestive heart failure, a most deadly medical cocktail!


COVID-19 is most dangerous when it attacks the lungs, creates fluid in the lungs and then triggers fatal blood clots. Congestive heart failure, similarly speaking, creates fluid in the lungs, weakens the heart muscle and the kidneys. These two together are extremely deadly.


Not to mention Mumia’s Hep-C weakened liver and skin. Remember that?


Mumia needs to be hospitalized at minimum and truly needs to be released!


If ever there was a time to step forward for Mumia, it is now!


The most tragic dimensions surrounding Mumia’s current ordeal is that there is now so much ample evidence of his innocence, so much ample evidence of both prosecutorial and judicial misconduct to free him if he can just be allowed to get it in on an appeal and that evidence on the court record. In spite of Mumia clearly being on the verge of objectively vindicating himself, he can tragically die in prison if not enough of us turn it up now!


Wait! What about Philly’s highly prized progressive DA Larry Krasner? Hasn’t he moved to overturn more than a dozen bad convictions rooted in deep-seated Philly racism and corruption? Yes, but not for Mumia.


Even though his office ‘found’ six boxes of missing evidence in his case, which includes a letter from a star prosecution witness Robert Chobert seeking payment for his testimony, reeking of prosecutorial misconduct and granting Mumia a new trial, Krasner, up for re-election, went into court last month and said that no new appellate relief for Mumia ought to be granted because his trial and conviction were sound. From Judge Sabo vowing to help ‘fry the nigger,’ to suppressed eyewitness testimony that was not paid for by anyone totally contradicting Chobert’s, to the illegal exclusion of Black jurors from the trial, to Sabo having Veronica Jones arrested on the stand for telling the truth on how she was coerced to testify against Mumia, to their being clear evidence of another person being the actual killer of Officer Daniel Faulkner and a whole lot more, Krasner showed his true ‘white’ color and is now seeking to block Mumia’s real chance at justice and freedom at a time when it can genuinely cost him his life.


The time is now to turn it up and free this incredible human being who has become a breathing living gracious symbol of human solidarity like few others in the last several decades.


Let us all press Pennsylvania’s other liberal ‘fox’ Gov. Tom Wolf to have Mumia and all aging prisoners who pose no risk to society released to help address this insidious pandemic. Over 100 people have died from COVID-19 in Pennsylvania prisons. All over 50 and with preexisting conditions.


Let’s press Mumia’s overseers John Wetzel head of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and Bernadette Mason superintendent of Mahanoy Prison to get Mumia properly hospitalized.


Press DA Krasner to address his now dangerous wrong and go back into court and encourage a conviction reversal and a new trial for Mumia as he has done for others.


The time is now!


Seize The Time!


Free Mumia Abu Jamal!


Gov. Tom Wolf 717-787-2500


Sec’y Dept of Corrections John Wetzel 717-728-2573


Supt of Mahanoy Corrections Institution Bernadette Mason 570-773-2158


DA Larry Krasner 267-456-1000


To support Mumia locally 212 -330-8029


In Philadelphia, 215-724-1618


Zayid Muhammad is a jazz poet, stage actor and well-known “cub” of the N.Y. chapter of the Black Panther Party.


Questions and comments may be sent to info@freedomarchives.org


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



Pass COVID Protection and Debt Relief


Stop the Eviction Cliff! 

Forgive Rent and Mortgage Debt!

Sign the Petition:




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. [1]


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.




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!


In solidarity,


Sasha Graham

[1] https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-01-12/new-report-foresees-tens-of-thousands-losing-homes-by-2023

ACCE Action




Tell the New U.S. Administration - End 

Economic Sanctions in the Face of the Global

 COVID-19 Pandemic

Take action and sign the petition - click here!



To: President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and all Members of the U.S. Congress:  


We write to you because we are deeply concerned about the impact of U.S. sanctions on many countries that are suffering the dire consequences of COVID-19.


The global COVID-19 pandemic and global economic crash challenge all humanity. Scientific and technological cooperation and global solidarity are desperate needs. Instead, the Trump Administration escalated economic warfare (“sanctions”) against many countries around the globe.


We ask you to begin a new era in U.S. relations with the world by lifting all U.S. economic sanctions.


U.S. economic sanctions impact one-third of the world’s population in 39 countries.


These sanctions block shipments and purchases of essential medicines, testing equipment, PPE, vaccines and even basic food.  Sanctions also cause chronic shortages of basic necessities, economic dislocation, chaotic hyperinflation, artificial famines, disease, and poverty, leading to tens of thousands of deaths. It is always the poorest and the weakest – infants, children, the chronically ill and the elderly – who suffer the worst impact of sanctions.  


Sanctions are illegal. They are a violation of international law and the United Nations Charter. They are a crime against humanity used, like military intervention, to topple popular governments and movements.


The United States uses its military and economic dominance to pressure governments, institutions and corporations to end all normal trade relations with targeted nations, lest they risk asset seizures and even military action.


The first step toward change must be an end to the U.S.’ policies of economic war. We urge you to end these illegal sanctions on all countries immediately and to reset the U.S.’ relations with the world.

Add your name - Click here to sign the petition:




A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Video at:


Screen shot from video.




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) In Montana, Bears and Wolves Become Part of the Culture Wars

The politics of predators seem poised to enter a new chapter in the state, which now seems intent on reviving some of the practices of a century ago that virtually exterminated wolves from Montana.

By Jim Robbins, Published March 28, 2021, Updated March 29, 2021


Wildlife scientists say the bills, which would affect gray wolves and grizzly bears, “are harmful to wildlife, harmful to the image of hunters, contrary to science and wrong for Montana.”

Wildlife scientists say the bills, which would affect gray wolves and grizzly bears, “are harmful to wildlife, harmful to the image of hunters, contrary to science and wrong for Montana.” Credit...Dennis Fast/VWPics/Universal Images Group, via Getty Images

A grizzly bear in northwestern Montana.

A grizzly bear in northwestern Montana. Credit...Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, via Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. — In addition to its spectacular landscape of mountains, rivers and prairie, Montana, the third least populous state in the country, has long been known for something else — wildlife policies that have protected animals of all sorts, including ones like grizzly bears and gray wolves that are often seen as threats to humans and to farming and ranching.


The state’s abundance and variety of wildlife has been a selling point for tourism, a source of pride to many Montanans and something that has set it apart from its less ecologically minded neighbors in the Mountain West. Even as its neighboring states of Idaho and Wyoming have aggressively reduced their wolf population, for example, Montana has managed its numbers largely through hunting seasons and targeted lethal control actions by wildlife biologists.


Now, with its first Republican governor in 16 years, Greg Gianforte, and a solidly Republican legislature, the politics of predators seem poised to enter a new chapter. In the West these days, predators are very much part of the culture wars, and the state now seems intent on reviving some of the practices of a century ago that virtually exterminated wolves from Montana.


Several bills are headed to Mr. Gianforte’s desk that would allow for more killing of wolves in the state to drive down their numbers. Practices that are being proposed include the use of spotlights at night, which is considered unethical because it temporarily blinds the animal; hunting animals by luring them with bait like wild game or commercial scents; night vision scopes and widening use of neck snares that catch and choke animals to death. Other controversial predator proposals allow hunting black bears with hounds, a practice outlawed a century ago, and placing limits on where wandering grizzlies can be moved, which conservationists say could lead to more bear deaths.


Proponents of the changes say the state is overwhelmed by the presence of too many predators, and their numbers urgently need to be reduced. At a hearing, State Senator Bob Brown, a Republican who introduced one of the bills, said many of his constituents felt they had “no voice,” and that game, in particular elk and deer, that they depended on to fill their freezers was being eliminated by wolves instead.


“We can’t sit by and allow our game — the thing that feeds so many families — to be taken off the table,” he said.


Critics say the state is embarking on a wholesale war on wildlife that is based on little more than emotion and supposition, and rejecting decades worth of management lessons.


“It’s bar talk replacing biology,” said Ed Bangs, a wildlife biologist who is now retired and used to lead the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wolf recovery project. He also led the effort in the mid-1990s to bring the first wolves to Yellowstone National Park after a half century’s absence. “People are saying it seems like there are fewer elk and deer, so it must be the wolves,” he said. “I believe in professionalism and vetting with science; this is based on bar talk.”


Mr. Bangs is one of more than 50 wildlife biologists who have signed a letter calling on Republican officials to reject the legislation. The bills have passed, or are near passing, both houses of the Legislature and are awaiting a decision by the governor.


Experts say these changes, if they occur, probably would not cause a crash in the number of wolves and grizzlies to the point where their existence is seriously threatened. Instead, in their letter, the wildlife scientists say the bills “are harmful to wildlife, harmful to the image of hunters, contrary to science and wrong for Montana.”


“This is an all-out war on wolves,” said Nick Gevock, the conservation director for the Montana Wildlife Federation. “We support ethical fair chase hunting of wolves. This is going way overboard. It’s a 19th-century approach.”


The result is a dispute over wildlife management suffused with contemporary politics with Mr. Gianforte at the center of it. In February, he was the subject of controversy when he trapped and shot a black, radio-collared wolf known as 1155 that had come north onto a private ranch from nearby Yellowstone National Park. The wolf wore a collar as part of a study of wolves at Yellowstone.


While trapping and even shooting a collared wolf outside the park is legal in Montana, the governor had neglected to take a required three hour wolf trapping certification course that teaches hunters to trap and hunt wolves “ethically, humanely and lawfully.”


Mr. Gianforte said at a news conference he had been trapping wolves since he was a “tot” and called his violation of the law an oversight. He said he was issued a warning letter and had since taken the course.


Mr. Gianforte, a hard-line Republican first came to national prominence in 2017 when he body slammed a reporter for The Guardian after taking offense at answering questions about his race for Congress. He won the House seat and later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge. But indications seem to point to him possibly gaining politically from a firm stance against predators in a state where anger over the perceived overabundance of wolves and bears runs deep, and one that overwhelmingly supported Donald J. Trump in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.


The return of the wolf and grizzly bear to the northern Rockies are two success stories that came out of the Endangered Species Act. In 1975, when grizzly bears were listed as endangered species, there were from 100 to 200 of them, mostly in Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. Their numbers are now estimated at about 1,800 in the Lower 48 states. The grizzlies were able to make that comeback largely because hunting was ended, trash was carefully managed and there was an effective crackdown on poachers.


Outside Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, grizzly bears roam mainly in wilderness areas of the state, though they are expanding into more populated areas where they are increasingly vulnerable to being hit by cars, shot by hunters, and killed or removed by biologists because of conflicts with humans. And bears and wolves pose a real threat to livestock and to humans. Every year, hikers or hunters are attacked by bears, and in many parts of the state anyone hiking is cautioned to be “bear aware” and carry a pepper-based spray for protection.


The debate over protecting endangered species, particularly predators, has long roiled Montana, pitting liberal urban areas in the state and across the country against rural ranchers who are increasingly concerned about their livestock being killed or hunters who think game animals are in decline. Until now, a measured approach — which includes some hunting of wolves and intervention by the state when grizzlies get into someone’s beehive or chicken coop — along with lots of protection have prevailed. But with wildlife management increasingly part of the culture wars, antagonism toward widening federal control and Republican control of the state, the balance has shifted, conservationists say.


The new bills approach management of bears and wolves in various ways. One of the new bills would pay wolf hunters their expenses — in effect, critics say, a bounty — to kill the animals. Another bill would allow for snaring animals with a metal aircraft cable fashioned into a noose that would hang over a trail. When the animal gets its head caught in one, it grows tighter as the animal tries to flee, until it is strangled to death. Snares can be used for coyotes in Montana but not wolves.


A major problem with snares is that they also kill species that are not the target, such as moose, elk, deer and even pet dogs. “Snares are cheap,” Mr. Bangs said. “It isn’t unusual for a trapper to set out 100. And you catch all kinds of stuff.” Snares that were set for coyotes, for example, inadvertently killed 28 mountain lions from 2015 to 2020, Mr. Gevock said.


Another bill would extend the wolf trapping and snaring season. Wildlife experts say the extended season would overlap with the period that grizzly bears and black bears are out of their dens and could be inadvertently trapped. Another would reinstate hunting black bears with dogs and prevent Montana wildlife officials from relocating any grizzly bears captured outside recovery zones. Most recovery zone habitat are occupied, which means many grizzlies would most likely have to be euthanized.


In their letter, the wildlife professionals wrote that the bill would reverse 40 years of policy “and result in the unnecessary death of many grizzly bears.” They also said that the bill would prevent grizzly bears from being removed from their endangered species status.


Supporters of the bills say bringing down the wolf population is essential. State Representative Paul Fielder, a Republican and a retired wildlife biologist and trapper who introduced two of the bills, said there were about 1,200 wolves in the state, according to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Because of their recovery, wolves are no longer protected by the Endangered Species Act. Federal law requires that Montana has 15 breeding pairs, which, according to Mr. Fielder, is about 300 wolves.


“We have four times the number of wolves the Montana management plan requires,” he said when the bill was introduced.


The state already allows hunters to kill about 300 to 350 wolves a year.


Increasingly, the arguments are being couched in the language of national politics.


Steve Daines, the state’s senior U.S. senator and a Republican, this week became one of five senators who introduced legislation to take the grizzly bear off the endangered species list. “Wildlife management must be determined by science, not by activist judges,” he said. “Montana’s state leaders know what’s best for our communities, public safety, the ecosystem, wildlife and the bear itself.”


Mr. Gianforte has not yet said whether he will sign the bills. A spokeswoman for the governor would only say he “would carefully review any bill that the legislature sends to his desk.”


But Representative Tom France, a Democrat and retired regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation, said whatever emerges in Montana would almost certainly echo the partisan split of national politics.


“The return of the grizzly bears and wolves were remarkable success stories in the state and federal partnerships — this is a rejection of that,” he said. “There’s a political sentiment here.”


The State Legislature is saying “We don’t live by federal laws and aren’t going to pay attention to them,” he added. “Montana is not excused from the polarization that typifies the nation.”



2) ‘No Place for a Child’: Inside the Tent Camp Housing Thousands of Migrant Children

Children are sleeping shoulder to shoulder in the overcrowded facility at Donna, Texas, which is now housing more than 4,000 migrants amid a new surge on the border.

By Miriam Jordan, March 30, 2021

More than 4,100 migrant children and families were packed on Tuesday into a Texas border facility designed for 250 people.
More than 4,100 migrant children and families were packed on Tuesday into a Texas border facility designed for 250 people. Credit...Pool photo by Dario Lopez-Mills

Young children were being cared for by older siblings in a playpen area in the border processing facility in Donna, Texas.
Young children were being cared for by older siblings in a playpen area in the border processing facility in Donna, Texas. Credit...Pool photo by Dario Lopez-Mills

Migrant children and families are sleeping shoulder to shoulder on mats in a Texas border facility designed for 250 people that is now holding more than 4,100, according to some of the first photographs to emerge from the crowded camp that has become a focal point of the Biden administration’s struggles to absorb thousands of new arrivals on the southwestern border.


Young children were being cared for by older siblings in a playpen area in the border processing facility at Donna, Texas, where a small group of reporters were allowed to enter for the first time on Tuesday to observe conditions at the camp, which U.S. officials admit has been overwhelmed by the growing numbers in recent weeks.


“As I have said repeatedly, a Border Patrol facility is no place for a child,” Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, said in a statement. He said border agents were “working around the clock” to move migrant children out of overcrowded border facilities like the one in Donna and into government shelters before they were placed with family members or other sponsors.


Oscar Escamilla, the acting executive officer of the U.S. Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley, said “it would be better for everybody” if there were room to move the migrant children into government shelters.


“I’m a Border Patrol agent. I didn’t sign up for this,” Mr. Escamilla said as he looked at some of the younger children, many of them under 12, being housed at the facility.


He said the youngest children were sleeping in playpens, rather than in the large pods where older children were stretched out on mats.


“It’s so crowded in those pods that I can’t possibly put these young kids in those pods because they’re going to get hurt,” he said.


In one case, a 17-year-old migrant was caring for a newborn.


The tent structure at Donna was erected to help alleviate pressure on Border Patrol stations, where migrants must be processed before being released or transferred to other facilities. But new photos taken by Associated Press reporters and a camera crew allowed to enter on Tuesday painted a grim picture of conditions that were likely to worsen during a surge that shows no signs of abating.


Children, jammed hundreds to a single pod intended for fewer than 50, were lying down shoulder to shoulder across the 3,200-square-foot space, crumpled aluminum blankets covering some of them. Many of the pods held more than 500 children. In a playpen area, a 3-year-old girl was being tended to by her brother, 11.


About 3,300 of the migrants being housed at the soft-sided structure are children who have crossed the border without parents or other guardians in recent months. While most arrive with the name and telephone number of a family member whom they hope to join, U.S. authorities must process them at the border and then send them to a government shelter.


Transfers from the border are not keeping up with the pace of arrivals — children have been entering the country at the rate of 500 a day — which two shelter operators this week said was without any recent precedent.


In February alone, more than 9,400 minors, ranging from young children to teenagers, arrived without parents, a nearly threefold increase over the same period last year.


The Biden administration has established temporary facilities for the young migrants at convention centers in San Diego and Dallas, a coliseum and expo center in San Antonio, a former oil camp in Midland, Texas, and at Fort Bliss, Texas.


But it is still failing to quickly transfer the minors to the shelters, which are supposed to come with education programming and recreational space, unlike the sites managed by the Border Patrol.


More than 4,000 minors were stuck in such detention facilities for more than the maximum of 72 hours allowed under federal law, according to internal government documents.


The United States currently has more than 17,600 beds for the minors in tent camps, emergency facilities and shelters, according to the internal documents. The administration is projecting it will need more than 35,500 beds by the end of May.


Additional facilities to shelter the minors are being scouted, including a Crowne Plaza hotel in Dallas, a convention center in Orange County, Fla., and a church hall in Houston.


The shelter system, which normally has a 14,000-bed capacity, has been struggling to expand after the coronavirus pandemic limited how many children it could house. The administration is releasing roughly 250 minors a day to sponsors, organizations and foster homes, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.


There are more than 12,000 migrant children presently in government shelters. Another 5,160 are stranded in Border Patrol processing facilities like the one at Donna because there are not enough vacant beds to accommodate them all, and children already in roomier shelters operated by the Department of Health and Human Services are not being released quickly enough to make room for hundreds more crossing the border every day.


They are released from government custody after a guardian provides dozens of pages of documents and is screened, to ensure that the children are not being trafficked and will be safe.


“There’s a pull factor. They know that we’re releasing them,” Mr. Escamilla told reporters in Donna. “They know that right now there’s nothing stopping them. We’re not going to deport them back to their country so they keep coming.”


He said that 250 to 300 children were entering the Donna facility each day — and far fewer were departing. The remainder of the migrants housed at the camp — a total of about 700 — are adults and children traveling together as families.


The children are not tested for the coronavirus by the Border Patrol unless they exhibit symptoms. Mr. Escamilla said that 14 percent of the children had tested positive when they were later transferred to shelters.


The tent facility at Donna, erected in February, is the biggest emergency processing center on the border. Mr. Escamilla said it was costing $16 million a month to run, not including medical care and personnel contracts.


Nurses were on hand to perform physical and mental health assessments. They checked the children for lice, scabies and fever and asked if they had suicidal thoughts. The children were fitted with bracelets with a bar code that kept track of when they had showered and any medical conditions.


As part of the processing, children age 14 and older were fingerprinted. During the intake process, Border Patrol agents issued them notices to appear in court, where they will be considered for deportation or asylum.


More than 2,000 of the children have been held for more than 72 hours, according to Mr. Escamilla, in violation of the law.


On average, he said, the minors were spending 133 hours in the facility before being transferred to a shelter. Among them, 39 had been there for at least 15 days. One child had been in the tent center 20 days.


Finding suitable housing has been a challenge for previous administrations as well. The Obama administration struggled to house thousands of children and families who began crossing the border in large numbers in 2013, and the Trump administration was criticized for processing families under a road overpass and placing migrant children in a filthy, overcrowded facility in Clint, Texas.


Amy Cohen, a psychiatrist who works with migrant children and families, said the photographs from Donna were reminiscent of those depicting conditions in Clint, which drew widespread condemnation from physician and child-welfare groups.


“The conditions are antithetical to the well-being of children, particularly vulnerable minors,” said Dr. Cohen, who runs an organization called Every Last One that assists migrants.


Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.



3) ‘It Wasn’t Right’: Young Witnesses Offer Emotional Testimony in Chauvin Trial

On the second day of Derek Chauvin’s trial, eyewitnesses painted a harrowing and consistent picture of what they saw during the fatal arrest of George Floyd.

By John Eligon, Tim Arango and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Published March 30, 2021, Updated March 31, 2021


An image from a video taken from a police body camera released by the Minneapolis Police Department shows bystanders filming the arrest that led to Mr. Floyd’s death.

An image from a video taken from a police body camera released by the Minneapolis Police Department shows bystanders filming the arrest that led to Mr. Floyd’s death. Credit...Minneapolis Police Department, via Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — She was the teenager whose video of George Floyd’s final moments rippled across the globe. And in a courtroom on Tuesday, Darnella Frazier, now 18, shared her story publicly for the first time, testifying that she remained haunted by Mr. Floyd’s cries for help as she watched a police officer kneel on his neck.


Ms. Frazier, at times crying, spoke softly during emotional testimony on the second day of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former officer facing murder charges. As her voice cracked, Ms. Frazier described how what she witnessed that day last May had changed her life. She sometimes lies awake at night, she said, “apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life.”


“When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad,” she added. “I look at my brothers. I look at my cousins, my uncles because they are all Black. I have a Black father. I have a Black brother. I have Black friends. And I look at that, and I look at how that could have been one of them.”


Ms. Frazier was among a diverse group of bystanders who by accident became eyewitnesses to one of the most high-profile police brutality cases of recent decades. They were Black and white. There was a firefighter, high school students and a mixed martial artist.


Their stories were an expression of the trauma of a city that is still struggling to rebuild physically and emotionally from last summer’s unrest.


Most of Tuesday’s witnesses were children and teenagers at the time of the fatal arrest, and they painted a harrowing, consistent picture of what transpired at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in South Minneapolis. They all said they have struggled with what they saw.


“It seemed like he knew it was over for him,” Ms. Frazier said in her testimony, referring to Mr. Floyd. “He was terrified. He was suffering. This was a cry for help, definitely.”


The bystanders offered accounts of converging outside of a convenience store for the most mundane of reasons — getting a phone cord, buying snacks, taking a walk — only to end up becoming central players in a drama that would grip much of the country.


They urged the police to render aid to Mr. Floyd to no avail. They excoriated Mr. Chauvin and the three other officers on the scene, and said they felt scared that the police would harm them, including in one instance when Mr. Chauvin put his hand on his mace.


The defense has said that the crowd influenced the way the police responded after arriving on the scene. It has become a crucial point of contention between the prosecution and the defense.


Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer said that the officers felt threatened at what they saw as a growing and increasingly hostile crowd, which diverted their attention from caring for Mr. Floyd. The prosecution has attempted to portray the bystanders as ordinary people who were scared and presented no danger to the officers.


Those different views reflect longstanding tensions between Black residents in Minneapolis and the police who patrol their neighborhoods.


Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric J. Nelson, did little to press most of the young witnesses or challenge their accounts.


Ms. Frazier’s 9-year-old cousin, who was with her outside the convenience store, Cup Foods, testified to the trauma of seeing Mr. Floyd struggle as Mr. Chauvin knelt on his neck.


“I was sad and kind of mad,” said the young girl, Judeah Reynolds, who, like the other minors who testified, was not shown on camera during her testimony. “It felt like he was stopping his breathing and it was kind of like hurting him.”


Ms. Frazier, who was 17 at the time of Mr. Floyd’s death, testified that she and her cousin were going to a store she had been to many times before to buy snacks. Surveillance video showed what looked like a casual stroll, with the cousins smiling at each other as they approached the entrance to Cup Foods. Ms. Frazier wore a hoodie over her head and comfortable blue pants, while her cousin, petite with a poof of hair, wore a teal T-shirt that said “Love.”


When she saw officers pinning Mr. Floyd, Ms. Frazier said, she ushered her cousin into the store and then came back out. She pulled out her phone and tapped record, creating a roughly 10-minute clip that she would later post on Facebook.


She recorded what was happening because “it wasn’t right,” said Ms. Frazier, who sat in the witness box wearing a blue pantsuit and allowed her tears to flow at times. Like her, most of the six eyewitnesses who testified on Tuesday described feelings of helplessness and anger.


If they felt like they were unable to do anything for Mr. Floyd as he was pinned to the street last year, several of the witnesses suggested that this was their chance to do something for him.


“I just want the truth to come out,” said Kaylynn Ashley Gilbert, a 17-year-old high school senior, who had stopped by Cup Foods to buy snacks and a cellphone cord with a friend, and became distressed by what she saw happening to Mr. Floyd.


Genevieve Hansen, 27, had visited a community garden on her day off and was walking home when she saw emergency lights down the block. A firefighter and emergency medical technician, she said she went to see if any of her colleagues were there. She came upon a scene that quickly worried her, with Mr. Floyd going limp on the pavement and a woman screaming that the officers were killing him.


She told the officers that they needed to check his pulse but they shooed her away, she testified.


“I was desperate to help,” she said, dabbing her eyes with a tissue at times during her testimony. “I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities, and this human was denied that right.”


Donald Williams, 33, a mixed martial arts fighter, went to Cup Foods that day to buy a drink and clear his head after going fishing with friends and his son. He remembered becoming a bit disturbed when he saw the life being sucked out of a fish they had caught and placed in a plastic bag, he said.


He was drawn to the commotion by the police car, and quickly became upset when he saw Mr. Chauvin’s knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck. It appeared to be a blood choke, he testified, referring to having seen the hold render people unconscious as a fighter. He grew so frustrated at the officers that he began yelling obscenities at them.


Mr. Williams then took a highly unusual step: He called the police on the police.


“I believe I witnessed a murder,” he told a 911 operator, according to a recording of a call he placed that evening that was played in court. On the witness stand, Mr. Williams wiped his eyes as the recording played.


The operator asked Mr. Williams if he wanted to speak with a sergeant. Yes, he told her.


“That was bogus what they just did to this man,” he told her. “He was unresponsive. He wasn’t resisting arrest.”


On the 911 recording, Mr. Williams could then be heard addressing the officers: “Y’all murderers, bro!”


One of the prosecutors asked Mr. Williams why he called 911.


“I just felt like that was the right thing to do,” he replied. “I didn’t know what else to do.”


In cross-examining Mr. Williams, Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer pressed him on his attitude toward the officers. The lawyer, Mr. Nelson, repeated several vulgar statements that Mr. Williams had made to the officers, and repeatedly asked if he had been growing in anger that evening. A seemingly agitated Mr. Williams pushed back.


“I grew professional and professional,” he said. “I stayed in my body. You can’t paint me out to be angry.”


Ms. Hansen, too, seemed to take exception to Mr. Nelson’s effort to portray the bystanders as an angry mob. During a very testy exchange, Mr. Nelson asked Ms. Hansen if she would describe people as upset or angry.


“I don’t know if you’ve seen anybody be killed, but it’s upsetting,” she responded, earning an admonition from the judge.


John Eligon and Tim Arango reported from Minneapolis, and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs from New York. Marie Fazio contributed reporting from Jacksonville, Fla.



4) Grand jury refuses to indict parolee Jalil Muntaqim on voter fraud charges

David Andreatta, March 30, 2021


A Monroe County grand jury has declined to indict a controversial parolee who was facing felony charges for registering to vote illegally that could have sent him back to prison.


The parolee, Jalil Muntaqim, was imprisoned under his given name, Anthony Bottom, for nearly 50 years for his role in the murder of two New York City police officers in 1971 before his release in October.


The Monroe County Public Defender’s Office confirmed Tuesday that the grand jury last week “no-billed” Muntaqim’s case, meaning the jury declined to indict. The case is now sealed.


"I think a no-bill was the right outcome in this case," said his public defender, Jaquelyn Grippe. "Mr. Muntaqim is a truly inspirational person and I can say that it was my privilege to get to know him through this process."


Originally from San Francisco, Muntaqim, 69, settled in Brighton with a friend upon his release.


A day after being set free, however, Muntaqim filled out paperwork given to him by the county Department of Human Services, which helps former prisoner’s acclimate to civilian life. The packet included a voter registration form, despite Muntaqim not being eligible to vote.


Prosecutors alleged that when Muntaqim filed his voter registration form with the county Board of Elections, he committed two felonies — tampering with public records and offering a false instrument for filing. He was also charged with providing a false affidavit, a misdemeanor.


The Board of Elections subsequently rejected his registration, and the former chair of the county Republican party, William Napier, seized on the matter as a question of voter fraud.


District Attorney Sandra Doorley has said that the charges against Muntaqim were about answering  allegations of voter fraud in the weeks before the election and that the case seemed straightforward.


“Is it a major thing?” she asked of the charges. “No.”


If convicted on the charges, Muntaqim's parole status would have required him to return to prison.


Muntaqim enjoyed much public support from family, friends, and Rochester’s activist community, who echoed the argument of his public defender that Muntaqim did not realize he was not eligible to vote.


Parolees are not allowed to vote in New York upon release from prison without receiving a conditional pardon to restoring voting rights from the governor.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued such pardons as a matter of course on a monthly basis since 2018, when he signed an executive order directing the corrections commissioner to submit to him each month a list of every felon newly eligible for parole, with each name to be “given consideration for a conditional pardon that will restore voting rights.”


Most parolees receive their pardon, which does not expunge their criminal record, within four to six weeks of their release. Cuomo denied Muntaqim a voting pardon in November, however, after news reports of Muntaqim's predicament.


A national movement to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people is gaining steam, and Muntaqim's case became a rallying cry for advocates.


"I certainly hope that legislation is passed in the future that expands on Gov. Cuomo's executive order allowing parolees the basic right to vote," Grippe said.


Twenty states allow parolees to to vote upon their release, according to the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group for criminal justice reform.


The concept of disenfranchising felons dates to colonial days, when certain criminals were striped of rights in a practice known as "civil death." Later Americans applied a racist twist to the practice after the Civil War, when many states used it to deprive Black men of the vote they had recently gained.


Today, the impact of these laws still falls disproportionately on poor people of color.


The Supreme Court interprets the Constitution in such a way that upholds these restrictions.


David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at dandreatta@rochester-citynews.com.



5) Boris Johnson’s Government Is Built on Cruelty

Determined to make good on the nativist promise of Brexit, it has embraced anti-migrant authoritarianism.

By Maya Goodfellow, April 1, 2021

Illustration by The New York Times; photographs by Getty Images

LONDON — Last week, as Britain focused on its gradual emergence from lockdown, the home secretary, Priti Patel, laid out the government’s “New Plan for Immigration.”


The details were deeply sinister. Only those coming through resettlement schemes, who amount to less than 1 percent of refugees globally, would be welcomed. Everybody else, forced to take life-threateningly dangerous journeys, would be branded “illegal” and aggressively penalized. They would be blocked from key state support, given diminished family reunion rights and be permanently liable for removal, even if granted asylum.


These drastic proposals — which some suggest could contravene the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention — have been months in the making. Last year, Ms. Patel reportedly raised the possibility of sending asylum seekers to islands in the south Atlantic and considered deploying the Navy to prevent people from reaching Britain’s shores. Her plan, inhumane and wrongheaded, exemplifies how the British government treats migrants and refugees.


But such cruelty goes further than the asylum process. Since Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government took office in December 2019, promising to “Get Brexit Done,” it has sought to institute a harsher, more punitive system of immigration and border control. In the name of British sovereignty, it has suffused its rule with anti-migrant authoritarianism.


Since its election, the government has touted its intent to remake the immigration system. On Jan. 1, its new points-based system came into effect. For all the talk of reform, in many ways the new rules extend the unjust treatment long suffered by non-European Union migrants — subject to outrageously high immigration fees, denied access to basic state support and forced to pay every year to use the National Health Service — to those coming from the E.U. (Before Britain’s exit from the E.U., people from the bloc could enter and settle in Britain with relative freedom.)


But the system introduces new features, like handing out “points” that applicants must accrue to come to Britain. Some are mandatory, like 20 points for a job offer from a government-approved sponsor. Others are optional, such as 10 points for a Ph.D. in a field relevant to the job. The new rules make entry to the country conditional on a migrant’s income (a minimum of £25,600 a year, around $35,000, with a few exceptions) and perceived “skills.” Low-paid workers are effectively excluded. Along with making it even harder to safely migrate to Britain, the new system treats migrants as nothing more than disposable commodities.


This dehumanizing, ruthless approach has been on display through the past year. At the start of the pandemic, a group of organizations handed the government a clear road map to ensure that all migrants, regardless of status, were protected from the virus, including through access to health care and other public services. The government did not listen. Ministers made some changes but largely kept the system intact.


Similarly, after pressure from activists, the government released many people from immigration detention centers, but kept some locked up and continued to detain thousands of others — despite reported Covid-19 outbreaks at a number of facilities.


And while warning against international travel, the government pushed on with deportation flights, ripping people away from their families and loved ones. Osime Brown, a 22-year-old who has autism and learning difficulties, faces deportation to Jamaica — a country he barely knows, having moved to Britain when he was 4. “If he is deported,” his mother has said, “he will die.” In November, the government website boasted that despite the pandemic, there had been over 20 deportation flights that year.


Mr. Johnson’s government has also refused to suspend “hostile environment” policies, a sprawling web of immigration controls through which people without documentation are denied access to basic services like health care and housing. Not even a deadly pandemic can wean the government off the detention centers, deportation flights, bureaucratic cruelty and institutional racism that make up Britain’s immigration system.


The human toll has been horrific. Without a safety net, many undocumented migrants had to choose between potentially contracting the virus at work or becoming destitute. Forty-three percent of migrants surveyed between December and January by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said they would be afraid to seek health care if they became ill during the pandemic — rising to 56 percent for migrants from Asia and 60 percent for those from Africa and the Caribbean.


For a Filipino man known only as Elvis, a cleaner who’d lived in Britain for over a decade, it was a matter of life and death. With no documents, he was too afraid to seek medical advice when he came down with a fever and a cough in April 2020 during the country’s first lockdown. After being ill for two weeks, he died at home.


Mr. Johnson’s government has left immigrants, especially those of color, exposed and vulnerable. But it’s no use denouncing the current system without understanding that it is built on decades of brutality. British history is full of legislation, like the 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Act, aimed at making it more difficult for people of color to come to the country.


And for decades, British politicians of all persuasions glossed over the reasons people move while wrongly blaming migrants for almost anything they can think of, from low pay to an underfunded national health service. Even the latest proposals draw on the racialized figure of the “bogus asylum seeker,” popularized during former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s New Labour government as it made asylum rules stricter and harsher in the early 2000s.


Mr. Johnson’s government is the heir to decades of anti-migrant rhetoric and policymaking. Determined to make good on the nativist promise of Brexit, it is taking things to the next level, with devastating human consequences.


Britain has an immigration problem, all right. But it’s not the people coming to the country. It’s the people who rule over it.


Ms. Goodfellow is a British academic who has written widely on immigration, borders and racism. She is the author of “Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Became Scapegoats.”