Update: Mumia is Recovering from Surgery!
Tuesday April 20 morning update: We just heard from the medical attorneys that Mumia is recovering well from the surgery. Mumia is getting minimal oxygen and one IV which is a good sign. We have not yet heard from Mumia but we expect he will be able to call his family today. We need to see him, hear from him, and know that he has the proper rehabilitation plan. Mumia's wife Wadiya says "I won't know he is ok until i hear from him directly."
Questions and comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
PROTEST TO FREE MUMIA
Today, April 20th and Saturday, April 24th
Former Black Panther and revolutionary journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and congestive heart failure. He was hospitalized for four days, and each of his limbs were shackled separately to the hospital bed. The shackles dug into his skin and caused horrific injuries. Now he is in the hospital awaiting heart surgery for blocked arteries!
The Only Treatment is Freedom. Join us for demonstrations to call for Mumia’s release!
1. April 20th, 2021: Protest at KQED Headquarters, 50 Beale St., San Francisco—Protest against Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner, who is trying to keep Mumia imprisoned for life. Krasner is the star of a new PBS documentary, “Philly D.A.”
2. April 24th, 2021 (Mumia’s Birthday)—March and Car Caravan, Oscar Grant Plaza (14th and Broadway) to Alameda County Courthouse, 1221 Fallon Street—Rally on the steps of the Alameda County Courthouse, where the Panthers demonstrated for Huey Newton, on Mumia’s Birthday!
What You Can Do Now
KQED is broadcasting a new, eight-part documentary series “Philly D.A.” about progressive D.A. Larry Krasner. Krasner who opposes Mumia’s appeal from his frame-up conviction and repeats the lies of the Philadelphia Police and the Fraternal Order of Police about Mumia’s case in his brief.
Mumia’s supporters are demanding that KQED give equal time to broadcast a documentary showing Mumia’s innocence, and a video recorded by Colin Kaepernick on behalf of Mumia.
Go to the Comments page for “Philly D.A.” and demand that KQED give equal time to Mumia Abu-Jamal when “Philly D.A.” shows.
“District Attorney Larry Krasner opposes Mumia Abu-Jamal’s appeal from his frame-up conviction, despite mountains of evidence showing that Mumia was framed.
KQED should provide equal time to Mumia Abu-Jamal to explain his innocence and highlight Krasner’s failure to defend an innocent man when the key interests of the Philadelphia police and the powerful politicians who support them are involved.”
A Tribute to the Life, Activism, and Legacy of Ernie Tate
About this Event
We warmly welcome you to join us for a tribute to the life, activism and legacy of Ernie Tate (1934-2021).
Ernie Tate believed capitalism is a cruel and unjust system that has to be changed. Ernie was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1934 and emigrated to Canada in 1955. As a Marxist, union activist and revolutionary, Ernie spent his life working to achieve that in organizing against the war in Vietnam, in union struggles at Toronto Hydro, for protecting universal healthcare and living wages, and much else. Ernie, along with Tariq Ali, was a leading organizer of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign in Britain, worked for Bertrand Russell’s International War Crimes Tribunal and was a founding member of the International Marxist Group in Britain. In 2014, Ernie published a memoir of his life on the far left in Canada and Great Britain called Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s and 1960s. This two-volume memoir is an important resource for anyone interested in a gritty account of mid-20th century revolutionary movements. It has been a source of information for the 2020-2021 Undercover Policing Inquiry hearings, taking place in England, in which the illegal and immoral activities of police agents in infiltrating the left have been laid bare.
Ernie died on February 5th this year. Please join us to reflect upon and celebrate Ernie’s life, activism and legacy with many of his comrades and friends from around the world, including: Tariq Ali and Phil Hearse (England), Riche Venton (Scotland), Barry Sheppard and Suzanne Weiss (USA), Pam Frache, Judy Rebick, Caroline Egan, Sam Gindin, Bryan Palmer, Rob Fairley, and John Riddell (Canada), and Patrick Bond (South Africa).
The event will be online, on ZOOM. Please register for your free ticket on Eventbrite. A link to the ZOOM room will be sent to you.
Hosted by Socialist Project, Centre for Social Justice, Spring, Resistance, Green Left Weekly, Socialist Viewpoint
Jeff Bezos has at least $131 Billion!
The Washington State Supreme Court just ruled to allow the right-wing Recall Campaign against Councilmember Kshama Sawant to move forward.
In response, Councilmember Sawant said “This ruling is completely unjust, but we are not surprised. Working people and oppressed communities cannot rely on the capitalist courts for justice anymore than they can on the police.”
“Last summer, all across the country, ordinary people who peacefully protested in multi-racial solidarity against racism and police brutality themselves faced brutal police violence. The police and the political establishment have yet to be held accountable, while in stark contrast, more than 14,000 protestors were arrested.”
“In October, the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously threw out the grassroots recall campaign launched in response to Amazon-backed Mayor Jenny Durkan’s overseeing a violent police crackdown against Seattle protests. Now, this same Supreme Court has unanimously approved the recall against an elected socialist, working-class representative who has unambiguously stood with the Black Lives Matter movement.”
“The recall law in Washington State is inherently undemocratic and well-suited for politicized use against working people’s representatives, because there is no requirement that the charges even be proven true. In effect, the courts have enormous leeway to use recall elections as a mechanism to defend the ruling class and capitalist system. It is no accident that Seattle’s last elected socialist, Anna Louise Strong, was driven out of office by a recall campaign for her links to the labor movement and opposition to World War I.”
The recall effort against Councilmember Sawant explicitly cited her role in Black Lives Matter protests and the Amazon Tax campaign in their articles of recall. In 2019, Kshama was elected for the third time despite a record-breaking influx of corporate money in Seattle elections, including $1.5 million in corporate PAC spending from Amazon, as well as donations from top Amazon executives and numerous wealthy Republican donors directly to Kshama’s opponent.
The Recall Campaign is backed by a host of corporate executives and developers, including billionaire landlord and Trump donor Martin Selig; Jeannie Nordstrom of the billionaire union-busting, retail giant Nordstrom dynasty; Airbnb Chief Financial Officer and former Amazon Vice President Dave Stephenson; Merrill Lynch Senior Vice President Matt Westphal; wealthy Trump donors like Dennis Weibling, Vidur Luthra and Greg Eneil; and plethora of major real-estate players, such as John Stephanus, whose asset management company, Epic, has ranked amongst Seattle’s top 10 landlords for evictions.
Now, because of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Recall Campaign is able to begin collecting signatures to get a recall election on an upcoming ballot. With the financial backing of the corporate elite, we know the Recall Campaign will have unlimited resources to collect their signatures.
That’s why we need your support to massively expand our Decline-to-Sign campaign and defeat this attack on all working people. The Recall Campaign has already raised $300,000. Can you make a contribution to the Kshama Solidarity Campaign today so that we have the necessary resources to fight back?
Kshama Solidarity Campaign
Copyright © 2021 Kshama Solidarity Campaign, All rights reserved
PLEDGE: Stand with Kshama Sawant Against the Right-Wing Recall!
The right wing and big business are going after Councilmember Sawant because she’s been such a powerful voice for working people – for leading the way on the Amazon Tax, on the $15 minimum wage, and for her role in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Amazon spent millions trying to unseat Kshama last year and failed. Now the Recall Campaign is raising money from corporate executives and rich Republicans to try to overturn that election and all our victories. Their campaign is saying Kshama’s support for Black Lives Matter was promoting “lawlessness” – this is a racist attack on the movement. The right wing will be collecting signatures to get the recall on the ballot; we’re building a Decline-to-Sign movement to keep our voice on the City Council and win COVID relief for working people.
Sign the pledge at:
Paid for by Kshama Solidarity Campaign
PO Box 20611, Seattle, WA 98102
9 minutes 29 seconds
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 email@example.com
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.
INNOCENT AND FRAMED - FREE MUMIA NOW!
NO STATE EXECUTION BY COVID!
NO ILLUSIONS IN “PROGRESSIVE” DA LARRY KRASNER!
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, firstname.lastname@example.org; John Wetzel, Secretary PA Department of Corrections, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 asof 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.
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 email@example.com
Pass COVID Protection and Debt Relief
Stop the Eviction Cliff!
Forgive Rent and Mortgage Debt!
Millions of Californians have been prevented from working and will not have the income to pay back rent or mortgage debts owed from this pandemic. For renters, on Feb 1st, landlords will be able to start evicting and a month later, they will be able to sue for unpaid rent. Urge your legislator and Gov Newsom to stop all evictions and forgive COVID debts!
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock our state, with over 500 people dying from this terrible disease every day. The pandemic is not only ravaging the health of poor, black and brown communities the hardest - it is also disrupting our ability to make ends meet and stay in our homes. Shockingly, homelessness is set to double in California by 2023 due the economic crisis unleashed by COVID-19. 
Housing is healthcare: Without shelter, our very lives are on the line. Until enough of us have been vaccinated, our best weapon against this virus will remain our ability to stay at home.
Will you join me by urging your state senator, assembly member and Governor Gavin Newsom to pass both prevent evictions AND forgive rent debt?
This click-to-call tool makes it simple and easy.
Renters and small landlords know that much more needs to be done to prevent this pandemic from becoming a catastrophic eviction crisis. So far, our elected officials at the state and local level have put together a patchwork of protections that have stopped a bad crisis from getting much worse. But many of these protections expire soon, putting millions of people in danger. We face a tidal wave of evictions unless we act before the end of January.
We can take action to keep families in their homes while guaranteeing relief for small landlords by supporting an extension of eviction protections (AB 15) and providing rent debt relief paired with assistance for struggling landlords (AB 16). Assembly Member David Chiu of San Francisco is leading the charge with these bills as vehicles to get the job done. Again, the needed elements are:
Improve and extend existing protections so that tenants who can’t pay the rent due to COVID-19 do not face eviction
Provide rent forgiveness to lay the groundwork for a just recovery
Help struggling small and non-profit landlords with financial support
Ten months since the country was plunged into its first lockdown, tenants still can’t pay their rent and debt is piling up. This is hurting tenants and small landlords alike. We need a holistic approach that protects Californians in the short-run while forgiving unsustainable debts over the long term. That’s why we’re joining the Housing Now! coalition and Tenants Together on a statewide phone zap to tell our elected leaders to act now.
Will you join me by urging your state senator, assembly member and Governor Gavin Newsom to pass both prevent evictions AND forgive rent debt?
Time is running out. California’s statewide protections will start expiring by the end of this month. Millions face eviction. We have to pass AB 15 before the end of January. And we will not solve the long-term repercussions on the economic health of our communities without passing AB 16.
ASK YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS TO SAY YES ON AN EVICTION MORATORIUM AND RENT DEBT FORGIVENESS -- AB 15 AND AB16!!!
Let’s do our part in turning the corner on this pandemic. Our fight now will help protect millions of people in California. And when we fight, we win!
Tell the New U.S. Administration - End
Economic Sanctions in the Face of the Global
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:
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Customers can start telling Jeff Bezos to treat his workers like human beings.
By Farhad Manjoo, Opinion Columnist, April 10, 2021
Supporters of Amazon workers rallied last month in Birmingham, Ala. Credit...Charity Rachelle for The New York Times
Here are some of the ways that people who have worked inside Amazon’s warehouses describe the experience: “The job crushed my spirit and crippled my body.” “The lowest point in my life.” An “isolating colony of hell.” “They’re killing people mentally and physically.” “I began to hate my day-to-day life.” “The way Amazon pushes people is not moral.” “I had whole days where I didn’t talk to anyone.” “The systematic devaluing of human bodies.”
Few of these accounts are new. But persistent horror stories have done nothing to diminish Amazon’s geometric growth. In 2017, the company’s head count surpassed 500,000 employees. In 2020, Amazon added that many new workers, very likely a record level of hiring for a company in a single year. Today, nearly 1.3 million people work at Amazon, making it the country’s second-largest private employer, after Walmart. The majority toil in its sprawling fulfillment operations — they are the people who pick, pack, drive and deliver your stuff.
Are these workers happy? Is this good work? Should we rejoice about a company that can hire so many people in the midst of pandemic-induced mass unemployment? And one that, in 2018, instituted a minimum hourly wage of $15, pushing Walmart, Target and other competing retailers to raise their pay, too?
Or should we recoil at the way Amazon has swept the apparent brutality of its operations under a haze of public-relations opportunism — the way it paints itself as a high-minded savior of American labor while its workers are so pressed for time that they must urinate and defecate in bags and bottles?
More urgently: Should we stop shopping at Amazon?
As an inveterate Amazon shopper whose spending with the company soared to embarrassing heights during the pandemic, I have thought about the ethics behind those smiling boxes a whole lot recently. And I regret to say that my hottest take is irritatingly tepid: It’s complicated.
To me it is far from obvious that boycotting Amazon is the best way to reform American retail in a way that results in greater safety and prosperity for workers. But that doesn’t mean that consumers have no power. To a degree greater than many of its competitors, Amazon has thrived by accommodating its customers’ desires. Consumers can now try to marshal that power on behalf of Amazon’s workers. There is one thing Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive, seems to care about above all else: What his customers want.
I suspect that if he were pushed to take employees’ safety as seriously as he does price or selection, Bezos could do more than just about anyone else to improve the lives of America’s workers by radically improving conditions at Amazon to set a standard for rivals to follow.
I can sense readers ready to mock me as Bezos’s credulous stooge. I understand that impulse; it is becoming impossible not to feel icky about shopping at Amazon.
In the last few months, as the company faced the most serious union drive in its history at a fulfillment center in Bessemer, Ala., its ugly labor record has become inescapable. Amazon’s employees suffer injuries at rates far higher than the national average for the warehouse industry, stats that it has worked hard to hide from the public. Turnover at its facilities is so far off the charts that you have to conclude that treating workers as disposable cogs is a core part of its business model. The company is obsessed with crushing unions; the workers in Alabama voted down the union, but Amazon’s victory came at the cost of laying bare its antagonism toward organized labor.
On the other hand, in American retail, what real choice is there? In his excellent new book, “Fulfillment,” the journalist Alec MacGillis examines American inequality and economic desperation through the lens of Amazon’s growth and rapid domination. The company almost seems to personify economic imbalances. Its founder is the richest man alive; its workers are mainly refugees from an industrial economy decimated by globalization; and while its customer base has become quite broad, it is a favored shopping destination for the wealthy.
Yet MacGillis’s account also makes clear that the problem of Amazon is far bigger than Amazon.
Amazon’s retail competitors are not much better guardians of American labor; a lot of them are obviously worse. Remember that Walmart was destroying local economies long before Amazon came along, and according to an analysis of data from 11 states, more of Walmart’s workers in those states rely on public assistance to make ends meet. Dollar General, the discount chain that is one of America’s fastest-growing retailers, might have just as shameful a record on worker safety and comfort. Workers at Whole Foods, Amazon’s grocery subsidiary, seem to have fared pretty much the same during the pandemic as those at Kroger, Walmart and other food giants.
The larger point is that Amazon is less the cause of American inequality than it is a consequence. Amazon is what you get when a country has systematically devalued workers and labor organizations to the benefit of billionaires. Amazon is what you get when a country has decided to import so many of its physical goods from abroad. And Amazon is what you get when states and cities compete with one another to lavish huge tax breaks upon corporations that pledge to create local jobs, without setting any requirements that they be good, safe, high-paying jobs.
Consider, for instance, how America’s longtime negligence on worker safety opened the door to Amazon’s injurious warehouses. Workers say that the most punishing thing about working at Amazon is the repetitiveness and relentlessness of the work.
“The human body was not designed to do the same motion over and over and over again for hours,” Tyler Hamilton, an Amazon warehouse employee in Shakopee, Minn., told me. “That’s what robots do.”
Yet there is little in American law that prevents companies from treating workers like robots. Deborah Berkowitz, a former chief of staff of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency that sets standards for worker safety, told me that injuries in Amazon’s warehouses are mostly ergonomic — the results of “forceful exertions, repetitive motions, twisting, bending and awkward postures,” according to a 2019 report published by a coalition of labor advocates. But OSHA can’t do much about ergonomics. In 2001, the agency was specifically prevented by Congress and President George W. Bush from setting standards on ergonomics. Bush argued the rule would have been too costly to employers.
That wasn’t the only time worker safety was brushed aside by the federal government. David Michaels, who ran OSHA during the Obama administration, told me that the agency’s “basic model doesn’t work.” OSHA, Michaels said, is disastrously underfunded and understaffed, leaving it unable to inspect and enforce standards across the economy. It is also very slow, putting it far behind workplaces that are changing as quickly as Amazon’s. For example, the agency began working on a rule about crystalline silica — a dust produced in the manufacture of glass and other materials that can cause respiratory illnesses — in 1997. The rule was not finalized until 2016.
oth Michaels and Berkowitz said that unions could do a great deal to address safety. At companies that are unionized, the union can negotiate for practices that are safer than those required by OSHA’s moldering standards. But it would be preferable to have stronger federal rules than counting on long-weakened labor unions to improve standards.
I asked several Amazon employees over the past week whether consumers should stop using the company.
Some thought so. “I wish people can stop buying from them,” said Mohamed Mire, who also works at the Shakopee, Minn., warehouse.
But Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which led the union campaign in Alabama, said consumers can have a powerful voice without a boycott.
“What people should do is demand that Amazon change the way it operates and demand from our elected officials that they ensure Amazon does that,” Appelbaum told me. “I think that in America we should have higher standards for the way working people should be treated.”
But how can we get Amazon to fix up its workplace without withholding our dollars? One thing I have noticed in covering Amazon is the company’s willingness to make big changes quickly. For years, Amazon skirted collecting sales tax from its customers, giving it an unfair price advantage over its brick-and-mortar competitors. Then, in 2012, Amazon suddenly stopped fighting sales tax laws because Bezos realized that Amazon’s customers cared a lot more about speed than price. This meant that it was wiser for Amazon to build warehouses across the country even though it meant collecting sales tax in the states where they were located. That was a trade-off Bezos was willing to make to please his customers and get more business.
The best way to push changes to labor standards at Amazon is for its most loyal customers to demand it. We should demand it from our elected officials and our regulators, but it might be more effective to go to the source of the problem.
It is a point of pride with Bezos that his email address is public: email@example.com. When customers email him complaints, Bezos has been known to forward them to his staff with a single ominous character — a question mark, widely understood to mean that they should drop everything and address the problem.
Here’s what I would say: Jeff, you will not believe how much stuff I buy from you. But I am having more and more trouble defending that choice, and I’m starting to look at the alternatives. Your workers are hurting, Jeff. One of your employees told me he had trouble holding the phone because his hands had been rendered numb from the unrelenting repetitiveness of his job. Another told me that your company treats him as if he weren’t human.
Jeff, you are a smart, inventive man, and you have racked up a fortune larger than you know what to do with. Don’t you have enough? You have altered the retail industry more than just about anyone. You can do much better than simply meeting the lowest bar of American workplace standards. You can be transparent about injuries and what you’re doing to address them. You can remake Amazon as a better place to work — a company that empowers employees rather than chews them up in pursuit of tax-free profits.
As a customer, I demand it.
My New York Times Comment and copy of letter I sent to Bezos:
You can email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
“My letter to Jeff Bezos:
“As a retired senior vulnerable to the pandemic, I shop from Amazon almost every day. So far, you have about $131 billion dollars. Let me put that into a perspective that I can understand—one that I saw on Facebook—If I made a million dollars a year (I don’t, I make about $50,000 a year)—I would have to work for one thousand years to make one billion dollars! And that’s just obscene! Don’t you have enough? You can stop “earning” money for yourself right now and put that money you would be earning, virtually tax free, I might add, to create humane, well paid jobs for your employees under their control. Let them unionize. Then they could create their own workers’ councils that would regulate working conditions, pay and benefits just from what you would have been earning—all the while keeping your $131 billion. I think you and your family can live on that! You don’t need another dime!
“Let your workers live, too!
An emerging branch of neuroscience asks a question long on the minds of researchers. Recent stimulus payments make the study more relevant.
By Alla Katsnelson, April 7, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/07/upshot/stimulus-children-poverty-brain.html?action=click&module=Science%20%20Technology&pgtype=Homepage
New monthly payments in the pandemic relief package have the potential to lift millions of American children out of poverty. Some scientists believe the payments could change children’s lives even more fundamentally — via their brains.
It’s well established that growing up in poverty correlates with disparities in educational achievement, health and employment. But an emerging branch of neuroscience asks how poverty affects the developing brain.
Over the past 15 years, dozens of studies have found that children raised in meager circumstances have subtle brain differences compared with children from families of higher means. On average, the surface area of the brain’s outer layer of cells is smaller, especially in areas relating to language and impulse control, as is the volume of a structure called the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory.
These differences don’t reflect inherited or inborn traits, research suggests, but rather the circumstances in which the children grew up. Researchers have speculated that specific aspects of poverty — subpar nutrition, elevated stress levels, low-quality education — might influence brain and cognitive development. But almost all the work to date is correlational. And although those factors may be at play to various degrees for different families, poverty is their common root. A continuing study called Baby’s First Years, started in 2018, aims to determine whether reducing poverty can itself promote healthy brain development.
“None of us thinks income is the only answer,” said Dr. Kimberly Noble, a neuroscientist and pediatrician at Teachers College, Columbia University, who is co-leading the work. “But with Baby’s First Years, we are moving past correlation to test whether reducing poverty directly causes changes in children’s cognitive, emotional and brain development.”
Dr. Noble and her collaborators are examining the effects of giving poor families cash payments in amounts that wound up being comparable to those the Biden administration will distribute as part of an expanded child tax credit.
The researchers randomly assigned 1,000 mothers with newborns living in poverty in New York City, New Orleans, the Twin Cities and Omaha to receive a debit card every month holding either $20 or $333 that the families could use as they wished. (The Biden plan will provide $300 monthly per child up to age 6, and $250 for children 6 through 17.) The study tracks cognitive development and brain activity in children over several years using a noninvasive tool called mobile EEG, which measures brain wave patterns using a wearable cap of 20 electrodes.
The study also tracks the mothers’ financial and employment status, maternal health measures such as stress hormone levels, and child care use. In qualitative interviews, the researchers probe how the money affects the family, and with the mothers’ consent, they follow how they spend it.
The study aimed to collect brain activity data from children at age 1 and age 3 in home visits, and researchers managed to obtain the first set of data for around two-thirds of the children before the pandemic struck. Because home visits are still untenable, they extended the study to age 4 and will be collecting the second set of brain data next year instead of this year.
The pandemic, as well as the two stimulus payments most Americans received this past year, undoubtedly affected participating families in different ways, as will this year’s stimulus checks and the new monthly payments. But because the study is randomized, the researchers nonetheless expect to be able to assess the impact of the cash gift, Dr. Noble said.
Baby’s First Years is seen as an audacious effort to prove, through a randomized trial, a causal link between poverty reduction and brain development. “It is definitely one of the first, if not the first” study in this developing field to have direct policy implications, said Martha Farah, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society who studies poverty and the brain.
Professor Farah concedes, however, that social scientists and policymakers often discount the relevance of brain data. “Are there actionable insights we get by bringing neuroscience to bear, or are people just being snowed by pretty brain images and impressive-sounding words from neuroscience? It’s an important question,” she said.
Skeptics abound. James Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago who studies inequality and social mobility, said he didn’t see “even a hint that a policy would come out of it, other than to say, yes, there’s an imprint of a better economic life.”
“And it still remains a question what the actual mechanism is” through which giving parents cash helps children’s brains, he said, adding that targeting such a mechanism directly might be both cheaper and more effective.
Samuel Hammond, director of poverty and welfare policy at the Niskanen Center, who worked on a child allowance proposal by Senator Mitt Romney, agrees that tracking the source of any observed cognitive benefits is tricky. “I have trouble disentangling the interventions that actually help the most,” he said. For example, policy experts debate whether certain child care programs directly benefit a child’s brain or simply free up her caregiver to get a job and increase the family’s income, he said.
Yet that is exactly why providing disadvantaged families with cash might be the most potent way to test the link to brain development, Dr. Noble said. “It’s quite possible that the particular pathways to children’s outcomes differ across families,” she said. “So by empowering families to use the money as they see fit, it doesn’t presuppose a particular pathway or mechanism that leads to differences in child development.”
Neuroscience has a track record for transforming societal thinking and influencing policy. Research showing that the brain continues to mature past adolescence and into a person’s mid-20s has reshaped policies relating to juvenile justice.
In another example, research on brain and cognitive development in children who grew up in Romanian orphanages from the mid-1960s into the 1990s changed policy on institutionalization and foster care, in Romania and worldwide, said Charles Nelson, a neuroscientist at Harvard and Boston Children’s Hospital who co-led that work.
Those studies demonstrated that deprivation and neglect diminish IQ and hinder psychological development in children who remain institutionalized past age 2, and that institutionalization profoundly affects brain development, dampening electrical activity and reducing brain size.
But that work also underscores how consumers of research, policymakers among them, are prone to give more weight to brain data than to other findings, as other studies show. When Professor Nelson presents these findings to government or development agency officials, “I think they find it the strongest ammunition to implement policy changes,” he said. “It is a very powerful visual, more so than if we said, well, they have lower IQs, or their attachment isn’t as strong.” (He is an adviser for Baby’s First Years.)
The vividness of such data isn’t necessarily bad, Dr. Noble said. “If we find differences and the brain data make those differences more compelling to stakeholders, then that’s important to include,” she said. Moreover, brain data provides valuable information in its own right, particularly in infants and young children, for whom behavioral tests of cognition are often inaccurate or impossible to conduct, she said. Brain differences also tend to be detectable earlier than behavioral ones, she said.
The field may simply be too young to clock its contributions to policy, Professor Farah said. But increasing understanding of how specific brain circuits are affected by poverty, along with better tools for gauging such circuits, may yield science-based interventions that get taken up at a policy level, she said.
Meanwhile, Baby’s First Years hopes to address a broader question that is already relevant at the policy level: whether cash aid to parents helps their children’s brains develop in a way that helps them for a lifetime.
“Justice for Daunte Wright” was written near the memorial for George Floyd outside of Cup Foods on Monday. Credit...Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times
Daunte Wright with his son.Credit...Ben Crump Law
BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — The officer who fatally shot a Black man during a traffic stop near Minneapolis mistakenly confused her gun for her Taser, police officials said on Monday, quickly releasing video as they tried to ease tensions in a state on edge over the Derek Chauvin trial.
In a brief clip of body camera video, officers from the Brooklyn Center Police Department can be seen trying to handcuff the driver, Daunte Wright, before he suddenly lurches back into his car. One of the officers aims a weapon at Mr. Wright and shouts, “Taser! Taser! Taser!”
She fires one round, and Mr. Wright groans in pain.
“Holy shit, I just shot him,” the officer can be heard shouting.
Late Monday, the officer who fired the fatal shot was identified as Kim Potter, who has worked for the department for 26 years.
The announcement came as protesters faced off with the police. Hundreds had gathered outside the Brooklyn Center police station for the second consecutive night, defying a new 7 p.m. curfew in a steady rain.
Demonstrators occasionally lobbed water bottles and rocks over newly erected fencing, chanting “killer cop” and “hands up, don’t shoot” while officers clad in riot gear stood guard. Officers responded by sporadically firing projectiles at the crowd and at one point released a chemical agent that caused people to start coughing.
Mayor Mike Elliott of Brooklyn Center, in an interview on CNN, urged the protesters to leave: “I’m asking everybody to go home. We need to keep the peace in our city.” By midnight, only a few dozen people remained.
The fatal shooting on Sunday took place in a region already at the center of a national reckoning over police officers’ use of force against Black people. As the investigation into Mr. Wright’s death in Brooklyn Center was beginning on Monday, prosecutors in a courtroom less than 10 miles away completed the questioning of their witnesses in the trial of Mr. Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd last May.
The Twin Cities had spent the day bracing for unrest. The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul declared states of emergency, and professional baseball, basketball and hockey games in Minnesota were postponed.
The shooting of Mr. Wright, 20, whose autopsy revealed that he was shot once in the chest, caused an immediate outcry across the state, protests and looting in Brooklyn Center, and recognition by President Biden, who said he was praying for the Wright family and called for an investigation.
“We do know that the anger, pain and trauma amidst the Black community is real,” Mr. Biden said at the White House.
He also said: “In the meantime, I want to make it clear again: There is absolutely no justification — none — for looting. No justification for violence. Peaceful protest? Understandable.”
Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, angrily demanded that state lawmakers pass police reform that has languished since Mr. Floyd’s death. He said he was going straight from the news conference to the Capitol in St. Paul.
“Our time was made clear last May in Minnesota,” Mr. Walz said, alluding to the death of Mr. Floyd. “Our time to get one shot at fixing it was there. And in the midst of this trial that the world’s watching, the situation repeated itself yesterday.”
The fatal police shooting comes at a particularly fraught moment.
“Everyone in the metro area is on tenterhooks right now,” said Abigail Cerra, a Minneapolis civil rights lawyer and a member of the Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission, noting that her husband, a firefighter, is among the many emergency workers throughout the region who have been told to keep their gear with them at all times as the trial proceeds.
She questioned why Mr. Wright — who the police said was stopped for driving a vehicle with an expired registration — would have been pulled over at all. “Everyone is on high alert right now,” she said. “I don’t know why they would be making traffic stops like this at this moment in time.”
The police said officers attempted to detain him after they discovered that there was a warrant for his arrest, stemming from a missed hearing on a misdemeanor gun charge.
Mr. Wright was facing two misdemeanor charges after Minneapolis police said he had carried a pistol without a permit and had run away from officers last June. Katie Wright told reporters that her son had been driving a car his family had given him two weeks ago and that he had called her as he was being pulled over.
“He said they pulled him over because he had air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror,” she said. Ms. Wright added that her son had been driving with his girlfriend when he was shot. The police said a woman in the car had been hurt in a crash that occurred as the vehicle kept moving after the shooting.
Chief Tim Gannon of the Brooklyn Center Police Department said in a news conference that it would use the body camera video of the shooting to determine whether Officer Potter would remain on the force.
“It is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” he said.
Mike Elliott, the mayor of Brooklyn Center, urged calm in the city and promised that an investigation would be conducted by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, a state agency that investigates police killings in Minnesota.
“We recognize that this couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” said Mr. Elliott, the city’s first Black mayor. “We recognize that this is happening at a time when our community, when all of America — indeed, all of the world — is watching our community.”
The racial makeup of the suburb, home to 30,000 residents, was until recently mostly white, but now less than half of residents are white and nearly a third are Black.
Mr. Elliott, who has been mayor for two years, called for the officer who shot Mr. Wright to be fired. “My position is that we cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people in our profession,” he said. “And so I do fully support releasing the officer of her duties.”
Minnesota has seen more than its share of high-profile police killings, including the shootings of Philando Castile in 2016 and Jamar Clark in 2015, and the death last year of Mr. Floyd.
In the final day of the prosecution’s case against Mr. Chauvin, Mr. Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd took the stand, telling of their upbringing in Houston. George would help his siblings get dressed for school and made “the best banana mayonnaise sandwiches,” his brother said. “George couldn’t cook, but he’ll make sure you have a snack or something.”
The state also called two expert witnesses, a cardiologist who said Mr. Floyd’s death was “absolutely preventable,” and a policing expert who said a reasonable officer would not have put Mr. Floyd facedown since he was already in handcuffs and was not a threat.
In the wake of Mr. Wright’s death on Sunday, Mr. Walz and other officials in Minnesota called for policing reforms, including making sure that officers cannot mistake their guns for their Taser.
“Why can’t we have Tasers that look and feel differently?” Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul said. “That you could never mistake for deploying a firearm, so that we can ensure that that mistake, which has happened before, can never happen again.”
Ed Obayashi, a California-based expert on the use of force by law enforcement and a deputy sheriff, said that with appropriate training, it should be difficult for officers to confuse a gun with a Taser, “but unfortunately it does happen — this is not the first time and it won’t be the last.”
In most cases, said Deputy Obayashi, who is also a lawyer, the confusion occurs when officers carry both weapons on the same side of their body, or holster their stun guns on the opposite side of their body with the grip facing backward so that they can use their dominant hand to “cross-draw.”
Instances of police officers accidentally firing a handgun when they meant to draw their Tasers, while not common, are not entirely unusual, either. In 2015, a former Oklahoma reserve deputy killed an unarmed man when he accidentally grabbed his handgun. In 2018, a rookie Kansas police officer mistakenly shot a man who was fighting with a fellow officer. And in 2019, a police officer in Pennsylvania shout
Within hours of Mr. Wright’s death, people clashed with the police outside of the Brooklyn Center police station, where officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, some of whom threw bags of garbage and rocks.
Hundreds of additional National Guard troops were flooding the metro area, adding to troops that have been standing by during Mr. Chauvin’s trial.
Residents said they were struggling to absorb the news of another death at the hands of a police officer — while the Chauvin trial was underway in Minneapolis.
“I’m really saddened,” said Laura Vizenor, 56. “I just don’t understand it and I don’t understand how you yell ‘Taser’ and then fire your gun. It doesn’t make sense.”
Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs reported from Brooklyn Center, and Julie Bosman from Chicago. Reporting was contributed by Azi Paybarah from New York, Shawn Hubler from Sacramento, Calif., Matt Furber from Brooklyn Center, and Neil Vigdor from Greenwich, Conn. Kitty Bennett contributed research.
The government says the plan is the best way to dispose of water used to prevent the ruined nuclear plant’s damaged reactor cores from melting.
By Jennifer Jett and Ben Dooley, Published April 12, 2021, Updated April 13, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/13/world/asia/japan-fukushima-wastewater-ocean.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage
Japan said on Tuesday that it had decided to gradually release tons of treated wastewater from the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the ocean, describing it as the best option for disposal despite fierce opposition from fishing crews at home and concern from governments abroad.
The plan to start releasing the water in two years was approved during a cabinet meeting of ministers early Tuesday.
Disposal of the wastewater has been long delayed by public opposition and by safety concerns. But the space used to store the water is expected to run out next year, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said during the cabinet meeting on Tuesday that disposing of the wastewater from the plant was “a problem that cannot be avoided.”
The government will “take every measure to absolutely guarantee the safety of the treated water and address misinformation,” he said, noting that the cabinet would meet again within a week to decide on the details for carrying out the plan.
Some activists rejected the government’s assurances. Greenpeace Japan denounced the decision, saying in a statement that it “ignores human rights and international maritime law.” Kazue Suzuki, a climate and energy campaigner for the organization, said that the Japanese government had “discounted the radiation risks.”
“Rather than using the best available technology to minimize radiation hazards by storing and processing the water over the long term,” the statement added, “they have opted for the cheapest option, dumping the water into the Pacific Ocean.”
The Fukushima crisis was set off in March 2011 by a huge earthquake and tsunami that ripped through northeastern Japan and killed more than 19,000 people. The subsequent meltdown of three of the plant’s six reactors was the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Tens of thousands of people fled the area around the plant or were evacuated, in many cases never to return.
Ten years later, the cleanup is far from finished at the disabled plant, which is operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company. To keep the three damaged reactor cores from melting, cooling water is pumped through them continuously. The water is then sent through a powerful filtration system that is able to remove all of the radioactive material except for tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that experts say is not harmful to human health in small doses.
There are now about 1.25 million tons of wastewater stored in more than 1,000 tanks at the plant site. The water continues to accumulate at a rate of about 170 tons a day, and releasing all of it is expected to take decades.
In 2019, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry proposed disposing of the wastewater either by gradually releasing it into the ocean or by allowing it to evaporate. The International Atomic Energy Agency said last year that both options were “technically feasible.” Nuclear power plants around the world routinely discharge treated wastewater containing tritium into the sea.
But the Japanese government’s plan faces strong opposition from local officials and fishing crews, who say that it would add to consumer fears about the safety of Fukushima seafood. Catch levels in the area are already a small fraction of what they were before the disaster.
After meeting with Mr. Suga last week, Hiroshi Kishi, head of the National Federation of Fisheries, told reporters that his group was still opposed to the ocean release. Neighboring countries including China and South Korea have also expressed concerns.
Responding to Japan’s decision, the U.S. State Department said in a statement, “In this unique and challenging situation, Japan has weighed the options and effects, has been transparent about its decision, and appears to have adopted an approach in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency welcomed Japan’s announcement and said it would offer technical support. It called the plan to release the water into the sea in line with international practice.
“Today’s decision by the government of Japan is a milestone that will help pave the way for continued progress in the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant,” the agency said in a statement. The decommissioning process is expected to take decades.
A decade ago, it was already a crisis. But it feels as if it’s getting worse.
By Shawn McCreesh, Mr. McCreesh is an editorial assistant in Opinion., April 14, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/14/opinion/opioids-us.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
HATBORO, Pa. — I’d almost lost my capacity to be shocked by drug overdose. At 28, I’m of Generation Opioid. During high school, prescription pills were as easy to abuse as a learner’s permit. Our reunions take place coffin-side and often.
But shock is what I felt when I got the call, three days before Thanksgiving, that David was dead. He was found slumped against a tree in the neighborhood where we grew up, where both of our mothers live still. Technically, David was my earliest friend. We called each other cousins because our mothers are like sisters — I refer to his as my Aunt Tammy. Like many people in this suburb just north of Philadelphia, he became saddled with addiction when we were teenagers, then spent his short adulthood fighting it.
Clean for almost two years, with a good job as a lead install technician at an HVAC company, married and with two little sons, he seemed to be winning the fight. A few months before his death, I had come home to write about what it was like to grow up in a society awash in prescription drugs. I thought I had enough distance to look back and freeze-frame the blur of our high school years, but knew I couldn’t do it justice without talking to David. He had more clarity about this catastrophe than anyone. The article was published, and then he died. Now all I have left of him, apart from some ashes, are the pages of notes in which he talked to me so recently about the very thing that would soon kill him.
“Everybody was dabbling in high school,” he reminded me in that conversation. “It was fun, readily available. It was expensive but everybody would put their money together and it became a social thing. But by the end it was an isolated addiction. You cross the line, and you never know when or where it is. It’s cunning and it’s baffling but once you’re over that line, it’s a battle between you and you. You have to defeat yourself if you want to get out of it and not die. It’s almost good versus evil in your brain.”
In a period of sobriety, David got married; four years ago, his first son was born. More than anything else, it was fatherhood that compelled him to get and stay sober. But there were slip-ups. “It’s ongoing and at any second I can go back,” he said.
After David’s body was discovered, Aunt Tammy’s house became packed with mourners. Five of the mothers standing around the tiny kitchen that night had lost a child this way. Nobody was much concerned about Covid distancing. That crisis feels intangible, compared with the durable and familiar opioid crisis.
“I can’t tell you how many funerals I’ve been to since Carly died,” said one of the mothers, Renee Whyte. “It’s hideous.”
Carly, her daughter, went to school with me and David. She was smart and artistic, a total cool girl. She died in 2013. “Losing your child, you could have a thousand people around you and feel so alone,” Ms. Whyte said. “It’s not because people don’t care. It’s because only you know what your child meant to you.”
One of the hardest parts, she said, is when someone asks: How many kids do you have?
“And you don’t know how to answer.”
By the time I graduated from high school, 10 years ago, opiates were everywhere. Percocet and Vicodin became a regular presence at parties. Mixed with booze and some weed, pills were a new way to kick a Saturday night up a notch. Teenagers eager to get their paws on something stronger had no trouble finding OxyContin. Those pills were designed to mete out pain relief over 12 hours, but they could be crushed and snorted for immediate zombification. Addiction came quickly after. In 2010, when I was in 11th grade, Purdue Pharma tweaked OxyContin to make it uncrushable. But rather than deter my friends, this pushed classmates already keen for the high straight to heroin — why bother with a pesky pill that takes its time when a “stamp bag” of the real stuff could be had for cheap? The overdoses ramped up.
David named his first son DJ, after his best friend, DJ McGettigan, another classmate of ours who overdosed. “It’s coming up on five years since DJ passed,” said his mother, Laurie McGettigan. “So my grief is at a different point than Tammy’s. In the addiction world, I always talk to her about how you can’t cure this, you can’t control this, and you didn’t cause this. I just find ways to honor who I knew DJ really was, not who the world saw. That’s probably the saddest part for me.”
Ms. McGettigan now volunteers with the nonprofit Shatterproof, working to reverse the stigma of addiction. “The stigma still exists in tons of little ways,” she said. “Even when someone dies, people want to talk about how, and then when they find out they don’t want to talk about it further. There’s a shame attached.”
In some ways, though, the stigma has been blown apart here because the whispering has turned into one perpetual scream. As David himself said to me: “It’s in our face every day, whether you go to 7-Eleven or Walmart, driving down the road you see people dipping out” — dozing off. “You see it no matter where you’re at.”
Two weeks before David died, another old friend of mine felt himself start to spiral. He tried to get help from the local drug clinic but was turned away because all the beds were full. He died.
Addiction woes threaten to swallow families whole. Parents learn to speak the language of the netherworld in which their children walk. Stamp bags. Speedballs. Suboxone. Vivitrol. Narcan. Fentanyl. Perc 30s. Blues, bars, 40s and 80s — the lexicon of the unlucky.
Some are left to grapple with the living, breathing wreckage of their worst moment: how to live in the same town with the neighborhood kid you’ve known since he was a toddler but who sold the lethal dose to your child. Or the one who helped him shoot up and then left him for dead. There are no answers. “You can be the best person in the world and this stuff will make you do something so screwed up,” David had said to me.
“Nobody wants their child’s life defined in one moment of a bad decision,” Ms. Whyte said. “My daughter was more than one night, more than an overdose. She was defined by 23 years of greatness to my family.”
While we planned David’s funeral, Christmas lights began to blink awake throughout the neighborhood, and new reporting in The Times that week cast light on the nature of the crisis that killed him. McKinsey & Company, the prestigious consulting firm that helped Purdue Pharma “turbocharge” opiate sales, had proposed awarding Purdue’s distributors with a rebate for every OxyContin overdose, as a way to maintain sales. Earlier reports revealed that McKinsey had strategized how “to counter the emotional messages from mothers with teenagers that overdosed.”
The heinous documents confirmed that so much about this crisis was manufactured. There is no amount of money the odious Sackler family can throw around to counter the emotion here. Especially because these days, things are worse than ever, since heroin has been largely edged out by the far more lethal fentanyl. It’s difficult to even find a block in North Philadelphia that sells just heroin anymore; even cocaine is being cut with fentanyl.
The drug has closed the door to many hoping for a path back to their lives. Of fentanyl, David presciently told me, before the drug turned up on his own autopsy report, “It’s much harder to get off of, because it’s so much stronger, and much easier to overdose on, too.”
The pastor who presided over David’s funeral was himself recovering from addiction. He spoke during the service of his own rock bottom: Breaking open his children’s piggy banks, scrounging for quarters and driving to “the Badlands” — Philly-speak for the neighborhood of Kensington and its open-air drug markets — for 10 bucks worth of dope. In pews around me, friends and family nodded knowingly. Some of these mothers have spent untold hours scouring those blocks, hoping their child isn’t one of the bodies face down in the street. Sometimes they do find their kid, but can’t convince him or her to get in the car. All they can really do is give them a warm coat, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a hug.
What doesn’t shock me is that high school students are still falling down this well the same way we did 10 years ago. The nature of a teenager — that heady and sometimes lethal mix of feeling invincible, curious, bored and reckless — is immutable. As long as drugs are everywhere, kids will do them.
When we got home from the funeral, my younger sister flipped her phone back on, looked down at it and began to bawl. An avalanche of text messages told how her friend had overdosed on OxyContin that same day. He was 19. She turned back around and got in the car, headed to wherever mourners were gathering this time.
Three weeks later, it happened again.
Prosecuting police in cases of so-called weapon confusion has happened before, but the legal landscape is complex.
By Alan Feuer and Mihir Zaveri, April 14, 2021
A Taser and handgun, similar to the weapons in Mr. Bates’s case, displayed in Tulsa, Okla., in April 2015. Credit...Cory Young/Tulsa World, via Associated Press
It happened in a flash.
A deputy drew what he thought was his stun gun on a Black man who was fleeing, announcing his choice of weapon with a shout of “Taser!” But it was a pistol he pulled out, not a stun gun, and the man died. “Oh, I shot him,” the deputy says on video. “I’m sorry.”
Though the facts sound eerily familiar, that was six years ago in Tulsa, Okla., in a case that closely echoed what occurred this weekend in Brooklyn Center, Minn. There was the same announcement, the same tragic result, the same shocked response.
But what made the Tulsa case unusual happened in its aftermath: The deputy, Robert C. Bates, a reserve volunteer with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, was charged by prosecutors, convicted at a trial and sent to prison.
The similarities between the 2015 case in Tulsa and the shooting death of a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright, in Minnesota on Sunday are striking. Six years later, amid a fraught national conversation around race and policing, Mr. Wright’s death has once again provoked intense interest in how the legal system should treat such deadly use of force.
While it is rare for the police to mistake their sidearms for their stun guns, it is even rarer for charges to be brought against them in such cases. A New York Times review of 15 cases of so-called weapon confusion over the past 20 years showed that only five of the officers were indicted. Only three, including the only two cases in which people were killed, were eventually found guilty.
“When you’re talking about cases where the excuse is it’s an accident, they’re just not easy to prove,” said Geoffrey P. Alpert, a criminologist at the University of South Carolina who studies the use of force.
The case in Minnesota, which on Tuesday led to the resignation of the department’s chief and the officer who shot Mr. Wright, Kim Potter, who is white, has focused the nation yet again on the killing of an unarmed Black man by the police. The case is playing out only 10 miles from the courtroom where the trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd last May, is being held.
Captured on body camera video, Ms. Potter’s actions are an almost identical replay of what happened in Tulsa in 2015. While another officer struggles with Mr. Wright as he sits in the driver’s seat of his car, Officer Potter aims her weapon, the video shows, shouting, “Taser! Taser! Taser!” After she fires one round, Mr. Wright groans in pain as Officer Potter cries, “Holy shit, I just shot him.”
It remains unclear what, if any, legal repercussions Ms. Potter may face. But Kevin Gray, the lead prosecutor in Mr. Bates’s case, said the Tulsa district attorney’s office brought charges only after determining that Mr. Bates had not acted “like a normally prudent person should have” by reaching for his pistol when he meant to draw his Taser.
Mr. Gray said that prosecutors did not accuse Mr. Bates of murder in the shooting death of the man he killed, Eric Harris; they accused him of second-degree manslaughter. To prove that accusation, prosecutors had to show only that Mr. Bates acted with “culpable negligence.”
“The case was premised on the idea that an ordinary person, exercising caution and care, should have known what weapon they had in their hand,” Mr. Gray recalled. “We charged what we saw and what the evidence supported, not what might have been popular.”
In the 15 cases reviewed by The Times, the two incidents in which people were killed resulted in manslaughter convictions by juries; a third officer pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in a case in which someone was injured. Two other cases are pending.
In 2014, Officer Jason Shuck shot a man who ran away from the police when they approached him as he was panhandling outside a Walmart in Springfield, Mo. Officer Shuck later told an investigator his “brain was saying Taser” but his “body moved faster” and he drew his pistol.
Local prosecutors allowed the officer to plead guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge. As part of the plea deal, Mr. Shuck, who quit the police department, agreed to never work again in a job that required him to carry a firearm.
The authorities in Minnesota have not yet said if charges might be pending. In two of the three cases in which people were fatally shot, the officers eventually faced charges.
Because the law grants the police enormous leeway to protect their own lives and those of others in situations they deem to be dangerous, it remains difficult to charge and convict them even in cases when they do not claim a shooting was accidental. It can be at least as difficult to bring charges when officers argue they merely made a mistake.
In 2017, for instance, Charles Gillis, a small-town Georgia sheriff’s deputy, claimed that he had accidentally drawn his gun instead of his Taser and fired a bullet through the arm of a young man he and his partner were trying to arrest. After considering the case, the local district attorney said he found no negligence or criminal intent.
Robert Weisberg, a professor of criminal law at Stanford University, said that typically, officers could be culpable if their actions meet the standard of gross negligence.
“Was it extremely reckless or negligent for a trained officer to make this mistake?” he said.
Officers may evade charges or convictions if the context around their actions — whether the victim made sudden or threatening movements, for example — makes those actions seem reasonable.
Mr. Weisberg said that cases in which officers say they mistook which weapon they were using are rare. He said they are legally different from the majority of police shootings, where officers concede they used deadly force but argue they were justified in doing so.
“We haven’t seen any evidence that the officer intended to cause Mr. Wright’s death,” he said.
In 2019, Matthew D. Weintraub, the district attorney in Bucks County, Pa., investigated a case of weapon confusion involving an officer who yelled, “Taser!” before shooting a man in a police holding cell. Mr. Weintraub ultimately ruled out charges after finding that the shooting was “neither justified, nor criminal” and that the officer had an “honest but mistaken” belief that he had used his Taser against the victim, who was injured but survived.
But when a transit officer fatally shot Oscar Grant III in Oakland, Calif., in 2009, prompting protests nationwide, prosecutors charged the officer, Johannes Mehserle, with second-degree murder. They reviewed surveillance video that showed him pulling out a firearm and shooting Mr. Grant, who was lying face down on a train platform.
“What we had was ‘A shoots B,’ that’s all we know, it’s second-degree murder,” Tom Orloff, who was Alameda County district attorney when Mr. Mehserle was charged, said in an interview.
Mr. Mehserle would later argue in court that he meant to use a stun gun, a contention prosecutors challenged.
Mr. Orloff said that had prosecutors known Mr. Mehserle was going to make that argument before charging him, “it would have made it more likely that a manslaughter charge was filed as opposed to a murder charge.” Mr. Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Mike Rains, a lawyer in California who represents law enforcement in criminal and civil cases, including Mr. Mehserle, said officers mistake firearms for stun guns because they are on “autopilot,” and the officers should not be held criminally culpable.
He said many officers in such cases have been trained to draw the stun gun with the same hand as their firearm. He said they typically have fired only one shot with the firearm, indicating a mistake — if they intended to use the firearm, he said, they would likely have fired multiple shots.
“They aren’t thinking, they are reacting,” he said.
Several of the victims and their families in weapon confusion cases filed civil lawsuits against the officers who shot them after charges were denied. Courts have long set a high bar for permitting suits against officers in situations where they were performing their official duties under the theory known as qualified immunity. But courts have appeared more generous in cases of mistaken shootings, often setting immunity aside and allowing suits to move forward.
In 2005, for instance, a Minnesota federal court permitted a suit against Officer Gregory Siem, who was accused of drawing his Glock, not his Taser, and shooting Christofar Atak, a man his partner was trying to handcuff. In a decision denying qualified immunity, the judge ruled there were too many differences between the weapons for Officer Siem’s actions to have in fact been accidental.
The Glock was not only heavier than the Taser, the judge decided; it also had “a noticeably different feel when held.” The pistol, he noted, had a trigger safety, but the Taser had no “security mechanism.” Finally, the Glock had a conventional trigger, the Taser a rubber button.
The case was ultimately settled. Mr. Atak received $900,000.
My NYT Comment:
“This article is deceptive. First of all, Johannes Mehserle—the cop who murdered Oscar Brown in Oakland, California at the Fruitvale BART station on January 1, 2009. was sentenced to two years but got out in 11 months. Second, the photo in this article showing a black Taser next to a silver-colored revolver with its barrel down (to mimic the shape of the Taser shown?) is also deceptive. First, because officers don't carry their revolvers with the barrel down. Potter's gun was black. And the taser Potter supposedly intended to pull out was bright yellow, not black. This can be seen at exactly 0:50/1:00 in the video of the shooting showing another officer's belt clearly showing a bright yellow Taser. Finally, the ‘auto-pilot’ defense is absurd. Isn't that what cops are supposed to be trained for—not to go on ‘auto-pilot?’ Especially after 20+ years on the force?” —Bonnie Weinstein
Society has become horribly desensitized to police killings of Black men.
By Charles M. Blow, Opinion Columnist, April 14, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/14/opinion/us-police-killings.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
One of the first times I wrote about the police killing of an unarmed Black man was when Michael Brown was gunned down in the summer of 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown was a Black teenager accused of an infraction in a convenience store just before his life was taken. Last summer, six years on, I wrote about George Floyd, a large Black man accused of an infraction in a convenience store, this time in Minneapolis.
Both men were killed in the street in broad daylight. Brown was shot. An officer knelt on Floyd’s neck. In both cases there were multiple community witnesses to the killings. In both cases there was a massive outcry. In both cases the men were accused of contributing to, or causing, their own deaths, in part because they had illegal drugs in their systems.
Between those two killings there has been a depressing number of others. In January of 2015, The Washington Post began maintaining a database of all known fatal shootings by the police in America. Every year, the police shot and killed roughly 1,000 people. But, as The Post points out, Black Americans are killed at a much higher rate than white Americans, and the data revealed that unarmed Black people account for about 40 percent of the unarmed Americans killed by the police, despite making up only about 13 percent of the American population.
Something is horrifyingly wrong. And yet, the killings keep happening. Brown and Floyd are not even the bookends. There were many before them, and there will be many after.
These killings often happen during the day and in public, not under the cover of night, tucked away in some back wood. And they are often caught on video. Tamir Rice was killed during the day. There was video. Walter Scott was killed during the day. There was video. Eric Garner was killed during the day. There was video.
Now there is another: Daunte Wright, shot and killed during the day in Brooklyn Center, Minn., not far from where Floyd was killed. There is video.
Very little has changed. The aftermath of these killings has become a pattern, a ritual, that produces its own normalizing and desensitizing effects. We can now anticipate the explosions of rage as well and the relative intransigence of the political system in response.
That is not to say that absolutely nothing has changed, but rather that the changes amount to tinkering, when in fact our whole system of policing must be re-evaluated and fundamentally altered.
That examination, oddly enough, starts with gun control. The police justify their militarization and armed-and-ready positioning, by correctly observing that they can be outgunned by a public with such easy access to guns, including military-style guns.
But once they are armed and anxious, they can be that way in all cases: against an armed suspect as well as one who is unarmed. To all interactions, they can bring personal biases, some of which they don’t even know they possess. And, in the blink of an eye, something tragic can be done, something that can’t be undone.
In addition, municipalities can deploy officers as a malicious arm of urban planning as well as a profit-generating enterprise. Police officers in gentrifying neighborhoods can make new arrivals feel safe by controlling and correcting existing residents. They can also be used to generate funds from fines to keep budgets in balance. All of this increases tense contacts between officers and citizens, so that even though only a tiny fraction lead to deaths, that fraction can still feel overwhelming.
It is all so perverse. And too often it is Black people, particularly Black men, who bear the brunt when all this pressure culminates in a killing.
So, it becomes hard to write about this in a newspaper because it is no longer new. The news of these killings is not that they are interruptions of the norm, but a manifestation of the norm.
There is no new angle. There is no new hot take. There is very little new to be revealed. These killings are not continuing to happen due to a lack of exposure, but in spite of it. Our systems of law enforcement, criminal justice and communal consciousness have adjusted themselves to a banal barbarism.
This has produced in me and many others an inextinguishable rage, a calcification of contempt. As for me, I no longer even attempt to manage or direct my rage. I simply sit with it, face it like an adversary staring across a campfire, waiting to see how I am moved to act, but not proscribing that action and definitely not allowing society’s idea of decorum to proscribe it.
A society that treats this much Black death at the hands of the state as collateral damage in a just war on crime has no decorum to project. That society is savage.
I am also no longer interested in talking about Black pain and Black trauma. (I am becoming ever more convinced that there is a prurient interest in gawking at Black suffering rather than a genuine desire to remedy it.) I now focus on my rage.
I’m sure that pain and trauma are present in me, but I’m choosing to subjugate their import. Rage has ascended to my position of primacy. America scoffed and was unmoved when, for years, we spoke out of our pain. So be it. Now, rage is the only language I have left.
The shootings never stopped during the coronavirus pandemic, they just became less public, researchers say.
By Daniel Victor and Derrick Bryson Taylor, April 16, 2021
A candlelight vigil honoring the victims of a grocery store shooting in Boulder, Colo. last month. Ten people were killed. Credit...Stephen Speranza for The New York Times
To some, it might have seemed as if mass shootings all but halted during the coronavirus pandemic, with a year passing between large-scale shootings in public places.
But the shootings never stopped. They just weren’t as public.
The Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as one with four or more people injured or killed, not including the perpetrator, counted more than 600 such shootings in 2020, compared with 417 in 2019.
That carnage has continued into 2021, with 147 mass shootings as of April 16. (The archive, a nonprofit organization, has counted 11 mass murders, which it defines as four or more people killed, in 2021.)
There is little consensus on the definition of a mass shooting, complicating the efforts of nonprofits and news organizations to document the scope of the problem.
The Violence Project follows the narrow definition of the Congressional Research Service, requiring the attacks to be in public and excluding domestic shootings and those “attributable to underlying criminal activity.” CNN has defined a mass shooting as one with four or more injuries or deaths. The Washington Post’s effort to track public mass shootings includes shootings with four or more people killed, but does not include robberies or domestic shootings in private homes.
Whatever the definition, it is a persistent American problem. Some mass shootings remain unforgettable to the broader public because of the number of people killed, the attackers’ motivations, the apparent randomness or other factors — cases that often become known by a single place name like Columbine, Newtown or Parkland. But there have been many other mass killings that never receive the same level of attention.
Here is an incomplete list of shootings with multiple victims in 2021. It leaves out many more, but offers a small glimpse of the gun violence the country has already suffered this year.
April 15: Indianapolis
At least eight people were killed, not including a gunman who was believed to have taken his own life after opening fire in a FedEx warehouse. Family members said that workers were unable to use their cellphones on the job, leaving them unable to confirm their safety for hours.
April 7: Rock Hill, S.C.
A former N.F.L. player shot and killed a doctor, the doctor’s wife and their two grandchildren inside their house, as well as two air-conditioning technicians who were working outside the home. The gunman later killed himself, the authorities said.
April 3: Allen, Texas
The authorities said two brothers killed four family members before killing themselves. The bodies were discovered after the police arrived to a home for a welfare check.
March 31: Orange County, Calif.
A gunman opened fire at a real estate office, killing four people, including a 9-year-old boy. The shooting was most likely related to a “business and personal relationship which existed between the suspect and all of the victims,” the authorities said.
March 28: Essex, Md.
A gunman killed his parents, two people at a convenience store and then himself in a shooting spree, the police said.
March 22: Boulder, Colo.
A gunman inside a grocery store killed 10 people, including the first police officer to arrive at the scene. The gunman was injured and taken into custody.
March 16: Atlanta
Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed at three spas, at least two of which had been frequented by the gunman. The attack caused particular alarm among many Asian-Americans.
March 13: Indianapolis
A shooting near the city’s east side left four people dead, including a 7-year-old child, and critically wounded a woman, the authorities said. The police said the shooting stemmed from a domestic problem.
Feb. 2: Muskogee, Okla.
Five children and a man were killed and a woman was seriously injured when they were shot at a home. A brother of one of the victims was arrested at the scene. The police said they believed that the victims were related.
Jan. 24: Indianapolis
Five people, including a pregnant woman, were found dead inside a home after the authorities came in contact with a juvenile male, who was suffering from gunshot wounds. A day after the shooting, he was arrested.
Jan. 9: Evanston, Ill.
At least five people, including a 15-year-old girl, were killed in a shooting spree in the Chicago area, the police said. The gunman shot a total of seven people before he was killed by the police.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for calm before the body camera footage was made public. The victim, Adam Toledo, was one of the youngest people killed by the police in Illinois in years.
By Julie Bosman and Neil MacFarquhar, Published April 15, 2021, Updated April 16, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/15/us/adam-toledo-chicago-shooting-video.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=HomepageEric E. Stillman.
CHICAGO — A shaky, fast-moving video released in Chicago on Thursday shows a police officer chasing a boy down a dark alleyway, yelling at him to stop. “Stop right now!” the officer screams while cursing, telling him to drop his gun. “Hands. Show me your hands. Drop it. Drop it.”
As the boy turns and lifts his hands, a single shot rings out and he collapses. The boy, Adam Toledo, was killed. He was 13.
Release of the officer’s body camera footage set off a fresh round of consternation over police conduct in Chicago, even as it stirred debate over what the images — grainy and graphic — actually showed. Activists announced protests against police abuse for downtown Chicago and Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for calm, even as she grew emotional as she talked about Adam’s death and her own pain in watching the video, calling it “excruciating.”
Adam, who lived in Chicago’s Little Village, a predominantly Latino neighborhood on the city’s West Side, was one of the youngest people killed by the police in Illinois in years.
Graphic videos of deaths at the hands of police officers have repeatedly roiled the nation. The video’s release in Chicago comes as the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, is underway and as another Minnesota officer, Kimberly A. Potter, was charged in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old motorist.
In the shooting in Chicago, which took place in the early-morning hours of March 29, officials have said that two officers were responding to reports of gunfire when they saw two people in an alley and started to chase them. Prosecutors have said that Adam was holding a gun when he ran down the alley as an officer called for him to stop and drop the weapon.
Adeena Weiss Ortiz, a lawyer representing the Toledo family, said at a news conference on Thursday that the video shows that Adam, who was Latino and a seventh grader at Gary Elementary School, was attempting to comply with the officer’s orders.
“He tossed the gun,” she said. “If he had a gun, he tossed it. The officer said, ‘Show me your hands.’ He complied. He turned around.”
The key events took place in a matter of one second. In an analysis, The New York Times slowed down the police video, as well as another of the 21 videos released by the authorities.
As the officer, identified in police reports as Eric E. Stillman, 34, fires the single shot, Adam is raising his arms and appears to be empty-handed. In the moment before the shooting, The Times’s analysis shows, Adam can be seen holding what appears to be a gun behind his back, which he drops behind a wooden fence just before he raises his hands.
After firing the shot, Officer Stillman called for an ambulance, searched for the wound and began CPR with the help of another officer. “Stay with me,” he said to Adam more than once.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, an independent agency that investigates police shootings in Chicago, released the videos on Thursday after initial resistance to making them public, citing Adam’s age.
The Chicago Police Department had no comment on the video aside from redistributing its news release about the shooting from April 1, which called the loss of life “tragic” and said the department would cooperate with COPA, which is investigating the use of force.
A lawyer for Officer Stillman, who is white, said that the shooting, while tragic, was justified given the nature of the threat. “The police officer was put in this split-second situation where he has to make a decision,” said Timothy Grace, a lawyer at the firm of Grace & Thompson retained by the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago.
Officer Stillman has been placed on administrative duties for 30 days; he joined the Chicago police in August 2015 after serving in the military overseas, his lawyer said.
As images of the shooting spread on social media, community activists and others expressed anger. Some said the officer had no reason to fire at the boy.
“It was hard to watch,” said Baltazar Enriquez, the president of Little Village Community Council, saying that he considered the shooting to be murder. “Adam raises his hands and then he shoots him.”
Mr. Enriquez said demonstrations were planned for Thursday and Friday evening, with residents demanding that money spent on the police budget be diverted to community programs instead. “Everybody is extremely angry,” he said. “We don’t need angry officers. We need social workers.”
Adam’s family was permitted to view the video privately on Tuesday night. Afterward, the family issued a statement calling the experience “extremely difficult and heartbreaking for everyone present.”
Hours before the video was released, Ms. Lightfoot issued an emotional appeal for calm. “We must proceed with deep empathy and calm and importantly, peace,” she said, her voice breaking as she talked about the pain of losing a child to gun violence. “No family should ever have a video broadcast widely of their child’s last moments, much less be placed in the terrible situation of losing their child in the first place,” she said.
Ms. Lightfoot said the outrage and pain that people were feeling in Chicago were compounded by both the Chauvin trial and a recent police shooting in a Minneapolis suburb.
Mr. Floyd’s death last year provoked demonstrations across the country over police misconduct and racism. Those sentiments have resurfaced during the trial, where dramatic video footage was replayed of Mr. Floyd gasping “I can’t breathe” while he was pinned under Mr. Chauvin’s knee. Nightly protests have erupted anew in nearby Brooklyn Center after another police shooting that was captured on body camera video — the fatal shooting of Mr. Wright after he was pulled over for an expired registration.
In Chicago, even before the video was released, Adam’s killing had set off protests and severe criticism of the Chicago Police Department. Ms. Lightfoot repeated her appeal that the department create a better policy for foot chases that too often proved dangerous to suspects, the police and bystanders.
The shooting tapped into a tide of anguish and frustration in Chicago neighborhoods that have been gripped by gun violence. Chicago, like other American cities, has struggled to stem a surge in shootings during the coronavirus pandemic. In the first quarter of 2021, there were 131 homicides, the most violent start to a year since 2017.
A few details of the events that led to Adam’s death emerged in court in the past week. Ruben Roman, a 21-year-old who the authorities said was with Adam at the time of the shooting, appeared in a Cook County courtroom on Saturday. He was charged with felony reckless discharge, unlawful use of a weapon and child endangerment, and held on a $150,000 bond.
According to prosecutors, video captures Mr. Roman and Adam walking together down a street on the West Side around 2:30 a.m. Mr. Roman, holding a gun, appears to fire several shots at an unknown target.
In recent days, Adam’s mother has said that she had no idea that he was out the night of the shooting; she thought he was safely in his room at the time. Adam had been missing for several days, she said, but had come home and gone into the room that he shared with his brother.
Mitch Smith contributed reporting from Chicago. Christoph Koettl also contributed reporting.
Since testimony in Derek Chauvin’s trial began on March 29, more than three people a day have died at the hands of law enforcement.
By John Eligon and Shawn Hubler, April 17, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/17/us/police-shootings-killings.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Katie Wright, Daunte Wright’s mother, speaking at a vigil in Minneapolis. Credit...Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
MINNEAPOLIS — Just seven hours before prosecutors opened their case against Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, a Chicago officer chased down a 13-year-old boy in a West Side alley and fatally shot him as he turned with his hands up.
One day later, at a hotel in Jacksonville, Fla., officers fatally shot a 32-year-old man, who, the police say, grabbed one of their Tasers. The day after that, as an eyewitness to Mr. Floyd’s death broke down in a Minneapolis courtroom while recounting what he saw, a 40-year-old mentally ill man who said he was being harassed by voices was killed in Claremont, N.H., in a shootout with the state police.
On every day that followed, all the way through the close of testimony, another person was killed by the police somewhere in the United States.
The trial has forced a traumatized country to relive the gruesome death of Mr. Floyd beneath Mr. Chauvin’s knee. But even as Americans continue to process that case — and anxiously wait for a verdict — new cases of people killed by the police mount unabated.
Since testimony began on March 29, at least 64 people have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide, with Black and Latino people representing more than half of the dead. As of Saturday, the average was more than three killings a day.
The deaths, culled by The New York Times from gun violence databases, news media accounts and law enforcement releases, offer a snapshot of policing in America in this moment. They testify not only to the danger and desperation that police officers confront daily, but also to the split-second choices and missteps by members of law enforcement that can escalate workaday arrests into fatalities.
They are the result of domestic violence calls, traffic stops gone awry, standoffs and chases. The victims often behave erratically, some suffering from mental illness, and the sight of anything resembling a weapon causes things to escalate quickly.
And their fallout has been wrenchingly familiar, from the graphic videos that so often emerge to the protests that so often descend into scuffles between law enforcement and demonstrators on streets filled with tear gas. Just as one community confronts one killing, another happens.
Across the spectrum, from community activists to law enforcement personnel, there is emotional and mental exhaustion — and the feeling that the nation cannot get this right.
“How many more losses must we mourn?” Miski Noor, the co-executive director of the Minneapolis-based activist group Black Visions, said in a statement after the killing of Daunte Wright, 20, during a recent traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minn.
The pain of George Floyd’s death “is still scarred into our minds and yet history continues to repeat itself,” the statement continued. “Our community has reached its breaking point.”
This past week the mayor of Chicago called for calm as “excruciating” body camera footage was released in the police killing of the 13-year-old, Adam Toledo. The shaky video shows a police officer, responding to a call of shots fired, chasing a boy with what appears to be a gun down an alley at night in a predominantly Latino neighborhood.
“Stop right now!” the officer screams while cursing. “Hands. Show me your hands. Drop it. Drop it.” A single shot fells the boy as he turns, lifting his hands.
Other recent lethal force incidents have rocked communities large and small: Michael Leon Hughes, 32, a Black man shot to death on March 30 after, the police say, he used a Taser on a Jacksonville police officer responding to a domestic dispute in a motel; Iremamber Sykap, 16, a Pacific Islander killed on April 5 as he fled from the Honolulu police in a stolen Honda Civic; and Anthony Thompson Jr., 17, a Black teenager in Knoxville, Tenn., killed by the police on April 12 in a high school bathroom after reports that a student had brought a gun onto campus.
All of those killings and many more occurred as testimony in the Minneapolis trial unfolded, though few attracted as much national attention as the shooting of Mr. Wright less than 10 miles from the courthouse where Mr. Chauvin stood trial. Protests erupted in Brooklyn Center after a veteran police officer fatally shot Mr. Wright, saying she mistook her gun for her Taser, as he attempted to flee during a traffic stop.
Abigail Cerra, a Minneapolis civil rights lawyer and a member of the Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission, said it was unclear why the officers stopped him for an expired registration, an issue for many drivers in the state during the coronavirus pandemic.
But two aspects of the case, she said, were infuriatingly familiar: that Mr. Wright was Black, and that the police tasked with delivering him safely to the courts, where violations of the law are supposed to be adjudicated, effectively delivered a death sentence.
“It’s just another example of a nothing offense escalated to lethality,” Ms. Cerra said.
Though many of these killings have a familiar ring, it is unfair to blame them all on law enforcement, said Patrick Yoes, a retired sheriff’s office captain and president of the national Fraternal Order of Police.
“In a lot of cities it has to do with people feeling hopeless,” he said. “It’s poverty, it’s a failing education system. It’s all of these things that are vitally important to stability of a community.”
That instability often places officers in situations in which they confront individuals who may be dangerous and noncompliant, he said. Part of the reason society has been unable to prevent deadly encounters between law enforcement and the community is that some people are unwilling to discuss the real challenges of crime that officers sometimes encounter, he said.
“There’s just so many factors that people have already made up their minds and they think that law enforcement is based off of race,” said Mr. Yoes, who is white.
Federal and state laws generally hold that officers are justified in using lethal force as long as they have a “reasonable” fear of “imminent” injury or death for themselves or another person. And jurors tend not to second-guess what might be “reasonable” force in the moment.
Of the 64 fatal encounters compiled by The Times for the past three weeks, at least 42 involved people accused of wielding firearms. More than a dozen involved confrontations with people who were mentally ill or in the throes of a breakdown. And at least 10 arose as the police responded to reports of domestic violence.
ome dispute the notion that danger, rather than bias, is more likely to drive a law enforcement officer’s reactions.
“What I see sometimes is in these encounters with people of color, there is a different aggression,” said Ron Johnson, a retired Missouri State Highway Patrol captain who led the police response in Ferguson, Mo., after the police killing of Michael Brown in 2014.
“This adrenaline starts going out of the roof,” added Mr. Johnson, who is Black. “And why? It’s because we don’t have these experiences and these understandings of each other. And in some cases, it’s about humanity. We don’t see them in the same human way that we see ourselves.”
Since at least 2013, with a slight dip because of the pandemic, about 1,100 people have been killed each year by law enforcement officers, according to databases compiled by Mapping Police Violence, a research and advocacy group that examines all such killings, including non-gun-related deaths such as Mr. Floyd’s. The Washington Post, whose numbers are limited to police shootings, reflect a similarly flat trend line.
Nearly all of the victims since March 29 have been men, with Black or Latino people substantially overrepresented — a pattern that reflects broader criminal justice research. And most were under 30. Four were teenagers.
Philip Stinson, a professor in the criminal justice program at Bowling Green State University who studies civilian killings by members of law enforcement, said the most striking aspect of the statistics on lethal police force is how little the numbers have changed in the decade or two since researchers began to comprehensively track them.
Even as cellphone videos and body cameras make it harder to hide human error and abuses of authority by law enforcement — and even as social media amplifies public outrage — only about 1.1 percent of officers who kill civilians are charged with murder or manslaughter, Dr. Stinson said.
Since the beginning of 2005, he said, 140 nonfederal sworn law enforcement officers — such as police officers, deputy sheriffs and state troopers — have been arrested on charges of murder or manslaughter resulting from an on-duty shooting. Of those, 44 have been convicted of a crime resulting from the incident, in most cases for a lesser offense.
That could be because many of the shootings are legally justified, or also, as Dr. Stinson believes, because the legal system and laws themselves are overly deferential to the police. That deference, he added, protects the status quo in the more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country.
“All law enforcement is local,” he said. “Culture eats policy, as the saying goes, and we have a police subculture whose core elements in many places include a fear of Black people.”
Dr. Stinson cited the now-infamous traffic stop of a uniformed Army medic who was held at gunpoint and doused with pepper spray by the police in Windsor, Va., a rural town near Norfolk. The encounter, which occurred in December, was brought to light this month after Caron Nazario, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, filed a federal lawsuit.
Body camera footage shows members of the Windsor Police Department threatening and attacking Lieutenant Nazario, who is Black and Latino, after stopping him because he had not yet put permanent license plates on his new Chevrolet Tahoe.
The footage underscores the extent to which police culture has resisted change in much of the country, Dr. Stinson said.
“We only know about this one because he has a lawyer, they filed a civil lawsuit and they were able to get recordings they could release,” he said.
For many victims of police violence and their families, however, there is no video evidence to rely on.
Daly City, Calif., police officers were not wearing body cameras when they got into a struggle with Roger Allen, 44, as he sat in a car idled with a flat tire on April 7. The officers say that Mr. Allen had what appeared to be a gun on his lap, according to Stephen M. Wagstaffe, the San Mateo County district attorney, who is investigating the case. It turned out to be a pellet gun, but an officer fired a fatal bullet to Mr. Allen’s chest during the fracas.
Now Talika Fletcher, 30, said she was struggling to come to terms with the fact that her older brother, who was like a father figure, had joined the grim tally of Black men who died at the hands of law enforcement.
“I never thought in a million years that my brother would be a hashtag,” she said.
She has little faith that the dynamic between Black men and law enforcement will be any better once her 14-month-old son, Prince, grows up.
“The cycle,” she said, “it’s not going change.”
Alain Delaquérière contributed research.
A majority of states have laws making it illegal to hang anything from a rearview mirror that obscures a driver’s view. But critics say the laws are often used as pretexts.
By Mike Baker and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, April 17, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/17/us/police-air-fresheners.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Phil Colbert was pulled over by a sheriff's deputy for hanging an air freshener from his rearview mirror. Credit...Courtney Pedroza for The New York Times
Phil Colbert was on his way to meet his father for lunch before his shift at an Arizona auto dealership in 2019 when he saw the flashing lights of a sheriff’s patrol car in his mirror. He made sure his hands were on the steering wheel, planted at 10 and 2 as his parents had taught him, and asked why he had been stopped.
“You can’t have anything hanging from your rearview mirror,” the La Paz County deputy, wearing a Blue Lives Matter wristband, told him.
The officer was referring to the tree-shaped air freshener dangling near the windshield but quickly moved on to other questions: Do you have any marijuana? Do you smoke marijuana? When was the last time you did smoke marijuana? Do you have any cocaine? To Mr. Colbert, who is Black, the air freshener seemed nothing more than a pretext for the driving equivalent of a stop-and-frisk.
“At that point, I was like, ‘This dude is coming up with anything. He’s just coming up with anything to talk to me or mess with me,’” said Mr. Colbert, 23, who recorded the traffic stop on his cellphone and ultimately was let off with a warning.
The air fresheners that dangle from rearview mirrors have been a ubiquitous accessory in cars for decades. But they may be treated as illegal in a majority of states, which have laws prohibiting objects near the windshield that can obstruct motorists’ views. They are part of a suite of low-level offenses, such as tinted windows or broken taillights, that civil rights advocates complain have become common pretexts for traffic stops that too often selectively target people of color.
The encounter this week in Minnesota that led to a police officer fatally shooting Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, began when officers initiated a traffic stop and raised the issue of a hanging air freshener, according to Mr. Wright’s mother, who talked to her son on the telephone moments before he was shot.
Pete Orput, the Washington County attorney, said officers had noticed an expired registration tab on Mr. Wright’s license plate and decided to pull his car over. One of the officers later noted the air freshener hanging from the mirror, which was a violation of the law, Mr. Orput said.
Racial bias in traffic stops has been a focus of researchers and civil rights advocates for years. At Stanford University’s Open Policing Project, researchers analyzing more than 100 million traffic stops around the country found persistent racial disparities, with Black and Hispanic drivers more likely to be stopped and more likely to be searched. Collectively, officers found contraband at a lower rate among those searches than in searches of white drivers.
Traffic stops also have the potential to escalate, like the case of Mr. Wright, who was shot by a police officer after he got back into his car as the police tried to arrest him for an unrelated warrant. The officer, Kimberly A. Potter, who had shouted that she was preparing to use her Taser, resigned and was charged with second-degree manslaughter.
Paige Fernandez, a policing policy advocate at the American Civil Liberties Union, said low-level infractions such as expired registrations and air fresheners on mirrors should not be handled by armed police officers.
“The danger that police traffic stops pose greatly outweighs any benefit of having them engage in that,” Ms. Fernandez said.
Mayor Mike Elliott of Brooklyn Center, Minn., where Mr. Wright was killed, said police officers should not be pulling people over because of an expired registration during the coronavirus pandemic.
The prohibitions against objects hanging from rearview mirrors can extend to fuzzy dice, graduation tassels and rosaries. Last year, amid the pandemic, authorities in Maine warned against hanging masks.
A woman who answered the phone for the manufacturer of one of the most common hanging air fresheners, Little Trees, said the company would have no comment on the legal debate. The company’s website shows the scented paper trees hanging from a rearview mirror.
States have long grappled with how to best handle the obstruction issue. After court data showed more than 1,400 citations in one year for people driving on Maryland highways with windshields obstructed by objects or materials, the state changed its law in 2017. The violation is no longer a primary offense, which would justify a traffic stop, but a secondary offense, which can only be cited after a motorist has been pulled over for something more serious, such as speeding.
Virginia has followed suit as part of a broader package of reforms limiting when the police can conduct traffic stops.
Dana Schrad, the executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said the group had supported some of the changes, including a prohibition on stopping people for recently expired registrations. When lawmakers changed the law to require that a driver’s view must be “substantially” obstructed by objects to be considered a violation, police agencies did not object.
Making windshield obstructions a secondary offense could allow some motorists to continue driving even with substantial obstruction that limits their view. Ms. Schrad said that had raised concern that roads could become less safe.
Ms. Schrad said that when officers stop people for minor violations, they can also discover other issues, including outstanding felony warrants or evidence of other crimes. “The more you limit the ability of a law enforcement officer to intervene in something that would be a violation of the law, you limit their ability to discover other criminal activity,” she said.
In places where air fresheners have been treated as a primary offense, the traffic stops have faced legal challenges with various outcomes.
On an April evening in 2008, Benjamin Garcia-Garcia was driving a minivan along Interstate 55 near Springfield, Ill., when a state trooper who had been parked in the median moved onto the freeway and pulled him over. According to court records, the trooper claimed he had seen the pink air freshener hanging from Mr. Garcia-Garcia’s mirror and believed it violated the state statute prohibiting objects that could obstruct the driver’s view.
The trooper later conceded that he did not stop every car with an air freshener and had not observed any other traffic violations. The trooper issued a written warning, but in the process he also learned that Mr. Garcia-Garcia and his passengers were in the country illegally. That triggered a response from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that resulted in Mr. Garcia-Garcia facing a federal charge of crossing the border illegally. He was imprisoned and deported.
Mr. Garcia-Garcia challenged the justification for the stop as part of his criminal case, arguing that the trooper could not have seen the air freshener on a vehicle going at highway speeds and that he could not have concluded it was a material obstruction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected the argument.
“The object the trooper observed was small, but given its size and position relative to the driver, a reasonable officer could conclude that it violated the Illinois statute prohibiting material obstructions,” the judges wrote.
In a more recent case, on the South Side of Chicago, a police officer reported seeing an air freshener in a vehicle and began following the car, then stopped it for violating a municipal code provision prohibiting windshield obstructions. During the traffic stop, officers found guns in the vehicle and arrested the two men inside, who were Black. The men challenged the legality of the traffic stop, but the same appeals court once again held that the stop was constitutional.
But in Connecticut in 2010, after a traffic stop in which a driver had a chain and cross dangling from his rearview mirror, the State Supreme Court sided with the driver, determining that the object was relatively small and that the trooper who initiated the stop did not articulate any concern that the object was blocking the driver’s view.
The case of Mr. Colbert, the motorist stopped in Arizona in an unincorporated area between Parker and Lake Havasu, became public after he posted video of the traffic stop online. He later got a lawyer, Benjamin Taylor, who said he believed that the deputy engaged in racial profiling.
“Even if you are polite, calm, even college-educated, the bottom line is that at the end of the day you are still Black,” Mr. Taylor said. “That’s all the cop sees and stereotypes.”
The Sheriff’s Department later determined that the deputy had no legitimate basis for his repeated questioning of Mr. Colbert. The deputy, Eli Max, was fired in part for his handling of the stop. Mr. Colbert took steps to pursue a lawsuit but settled with the county before it got that far, Mr. Taylor said.
Even for those who are ultimately let go with a warning, being pulled over for a rearview mirror infraction can have a lasting effect. In Galesburg, Ill., Brittany Mixon was a senior in high school when she was pulled over by a police officer in 2003, ostensibly because of the air freshener hanging from her mirror. But when the officer approached the car, she said, his first question was about whether the Toyota Corolla she was driving was hers.
“He kept asking me questions like he wanted to trip me up,” said Ms. Mixon, who is Black.
Even now, at 35, she makes sure not to have anything hanging from her mirror — or from the mirror of a car she is riding in — because she does not want to risk getting pulled over.
“If I get in a car with somebody and they have something hanging from their mirror, I’m like, ‘Can you take that down?’” Ms. Mixon said. “Being a Black passenger might trigger something in a racist cop, so let’s just remove that altogether from the situation.”
Officer Patricia Lio of the Milton Police Department in Massachusetts is accused of berating her son’s 14-year-old Black friend about his stance on the Black Lives Matter movement.
By Allyson Waller, Published April 16, 2021, Updated April 17, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/16/us/patricia-lio-milton-police-assault.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Officer Patricia Lio of the Milton Police Department at a probable cause hearing in Massachusetts on Tuesday. Credit...David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe
A white Massachusetts police officer will face criminal charges in connection with an off-duty episode in which she is accused of berating a Black teenager, a friend of her son, over his support of the Black Lives Matter movement, a court official ruled this week.
An assistant clerk with the Dedham District Court ruled on Thursday after a probable cause hearing that criminal charges against Patricia Lio, an officer with the Milton Police Department, could proceed.
The episode that prompted the charges occurred on Sept. 19, 2020, when Officer Lio’s son had invited two of his friends, one Black and one Hispanic, to his home in Westwood, Mass., to watch a Boston Celtics game and sleep over, The Boston Globe reported.
Officer Lio is accused of confronting the Black teenager, who is 14, about his stance on the Black Lives Matter movement, Alfred A. Gray Jr., a lawyer representing the teenager and his family, said in an interview. She is also facing allegations that she hit her husband when he tried to intervene in the situation, Mr. Gray said.
Officer Lio will face charges of assault to intimidate and assault and battery on a household member, according to court records. She is set to be arraigned in late May.
The Westwood Police Department has been leading the investigation into the matter.
Officer Lio, who joined Milton’s police force nearly 20 years ago, has been on administrative leave since October, her lawyer, Douglas Louison, said. The department’s internal investigation into her matter is continuing, he said, adding that Thursday’s decision was “disappointing” for his client.
“This incident and the facts around it should just not have given rise to criminal charges,” he said.
In a statement, Deputy Chief James O’Neil of the Milton Police Department said that his department “is very concerned” about Officer Lio’s case.
“While the outcome of the criminal and internal cases is still unknown,’’ he said, “the Milton Police Department has zero tolerance for any bias behavior, domestic violence, or aggressive behavior towards children.”
Risa King, a Boston lawyer and the mother of the Black teenager, said in an interview that she had received a “troubling text followed by a phone call” from her son the evening of Sept. 19.
According to Mr. Gray, who is representing Ms. King and her family, Officer Lio had claimed the teenager had posted something negative toward police officers on social media. While the three boys were watching the Celtics game, Officer Lio went downstairs and eventually started berating the teenager about “his stance on Black Lives Matter and her beliefs that his stance on B.L.M. was inappropriate,” Mr. Gray said.
He said that the teenager, in fact, had not written the social media posts in question and “did not express any intent to engage in any violence toward police officers.”
According to testimony at a probable cause hearing on Tuesday, Officer Lio had asked the other teenager, who is Hispanic, if he believed in Black Lives Matter and also referred to him as an immigrant, Mr. Gray said.
But Mr. Louison, Officer Lio’s lawyer, said that although the officer had spoken to the Black teenager about some of the perceptions she felt Black Lives Matter projected onto police, race was “never a component.”
The two teenage friends of Officer Lio’s son were eventually taken home by Officer Lio’s husband, who testified at the hearing that he was not hit by his wife, Officer Lio’s lawyer said.
Ms. King called the aftermath of the episode involving her 14-year-old son “one of the worst, most difficult situations we have had to deal with as a family.”
“We just want to see the officer accountable for her outrageous behavior toward the kids,” she said.
As I walk around my hometown, I see so many boarded up buildings. Who is really being protected?
By Justin Ellis, April 16, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/16/opinion/sunday/george-floyd-daunte-wright-minnesota.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
“White Noise, 2018” Chase Hall is an artist born in St. Paul, Minn. His colorful strokes on cotton canvas aim to create a visual language of resilience and empathy, in hopes of a racial literacy to better understand the painful inheritances of the past and its resonance with the present. Credit...Chase Hall
MINNEAPOLIS — The morning the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd, began, I was visiting my mom at a hospital just blocks from the courthouse. I remember noting that it was unseasonably warm for late March in this part of the Midwest. But that wasn’t the most striking part of the day. Nor was the long line of satellite trucks or the reporters from around the world surrounding the Hennepin County Government Center. Instead, what gave me pause was all the plywood that encased the ground floor of the hospital’s emergency department.
I came back to Minneapolis late last year to work on a book about how Black families have endured racism in the city where I grew up, and to support my mom during her cancer treatment. I’ve been keeping a mental list of the spaces that, since video surfaced of George Floyd’s final moments beneath Derek Chauvin’s knee, have become barricaded versions of their former selves. You can’t move through this city without noticing the hardware stores with floor-to-ceiling wood coverings, the shuttered restaurants that didn’t survive Covid or last summer’s fires, and the brunch spots and boutiques that have hired local artists to soften their fortifications with strained messages like “In This Together,” “Know Justice, Know Peace” and “Love Is All Around,” which reads like a cringeworthy homage to the theme song from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
But there was something especially crushing about the plywood surrounding a building meant to give aid and care to people suffering in the city, leaving just enough room to expose signs reading “EMERGENCY” and “TRAUMA CENTER.”
In the lead-up to Mr. Chauvin’s trial, city officials and business owners often talked about “bracing” for the public reaction, their focus seemingly on protecting the city’s buildings from any harm that might come from a repeat of the demonstrations against police violence that took place last summer.
The verdict in Mr. Chauvin’s trial isn’t expected until next week at the earliest, but even before that, the Twin Cities have been pulled into fresh grief and rage over the killing of yet another unarmed Black man at the hands of the police.
When Kim Potter, a police officer in Brooklyn Center, a town some 10 miles north of Minneapolis, shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright last weekend, history repeated itself in Minnesota: the fences and barricades to keep protesters away from the Police Department, the tear gas used to disperse crowds, the nights of anger and destruction giving way to curfews imposed by local and state officials. Across the metropolitan area, contractors drilled plywood into place, all to protect structures from violence being done to — and in the name of — neighbors. All to protect the city from the unyielding reality facing its Black citizens.
I’m part of the third generation of my family that was born here. My great-grandparents joined in the great migration to land in Minneapolis, and over the years we’ve all seen how our neighbors choose to ignore the suffering of those of us who don’t look like them. The ubiquitous yard signs saying, “All Are Welcome Here,” “Love Is Love” and “Black Lives Matter” don’t change the fact that sections of this city have been hiding behind barriers for a long time, since before the trial started, before Mr. Floyd was killed, and before Mr. Wright was gunned down. Through history, the barricades have taken many forms, like federal boarding schools that forcibly separated Native American children from their parents and deeds that kept Black families out of neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Today they are temporary barriers made from the materials needed to build a shed.
Brooklyn Center, where Mr. Wright was killed, is one of the more diverse cities in Minnesota, with Black, Hispanic, Asian, Indigenous and immigrant residents making up the majority of the population. That’s one city of roughly 30,000 people. This is where it’s important to note that in 1970 Black residents were still less than 1 percent of Minnesota’s total population; by 2019, that number had risen to only 7 percent. There are more Black people in the city of Detroit than in the entire state of Minnesota.
Still, Black drivers account for the majority of traffic stops and searches by Minneapolis police. Officers use force against Black people at a rate seven times greater than against whites. According to a Minneapolis Star Tribune database of police-related deaths of Minnesotans since 2000, Blacks account for 27 percent of the deaths in police encounters.
Whether you call this the result of white supremacy, or a white majority, the consequences are the same. The state has its boot on the necks of the Black people who make up less than 10 percent of its residents. When you are left at the mercy of the state and given no option to heal, fury becomes your voice and your only tool. And in preparing for the Chauvin trial and protecting property against the reaction to whatever verdict is announced, those who have power in Minnesota made clear to us, yet again, what matters most to them.
Gov. Tim Walz, announcing a curfew for the counties covering much of the Twin Cities the day after Mr. Wright was shot, directed his comments at those who planned to “exploit these tragedies for destruction or personal gain,” warning, “You can rest assured that the largest police presence in Minnesota history in coordination will be prepared.” Judging by the growing number of National Guard members I’ve seen occupying the corners of my neighborhood — just miles away from Brooklyn Center — in recent days, that’s not an understatement.
Law enforcement made a plan for managing security around the Chauvin trial, a massive team-up between Twin Cities area police departments, state police, local sheriffs’ deputies and Minnesota National Guard members capable of flooding the region with thousands of officers at a moments notice.
The goal, as the Hennepin County sheriff put it in an op-ed for The Star Tribune, was “to preserve the First Amendment rights of those who wish to protest while, at the same time, fulfilling our mission of protecting property, ensuring public safety and guaranteeing the sanctity of the judicial process.” Naturally they named it Operation Safety Net. It’s not subtle. They want to offer comfort to those they deem worthy of saving, rather than the Black and brown residents who are subject to relentless brutality.
They’ve lived up to that promise almost every night outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department for the past week. In their quest to maintain order they’ve met demonstrators with increasing numbers of police officers and National Guard members, armed with tear gas, flash bang grenades and rubber bullets. All these defensive measures have upended the lives of families living across the street from the police headquarters at the Sterling Square Apartments, a complex filled with Black and immigrant families. It should be the safest place in Brooklyn Center; now residents are evacuating into area hotels.
For the second time in less than a year, a Minnesota police officer is facing manslaughter charges for killing a Black man. Ms. Potter has resigned. Brooklyn Center’s police chief, who has said he believes Ms. Potter mistook her gun for a Taser, has also stepped down. But that doesn’t change the fact that another Black child has been left without a father because of a police officer’s actions. In Minnesota, we’ve had two cases and two sets of all-too-familiar facts: Daunte Wright and George Floyd died from over-policing. They’re not alone. At George Floyd square, the monument that has grown from the scene where Mr. Floyd died, the names of those killed by police are written on the pavement. At the protests in Brooklyn Center those names have been read aloud in exasperation and rage.
As the city awaits a verdict in Mr. Chauvin’s trial, Minnesota’s leaders are posturing for peace while fortifying against the cries of the most vulnerable. It’s an act of desperation — if not outright cowardice — to spare no expense in military might while investing in the cheapest plywood, all in an effort to protect this state’s investment in whiteness. If power has to be maintained through overwhelming force, or even hastily built barriers, those of us standing in trauma on the other side have to wonder who’s really being protected.
Mr. Ellis, a Minneapolis native, is writing a book about how Black families in his hometown endure the racism they experience.
Mr. Prude’s death last year became part of a fraught national conversation around racism and brutality in policing.
By Sarah Maslin Nir and Michael Gold, April 16, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/16/nyregion/daniel-prude-rochester-police.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=New%20York
Joe Prude, right, brother of Daniel Prude, and his son, Armin, with a picture of Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y. Credit...Ted Shaffrey/Associated Press
Over the course of 45 hours, the grand jury convened in the case of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died after being detained by the police in Rochester, N.Y., last year, heard from more than 30 witnesses — including police officers, medical experts, a tow-truck driver and Mr. Prude’s brother, according to minutes of the proceedings released on Friday.
In the end, the records show, the jury voted overwhelmingly not to charge three officers with criminally negligent homicide in Mr. Prude’s death. Fifteen jurors voted not to indict the officers; five disagreed.
The transcripts provide a rare glimpse inside judicial proceedings that are usually kept secret, and they were made public as national attention is focused on two other cases where officers stand accused of killing Black men in their custody.
Mr. Prude became part of a fraught national conversation around racism and brutality in policing after body camera video of his confrontation with the police was released in September. In the video, released months after his death after city officials tried to conceal it, Mr. Prude is seen naked, wearing a hood officers put over his head and handcuffed, lying facedown on the street.
Seven officers who were on the scene of Mr. Prude’s arrest were later suspended, and the police chief was fired for his involvement in obscuring what had happened. After the footage of Mr. Prude’s death was made public, New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, convened a grand jury to review evidence in the case.
The minutes unsealed Friday show that the attorney general’s office asked the grand jury to consider charges against only three of the seven officers; the names of the officers and all other witnesses and jurors are redacted.
According to the grand jury transcripts, one juror asked why the officers — who found Mr. Prude naked on a snowy street, put a mesh bag over his head and pressed him onto the pavement — appeared to move unhurriedly after he lost consciousness. Mr. Prude was taken off life support and died a week later.
Official police reports said that Mr. Prude died of a drug overdose, but an investigation by the Rochester medical examiner determined it was a homicide, with asphyxiation as one cause of death.
Jurors watched body camera footage of an officer holding Mr. Prude’s head to the sidewalk. And they heard one expert testify that the hold, known as “segmenting,” was appropriate.
The transcripts also appear to show jurors grappling with a blizzard of technical information about police tactics, and expert testimonies that appeared at times to conflict. And they illustrate some of the challenges of prosecuting police officers, even as Derek Chauvin, the officer accused of killing George Floyd in Minneapolis two months after Mr. Prude’s death, is currently on trial for murder.
“The way they held him, avoiding the respiratory or ventilatory structures, was — was — it would be textbook in my mind,” one expert, identified as a doctor at the University of California, San Diego’s medical center and a professor of clinical emergency medicine whose name was redacted from the transcript, told the jurors.
But a second expert witness, identified as a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina, appeared to disagree. “The decision to keep him on his stomach for that period of time was — was unreasonable and against police practice,” the expert said, adding that Mr. Prude should have been rolled over and had the pressure on his back released.
One juror appeared to seek help reconciling the two opinions. “It seemed like one expert had an opinion that there was no improper anything done,” the juror said. “And then, another expert had an opinion that there was some — something that was not quite properly done, am I correct?”
That, lawyers explained, was the jurors’ determination to make.
Don Thompson, a lawyer for Joe Prude, Daniel’s brother, said the minutes, and the jury’s decision not to indict any officers, showed the excessive leeway the police are given when using force in the course of their job.
“I’m infuriated,” he said. “Who other than somebody who wears a special costume for their work gets this kind of deference in a homicide case? No one.”
Mr. Thompson also questioned whether prosecutors had done everything they could to secure indictments against the officers.
“It is all perfectly fine to present that evidence,” he said, referring to testimony that appeared to absolve the officers. “But that is evidence what a defendant presents at trial, it is not standardly evidence that a prosecutor offers to a grand jury.”
Mr. Prude’s confrontation with the police occurred on a frigid night in March of last year, after he bolted out of his brother’s home in Rochester, shoeless and in an erratic state. Joe Prude, concerned for his brother’s safety, called 911 for help.
The police who responded to the emergency call found Mr. Prude naked and shouting that he had the coronavirus. After he was handcuffed, an officer pressed him onto the pavement until he vomited and lost consciousness, an interaction captured on body cameras worn by the police.
Over the course of nine sessions, one juror asked why no one offered to cover Mr. Prude, who was naked, with a blanket. Another asked why it appeared, even after Mr. Prude was unconscious, that the officers and emergency medical technicians at the scene did not swiftly aid him.
“It didn’t seem like anyone was really rushing,” the juror said. “So, no one seemed to be concerned that there was a problem?”
In announcing in February that the grand jury had declined to indict any of the officers, Ms. James expressed disappointment with the decision. Her office took the unusual step of petitioning a Monroe County Court judge to release the transcripts from the grand jury’s investigation, citing public interest.
The attorney general’s office said the investigation into Mr. Prude’s death was the first time that grand jury proceedings in a case of a police-involved death had been made public in New York.
The transcripts do not include the grand jurors’ private deliberations or the actual voting, but they show the jurors raising questions with lawyers from the attorney general’s office. At one point before the jurors voted, they viewed videotaped testimony of one expert witness, the records show.
“I’m disturbed a bit,” one grand juror remarked. “I don’t know if that witness was fully informed.”
Another offered an opinion. “It seems once the police got involved, things went for the worse,” the juror said after hearing about how Mr. Prude was handcuffed and held down. “I’m picturing myself laying on my stomach with my hands behind my back, and you trying to breathe. It can’t be a normal thing to do.”
Lawyers for the officers said the released minutes further exonerated their clients. Daniel Mastrella, a lawyer for Officer Troy Taladay, said he believed his client was one of the three officers targeted by the grand jury investigation. Officer Taladay was one of two officers who voluntarily testified, according to his lawyer.
“He decided that he wanted the grand jury to hear from his own lips what occurred on March 23,” Mr. Mastrella said. “He explained exactly what he did, and I would say we were all very fortunate that incident was recorded on various body-worn cameras.”
Michael Schiano, a lawyer for Officer Francisco Santiago, who was on the scene when Mr. Prude was arrested but did not testify, said no evidence of wrongdoing was presented to the grand jury.
“It’s obvious that the evidence supported the fact that these officers did nothing wrong, and if they could have found an expert to testify the other way they probably would have, but they clearly couldn’t,” Mr. Schiano said.
All of the officers — Sgt. Michael Magri and Officer Josiah Harris, Officer Paul Ricotta, Officer Andrew Specksgoor, Officer Mark Vaughn, Officer Taladay and Officer Santiago — remain suspended from the force, according to a spokeswoman for the Rochester Police Department.
After jurors voted overwhelmingly not to indict the three officers, one juror commended the prosecutors for their work putting together a thorough case, according to the transcript.
“If it wasn’t for everything that you presented to us, I don’t think anybody would have come up with a decision,” the juror, whose vote was not made public, said. “You worked very hard and I’m sure nobody took it lightly. It was a very serious case. It’s horrible what happened to him.”
Benjamin Weiser, Troy Closson and Nicole Hong contributed reporting.
A new study shows the role of the super rich in politics since the Supreme Court loosened restrictions on political spending more than a decade ago.
By Shane Goldmacher, April 20, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/20/us/politics/megadonors-political-spending.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
The single biggest spender on federal campaigns from 2009 to 2020 was Michael R. Bloomberg. Credit...Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
A dozen megadonors and their spouses contributed a combined $3.4 billion to federal candidates and political groups since 2009, accounting for nearly one out of every 13 dollars raised, according to a new report.
The report, produced by Issue One, a nonpartisan group that seeks to reduce the influence of money in politics, shows the top 12 donors split equally between six Democrats and six Republicans. The list includes multiple Wall Street billionaires and investors, a Facebook co-founder, a shipping magnate and the heir to a family fortune dating back to the Gilded Age.
The study quantifies the intensifying concentration and increasing role of the super rich in American politics following the loosening of restrictions on political spending by the U.S. Supreme Court more than a decade ago.
“This is a stark illustration of our broken campaign finance system,” said Nick Penniman, the founder and chief executive of Issue One. “Today, a handful of megadonors wield outsized influence in our politics.” Mr. Penniman called on Congress “to pass sweeping reforms to create a democracy that works for everyone.”
The growing influence of multimillion-dollar megadonors has been accompanied by another, competing trend: a surge of small online donations to politicians of both parties. Those contributions — in $5, $10 and $25 increments — have given Democrats and Republicans an alternate source of money beyond the super rich.
Still, the study found that the top 100 ZIP codes for political giving in the United States, which hold less than 1 percent of the total population, accounted for roughly 20 percent of the $45 billion that federal candidates and political groups raised between January 2009 and December 2020. The study used data from the Center for Responsive Politics, which compiles figures from the Federal Election Commission.
Some of the top ZIP codes for giving weren’t even populated by any people at all; instead, they were primarily associated with skyscrapers and post office boxes that were used as business addresses by the wealthy.
The single biggest spender on federal campaigns from 2009 to 2020 was Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, who spent $1.4 billion. Of that, $1 billion went toward his own failed campaign for president in 2020 and $314 million went to other federal candidates, super PACs and political groups.
He is the only donor to spent more than $1 billion. The No. 2 contributor is another Democrat, Tom Steyer, who, like Mr. Bloomberg, lost his bid for president in 2020. Mr. Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, have spent $653 million, with more than half going toward his own presidential campaign and $311 million to other federal candidates and committees.
The report does not include giving to state-level campaigns or politically connected nonprofit groups, which can often remain undisclosed.
The largest Republican contributor was Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, and his wife, Miriam Adelson, a physician. The Adelsons have contributed $523 million to Republican candidates and committees since 2009.
Mr. Adelson’s death in January 2021, at age 87, leaves a potential major shortfall for Republicans who have come to rely upon his largess. Republican operatives have privately fretted that while Ms. Adelson has been politically engaged, she may not have the same appetite for political giving as her late husband.
The report said that all 12 top donors were white and that the top 100 ZIP codes for donations were “typically both more white and more affluent” than the nation as a whole.
The other top contributors among Republicans were Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein ($138 million), founders of Uline shipping; Ken Griffin ($107 million), the investor and founder of Citadel LLC; Patricia and Timothy Mellon ($70 million), an heir to the Mellon fortune and chairman of Pan Am Systems; Marlene and Joe Ricketts ($66 million), the founder of T.D. Ameritrade and whose family owns the Chicago Cubs; and Paul Singer ($63 million), an investor and founder of Elliott Management.
Among Democrats, the other biggest donors were Donald Sussman ($98 million), the founder of Paloma Funds; Jim Simons ($93 million), the founder of Renaissance Technologies, and his wife, Marilyn; Fred Eychaner ($92 million), a media mogul; and Dustin Moskovitz ($83 million), the co-founder of Facebook, and his wife, Cari Tuna.
She started a resistance camp that turned into a movement that opposed fossil fuels while it embraced tribal sovereignty and environmental justice.
By Katharine Q. Seelye, Published April 19, 2021, Updated April 20, 2021
LaDonna Brave Bull Allard in 2017. She said that the global protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, of which she was a leader, was “not just about a pipeline.” Credit...Jens Schwarz/laif, via Redux
When LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, learned of what she called “the black snake” — a 1,170-mile-long underground pipeline that would stretch from the shale oil fields of northwest North Dakota to Illinois — she volunteered the use of her land to establish a resistance camp.
That camp became the base for a global protest movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which Ms. Allard said would veer too close to sacred burial grounds, including the grave of one of her sons; could contaminate the region’s water supplies if it ever leaked; and violated longstanding treaties between Native Americans and the federal government.
The movement stood not only for stopping the pipeline but also against excavating fossil fuels in general while embracing tribal sovereignty, environmental justice and the protection of water sources everywhere.
Ms. Allard died on April 10 at her home in Fort Yates, N.D. She was 64. Her family announced the death online; local media outlets said the cause was brain cancer.
Ms. Allard established Sacred Stone Camp at Standing Rock at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers in March 2016. Neighbors starting bringing food, coffee and wood for a small core group. Indigenous youth spread the word across social media.
Within months, the resistance had turned into a cultural movement, with thousands of people — members of other tribes, environmental and civil rights activists, politicians — joining in, tucking into tents, tepees and trailers in similar camps across the prairie.
The movement also drew what Ms. Allard told Teen Vogue in 2017 were “spiritual leaders from every facet of every Indigenous people — Mongolians, the people out of Africa, India, China, Australia and New Zealand” as well as South America, Canada and the Midwestern United States, all to be part of one of the largest gatherings of Indigenous peoples in more than a century.
Construction of the pipeline began under President Barack Obama. But with demonstrations growing — and security guards attacking protesters with freezing water from pressure hoses, pepper spray, rubber bullets, dogs and mass arrests — the Obama administration later had a change of heart and blocked construction of part of the pipeline.
The reprieve was only temporary. President Donald J. Trump, who viewed the project as a boon to the economy and a way of weaning the country off foreign oil, ordered the pipeline completed and the protest camps evacuated and razed. Environmental and Indigenous groups responded with legal challenges.
The fate of the $3.7 billion project now lies with the Biden administration and the courts. But while an environmental review continues, the pipeline remains in operation.
As one of the leaders of the resistance, Ms. Allard appeared on television; wrote opinion pieces for newspapers, including The Guardian in England; and traveled the world as a keynote speaker on Indigenous history and culture. She argued for the protection of sacred Indigenous lands everywhere, she worked on campaigns to encourage divestment from the fossil fuel industry, and she became an annual speaker at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
“This movement is not just about a pipeline,” she wrote in 2017 on sacredstonecamp.org, a camp publication. “We are not fighting for a reroute, or a better process in the white man’s courts.”
Rather, she said, they were fighting for something much bigger: their rights and for the “liberation” of Mother Earth.
“We want every last oil and gas pipe removed from her body,” she wrote. “We want healing. We want clean water. We want to determine our own future.”
LaDonna Carole Brave Bull was born on June 8, 1956, in Fort Yates to Valerie Lovejoy Brave Bull and Frank Brave Bull.
She spent much of her girlhood with her grandmothers and grew up all over, from the Dakotas to California to New England and Florida. She enrolled in Standing Rock Community College, transferred to Black Hills State College and eventually graduated from the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks in 1990.
After college, she went to work for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as cultural resource planner. She also served as its historian and genealogist. She later helped the tribe create its office of historic preservation and a tourism office.
Ms. Allard said she had been struck by the depth of Native Americans’ historical trauma when she visited the site of the 1863 massacre at Whitestone Hill, in south-central North Dakota, where the U.S. Army slaughtered hundreds of Sioux. In a 2017 essay in Yes! magazine, she linked that event with the pipeline’s destruction of hundreds of archaeological sites and sacred places.
“The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas,” she wrote. “And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people.”
In 2019 Ms. Allard became an official representative for Indigenous peoples within the United Nations Economic and Social Council. She held positions on numerous boards and taught a class on combining Indigenous knowledge with modern technology.
After two early marriages, in 1990 she married Miles D. Allard, whom she had met at the University of North Dakota and whom a family obituary called the love of her life. Mr. Allard died in 2018.
Her survivors include six sons, William J. Brave Bull, Freedom P. McLaughlin, Eric Grey Cloud, Ian Scotty Halsey, Alex Schien and Shannon Meister; two daughters, Prairie Fawn McLaughlin and Nikola Allard; 21 grandchildren; two great-granddaughters; eight sisters; and eight brothers.
Shortly before Ms. Allard died, Indigenous youth on their way to a rally against the pipeline stopped by her house and placed signs in her yard saying “We love you LaDonna” and “Water is Life,” Kandi White of the Indigenous Environmental Network told Indian Country Today.
“Her son told us that LaDonna heard us chanting and knew we were there,” Ms. White said. “She told us not to be sad for her but to continue the fight.”